Diary of a Network Geek

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

1/12/2018

Procedural Space Opera

Filed under: About The Author,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I may be a computer geek, but I’m heavier on the geek side.

Not that a statement like that is much of a surprise to people who know me. Or to people who follow my oldest blog, the eponymously named Diary of a Network Geek. The thing is, though, I fell into the network part of that. Before that, though, I was a slightly different kind of geek. I’ve always been into science-fiction and, at one time, thought I wanted to be a writer. Actually, I still do what to be a writer, but the networking thing has been more profitable. In any case, boring personal information aside, I still love almost everything related to science-fiction. And, back when I was trying to teach myself Perl, and later PHP, I made some goofy world-building random generators that made everything from story ideas to parts of languages. Since then, a lot of other people have made much, much better random generators, and that’s what I’m bringing to you this Friday.
Specifically, the Planet Generator created by David Stark, aka Zarkonnen, an Indie game developer from Zurich. Basically, it’s just a clean, simple webpage that randomly generates a thumbnail sketch for a space-opera-esque alien planet. It’s great all by itself, as far as I’m concerned, but the reason I’m sharing it is because Zarkonnen has decided to share his source code. (You can find it at Github.) So, if you’re inspired to take apart some cool code to try and add your own flair to it, you can! And, you might just learn something about programming along the way! My code was so ugly, I never shared it really, but I appreciate everyone, like David, who did, so that I might be inspired and learn.

Don’t worry, though, even if learning programming, or more programming, isn’t one of your New Year’s Resolutions, the already completed tool is kind of fun, too.
Have an “out of this world” weekend, and I’ll blog at you next week!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words, a blog that gets frustratingly low traffic.

10/14/2016

Create Your Characters

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,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 Waxing Gibbous

Now that you’ve got a story idea, who are the people in it?

Often, a story is centered around a single, strong character, and you’ve already answered that question. But, what if you haven’t? Well, then, maybe I can help.
First, if you need to flesh out an entire character, including a bit of family tree and a biography, I’ll send you back to a site I referenced last week, albeit at a different page. They call it the Name Generator, but, really, if you choose the right options, it will make a pretty complete character sketch.
But, maybe you just need some specific details to fill in parts of your character sketch that seem light or are missing entirely. Again, I’ll send you to a site I’ve referenced before, Seventh Sanctum, where you can find an entire page of character-related random generators. They have everything from complete, generic character generators to genre specific character generators to name and naming specific generators. In fact, they have a full page of random naming related generators, if you’re having trouble in that regard. But, if you want to pick something more specific, you can check the Most Common Given Names, according to Wikipedia. Or, for last names, the Most Common Surnames. Surely, something there will suit.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include our very own Funny Name Generator!

Also, if you want to fill your character’s pockets with some random things, Fantasist.net has the Daily Carry Generator, for modern settings, and the Fantasy “Pocket Litter” Generator, for, well, more magical settings. And, contrary to my normal habit of hiding my source code, mostly because I’m a very, very amateur programmer and my code is generally junky, I’m giving you all a download link to grab the PHP files for those last two generators, which is available at the original post on Fantasist.net only. No warranty is expressed or implied by offering that code! Use at your own risk! (But, it’s pretty simple and shouldn’t cause you any grief.)

Come back next week for more world building tools!

This post originally appeared on The Fantasist’s Scroll.

3/4/2014

Ultraedit

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 20.00.0.1056 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.

11/8/2013

5 Random Writing Tools

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,NaNoWriMo,PERL — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:26 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

So, in support of NaNoWriMo, this month, I’ve decided to serve up nothing but writing-related links.

At a week into the process of writing your novel, you should be well on your way.  But, maybe there are some back-story details you’d like to fill in.  Maybe a character who needs an odd name, or who’s pockets you need to fill with random stuff.  Maybe you need a fictional timeline for a fictional nation.  Or, maybe you need a wacky science-fiction invention…
Read More

12/7/2012

Writing Music

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Some music to create the Great American Novel by.

Or, you know, whatever it is you need to write.
Back in October, I brought you a link to soundtracks for your books, but this week, it’s music that will hopefully inspire your writing.  I know a lot of people who write to music, whether that’s PHP code, or fiction, or even blog entries.  And, of course, there are as many opinions about not only whether to listen to music or not, but what kind of music to listen to, as there are writers.  When I was writing more than I do now, I have to admit, I always had something on in the background, whether it was music or television or something else, just to keep part of my mind busy while I wrote.  And, when I got stuck, changing the music, or other background noise, often is what got me “un-stuck”.
So, whether you’re stuck or not, why not check out this article at NeuroTribes titled “Music to Write By” and see what ten very different writers have to say on the subject.  Who knows?  You may pick up some new tunes to help you the next time you get writer’s block!

Besides, you know if you’re reading my blog, you aren’t working any more this week anyway, so you may as well check it out.
Have a great weekend, y’all!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"In life, as in football, you don't go far unless you know where the goalposts are."
   --Arnold Glasgow

11/9/2012

Creative Generators

Filed under: Art,Fun,PERL,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

So, in keeping with the theme this month of NaNoWriMo, I bring you creative time-wasters!

Okay, so maybe I call them “helpful utilities” when I use them, but, still…
Back in the day, I was much more of a Renaissance man that I am now.  I dabbled in all kinds of things not least of which was either writing or programming.  And, I tend to live by the dictum that one cannot really learn anything worthwhile without a project or goal.  When you combine those things, well, you get some interesting projects.
The first programming language of any real weight I taught myself was Perl.  Perl has sometimes been called the duct tape of the internet, because so many system administrators use it to keep old, clanky systems running.  That was also the reason I learned it, because I often found myself maintaining old, clanky systems!  But, mostly, I used it for my various webpages.  Then, of course, came WordPress which ran on a fancy new language called PHP.  Naturally, I set about teaching myself PHP.

Well, the projects I used were random generators, primarily to help people who were writing and needed a little help.  One of my earliest was a little tool, originally inspired by shareware, that let you randomly come up with what might be in fantasy character’s pockets.  If memory serves, the shareware program was developed as a utility for Dungeon Masters in AD&D campaigns that had a lot of thieves who were always wanting to pick the pockets of townsfolk!  But, it was fun and useful as an exercise.  You can find that one here: Fantasy Pocket “Litter” Generator.
Recently, after adapting that to the new PHP language I was mentioning, I got the idea to extend that idea to a more modern setting and came up with the Random Daily Carry Generator.  So, instead of having magic frying pans and enchanted daggers, a character may have an encrypted USB drive and a loaded Glock 21.  Just the thing to fill the pockets of random story characters, as needed!  Also, this one is still under development a bit, so as I think of things, I’m adding them in.  Visit often for new stuff!

And, of course, all those things and more can be found at my old World-Building page at my almost defunct writing site; Fantasist.net.
So, if you’ve hit that first week stumbling block on your NaNoWriMo project, go check these pages out and see if anything helps.  But, most of all, have fun!

1/8/2010

Make a WordPress Test Area

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Okay, so this may not be of interest to many of my readers.

But, for the two or three people who do find it interesting…
Have you ever wanted to test some PHP code in your blog’s theme? Well, Jon Dyer has posted a tutorial on how to do that over at his blog, Dyers.org. It’s a cool idea for testing something on your site or blog to see what it would look like with your particular settings and style. I’d thought about how to do this, too, but the way Dyer does it is pretty clever.

Go check it out!

7/16/2007

No Wasted Moments

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.
Benjamin Franklin, ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack,’ June 1746

I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately.
Specifically, how much time I’ve wasted over the years and all the ways I’ve wasted it.  I think too much and do too little.  Hell, I channel surf too much and produce too little.  I’ve been making a concerted effort to do more lately.  It probably doesn’t show on my blog, as I’ve not been producing entries at my pre-cancer rate, but I have been reading a bit more.  And, I’ve been talking to people more.  That, in its own strange way, is productive for me.  Oh, I can list off excuses galore for why I haven’t done more, espeically lately, but, in the end, that’s all they are, excuses.  So, I’m trying to waste less time.  To have fewer wasted moments.  Obviously, I’m far from perfect on this, but, in the end, if I want to change my life then I have to make the change I want.

So, I’m trying.  Trying to lead a more productive life that makes me happy.
A friend asked me some time back what I did to have fun and I was stumped.  It’s been so long since I allowed myself to have fun, as opposed to just not work, that I didn’t have a good answer.  Freakishly, I think the last fun I had was coding some Perl or PHP for my writing and fantasy webpage, Fantasist.net.  I guess that really does make me a hard-core geek, but, well, getting the funky tools working on that site really did kind of flip my switch.  Not enough to make a career out of it, but enough to give me a sense of geeky glee.  Sadly, many of those tools have been disabled because my current webhost can’t deal with the traffic that they were generating.  So, maybe, when I have a little more mental snap, I’ll work at recoding them to work with different technology so that they don’t overload their servers anymore.

And, along with all the reading, I’m going to try to write more.
For me, actually writing is about letting go.  Letting go of all the crap that I know will come out before the gold does.  That’s always been the way of creating really good stuff, at least for me, knowing that 90% of it will be crap and that’s okay.  Also, it’s about discipline.  Now, there are people who know me that would tell you I’m the most disciplined man they know, but I know better.  It only takes a moment for that discipline to slip and, once it slips, it’s hard to get back.  Writing is like that.  I used to write all the time and the discipline was easy, but now…  Well, now it’s slipped and it’s proven very hard to get back.  Still, if I own that I want and need to work at getting it back in enoug places with enough people, then I hope that I’ll be able to do just that.
We’ll see.

So, I can’t promise that I’ll never have another wasted moment.
I know people tend to think that surviving cancer, which I haven’t even quite done yet, is supposed to change my life in some deep, meaningful way that leads me to “Live Strong” and do away with wasted moments, but it’s not quite so simple.  Changing a life is hard, but, I think it’ll be worth it, so I’m working at that.  Who knows, maybe one day, if I change enough, my former step-daughter will look past the lies her mother has told her and see someone worth getting to know again.  For that alone, it would be worth making some life changes.
In the end, all I can do is try.  And, so, I will.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"All our dreams can come true - if we have the courage to pursue them."
   --Walt Disney

9/1/2006

Web 2.0 Business Plan Generator!

Filed under: Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Oh, so you thought a fancy title was enough?

Ah, I remember those fabulous days in the web bubble when everyone around me was selling out and making giant bank.  Not me, though.  Oh, no, I stuck to my principals and fought the noble fight for things like security and longevity and all that sort of silliness.  Ah, well, according to Wired magazine, those times may be fast approaching again.  So, this time, I’ll be prepared with the Web 2.0 Business Plan Generator!  This time, I’ll be able to get some of that venture capital for myself!!

Oh, well, maybe not, but at least making a random generator in PHP was fun.
Hey, it’s Friday, cut me some slack!

7/12/2006

Googlecache Backdoor

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,Personal,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:02 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

An old “trick” that never seems to get old, even when it doesn’t quite work.

Every once in a while, I actually talk about technical stuff on this blog and this week, I’m focused on Google. Oh, sure, it’s called “Diary of a Network Geek”, but I generally talk about all sorts of geeky things that have nothing to do with computers or networking at all. Well, today you get a treat, gentle readers, and I’ll write a little technical bit about what this is and how it works, or doesn’t. Here’s the trick, in a nutshell: Google a specific site or page with no extra parameters, using the “site:ryumaou.com” syntax. (To hit a specific page, “site:ryumaou.com/hoffman/netgeek/“) When you get your search results, notice at the bottom of each description, there is a link labelled “Cached”. Click that and you’re looking at the page as it resides on the Google servers. At this point, normally, you’d not be hitting the actual website at all, but simply viewing the page as it was stored on Google’s servers when they spidered the site for their search database.

GoogleCacheGotchaNow, normally, that would hide you from a web log, but not from this blog. Why? Good question. What you see pictured in the graphic on this post is a rookie mistake. Googlecache browsing doesn’t work well to conceal one’s IP address when browsing dynamic content. I know it might not always seem like it, but this blog is, actually, fairly dynamic. In this particular case, what tripped up our inexperienced sneak is a plugin, or set of plugins, running on the blog. Mainly, it was the plugin that makes the pretty title graphics via PHP. When our tricksy, little Hobbit hit the Googlecached page, his browser made a call directly back to code stored on my site to generate the cool graphics. Graphics which, because they are generated dynamically, are not stored in Google’s cache, but created “on the fly” every time someone hits my page. Interestingly enough, even if our erstwhile intruder had turned off the ability to view graphics in his browser, the PHP code would have still generated graphic, thereby alerting me to his rather weak attempt to conceal his identity.
The only thing one might gain from this “hack” is the ability to get around a blocked IP address. Sadly, the sneak doesn’t need to do this, as I block very few IP addresses at all. For one thing, an IP block is of limited value for blocking spammers, since they change IPs regularly to avoid such blocks. For another, to deal with spam and other unwanted visitors, I have other tools that work much better. So, really, all this particular tricksy, little Hobbit did was, well, waste their own time and give me a handy topic to write a quick piece about very basic web security.

So, um, thanks. Now, c’mon in from the cold and just browse the site to your heart’s content, okay? Oh, and don’t forget to vote on the poll in the sidebar there everybody!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Shallow men believe in luck.... Strong men believe in cause and effect."
   --Emerson

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