Diary of a Network Geek

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

10/30/2020

Healthy Skepticism

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,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 Waxing Gibbous

People who call me pessimistic are just not being realistic.

If the past several election cycles and the attendant advertising and attempts to sway voters have shown anything, I think, it’s that having an extra healthy level of skepticism is just a good defense mechanism. For years, I’ve questioned all the quotes that are attributed to famous people, especially famous politicians. I really don’t think Abe Lincoln told people to “vote early and often”, though it’s possible that one or more Chicago mayors may have. A more direct example is this quote “Most of the Evil in This World Is Done by People with Good Intentions” which is often attributed to T. S. Elliot, but, is really a partial quote attributed to an anonymous contributor to a trade journal called “The Creamery and Milk Plant Monthly”, though Elliot said things that were quite similar. And, now, thanks to Quote Investigator you can do your own fact-checking when someone insists that George Washington said Firearms Stand Next in Importance to the Constitution Itself. They Are the American People’s Liberty Teeth and Keystone under Independence. (Spoiler alert! He most likely didn’t say that at all.)
And, while you’re being more actively skeptical, you may want to grab this Chrome extension that Lifehacker mentions, titled NoDiguisedAdsAnymore which does just what the title suggests; it reveals advertising disguised as news by marking it with an “Ad” icon. It may not catch all the sneaky political ads, but it’s not a bad place to start!

And, if you haven’t yet voted, make sure to do that this year. It’s never been more important in living memory to make your wishes known and vote your conscience.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

9/25/2020

Can you Spot The Troll?

Filed under: Fun,Fun and Games,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 Waxing Gibbous

For the next two months, “Don’t feed the troll” should be our mantra.

According to the Urban Dictionary, a “troll” is “…[s]omeone who deliberately pisses people off online to get a reaction.” And, while that’s true, I feel like it’s not a complete description anymore. Since I’ve been on the internet, back in the “Before Time” of the early 90’s, trolls have been around, in one form or another, purposely irritating people for laughs. But, sometime in the last ten years or so, professional trolls with a political agenda, and often backed by a nation-state, have sprung up in attempts to sway elections and disrupt the democratic process. A lot of those trolls aren’t even people at all but are robots. They’re automated scripts that just constantly harass actual people who happen to trigger certain keywords. Being able to spot the trolls is a lot harder than most people realize.
So, in preparation for the upcoming election, I’m sharing a website called “Spot The Troll”. It’s s short quiz that shows you social media profiles and asks the simple question “Troll or Legit”? All you have to do is pick. And, then afterward, either way, there are a series of screens showing the “red flags” that should have tipped you off to the troll. Or, things that might have tricked you into thinking a legit human was actually a troll. I scored 7 out of 8. Not bad, I think, considering how sophisticated the trolls and their programmers have gotten.
Take the quiz and see how you do!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words! You can leave comments there.

7/3/2020

A Little Less Bang

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,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 Waxing Gibbous

Maybe this is a good year to skip fireworks.

The past couple of years, I’ve posted tips for photographing fireworks around this time of year. They’re popular and taking photos of them is just as popular. But, maybe this year, with tensions running so high and people under so much extra stress, maybe with all that, we could tone down the fireworks. I haven’t heard anything about public fireworks displays this year, but, considering the crowds, I would hope that most of them would be canceled this year. Unfortunately, that probably means that more private “displays” of fireworks will happen instead. Smaller gatherings of neighbors who buy fireworks from the roadside stands and light up the cul-de-sac with barely controlled, hand-lit explosives. In theory, they’re illegal in most good size cities and neighborhoods, but they’re such a tradition that they’re hard to stop entirely. I’ve already read stories that would seem to indicate these neighborhood fireworks have been on the rise since the COVID-19 lockdowns started. And, I’ve read complaints about them on local message boards, especially by dog owners whose dogs get so very worked up by the sudden and random noise. If you don’t care about how it gets the neighborhood dogs worked up, at least consider your neighbors that may have survived a mass shooting or served in the military and seen combat. I know several people who have been down range and had significant experience with high explosives that were definitely not fireworks. They all have post-traumatic stress disorder to some degree.
For many most, it’s not even diagnosed. It’s just something that happened and they have to live with it every day, but the government doesn’t give them much in the way of support. I know one person who qualifies as at least partially disabled due to his PTSD and he was actually given a diagnosis to qualify for aid. But, whether any of our honored veterans were diagnosed with any psychological issues as a result of their service and exposure to combat, I don’t know a single one that looks forward to holidays that include fireworks.
So, maybe, this year, we should consider those neighbors. We’re happy to politicize military service and our patriotism around how much we allegedly support the troops, but this is an actual thing we can do to help them in a real way. I know I’ve shot off my share of those supposedly harmless fireworks, too, but, as I got to know more guys who had served, I came to realize how hard it was on them. The random explosions and shooting lights are very much like small arms fire and the kinds of smaller devices that are used by insurgents in our more recent combat theaters and conflicts. It brings someone with PTSD right back to those battlefields and the incredible danger that they escaped physically, but can never escape mentally.

And, if you know someone who suffers from PTSD, or any other mental health issues, trauma related or not, don’t forget these resources:
MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline – 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

And, specifically for those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, National Center for PTSD “Get Help in a Crisis” page.

And, as I wrote last week, please, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people actually do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

6/26/2020

Facing The Black Dog

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events,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 Crescent

Yeah, I’m talking about depression.

That metaphor, calling depression the “Black Dog”, is usually attributed to Winston Churchill, but I’ve definitely heard it from a lot of sources. We tend to want to show our best faces on social media and on our blogs, but the truth is, most of us aren’t the happy, shiny Instragram people we want the world to see. I know I’ve had my own bouts of depression, on and off, for years. It feels like sitting in the bottom of a pit without light or hope, at best forgotten, but at worst with people shoveling dirt on top of me. There have been various reasons for it and I’m grateful that all my depression has been transitory. It’s always been what I call situational depression. One time, it was because I was getting divorced. Another time it was because my cardiologist had given me betablockers, which killed my motivation and made me want to just lay on the couch all the time. There have been other times, usually around a job loss or some other relationship failure on my part.
Right now, though, all of 2020 so far has been enough to depress anyone. I mean, I’m pretty blessed to have a job that pays well and lets me work from home at least some of the time, but I’m very aware that a lot of people don’t have that. And, even though I count my blessings on a regular basis, I still worry about COVID-19 for my wife and me and the rest of my family. I still worry about the economy and my friends who don’t have stable work. I’m absolutely blessed, but only someone out of touch with reality wouldn’t find some things to be depressed about right now.
And, even in that, I know I’m lucky. My depression has always gone away, so I know the latest bout of it will absolutely fade, too. But, my wife has clinical depression. She spends a good portion of her day dealing with that, whether it’s making sure all the meds she takes are right and that she’s stocked up correctly, or planning healthy meals, or trying to get enough rest, or enough exercise. She works very hard at it all the time. And, I’ve seen her when all that’s NOT working and she does get swallowed up by depression. I know how hard it is to watch, and I can only imagine how hard it is to live through.
So, I’ve got nothing fun or happy or silly for you this week. What I’ve got is a little understanding if the Black Dog has gotten off the leash and you need a little help. If you feel like everything is too much and depression might overwhelm you, try one of the resources here:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help

The National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

And, remember, there’s no shame in getting help. In fact, getting help is what strong people actually do.
If you or a loved one needs help with depression or any other mental health issue, please, don’t wait until it’s too late.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

6/12/2020

SysAdmin Software For Your Budget

Filed under: Life Goals,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,News and Current Events,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 Waning Gibbous

Everyone’s IT budgets are shrinking this year, and probably next year, too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been through a down-turn in the economy. And, every single time, no matter what the industry I’m in, IT and software purchases are some of the first casualties. Unless you work in an industry that is really deep into software and systems, it can be really hard to sell a software purchase to upper management, even under the best of circumstances. SO, now, with things as tight as they are, it can be almost impossible. One of the reasons I almost never worry about being unemployed for long is that I’m blessed with a reputation of doing more with less. I’m the kind of guy that will use PowerShell and batch files to build middleware. And, I’m absolutely the sort of geek who’s willing to put in some effort to use free, open source software to fill a need when a budget gets tight. So, since I’ve mostly been posting new content at my other blog, I thought I’d share something appropriate to Diary of a Network Geek, the first blog I ever started.
I’ve had this link for a couple of months at least, but there’s been a lot going on lately, so I haven’t shared it, until now. This week, I’m suggesting you take a look at Awesome Sysadmin, a curated list of amazingly awesome open source sysadmin resources, which is a fork of the older Awesome Sysadmin, a curated list of amazingly awesome open source sysadmin resources inspired by Awesome PHP. (I know, those names are confusingly redundant and vague.) I have to admit that I’ve only used a few things off these lists, but Clonezilla and NAGIOS were both solid tools for me when I had a shoestring budget and had to get stuff done. In fact, I still use Clonezilla because, frankly, it works so well. We use it to image Windows 10 machines without any issue. Laptops or desktops, either one works fine. So, if you’re in the network plumber business, as I refer to system administration, these lists are a great place to “shop” for free, open source software that can help you add another tool to your digital tool bag. And, yes, they may take a little extra time to set up and configure or may require reading some documentation, but that will just help you sharpen your skills.

And, with all the money you save on software, you can afford to donate to causes that support a United States of America that is truly free and equal for all of her citizens, like the ACLU or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or some other civil rights cause that scratches your political itch. Not everyone may be willing to risk their life or incarceration to protest injustice, but a monetary donation can help support those people who are fighting that fight.
Or, if you still can’t afford a straight donation, we can support more minority businesses. There’s a great list of resources for Black freelancers at Freelancers Union that include lists of Black businesses we can support.

And, of course, we can continue to educate ourselves, because it is OUR responsibility to educate ourselves as to the condition of our fellow citizens, not theirs. If you’re not sure where to start, this list from the Chicago Public Library can help. We can read books from lists like that and continue to educate ourselves because this is an issue that we can’t ignore anymore, no matter who you are or what you do for a living.

6/5/2020

Political Agenda

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,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 a Full Moon

Buckle up, this might be a bit of a bumpy ride.

I usually work pretty hard to stay non-political on my blog, but it’s too late for that. As my childhood hero, Abraham Lincoln famously said “In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.” So, what I’m willing to say and be responsible for through time and eternity is that, yes, we need to change. We need to be a truly free and equal society. Being more aware is a start. I can’t change everything myself, but we can damn well vote for people that we think can change things to be more like the way we were taught they should be. We can vote for officials that want to make our country what we were taught it was already. Every state can be a swing state if enough people vote their conscience. If you’re not registered to vote yet, go do that right now.

And, we can continue to educate ourselves, because it is OUR responsibility to educate ourselves as to the condition of our fellow citizens, not theirs. I’ve already bought the Autobiography of Malcolm X and there are several lists of racial justice books that have been recommended, including this list from Early Bird Books and this list from the Chicago Public Library. We can read books from those lists and continue to educate ourselves because this is an issue that we can’t ignore any more.

We can support more minority businesses. There’s a great list of resources for Black freelancers at Freelancers Union that include lists of Black businesses we can support.

We can donate to causes that support a United States of America that is truly free and equal for all of her citizens, like the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or the Southern Poverty Law Center. Not everyone may be willing to risk their life or incarceration to protest injustice, but we can absolutely support those people who are fighting that fight. We may not even be able to donate time to them, but we can absolutely give them money to keep the fight going.

Why do all that? Because, while we may not be who’s afraid today, we can be who’s afraid tomorrow. And, because the things that the activists are fighting for will benefit all of us as a nation.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/27/2020

Random Stay-At-Home Resources

Filed under: Fun,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Photography,The Network Geek at Home — 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

This may become a theme while we all wait out this COVID-19 virus.

This week, I finally got everyone else at work all set to work from home, if at all possible, and started working from home myself. I was surprised how much of my work is often determined by people in the office having problems. I shouldn’t be, though, considering how many times I tell fellow techs that the only reason we have jobs is because other people have problems.
In any case, I have a couple of links that I hope will help you solve some of the unusual problems you may be running into at home these days, thanks to the quarantine. Some may be more fun than others!
First, if you’re like us, you’ve been eating a little differently than normal. My wife is pretty incredible about coming up with meals that use whatever she happens to have on the shelf or in the freezer, but thinking of delicious meals with limited resources can be a huge challenger right now. Thankfully, BoingBoing pointed me to SuperCook! It’s a free website that will help you find recipes from the most popular cooking websites that use whatever ingredients you select. It’s pretty amazing, and it’s got some great suggestions that, I hope, will break up the monotony of cooking at home, when it’s a challenge to eat out. There’s also an iPhone and an Android app for you, if that’s what you prefer. (Links are on the website.)
But, if you’re willing to risk the delivery schedules, and want to add something more interesting, or exotic, or just plain fancy, you can try one of these mail-order food sites, reviewed by Esquire. They might get a little pricey, but you’ll definitely be getting unique and interesting ingredients to, if you’ll pardon the pun, “spice up” your regular, day-to-day meal and flavor options.

On a somewhat lighter note, while we’re talking about groceries, you may have had some “experiences” trying to get things at grocery stores recently. In particular, for some reason, people have been panic buying toilet paper. Well, I can’t help you get any of the desperately desired commodity, but, thanks to BoingBoing, I can share a video that explains the phenomena of panic buying. It’s actually a pretty good look at why, of all things, toilet paper, is in short supply lately.

And, this week, I’ve got two links for the grown-ups who have gotten bored and want to finally get some use out of that expensive camera they got for Christmas. The first of these two links is geared toward the potential professional photographer; Professional Photographers of America more than 1100 online photo classes for free. Of course, we don’t know how long they’ll offer these free, but if you’ve got a camera and internet access, you can take some classes and either develop a “side hustle”, or maybe even a new career, if you’re afraid of being laid off. And, that’s assuming you haven’t been already due to either the economic fall out of COVID-19 or the disastrously low price of oil.
The other link for photographers is a little more fun. 7 Photo Challenges for Photographers Who Are Stuck at Home. Amateur or pro, there’s nothing like a good challenge to keep the skills sharp.

So, there you have it. Some links to help you get through the next week. No telling how long we’ll all be locked down, so there’s no telling what I’ll post for you next week. The longer I’m home, though, the stranger things are likely to get.
Stay safe! Stay home! Wash your hands!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/20/2020

Miscellaneous Fun Links

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games,News and Current Events,Personal Care — 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

Look, it’s been a crazy, chaotic week, which means you’re getting a crazy, chaotic post.
So, like all the rest of the IT pros in small shops all over the world this week, I’ve been scrambling to get as many people in my office able to work from home as possible. It’s been a long, frustrating week and basically nothing has gone the way I’d planned. Granted, that does mean that some things are actually better than I planned, but, honestly, most aren’t. Either way, it’s left me precious little time and focus to give you anything coherent. But, it is still a Friday and I feel compelled to share something. So, random fun links it shall be!
A lot of folks are stuck at home with their kids, who are out of school because it’s been closed while the academic year has been delayed. So, to help parents keep kids engaged, I have two links for you. First, there are Free NASA Space Projects via Space.com. I’m in the greater Houston area and we all get a little into NASA, because they’re such a big employer here and we have so much amazing history with the space program. These projects are all things you can do at home and keep learning while the schools figure things out. The second link is to a downloadable Cthulhu coloring book from Chaosium. Yes, it may warp their little minds, but it’s coloring! And, coloring is good, clean fun, as well as a known way to reduce stress and anxiety. Though, I’m not responsible if you all summon an Elder God!
The next two links are for book lovers. Specifically for book lovers who love science fiction and fantasy. First, or third, depending on how you’re counting, there’s the Tor eBook Club, which regularly offers free ebooks from popular authors. Through the end of the day of this posting, you can join and download Redshirts by John Scalzi! Or, you can check out the fourth link, the Baen Books Free Library! Again, ebooks, but free and from some very well known, award-winning authors. Both are just the thing if you’re looking for something new to read without spending a lot of money.
And, finally, a slightly stranger than normal link, specifically for our most current concerns, How Much Toilet Paper!?, a website that will help you calculate just how far your stash of toilet paper will last during this most current, or any future, pandemics! A fun, and hopefully funny, website about an increasingly serious topic. And, I know that first hand as I actually ordered toilet paper for my older parents online and had it sent to them. And, that’s no joke.

So, seriously, take care of yourselves and each other. Don’t go out more than you need to. Wash your hands. Stop panic-buying essentials that we all need. And, stay safe.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!  My other blog.

2/14/2020

Happy St. Valentine’s Day

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,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

Today is St. Valentine’s Day.

Today, we are told, is the one day we should openly display our love for a partner. I used to be quite bitter about this holiday both as a very single person and as a divorced person, because I found the heavy emphasis on something I thought I didn’t have frustrating and shameful. After all, what was wrong with me that no one “loved” me enough to want to be with me? I admit, I feel less strongly about it now that I’m married. It’s easy to relax about a holiday created by greeting card companies and confectioners to generate revenue when you’ve actually made a lasting commitment to someone truly wonderful. (If you read this and are friends with my blushing bride, please, for me, tell her I said she was wonderful!)
In church, Sunday, they’re likely to read First Corinthians, Chapter 13, verses 4-7, which are “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
I don’t know what Paul had in mind when he wrote that bit, but, from what I know about my least favorite Apostle, he probably didn’t intend for it to be a guide to long-term, romantic-relationship success. Regardless, it functions as that pretty well. It is what I strive for with my wife, for sure. I think she’d agree that I do better at that ideal with each passing year, even if I am far from perfect in that regard. (And, my apologies to anyone I was involved with previously. Rest assured, I’m still a mostly terrible person and you’re not missing out on a thing and I’m also sincerely sorry for whatever I may have put you through when we were together. Honest.)

And, if all of that is just too much to bear, you can always celebrate this day as the anniversary of when a fellow Chicagoan, Al Capone, rounded up seven of his closest buddies and gunned them down in the back alleys of the South Side of Chicago. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre! It was on this day, in 1929, that the rivalry between Bugs Moran and Al Capone reached its violent and bloody peak, leaving seven, bloody corpses in its wake, along with damaging both Moran’s North Side Gang and, ultimately, bringing so much attention to Capone from the FBI that it effectively ended his criminal career, as well.
Truly, a turning point in the criminal history of Chicago.

So, whatever your feelings about this particular holiday, try to cut yourself a little slack. We’re all feeling the pressure to be more these days. Try to love the ones close to you a little more and a little more consciously. And, most of all, remember, your relationship isn’t measured by how well or poorly things go today, but how you treat each other the other 364 days of the year.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/6/2019

Santa Texts

Filed under: Art,Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 12:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

The jolly old elf is updating his tech profile.

There are lots of ways to celebrate the Christmas season. I, personally, start listening to Christmas music far too early. I may not decorate until after Thanksgiving, but Christmas music makes me happy, and we seem to be in short supply of that thanks to the current political and economic climate. My wife loves all the holiday movies, especially the Biblical movies. (Of course, she loves the Easter ones as much as the Christmas ones, if not more.) And, we both enjoy watching the classics. Later in the month, I’ll link to the NORAD Santa Tracker, as I have for many years, so you can track Santa’s path with your kids. But, before we get too much farther into the season, let me share with you a new, free, service, via Lifehacker; Santa’s Text List.
Just fill out the short form and you’ll get regular texts from Santa, with increasing frequency as Christmas fast approaches, that are suited to the child, adult or senior of your choice, and who’s cell number you’re willing to put into the form.
The service, sponsored by SlickText, says that they won’t use this information to try and sell you anything or send spam texts to your phone after the season ends, but I haven’t actually verified that through empirical testing, so, you’re taking a chance there. If you try the service, let me know in the comments how it works out.

And, brace yourself for a very, merry Christmas season!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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