Diary of a Network Geek

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


Nerdy Day Trips

Filed under: Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Time to get out into the server room with the big, blue ceiling!

Spring is springing in my part of the world.  Flowers are in bloom and the weather is quite mellow and pleasant.  And, of course, I spend most of my week trapped in a server room. But, I don’t want to take a lot of time off to go do things, so that means I’m stuck doing things on the weekend.  That doesn’t give me a ton of options, but there are always day trips.  I live in Houston, so there are all kinds of things to do, but, frankly, I’m not all that into most mainstream venues.  I mean, sports bars are okay, but I’m not really into sports.  And, well, once you’ve seen most regular museums, you’ve pretty much seen them all.  So, what’s a professional geek to do on his time off?

That’s where I’m hoping Nerdy Day Trips will help.
So far, there aren’t a lot of trips described for the Houston area yet, but there are more and more getting added all the time.  Oh, they hit the biggies, like NASA and the Battleship Texas, but they also have the National Museum of Funeral History and the Alkek Velodrome, among others.  And, yes, I’ll admit, since most of my “extra” income goes to camera gear these days, I’m mostly thinking of photo opportunities, so the stranger the better, as far as I’m concerned.
So, while the weather is nice, go and take advantage of these strange opportunities.  And, if there are any that you know of which aren’t on the map, especially in the Houston area, please, add them in!

And,hey, try to get out into the world this weekend and away from the computer for a bit, okay?
You’ll thank me later!


Geek’s Guide to New York

Filed under: Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I seem to be fixated on New York this month!

There are a lot of geeky landmarks in New York City.  From movies like Ghostbusters to comic books like the Fantastic Four to movies about comic books, there are a lot of references made to the Big Apple.  If you’re a geek and plan on being a tourist in New York, wouldn’t you like to hit these hot spots and revisit your favorite geek moments?  Or just take a photo of yourself where your favorite geek event, movie, etc. actually happened or was filmed?
Now, with the aid of the Ultimate Nerd Guide to New York City, you can.  (Though, personally, I prefer the term “geek” to “nerd” for a number of reasons, at least one of which should be obvious!)  Brought to you via Slashfilm, the Ultimate Nerd Guide to New York City has a map, showing you just where all those cool or famous or geeky things are to be found, including, yes, the building used for the Ghostbuster’s HQ as well as the building used for the Fantastic Four’s HQ, and many others.

I’ve never really done any “geek tourism”, but, after seeing this, I may start!
Anyway, it’s Friday and you’re not doing any work anyway, so you might as well check it out and plan your next vacation!
Have a great weekend!


QR Codes For The Road

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I guess QR codes aren’t quite dead yet!

Back in the day, hobos, or “gentlemen of the rails”, used to use a kind of code that let other hobos know important information.  For instance, if they marked a cat-like symbol on a fence, it meant that a kind-hearted woman lived at that house and might give a hungry drifter food.  Or, three diagonal lines means that the place is unsafe and a hobo should get out of there as quickly as they can.  (You can see more codes on Wikipedia.)
Well, someone has updated that for the modern world and smart phones.  That’s right, someone has made QR Code Hobo Codes.  Now, you can just print up templates and spray them with paint out there in the world and people can shoot them with their iPhone, or Droid, or whatever, and see the information.  And the codes have been updated for modern life, too!  Now, they’ve added things like “bad coffee”, “dangerous homophobes”, “camera perverts”, “no outlets”, and “insecure wifi”, among others.

So, who knew?!
Now, while you’re out adventuring this weekend, keep an eye out for QR codes to scan!  You may find some interesting things along your way!
Have a great Friday and enjoy your weekend!


UnMovie Friday

Filed under: Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:13 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

By this time of the week, my regular readers know I’ve usually reviewed a movie, but not this week.

This past Friday, instead of seeing a movie, as is my usual habit, I was on a plane coming back from Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
Now, to those of you who haven’t done a lot of business travel, this may sound fun and exciting, but, honestly, it wasn’t. I caught a 7:30AM flight out of Houston Intercontinental to New Orleans, where I was picked up and driven to our local office. There, I did some basic troubleshooting and got the “new guy”, who’s only part time so far, up to speed on a couple of things. Also, we got a problem or two that he’d not dealt with before knocked out pretty fast.
Mainly, though, I was there to make folks feel better and assure them that everything was as it should be. In other words, outside of a couple things I probably could have done on the phone, I was mainly there to take people out to lunch.

The books you see in the attached picture are what was in my bag.
I’m still wrapping up A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, who is one of my favorite authors of all time. It’s been ages since I read anything by him and, frankly, this book is making me fall in love with language all over again. Hemingway has that effect on me. And, considering how concise he was and how conservatively he used words, I find that deliciously ironic. Still, there’s just something about the way he crafts a good sentence that just makes me want to write.
“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”

The other books are something else again.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is about finding hope in the most hopeless of situations. It’s about finding a purpose in life, no matter how small that purpose my seem to others, and clinging on to it for dear life. It’s the book I was reading when I was diagnosed with cancer and I really need to re-read it and refresh my spiritual memory of the lessons that book brought me.
The Canon Speedlite System Digital Field Guide by Brian McLernon will be, I hope, the guide that gets me going finally with hot shoe flashes, both on and off-camera, for DSLR. I brought that with me Friday in the hopes of being able to get to it and finally start to play with my new camera equipment that my tax refund bought me.
No such luck.
Thankfully, I still had Hemingway to keep me company.

So, movie reviews again next week, but the week after, I’ll have been at a wedding on Friday, so I’ll probably miss my regular review then, too, unless I hit a matinee.
Who knows? Anything’s possible!


iPhone Projector

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Apple,Art,Fun,On The Road,Ooo, shiny...,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Okay, I know the iPhone is amazing, but this really is cool!

So, when I was on the road a lot, I would occasionally have to do presentations.  That usually meant lugging a laptop which I could hook up to a projector, if they had one available.  Often, it meant added pounds for a day trip just to show a team a few screen captures or a short slideshow.  Not good.
Well, now, if you’ve got an iPhone, you can carry a tiny projector with you instead and reduce your overhead without losing any production value.

Okay, it’s not quite available yet, but it will be soon.  Personally, I can’t wait to see how much it runs!  And, with everyone talking about the new iPad that isn’t quite available yet either, I thought it’d be okay to talk about a vapor-ware add-on for an existing product.


Secure Shell on your Phone

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Apple,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,News and Current Events,On The Road — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:07 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I’ve been doing a lot more on my phone lately.

I’m not really big into the latest and greatest phone technology.  I don’t go out and grab the latest phone just because it’s come out and has new bells and whistles.  No, really!  But, I have to admit, my new iPhone has pretty much taken over a significant portion of my technological life.  And, I’m pretty much okay with that, because I love it.  One of these days, Real Soon Now, I’m going to write up a review of the VNC software I use on it to manage my servers remotely.  But, until then, I’m going to give you a quick high-light of something absolutely miraculous: secure shell sessions for your phone.

Yeah, now, notice that I didn’t write “for your iPhone”, but, rather, “for your phone”.  There are actually secure shell clients for all three of the big smartphone players; Blackberry, iPhone and Palm.
Now, for those of you not sure what I’m talking about, that’s okay, it’s a geek thing.  Secure shell is a protocol that hardcore, professional geeks like me use to securely access remote systems.  In a nutshell, it’s like Telnet, another hardcore geek tool, but it doesn’t pass information like usernames or passwords in “clear text“, which makes it more secure.  And, that’s the reason guys like me use it.  It lets us securely access servers remotely over networks in ways that don’t endanger our networks or users.  It used to be really only for Unix and Linux, but there are secure shell clients for just about everything now.  Frankly, more professional geeks should be using it for a lot of reasons, but many don’t.

Regardless, I think we’ve reached the pinnacle of technology when I can get a secure shell client for every major smartphone out there.  What that means is I can securely access virtually any kind of server from my phone, where there is a speedy enough data link.  Think about that for a second.  From my PHONE, I can securely access servers, wherever I may happen to have the freakish whim to do so and can get a decent cell signal.
I remember back in the days when you had to have an actual dial-up MODEM to get into servers remotely.  There was no method, secure or otherwise, to get into a server from home or anywhere else.  Now, I can do it, securely, from my PHONE!  How crazy is that?  Seriously!
So, if you want to be able to do that, too, here are links to three reviews of SSH software for the various smartphones. They should all have links to where you can actually download the software, if you want it.
SSH for Blackberry
SSH for iPhone
SSH for PalmOS

Also?  There are lots of applications for managing Windows servers, especially for the iPhone.  Check out Managing Servers and other systems from the iPhone.  It’s why I couldn’t hardly wait for the prices to come down to reasonable levels and why I babble about how there’s an app for everything on this iPhone. Really, it’s made so many things so much easier for me, I cannot begin to tell you.
But, I may just try.


Windows Domain Inventory Tool

Filed under: Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft,On The Road — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I lost one of my USB thumbdrives this weekend.

As cheap as they are, it’s not a big deal, really, except for the lost data. And one or two of the programs on it. In particular, the one that I was concerned about was the Mouse Tracks Windows Domain Report Manager tool.

One of the many things I’ve seen change over the years in the world of corporate computing is how portable and mobile and just plain fluid things have become. Now, I’m not complaining about that, not at all, but from my point of view, that kind of environment presents certain challenges. One of those is inventory of hardware, software and assorted configurations. In the event of a catastrophic disaster, it’s nice to be able to have a current list of hardware with what’s installed on it and how it’s all configured.

Now, there’s quite a market for computer inventory systems at every end of the market, but most of us don’t have a budget that allows for a project team from IBM, so we have to find some other solution. I started to try and work up a Perl solution, but, frankly, my Perl Fu is weak these days, so, I went looking for a cheap (ie. free) solution that was ready made. What I found was the Mouse Tracks Windows Domain Report Manager tool. It’s based on Windows Script Host, so it only works on Windows machines and, really, only finds devices that are part of your Windows Domain, but that’s all most of us have anyway and it is, after all, free. And, it was on that USB drive that I lost this weekend. So, yes, that means I carry an inventory tool in my pocket with me everywhere I go, just in case. Because, that’s just who I am.

So, really, dear readers, you’re benefiting from my loss, since I had to go find it again this week and, therefore, was thinking about it when it came time to post.


Review: Up

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies,On The Road,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I got back from vacation Friday and, after returning my rental car, went and saw Up.

Now, I’m not normally the kind of person who goes to see kid’s movies, but either I’d seen everything else worth seeing, or my friend had, so we ended up at Up.
The premise is simple, in a way. We start with a young boy who’s caught up with a 1940’s adventurer who travels the world in a zeppelin with his faithful dogs. That adventurer claims to have found a rare creature on a lost world plateau in South America, but he can’t provide enough proof of his discovery, so he ends up drummed out of the explorer’s society and disgraced.
On the way home from watching his favorite adventurer on the news reel, he finds an old house that’s been sort of taken over by a young girl, who’s far more bold and, well, adventurous than he is. They fall in love, get married, make plans to go to South America where their mutual hero has gone, never to return, only to have those plans thwarted by life, and her eventual death. As one might imagine, this makes the old man a little less than fun, friendly and happy. Now, add in the developers who are trying to get him out of his house which he shared with his deceased wife and a chubby, little Asian “Adventure Scout” who just wants to help the old man to get his last badge to make Senior Scout and you’ve got a pretty unhappy guy.

Without revealing too much, circumstances turn even worse for the old man and he inflates hundreds of helium balloons to lift his house, like his hero’s zeppelin, and “sail” South to find the plateau where his dead wife wanted to move their house as a child. In his own way, he’s trying to fulfill his wife’s last wish.
They get there, to South America, and animated hi-jinks ensue. And, I’m sure how much I’d be “spoiling” anything by telling you all more of the plot, but I won’t tell you much more. Suffice it to say that the young man and the old man have adventures on the plateau while trying to get the house where it has the view the old man’s wife wanted it to have. They meet strange creatures and, yes, a dog that talks through a collar made by his master. And, along the way to the happy ending you know this feel-good movie has to have, the boy and the man both learn something about happiness and adventure and how our friends can provide the love and support that our family can’t always manage.

If you have kids, I’m sure you’ll see this movie, but it’s cute enough, and filled with enough subtle adult jokes, that you won’t mind taking the kids. Certainly, I was entertained enough by the whole thing that I didn’t mind going at all. It was, after all, a fun movie with a cute message and a happy ending. If you’re an adult, without kids, you may not be quite as excited by this movie, but, trust me, it’s worth seeing. Though, not worth seeing twice.

Oh, and in case you were interested, here are pictures of my 2009 vacation. Enjoy!


On Vacation

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,On The Road,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:31 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’m on vacation.

Yes, vacation.  Of course, for a one man IT department, “on vacation” means something a little different than normal.  I ran in on Saturday, after picking up a rental car, to get a couple things squared away.  I have a “backup” person, but it’s really not his full-time gig, so I tried to make sure that he won’t really have anything to do.  Hopefully, I’ve succeeded.  But, in case I didn’t, I should be in cell-phone range the whole time, and my hotel has high-speed Internet.  Probably won’t take time to post, except the regular, automagic post I already have queued up.  I do worry quite a bit about leaving the network and my usesers untended.  I can think of so many things that can go wrong and, frankly, they’ve become so, so used to me being there to make last minute magic happen that they’ve come to expect it.  Of course, maybe that’s the best reason to take a couple of days off.

Also, I’m not going anywhere that I anticipate being any particular fun or even deeply interesting; Lawton, Oklahoma.  Why?  Because my nephew is graduating from Basic Training as he joins the Army National Guard, full time.  Still, it will be nice to see family and I’m looking at it as a photo opportunity.  Not sure what kind of shots I’ll get from the road, but I’ll certainly take as many of him and the graduation ceremony as possible.  When I’m back, I’ll post a link to Flickr.

So, now, it’s time to grab the last bags, toss thee roll of toilet paper into the car, and head out.  Be good while I’m gone, kids!

(And, yes, while I was typing this, I got a call from the office about someone moving their equipment and not able to connect.  See why I worry?  That’s also, incidentally, why I always travel with at least a partial roll of toilet paper in the car.  You just never know what might happen on the road!)

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."
   --Abigail Van Buren


Road Warrior Links

Filed under: Career Archive,Fun Work,Geek Work,On The Road — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:22 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Wow, I wish I’d had these when I was on the road so much!

Sadly, that seems to be how life works. I never have the information I need, when I need it. Well, at least I can pass the information along and hope that it helps someone else who’s currently engaged in the road warrior “lifestyle”.

First, there’s RoadNews. This website has everything from reviews of laptops to advice on international travel. They’ve been around for a while now and have quite a bit of information on high-tech travel. This should be your first stop when looking for answers to questions about hitting the road with your mobile office.

Next is an article on FastCompany about road warrior packing under the new TSA rules. Not bad general advice, though not specific to those of us who go high-tech with our travel.

The next article, from StreetTech.com, however, is ALL about high-tech. In fact, it’s a little bit “do it yourself” and might not be for everyone. Still, for geeks like me, there are some usefull tips and great ideas about making your own adapters. Super cool.
Along with those adapters, you might check out this universal, retractable USB cell phone charger. I can’t count the times I wished I’d had something small like this for my cell phone.
Finally, the thing that we all forget about, until it’s an emergency: bathrooms. Yes, the Bathroom Diaries bills itself as the “World’s largest guide to public toilets, restrooms and loos”, and it lives up to the title. Finding a clean, safe bathroom while in a strange city or country is more important than finding a free Internet connection. Trust me! I’ve been in some really scary bathrooms in the rural South that made me fear for my life!

So, there you go, road warriors. Some helpful links from your Uncle Jim. Hope they make life on the road a little easier for you!
Also, if you haven’t voted in the current poll, read the post that explains it and vote!

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