Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.



Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

A brilliant sci-fi short film.

You all know how I love free stuff and that I love science-fiction. This is both. And, it’s a film which debuted just recently at South by Southwest in Austin. It’s about prospectors on an alien planet, though exactly what they’re prospecting for is somewhat questionable. The risks they’re taking, however, are not questionable. Like all good science-fiction, Prospect explains nothing and just jumps right in and immerses you in the world the filmmakers have created.
It’s fun, definitely worth checking out and, frankly, if you’re reading my blog on a Friday, you don’t have anything better to do anyway.


This post originally appeared on Use Your Words by J K Hoffman.


SXSW 2018 Music Stars

Filed under: Art,Fun,music,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

As picked by National Public Radio.

When I was in college, a good friend of mine who happened to be a jazz musician and a dual English and History major, told me I was “tragically unhip”. Sadly, he was not wrong. I’ve spent no small amount of time since then trying to shake that reputation, mostly without success. But, along the way, I somehow managed to rub up against a little bit of cool. And, I’ve allowed myself to explore those who are the opposite of “tragically unhip”, namely indie musicians. My musical tastes were curtailed a bit when I was married the first time, but after the divorce, I started to expand my musical horizons again. Aided by the internet and a great music-blog culture, I’ve found lots of really good, enjoyable, and obscure music. Enough to impress my wife with my eclectic and voracious tastes, though maybe not enough to impress my now professional saxophone-playing friend.
In any case, I’m always on the look-out for new music and new musicians. Now that I live in Texas, I’ve got a much more heightened awareness of South By South West (aka SXSW), which is happening this week. It’s become so much more, but SXSW started as a music festival. And lots of new music still finds its start there. Since I’m old now, and too busy to actually attend SXSW this year, I just went to NPR’s SXSW 2018 coverage page and started listening to music. It’s all free to stream, and if you hit the Austin 100: A SXSW Mixtape sub-page, you can download their 100 song picks from the festival for your listening pleasure. Totally worth the small effort, I assure you. Especially if you’re looking for the “next big thing” in music.

Enjoy the tunes, and your weekend!

This post first appeared at my personal blog, Use Your Words.


Turkey City Lexicon

Filed under: Art,Fun,NaNoWriMo,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

The infamous science-fiction workshop lexicon of “things to not do”.

Over the years, so much has been written about what to do and what NOT to do in fiction that it’s a little overwhelming sometimes.
Personally, when I write, I’m almost always trying to write fantasy or science-fiction, or what is sometimes referred to as “speculative fiction”.  On the surface, that seems easier, since, essentially, a writer can make up virtually every and any aspect of their fictional universe, but, good speculative…
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More News on the PI License for Texas Techs Law

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

The Houston Chronicle has an update on the law I mentioned the on Tuesday.

The Austin office of the Houston Chronicle did some more digging about the new law that would seem to require PC Techs in Texas to also become Private Investigators. According to the bill’s author, state Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, we’re all misinterpreting his new law. He claims that the law means “…anyone who retrieves data from a computer, analyzes it and makes a report to a third party must obtain a private investigator’s license.” To me, it’s almost the same thing.

As I read it, the law would require anyone performing computer security duties in *any* setting in Texas to get a PI License. That means that a corporate computer security officer, who’s job may include computer forensics, would be required to also be a PI.
Frankly, I’m torn between thinking that maybe this is a good thing and maybe it’s excessive. On the one hand, for someone who does independent security work, that background check and finger printing might be a good idea! On the other hand, it might make it impossible for someone in a small company to *legally* do their job.

I’ll give an example…
A small company may have a one or two person IT department who cover everything, like, for instance, me. If there’s a break-in to one of their systems, they would then have to be a licensed PI to investigate that, or they’d have to spend a similar amount of money on a consultant who was. In this case, I’d bet the law just would get ignored.

But, for the independent operator, who might not have any other controls or credentials which a consumer or consulting client can use as a measure of relative security, it might actually be a good thing. Again, I doubt that criminal background checks are being done on all independent computer security consultants right now and maybe they should be.

In any case, like many laws of this nature, they seem like a good idea on paper, but often have much further reach than their author intended.


Ownership and Personal Computer Security

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Oh, I’ll never learn.

So, I read a lot of blogs. Not a big surprise, really, all things considered. One of the blogs I track is the Houston Chronicle’s TechBlog. Recently, they ran a post titled “Spy on your spouse’s online habits, go to jail“. Now, as a currently unmarried person, you may think I don’t have a dog in that fight, but, well, I kind of do. Allow me to explain.

See, about three years ago, my now ex-wife was cheating on me with her latest husband. (in fact, tomorrow, it will be three years to the day that I told her I “knew” what was going on and she bolted rather than face up to any problems we were having.) I was tempted to install spyware, or do other kinds of traces, on her communications. And, I think I would have been within my legal rights, since the computer was in my house and, technically, shared property. Now, I’m not a lawyer, obviously, but as part of my job, I do have to be fairly up to date on legal issues regarding computer security.
It’s unclear from the article whether or not the man in Austin who got four years for installing spyware on his wife’s computer had physical possession of the PC in question, but I’d imagine not. Now, I got confirmation of my suspicions by reading a raw mail file on a server I rented space on. The account was one I paid for, but my ex-wife foolishly used to tell nasty lies about me. (And, yes, also some uncomfortable truths, but they were mostly obscured by the rather outrageous lies.) At the time, my lawyer’s office agreed with me that it seemed like I was legally in the clear when I read the e-mail file. Though we didn’t actually have to test the law, in general, I would have been considered the rightful owner of the file in question, ergo, I had the right to read it.  And, ownership, to me, is the issue.  If I own the computer in question, don’t I have the right to install software on it that captures information?  In that situation, in a private residence, who has the right to expect privacy when using that machine?
In any case, I made comment and then, later, read some other comments on the post.
One person made some rather sweeping generalizations with which, naturally, I disagreed. A small, tepid debate ensued. The other commenter made comments about legality in an absolute sense, as in “…it is illegal to crack a password of another adult, for any reason, no matter where the software comes from – the guy is going to do 4 years in jail?” And, therein lies the rub. It’s NOT illegal to crack a password of another adult “for any reason”. There are, in fact, many legal reasons I’ve cracked passwords at work. For one, someone illegally locked files with a password to hold a company hostage. The company in question clearly had ownership of the password-locked files, but there was no way to recover the file without cracking the password. There are other examples, but any time someone starts talking in absolutes about the law, I know they’ve had no real experience with actual legal matters. A good lawyer can argue for a lot of exceptions to any law and, if they’re good enough, win. The fact that this guy is going to jail means that his lawyer couldn’t do that, if he even had anything more than a public defender. That’s all.
And, to me, the real question here is one of ownership. If I own the computer, I can install software on it to make sure it is being used the way I see fit. On the other hand, there is the question of a user’s expectation to privacy. If the user on the computer I own expects a certain level of privacy, for whatever reason, and hasn’t been informed otherwise… Well, let’s just say the law gets a little hazy at this point. Really, in most things legal, there just aren’t any absolutes. Ask a lawyer, they’ll pretty well tell you the same thing.
The other points that the commenter made about raising children and marital affairs leads me to believe that he is simply inexperienced or naive. When he wrote, “I guess how you raise your kids is your choice, unfortunately. None of mine have ever been in any trouble whatsoever so I will keep my ways going…”, it never occurred to him that his kids might be in trouble, but he hasn’t found out yet. Same thing about the state of his marriage.
Again, I’m not saying I’ve got the only answer, just that there isn’t any absolute answer to this whole issue. What’s more, he falls into the fallacy of ascribing meaning and intent to my disagreement that was not there. When he said that the better way to check up on your possibly cheating spouse was to have them followed by an “ex-cop”, I disagreed. Strongly. Being an ex-cop does not guarantee any level of success in trailing and catching a cheating spouse. And, while “pictures speak louder than words”, often, words from incriminating e-mail speak loudly enough.

Naturally, I don’t advocate breaking the law, but there’s a lot of question about where that threshold is in the digital world. And, simply trusting everyone you have a relationship with is, well, naive at best.

But, all that aside, I wrote this here because I had something left to say, but didn’t see the point of continuing the “discussion” over there.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"May you live all the days of your life."
   --Jonathan Swift


Instant Gratification

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:49 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Okay, so, a lot of people have been telling me “Go use Match.com”, but my therapist has been telling me “Go meet people in person”. Well, I finally broke his spirit last night and he admited that meeting people via Match.com was better than not meeting people at all. Which meant that he gave me the greenlight to go forth and cast my bread upon the waters, so to speak. Always showing patience and restraint, I waited a full hour after getting home from therapy last night before setting up a profile and uploading pictures.
This morning, before I could even do any details, really, on my profile, I’d already gotten an e-mail from someone. Wow, talk about instant gratification!
Now, look, most of you regular readers know I have a few issues. One of them is that I have no sense whatsoever of how physically attractive I am, or am not, to the opposite sex. Sadly, I know just how attractive I am to the same sex, which has done little to boost my confidence, frankly. (That was funny. You may laugh. Thank you.) So, getting a “hit” on little more than my picture almost as soon as I put up a picture had me on cloud nine this morning. Though, I do try to keep that in perspective, since she’s in Austin which is sort of a long drive for coffee. And, there was another post on another blog this morning that made me think, too. I’m not quite willing to surrender, but, I’m doing my best not to fight or play games, either. We’ll just see how it goes, though I do think the advice I got from a friend to keep the blog on the down-low until they get to know me really well is a great idea.
And, I haven’t quite given up on the Bookstore Method, either. Though, I think I need to change stores and days, and, possibly, times, too. We’ll see. Right now, I’m just playing it by ear. But, I promise, ladies, I won’t hit on any more of you who come to the blog. Honest. Really, you can trust me on this. I wouldn’t lie about something so important as that. Of course, if one of you hit on me…



Odds and Ends: Rita Part 6

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 1:34 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Making busy work now.
The laundry is in the dryer now. I’ve filled the tub with water for the dog to drink and for flushing. The sinks upstairs are filled, too. Tonight, I’ll fill at least one of the kitchen sinks and, probably, the bathroom sink, too. The dishwasher is ready to go. I’ll start that when I take the dog out for a walk in a few minutes. I thought I’d wander down towards 290 one last time to see what that looks like today.
I checked in one last time with a couple of friends here in Houston. One tried to talk me into going to the dog park with him, but I don’t want to use the gas until I know how things are going to look next week. I hope we won’t lose power, but I expect we will. No power means that there’s no way to pump gass. They might have it, but all the pumps use electricity, so there wouldn’t be a way to pump it. My other friend was freaking out last night to the point of trying to head to Brenham and Austin, but hit a wall of traffic and decided to come back. I’m a little frightened that I’m calmer than he is. I do believe that it is a sign of the End Times when your Uncle Jim becomes the voice of calm and reason, gentle readers.

If I have time, and power and Internet connection enough, I may post the mental list I’ve been making of survival gear that I would like to have bought for this. And, that I plan on buying after this is all over. Top of the list, a shotgun!
Well, the wind is starting to pick up some, so I better walk the dog if I’m going to do that. More later, if I can!

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