Diary of a Network Geek

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


Less is More – Hurricane Ike Followup

Filed under: Apple,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:57 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Hurricane Ike may not be over for a lot of people, but I’m thinking about how I should change my life in response to what happened.

I don’t mean that I’m scarred for life or that I have post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result or anything so melodramatic as that, but this slap on the butt from Mother Nature has made me think.  It’s made me think about what I need, what I want and how I spend my time.  As I’m sure many have found this week, we need far, far less than we think we do.  In many ways, I got along just fine without power.  Oh, maybe I cooked a bit more meat and ate a bit more in general than usual, but I got to read more and sleep more than I usually do.  And, at this point, I’ve gone without cable long enough that I’m starting to wonder why I still keep it.  I mean, I say that I have it for the History Channel and Discovery and IFC and the Sci-Fi Channel, but I’m not sure that’s really true anymore.  For one thing, I haven’t watched a whole program on either the History Channel or Discovery without some kind of interruption in so long I can’t remember.  And, honestly, most of the movies I watch on IFC are available through Netflix anyway.  And, really, I’ve gotten so tired of what the Science-Fiction Channel has become – the Ghost Buster Channel or the Cryptozoology Channel or something worse.  So, why do I hold onto this video pacifier?  Have I gotten so afraid of peace and quiet and, possibly, even my own thoughts that I have to keep background noise going all the time?

For the longest time, I’ve worried that I suckle at the glass teat so long that I would starve without it.  And, yet, it’s a love/hate relationship we have.  I feel somewhat compelled to watch it, but, at the same time, I feel like it sucks so much of my productive time away from me that I’d be better off without it.  If I spent half the time I wasted watching television cleaning my house, or re-working my home network, or writing, well, I’d probably be famous by now.  You know what I did most of last weekend?  I read.  Yeah, I ended up reading two entire books last weekend and almost half that time was spent reading by flashlight!  So, without any of the “conveniences” of modern, high-tech life, I was more productive and more rested than I am when I’m totally plugged-in and choking on information over-load.  But, of course, that’s not a new theme, is it?  I mean, people have been telling us that for a long time now, right?  How we should un-plug and tap into our full attention and focus.  I have to admit, though, that, while I heard that and thought I understood the principle, I’ve never tried to put it into practice or had an opportunity like this forced on me.  Now, I have.

So, here’s what I’m thinking.  I’m thinking that what I need to do is cancel cable.  I need to take that roughly $100 a month and save it.  When I have enough, I’m going to buy all the bits and pieces for a Linux-based multimedia computer.  Something that can rip and burn DVDs, that has a Dolby-capable sound card worthy of a home theater system, that has a high-quality video card with HDMI output I can hook up to my HDTV, that has a remote and a wireless keyboard and mouse, and, maybe, that has a television decoder on it.  Obviously, it’ll need a truckload of hard drive storage and the maximum amount of RAM.  Oh, and a nice, high-speed connection to the network so I can grab stuff from YouTube and other video sites, not to mention weather data in hurricane season and, possibly, to get to Netflix for “instant” movies, too.  It actually won’t be all that expensive, and probably not as time-consuming to create as has seemed to me in the past.  Besides, I know people have done similar things before so there’s got to be a HowTo on it out there somewhere.  And, I’m equally sure that someone has given this enough thought that I won’t have to figure out which distro is best, either!  Ha!  Sometimes not being on the cutting edge can, in fact, work to one’s advantage!

But, beyond all that, I hope that having fewer distractions, or at least taking a tighter rein on my regular distractions, will help me focus more on writing, too.  Ironically, saving money by canceling cable may also enable me to earn more money by writing fiction, like I’ve always said I wanted to do!  How funny would that be!
That shift is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  I guess more so since doing Habitat for Humanity a couple weekends ago, or maybe even as far back as when I was told my lymphoma was in remission.  I want to be less of a consumer and more of a producer.  I want to make more than I use, to contribute more than I take.  Right now, today, I don’t think that’s true, but I think I can change that.  More importantly, I know, deep in my bones, down in that place that even Death himself can’t touch, that I want to make that change.  I need to make that change, to give more than I get.
I’ve dodged so many theoretical bullets and gotten so many second chances that, were I superstitious, I’d say it was some force, some being, some power in the Universe, trying to tell me something.  As if God Himself were nudging me in a direction, toward the light, toward the positive.  Some of you reading this may not believe in that, and that’s okay with me, but I know something has been working for my personal good, even amidst the danger, sorrow and tragedy, to keep me safe and to keep me coming out okay.  And, no matter what you believe, I know that whatever that force or power is, call it God if you wish, that energy wants me to work toward the good of others with whatever meager skill and talent I may feel I possess.

So, what does it all mean?
Hell if I know.  All I know is that right now, the way I live my life, while not damaging to anyone else, it’s not worth much to me, either.  I’m just coasting.  Gliding through life on the energy of others or just circumstances.  I want to live a life worth living, a life worth the efforts M. D. Anderson spent trying to keep going.  To do that, I need to change.  Not much, really, just a little.  The difference between giving more than I take is just a hair’s breadth.
But, that small margin makes all the difference in the world.


10 Things to Think About When Buying a Laptop

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,Red Herrings,Review,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

My laptop saved me.

As most of my regular readers know, my laptop really saved me when I was in the hospital getting my chemotherapy treatment. If I hadn’t had that, I might have just about gone crazy. For one thing, it kept me in touch with many of my friends via e-mail and blogs. For another thing, I was able to get some things done at work via that laptop and a secure, remote connection to our server. That wasn’t my intention when I bought it, but, still, it’s been a very good investment and I’m very, very happy to have made it. I’d even say it was worth going into a bit of debt to get it when I did. It was something I’d put off doing for… Well, for a very long time.

Anyway, if you’re thinking about getting a laptop, the upcoming Christmas season is as good a time as any. These days laptops go on sale just like all electronics do, at Christmas, after Christmas and at the beginning of the school year. But, with deference to the TechRepublic article from which I drew the main points, here are ten things to keep in mind when buying a new laptop:

#1: Operating system

#2: CPU#3: RAM

#4: Video card

#5: Ports

#6: Screen size

#7: Integrated wireless

#8: Integrated Bluetooth

#9: Track pad

#10: Battery life

So, if you’re taking advantage of the great sales at the last minute, keep that in mind.  And, if you’re in the market for a laptop, Microcenter is going to have some pretty great sales just after Christmas this year, it looks like.  They’ve always done right by me.
That’s NOT a paid endorsement, by the way.  They’ve just always done right by me.


Open Enterprise Server, or Bust!

Filed under: Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:39 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Well, it looks like my server finally got approved.
Yea! So, yesterday morning, our office in New Orleans is having their third or fourth server space crisis in as many weeks and they start complaining about why they can’t get a new server. Of course, I patiently explain that I’ve been going through this little drive-space two-step for about six months or so here in Houston and we need a server as bad as they do. Well, I guess I said the right things to the right people and suddenly everything is a go. So I scrambled around and ordered a Dell server with 1.5 gig of RAM and 1 TERABYTE of hard drive space. I also ordered SyncSort backup software for Linux/Novell, two 1 terabyte network attached storage devices and a 50 user copy of Novell’s Open Enterprise Server for SuSE Linux. Now, all I have to do is whip together a migration plan. *sigh*
After I get this all converted and what not, I’ll repurpose the old server for the New Orleans office. Sadly this will mean travel to the sweatiest, back-road, industrial armpit outside of New Orleans, but, well, at least it’ll get done. And, I’ll have my OES server on nice, clean, safe, bullet-proof Linux. Of course, that means more geeky/technical writing. And a lot of penguin references.

I lost a reader recently, and I think my lack of geek content is to blame. At least, I have one less subscriber on Bloglines and, while it is possible that someone else has bailed on me, I blame it on a boring, barely technical job. I spend more time hooking up cables for my boss’ KVM switch than I do maintaining anything. In many ways, it has been rather disheartening. Of course, by the time I’m done here, I’ll have some really good things to put on my resume, but, then, I’ve been spinning long, thankless jobs into impressive experience since I started in this business. That Marketing degree comes in handy sometimes. So, in short, I’m looking forward to being a very technical guy for a couple of weeks. I hope I don’t bore my new readers while I geek out, though. Frankly, I really like some of you new ones. And, yes, I really do enjoy having a more female demographic. Really.


Serendipitous Windows Links

Filed under: Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

A funny thing happened to me while searching for tools.
I found them. Oh, okay, this might not be all that shocking, but, really I didn’t expect to find so many good utilities so quickly, even with Google. So, here you go, you poor, blighted souls that must manage and maintain Windows systems, here are your utility links:

Microsoft Resource Kit Tools
Windows Utilities at LabMice
Utilities at MajorGeeks.com(Not all free, but most are pretty cheap if they aren’t free.)
Freeware Files Windows Diagnostics (Now, these are ALL free.)
Doc Memory RAM Tester (Free for a limited time, so grab it quick!)

Ironically, just after I started this search, my need for these utilities mysteriously went away. Funny how often that happens after a reboot, isn’t it? Argh! Users! Can’t live with ’em and can’t make a living without ’em!


We Have Containment!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:10 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

At least, I think we do.
So, tonight, after going to the grocery store during peak hours, which I hate, and resisting the urge to ram the woman who somehow managed to block both the door and sidewalk with her cart, I think I finally managed to get the leak under control. Apparently, the non-English instructions for the toilet repair kit included helpful tips not meant for gringos like me. Luckily, I finally managed to decipher the pictures and got the funky, rubber gasket in place on the stub of exposed pipe on the tankbefore seating it on the rest of the toilet. Then, after cranking everything back down, it seems to have worked. Now, I just have to obsessively check to make sure I have no hidden leaks until the wee hours of the morning, just in case. (And, I actually had to reduce the water level in the tank because it was leaking around the handle!)
Sadly, this has left no energy to clean more than the minimal amount. Thankfully, having external genitalia lets me claim a certain amount of cleaning impairment, since my parents are very old school. With any luck, my mother will cluck about that instead of my goatee, since she prefers full beards. Or, the fact that I’m not dating yet. Don’t I get some kind of hands-off recovery period to get over the tragedy that was my marriage or something? Maybe I can use that last ten pounds I want to lose as an excuse for not being out there yet. I don’t know. Something to buy me a little time.
Anyway, the horror of bachelorhood aside, I’ll be busy for a couple of days, so I may not be posting much until Sunday night or Monday. I do have a Friday Fun Link set up to auto-post on Friday morning, though. Can’t let my adoring fans down, now can I?
So, now it’s off for a Scotch and bed. Hmmm, Scotch. “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…

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