Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/23/2019

Throw Away Drives

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Dark Side,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Please, be careful.

We tend to treat USB thumb drives as essentially disposable these days, which, considering their low cost, they basically are.  At least, in one sense.  The problem is, those cheap, little drives still store an awful lot of data.  I recently read an article titled “You left WHAT on that USB drive?!” where the authors talk about several studies, formal and informal, where researchers scooped up random USB drives, either from eBay or the lost and found, to see what was on them.  The results are a little terrifying.  According to the article, “…about two-thirds of second-hand USB memory sticks bought in the US and the UK have recoverable and sometimes sensitive data. In one-fifth of the devices studied, the past owner could be identified.”  What’s more, in the case of one study, out of 200 drives, only 34 of them had been properly wiped out.  That’s just 17% of the drives.  Several had been formatted, but still had data that could be recovered off them.  Yes, that’s right, even reformatting the drives does NOT guarantee that they will be properly wiped out.

What’s more, the data that was left behind was of a very sensitive nature in many cases.  Everything from tax information to naked photos to photos of a soldier on deployment and at home, including the soldier’s address.  And, again, reformatting is not enough.  At least 8 drives out of the 200 examined had been reformatted, but had data on them that could still be recovered!  So, what can be done?
Personally, I tend to use USB drives until they absolutely don’t work at all any more, and I try not to put personal data on them in any case.
One solution is to get a USB drive that can be encrypted.  I’ve used several versions of the LaCie Imakey that includes an encrypted partition and utilities to manage it, but that doesn’t seem to be available any more.  A replacement might be the Kingston Digital Data Traveler Locker, which lets you set a password to restrict access, as well as doing hardware encryption of some kind and even backing up to the cloud in case the drive gets lost.  Granted those drives can get a little pricey, but how much does it cost to deal with the potential identity theft that lax personal security might bring?

If you have drives, USB or otherwise, that you’re looking to get rid of, then at least sanitize them before they go.  There are a lot of articles and utilities available to help you with that.  One that covers pretty much every drive you might have is How to securely erase external hard drives, SD cards, or flash drives, which details the steps as well as suggesting utilities to help you.  Now, for the most part, I assume that if you read this blog, as opposed to my other blog, Use Your Words, then you’re a geek like me and can handle more than consumer-grade procedures and software.  If that’s the case, or you’re feeling particularly brave, one great utility I’ve used is Darik’s Boot and Nuke aka DBAN.  It’s a free ISO you can download to make a bootable disk/drive that will let you securely wipe a drive before disposing of it.  It’s simple to use and free, but if you’re not comfortable burning an ISO to a disk or thumbdrive, then I’d recommend getting a more consumer-friendly product.

Either way, it’s a scary world out there to let your precious data roam free without a keeper, so be careful with those cheap, “throw away” drives.  If you’re not careful how you use them, they could get pretty expensive.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"My obligation is to do the right thing. The rest is in God's hands."
   --Martin Luther King

9/21/2018

Explore the Universe From Your Desktop

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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 Waxing Gibbous

Fly around the universe, virtually, from your Windows desktop.

Yes, sadly, this is for Windows users only. I try to make these posts as universally appealing as possible, but, sometimes, what I’m offering up is specific to an operating system and just too good to pass up. This is one of those.
Now, of course, I’m a big science-fiction geek and I love the fantasy of zooming through space to other planets and star systems. I suppose it has something to do with growing up watching Star Trek or seeing the original Star Wars (ie. Episode IV) in the theater as a little kid. Whatever the reason, I’ve never gotten past the idea that I’d like to leave Earth and discover the wonders of the universe like the captain of my very own interstellar craft. Sadly, the laws of physics are working against me on realizing that dream. So, until then, I’ll have to just explore the universe with my imagination. Thankfully, according to Lifehacker, there’s a desktop program called SpaceEngine that will help me do just that. If you head over to SpaceEngine.org, you can download the app for free. It’s huge, so it will take some time, but it’s worth it. You may get some warnings from your antivirus when you try to download it, but I found that the fifth “mirror”, which was a Google drive space, seemed to be okay. Once you have it installed, you can soar off to distant stars and planets and let the wonders of our universe wash over you. Frankly, it seems like the perfect escape for a Friday afternoon, especially if you’re reading this blog instead of working.
You’ll want to make sure to read the manual and be patient with the program, though, it is still in beta, after all.
So, check it out and come see what I have for you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

9/14/2018

Send Big Files

Filed under: Red Herrings,The Day Job — 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 Waxing Crescent

Frustrated with email limitations on big attachments?

Lately, I seem to be offering up solutions for email problems. I guess, email is on my mind lately. Don’t get me wrong, I love email. I frankly think it’s one of the most incredible things about the internet and quite possibly the greatest invention since sliced bread. Seriously. Think about it. Email connects us almost instantly with virtually anyone else in the world who has an email address. No time spent waiting for postal carriers to get a letter from where we are to where they are which might take days or weeks. Just near instantaneous communication.
Of course, there are some limitations. Obviously, I can’t send someone physical objects directly via email. I suppose, though, that when 3D printer technology catches up to our imaginations, we could send the digital files for some object and then you could print it locally, but that’s far, far in the future. Also? Most email systems have pretty strict limits on how big a file you can even send. Most top out around 25 megabytes, but some are really strict and are capped at as little as 5 megabytes. So, what can you do to keep those limits from killing your ability to share your big, beautiful Photoshop files? Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
In this case, the way is Send by Firefox. Yes, by the people who make the Firefox web browser, but, no, you don’t have to have Firefox to use it. You can watch a small video of how it works here, but really, it’s just a matter of uploading a file and following the instructions. They do recommend that you keep files under 1 gigabyte, but if you’re sending files that big, you’re really better off talking to your IT Department about setting up an FTP server for you. (Don’t worry, they’ll know what that means.)
In any case, this should be a simple solution for you under most circumstances.
And, that’s about the best you can hope for on a Friday!
Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you back here next week!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

8/31/2018

WiFi Analyzer

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Now, available for Windows!

I’ve actually been using this particular program on an Android tablet for quite a long time. Come to think of it, I started out using it on a rooted Barnes and Noble nook tablet close to ten years ago, then when I upgraded, just kept using it. Often, I’d pull out my tablet, especially when on the road, to find the strongest local wifi signal to see if I could join that network. When I was in San Francisco for WonderCon in 2010, I used it to discover that the fastest wireless internet connection I could find was the yoga studio next door to the little, boutique hotel I was staying in. I also used it to tell the hotel staff what to change their wifi channel to for better performance.
More recently, I used it in my own neighborhood to tune my home wifi to the best channel so we got a stronger signal and weren’t sharing the same frequency with all the neighbors. Sure, it may be a small improvement, but I think it’s significant enough to make a few minutes spent with a free app worthwhile.
In any case, I saw recently on Lifehacker, that there’s a free Windows version of WiFi Analyzer available now. You just need to follow the links and download it. I linked to the Lifehacker article, instead of directly, because they go a great job showing you why it’s a good thing to have and use. Also, I’m too lazy to write all that out again. So, go hit their site, give them advertising revenue, and enjoy!

3/12/2018

An OS Inside An OS

Filed under: About The Author,Better Living Through Technology,GUI Center,Linux,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:55 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, I’m a geek. In fact, I’m actually a professional geek. Rumor has it, being a geek is cool now. I’ll get back to you on that.
In any case, one of the ways my geek has expressed itself is in early support for Linux.  I’ve used Linux, one way or another, for more than twenty years.  It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  What’s more, I’ve been Linux certified for more than ten years!  Strange but true!  I don’t use Linux as my main operating system, though, because I live in the real world, not a Techno-Libertarian Utopia.  And, yes, that means, I use Windows.  At home, it’s Windows 10, because that’s what came installed on the laptops I got for my wife and I while I was a highly-paid contractor in 2016 and we were refreshing all our electronics.  But, much to my surprise, there’s a way to run both Windows and Linux, together on the same machine!  Without having a dual-boot system!  Thanks to an article from the Linux Journal, which almost went the way of the dinosaurs last year, I have activated Windows Subsystem for Linux, which is ONLY available on Windows 10, and then installed Ubuntu, which is free, from the Microsoft Store.  The little screen-shot at the top of this post is Ubuntu, running in its own, little window, on my Windows 10 laptop.

This is exciting!
Now, I can brush up my bash scripting by setting up a series of rsync jobs to keep my two Western Digital MyCloud drives in sync, essentially backing one up to the other.  From the literature, I had thought that was built into the models I got, but it wasn’t.  I tried to use SSH to get that setup directly on the MyCloud devices, since they’re running some limited *nix kernel, but something about the way they were configured made connecting one directly to the other and running rsync from working “as expected”.  This, though, should get me around all that.
Now, all I have to do sort out the syntax for properly mounting the Windows shares I’ve set up in the Ubuntu virtual machine app.  So, I’m not 100% there yet, but this is a great start!

 

1/12/2018

Procedural Space Opera

Filed under: About The Author,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I may be a computer geek, but I’m heavier on the geek side.

Not that a statement like that is much of a surprise to people who know me. Or to people who follow my oldest blog, the eponymously named Diary of a Network Geek. The thing is, though, I fell into the network part of that. Before that, though, I was a slightly different kind of geek. I’ve always been into science-fiction and, at one time, thought I wanted to be a writer. Actually, I still do what to be a writer, but the networking thing has been more profitable. In any case, boring personal information aside, I still love almost everything related to science-fiction. And, back when I was trying to teach myself Perl, and later PHP, I made some goofy world-building random generators that made everything from story ideas to parts of languages. Since then, a lot of other people have made much, much better random generators, and that’s what I’m bringing to you this Friday.
Specifically, the Planet Generator created by David Stark, aka Zarkonnen, an Indie game developer from Zurich. Basically, it’s just a clean, simple webpage that randomly generates a thumbnail sketch for a space-opera-esque alien planet. It’s great all by itself, as far as I’m concerned, but the reason I’m sharing it is because Zarkonnen has decided to share his source code. (You can find it at Github.) So, if you’re inspired to take apart some cool code to try and add your own flair to it, you can! And, you might just learn something about programming along the way! My code was so ugly, I never shared it really, but I appreciate everyone, like David, who did, so that I might be inspired and learn.

Don’t worry, though, even if learning programming, or more programming, isn’t one of your New Year’s Resolutions, the already completed tool is kind of fun, too.
Have an “out of this world” weekend, and I’ll blog at you next week!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words, a blog that gets frustratingly low traffic.

12/8/2017

Scam The Scammers

Filed under: Fun,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

In the Christmas spirit of giving, give the scammers a headache.

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I seem to get twice the number of scam and spam email that I normally get. It’s pretty terrible. I mean, most of the year, it’s bad enough, but we are all extra busy this time of year and have even less time than normal to deal with these bottom-feeders of cyberspace. I’m NOT an advocate of the infamous “hack back” strategy, even for well-heeled corporate IT departments that can staff skilled anti-hackers, but the idea of an artificially intelligent email bot that annoys and harasses email scammers is a little different. For one thing, it’s just annoying email. For another, it’s automated.
All you have to do is forward the scam email to me@rescam.org and let the games begin. The Re:scam email bot will reply to the scammer and tie them up with an almost endless stream of questions and “personal” anecdotes so the scammers are kept busy and, yes, tortured just a little bit. And, they’ll forward you the email conversations afterward, for your amusement.
No, it’s not nice, but, let’s face it, these email spammers aren’t exactly on Santa’s “Nice List”, if you know what I mean.

So, head over to Boiing Boing and read about the Re:scam email bot and enjoy your Christmas shopping!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

9/8/2017

Ulitmate Free Linux Software Collection

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell,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

That’s a long title for something only a few of my hardcore readers will be interested in.

I used to blog about a lot of hardcore geeky things, professional geeky things and personal geeky things both. But, for a while now, I’ve drifted away from some of the geekier stuff. It’s not that I have less interest, because I assure you I’m still a pretty hardcore geek. For instance, the other day, I rooted an old Android phone so I could install Kali Linux on it for some mobile penetration testing. Except, I wasn’t happy with the rooting tool I had used and how the whole thing turned out, so I wiped it and, when thing settle down a bit from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I’ll take another crack it, if you’ll pardon the pun.
I’m still an IT professional, and have gotten more technical again in my most current several positions. Which really means that I have spent more time managing systems than people, which is just fine with me. And, as I just mentioned, I’ve spent some time thinking about security, which for me always includes Linux in some form or flavor. Of course, it helps that I’m an old Novell guy and picked up my CompTIA Linux+ back before they changed the requirements to include regular recertification. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t work to keep my Linux skills sharp, just that I’m not required to for the certification.
And, that’s what inspired me to bring my fellow geeks this week’s link; The Awesome Linux Software repository at Github!
If you’re interested in Linux, this is a fantastic collection links to four of the most popular distros (Arch Linux, CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu), and dozens of programs for your every Linux-based need. The maintainer, Lewis Vo, has links to Linux software for Audio, Chat Clients, Data Backup and Recovery, Desktop Customization, Development, E-Book Utilities, Editors, Email Utilities, File Managers, Games, Graphics, Internet, Office, Productivity, Security, Sharing Files, Terminal, Utilities, and Video, as well as Command Line Utilities, Desktop Environments, Display Managers, and Window Managers. I mean, there are links to EVERYTHING a Linux geek could want.

If you’ve never tried Linux, I highly recommend you do, or talk to a geek friend about it. We’re happy to talk about it for hours!
And, next week, something for a wider audience, I promise!

8/11/2017

Trippy GIFs

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

And, yes, that’s pronounced like the peanut butter by all right-minded geeks.

Because that’s how the creator said it! Okay, that’s all a joke, because he didn’t actually care that much about how anyone said it, according to an interview I read. Though, I suspect he might appreciate having gotten royalties on the file format. The really big deal about GIFs, in case you were really bored on a Friday and looking for an internet history lesson, is that the specification included provisions for animation. So, basically, these little guys were the first way we really shared video on the internet, back when the internet was CompuServe and other “walled garden” sites.

Flash forward to today, though, and artists have done some spectacular things with the format, like wavegrower and his amazing animated GIFs. Go take a look and just prepare to waste your entire day being mezmerized by the beauty of his psychadelic moving images.
Stunning. Seriously, just stunning.
And, a pretty fun way to waste time on a Friday when you’re reading blogs instead of working.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/16/2016

Social Fixer

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun — 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 Waning Gibbous

Fix your social media.

I know my post for the past couple of weeks have been pretty random, but, hey, it’s the end of the year and I’ve been cleaning out old links.
I’ve noticed since I’ve been mostly off of Facebook this year, I’ve been more relaxed.  My stress about the election, I think, has been considerably less than most of the people I know.  This can’t be a coincidence.  In fact, I’m sure they’re related.  Facebook, for the most part, adds nothing to my life.  There’s always been too much there for me to keep up with anyway, not to mention all the rage-inducing exchanges I’ve had with people who seem incapable of listening to reason or forming a cogent argument about anything.
Still, I understand the addiction.  It’s hard to turn away from that flow of apparent social interaction once you get hooked.  And, of course, there are legitimate reasons to connect there, like the movie groups my wife belongs to on Facebook.  So, how do you avoid all the cruft that makes you crazy?  Well, if you’re a Firefox (or Chrome) user, there’s a fix for that: Social Fixer.

Social Fixer is a free Greasemonkey script that let’s you hide sponsored posts, advertising, political posts, pages you don’t want to see and more.  Yes, you have to install the Greasemonky add-on first, but other than that, it’s pretty straight forward.  And, it’s the personal project of a regular guy who had the same frustrations as you and I, so you don’t have to worry about more corporate sponsors and greed ruining the fun.  And, if you’d like, you can make donations, but it’s not a requirement to use the tool.

So make your social media great again and clean up your Facebook with Social Fixer!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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