Diary of a Network Geek

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

12/7/2018

Desk Jams

Filed under: Art,Fun,music — 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 a New Moon

A little background music while you work.

I could have sworn that I’d already shared this months and months ago, but, if I did, I can’t seem to find it on my blog. In any case, right now, I’m working in a mostly open office area, so I don’t play music out of respect for the other people I work with, but I generally like to have soft, ambient music playing in the background while I work. I’ve used things like Winamp and iTunes, but all too often my taste in music may not be what one considers “corporate” and can be a bit problematic. What works better is something without lyrics, but that can be looped pretty easily. Over the years, I’ve looked for things that work, but nothing I’ve found really works better than Desk Jams.
It’s all free, though I suppose there are ads on there somewhere, and any voices are strictly ambient sounds that are part of the music. It’s a little on the trance end of things, but it’s pretty good, generic music that, if played at a reasonable volume, shouldn’t be offensive to anyone.
And, again, it’s free, so you can’t get too picky!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

2/16/2018

Hacker Games

Filed under: Fun,Fun and Games,The Day Job — 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 Waxing Crescent

Sounds like a good title for a book!

Except it’s not.
In my day job, I’m a professional geek. And, what I mean by that is that I work with computers for money. It seems like the vast majority of the guys my age who got into computers professionally did so because they were inspired by the movie War Games. Not me, though. I fell into it a little sideways and my interest in the computer security angle of my work came from Sneakers. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be Martin Bishop? A computer geek that looks like Robert Redford and could swing sleeping with Mary McDonnell? Seriously, sign me up!
The reality is, of course, a little less sexy. Trust me. No one who looked like Robert Redford was walking around DEFCON. Though, to be fair, I did learn to pick locks sitting next to a very nice and more than moderately attractive young woman. Who, incidentally, learned lock picking faster than any guy at the table.
In any case, times have changed since the early 90’s and all the harmless exploration I did when I first got into IT is mostly illegal now. Though, I’ll never forget helping an international guest at the Hyatt Regency Chicago get remote access to her VMS and find the program she needed to run. She had authorization, of course, but no idea how to find what she needed and I was blind in a VMS system for the first time. When I get her into her program, I think she clapped and then hugged me. It was cool! And FUN! But, opportunities like that are few and far between. And, there are plenty of places that won’t hire someone who has a criminal record. So, how do you recreate that experience without risking jail time?
Wargames by OverTheWire. These fine hackers have put together more than a dozen “games” meant to test your skill at electronic breaking and entering. And, honestly, a little bit more. Each game let’s you connect to it, most often with SSH via its own, dedicated SSH port, and then let’s you go after the rest. I haven’t had the chance to do much here yet, honestly, but the OverTheWire gang suggests you start with Bandit, which is aimed at absolute beginners and consists of 27 “levels”. Each “level” gives you information to “beat” the next “level”. It sounds like fun, but, then again, I am a pretty hardcore computer geek.

So, there you go! It’s a free introduction to computer security in game form. The perfect Friday diversion for the aspiring network geek or hacker!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my ironically non-computer-geeky blog!

12/12/2017

The Traditional Birthday Post

Filed under: About The Author — 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 Crescent

So, today marks yet another lap around the Sun for me.

Honestly, I don’t hang a lot on birthdays, especially my own. I mean, for the most part, they’re just another day. Another marker of many in my life and, frankly, a rather arbitrary one at that. I’m more impressed with the fact that I’m still married, healthy, and just $5,000 away from being entirely out of consumer debt than that I’m turning 49 today. Seriously, though, the fact that I’ve made it this far is actually sort of an accomplishment, I think. There are many who haven’t, and, God knows, I’ve had my share of brushes with death, but, even that’s not altogether unusual, really. In fact, according to the actuarial tables, I should expect about another 30 years, or more if I’m particularly lucky. Which is a good thing because, in spite of being statistically middle-aged, I come from an unusually long-lived family and I have many, many things yet to accomplish.

It’s been a mostly good year, really. My wife and I refinanced the house, letting us fix it up and clear the majority of our credit card debt. I also moved from being an over-paid contractor always in danger of being out of work to being the best bargain in IT Infrastructure Management for a company five minutes from my house. Even in Houston, that’s a hard commute to beat. And, of course, for a brief while, my other blog, Diary of a Network Geek was on the first page of Google search results for the search term “network geek”. It’s always fun when that happens. I’ve read a lot of good books, though I’ve been mostly too busy to review them like I used to do. I’ve had as low-stress a year as I think I’m capable of having, frankly. Of course, the Zen meditation helps with that. I’ve done that for over four years now.
And, then there’s the fact that I’m still married to Sharon. My blushing bride does tend to make every year a little sweeter for me. I’d like to think that we’re finally easing into that place where we know each other well enough to truly start enjoying the other’s company. There’s also the possibility that I’ve finally started to mellow with age. At least, that’s her theory.

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Jennifer Connelly, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, who is the author of Madame Bovary, the painter Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of character. I can only hope to do the same, one day.
Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.)

So, I really have no idea what the coming year will bring, but I’m looking forward to it. We’ve talked about maybe selling our house and moving into something smaller, that we can retire into and maintain easier. Then again, we know this house doesn’t flood, so we may just stay. Either way, I’ll just keep on going, because, at this point I don’t know what else I’d do, frankly. And, it doesn’t matter, so long as Sharon and I do it together, or at least near each other. (Yes, that was a parallel play joke. Deal with it.)

All in all, life is going along okay and I’m sure it’ll be good coming year.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

10/13/2017

My Luckiest Friday

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

At least once a year, I try to write about Friday the Thirteenth.

Mostly, because, while other people seem to find it unlucky, I don’t. At least, I don’t find it any less lucky than any other Friday on any other date. If anything, I find myself feeling luckier than normal when everyone else seems to be feeling less lucky, hence the title of this blog post.
Besides, when I get stuck for topics, as I sometimes do, this is an easy enough post to whip together again.

Back in the old days, before the internet or Google or smart phones we use to answer every passing question, I used to assume that Friday the Thirteenth was considered unlucky due to some Biblical association, like since Judas was effectively the Thirteenth Apostle or some other Apocalypse-related numerology that I hadn’t bothered to dig into before or something similar. It’s not a big stretch, really, since so many superstitions seem to tie back to some obscure custom related to religion. But, I’ve since found out that nothing could be further from the truth. Apparently, Friday the Thirteenth is considered unlucky because of its association with the plot to suppress the Knights Templar, according to this article on GlobalPsychics.com. No, seriously! And, I quote:

The modern basis for the Friday the 13th superstition stems from Friday October the 13th, 1307. On this date, the Pope of the church in Rome in Conjunction with the King of France, carried out a secret death warrant against “the Knights Templar”. The Templars were terminated as heretics, never again to hold the power that they had held for so long. There Grand Master, Jacques DeMolay, was arrested and before he was killed, was tortured and crucified. A Black Friday indeed!

So, there you have it, Friday the Thirteenth is a global conspiracy, though, for a nice twist, the Knights Templar or Freemasons aren’t behind it, but, rather, the victims of it! Which I appreciate, incidentally, because I am both a Freemason and, via another Masonic body, a Knight Templar, ironically. Although, to be fair, that same web page I link to there also goes into the fact that 13 is generally considered unlucky due to the number of people at the Last Supper being, you guessed it, thirteen. But, aside from the number, which is considered unlucky in a lot of ways, it’s the association with the suppression of the Templars, which happened on a Friday, that makes the day unlucky historically.

Personally, as I already mentioned, I usually have better luck on Friday the Thirteenth, but, then, I always have been a little out of step with the world. Besides, I’m not a very superstitious person, so I generally don’t buy into most of this nonsense.
Oh, and if you’re not buying the Templar story, here’s a link to some alternate ideas why everyone else is afraid of Friday the Thirteenth.

Oh, and in honor of the upcoming NaNoWriMo, next week you can look forward to some hopefully helpful information about National Novel Writing Month and getting started.

2/17/2017

Unleash your Creativity Scientifically

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,On Creativity — 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

I am NOT feeling creative this week.

And, I mean, not at all. Not even a little bit. So, what’s to do? Well, for one thing, I’m going to go ahead into work and be not creative there. I might as well collect a paycheck for not feeling creative and force myself to solve problems for profit. Honestly, when I read about breaking writer’s block, one of the most cited solutions is to just sit down and write anyway. I know for me, having a set routine helps me a lot. But, I’m a big believer in science, so what can science do for me when I don’t feel creative?

As it turns out, quite a lot, and Scientific American magazine happens to be running a special issue on just that subject. So, what I’m going to do is go into work and do things and leave these links here for you.
Six Articles on Creativity from Scientific American:
1. Your Fertile Brain At Work
2. The Science of Genius
3. Triumph of the City; Engines of Genius
4. Answers In Your Dreams
5. Living in an Imaginary World
6. Let Your Creativity Soar:

Hopefully, one of those will appeal to you and help you have a more creative weekend. Read them quick before they disappear behind a paywall!
And, we’ll see you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/12/2016

Another Year Older, And …

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,News and Current Events — 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

… hopefully wiser. But, who’s to say, really?

I don’t think it’s an accident that my birthday fell on a Monday this year, because, I’ll tell you, it’s felt a little bit like a year of Mondays!
Still, I’ve survived another lap around the Sun, and that’s something to celebrate, especially considering how close I’ve come to not making it this far. But, now that I have made it through cancer and a lot of my own foolishness, the actuarial tables indicate I can still expect quite a few more years of misadventures. In fact, if I’m reading the most recent Social Security actuarial table for my sex and birth year, I can expect to live until I’m somewhere between 70 and 107, which is fine with me! Actually, I come from fairly long-lived stock so I have a pretty good reason to believe I’ll be at the higher end of that range, which is also good, since there are still so many things yet to be done with my life.

It’s been a strange year career-wise. I got laid off in February and started working a contract in March, where I’ve worked ever since. In theory, they may eventually hire me on full-time, and there’s even been talk about that, but not a lot of movement in that direction. Still, it’s pretty good income and enough to cover our expenses and COBRA payments, so, for now, it’s okay. Still, if they don’t bring me on full-time sooner rather than later, I may end up having to find something more permanent. You may recall that last year, I got myself a an annual subscription to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, with the idea that I’d improve my photography. So far, that hasn’t happened much. I have done more photos for my wife’s business website, The Organizing Decorator, but I haven’t really done anything for me. This coming year, I plan on changing that. My blushing bride has said that she’d like to have more of my photography to frame and hang around the house, so, thanks to my big drive crash a couple of years ago, that means I have to get my butt off the couch and out photographing things. My favorites have been animals, especially at the Houston Zoo, but I also have some ideas for still life and abstract work, too. I’ve been really inspired by one of my photography heroes, Syl Arena, and his color field photography. They’re really amazing and emotional works and something I’d love to emulate in my own, primative way.

You may recall that last year I mentioned starting the Five Minute Journal. I did it with their pre-printed journal for six months, then, when I filled that, I continued in my own, plain journal. (I used Peter Pauper Essentials Large Notebook. They look like a Moleskine, but they’re much less expensive.)
And, I also started the Five Year Journal, too. Yes, it’s by Samuel Pepys, the most famous diarist of all, but I don’t really think anyone will be interested in my personal diary. Still, Pepys probably thought the same thing. In any case, that’s been going strong for almost a year now and I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon. The Five Minute Journal really has, I think, put me in a more positive frame of mind.
This year, my birthday gift to my self was a rowing machine and an inversion table. I hope to start two new health habits that make the coming years a little easier and more enjoyable. I think it will be worth it. Everyone I know who has one, swears by their inversion table and says that it will help my back. And, according to an article or two I read, a rowing machine is supposed to be about the best full-body workout I can get on a machine. I guess we’ll see! I’ll tell you this, though, I haven’t regretted any of the birthday gifts I’ve gotten myself in the past, and I’m pretty sure this one is going to be okay, too.

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Jennifer Connelly, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, who is the author of Madame Bovary, the painter Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of personality. I can only hope to do the same, one day.
Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.)
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the computer mouse made its debut just four days before my birth! How crazy is that? The mouse, which makes graphic interfaces so practical and easy to use, is actually four days older than I am!

So, there you have it. Another lap around the Sun completed with a little more joy this year than last. That’s a trend I think I can pretty heartily endorse. I have some work cut out for myself this coming year, with some plans to improve my professional growth by way of computer security certifications, so check back next year to see how that went. Also, in addition to the photography, which you’ll be able to keep up with at my Flickr photostream, I plan to write on the blog a bit more, too. Maybe just once a month more, but still, more. We’ll see how that turns out.

So, all in all, I’m doing pretty good for a forty-eight-year-old cancer survivor who’s on his second marriage and has a mortgage. Life is pretty sweet and I’m looking forward to the coming year and years! I hope you all will be with me for quite a few more!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

9/16/2016

Project Music

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,The Tools — 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 Full Moon

Or, more specifically, music for your projects.

Clearly, I’m not talking about a manufacturing project here, but, rather, music for your creative project.
Maybe you have a dream project that you’ve filmed on your iPhone and want to add some cool background music to your creation before uploading it to YouTube.  Or, maybe you need a little musical intro for the background of your podcast credits.  Or, something cool to add ambiance to your artisanal website.  Whatever you need, Music for Makers probably has you covered.  You can sign up for free and get limited numbers of tracks, sent to you one at a time on a daily basis.  Or you can pay and get more access. Just remember, you can use their music in as many personal and commercial projects as you like without paying royalties or including attribution, but you can not sell or redistribute that music in its original form.

If, however, you really just want some background noise to distract you from the hum of the fluorescent lights above your cubicle, try the free Zenmix, instead.  With this webpage, you can mix together various looped ambient sounds, like a waterfall or birdsong or rain, to create your own custom blend of white noise distraction from the terrible sounds your co-worker’s lower intestine is making after lunch.  Or whatever you may need a distraction from.  (And, all the tracks on Zenmix are from Music for Makers, which gives you an idea of what you can do with those tracks.)

So, there you go, that’s two free things for you this Friday.  Enjoy!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

12/12/2014

Another Lap Around The Sun

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I’m not sure where I picked up that particular turn of phrase.

Well, it’s my birthday again. I almost didn’t bother with a birthday post, since I had a post earlier in the day, but, it’s sort of gotten to be a tradition with me, so, here I am.  Honestly, it seems kind of impossible to me that I’ve survived this long, but, according to the actuarial tables, I can still expect about another 30-odd years of life. Which is a…
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2/8/2013

Naming Your Systems

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Novell,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Naming kids is easy, but naming systems is hard!

And, no, I don’t mean giving your phone a pet name.

I have gone on at length in the past about the importance of naming systems.  It’s a big, big deal, especially if you ever have to go back and change any of those names!  Granted, it’s not as bad now as it was in the old days when you had to manually update dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of host files or configuration files, but, still, it’s a pretty big deal.  So, naming systems are often a topic of discussion, especially among hardcore network geeks.  I’ve been in more than one meeting about choosing a naming scheme that devolved into name calling.
So, there are many schools of thought on this.  One group of people think that the name should be meaningful, giving location and function information.  That’s a good idea, but it often results in names like HOUNOVFILESERV001.  (And, yes, that’s actually a name I used on a server once, for a company that no longer exists.  It stands for HOUston NOVell FILESERVer number 001.)  Sure, it tells you what you need to know, but they quickly become unwieldy to type and maintain.
Another group would say to name your servers, or routers, or what have you, after any group of things that will be easy to remember, like the names of the Seven Dwarves, or characters from the Dilbert cartoon, or, even, at one place I worked, the names of the old Space Shuttle fleet.  And, while I’m not a huge fan of that for many things at a business, it can be fun to ping a Cisco router named Elvis just to get the response “Elvis is alive”.  Certainly at home, I tend to favor a more fun approach using something light-hearted, like the names of cartoon characters or mythological beings or something similar.  But, my problem is always, which set of “things” to choose?

Well, the Naming Schemes Wiki solves that particular problem.  Yes, someone has started a wiki that gathers all the different naming schemes you all can think of in one place for your viewing pleasure.  And, in spite of any protests from your significant other, you can select, at your leisure, a naming scheme to use on your network that makes you smile.  (And, stop looking at me that way!  I know I’m not the only person in the world with a home network big enough or complicated enough to warrant having to choose a naming system for it!)  The maintainer also encourages you to add your own scheme, if, somehow, it’s been missed on this site.  Or, to add to any of the existing pages if you have something to contribute.

So there you have it!  All the endless naming possibilities for your home networking project this weekend!
Y’all have fun!

12/14/2012

Guess Who’s Coming To Town?

Filed under: Art,Fun,music,Red Herrings — 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

No, not Santa.

Well, I suppose Santa is coming to town, soon enough, but I’m talking about something else entirely.
No, I’m talking about your favorite bands.  This past weekend, my girl and I went to see one of her favorite musical acts, who were playing at a real, Texas dance all over in Winnie, about an hour outside of Houston.  But, we only knew about it because one of her friends had been lucky enough to catch an announcement about them coming.  What if he hadn’t?  These guys are pretty old now and, frankly, there’s no telling when, or if , they’d ever come to our area again.  If we hadn’t gotten lucky like that, we might never have seen them!

Now, though, there’s another option; Songkick.  This app, for either iOS or Android, will scan your music collection on that device, or check your Last.FM song list, and tell you when those artists are coming to your area.  It will also tell you who else will be playing with them and serve you up a map of where the venue is.  And, on top of all that, the app will let you add the concert to your calendar to remind you to buy tickets.
Frankly, I think this is a genius idea and I wish there was an app like it that would do the same for your favorite authors!

So, what the heck, it’s Friday and if you’re reading this, you’re not working any more so you might as well go download the app for your phone and see who’s playing near you or coming soon.
And, have a great weekend!

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