Diary of a Network Geek

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


IT Dreams

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

You know what I’d like to do?

I’d like to run a large-ish IT shop with a clear and well-defined budget.  I’d like to plan for rolling upgrades so that no one had a workstation or laptop that was older than five years old.  If the budget allowed for it, so that no one had equipment that was older than three years old.  And, I’d like to take that old, retired equipment and donate it to worth causes, like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America or the Red Cross or Goodwill or something like that.  Local charities, too, but all causes that would use that equipment to better someone’s actual life.

I’d like to have servers that were under-utilized for a change, instead of always headed toward being out of resources.  Servers with so much room to grow that they still were running smoothly even after a five or six year period, but that were upgraded before they were ten years old anyway, just because that’s the right way to do it.

I’d like to have staff that I could develop and grow and train to be the best IT personnel that techs could imagine being.  And, I mean that both through having a training budget to send them out for classes, but also on a personal level.  The one thing I really, really miss about being more than a department of one is that chance to teach someone how to do it the right way.  (And, yes, there are many ways to get IT stuff done, but, honestly, there are some ways that are more right than others.)

I long for a neat wiring closet again.  And an orderly server rack.  I miss having a dedicated server room with it’s own A/C and raised floors.  Can’t there be a way for even small companies to do that?  Shouldn’t we find a way for that to be a thing?

Okay, Universe, there it is.  I’ve said it.  Now, go make it happen!


Change Management Records

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,The Dark Side,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

It’s vital to good server management to maintain a change control log.

Really, it’s best for everything in an IT department to keep a good set of change control logs, but most of us don’t do it. Well, a great little blog called Ask The Admin has an article on the Importance of Change Management Record Keeping that is a “must read” for anyone who has to keep track of more than one system.

Now, I have to admit, I don’t do a great job of maintaining documentation myself, but that’s not such a big deal since I’m a one-stop IT shop. However, if something should happen to me, it would make things better, and easier, for the next poor schmuck who has to take over. Mostly, when I get somewhere new, I’m confronted with a jungle of systems and armed with little more than a password. Sometimes, it’s not even the admin password. When I leave, though, I always try to leave behind updated, accurate, useful documentation. My desk may be a mess, but my documentation is at least usable.
The first guy I used to work for always would ask me what I’d do if he were trapped under a rock. Check the documentation was often the first thing. So, I learned, whenever possible, leave good documentation for the next guy.

Think of it as the Golden Rule of Documentation; Document for others what you would have them document for you.
In any case, read the article. Then go forth and sin no more.


IT Looking Up!

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:49 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

At least, if you’re in Australia.

Actually, things are looking pretty good in Houston, too, though I can’t vouch for the rest of the country. Things in Australia, though, seem to be especially good. I subscribe to a lot of news feeds via e-mail and I got one update from Australian IT that had two articles about how good things are for IT workers there right now.

First, there was Competition Gives Entrants Quick Ticket, about how there are so many IT jobs in Australia right now that they’ve got students getting out of school early to get really good jobs with less training than ever.
Then, there was an article titled Going Global In Search of Scarce Skills, about how there are so many open jobs in IT, and so few qualified workers, that they’re bringing in foreign workers to fill those spots. So, if you’re in IT and ever fancied working abroad, this might be your chance!

So, hey, there’s never been a better time to be in IT!


WiFi Security

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,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 7:45 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Or, the lack thereof.

Okay, so, those of you who know me and my professional career know that security is near and dear to my heart.  Now, I’m no hacker or even a full time security professional, but I’m very, very aware of security and how important it is.  In my last post, I mentioned how much I love having so much wifi connectivity and how nice it was when I was in the hospital to have that easy access.  Well, that’s still true, but I also know how open and insecure that wireless connection is.
This year at DefCon, there was a very popular demo that showed just how easy it was to get information off a wireless connection and exploit it.  In fact, some poor attendee, who should have known better, got his Gmail account hacked, in public, because he didn’t secure his connection properly.  And, earlier this year, some German security experts went on at length about how insecure the WEP protocol is and why that shouldn’t be your only line of defense on wireless networks.

Now, as much as I enjoy my wifi, I’ve also been very vocal about how insecure wifi networks are, by their very nature, for years.  In fact, I got into a rather heated “discussion” with a co-worker and our mutual manager about that at a former job.  Somehow, neither of these gentlemen quite understood how throwing packets out all over, where anyone could snoop them, was an inherently insecure system, even if you used advanced encryption.  Encryption, as the hackers say, is meant to be broken, and sooner or later, it always is.  Again, this is all just logic and reason, but, in a world where anyone who manages a website and a handfull of PCs can call himself a Director of IT, the practical application of logic and reason is a rare thing indeed.
So, enjoy those free wifi connections at your favorite coffee house, but, keep in mind how easy it is for a hacker, or even a script kiddie, to pull vital information off that wide open connection.

(And, if you’re going to DefCon, check out their “Be Prepared” guide, or the DefCon survival guide at the Register.)

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If God is for us, who can be against us?"
   --Romans 8:31 (NIV)



Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,MicroSoft,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:32 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

In a world of easy to digest pop culture, even “hacking” is easier.
Now, according to this article on WashingtonPost.com, someone has setup “point-and-click hacking”. Now, even script kiddies and Windows 2003 server admins who call themselves “Director of IT” can “hack” systems!

Okay, okay, again, this might not be fun for everyone, but I am a professional geek! It’s fun for ME! Now, have you bought any yummy dog treats from Pink Poodle Gourmet yet? Your doggie deserves a good Friday Fun treat, too!



Return of the Road Warrior

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Career Archive,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,GUI Center,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Novell,On The Road,Personal,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:58 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Looks like I’m hitting the road again. Damn.
You know, mostly, if everything is arranged all nice and all, I like traveling. I especially like traveling on someone else’s dime. But, I hate having to hit the road for business at the last minute. This time, I’ll be swapping out a Windows 2000 server, including a data copy, at a remote location in far less time and with far less notice than I’d like. The sad thing is, I’m getting used to that with this job. How does that phrase go? “I’ve done so much with so little for so long that I’m now qualified to do anything with nothing.” Hmm, maybe I should add that to my resume under “qualifications” or “Skill set”. And, I was just telling Ms. NewGal tonight on the phone that I’ve been making the impossible probable and the improbable common place for more years than I can remember. It’s not too hard with Windows, since any moron can handle a point-and-click interface then call himself a Director of IT, claiming that he can manage servers. But, I’ve done it with Windows, Netware and Linux, with a little Solaris and even VMS thrown in for flavor. And mostly at remote sites where things often go wrong. Very, very wrong.

As further evidence that I’ve been doing this too long, when I pulled my toiletry kit out from under the sink, it was already stocked with almost empty containers of every thing I use on a regular basis. Enough after shave for a week, a couple of good gargles of mouthwash, a toothbrush and some toothpaste, the last bit of deodorant. I even had shampoo and conditioner in there from the last place I stayed at, just in case! And packing my clothes took all of fifteen minutes, too. I normally plan for one extra day, plus any special circumstances, so, I have three days worth in there, just in case. It’s going to take me longer to pack my toolkit and carry on bag than anything else. And that’s only because I have to slim down in case I have to fly back on a commercial flight. My boss is flying me over, which is actually sort of nice, but there are thunderstorms expected for Friday afternoon, so I may be flying back on a commercial flight. That means time wasted in an airport. In fact, an airport I spent the night in once. The part about all this that sucks, though, is having to go back to the little podunk airport to get my car when I do finally get back into town. So, I’ll be dragging my sorry, tired butt from either Hobby or Bush Intercontinental over to, basically, Clay Road and Highway 6. Yeah, the opposite side of town. Just so I can drive back to my house, which I will essentially pass on the way to get my car. The only upside there is that Ms.NewGal volunteered to pick me up and drive me to my car. What a sweetie! Of course, it does get her closer to me faster, but she claims she didn’t even think of that.
Thankfully, Hilda has a keeper for the next couple of days. And, in case Doc has to work late, I’ve asked one of the guys from work I trust to come let her out at lunch on Thursday and Friday. Hopefully, she’ll go out and not make a mess at all. Not that she ever has since she was a pup. At least, not unless you count the times she was being ignored while I was at the office during the prelude to my divorce. Oddly, she’s not had a problem since she’s been back. Imagine that! Must have been the company.

So, now, it’s off to queue up the coffee and the Friday Fun post. If I get the chance, I’ll moderate comments, but, I might not until Saturday morning, so, please, be patient.
It’s going to be a Hell of a trip, so pray for me!


What’s my job?

Filed under: Career Archive,Fun Work,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:23 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Apparently, you can add telecom specialist to the list.
I’ve been avoiding talking about Hurricane Katrina because: a) everyone else is talking about it, b) there’s neither anything I can add or do, and c) I didn’t have any real news anyway. Well, after yesterday, I do. We have offices over there. Notice, I wrote “have” not “had”. The facility is still standing, as far as we can tell. So, when the rest of the city settles down, we’ll be able to resume business there. In the meantime, we’re more concerned with people. Not everyone from that facility has checked in yet. I’m not sure how many are missing, but, some are. Of those who have checked in, their families all seem to be okay, but many of them have lost everything they didn’t take with them. It’s like the recent tsunami in Asia, but with a lower, thankfully much lower, death toll. But, the damage to property and business is very similar.
So, how does that make me a telecom specialist all of a sudden? Simple, actually. Our regular phone guy in house is out on vacation, so when one of the boards on our phone switch died over the weekend, they came to the computer guy to get it straightened out. Phones, computers, same thing, right? Not hardly! Thankfully, I already have some experience with telecom and high-stress troubleshooting. About the time I settle down from that fracas Monday, I start getting questions about cell phones. How to get them fast, but still on our account. So, all day Tuesday, I ran around getting that straight and getting a local cell phone for the “senior partner”. But, wait, there’s more! Yesterday, I had to get more cell phones lined up and get two Iridium satellite phones ASAP. Oh, yes, they had to be Iridium phones, not just any sat phone. Why, you ask? Because the “senior partner” is getting a new plane and wants to be able to use one of these on the plane which, you guessed it, can take only certain models. If everything goes right, which I highly doubt, we should be getting the two Iridium phones Friday morning. So, any guesses who gets to figure them out and teach everyone how to use them?
Yeah, time to update the resume with all this high-end telecom stuff I’m doing. A little more chaos thrown my direction and I’ll be all ready to be the Director of IT somewhere bigger. Anyone looking for a guy like me to head your IT department? I’m willing to consider anywhere that’s not California, New York City, or prone to hurricanes. Blizzards and tornados I can handle just fine, but I’m really not liking this hurricane business.


Why so quiet?

Filed under: Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

And so personal?

Well, it’s actually safer being personal right now than it is talking about my work. See, I’m still a contractor and I’m hoping to go permanent, which means that I need to be a little carefully when it comes to what I publish on the web. One of the other contractors from Momentum just accepted a permanent position yesterday, so I hope the offer will be coming soon, but, until then I’m playing it safe. I’ve seen plenty of stories about people who have lost their jobs because of things they wrote in their blogs. So, since I need the work pretty bad right now, I’m being fairly circumspect.
And, to be honest, there really aren’t that many problems at my new gig. At least, not compared to the last place. That DamnedBoatPlace really didn’t know up from down. They had budget to spend on IT, but managers that didn’t seem to know how or where to spend it. Come to think of it, they didn’t seem to know how to use their human resources, either. And don’t let me get started on the whole “IT fundamentals” issues that they just didn’t get. So, so sad.
In any case, once I change over to a full-time employee, I’ll start complaining about my fellow IT workers here at Loomis Fargo. But, until then, you’ll just have to wait.

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