Diary of a Network Geek

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


Blog Posts

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Geek Work,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production — 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 Gibbous

My creative blog posting well is dry.

So dry.
Seriously, if you count my original blog, I have been doing this blogging nonsense for almost 17 years. My first blog post went live May 4th, 2000. How crazy is that?  Back then, I hand coded every page, making the HTML myself with Microsoft Notepad.  Then, I installed Moveable Type.  That was followed by a definite upgrade to WordPress during the great licensing debacle of 2004.  So, yes, I’ve been using WordPress since version 1.2  A lot has changed since then, but I can tell you one thing that hasn’t; the terrible struggle to create new and interesting content.
My wife, The Organizing Decorator, and I were talking about this very thing recently.  She just finished moving her site to her own hosting and content management system, so that I wasn’t responsible for her site as well as all of mine, and she told me how she need to stop tweaking and tampering with it.  My response was that it was a lot easier to mess with formatting than it was to actually create content.  And, after 17 years, I’m really feeling tapped out.

So, what’s my response?  To share with you two links about generating content!
First, a post from the very brainy and entrepreneurial Growth Lab titled How to find 20+ blog ideas your audience can’t wait to read.  It’s a process, but it’s a process that will help you generate content tailored to your blog, brand, or business.
The other is How To Think Outside The Box with 200+ writing prompts by CoSchedule.  And, it’s just what it sounds like, a list of prompts with blanks to get you started on a blog post.  They’re pretty generic, but they may not all be applicable to your chosen subject matter.

Well, there you have it.  Two links that are free and useful, if not exactly “fun” for non-bloggers or content producers.
Maybe I’ll have something better for you next week.
Maybe not.  Only time will tell.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.



Filed under: Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,PERL — 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 Waxing Crescent

Real programmers code in text editors.

And, for what it’s worth, so do I!     RyuMaou - Prel Monk
Look, I’m the first to tell you that I’m not a programmer.  Honestly, I think it would kill me to sit in front of a monitor all the time and do nothing but bang out code, then re-read that code for errors and spend endless hours debugging it.  Still, I have done a bit of Perl programming.  And, I am, as of this writing, a Level 11 PerlMonk, which is something that makes me proud.  I’ve also done some pretty heavy customization of my blogs and, on the rare occasion that I muck around in the HTML and CSS, I do it in a text editor.  Actually, to be specific, I do it in UltraEdit.

UltraeditScreenCapI’ve used a couple of versions of UltraEdit, but the screen-shot a the right is from version which is the most current version at the time of this post.  As you can see, it’s easy to have multiple files open and to transfer back and forth between them by simply clicking on the tabs with their names at the top.  Also, the built-in file explorer makes it easy to find and open your target file.  Again, referencing the screen-shot, you can see that UltraEdit has built-in code highlighting, which can be turned off if it becomes distracting.  Frankly, that was one of the features I first came to love about this program, along with the spell check.  But, what really sold me was the “search and replace” function, which lets me easily replace line breaks with tabs or other characters.  That may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re dealing with a lot of raw text which needs to be manipulated in particular ways for input to other programs, or to fix output from some programs, that feature becomes invaluable.  Along with that is “Column Mode”, which will let you treat large sections of text more like columns in a spreadsheet than just raw text.  Believe me, that alone has saved me an enormous amount of time when I have to reformat text taken from a web page that has no export function!  Add to that the super simple sorting functions that include the ability to remove duplicates in a huge list and the really flexible macro system and you have a system administrators new best friend!

Of course, as I mentioned already, I also use UltraEdit to work with all the code I have to manipulate.
My “day job” doesn’t require that I code anything, thankfully, but for my own interests, I often find that I’m creating or editing a lot of different kinds of code.  I play with everything from Perl to PHP to HTML to CSS (which is what’s in that screen-shot above).  The fact that UltraEdit automatically adjusts the code highlighting as I switch between the different files by default has been super convenient and, at times, really helpful.  Most of the time, I’m updating or fixing someone else’s code for my own purposes and trying to remember where the closing tag in an HTML or PHP document that I didn’t create is can be daunting.  Code highlighting has really helped that.
That’s also where the built-in macro functions have been a big help.  I can record one, small action and repeat it as many times as I need to throughout a file with just a few keystrokes.  That can come in really handy when duplicating lists of variables, for instance, or converting a list of text elements into an array.  I can just insert the code which defines the element as part of the array in front of each bit of text in a matter of seconds.  Again, a huge time-saver.

Currently, this very useful utility is $80 for a new license or $40 for an upgrade, which is what I got.  I think an old employer actually paid for the original copy that I upgraded.  Either way, though, the price was worth it to me!  If Perl is the duct tape of the internet, then this is my utility knife!

UPDATE: Somehow I missed telling you all about one of the coolest features of UltraEdit – additional syntax highlighting files.  IDM has an incredible list of additional code/syntax highlighting files that you can download for free here.  My favorite?  The Cisco IOS code page that makes the huge ASA5500 configuration files I’ve been looking at for my latest gig easier to read (i.e. “actually comprehensible”)!  The instructions for adding them are on that page, too.


HTML For Babies

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:12 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

No, seriously!

Okay, so as we approach Christmas, I tend to think of gifts for people and I’ll no doubt post about them.  Okay, so, mostly, these are things I wouldn’t mind getting, but, still, I have good taste, so you’ll enjoy them, too.
So, clearly, you can tell that I’m no web designer from the way this site looks, right?  Well, believe it or not, I used to code all the pages for this site in HTML, by hand, using nothing more than a text editor!  Okay, all you design people can stop laughing at me now, thanks.
Anyway, when I saw this book, HTML for Babies, I was delighted!  Finally, I can start training my two-year-old godson to code compliant HTML so that he’s ready to take over managing my websites by the time he’s in Middle School!  You think I’m kidding?  Then hit the link and you’ll see that, no, I’m serious.  This is a book filled with properly coded HTML and simple, positive messages perfect for any toddler learning to read.  It really is baby’s first HTML training manual!

So, go ahead and start your geek young!  The perfect stocking stuffer for your budding web developer!
(You can also buy it directly from Amazon here: [amazon_link id=”0615487661″ target=”_blank” ]HTML for Babies[/amazon_link])


Muse – Free Web Publishing Software

Filed under: Art,Fun,GUI Center,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I love free!

So, most everyone in my business has heard of Adobe.  Mainly because they’re the top design and graphics software publisher in business right now.  Well, they’ve released a FREE program called Muse that lets you layout and publish webpages without having to write code.  Now, myself, personally, I’m okay writing the HTML code behind simple webpages, but, frankly, it’s a lot faster to do it in a nice graphical user interface that’s filled with point-and-click tools.  Also, since this comes from Adobe, you know that they’re going to have a great interface and make it easy to use for the novice.  Not sure how the output is, but, frankly, for most users, as long as the page looks nice when they’re done, the code behind it doesn’t really matter.

The program itself runs on their Adobe AIR platform, which means it’s pretty lightweight and fast.  You can read about all the features on the Muse website.
Oh, and while this is free right now, it will, eventually, be for sale in 2012, when they’ll be charging by the month for it.  So, you’d better get this while you can!

Hey, free, creative software just in time for the weekend, how can you beat that?
Well, enjoy your Friday, in any case.


Five Firebug Extensions

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,GUI Center,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:09 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Do you remember me talking about Firebug for Firefox a year ago?

Okay, I’ll grant you, that was some time back, so let me just refresh your memory.  Firebug is an add-on for Firefox that lets you do web/HTML/CSS design and editing from within the browser.  It’s pretty slick, really, and it’s well worth checking out if you haven’t already.  Well, now WebMonkey, the best damn HTML/web development resource since the HTTP protocol, has a list of the Five Best Firebug Extensions .

So, now, an extension has extensions. Cool.
Hey, I know I wander pretty far afield, but this is still the Diary of a Network Geek!


Webmonkey Lives Again!

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:40 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Oh, does this bring back memories!

Back in the day, when I was just a young lad and the web was still new and shiny, there was a magical place called Webmonkey where you could learn about HTML and CSS and all manner of web-related things, for free. And, oh my children, the glorious cheatsheets and references! Why, you’ve never seen such wonderful resources!

But, then came a sad time on the web, and this hyperlinked land of magic and wisdom became dated. The wizards who made it run moved on to other kingdoms where the gold may have flowed a bit more easily. And, sadly, the web playground that was Webmonkey laid down for a long, long sleep.

Well, finally, after all this time, Webmonkey lives again and he’s had a makeover!


Free Resources

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:37 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I love free.

One of the things people don’t talk about when you’re going through an extended medical illness is how to pay for what’s not covered afterward. I’m working through that, and doing my best to work toward being debt free. And, in thinking about that, it brought to mind all the free things I can get on the web. The software I run this blog, and others, with is free, for instance. A little searching around can turn up all kinds of free things.

While doing a little search, I found three lists of free resources over at Lorelle on WordPress.
Designing a Rainbow – free resources for color and design.
Blogging Tips – Hundreds of free resources for finding content for your blog.
and HTML, CSS, PHP, and More free cheatsheets

All three are lists of great resources for your website or blog. If you can’t find something useful in at least one of them, you’re not trying!


Phisher Frustrator

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:36 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

I probably shouldn’t have done this, but…

You know, sometimes, I just get so irritated with the scams I get via e-mail that I just can’t help myself. This morning I read one too many eBay phishing scams in my inbox and, well, I had to do something about it.

eBay Phishing e-Mail

So, this is the e-mail I got that sent me over the edge.
Notice how this looks like a legitimate e-mail from eBay. It has all the same things that the official notices from eBay would have, including links to what look like official notices and actual sign-in screens.
The only real problem with this is that it was sent to an account that’s not associated with my eBay account and I haven’t bought or sold anything on eBay in over a year. What bothered me, though, was that I know people who would click on this and get scammed.
For fun, I hovered over the links to see where they led. If you look at the bottom of the linked screen capture here, you’ll see what I saw, but with the IP address obscured for safety’s sake.

eBay Phishing Scam Page This is the page that the phisher wanted me to go to.
Again, notice how it looks like a legitimate page on eBay’s website. It looks so good because the phisher’s page actually links to the graphics on eBay’s site. But, if you look in the address bar in the browser in the linked screen capture, you’ll see what led me to mess with the scammer.
The link is to an FTP site and includes logon information, complete with password.
Naturally, this was just too good for me to resist.
So, I popped open a DOS prompt and loaded the default FTP client on my Windows machine. When I connected to the FTP address listed in the link, I was prompted for a userID and password. When I used the credentials in the link, the FTP server let me in!

Phishing Scam Warning Naturally, this was far too good an opportunity for me to pass up.
So, while keeping the connection open, I renamed the phisher’s scam page from “ne.html” to “nono.html”. Then, I created my own “ne.html” and uploaded it.
In the linked image to the left, you can see that it gives anyone who loads it a warning not to click on just any old link they get in e-mail. Hopefully, this will serve to not only frustrate the phisher, but also educate anyone who might click the link.

Naturally, I don’t expect this to be up for very long on the phisher’s site, but, I figure if I help anyone with this little stunt, it will have been worth it. Though, you will notice that I obscured the IP address in my graphics to protect anyone the phisher may have hacked to run his scam. Also, it’s entirely possible that I was technically breaking the law by doing this, but I don’t expect the phisher is going to actually try to prosecute. After all, just how would one explain this to a judge?

Oh, and when I checked on it just before posting this, the phisher had changed the files back.  So, I did it again.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The Constitution of America only guarantees pursuit of happiness; you have to catch up with it yourself."
   --Gill Robb Wilson


Blogging Software

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,News and Current Events,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:45 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Well, everyone else seems to be talking about it this week.

No, really, it feels like everywhere I turn someone’s talking about how MoveableType is going to an Opensource version and how important that is. Now, for those of you not familiar with MoveableType, it was the first really good blogging software that was freely available. Before that, bloggers basically had to write their own HTML pages and upload them one at a time. When I first had this blog, that’s how I did it and let me tell you, it sure was a tedious proceedure to suffer through for a little search engine marketing!
In any case, it wasn’t the easiest software to use or customize, but, frankly, it was the only thing going, so pretty much everyone who had a serious blog used it. Then, blogging started to get popular and a lot of other people started making blogging software and Blogger showed up, among others, to make it easier for anyone who wanted to rant about their unfair life to set up a blog. I stuck with MoveableType because I had invested so much time and trouble into getting it just right. I even kept up with the upgrades, right up until they started wanting to charge for what had been free. And change the license agreement in ways that made me very, very uncomfortable. So, I started hunting around for a replacement.
That’s when I found WordPress. Opensource, free, easy to install and configure. It was everything I wanted in blogging software. And, it was easier to write plugins for, to boot! Well, I wasn’t alone in my migration to WordPress. Lots and lots of former MoveableType folks, as well as new bloggers, moved to WordPress. They’ve always been free, had great community support, and there don’t seem to be any plans to change.

But, still, it’s nice that the new version of MoveableType will include an Opensource version. I think it’s interesting that they’re also including features that have been in WordPress for a version or two or three now, too. Kind of seems like they missed the boat on this one, doesn’t it? I wonder how many people will move back from WordPress to the new MoveableType? I doubt too many. Frankly, we’re spoiled now. I just couldn’t go back to the hassles of developing and customizing blogs on MoveableType after having it so easy on WordPress.

But, what do I know? I’ve only been blogging for seven years or more.


Oh, yeah…

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Personal,Review,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:03 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I keep meaning to mention this, but I’ve recently upgraded my blogs to the latest version of WordPress. Now, no one has probably noticed that, but I thought it was noteworthy. Well, if I did the upgrade right, no one noticed. Certainly, no one said anything if they did notice.

Mostly, it was a Very Good Thing to have upgraded, but there are some differences that still throw me off a bit. First, there’s the whole new interface deal. It used to be that I had to deal with a pretty simple, text-only interface. Now, though, the whole thing has gone all WYSIWYG and it’s totally throwing me off. Especially because it edits HTML natively. I’m getting used to it, but, still, I have to remember little details like not just hitting “enter” when I want a new line instead of a whole new section/paragraph. Secondly, the tools have really been improved. Linking and formating and everything else have been upgraded to match that slick new WYSIWYG interface, but they’ve added some HTML tools that they didn’t have before. Or, if they had them, didn’t showcase very well. Also improved is the preview section. Now, instead of just showing me a preview of the code in the post itself, WordPress previews the post as it would appear on the blog, with headers and footers and everything.
The one thing, so far, that I don’t like is the way the new version updates the timestamp on the post. For the most part, it doesn’t. Once you save a post as a draft, it takes a timestamp and seems to hold that until you manually change it. Other than that, though, I really adore the new version.

So, now you know. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Anyway, one of the reasons for the upgrade was because I was developing plugins for WordPress. You can get to one of them right from this blog. Moonie, the name of the plugin, is a little dodad that let’s you add the neat moonphase stuff to your WordPress blog. Now, after admiring it on my blog, you can have it for yourself. Enjoy!

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