Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/9/2021

Life is a Simulation

Filed under: Art,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 Waning Crescent

At least, if you’re obsessed with scale modeling as a hobby.

A couple of years ago, I read an article about a man so obsessed with trains that he created a full-size commuter rail car in his basement. No joke. He’s a Canadian who absolutely loves trains, but especially the Canadian VIA Rail, and even works with a society dedicated to the restoration and preservation of these trains. So, he had the references to correctly recreate the experience in his basement after managing to buy an out-of-service passenger coach which he restored. But, with the pandemic lockdown, he finally found the time to create his favorite stretch of track between Toronto, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec with his model railroad. Because, of course, he’s obsessed with trains of ALL sizes and apparently has the most patient wife in the entire world. (Well, it is also his “day job”, as he has a business building and selling model trains.)
Now, however, things have gone on long enough that he’s found a way to add even more to the experience. He’s used a GoPro to record video of the model train trip and edit it to look like the real thing. And, I have to say, it really is a good recreation. According to the article at Gizmodo, which includes the video, he plans to eventually add giant screens to the passenger coach in his basement that links to the camera on the model train to show a live feed, making the line between reality and simulation even blurrier than it already is.

I’m a little afraid of what he might get up to if the lockdown in Canada goes on much longer! Hopefully, everyone in North America is getting their vaccination so we can get up to herd immunity and do things in public again. Soon.

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/2/2021

Password Rules

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Truth and Consequences — 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

Do you know those horrible password rules about adding random characters and numbers and stuff?

IT professionals hate them, too. Honest. I can say that because I am, in fact, an IT professional and have been for just shy of thirty years. (You can read more about my qualifications to call myself an IT pro at my other website, which includes Jim Hoffman’s CNE Resume, because, yes, I’ve been doing this so long I’m certified in things that no one really uses anymore.) I remember when the standard for passwords changed, requiring normal people to do things like including special characters or numbers and a mix of upper case and lower case letters. We were told that it would make the resulting passwords exponentially harder to guess. At the time, that may have been true, though I doubt it. It turns out, those rules were written by a government bureaucrat who used an out-of-date white paper to make his recommendations. And, now, even that bureaucrat regrets making those rules that only make your password harder to remember. Also, all that advice about translating a famous quote into a password by changing out words for symbols or letters? Essentially useless. With the computing power of moderns machines, the randomness of a short password really doesn’t matter at all. Length is the real key. So, having a password like “P@SSw0rd” isn’t significantly more secure than “password”, except, of course, that hackers are likely to guess the simple words first and “password” is actually one of the ten most popular passwords. So don’t use that. What’s better is to use a longer password, like an entire sentence without punctuation. And, if you have to include numbers and special characters, just tack them at the end or beginning. In other words, something more like “MyPasswordIsVerySecure@9”, because the length of that password IS exponentially harder to guess than “password”. Don’t believe me? Then just look at this infographic that shows how the length of your password is really the determining factor in how hard it is for hackers to crack.

How Long Would Your Password Last Against An Expert?

Of course, some systems limit the length of a password, unfortunately, but, until everyone else catches up to us, you have to work with what you’re given.
Come back next week to see what uncomfortable truths I have to share with you!

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters - one represents danger and the other represents opportunity."

3/12/2021

A Little Wargaming

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games — 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

I’ve always loved the idea of wargaming.

The problem is, the models are expensive, take a lot of time to paint, and then take up a lot of room after painting and between simulated skirmishes. In fact, I’ve tried several times to get into the hobby, painting one or more sets of miniatures, but rarely getting too far. Now, my eyes aren’t great anymore, but I do have a lot of magnifying devices to compensate. Still, there’s the expense and the room they all take. Well, that part, at least, has a solution, as demonstrated in this Make Warhammer TINY!, as I first saw it on Boing Boing. The idea is pretty basic; using an inexpensive 3d printer, print wargaming miniatures at half the size of normal. That theoretically cuts paint and storage requirements in half, at least.
Sadly, for me, I don’t have my own 3d printer, so I’m probably not going to do this, but I absolutely like the idea of the tiny wargames and really, quite literal miniatures. It’s brilliant. Though, I do question my ability to paint anything that small, even with the aid of my geriatric-level magnification devices. Truly. On the other hand, if you’re stuck at home and you DO have your own resin 3D printer, you can download a lot of the files for free from links at the first video I linked and give a new hobby a try while you wait for your COVID-19 vaccination to be scheduled. (Or, like me, you can just marvel at the idea of the whole thing while watching a sixteen-minute video.)

Come back next week and see what else I’ve got to share with you!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

2/26/2021

How the Octopus Works

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,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

Aliens live in our oceans.

I know I’ve been reposting a lot from Boing Boing lately, but this is just too good to not share. As both a fan of science fiction and an eternally hopeful writer of science fiction, I’m always fascinated by intelligent animals that live with us on our own planet. One of the most intelligent and yet different species which shares our planetary home is the octopus. I can’t remember the exact quote, or who said it, but a science fiction author once challenged his fellows by asking that they create an alien that could think as well as mankind, but differently. I’m not going to claim that an octopus can think as well as a human, but it sure does think differently. And, having watched the fascinating video The Insane Biology Of The Octopus, I can absolutely see a very different way of thinking than the one we land-dwelling mammals are used to using. While we have done a lot of research into the intelligence of dolphins, we’ve really only just started looking at the octopus, relatively speaking.
The video is about twenty minutes long, which is easily viewable in a lunch-hour. You won’t be sorry if you have any interest in aliens, alien thinking, or even just strange animals.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

2/19/2021

Florida Man

Filed under: Fun,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 a First Quarter Moon

Here’s hoping you have a very “Florida Man” birthday!

Okay, so after last week, I feel like I need to share something completely light and without a deeper political message, no matter how far down you scroll. Thankfully, I can rely on the proverbial “Florida man” from the news to help me sink to the appropriate level. In this case, it’s a website that calls itself the Florida Man Birthday Challenge. The idea is simple, just select your birth month and day and the site will serve up a real, and really weird, silly, stupid and ridiculous, news story starring that most infamous low-rent perps, the proverbial Florida Man.
It looks like they’re still building out the site and collecting news stories that are linked to each and every day of the year, but they’re really getting there. For instance, the story on my birthday is actually about an event from October, but, one assumes that the news story hit the papers in December, possibly when the Florida man in question was arraigned. I’m not sure when they started, and the site is riddled with advertising, but the idea here is that no matter the month and day of your birth, a Florida man has done something stupid enough on that day to make the news or police blotter.

See? Like I told you; low-brow and the antithesis of last week’s post!
Come back next week to see what I come up with next!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

2/12/2021

Sea Shanty Revival

Filed under: Art,Fun,music — 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 New Moon

I know I’m a little late to this trend, but all these modern folk songs are fun, so I’m sharing it anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you the unusual juxtaposition of modern songs done in a Medieval style called “bardcore”. This week, it’s sea shanties of several stripes and union work songs. They’re actually pretty similar in style, I think, but I’ll let you judge for yourself. Two of these three came to my feed by way of Boing Boing and they talk about the third, but I’d already discovered that in a list of old 78s on the Internet Archive Audio Archive .

So, first, I’ll share two TikToks that I found from Boing Boing’s post on sea shanties. The first is jax.in.the.box_, and she’s got a beautiful voice. I honestly don’t know anything about her except the music she shares on TikTok, which goes well beyond sea shanties, but is generally of a folk singing style that she really makes the most of. And, also, nathaneveanss, who also goes beyond the sea shanty style, but is also quite good. Both of these performers are really good and their acapella work is absolutely their best in my opinion. And, after listening to them both, I started to think that the secret was either an Irish or a Scottish accent.

Now, before you think these sea shanties are all just fun and games, Boing Boing has a cybersecurity sea shanty by Rachel Tobac. It’s good opsec advice about not reusing passwords and capitalizes on the popular TikTok trend to, hopefully, reach some folks.

The last links I’m going to share are to the Internet Archive. Lately, there’s been some good reason for the “little guys” to talk about economic disparity, not to mention the recent efforts of both Goole employees and Amazon employees to unionize, with mixed results depending on where it was happening. These songs mostly go back to the mid to late 40’s. My favorites are The Union Boys – Songs for Victory; music for political action, but you can find more old 78s with a “union theme” there, too.
But, if you need more, Spotify has some for you. There’s the Utah Phillips – One Big Union – We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years, Solidarity Now: Workers, Union and Protest Songs (which includes the Chemical Worker’s Song that jax.in.the.box_ linked above performs), and another, easier way to listen to The Union Boys – Songs for Victory; Music for Political Action.

For any future employers, I’m not advocating unionization necessarily, but the less we pay workers the more reason they have to complain about how oppressed they are. Extreme wealth disparity is something that should concern everyone because when it gets extreme enough, upheaval happens.

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

2/5/2021

Horror in the Backrooms

Filed under: Art,Fun,Uncategorized — 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

There’s something terrifying about musty, forgotten, anonymous backrooms.

As someone who’s done a little bit of urban exploration with my camera, I can tell you, there are few things more unsettling than a building full of empty, discarded rooms left to molder into decayed disuse. And, in another life, I’ve had some other reasons to know more than I’d care to about out-dated and disused space in semi-industrial settings. Old offices at the back of old buildings that smell like damp wallboard and receded floodwaters. I think if H.P. Lovecraft were alive and writing today, his nameless horrors would lurk in places like that. I’ve been thinking about it lately thanks to Mark Frauenfelder’s article in Magnet about “The Backrooms”, a 4Chan meme that’s been given deeper life thanks to procedural generation and people stuck at home. His article has videos, but more importantly, links to the deeper world of this horror space. The videos and games are … Well, they’re interesting and disturbing and something you sort of need to experience. I probably should have saved all this for Halloween, but, I didn’t think it would keep any longer.

Go and look for yourself. Yes, it’s unsettling, but it’s also a safe distraction from the more unsettling things happening in our world today.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/29/2021

Dining Table Photography

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,Photography,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

Improving your photography on the dining table.

What? Did you think I meant taking photos of your dining table? Well, I suppose that’s as valid a subject as any for photography, but what I’m actually sharing with you this week is something a bit different. A photographer, Brian Worley, posted this tutorial titled Creating and learning on the dining table back in March of last year. It’s an exploration of still-life photography, done on a tabletop, as a way of working on photography skills. It especially focuses on small flash skills, which I definitely need to work on regardless of how many of Syl Arena’s classes I’ve taken. He emphasizes a pretty tight setup, which should work for people in almost any living situation.
Before I read this, I did my own set up last year for this sort of thing. I’ve gotten two bases with two sides each; one black and one white, with a matte and shiny side each. I also got two miniature v-flats to control light better, which Mr. Worley does with simple poster board. Mine have black on one side and one panel each of white and silver, again to give me a little more flexibility with light and reflection. I did some experimenting with still life myself, both last year and earlier. You can see my brief experiments with my new-ish set up, as well as the older experiments, at my Still Life Flickr photo album.
It’s a great way to experiment with your camera and lighting in a small, contained space. And, for however long this pandemic lasts, it’s something we can do indoors, away from big crowds, while staying safe, to keep our photography skills sharp.

And, I have to admit, I got some more props around Christmas time for more still life work. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but my intention is to add to that photo album and work on some fantasy book covers. Fantasy in the sense that the theme is swords and sorcery, but also fantasy in that these are books that haven’t been written.
We’ll see how it goes.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

 

1/22/2021

AI Poetry

Filed under: Fun,On Creativity,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

No, not poetry written FOR artificial intelligence.

Rather, poetry written BY artificial intelligence. Or at least extrapolated by artificial intelligence. The idea is simple enough; you choose three poets from the suggested list and feed the engine a first line, then, verse by verse, suggestions are made. You can change the shape of the poem, to some degree, and, of course, you can choose the next line which is all, as far as I can tell, culled from the poems of your selected inspirational writers. It’s an interesting experiment and, I have to admit, it makes poetry no worse than poetry I’d write myself without help. See for yourself. Here’s a sample of one I “wrote” with the help of the AI

Dream Sailor

I sail upon the wine-dark sea,
Set me on its golden sand;
Make me a race, and I shall be
The man for which I hold the hand.

Inspired by James Weldon Johnson, Robert Frost, and Edgar Allan Poe
COMPOSED IN VERSE BY VERSE

So, yeah, there you go. Click that link and try it for yourself! It’s free and may inspire you to do more.

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!

1/15/2021

Bardcore

Filed under: Art,Fun,music — 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

Modern music with a Medieval twist!

As a guy who aspires to write, among other things, fantasy fiction of the pseudo-Medieval or “swords and sorcery” style, I’m always paying attention to things I think will hook people. Music is, of course, something that most of us have some kind of interest in and I’ve always been a fan of musical mash-ups. So, naturally, when I stumbled across something called “bardcore”, I was intrigued, to say the least. In essence, these are relatively modern songs done in a Medieval style, to varying degrees, and can be quite fun. I’m not ashamed to say that I find them mostly fun, and, if I wrote with music in the background, I’d absolutely find them inspiring. Maybe you will, too. One of my favorite blogs, BoingBoing, has a short article about it and a link to one of the better performers. Strictly instrumental, but quite lovely.
I’ve got a couple of saved Bardcore lists on Spotify, too. One called simply
Bardcore and another called Bardcore/Tavernwave and a third called < a href=”https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5bSyIBVoTa9gwiOqvvJFWD”>Medieval Style/Bardcore. All fun, in my opinion, and quite likely to lead to daydreams of a past that never was.

Either way, it seems like a nice, light way to start the new year.
No idea what else I may share this year, or how often I’ll post, but at least you’ve got this.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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