Diary of a Network Geek

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

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!

3/13/2019

Hilda Hoffman

Filed under: About The Author,News and Current Events,Truth and Consequences — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:30 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Born December 8th, 2002. Departed March 13th, 2019.

At 11:25am this morning, the vet told Sharon and I what we already knew; Hilda had passed on from this world into the next. I got her when she was just barely four months old and able to be spayed, because I wanted to come home to someone who loved me. And, I never doubted that she loved me. She was always Daddy’s girl, even though she spent more time with Sharon the last several years of her life, and surely loved Sharon at least as much as she loved me. She was born to a rescue already, or as I liked to remind her when she occasionally got sassy, she was the foundling of an unwed mother. I told her she should be grateful, but it turns out I was the one who was grateful for her.
I named her, against the strong objections of my ex-wife and step-daughter, Hildegard, though we always called her Hilda for short. She was named after Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th Century German saint, who was famous for being a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic and polymath. I thought my own Hilda deserved no less a significant name.
Although she looked like a very small Golden Retriever, her paperwork says that her mother was a Tibetan Terrier mix. We don’t know for sure what breed mix her father was, but based on the purple spots on her tongue, I always suspected he was a Chow mix. When anyone asked what kind of dog she was, I always told them, “Brown”. And, mostly that was true. She was just a good, brown dog. The kind of dog every boy hopes to have when he asks his parents for a dog.
She was always sweet-tempered, and neither Sharon nor I can ever recall her snapping at us, no matter what we had to do to her for health or grooming reasons. Though, I do understand in her later life, she was less patient with strangers at the vet’s office. I sympathized with her; I don’t care to be pawed at by doctors either, if I can help it.
I had her for sixteen good years. She saw me through my divorce. Even when my ex-wife conned me into letting her take Hilda to Phoenix, Arizona when we split, through strange circumstances, I managed to get her back. She came back to me via animal freight on a United Airlines flight and the inestimable kindness of strangers. She’d been crate trained until then, but after that adventure, she was a free-range pup. She spent most nights on the couch next to me and then in bed next to me. I think she was afraid she’d be kidnapped again if she didn’t.
She saw me through a very rough year of cancer treatment, too. Always patient with my lack of energy and just happy to be near me. While I was single after the divorce for many years, we had a regular ritual of driving to a pet store of an evening, then stopping at Jack-In-The-Box for 99 cent tacos. Years later, when Sharon brought her Jack-In-The-Box tacos, it was clear that she remembered them fondly.
And, then, when Sharon moved in and was having some difficult times, Hilda was always there, by her side, happy to give kisses and eat treats and french fries and chicken until Sharon felt better.
She also got very protective of our house and yard once Sharon moved in, as if she sensed that Sharon was important to me and needed to be kept safe, even if it just meant keeping her safe from deliveries and marauding kitty cats. It was also Sharon who came up with the idea of taking Hilda on rides in the car when she got too old to go for long walks the way she used to love to do. Hilda would lean her face into the wind, her nostrils getting a big as she could stretch them trying to gather in all the smells flying by. I truly think that those car rides brought her joy. I know for sure that having Sharon around to dote on her improved the quality of her life in her later years.
About two years ago, Hilda had a little scare with cancer, too. She had a very successful surgery which seemed to completely correct the cancer issue. And, it was at that point we decided that I would stop trying to get Sharon not to spoil Hilda so much and stop pretending that I didn’t spoil her just as much. At the time, we thought we’d only have another six months with her. We got more than two more years. Two bonus years of unconditional love and joy on four feet.
In short, Hilda was everything that a dog person could hope for in a companion, even, I think, converting Sharon from a cat person into a dog person. She was, not to put too fine a point on it, a very good dog.
And, now she’s gone and I’ll miss her. I know we’ll have other dogs, but we will never have one like Hilda again. She was one of a kind, and a true blessing for everyone who had the pleasure to know her.

You can see our collected photos of her here.

12/28/2018

Random Resolutions for 2019

Filed under: Fun,Fun and Games,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Another new year and another chance to break promises to yourself!

I never bother with New Year’s Resolutions any more, personally. I’ve tried “turning over a new leaf” in January so many times that I’m in danger of becoming a walking cliche. At least I know that I’m no different than most people, which is why gyms and churches are both bursting at the seams in January, but thin out by April. Still it’s traditional, so I’ll share, again, my own little solution to the New Year’s Resolution “problem”.
Back in the day, when I still had delusions that I could make myself into a decent programmer, I whipped up a New Year’s Resolution Generator. I based it, in part, on some ideas from the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays, but I have to admit, I threw in some of my own warped sense of humor. And, I weighted things a little more toward heavier drinking and looser morals because I figured those were the resolutions that would be easier to keep. Also, I figured they’d be funnier.

In any case, it was apparently funny enough that Comedy Central Insider linked it in their blog back when I first released it. Which is pretty cool, no matter how long ago that was. Besides, can completely random “advice” from a website really be any worse than the suggestions you got from family over the holidays? In today’s world of chaos and unreality, it honestly doesn’t seem as bad an idea as it used to! So, why not give it a shot yourself? You don’t even have to share about it publicly. No one will know but us!

And try to have a good year, no matter what happens. Make time to love your loved ones, do good work and add something positive to the world. Or one of the random resolutions. Whichever seems likelier to produce good results.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/21/2018

Global Santa Tracking System

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Have you been good this year?

As I have done more than once in the past at this time of year, I’m sharing some good, clean fun for the whole family, brought to you by the United States Government.
During the Cold War, NORAD stood between us and what we were sure was complete destruction at the hands of the Soviets. What with the recent tensions vis-a-vis Russia and China and North Korea, NORAD may find itself busier than ever in the coming year, but, until then, thankfully, they can fall back on my favorite tradition; tracking Santa. It started with a wrong number and an accidental connection, but a gentle soul in a high-pressure job spread a little Christmas cheer once a long, long time ago. The story got around and before you can say “Who’s violating my air space?”, everyone was misappropriating government resources to make kids happy. Before long, it was fully sanction and, if I say so myself, an entirely proper use of my tax dollars. In any case, now, whether you’re young or old, or whether you have children or not, you can have fun tracking Santa with the Official NORAD Santa Tracker!
And, since the holiday is nearly upon us and I don’t plan on posting again this weekend, have a very merry Christmas!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

12/12/2018

Halfway

Filed under: About The Author,Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

So. Birthdays. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Based on entirely anecdotal evidence and a sample size that’s roughly the size of my family, I’m about halfway. Halfway through a life. It sounds so melodramatic. Well, at fifty, I guess I’m entitled to a little melodrama. Just a little, though. Because, after all, its only halfway. That means, if my family’s longevity and genome are any indication, I still have another fifty years or so of pretty active life ahead of me. That’s good though, because I still have a lot of stuff I want to do with life.

I don’t normally make a big deal about birthdays, but our culture seems to hang a lot more on the big five-oh. For whatever reason, fiftieth birthdays seem to be the point at which people freak out. At least for men. Personally, I think I’m doing okay. Sure, I’d like to make more money and have better benefits, so if there are any recruiters out there with a great IT Infrastructure Management job for me, I’d be open to that. But, honestly, I do okay. My blushing bride and I cleared the last of our consumer debt this past year, so our only outstanding loans are the mortgage and the loan for our solar panels. And, really, those solar panels are going to be an asset. After all, energy prices almost never go down, but that solar system will keep generating power at up to 80% of it’s current rate for the next 25 years. As with last year, I’ve read a lot of good books and seen a lot of good movies, though I’ve been mostly too busy to review them like I used to do.
Really, I’ve had a pretty good year. In some ways, maybe a bit too good. I was shocked to see how much weight I’d put on this year, mostly due to easy living and a wonderfully Southern wife who shows me how much she loves me with food. She really, really loves me, so I’ve eaten very well. So well, in fact, that my cardiologist fat-shamed me at my annual checkup with him. Now, I’m back on my program of rowing, weights and counting calories until I’m down to my ideal weight. (And, no, I am NOT sharing what that is!)
Of course, being married to Sharon does make my time here considerably more enjoyable. She works really hard to make sure I’m as well taken care of as she can manage. And, I work toward the same thing. I suppose that’s made a little easier for each of us because we remember how it was when we were with other people. It’s funny how getting a little older and having a bit more experience with the absolute worst and most wrong way to be in a relationship can make the current one so precious and enjoyable. Oh, sure, we still have our moments, just like every married couple does, but there’s no one I’d rather be married to at all and I count myself lucky to know it. Besides, she quite possibly is the only woman on the planet still willing to put up with my nonsense. And, this year, more than most, I’m a little extra grateful for her willingness to gently remind me about what’s important when I’ve gone a little off the rails. I’m lucky to still be married to her and my life gets better every year she’s still along for the ride.

In the past, I’ve listed the same group of celebrities who share my birthday. But, this year, I’ll only mention two, because they’re the only ones I currently care about. I’m shocked to realize that I’m a mere two years older than Jennifer Connelly, who was born on this day. She’s lovely and I’d watch her read the phone book. The other celebrity who shares my birthday is Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra. And, just like me, he did it his way.

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, that’s the state of me, as it were, this year. Some things I’m happier about than others, but, all in all, it’s been a pretty good year. I’ve just about given up trying to figure out what the coming year will bring, though I do try to make plans about writing more and doing more photography. In the end, though, what I choose to do or not do doesn’t matter, so long as Sharon and I do it together. I’m happy that she’s really become the only thing that matters in my life. God knows, I could have worse

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

This post originally appeared on my other, more current, blog, Use Your Words.

8/17/2018

How Chocolate Is Made

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:11 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

From bean to your mouth, how delicious chocolate is made.

I grew up in the city, but I had relatives who farmed, so I’m not one of those people who thought that food magically showed up in the grocery store. I was pretty aware, for instance, that steaks used to walk around in a pasture before they got carved up into bite-sized chunks. And, yes, I was always okay with that. But, also from that experience with my family’s farm, I learned to be curious about just what goes into food and food production. Frankly, what we do and have available to us in our amazing, modern, global economy is nothing short of miraculous. I’m old enough that I remember oranges being extra expensive and a great treat at Christmas, for instance. So what does all that have to do with chocolate? Well, until recently, I only had the vaguest idea how chocolate bars were made. I knew it started with a bean somewhere in the tropics and involved a process like roasting until the beans could be ground up into what is essentially cocoa powder.  And, that cocoa powder becomes chocolate. But, beyond that, the process was a bit of a mystery to me. And, I’d imagine, to you, too, gentle readers.

Well, thanks to a podcast from Seth Godin, titled It’s Not About The Chocolate, we don’t have to wonder any more. That link will take you to, among other things, two videos showing the process of taking cacao beans from the tree to an actual chocolate bar for your delicious consumption. And, yes, global warming is, in fact, putting my favorite sweet in danger. No matter how you feel about all that, the videos are fascinating and deliciously educational. Though, I do absolutely recommend that you listen to the full podcast. It’s even more educational than the videos.

And, there’s your entertaining video for Friday, with a steaming side of social consciousness.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

7/20/2018

The Greatest Time To Be Alive

Filed under: 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 a First Quarter Moon

In many ways, the world is actually improving.

I know this isn’t my usual Friday Fun Link fare, but, frankly, with terribly depressing news media and the horrible sense of that everything good is long behind us, not to mention the dumpster fire that is U.S. politics these days, it just seemed like maybe it was time to share something that was more positive. Sure, I could have given you another simple distraction, like videos about chocolate production or the fascinating science behind flatulence, but it seemed like maybe sharing some good things that are a bit more meaningful was appropriate this week. So, here are just five ways that the world is actually showing some improvement.

1. Over the last 20 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has almost been cut in half.

2. The share of homes that had electricity in 1870 was exactly zero. Today the proportion of people with electricity is 85%.  I, personally, have known two people who were born before electricity in homes was normal or common and they both said it was life-changing in ways we can’t imagine.

3. In 1800, among all babies who were ever born, roughly half died during their childhood. Life expectancy was just 30 years and no country had a life expectancy above 40. Life expectancy at birth was only 45 years in 1870. The average life expectancy around the world today is 72.

4. The violent crime rate has been on a downward trend since 1990 in the U.S. Just under 14.5 million crimes were reported in 1990. By 2016 that figure was well under 9.5 million.

5. Retirement is still is a relatively new concept. In the past most people simply worked until they died. In the year 1870, for those who lived past age 65, the labor force participation ratio for males was close to 90%. Today it’s less than 20%.

You can read 45 more ways the world is getting better at the same place I got these; 50 Ways the World Is Getting Better, by Ben Carlson.
So, this weekend, when someone starts in on how terrible things are in the world, remind them that, actually, things have gotten better in the last 100 years or so.
Next week? Back to the videos.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

6/29/2018

Hurricane Season Preparations

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,News and Current Events,Personal Care,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — 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

The Gulf Coast is well into Hurricane Season. Are you prepared?

Here in Texas, hurricane season is kind of a big deal. And, with global climate change making tropical storms more frequent and more severe, it’s getting to be a bigger deal all the time. Usually, we have more than enough time to prepare, if you’re paying attention, but it never hurts to get ready well in advance so you’re not fighting for bottled water, bread and canned food with everyone else at the last minute.
So far, since I’ve been in Houston, I’ve been through one horrible tropical storm, and near miss and two actual hurricanes. After that first tropical storm, since my ex-wife and I were looking for a house, I chose one that wasn’t pulling up carpet. That turned out to be a pretty smart decision as not far away the neighborhood has some flooding issues. Thankfully, in the 18 years I’ve lived in my house, that’s never been a problem. But, all that said, I still worry about hurricanes and do try to take some reasonable precautions.

There are a couple of philosophies when it comes to hurricanes. Mostly, it’s either stay or go.
If you stay, you need to think about what you need to get by for an extended period of time. Most emergency preparedness sources suggest that you need to have food, water and other supplies for at least 72 hours. A great resource to help you plan is the Ready.gov site for hurricanes. They go over what to expect and even have really helpful PDF downloads to help you plan and prepare. And, actually, Ready.gov has a lot of resources for other kinds of disasters, too, like Wildfires, Tornadoes, Volcanoes, Floods and more. It’s definitely a resource worth checking out.
If you’re in the Houston area, like me, the city has their own disaster preparedness site, Ready Houston. It’s a good site and they offer a free DVD you can use to help you plan for emergencies with advice specifically for the Houston, TX area. They have videos on the site, too, as well as links to training other places, like FEMA.
One thing to consider if you have pets, for instance, is what to do with them during an emergency. FEMA has a training course for helping you with your animals in an emergency situation, which I found via the Ready Houston website. (They also have a more general, but, apparently, pretty complete course in general emergency preparedness.)

If you decide to make a run for it, you may want to put together what’s alternately called a “go bag” or a “bug out bag”. Personally, I feel the name “go bag” seems less paranoid and crazy-survivalist sounding, but it amounts to the same thing.
The idea is simple, really, it’s just a bag with all the things you need for anywhere from three days to a couple of weeks, ready to go on a moment’s notice. Not unlike a hospital bag for a pregnant woman, the main thing is that it’s packed and ready so when panic hits, you can just grab the bag and, well, go. Personally, I do NOT have a regular go-bag already prepped, because I frankly don’t have anywhere I’d run to in an emergency. And, if I did, I’d be neck deep in other people doing the same thing. But, again, you can take this as far as you’d like, assuming anything from temporarily relocating to another city and staying in a hotel to running off and hiding in the woods for a couple weeks. It’s up to you. But, either way, consider what might go into that bag. For some good examples, check out Scott Kelley’s Bug Out Bag on Kinja, who even provides links to what he bought so you can get it easily, too, and the oddly less woodsy approach to a bug out bag by American Rifleman Magazine, though I’m less convinced that you really need to be overly concerned with being armed. Remember, it ultimately comes down to just being ready for what ever you think might happen wherever you are.

I would also suggest that you have some long shelf-life food on hand, like every good IT guy has in his desk. In the past, I’ve used Millenium Food bars, actually, since they provide a lot of calories and energy with a five-year shelf-life, but really any good protein bar will do in a pinch.
One really good idea is to scan important documents, like a home-owner’s insurance policy and financial information and IDs and put them all on a LaCie USB key Flash Drive, or something similar that you keep on your keys, in case all the original documents get destroyed during a disaster or when you’re not at home.

So, in short, the idea here is to be like the Boy Scouts, prepared.
Have you gotten ready for hurricane season yet? Start now!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words by J K Hoffman.

4/13/2018

PWNED?

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,The Day Job — 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 Crescent

Have my super secret accounts been compromised?

Probably. I know, that’s not really what anyone wants to hear, but it’s also pretty truthful at this point. I mean, if you pay any attention to the news these days, then you’ve heard about all the recent data breaches. Most recently, there’s the Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor data breaches, but before that there was Equifax, Under Armour, Uber and more. And, I know for myself, just having a Yahoo-related email account has made me susceptible to having my information compromised multiple times over the years.
But, what if you’re not sure? Or, what if you think you may have had an account that was part of a breach and want to know for sure? Then, head over to Have I Been Pwned and put in your email address. If you’ve been part of any of the big breaches in the past couple years, this site will tell you.
Also, if you’re not sure about that “secure” password you’re about to start using, then you can put that in at this site, too, and if it’s a well-known, well-hacked password, you’ll know before you use it. (That’s important to know because the well-known passwords are easier to pull out of even an encrypted password database.) If you don’t see it at first, just check the top menu for “Passwords” and you’ll get straight to it.

In this day and age, none of us can afford to be lax with our personal data and our data security. So, it may not be my normal “fun” link for Friday, but it’s definitely worth taking a minute to check your on-line safety.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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 [amazon_textlink asin=’B0001WTVUW’ text=’The Day After’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’jkhoffman-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0f617978-3395-11e8-99c2-4f1995d99183′]. 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.

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