Diary of a Network Geek

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


Free Maps!

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,MicroSoft,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

No, not Google Maps.

In this case, it’s a free, trial version of MapPoint North America 2009 and a free, trial version of Streets and Trips 2009. Not sure how long they’ll be free, though. Also, not sure what GPS units, if any, these are compatible with, but it’s implied that MapPoint is with at least one, based on some of the information I’ve read.

So, quick, try them out while you still can!

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Review: Spook Country

Filed under: Fiction,News and Current Events,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Late Friday night, I finished reading Spook Country by William Gibson.

Even though Spook Country follows the trend that Pattern Recognition started, taking Gibson further away from science-fiction, I still loved it. For that matter, I loved Pattern Recognition when I read that. Both books take place in the recent past, and share some characters and invented, Gibsonian organizations. (In fact, while Googling some things in the book, I found two websites that “create” a proto-magazine from both books, called Node.)
Gibson’s latest work takes us through a twisting landscape populated with former spies, current criminal families, GPS-programming gurus, and assorted other mystery-men of action. Not to mention a mysterious shipping container, Cuban folk religion and governmental shennanigans. The result is pure Gibson and highly entertaining.

The MacGuffin, the thing that drives the story, is a mysterious shipping container and its equally mysterious contents. Everyone seems to be looking for this container, or trying to figure out why someone is looking for it. Along the way to finding it, which eventually happens, Gibson takes the reader on a tour of pop culture and through a winding maze of artistic landscapes that are so avant garde that they still seem like low-grade science-fiction. One of the things I like so well about Gibson’s recent work is how true it all rings to me. Now, I’m far from being tapped into the art world, but I am fairly tapped into the tech world and when he describes tech, Gibson is very accurate, very real. Yet, somehow, he doesn’t seem to date himself too much either. That’s a real trick when you’re dealing with tech. And, as always, his characters are just strange enough to seem real, like people I might have met once. One of his two main characters, Hollis Henry, former “singer in an early-nineties cult band” The Curfew who’s trying her hand at journalism, put me in mind of a friend of mine who’s an artist now, but used to be the lead singer in a punk band called Culturcide. And, well, I’ve known assorted esoteric hackers of all stripes, not to mention former Special Forces guys, and I’ve even met a former CIA field agent, who was a friend of my father’s.

Oh, and, eventually, Gibson does reveal what’s in the shipping container, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.


Linux Satellites

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Linux,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Yep, Linux-based satellites.
Mainly built using off-the-shelf equipment, too! According to this article on LinuxElectrons.com, the 100kg devices will have room for a 40kg payload and can generate up to 80watts of power for experiments. The satellite OS is a real-time Linux that “…uses CORBA-based object oriented interfaces for subsystems as well as commanding from the ground via the Internet.” In other words, you could control this bad boy via any Internet-connected PC.
This is cool and all, but am I the only one who sees the military/terrorist applications of this? 40kg is a pretty hefty payload, especially if it was all fissionable material. Imagine, if you can be paranoid along with me for a moment, a vast network of these nasty devices that have small cameras and GPS units for positioning and targeting. Now, imagine terrorist cells that just need a web interface, and some privacy to allow for the communication lag time, to unleash them on major cities. Just point and click!
God, I hope someone is regulating their sale and use….


GPS License Plates

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:39 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Well, not quite, but close.
In the UK, they’re going to be “chipping” their license plates. Among other things, that will mean that those plates can be tracked by the proper authorities via GPS. Yeah, the proper authorities. And, if that phrase didn’t strike enough terror into your heart, how about this… The article goes on to say that U.S. authorities are looking into this. How long before we’re greeted with “Hello citizen!” when the damn car door opens!?
Okay, this disturbs me on many levels. Setting aside the potential for governmental abuse and eroding the rights of the individual, what if hackers were to get into this system? Can you imagine the damage that could be done? It was bad enough when the old phone phreaks rerouted calls and made it look like calls originated in ficticious locations, but this, this has some really scary potential. Well, so far, it’s just over there in the UK, but, if the U.S. government is looking into this… Watch the skies, citizens. Remember, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance!
(Bonus points for anyone who can tell me where that quote originates. At least, with me.)


An Outdoor Handheld

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Palm — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Ok, it’s not actually a Palm device, but…

It is pretty cool. “It” is a handheld called “node” which is ruggedized for the outdoors. And, you can run either Windows CE or Linux on it, so it’s not all bad. Frankly, I’m surprised that Palm hasn’t come up with something like this yet. It’s a genius idea. The device itself comes with GPS built in, not to mention wireless networking and, of course, a full-color touch-screen. But, the best part is, the entire thing is waterproof! Totally cool! There’s a memory expansion port of somekind, but no word on any additional devices that can be added on, so to speak. Still, this is a giant leap forward for handheld computing. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes and what Palm’s response will be, if any.

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