Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/6/2018

Blast Radius

Filed under: About The Author,Fun,News and Current Events — 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

This may stretch the limits of what even I consider “fun”.

Ever since I was in junior high, I’ve been a little too interested in nuclear war. Personally, I blame the Cold War and movies like The Day After. It looks kind of cheesy now, but back in the day, we were all terrified that this was our future. We were quite sure that Russia was going to launch missiles at us any moment and we would have to know how to survive. Or, maybe that was just the crazed group of boys I hung out with who all read science fiction pulps. I’ll allow that’s possible not everyone was as obsessed with the subject as we were.
But, the thing is, I don’t think it would have mattered. For one thing, I grew up not far from a pretty important Naval Air Station, and also not far from a major financial center. I’m pretty sure that where I lived would have been pretty quickly reduced to melted glass if World War Three had broken out. But, that seems to be a topic popping up again. And, it’s fresh enough that someone has created a new Nuclear Bomb Blast Simulator. I’ve shared these before but this one is, well, prettier than the others. It shows in pretty graphic terms just how large an area would be effected. Also, it seems to have better geolocation than the others that I’ve shared. And, if you, like me, have a dark sense of humor, you can always use your worst enemy’s location as the epicenter of the blast. That would be a kind of “fun”, right?

And, if you’re truly concerned, you can get the book I studied for weeks at the library, Nuclear War Survival Skills, for free, in PDF format. It claims to have been updated in 1987, but I’m quite certain it must have only to correct spelling errors because this is precisely how I remember it from all those years ago. And, I’m quite certain I had a copy in hand well before 1987, which was after I had graduated from high school.

So, um, enjoy!? And try not to think about it too much.

This post first appeared on Use Your Words.

3/12/2018

An OS Inside An OS

Filed under: About The Author,Better Living Through Technology,GUI Center,Linux,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:55 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, I’m a geek. In fact, I’m actually a professional geek. Rumor has it, being a geek is cool now. I’ll get back to you on that.
In any case, one of the ways my geek has expressed itself is in early support for Linux.  I’ve used Linux, one way or another, for more than twenty years.  It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  What’s more, I’ve been Linux certified for more than ten years!  Strange but true!  I don’t use Linux as my main operating system, though, because I live in the real world, not a Techno-Libertarian Utopia.  And, yes, that means, I use Windows.  At home, it’s Windows 10, because that’s what came installed on the laptops I got for my wife and I while I was a highly-paid contractor in 2016 and we were refreshing all our electronics.  But, much to my surprise, there’s a way to run both Windows and Linux, together on the same machine!  Without having a dual-boot system!  Thanks to an article from the Linux Journal, which almost went the way of the dinosaurs last year, I have activated Windows Subsystem for Linux, which is ONLY available on Windows 10, and then installed Ubuntu, which is free, from the Microsoft Store.  The little screen-shot at the top of this post is Ubuntu, running in its own, little window, on my Windows 10 laptop.

This is exciting!
Now, I can brush up my bash scripting by setting up a series of rsync jobs to keep my two Western Digital MyCloud drives in sync, essentially backing one up to the other.  From the literature, I had thought that was built into the models I got, but it wasn’t.  I tried to use SSH to get that setup directly on the MyCloud devices, since they’re running some limited *nix kernel, but something about the way they were configured made connecting one directly to the other and running rsync from working “as expected”.  This, though, should get me around all that.
Now, all I have to do sort out the syntax for properly mounting the Windows shares I’ve set up in the Ubuntu virtual machine app.  So, I’m not 100% there yet, but this is a great start!

 

2/2/2018

Work – Fatherland – Order

Filed under: About The Author,Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

My own political leanings often surprise me.

I should start by saying that I don’t think of myself as a particularly political person in any sense of the word. Sure, I have some very strong opinions about some things, but I mostly keep that kind of thing to myself because I hate the idea of becoming a bore. And, I think I’m a terrifically boring person, though my wife and friends assure me that is not the case. In fact, recently when I pumped out a bunch of messages about the net neutrality changes and the fight in the House and Senate to repeal that very, very bad FCC decision, at least one friend was so surprised he had to ask me about it. Which gave me the opportunity to educate him. It was nice.
But, what the title of this post refers to is the results of the quiz I took at PolitiScales. The quiz is meant to measure where you fall on 8 axes, including the one we think of most; Progressive vs. Conservative. I was surprised to find out that I was only 31% Conservative, but 57% Progressive. More stunning to me was that I rated 57% Regulationist vs. 17% “Laissez-faire” and 52% Nationalist vs. 31% Internationalist. The other axes include; Constructivist vs. Essentialist, Communism vs. Capitalism, Ecology vs. Productivist, Revolutionist vs. Reformist and Rehabilitative Justice vs. Punitive Justice. Again, it was a little eye-opening to me as I’d always thought of myself as both more conservative and global than they measured me as being. Of course, this is just one relatively short quiz and my thoughts on all this are more complicated than they can easily measure with a multiple choice questionnaire. Still, I encourage you all to take the quiz and see how you feel about it. And, maybe, give a little thought to your political life before the mid-term elections later this year.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

1/26/2018

When To Buy What

Filed under: About The Author,Personal Care,Red Herrings — 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

Yes, you can save money by buying at the right time.

About a week ago, our dryer died. Or maybe our washing machine died. All we know is, right in the middle of a load, my wife started to smell the most horrible stench of burning electronics. She turned everything off and unplugged it all, but the fried electric smell of dead appliances lingered in the air for a couple days afterward. It was sad. But, on the other hand, that washer and dryer were over sixteen years old and, frankly, due for replacement. Actually, that’s one reason we’re not entirely sure which one became a deadly house fire potential hazard. When we refinanced our house last year, we agreed that when either of these appliances died, we would replace them both. We even set aside the money to pay for them, so that we wouldn’t go back into credit card debt after working so hard to get out from under those immoral interest rates. Sadly, they didn’t wait until the right month so that we could save money with a good sale, because the best time to buy household appliances is apparently November, especially around “Black Friday”. (Which is okay, really, because we already knew what we wanted to get and they almost never seem to go on sale.)

Are you surprised that I know there’s a good time to buy appliances? Don’t be. I only know because finance websites always seem to publish a guide to what month is best to buy what consumer good. This year, take a look at the one at Time’s Money section’s Month-by-Month Guide for the Best Time to Buy Everything. For instance, they suggest that the best time to buy a TV or other consumer electronics is the second half of January and February. Or that May might be the best time for furniture sales, which I did NOT know! In any case, if you can afford to wait and plan, you might be able to score yourself a good deal with their guide.

Good luck with your saving and spending in 2018!
(And, for those of you who are curious, we bought an American made washer and dryer; Speed Queen, though we actually got two separate units, not the combo.)

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

 

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.

12/22/2017

Charitable Giving

Filed under: About The Author,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

As someone who’s been the beneficiary of charitable giving, I heartily endorse it!

And, actually, you may have enjoyed the benefits of charity, directly or indirectly, too. For instance, if you have had cancer or know someone who has had cancer, you’ve benefited from money donated to cancer research from any of a number of charities. If you’ve used Wikipedia, you have only been able to do so due to donations made to that organization. Also, I know that it’s at least partially my upbringing in the Methodist Church that has helped me form the belief that I should give back some of what I’ve been given. I don’t give it all to a church these days, but I do still like to give to worth causes. That seems like an especially important thing to both believe and do these days with the social and political climate being what they are. If you feel the same, but aren’t sure where to give, I have a couple suggestions.
First of all, there’s the Boing Boing 2017 Guide to Charitable Giving. I don’t necessarily endorse all the charities they list, but there are some good ones there, though several are out of the UK and may not be to my American audience’s taste.
Secondly, I’d like to recommend that you consider giving to established charities in your local area. Find a homeless shelter or women’s shelter to give to this year, maybe, or, my personal favorite, a local stray animal rescue. I lean toward donating toward the most helpless in need in my local area. I like the animal rescues because it’s such a huge problem where I live and it’s mostly domestic animals that have been mistreated one way or another. Domesticated animals are our responsibility and we should step up to that.

So, this Friday before Christmas, I hope you’ll forgive me for getting up on a soap box, but I truly believe that if we want the world to be a better place, we have to make it that way. One way I choose to do that is to donate to worthy causes. Besides, if you donate now, you can take it off your taxes, so it’s a “win-win” situation!

Anyway, I hope you’ll think about it and, either way, have a Merry Christmas.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/12/2017

The Traditional Birthday Post

Filed under: About The Author — 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 Crescent

So, today marks yet another lap around the Sun for me.

Honestly, I don’t hang a lot on birthdays, especially my own. I mean, for the most part, they’re just another day. Another marker of many in my life and, frankly, a rather arbitrary one at that. I’m more impressed with the fact that I’m still married, healthy, and just $5,000 away from being entirely out of consumer debt than that I’m turning 49 today. Seriously, though, the fact that I’ve made it this far is actually sort of an accomplishment, I think. There are many who haven’t, and, God knows, I’ve had my share of brushes with death, but, even that’s not altogether unusual, really. In fact, according to the actuarial tables, I should expect about another 30 years, or more if I’m particularly lucky. Which is a good thing because, in spite of being statistically middle-aged, I come from an unusually long-lived family and I have many, many things yet to accomplish.

It’s been a mostly good year, really. My wife and I refinanced the house, letting us fix it up and clear the majority of our credit card debt. I also moved from being an over-paid contractor always in danger of being out of work to being the best bargain in IT Infrastructure Management for a company five minutes from my house. Even in Houston, that’s a hard commute to beat. And, of course, for a brief while, my other blog, Diary of a Network Geek was on the first page of Google search results for the search term “network geek”. It’s always fun when that happens. I’ve read a lot of good books, though I’ve been mostly too busy to review them like I used to do. I’ve had as low-stress a year as I think I’m capable of having, frankly. Of course, the Zen meditation helps with that. I’ve done that for over four years now.
And, then there’s the fact that I’m still married to Sharon. My blushing bride does tend to make every year a little sweeter for me. I’d like to think that we’re finally easing into that place where we know each other well enough to truly start enjoying the other’s company. There’s also the possibility that I’ve finally started to mellow with age. At least, that’s her theory.

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Jennifer Connelly, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, who is the author of Madame Bovary, the painter Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of character. I can only hope to do the same, one day.
Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.)

So, I really have no idea what the coming year will bring, but I’m looking forward to it. We’ve talked about maybe selling our house and moving into something smaller, that we can retire into and maintain easier. Then again, we know this house doesn’t flood, so we may just stay. Either way, I’ll just keep on going, because, at this point I don’t know what else I’d do, frankly. And, it doesn’t matter, so long as Sharon and I do it together, or at least near each other. (Yes, that was a parallel play joke. Deal with it.)

All in all, life is going along okay and I’m sure it’ll be good coming year.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

9/1/2017

Flood Sensors

Filed under: About The Author,Better Living Through Technology,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — 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

This is mostly of local interest and probably would have been more help last week.

But, I’m hoping it will serve as a convenient place to find this information next year when the hurricane season starts again. And, yes, this is mostly relevant to the greater Houston area, where, dear readers, you will recall has been home since I moved here from the Chicago area in 1998. Since then, I’ve experienced a severe tropical storm, and the direct or indirect effects of three hurricanes (Katrina, Rita and Ike), before our latest Hurricane Harvey. Tropical Storm Allison was about the worst flooding event I had ever seen. My ex-wife and I were in an apartment with her daughter and woke up to find our part of town cut off from the rest of Houston by flooding. But, that flood didn’t stick around incredibly long and we were able to get out and drive the next day. That drive around my current neighborhood let us see which of the houses we had been looking at flooded. Obviously, we chose the one that didn’t and that’s where I live today with my current blushing bride. I’m pleased to say that we didn’t flood this time, either.
The thing people don’t realize about living down here is that it’s not usually the hurricane itself that causes the most damage. Rather, it’s the flooding caused by the rain that comes before, during and after. Hurricane Harvey dumped more than two feet of water on the greater Houston area. Some places got more than that. What was worse, though, is all the water running down from beyond the Houston area raising the levels of all the water ways that everyone here calls “bayous”. In theory, they should move all the water away from where we live and send it down to the Gulf. In reality, Houston is so over-built that they can’t always manage to do that.
My wife and I got lucky this time. The only water we got in our house was down our chimney and what came in on our dog. Our cars were both safe and dry. I know at least one person who’s parents have probably lost their house and two people who lost cars while trying to evacuate. This is the worst flooding that anyone can remember in Texas, and let me tell you, that’s saying something.
So, my link today is to the Harris County Flood Control District, who is the governmental group in charge of mitigating flooding events in Harris County, where Houston resides. Frankly, it’s not a job I envy, especially this week. But, for those who are concerned, they have a LOT of information about flooding in the area. Most importantly to me this past week or so, they are responsible for creating and maintaining the Harris County Flood Warning System, which has links to water-level sensors in bayous. If you go to their Interactive Mapping Tools, you can put in your address and find the closest sensors to you and what bayou is most likely to effect flooding in your area. I spent a good amount of time this weekend watching several of those sensors very, very closely. It was, to say the least, nerve-wracking, but, if things had gotten bad enough, I would have known right when I should either head to our second story or try to get out of the area if it was still possible.

Over the coming months, after hurricane season officially ends in November and before it starts again next year, I plan to add some resources here for emergency preparedness, starting with putting together a “go bag” in case of evacuation. Because, frankly, it’s never too early to start planning for next year.

And, next week, hopefully, I’ll have something a lot more fun to share with you than the grim reality of climate change, unchecked over-building, and preparing for the inevitable flooding disasters to come.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/12/2016

Another Year Older, And …

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,News and Current Events — 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

… hopefully wiser. But, who’s to say, really?

I don’t think it’s an accident that my birthday fell on a Monday this year, because, I’ll tell you, it’s felt a little bit like a year of Mondays!
Still, I’ve survived another lap around the Sun, and that’s something to celebrate, especially considering how close I’ve come to not making it this far. But, now that I have made it through cancer and a lot of my own foolishness, the actuarial tables indicate I can still expect quite a few more years of misadventures. In fact, if I’m reading the most recent Social Security actuarial table for my sex and birth year, I can expect to live until I’m somewhere between 70 and 107, which is fine with me! Actually, I come from fairly long-lived stock so I have a pretty good reason to believe I’ll be at the higher end of that range, which is also good, since there are still so many things yet to be done with my life.

It’s been a strange year career-wise. I got laid off in February and started working a contract in March, where I’ve worked ever since. In theory, they may eventually hire me on full-time, and there’s even been talk about that, but not a lot of movement in that direction. Still, it’s pretty good income and enough to cover our expenses and COBRA payments, so, for now, it’s okay. Still, if they don’t bring me on full-time sooner rather than later, I may end up having to find something more permanent. You may recall that last year, I got myself a an annual subscription to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, with the idea that I’d improve my photography. So far, that hasn’t happened much. I have done more photos for my wife’s business website, The Organizing Decorator, but I haven’t really done anything for me. This coming year, I plan on changing that. My blushing bride has said that she’d like to have more of my photography to frame and hang around the house, so, thanks to my big drive crash a couple of years ago, that means I have to get my butt off the couch and out photographing things. My favorites have been animals, especially at the Houston Zoo, but I also have some ideas for still life and abstract work, too. I’ve been really inspired by one of my photography heroes, Syl Arena, and his color field photography. They’re really amazing and emotional works and something I’d love to emulate in my own, primative way.

You may recall that last year I mentioned starting the Five Minute Journal. I did it with their pre-printed journal for six months, then, when I filled that, I continued in my own, plain journal. (I used Peter Pauper Essentials Large Notebook. They look like a Moleskine, but they’re much less expensive.)
And, I also started the Five Year Journal, too. Yes, it’s by Samuel Pepys, the most famous diarist of all, but I don’t really think anyone will be interested in my personal diary. Still, Pepys probably thought the same thing. In any case, that’s been going strong for almost a year now and I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon. The Five Minute Journal really has, I think, put me in a more positive frame of mind.
This year, my birthday gift to my self was a rowing machine and an inversion table. I hope to start two new health habits that make the coming years a little easier and more enjoyable. I think it will be worth it. Everyone I know who has one, swears by their inversion table and says that it will help my back. And, according to an article or two I read, a rowing machine is supposed to be about the best full-body workout I can get on a machine. I guess we’ll see! I’ll tell you this, though, I haven’t regretted any of the birthday gifts I’ve gotten myself in the past, and I’m pretty sure this one is going to be okay, too.

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Jennifer Connelly, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, who is the author of Madame Bovary, the painter Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of personality. I can only hope to do the same, one day.
Also, I think it’s interesting to note that on this day in 1896 Marconi first demoed radio and, again on this day, in 1901 made his first Trans-Atlantic transmission. (Though, of course, all right-thinking people know that Tesla was really responsible for those first advances in radio.)
And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the computer mouse made its debut just four days before my birth! How crazy is that? The mouse, which makes graphic interfaces so practical and easy to use, is actually four days older than I am!

So, there you have it. Another lap around the Sun completed with a little more joy this year than last. That’s a trend I think I can pretty heartily endorse. I have some work cut out for myself this coming year, with some plans to improve my professional growth by way of computer security certifications, so check back next year to see how that went. Also, in addition to the photography, which you’ll be able to keep up with at my Flickr photostream, I plan to write on the blog a bit more, too. Maybe just once a month more, but still, more. We’ll see how that turns out.

So, all in all, I’m doing pretty good for a forty-eight-year-old cancer survivor who’s on his second marriage and has a mortgage. Life is pretty sweet and I’m looking forward to the coming year and years! I hope you all will be with me for quite a few more!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


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