Diary of a Network Geek

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


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 [amazon_textlink asin=’B0011EQBOS’ text=’War Games’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’jkhoffman-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’38c6d846-0d15-11e8-a8f6-f12f91a6eb2a’]. Not me, though. I fell into it a little sideways and my interest in the computer security angle of my work came from [amazon_textlink asin=’B00WGUWDVG’ text=’Sneakers’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’jkhoffman-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’53433e58-0d15-11e8-991f-01aca75f720d’]. 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!


Office Space Comparison

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Dog and Pony Shows,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:38 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Wherein my little, male ego takes a bit of bruising.

So, the sweet, almost-divorced lady at work, C., gave what little male ego I have left a little battering yesterday. She compared me to Milton in Office Space. Apparently, all the extra hours getting our phone system upgraded to a new, modern phone switch had me mumbling rather like Milton, who famously grumbled about blowing up the building and his red Swingline stapler. To her credit, she quickly added that I didn’t look like Milton.
Obviously, I don’t think I’m anything like Milton.

Honestly, and I think this is true of most guys my age who do my kind of work, I saw myself as somewhere between Mathew Broderick’s character in War Games and Robert Redford’s character in Sneakers. Okay, maybe I’m pushing it with Reford, but, still, Milton? I mean, at least the other two guys got the girl!
Really, the most realistic comparison, is Peter in Office Space. I mean, I have five bosses and everyone in the company tells me when anything is going wrong with the computer system. My ex-wife’s name was Anne, just like Peter’s girlfriend, and she was cheating on me, too. Even at my current company I got moved from cube to cube until I had no view. Though, I have to admit, I did actually end up with my office in the storage room. Kind of sad, isn’t it? My office used to be one of two storage rooms and now it’s the server room, too. No windows and not enough A/C.  But, still, I’ve got to have more going for me than Milton!  I have people skills!  (If you’ve seen the movie, you get that line.)

Well, I suppose it could have been worse.  At least she didn’t compare me to Nick Burns!
All that and I still may end up adopting her dog because her ex doesn’t want it and I have a soft heart, especially for dogs.  Oh, and her divorce should be final December Fourth.  No idea if she even finds me remotely attractive, but, well, if she’s comparing me to Milton…


Grey Flannel Hero

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 Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I doubt most of my readers even understand that allusion.
I read an article on Beliefnet about male-female relations the other day and, as always, it got me thinking. One of the themes in the article was about what characteristics made a man. Interestingly enough, the opinion of the writer was that it was patience, kindness, gentleness and internal strength that were the most “manly” attributes. I find it interesting because these are not the attributes I always percieved that society appreciates. Things like “earning ability” and good looks and fearlessness were always what I thought women wanted. And, since I rarely possess any of those things in great measure, I always felt that I fell short in “Makes Good Husband/Life Partner” department. Something, incidentally, that was reinforced for me, one way or another, by various equally damaged ladies.
And, yet, the woman writing the article, who was an apparently loyal and faithful wife of many years, waxed poetic about her husband and sons who all had these traits in abundance. Traits which I have been told, espcially recently, by friends of both sexes that I do, in fact, possess. I have always sought to fulfill my responsibilites, as I saw them. Though I may have fallen short, I always did my best to act with patience and calm toward everyone in my life. Something which my own father, who I very much admire, also, occasionally, had trouble with as well. We’re both getting better at it, even today. Hollywood may not glamourize it very often, but men who simply do their duty to their families and communities, the guys who stick it out and stay for the long haul, those are the real heros. I’ve always tried to be that kind of hero. The same kind of hero that Gregory Peck was in The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit.
I may not have always succeeded, but, at least I always tried. I’d like to think that, one day, I’ll find a woman who appreciates those values and won’t be distracted by money and flash. Oh, I suspect that I’ll “lose” plenty of women to those kinds of men, but, then, what have I lost, really? I just need to remind myself, like that line from that Demi Moore/Robert Redford movie, they’re not better men than I am, they just have more money.

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