Diary of a Network Geek

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


Universal Paperclips

Filed under: Art,Fun — 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

An existentialist game about artificial intelligence and, yes, paperclips.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine who read my post about the web-based game, Seedship told me about this fascinating and strangely compelling game, Universal Paperclips. If you follow that link, click on the box in the center to start. There’s no on-site help. There’s no explanation. Just a simple web interface that, if anything, suggests you may want to click a button labeled “Make a paperclip”. That’s it. That’s all.
But, if you are bold enough to start clicking, you’ll quickly find yourself drawn into the strangest game I think I’ve ever played. Initially, you’ll invest a few minutes, to get things rolling, but at a certain point, you’ll find that everything seems to roll along by itself with only a little intervention on your part periodically.

I don’t want to give away anything but I did let my simulation run for more than a week while only playing a few minutes a day. Though, it’s hard to tell, because it did get strangely consuming. I assume that if I let the simulation keep running, it would eventually end only with the heat-death of the simulated universe of the game.
And, if you decide to play, and get stuck, there is a Universal Paperclips WIKI, to help you. I admit, near the end of my time playing, I used it to confirm a few things.
If you have some time, and some patience, try this game. You won’t be disappointed!


This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Old School Newsletters

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,The Infinite Library — 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 Crescent

Not so old school that they’re printed, but, still, pretty old school.

I’ve always been an email sort of guy. And, I pretty much hate the modern forums. I hate having to go to a web interface and deal with all their junk and advertising. Also, as regular readers may have noticed from my blog, I’m a pretty text-heavy sort of fella. When I started in IT, fancy interfaces were the stuff of science-fiction. We did our work in the digital uranium mines via text interfaces, and we liked it!
Okay, all joking aside, my first work with computers pre-dated both Windows and the web, and maybe I never got over the simple beauty of straight, text-based information. No real fancy formatting or anything, especially in email. I still tend to view and write email messages in plain, raw text.
In any case, back in the day, the way we shared information was the old-fashioned newsletter. And, let me tell you, there were some ultra exclusive email lists that people fought to get included on. My favorites were the slightly secret UNIX security email newsletters. It felt very, very exclusive and, as they said far too often in the movie Hackers, “elite”.

Now, mostly, that time is gone. People, including me, use blog aggregators and RSS feed readers to keep up on the latest news. But, the venerable email newsletters aren’t entirely dead. As the folks at Discover write, “There is something beautiful about the personal newsletter. We love the depth and admire writers who cover niche topics in great detail. We love the intimacy of seeing these notes arriving in our inboxes directly from our favorite authors. And we love the serenity of reading every word without being interrupted by notifications. … We often wake up in the morning, eager to check if the latest issue by our favorite author has arrived, much like we used to check the mailbox for the daily newspaper or weekly magazine in the old days.” And that sums up why I like email newsletters better than anything else. It IS like a very specialized electronic newspaper emailed to me on a regular basis. Like Dave Pell’s NextDraft, which I look forward to every week day.

So, if you’re like me and enjoy information at a slightly slower pace than firehose that is the web, check this out and subscribe to some of these personally curated newsletters.
Hope to see you back next week, and, until then, enjoy your reading!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Review: Building a Monitoring Infrastructure with Nagios

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Well, since I bought it, I think I should review it.

So, I’ve been wrestling with the typically mediocre documentation which surrounds most OpenSource projects and, in an effort to ramp up my efforts, I bought Building a Monitoring Infrastructure with Nagios by David Josephsen. Now, keep in mind that I don’t normally read entire computer books very much any more, but rather read just the few chapters that seem most relevant to my current project and keep the book for future reference. Also, I was in a hurry when I bought this book and didn’t have time to look at it very closely before purchase.

Now, all that being said, this book wasn’t all that helpful to me. It probably would have been a great help if I’d gotten it right when I was starting to install Nagios, though. Sadly, I puzzled out most of what I needed to know about the system the hard way, via on-line help files, how-tos, and trial and error.
With a table of contents broken up into eight chapters, titled; Best Practices, Theory of Operations, Installing Nagios, Configuring Nagios, Bootstrapping the Configs, Watching, Visualization, and Nagios Even Broker Interface, you can see that this book is about installing the base system and monitoring the most basic of services. I got the book hoping to monitor an SQL database and, if possible, the completion status of backups. Sadly, that’s not covered in this book. I did manage to find more information on-line regarding the SQL database monitoring, but not about watching backups.

So, mostly, this book didn’t get done what I was after. However, since there are things wrong with my installation, I may save the configuration files, wipe the server and start over, following the principles laid out in this book. For instance, I can’t seem to get scheduled down-time set via the web interface on my installation, which should be possible by default. And, the visualization on my monitoring server leaves something to be desired, so, if I start over, I’ll reference the chapter on Visualization. Certainly, it would be nice to start from a clean slate and do it right, but I may not have time to do that. We’ll see.

In short, Building a Monitoring Infrastructure with Nagios was a bit of a disappointment for me, but not because it wasn’t a good book. Rather, by the time I bought this book, I was a little past implementing most of the strategies discussed. Again, though, if I end up starting over, which I may, I’ll definitely read more of this book to get it done the right way.


Linux Satellites

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Linux,News and Current Events — 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 a Full Moon

Yep, Linux-based satellites.
Mainly built using off-the-shelf equipment, too! According to this article on LinuxElectrons.com, the 100kg devices will have room for a 40kg payload and can generate up to 80watts of power for experiments. The satellite OS is a real-time Linux that “…uses CORBA-based object oriented interfaces for subsystems as well as commanding from the ground via the Internet.” In other words, you could control this bad boy via any Internet-connected PC.
This is cool and all, but am I the only one who sees the military/terrorist applications of this? 40kg is a pretty hefty payload, especially if it was all fissionable material. Imagine, if you can be paranoid along with me for a moment, a vast network of these nasty devices that have small cameras and GPS units for positioning and targeting. Now, imagine terrorist cells that just need a web interface, and some privacy to allow for the communication lag time, to unleash them on major cities. Just point and click!
God, I hope someone is regulating their sale and use….


The Mind is the Second Thing to go

Filed under: Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:35 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I can’t remember what the first thing is!

For the past week or so, I’ve come up with several ideas for blog entries and forgotten them before I could get to a web interface and make the actual entry! Just now I sat down to write an entry that I’d thought of yesterday and drew a complete blank. How terrible! I’m sure that it would have been enlightening and horribly important, too. No doubt it would have made comment on current events and Linux and Microsoft vs. Novell. Or, maybe it would have mentioned certification and Cisco. Or, possibly even debated the merits of the CNE vs. the MCSE vs. the CCNA.
Or, it could have been total dribble about how pretty my ponds are.
Who knows? Damn early senility. See what working in the IT industry does to you?!?

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