Diary of a Network Geek

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


Phishing Quiz

Filed under: Fun,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, that’s not a typo.

This month, I’ve been dealing with a higher than normal amount of phishing emails at work. For those of you not in IT, those are the emails you get that have links which look like legitimate links, say to your bank, but that actually redirect you to a compromised website that collects your username and password for a hacker’s later use. They’re worse than regular spam email, but not quite virus payloads. Either way, they cause me no end of grief. Normally, I don’t have a hard time spotting them, but even I have to admit, these cyber crooks have gotten really clever lately.
So, this week I’m bringing you something rather more important and educational than it is strictly “fun”. Still, if you bear with me, and follow the link, you’ll be helping yourself and endearing yourself to your IT Department. Trust me.
The link is to Google’s phishing quiz and it’s meant to both test your knowledge and skill at avoiding phishing emails. As an IT professional, I can tell you, it’s harder than it looks. Honest. The first time I ran through the quiz, I missed three of the eight questions, though, one was a “false-positive”, which means I was leaning more toward safety by the end of the quiz. In any case, after you answer each question, the site takes you through what was wrong, or right, about each email.

So, yeah, not the most traditionally “fun” thing for a Friday, but it is a kind of game, so I’m going to count it!
And, with any luck at all, by this coming Friday, I may be finally able to reveal one of the things that’s been keeping me from writing up better stuff for you on Friday’s the past month or so.


This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Photography Blogs to Follow, Part Two

Filed under: Art,Fun,Photography,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

As implied last week, here are some more photography blogs to follow.

I spend a fortune on camera gear.  I try not to, and lately, I haven’t had the spare cash, but it’s hard to resist the lure of that new, shiny bit of gear!  Thankfully, there’s a blog to help me with that; DIY Photography.  In fact, over the years, if you’re a faithful reader of this blog, you’ve seen me link to these folks regularly.  They have tutorials for…
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Camera Bank

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:58 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I won’t call it a coin bank.

I mean, theoretically, you can just put coins in it, but if you’re saving for camera gear, those coins had better be silver dollars!
I’m a sucker for kitsch as much as the next guy, but, when I saw this bank in the shape of a camera from Photojojo, I was hooked.  Not only does it look incredibly realistic, but the lens comes off!  That’s how you open it to get the change you’ve been saving back out.  How clever is that?!  And, if you ever wanted to have a less expensive camera prop for some reason, this would certainly fit the bill, even if you’re zoomed in pretty close.
They suggest that you use it to save for camera gear, but, let’s be honest, unless you’re putting some pretty big bills in this thing, all you’ll pay for is your coffee while you’re out shooting.  Still, it does look super cool and would make some photography obsessed person on your Christmas list very happy indeed!

Hey, it’s Friday, so why not at least go look at the pictures.  It really is pretty neat.


The Ultimate Home Network

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:12 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

A pretty bold statement, isn’t it?

Well, I’m not going to tell you how to build the “ultimate home network”, but, rather, suggest some things that you may want to consider to build your own, personal, “ultimate” home network.  Everyone needs something different from a home or small office network.  Some of us have side jobs that require a fair amount of data transfer or storage, like, for instance photographers.  For some of us in the IT business, having a home “test” network is almost assumed, though, perhaps not as much as it used to be in the boom days of the Internet.
I’ve been thinking about it this past week because my old BorderManager firewall finally has died.  I’m using a backup firewall at the moment, which is “good enough”, but I’ll be taking this crash as an opportunity to start rebuilding my home network from the ground up, using mainly free, open source software, starting with a Linux firewall.  In fact, I have three that I’ll be looking at and, yes, writing reviews of, in the coming weeks.  This will be an on going series of posts, too, as I evaluate software and, piece by piece, integrate it into my working, live network.  My needs will probably be different than yours, but all home networks will have some similar items and considerations.
So, what should go into your own personal, “ultimate” home network?  It depends on what you do, but here are some ideas.

The Actual Network.
Obviously, the first thing is setting up the actual, physical network.  And, in this case, by physical, I’m including wifi routers and the like.  Back in the old days, having a home network meant running cable.  That’s not as true as it used to be, but don’t just go wireless without considering at least some wired connections.  If you’re concerned about security, for instance, especially, regarding financial transactions, nothing is as secure as a wired connection.  Keep in mind, though, that at some point you still connect to an outside source to get to your bank.  Also, since most laptops have built-in wifi and have gotten so inexpensive, if you don’t already have one, consider getting a laptop.  For most people, laptops can inexpensively do everything we need to do and have the advantage of portability, so if you need to leave, say in case of a hurricane, you can take at least part of your home network with you.
There are a wide range of network switches and routers out there to choose from, but I suggest sticking with a name brand that is relatively well known and established. It’s no guarantee that you won’t have problems, but it’s a good start. I personally like Linksys and DLink brands, but there are many others that will work well, too.

Don’t forget that you need to have at least some security on that home network.  At a bare minimum, you need a firewall and some kind of antivirus.  If you’re connecting to broadband internet, either cable or DSL, most often the router they give you from the service you use has a firewall on it.  If you’re using wifi, the wifi router almost certainly has a firewall on it.  Use them!  Most importantly, actually set them up and change the default password to something else that you’ll remember but that strangers won’t guess.  If you’re not sure if you have a firewall on your network equipment, then at least use the built-in Windows firewall, but use something!
If you don’t want to spend big money on either McAfee or Norton for antivirus, good news!  You don’t have to spend anything!  Yes, that’s right, you can download AVGFree and run it for nothing at all.  So, now, what excuse do you have to not be running some kind of antivirus again?
And, please, for your own sake, use passwords.  Use hard to guess passwords, not your kids names or your birthday or even your license plate number.  In fact, try not to use dictionary words at all, or, if you do, substitute other characters for letters, like $ for S or @ for A, to make it more difficult to guess.  Also, use numbers with the letters, for the same reason.

Networked Storage.
Just having storage isn’t enough, really.  On a home network now, you may have a laptop, or two, a desktop, a DVR or any number of different networked devices that share data.  They all need to store it somewhere.  And, even if they store the data locally, they need to be backed up somewhere.  The answer is network based storage.  There are a lot of options out there, and Rick Vanover at TechRepublic has a good article on several.  I know one solution that’s popular with photographers is the Data Robotics Drobo series of devices.  I don’t have any direct experience with these, so I have no opinion on them specifically, but these days, decent network attached storage is so cheap, it would be foolish to ignore that as an option.

Virtual Server Environment.
Now, obviously, this isn’t for everyone.  Back in the day, I used to run a small, two server Novell network in my house just to keep everything fresh in my mind.  Novell isn’t always the most popular networking environment, even for hard-core network geeks like me, so I always wanted to make sure I knew how to do some of the more “interesting” and challenging things in that environment and ran a test network at home for that reason.
Now, you can do all that through virtualization.  In fact, that may be the newest buzzword that’s already worn thin on me!  But, buzzword or not, setting up a virtual test network is something that’s been talked to death in the industry, but I’ve only seen one article recently on setting up a home virtual test network.  You can read more about it in an article by Brad Bird over at TechRepublic, but, again, for those of us who work in a lot of different environments, it’s not a bad idea to make a series of virtual machines to experiment on.  There are still some hardware costs involved, of course, but there is the advantage of being able to roll back to an earlier state if something gets too screwed up.  Try that on your old-fashioned home network!

Even Fancier Stuff!
Of course, there’s almost no limit to what you can do on a home network these days.  Many inexpensive printers come with network interfaces built in, some even have wifi networking built in.  Of course, I’ve mentioned things like Windows Home Server and Linux servers here before, too.  It is, after all, what I do.  Though, with the low prices on network attached storage, I’m not sure I’d recommend that option for the average user.
And, this post hasn’t even touched on integrating any audio visual equipment into your network, or a home security system, or some of the fancier bells and whistles that are out there.  The sky, literally, is the limit.

So, the thing is, everyone will have a different idea of what the “ultimate” home network is, but these are some things to consider, and a few you don’t want to forget.


Review: The International

Filed under: Art,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw The International Friday night.

It was pretty good, but not great.
This movie has been out for a little bit now, but I’m sure it’s still in theaters because it’s a pretty decent movie and, of course, rather timely, considering it’s about a bank. Rumor has it that it was, in fact, based partly on a real story, but I can’t confirm that.
In any case, the basic premise is this; a former Scotland Yard detective who’s moved over to Interpol has been after a giant, huge corrupt, shadowy bank, the International Bank of Credit and Commerce, for many years and finally gets close, but at what cost? The movie stars Clive Owen as the Scotland Yard/Interpol investigator who’s become obsessed with the bank. The movie also stars a totally unconvincing Naomi Watts as a New York Assistant DA who’s going after the bank to try and shut down one way the Mob launders their money.

The movie opens with Owen’s character waiting for a fellow investigator to come back after making contact with one of the bank’s high-ranking officers who’s about to turn on his employers. Before this investigator can cross the street, he’s killed by a very slick professional hitman in the employ of the bank. Before the night is through, the bank official is dead as well. But, the former Scotland Yard man is obsessed and now he’s close enough to smell blood, so he pursues every lead, every possible opportunity to get at the bank, even when it leads him almost to his own destruction.

Again, this movie wasn’t bad, but, frankly, for an action flick it was very slow. It really never took off and barely kept going at all in several places. Oh, there were several assassinations, and chases, one across the rooftops in Turkey, but, outside of an incredible scene in the rotunda of the Guggenheim in New York, there wasn’t anything that really caught fire.
Now, that scene in the Guggenheim was something else. It was ultra realistic, which was actually a bit of a plotting misstep, to be honest. They catch up to the assassin, who they are sure is going to let them crack the bank, but the bank has sent a team of really sloppy hitmen that spray the museum with bullets. It was incredible! And, the exact opposite of everything the bank had been doing up until that point in the movie. A total betrayal of their previous sneaky, hidden moves and completely out of character. There was one point, however, when someone tumbles off the railing and bounces down several flights of the circular balconies, finally braking his back on the lowest rail, that is so realistic it made me and the guys I went to see the movie with all wince. Trust me on this, that is one realistic scene!

All in all, it was okay. Not too many surprises, honestly, and slow for an action movie, but not bad. If you need to see this one, though, try for a matinee and avoid paying full-price. It’s not quite worth that.


Financial Responsibility

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:42 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Just for myself.

So, one of my new life goals is to get debt free and stay that way. But, really, that’s just a very concrete way for me to describe getting my finances in order. I’ve started doing a number of things to get that particular set of ducks in a row, among them being to sign up for our 401k. When I first became eligible for that, I was in the middle of a divorce, so I didn’t take advantage of it. Then, frankly, I couldn’t afford it, so I more or less forgot about it. But, with the raise that will start after the first of the year, now seemed like a perfect time to start socking money away. I think the company matches me some, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m going to start taking money out of every paycheck, before taxes, and move it into an investment device.

Also, along with that, I plan to start using the automated transfer system at my bank to transfer some of that raise directly into my savings account every two weeks. The idea here, as so many personal investment gurus have said, is to pay myself first. And, from here on out, I’m going to transfer any automated payments from Google directly into my savings account, too. I think of that as “extra” money anyway, so I might as well set it aside.
What I’m trying to do with this pattern, is to set aside a contingency fund. If I really want to get out of debt and stay out of debt, I have to stop making any more debt! The only way to do that is to have some money set aside to deal with anything that might come up. (Incidentally, I’ll be following the basic plan from How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt and Live Prosperously, which is where I got the common sense idea to start building a contingency fund.) I know it will be slow going, but, I think it will be well worth it in the end.

Also, in the Spring, I’m going to find a personal finance magazine of some kind to subscribe to so I can educate myself better on financial matters. I’m not sure which I’ll go with, Money, Kiplinger’s, or SmartMoney, but I’ll most likely stick with one of those three.

And, finally, here are a couple of articles from Men’s Health about financial matters, which is what got me thinking about this today.
First, there’s “Your Biggest Money Worries – Solved“. I have to admit, that one hit a couple of mine, like “Affording Her” and “Paying Off Your Debts”, not to mention “Saving Enough For Retirement”. Surprisingly, this article about easy resolutions for the coming year sort of got me motivated, too. It all reminded me of how my parents taught me that the little things, when added up, can make big changes. Mom’s saying was “Inch by inch, life’s a sinch, but mile by mile, life’s a trial”. She used to say that to remind me that I had to be patient and do the little steps that made the bigger goals possible. It’s a good reminder.
But, what really got me thinking about this the most was Six Painless Ways to Build Wealth.
So, here’s hoping that a more serious, enlightened, “grown-up” approach to my finances will help me achieve yet another life goal. I’ll try to keep y’all updated.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"We are what we think. All that arises is with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world."


Red Herring Collection, Vol. 3

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:42 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Okay, there is no theme to this at all.

Well, I guess, links I saw this week that made me scratch my head could be a theme, but, whatever…
First, as many of us are thinking about our taxes and how to pay less of them to the government, this story from MSN about the 9 wierdest tax write-offs made me laugh. I especially liked the one about the pimped out Amish buggy.
Then, there was this story about RFID tattoos. My first thought was that it would be an interesting way to track your kids, but, apparently, they’re using it to track livestock. Which makes sense, since meat is the most shoplifted item in the stores. I mean, meat isn’t cheap, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find out how much gets stolen on the hoof, too. And, I’m sure it’d be easier for other kinds of record keeping, too.
The last wacky link is to a story about the iPod index. Well, to be more specific, an index to track currency values based on the cost of an iPod. Apparently, an Australian bank is using the iPod as a commodity on which to place relative values of world currency. I wonder if it’s occurred to them that shipping and manufacturing costs in various parts of the world might skew that index? Well, anyway, iPod fanataics already know ours are like gold.

So, now, I’ve hopefully given you something to read that ends your week with a chuckle.
Enjoy your Friday Fun links!



Light Friday

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Fun,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:39 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, not my workload, just the links.

So, after the past couple of weeks of hard-core geek links, I felt a little guilty and thought I’d share a few things that are, hopefully, more fun.
First, there’s a little light-hearted fun for your morning coffee. My personal favorite is “Drink Coffee: Do stupid things faster and with more energy!” And, to go with your morning coffee, from that same website, “Holy Toast“. Now, you can have your morning coffee while messing with the people who believe that the Virgin Mary would actually appear on toast. What a great way to start the day!

Second, there’s an article that might come in handy on payday… What to do in a Bank Robbery. You know, just in case you find yourself there. No, I did not make this up and, no, I don’t remember the last time I was actually inside a bank thanks to direct deposit.

Thirdly, and finally, there’s a brief article on MSN Health’s “Men’s Health” section about things to NOT think about to reduce stress. Most of these can be adjusted to fit women, too, so it is applicable. For instance: “Death. It’ll be either unremarkable or really cool. If it’s the latter, smile as fate cuts you down. Some guys sell their souls to be as cool in life as you’ll be in death.” Or, “Getting fired. Dismissal from a job is always a promotion in disguise. You can catch an afternoon game, rethink your career and bring possibility back into your life—all while the guy who just fired you is still at work.” See? Things you just don’t need to worry about. I feel my stress levels dropping off already!

But, what the heck, it’s Friday and by the time you clicked the links and read the stories, I’ve been taking some advice from that last one and ignoring my “…prowess behind the wet bar. You can make 31 kinds of martinis? So what? You’re a man, not Baskin-Robbins. All you need is a tumbler and two fingers of scotch. Some ice, if you’re taking it easy tonight.” Hey, it IS Friday, after all, so I’m entitled to take it easy!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"On a clear disk, you can see forever."

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Do you trust your bank?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — 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 Waning Crescent

If you do business with them on the Internet, do you check your balances?

Well, it sounds like you better start! According to this story on AustalianIT, banking on the Internet may not be as safe as you thought. (Okay, this really was only effecting Australian bank customers, but still…) Apparently, some wiley Russian and Latvian crakers have put together a set of trojans to collect personal account data. They then use this data to move funds to an accomplice’s account in the same country as the bank, in this case, Australia. Then, the accomplice takes their cut and sends the rest on to the rest of his crew. Pretty scary.
On the upside, it’s out and known now, so I’m sure people are working on getting it stopped. Also, you know about it, so you can take the right precautions, like never using an unsecured computer to access bank accounts. And, of course, this hasn’t been reported in the US. Yet.

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