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:
" Reasonable men adapt themselves to their environment; unreasonable men try to adapt their environment to themselves. Thus all progress is the result of the efforts of unreasonable men."
   --George Berbard Shaw

6/29/2018

Hurricane Season Preparations

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,News and Current Events,Personal Care,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — 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 Waning Gibbous

The Gulf Coast is well into Hurricane Season. Are you prepared?

Here in Texas, hurricane season is kind of a big deal. And, with global climate change making tropical storms more frequent and more severe, it’s getting to be a bigger deal all the time. Usually, we have more than enough time to prepare, if you’re paying attention, but it never hurts to get ready well in advance so you’re not fighting for bottled water, bread and canned food with everyone else at the last minute.
So far, since I’ve been in Houston, I’ve been through one horrible tropical storm, and near miss and two actual hurricanes. After that first tropical storm, since my ex-wife and I were looking for a house, I chose one that wasn’t pulling up carpet. That turned out to be a pretty smart decision as not far away the neighborhood has some flooding issues. Thankfully, in the 18 years I’ve lived in my house, that’s never been a problem. But, all that said, I still worry about hurricanes and do try to take some reasonable precautions.

There are a couple of philosophies when it comes to hurricanes. Mostly, it’s either stay or go.
If you stay, you need to think about what you need to get by for an extended period of time. Most emergency preparedness sources suggest that you need to have food, water and other supplies for at least 72 hours. A great resource to help you plan is the Ready.gov site for hurricanes. They go over what to expect and even have really helpful PDF downloads to help you plan and prepare. And, actually, Ready.gov has a lot of resources for other kinds of disasters, too, like Wildfires, Tornadoes, Volcanoes, Floods and more. It’s definitely a resource worth checking out.
If you’re in the Houston area, like me, the city has their own disaster preparedness site, Ready Houston. It’s a good site and they offer a free DVD you can use to help you plan for emergencies with advice specifically for the Houston, TX area. They have videos on the site, too, as well as links to training other places, like FEMA.
One thing to consider if you have pets, for instance, is what to do with them during an emergency. FEMA has a training course for helping you with your animals in an emergency situation, which I found via the Ready Houston website. (They also have a more general, but, apparently, pretty complete course in general emergency preparedness.)

If you decide to make a run for it, you may want to put together what’s alternately called a “go bag” or a “bug out bag”. Personally, I feel the name “go bag” seems less paranoid and crazy-survivalist sounding, but it amounts to the same thing.
The idea is simple, really, it’s just a bag with all the things you need for anywhere from three days to a couple of weeks, ready to go on a moment’s notice. Not unlike a hospital bag for a pregnant woman, the main thing is that it’s packed and ready so when panic hits, you can just grab the bag and, well, go. Personally, I do NOT have a regular go-bag already prepped, because I frankly don’t have anywhere I’d run to in an emergency. And, if I did, I’d be neck deep in other people doing the same thing. But, again, you can take this as far as you’d like, assuming anything from temporarily relocating to another city and staying in a hotel to running off and hiding in the woods for a couple weeks. It’s up to you. But, either way, consider what might go into that bag. For some good examples, check out Scott Kelley’s Bug Out Bag on Kinja, who even provides links to what he bought so you can get it easily, too, and the oddly less woodsy approach to a bug out bag by American Rifleman Magazine, though I’m less convinced that you really need to be overly concerned with being armed. Remember, it ultimately comes down to just being ready for what ever you think might happen wherever you are.

I would also suggest that you have some long shelf-life food on hand, like every good IT guy has in his desk. In the past, I’ve used Millenium Food bars, actually, since they provide a lot of calories and energy with a five-year shelf-life, but really any good protein bar will do in a pinch.
One really good idea is to scan important documents, like a home-owner’s insurance policy and financial information and IDs and put them all on a LaCie USB key Flash Drive, or something similar that you keep on your keys, in case all the original documents get destroyed during a disaster or when you’re not at home.

So, in short, the idea here is to be like the Boy Scouts, prepared.
Have you gotten ready for hurricane season yet? Start now!

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

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.

6/5/2015

Hurricane Preparedness

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Dog and Pony Shows,News and Current Events,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — 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

Hurricane season started on Monday, June First. Are you ready?

Here in Texas, hurricane season is kind of a big deal.  Or, at least, it is to this kid from the Heartland.  Of course, most of the time, we have plenty of time to prepare because you see these things coming from a long, long way off.  Still, it’s better to be prepared early rather than competing with everyone for bottled water, bread and canned food.

So far, since I’ve been in…
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8/29/2014

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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8/22/2014

Photography Blogs to Follow, Part One

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 Waning Crescent

Yes, this implies at least a “Part Two”.

Maybe even a part three.  We’ll see on that part, but at least two.
I’ve been at my new job for five weeks now and, frankly, I’m so exhausted by the end of the day, I haven’t really had anything left over for hobbies.  In fact, I’ve barely had any energy left over for watching television or reading.  So, you know, my photography has been, well, languishing, just a bit.  What that means, too,…
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3/21/2014

Fast Fiction

Filed under: Fiction,Fun,Red Herrings — 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

In this case, really fast.

I’ll be honest, I’m not normally a huge fan of gimmicky flash fiction, but I do make exceptions.
The basic idea is to write a story with the fewest number of words possible.  According to literary legend, Ernest Hemingway did it with just six words; “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn”.  That was allegedly to win a bet with Ezra Pound, as I recall.  In any case, it’s still a gimmick and one that’s gotten a little…
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2/21/2014

The Portable Strobist

Filed under: Art,Fun,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 a Third Quarter Moon

Now, you can take David Hobby with you on the road!

Okay, not really.  I mean, I suppose you can if you’re Joe McNally or somebody like that, but guys like me, and my faithful readers (both of you!), probably can’t afford to actually take the famous Strobist with us on a shoot.  (If you’re not familiar with David Hobby or his blog, The Strobist, you really should check it out, by the way.  He used to post a lot more…
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2/14/2014

Creative Lists

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

This is not a new idea.

But, then, I remember hearing when I was in high school that there are no new ideas under the Sun, only new ways to implement them.  And, remember, every story you tell, is uniquely your own.  So, the age-old question about creative ideas, right?  Where do they come from?  The answer I got was that they come in a plain, brown wrapper from Schenectady.  (That was from Frank Herbert, author of Dune, via a phone…
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10/17/2013

Photography 101 by Canon

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Pressgram — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Well, I’m back.

Blogging, and writing in general, is like having a case of scabies; it’s a persistent itch that just will not go away!
In any case, I’m safely married and my blushing bride is hard at work on her business, so I’m back at the blog and other writing projects.  Right now, I’m working on some personal documentation off-line, in the privacy of my own directory structure, but that may eventually get shared with the larger world.  Until then, though,…
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