Diary of a Network Geek

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


UnMovie Friday

Filed under: Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

By this time of the week, my regular readers know I’ve usually reviewed a movie, but not this week.

This past Friday, instead of seeing a movie, as is my usual habit, I was on a plane coming back from Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
Now, to those of you who haven’t done a lot of business travel, this may sound fun and exciting, but, honestly, it wasn’t. I caught a 7:30AM flight out of Houston Intercontinental to New Orleans, where I was picked up and driven to our local office. There, I did some basic troubleshooting and got the “new guy”, who’s only part time so far, up to speed on a couple of things. Also, we got a problem or two that he’d not dealt with before knocked out pretty fast.
Mainly, though, I was there to make folks feel better and assure them that everything was as it should be. In other words, outside of a couple things I probably could have done on the phone, I was mainly there to take people out to lunch.

The books you see in the attached picture are what was in my bag.
I’m still wrapping up A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, who is one of my favorite authors of all time. It’s been ages since I read anything by him and, frankly, this book is making me fall in love with language all over again. Hemingway has that effect on me. And, considering how concise he was and how conservatively he used words, I find that deliciously ironic. Still, there’s just something about the way he crafts a good sentence that just makes me want to write.
“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”

The other books are something else again.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is about finding hope in the most hopeless of situations. It’s about finding a purpose in life, no matter how small that purpose my seem to others, and clinging on to it for dear life. It’s the book I was reading when I was diagnosed with cancer and I really need to re-read it and refresh my spiritual memory of the lessons that book brought me.
The Canon Speedlite System Digital Field Guide by Brian McLernon will be, I hope, the guide that gets me going finally with hot shoe flashes, both on and off-camera, for DSLR. I brought that with me Friday in the hopes of being able to get to it and finally start to play with my new camera equipment that my tax refund bought me.
No such luck.
Thankfully, I still had Hemingway to keep me company.

So, movie reviews again next week, but the week after, I’ll have been at a wedding on Friday, so I’ll probably miss my regular review then, too, unless I hit a matinee.
Who knows? Anything’s possible!


Be the Change

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

I’m trying to make my life congruent with my beliefs.

It’s not always easy for me to live morally and ethically. Not that I have such high standards, mind, but, well, sometimes I can be a real bastard.
Back just shortly after starting my first job, I started donating money to the Untied Way via my paycheck at work. At the time, they were running a contest to get more people to give and I won it. That wasn’t my intention when I started giving, but I still enjoyed the vacation I won. A college buddy and I used that vacation to go to Los Angeles and, thanks to my free room nights I got as a benefit of working for Hyatt Hotels, stayed for a week and did a bunch of sight-seeing. One of the places we went was the Hard Rock Cafe, LA. We went because I saw a camera man wearing a letterman-style jacket from there and I just had to own one. My buddy thought it was hilarious that the motto on the front was “Love All, Serve All” because I’d gotten a degree in Marketing and was a well know bastard in college. The idea that I might server anyone, without getting compensated for it, apparently amused him quite a bit.

Well, I’ve grown into that jacket a bit in recent years. Especially since the divorce and surviving cancer. The older I get, the more I find myself wanting to give back a little more to the world at large.
So, when I came into a little money near the end of last year, I decided to give a little more than a third of that to various charitable causes. First, there was someone at church who was in a tight spot due to a nasty divorce. When there was a collection for her, I contributed what for me was a healthy amount. Then, too, I wrote a decent check to my church directly. Those folks really supported me when I was diagnosed with cancer and I was eager to give a little back.
I also donated some money to WordPress, which may be an odd “charity” considering how well they’re doing. But, that was about putting my money where my mouth is. I love WordPress. I used to use other software to blog with, and every once in a while someone suggests others to try, but WordPress has a philosophy that I can really stand behind. That group of folks makes damn good software, and gives it away. That deserves my support, so I gave it.

Finally, in an effort to act globally, I gave some money to Kiva.org. They do micro-loans to small businesses in third-world countries. The loans may not seem like much by American standards, but they can make the difference between prosperity and despair in a small village somewhere.
You can see who I loaned to, and how their business is doing, here:
It’s a small thing, to me, but I hope it will make all the difference in the world to them.

So, in short, I’m trying to live up to the arguments I used to make in college about how society should work.  I’m trying to live my beliefs for a change.
I’m doing my best to be the change I want to see in the world.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything."
   --William Conner Magee


Lucky Dog

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,By Bread Alone,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:19 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Yes, I freely admit that I spoil my dog.

Image020.jpgI’m going out of town for a couple of days, starting Thursday this week, and instead of asking a friend to watch my dog for me, I’m boarding her at my vet. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons. First, although my friend I usually ask to watch her would be happy to do that for me, I don’t want to put him out that much or for that long. I’ll only be gone four days, but two of those days, he’d have to drive all the way across town to let her out and check her food and water. Frankly, that just seems like more hassle than is right for me to ask of him. Secondly, if I ever have to travel for an extended period of time for work, I’ll want to know that I have a good, long-term arrangement that my poor, spoiled dog will survive. Thirdly, my vet, the Jersey Village Animal Hospital, has about the newest, nicest facility I’ve seen. Honestly, it will be like sending her to a four day doggie spa.

Hilda will have her own private room with its own door to a private, fenced yard. She’s never had a doggie door before, so I’m interested to see how she does with that. If it works well for her, I may just install one at home. But, in addition to having that free access, she’ll be walked twice a day to get her exercise. She’ll also get a bath before I pick her up Monday morning.
I’ve been told that I can bring her favorite pillows and toys, but I don’t think I can get her couch into the back of my car. What? Doesn’t every dog have their own, full-sized couch? Well, I guess we’ll just have to settle for a couple of throw pillows off the couch. And, I’ll bring a couple of her favorite bones, too, so she’ll have something to worry on when I’m not there. (Don’t tell her, but I have a giant rawhide bone for her when she gets back!) Still, I’m worried that she won’t eat while I’m gone. She gets like that sometimes. When I had to go overnight to our office in Louisiana not too long ago, she didn’t touch her food while I was away. So, just to make sure she had something I knew she’d eat, I made her muffins last night.Hilda.jpg
Yes, I baked my dog apple-cinnamon muffins from a recipe in Cooking the Three Dog Bakery Way. It’s not as good as what she’d have gotten from the Pink Poodle Gourmet, but, since I’m not dating the nice lady who runs that business anymore, it didn’t seem quite “proper” to beg dog cookies from her. Oh, I’m sure she would have been happy to give me enough for the four days and then some, because she’s sweet like that, but I’d feel wrong asking. So, I baked my own instead. Actually, they’re quite tasty. Hilda and I enjoyed a couple last night, while they were still warm.

Now, not everyone may understand the fuss I make over my dog. But, let me tell you, she’s more loyal to me than any single person I know. And, as I’m sure my regular readers are tired of hearing, she was the only reason I came home from work almost two years ago, when I was deep, dark depression and contemplating suicide. It amazes me to think, at one point, I thought I’d lost her because I was willing to listen to a lie. Hilda is my little miracle dog, though, who came back to me from far away to give me that little extra bit of life that I needed to keep me going. So, now, I happily bake her treats to snack on while she’s relaxing at her spa.

Now, I just have to convince one of the cute, young girls who works there to pay a little special attention to my Hilda. Maybe, if I play up the whole “separation anxiety” thing we’ll both get a little special attention…

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
-Mark Twain

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When I'm working on a problem I never think about beauty. I think only of how to solve the problem. But, when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."
   --R. Buckminster Fuller


Triumphant Return

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Career Archive,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:28 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Well, I survived my trip to the sweaty, stinky armpit of the South.

The flight over was fairly uneventful, though it did start out with an ill omen. At the airport there was a helicopter that had a collapsed landing strut that had caused some fairly severe damage to the whirlybird, including bending the blades on the main rotor. Very bad and very expensive. Little turbulence on the flight over in spite of warnings about bad weather. Though, I have to admit, I’d have been more comfortable if my pilot hadn’t been taking short naps along the way. I know we were on autopilot and all, but the idea of crashing over those swamps in East Texas and Louisiana just are not my idea of a good time.

The thing that hit me when we got to New Orleans was the damage still from Katrina. We drove for almost three miles from the little airport where we landed before we started to get to intersections that had working stop lights. Most of the houses that I saw were either empty, or had blue tarps over the roof as an attempt at some temporary repair. I did see some FEMA trailers, but most of them were in a big parking lot where they were totally useless. Apparently, that’s the latest outward sign of a bureaucracy gone terribly wrong. The thing that really got me though was the messages spray painted on the abandoned homes and buildings. Most of it was in some sort of rescue-worker code, but on one house the message was clear: 1 pony DOA, 1 dog DOA.

I spent the entire day Thursday watching data copy. Yep, about as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow, but people keep interrupting any reading or writing you might be doing to ask what’s going on with the server. (“Uh, the same thing that’s going on when you asked the last fifteen times, you slack-jawed Luddite.”) Then, right when everyone starts to scatter near the end of the day, the data finishes and I can actually start doing real work. A whole hour’s worth of real work before, you guessed it, I copy data back to the new server from the backup drive. Woo. Yea. Oh, the exciting life of a sysadmin on the road.
But, I kept reminding people that I had no rental car and needed a ride to the hotel and/or restaurant, hoping that they wouldn’t abandon me. It went about like this:
“Um, you know, I still don’t have a rental car or anything so, I’ll need a ride to the hotel, right?”
“So, you’re not leaving yet, right?”
“Yeah, hold on a minute.”
“Ah, so, since I don’t have a rental car are you going to be driving me?”
“Wait, I’ve got something better than a rental car for you!”
“I’ve got the shop truck for you!”
“Of course, you’ll have to put gas in it. It’s on ‘E’.”
“Right. Great. Thanks?”

So, yes, I drove the shop pickup truck that they use to make deliveries and, yes, I filled it up. Thankfully, I grew up in the greater Chicagoland area and only had to stare down one guy who looked like he was going to beg for money at the ratty, little gas station I stopped at in the trashed-out neighborhood where the Holiday Inn I was booked in was sadly located. Now, keep in mind, I used to work in the hotel industry. I never worked in Housekeeping, as is evidenced by the current state my house is in, but I did learn what a hotel room is supposed to look like in great detail. This particular Holiday Inn did not meet Hyatt Hotel’s standards. In fact, it didn’t even have the faintest idea what that standard might possibly resemble. Sadly, it was still not the worst place I’d ever spent the night while on the road. After all, the sheets were clean, there was an extra roll of toilet paper, and no used band-aids on the floor. Yes, it can, in fact, get that bad. I did, however, have to plug in every electrical appliance and light. I only had to kill a single cockroach, though, so it all works out. Besides, it was the only room available anywhere close to that part of town.

The next morning, I got down to the nitty-gritty of actually moving the PCs and users to the new server. It went like clockwork. Well, after I got the first few problems worked out and everyone finally had the right security rights. But, freakishly, considering all the things that have gone wrong in the past on these little junkets, I was done by lunchtime. So, I just had to hang around until my plane left at 8:30PM. At least, I managed to slip out for my favorite Southernism, the oyster po’ boy. After that it was just killing time cleaning up little detail things like verifying the backup scheme and updating the anti-virus files, until it was time for the crawfish boil. Now, you might not think that a damn, Yankee carpet-bagger like myself knows what to do with a mess o’ mud bugs, but, surprise, I do. Though, I didn’t eat as many as locals, I did know to suck the head. By then it was getting on toward 6:00pm and I was itching to get to the airport and make sure I had a seat on the plane home. I rode back with the most back-country, redneck sounding guy you ever want to try and listen to, but he was really very bright and, in his own Southern-fried way, quite articulate. In fact, it was everything I could do to keep from imitating his swamp drawl after a bit.

So, I got to the airport, and home, early. My girl got me from the airport and we drove to the far ends of the Earth to get my car from the West Houston Airport where it was not only safe and sound, but looked like it had been washed! Apparently, those stories I’d heard about torrential downpours in Houston while I was away were not exaggerated. By the time we made it back to my house, it was about 11:30PM and Doc had gone to bed, but my Hilda was quite glad to see me. Either that, or she’s learned that Ms. NewGal always brings yummy dog treats with her when she comes.
Oh, while I was away, I also managed to get some reading in, so I finally finished A Better Way to Live and started a trashy novel called Seppuku. I suppose I’ll try to review those when I finally get caught up!
(Oh, and by the way, the boss said I could put down Ms. NewGal’s milage on my expense report, so she’ll get a little something more than the pleasure of my company, which is all she claimed she wanted when she volunteered. Gotta’ love it!)


Mid-Week Update

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,Novell,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:54 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Lord, what a boring title.
Hmm, come to think of it, it’s not a very exciting update, either. Anyway…
I got the last of my replacement server parts in Monday, got them in place and the bad stuff out again today. Oh, wait, I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that fiasco… Okay, so early last week I got all my server parts in except for my 1 Terabyte drive array, which got lost in shipping. That arrived Friday, but had the wrong cables. So, Friday, I decided to setup what I could anyway, and discovered that the keyboard and integrated trackball was bad. After a series of calls to Dell, they finally ship me the entire monitor/keyboard/rack-tray subsystem, because “that’s just how they come”. Those arrive Monday afternoon. I get them changed out and, basically, give up doing anything useful for the day.
Oh, yeah, the whole time, in between trying to get all the hardware worked out, I’m trying to talk a guy in Louisiana through setting up a “new” computer with an old hard drive. I say “trying” because apparently, this guy couldn’t read the damn screen to tell me what was going on. He kept asking me, “Uh, what’d I do next?” to which I almost always replied, “I don’t know, what does the screen SAY!?” And, apparently, it was so painfully funny that the engineer on the other side of the cubicle wall from me regaled his fellow engineers with the tale, much to their amusement. And, really, the guy in Louisiana was being pretty stupid. Everything he needed to know was right on the screen. But, I digress…
Then, yesterday, it takes me half the day just to figure out why the install can’t find any disk drives. Apparently, while hooking up the drive array, I some how wiped out the config on the two disks in the server itself. I have no idea how, but, wiped they were. And, since figuring that out, I have banged my head against the same module failing to install and configure correctly. Sadly, it’s the main security database the server uses to track everything. (For those in the know, it’s failing on the eDirectory/NDS/LDAP install and config. The modules are there, but the damn thing simply refuses to install a new NDS tree.) So, it’s kind of key to the whole reason we bought Novell’s Open Enterprise Server, instead of just running on Linux. This was not helped, I might add, by the fact that I was not smoking or that the boss stopped by to make clever comments about why I hadn’t figured the damn thing out yet, either.
I have an e-mail in to Novell to try and get some answers. We’ll see how it goes.

As for the other stuff, that messy, sloppy junk I call a personal life, well, it’s just not really going. Not unless you count the Prayer Team meeting last night and the grocery store tonight. So, since I won’t be managing to do my conversion this weekend, either, I’ll head back to the River Oaks Borders in search of True Love Friday night. I figure I’ll give it one more shot on Fridays, then take a week off to lick my wounds and convert my server, and try another night. Suggestions anyone?
Oh, and you’ll notice in deference to the start of my Troubles with Dating posts, I’ve added a new category, named in honor of my new favorite consolation at the Border’s coffee shop, Bavarian Death Cake of Love. So, if y’all are around, look for me. I’ll be the guy in glasses with a goatee, probably trying hard not to look like a stalker, and eating Bavarian Death Cake with a side of Italian Fascism. If you talk to me sweet, I might even buy you a slice! (Not you, boys. You’re on your own.)


One More Thing: Rita Part 4

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:28 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

One last update before bed.
If you’ve been reading my blog and not watching the news, there have been some important developments. First, the mayor has cancelled the forced evacuation of Houston and asked that anyone who has virtually any reason to not leave turn back. The grid-lock has gotten quite dangerous and folks are running out of gas and water out on the road. So far, I haven’t seen any reports of violence in all that insanity, but I’m just waiting.
Second, and perhaps more important, the hurricane has taken a bit of a turn. Now, it looks like we’ll be getting the Western side of the storm, which is the softer side. Unfortunately, it looks like Louisiana is already getting some of the dirty side, which means a lot more water for them. Still not sure where landfall will be, but it looks like it will be closer to Beaumont or the border than dead on in Houston. It’s good news for us, but bad news for poor souls that have already been tested beyond belief.
At this point, I’m not even sure I’ll loose power Saturday, but maybe I’m being overly optimistic. And, with that news, I’m headed for bed.


Free Mac Software

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:53 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

No, not here!
But, apparently, coming soon in the form of assorted free Office suite packages. According to this article on eWeek, all the happy-go-lucky Mac users out there who are looking for a free replacement for Microsoft Office will have alternatives shortly. Um, actually, I thought there was one already… (*cough* “OpenOffice” *cough*)
Okay, actually, the article admits that there is such an animal, but apparently the average Mac user doesn’t want to install XWindows to run a free office suite. Not sure why, since that should be free, too, but, then I’ve never gotten a good “picture to reality” chart for the Mac interface. Oh, and it won’t be quite “free” either. It’ll be $49, which is practically free compared to the cost of a full, non-upgrade copy of MS Office for Mac.
Or, you could just learn how to install XWindows and OpenOffice.

Well, I’m off to Louisiana! Be good while I’m gone!


Windows Genuine Advantage?

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,GUI Center,Linux,MicroSoft,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:26 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Hmm, I’m wondering who has the real advantage here…
Well, if you read Slashdot, you’ve already seen this story about a Linux guy using wine to update a WGA game successfully. Apparently, he’d been running this game on wine quite well for a while, but it needed some kind of update. So, he used the update feature from within the game, while on Linux running the wine Windows emulator, and he was prompted for his Windows Genuine Advantage code. He put it in and the Microsoft website proceeded to tell him he was running “Genuine Windows” and update his game. So, what was that advantage again?

Oh, and it looks like I’ll be on the road tomorrow, just for the day. Off to Bellechasse, Louisiana to install a couple of desktops. Three, actually, in one day and transfer data and settings on two. It’s going to be a long, long day. At least the boss will be flying me, so I won’t have to hassle with airports! (Don’t worry Diary of a Network Geek junkies! I’ll post something before I leave.)


The Other Boss

Filed under: Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,GUI Center,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:28 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, I don’t have a girlfriend.
No, I met the “Senior Partner” from Louisiana today. Apparently, he’s done some checking up on me with former employers. He mentioned Kirby by name and talked about people in management there. Not sure who he talked to, but they seemed to have liked me okay because he said they had nice things to say. Sort of interesting, considering the somewhat dubious circumstances under which I left that job. Well, I guess I did better at not burning bridges there than I thought! Yea for me!
I’ve been doing a lot of research into moving from Windows NT to some version of Linux this week. It actually might be easier than I thought. For one thing, I’ve been looking at Novell’s Linux solutions and they have several options, all of which use a migration tool that seems workable. It’s actually a Windows server “consolidation” utility which they meant for admins to use as a way of merging several Windows servers into fewer Novell servers. It sounded a little clunky, but it was free with the software. The other option was something called LSP from DAS Technology. LSP Pro, which showed on the site as costing $500 per instance, would migrate everything for me, automatically, and also add management tools for the long term. Not a bad option and it would be an easy upgrade to RedHat. I think I could make that work, if I can convince them to spend the money.

In other, totally unrelated news, I took my dog for a walk just a few minutes ago. She was so scardey of the little, tiny dog that we met I thought she was going to wet herself. Some fierce watchdog I’ve got. Ah, well, at least she’s lovable and always happy to see me when I get home. It’s the best unconditional love I’ve gotten since I left my parent’s house. I miss my mommy sometimes. I really ought to investigate those dog parks I wrote about some time ago. I just haven’t had the time with all the chaos in my life. Ah, well, one day soon it will all calm down. I hope.


Baton Rouge

Filed under: On The Road — 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

*sigh* Here I sit, tired to exhaustion, waiting for the weather to clear in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. How did I end up here? *sigh* Oh, my what a story. I’ll keep it short, though. Once again, I’m paying for someone else’s short-sightedness. The beat-up, old hardware in our Baton Rouge office curled up its toes and died yesterday afternoon. Or, at least part of it did. And, since we couldn’t quite seem to get it up and running remotely, I was “volunteered” to go fix it.
Okay, that’s not quite true. After the last mess I dealt with due to crappy hardware, I felt that if I didn’t go, it might cost me my job. Also, as much as I like my employees, the last time I sent someone else to do this kind of work, I was blamed because they couldn’t make the old, crappy hardware work. So, I decided that if I were going to take the blame anyway, I might as well do the work, too.
What that meant, however, was loading up the car with server equipment and driving over 300 miles to Baton Rouge at 9:00pm at night. That’s roughly a four to five hour trip to a place I’ve never been at night when I was already tired. I only had one near miss. And that wasn’t my fault. That was the two drunk kids in the Saturn outside of Beaumont that came off an entrance ramp and across three lanes of traffic without looking. I don’t think I actually was on two tires at any point, but only because I had the extra weight of the server equipment.
Anyway, I did manage to get a couple hours of sleep before I came in to rescue the server. After I blew the dust off the SCSI ID settings on the external Artecon drive arrays, I spotted the trouble pretty quickly. So, I swapped out the bad tape drive that started all this and got them up and running. That was about 9:45am this morning. My next task is to get a set of mirror drives put together for them and get them into place. That’s why I’m waiting for the weather to clear, so I can get out to my car to get the hardware I need. Then maybe my captors, er… fellow employees, will let me sleep. Probably not. *sigh* More updates later…. Or maybe tomorrow after I drive back.


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