Diary of a Network Geek

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

6/7/2019

PowerToys 2019

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Geek Work,MicroSoft,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

Some reboots are better than others.

Sometimes, I talk about really geeky things here, mostly because I AM a geek, but also because I am a professional geek. This is one of those times.
Back in the days of Windows 95 and Windows XP, Microsoft made a whole set of little tools that fankly should have been included in the operating system to begin with. Things like TweakUI that let you change almost every aspect of the look and feel of Windows, including where some system folders resided. There were other tools, too, like things thta would let you synchronize folders and autoplay CDs and, one of my favorites, Command Prompt Here that let you open, you guessed it, a command prompt in any folder from the Windows FileManager. Those little tools sort of fell off in popularity after those versions of Windows, but hard-core users and oldsters like me still remember them fondly.
Well, according to Lifehacker, Microsoft is bringing PowerToys back! What’s more, they’re making them open source, so you’ll be able to download the source code and write your own! Of course, they don’t have TweakUI in this batch of goodies, yet, but I’m sure some enterprising, young programmer will dive into the Microsoft GitHub PowerToys repository, and figure out a way to make all our old favorites. In any case, it’s a good space to watch for new utilities that may be useful to you. And, of course, it’s free, which is why I’m sharing it with you on a Friday.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/24/2019

Lightroom Masterclass

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — 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 Gibbous

Finally learn Lightroom!

Remember last week, how I was saying that I used Lightroom more than Photoshop? There’s a reason for that. Actually, there are several reasons, but the big one is that Lightroom is actually made specifically for photographers. For most of us, it has the basic tools that non-techs would want to have to quickly edit our photos. Granted, I am, actually, a computer geek, but I generally don’t want to spend hours and hours of my non-work time in front of a computer. (Yes, I do see the irony of that statement one a blog/website, but, still…) In any case, Lightroom lets you quickly get just enough editing to make good photos a LOT better. But, it only does that if you know how to use it. Personally, I hate spending money on training, if I can help it, but, sometimes, I have to admit that it’s good to see the industry accepted way of doing things with software. So, all of that is to say that this week, thanks to PetaPixel, again, I’m bringing you a link to a 30-minute Masterclass in Lightroom by Mango Street. They really cram in a lot of information in that 30 minutes, too! But, trust me, it’s all great training, even if it goes a little fast for someone who hasn’t used Lightroom much. Good news, though, you can go to the Mango Street YouTube channel for all their other tutorials where you can get a bit more in depth and get more tutorials about other aspects of photography, too.
It is all free, and all very good info, so go check it out!
Then, after you get inspired, go out and shoot some fresh photos to test out your new editing skills!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my very personal blog.

4/26/2019

Government Sponsored Font

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — 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 a Third Quarter Moon

Your tax dollars at work for better design!

No, seriously, this is actually US tax dollars working to develop a “better” font. Not even kidding.
Believe it or not, there’s a little something called the United States Web Design System that’s collaborative team specifically started to “…make it easier to build accessible, mobile-friendly government websites for the American public.” And, as it turns out, they have some resources that might be helpful for non-governmental web designers, too. One such is a simple font called Public Sans, which they call “A strong, neutral typeface for text or display.” Which it is, actually. It can be downloaded from their GitHub page, which further describes the font as “principles-driven” and “open-source”. It’s also a fairly nice, and free, change from Helvetica. Oh, and it includes webfonts, so you can, in fact, use it to unify your on-line and off-line branding identity.
And, again, all freely available and all brought to you, one way or another, by the United States of America Federal Government.
Sometimes, the government really IS here to help!

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/23/2019

Throw Away Drives

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Dark Side,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Please, be careful.

We tend to treat USB thumb drives as essentially disposable these days, which, considering their low cost, they basically are.  At least, in one sense.  The problem is, those cheap, little drives still store an awful lot of data.  I recently read an article titled “You left WHAT on that USB drive?!” where the authors talk about several studies, formal and informal, where researchers scooped up random USB drives, either from eBay or the lost and found, to see what was on them.  The results are a little terrifying.  According to the article, “…about two-thirds of second-hand USB memory sticks bought in the US and the UK have recoverable and sometimes sensitive data. In one-fifth of the devices studied, the past owner could be identified.”  What’s more, in the case of one study, out of 200 drives, only 34 of them had been properly wiped out.  That’s just 17% of the drives.  Several had been formatted, but still had data that could be recovered off them.  Yes, that’s right, even reformatting the drives does NOT guarantee that they will be properly wiped out.

What’s more, the data that was left behind was of a very sensitive nature in many cases.  Everything from tax information to naked photos to photos of a soldier on deployment and at home, including the soldier’s address.  And, again, reformatting is not enough.  At least 8 drives out of the 200 examined had been reformatted, but had data on them that could still be recovered!  So, what can be done?
Personally, I tend to use USB drives until they absolutely don’t work at all any more, and I try not to put personal data on them in any case.
One solution is to get a USB drive that can be encrypted.  I’ve used several versions of the LaCie Imakey that includes an encrypted partition and utilities to manage it, but that doesn’t seem to be available any more.  A replacement might be the Kingston Digital Data Traveler Locker, which lets you set a password to restrict access, as well as doing hardware encryption of some kind and even backing up to the cloud in case the drive gets lost.  Granted those drives can get a little pricey, but how much does it cost to deal with the potential identity theft that lax personal security might bring?

If you have drives, USB or otherwise, that you’re looking to get rid of, then at least sanitize them before they go.  There are a lot of articles and utilities available to help you with that.  One that covers pretty much every drive you might have is How to securely erase external hard drives, SD cards, or flash drives, which details the steps as well as suggesting utilities to help you.  Now, for the most part, I assume that if you read this blog, as opposed to my other blog, Use Your Words, then you’re a geek like me and can handle more than consumer-grade procedures and software.  If that’s the case, or you’re feeling particularly brave, one great utility I’ve used is Darik’s Boot and Nuke aka DBAN.  It’s a free ISO you can download to make a bootable disk/drive that will let you securely wipe a drive before disposing of it.  It’s simple to use and free, but if you’re not comfortable burning an ISO to a disk or thumbdrive, then I’d recommend getting a more consumer-friendly product.

Either way, it’s a scary world out there to let your precious data roam free without a keeper, so be careful with those cheap, “throw away” drives.  If you’re not careful how you use them, they could get pretty expensive.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out."
   --Italian Proverb

3/22/2019

In Summary …

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,News and Current Events — 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 Gibbous

Executive summaries for internet articles.

I don’t read as many books as I used to when I was younger, but I think I actually read more text. Granted, I’m part of the generation that really grew the internet as we know it, and my entire career is technology-based, so I may be on the web more than a lot of other people. And, of course, there’s the fact that I blog at all anymore, since I’m told that the average internet use prefers video to text. I’ve been blogging for just under 19 years on various platforms, with a lot of that archive being at Diary of a Network Geek, and as a frustrated writer, text has been my preferred communication medium for a very long time. So, I read a lot. And, the web just keeps expanding, so there’s always more and more and more to read. Combine that with the unfortunate need to seem, and feel, well-informed and pretty quickly, I’m overwhelmed.
Imagine, however, a website that takes some of the best, most current non-fiction writing on the web and summarizes it into four or five salient bullet points. Seems like a dream for a guy like me, doesn’t it? Well, now it’s a reality! And, it’s called bullets.tech. Focusing mainly on technology and science, this site takes the “best articles” and shortens them to 5 bullet points or less for easy reading and digestion. I love it! And, they even link to the original article if you want to read more about the summarized subject.

So, there you go; your Uncle Jim bringing you technology to make your life better!
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/8/2019

Archive Data

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — 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

I don’t care what anyone says; you just can’t have enough data.

With storage being so relatively cheap, I don’t really get rid of any old data any more. It’s true. I have so much cheap storage around my house that I have literally hundreds upon hundreds of digital books, documents, photos and other files. I used to have a huge library in my house. Literally thousands of books. Books in virtually every room. The problem was, a lot of the books were horribly out of date. Or, I’d gotten them with the intention of reading them, but I was never honestly going to get around to reading many of them. Instead, they just took up space. So much space, in fact, that when my wife was getting ready to move in, I think she despaired of having room to fit! She really helped me realize that I didn’t need to keep all those physical books around. Though, I’m not sure she truly understands my personal obsession with data, or the brobdingnagian archive I have quietly lurking upstairs by the wifi router. I assure you, it’s epic. And, now I know that I’m not the only one, thanks to an article on Gizmodo this week.

My problem, though, is that I often remember some obscure bit of information that I read once on a website. Sometimes, I remember the site, but the page is missing. Or, the site is gone. Or, even worse, the site is still there, but it’s been taken over by domain squatters who are squeezing the Google pagerank to shill some internet snake oil of some kind. Then, I’m stuck trying to find that bit of data, that one reference that will take me to the promised land of information, often to no avail. Well, this week, while no doubt doing something totally unrelated, I stumbled across a Chrome plugin for the Wayback Machine. If you’re not familiar, the Wayback Machine is the search engine on The Internet Archive. And, it’s fantastic for guys like me, trying to dig up obscure and forgotten information. The plugin, according to its page, “[d]etects dead pages, 404s, DNS failures & a range of other web breakdowns, offering to show archived versions via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. In addition you can archive web pages, and see their most recent & first archives.” And, I assure you, it’s glorious. It’s also free, so well worth installing. And, if you, like me, use Firefox as much as Google Chrome, there’s a Firefox version as well!

So, go ahead, fellow data hounds, install those plugins and relive the days of data past!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/18/2019

More Free Alternatives

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,The Tools — 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 Gibbous

I’m tired and lazy, but it’s Friday, so here’s a post for you.

The brave few who are regular readers here know I dig free software. I also have had aspirations of being a bit of an artist, writer and photographer. Sadly, I was more devoted to eating well and living comfortably than I was any art, so I didn’t get too far. But, as I get older, I also get cheaper and less willing to spend money on hobbies, which often leads me to seek out free software.
Anyone who’s done any serious computer graphics work knows that Adobe has some of the best software available. In fact, I actually subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan. I wasn’t a huge fan of the subscription model, but getting the latest version of Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 a month is actually a pretty good deal. Still, there’s a lot more that I wouldn’t use as often and therefore I’m not quite as willing to pony up the steep prices to get. For that, I’m back to my old quest for free software. Thankfully, David Murphy at Lifehacker has compiled the super useful 27 Free Alternatives to Adobe’s Expensive App Subscriptions. He’s done all the leg-work for you. I can’t vouch for all his choices, but for years I used GIMP instead of Photoshop, because it was free.

In any case, it’s been a busy week, for reasons I hope I can reveal soon, and I just haven’t had time to give you more than this simple link. Also, this week the link should actually work, unlike last week when Scrivener added some extra characters to the link code making an endless loop. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Scrivener for writing, but blog posts need clean code and text and until I figure out how to make that more seamless, I’ll use a text editor for blog posts before they go up.
Oh, and I did go back and fix those links from last week if you want to check out the incredible animated GIFs.

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

10/26/2018

Save Your Work

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Geek Work,The Day Job — 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

Have you ever lost form data on the web?

I hate when I’m typing into a form on a website and something happens, then all my data goes poof. Seriously. It’s super frustrating for me, because sometimes, when I’m putting in a support request for work, those forms have a LOT of data in them and losing it can really throw a monkey-wrench in my day.
Or, worse yet, when I’m setting up blog posts, I can really get into a writing groove and then my internet connection might blink and, again, poof, all that hard work is gone. Granted, I should be saving the draft as I go along, but, even though I may seem like a tech god to some, I’m really just a regular human who doesn’t always follow best practices. Sad, but true.
In the past, I’ve used a great Chrome plugin called Lazarus to help me recover lost form data, but that plugin has gone away. Now, though, there’s Typio Form Recovery. Sadly, it’s only available for the Chrome browser, so if you use Firefox or something else, you’ll have to find another alternative. It IS free, though, so there is that. Also? If you know of a similar plugin for Firefox, please, leave a comment with information about it!
And, yeah, I know, not exactly “fun”, but, hey, come back next week and see if I can do better!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

9/21/2018

Explore the Universe From Your Desktop

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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 Waxing Gibbous

Fly around the universe, virtually, from your Windows desktop.

Yes, sadly, this is for Windows users only. I try to make these posts as universally appealing as possible, but, sometimes, what I’m offering up is specific to an operating system and just too good to pass up. This is one of those.
Now, of course, I’m a big science-fiction geek and I love the fantasy of zooming through space to other planets and star systems. I suppose it has something to do with growing up watching Star Trek or seeing the original Star Wars (ie. Episode IV) in the theater as a little kid. Whatever the reason, I’ve never gotten past the idea that I’d like to leave Earth and discover the wonders of the universe like the captain of my very own interstellar craft. Sadly, the laws of physics are working against me on realizing that dream. So, until then, I’ll have to just explore the universe with my imagination. Thankfully, according to Lifehacker, there’s a desktop program called SpaceEngine that will help me do just that. If you head over to SpaceEngine.org, you can download the app for free. It’s huge, so it will take some time, but it’s worth it. You may get some warnings from your antivirus when you try to download it, but I found that the fifth “mirror”, which was a Google drive space, seemed to be okay. Once you have it installed, you can soar off to distant stars and planets and let the wonders of our universe wash over you. Frankly, it seems like the perfect escape for a Friday afternoon, especially if you’re reading this blog instead of working.
You’ll want to make sure to read the manual and be patient with the program, though, it is still in beta, after all.
So, check it out and come see what I have for you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

9/7/2018

Burner Email Addresses

Filed under: Red Herrings,The Day Job — 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 Crescent

Because having a disposable email means having privacy.

I hate spam. I mean, I really hate spam and spammers with a passion. As a system administrator, which is what I really am no matter what fancy title I may currently have, I can tell you that dealing with spam is the single most time-consuming and irritating thing about having an email server. The last time I checked, spam accounted for something like 75% of all email communication. The problem is, a lot of the time, to get the one thing you want from a site, you are forced to sign up for an email newsletter that you don’t really want. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually like email newsletters. I subscribe to several and I’m even working on setting up one of my own. But, for those times you really just want the one “free” download a site is offering and don’t have any intention of coming back, what are you to do? Or, what if you’re not even sure that it’s a legitimate download or website? Maybe you’re afraid that a hacker has set up a site just to collect personal information, what then?
Well, then, you use nBox by notif.me to setup a free, anonymous and private “burner” email for any site you want to sign up for. You can then choose how and when you’re notified when they send something out. You can even delete the addresses you’ve used for sites you don’t want to be bothered with any more and *poof* they’re all gone, all at once.
And, yes, it’s free. How? Well, it’s free because it’s notif.me’s way of advertising and getting the word out about their service.
So, why not try it and take control of your email notifications this fine Friday?

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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