Diary of a Network Geek

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


Some New Tools

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:58 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
–Abraham Maslow

So, I’ve been doing a lot of strange things at work the past couple of weeks. And, by strange I mean working around problems like trying to get things done without spending money. That always seems to lead me through some interesting back doors and into areas that I’ve not been before.

First, I was asked to do some browser forensics. Basically, it was supposed that a particular employee, no myself, was spending a little too much tiem on the web. I was tasked with finding how much time and where they were going. Simple enough, right? Well, I had to do it on the “down low” and without sitting at their computer. Enter, Webhistorian, by Mandiant. This utility let me grab history files and arrange them into a nice, easy-to-read report that told me where, when and how long my intended target was spending time on the web. That combined with a drive mapped to the administrative share on his computer showed… That he was actually relatively innocent. Yeah, he went to some sports websites, but only first thing in the morning and at lunchtime. Nothing worth firing him over, at any rate.

Next, there was a more, um, general security question. And, okay, it wasn’t actually at work, but it’s good to know for work. A friend thought her computer might have been inadvertantly used in the comission of a crime by a “guest” and asked me to check it out. I can’t go into details because of pending legal action, but I decided to let her take it to the proper authorities first, in case I were to mess up any evidence. Once they’re satisfied, however, I’ll take a look at it. And, thanks to another blog I read, I’ll be using something called Helix.
I have read the aforementioned blog, A Day In The Life Of An Information Security Officer, for, well, years, actually. Mostly, it’s just an interesting diversion, but sometimes, I get good ideas from the posts and case files. This time, the new tool came from the comment section. Helix was suggested by another faithful reader. It’s a bootable, “live cd” Linux distribution. It’s also free, which is one of my main criteria for the tools I use.

I also had to clone a giant Windows XP disk this week. I tried a number of utilities, including Symantec’s Ghost, but it was another Linux distro that saved me. This time, I used Knoppix. Also a bootable, “live cd” distro which is available free from the Internet. I found the command by accident while searching for something else, but I also discovered there are other ways to clone a cd via Knoppix. My Google search turned up several HowTo documents. There was one on Knoppix.net’s forums, another on Linux.com and a third on Just Linux. I used the third method first, which turned out to not work so well at all. Something to do with XP and how finicky it is about hardware and booting, I suspect. So, I finally moved on to the appropriately named NTFSClone. I still had problems making it bootable, but I attribute that to the old disk running Windows XP. I hate XP. Truly. Still, I managed to have some good fun with all the different attempts. I enjoy a good intellectual challenge!

These days no one can afford to be just a “Windows Admin” or just a “Novell Admin” or, even just a “Unix admin”. We have to use the right tools to get the job done, whatever that looks like.
I’m the man behind the curtain who makes the great and powerful Oz go. If I want to outwit the flying monkeys that the Wicked Witch of the West sends after me, I’d better have a whole lot of tools in my toolbox besides my magic ruby hammer.
Even though I’m Linux certified, I don’t work with it enough for my taste, so I’ve finally gotten off my lazy butt and installed Open SuSE on two old laptops I have at the house. Again, it’s free and so were the laptops. One is an old Dell that came from an old job. The other is a Compaq that a friend gave me because he knew I’d get more use out of it than anyone who he might donate it to for the tax write-off. Either that, or I’ve become a charity. Hey, it could happen!
In any case, I’m working on expanding my toolbox, one piece at a time. And, now, you can take advantage of my tinkering to expand your own digital toolbox. Have fun with the new toys!


On Being Unemployed

Filed under: Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Being out of work sucks.

I could just about end this entry there, but that would be cheating. Thankfully, I am employed now, but I haven’t been for all that long, so I remember how bad it sucks to be out of work.
I remember when I first got into IT. I was sure that I’d never have to worry about being employed again. Wrong! But, then, at the time, I never would have expected to move to Houston. And, I never would have expected that a company like Enron would go bankrupt. Not to mention the fact that the mere concept of HP and Compaq “merging” was so far from being a possibility that it was inconcievable. But, the only constant is that things change. And change they did.
So, last year at this time, I was out of work and I didn’t know when I’d get hired. I figured that it would be no sooner than mid-January, because that’s when most everyone gets their new budget. Wrong again. It took almost an entire year for me to get a new job. Now, I’ll admit that part of that is my fault. I’ve got my Novell certification, but I never really wanted to get my Micro$oft certification. Guess what everyone was hiring this year? Yeah, primarily MCSEs (that’s MicroSoft Certified Systems Engineers, to you, buddy!). And that left me high and dry for most of the year. But, eventually, a Novell shop went looking and found me. Of course, even they are converting to Windows 2000, so I’m going to end up getting my MCSE after all. At least, the next time I’m out of work, I’ll be able to use that to my advantage.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not going to rely on either certification to get me a gig. No, sir, I’ve learned my lesson. Marketing is going to get me a job. Yep, that’s right. Marketing is the key. Marketing is the answer.
Marketing myself is what I mean, of course. Why else would I set up a blog like this? I get to use all the nice keywords and technical terms that keep me listed high in the search engines. Yep, I can write about being a CNE, then explain that CNE mean Certified NetWare Engineer. Buzzwords. Ah, I love the sound of buzzwords. Every MicroSoft and Windows reference cranks me up a notch. Each time I link to Novell’s website, I improve my search ranking. And, the last time I checked, it was working. If I do a search for CNE Resume on Google, I find myself as the number one hit. Sweet!
So, keep hitting those links, children. Keep Uncle Jim’s website ranked high. make sure the nice recruiters can see me, so that the next time I’m over loaded with free time and not enough paying work, they can fix that. Ah, the power of technology….

Now, back to work for me, before I’m unemployed again.


Back In Baton Rouge

Filed under: On The Road — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:46 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Hey guess where I’m writing this from? Yep, I’m back in Baton Rouge! Yahoo! Only this time, I flew. No more of that driving across the swamp at night. Blech!
Things were going fairly well Monday. I got to start correcting the NDS (that’s Novell Directory Services, for you neophytes) synchronization issues that we’re still having thanks to Mother, our primary NDS Replica server, going South on me. Of course, just about every change I want to make takes about two hours to replicate out. Now, I *know* that I’ve explained that to the Supreme Commander, but he still doesn’t seem to “get” it. He’s a really Big Picture sort of guy and doesn’t understand *any* of the details of what I do. The joys of working for a former programmer. That’s all they truly understand or think matters. The rest is just magic that should happen instantly. *sigh* Of course, the fact that our building lost power didn’t help much. Thankfully, I’ve got my Palm IIIc! I just whipped that out and started playing Space Trader. Ah, what fun.
Then, on Tuesday, I started on that again. Until the Baton Rouge server dropped off the network. It still was up, but it stopped communicating with the rest of the network. The Cisco router was fine, so I knew it wasn’t the WAN connection, but it just wouldn’t see the network. So we rebooted it. Oh, boy, was that a mistake. It never came up right. Eventually, we got to a point where all we could get was an “Invalid Partition Table” error. So, it’s off to the airport for me. Leaving my poor sick wife to deal with getting our daughter from school and taking care of our leaking pond. Oh, joy.
Well, I got there and started fumbling around with stuff, but didn’t get very far. Then, I noticed that we had been trying to use Windows 95 utilities on a DOS 6.22 formatted partition! Damn, no wonder we weren’t getting anywhere! So, that started us root around for a DOS bootable disk. We finally found one and I was able to FDISK and FORMAT the old Primary drive and copy everything from the DOS partition of the mirror. Then, while eating my oyster po’boy, we rebooted and *shazam*! The server starts to come up. The next thing we know, it’s already started running the backup. So, since all looked well, we called it a night. Now I’m waiting for everyone to get caught up so I can clean up the hardware and get the server back up, hopefully for good. Or at least until they move, when I hope they’ll upgrade to real hardware. You know, something brand-name, like Compaq or Dell or even HP. I hate having to figure out clones. Then, I’ll try to get an earlier flight back to Houston and just enjoy a night at home. Maybe even snuggle with the wife on the couch while we watch Star Trek. Voyager’s still in reruns! ; }

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