Diary of a Network Geek

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

11/30/2018

Passenger Rights

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

You have rights as an air traveler.

During the holidays, a lot of people travel. I avoid it as much as possible, mainly because I used to travel a lot and get pretty irritated with air travel these days. For one thing, since 9/11, security measures have gotten pretty onerous, which is too bad because most of them don’t really do anything to address actual safety. But, before I go off on a rant about my favorite subject (ie. Security theater), let me say that the worst thing about flying these days is the flying and the airline companies themselves. I know it’s a business and that we should be thrilled to get so far as quickly as we do, but they really play fast and loose with things like passenger comfort, over-booking and taking little to no responsibility when things go wrong.
Good news, though, you do, in fact have rights! Did you know that you may be entitled to compensation for delayed flights or missed connections? It’s true! You can read more about your air passenger rights, and get help if you feel like you’re due something from the airlines who lost or damaged your luggage or forcibly booted you off your flight due to over booking, at AirHelp. I have to admit, as of this writing, I haven’t used them, so I can’t speak to their actual effectiveness, and I don’t get anything from them to link to their site, but just having your actual rights laid out may be of significant enough benefit that I felt it was worth sharing.  Oh, also, their fee for helping you is 25% of whatever you’re due, but I still think it’s worth it, as otherwise travelers would just be out the whole amount.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/16/2018

Pack Better

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — 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

Learn packing secrets from the ultimate world travelers; the military.

I used to travel quite a bit for work, back before 9/11. In fact, I had just gotten back from a work trip a couple of days before it happened and, if not for that event, I might have lost my job that week. As it was, things got dragged out for another month, and then I had a series of jobs that didn’t really need me to travel as much. These days, I don’t bother trying to squeeze everything into a single, carry-on bag. It’s too much hassle for too little pay off. Besides, getting through security is time consuming enough without adding to it by dealing with things like electric razors.
Still, I did learn quite a bit from packing from those years. Things like putting the heavy items, like shoes, near the bottom. Or folding shirts as flat as possible so they could stack up more neatly and compactly. Or my favorite, putting toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste in separate, small Ziploc bags, which go into other, larger bags, to make sure nothing gets squished out onto clothes. I learned most of these tricks from my father, of course, who was quite the “road warrior” in his day. But, it turns out, he may well have learned some of those tricks from his time in the military. Don’t believe me? Well, check out Military Packing Secrets That Will Make You a Better Traveler on Thrillist. They have several tips that seem like common sense, but, really, they only are after you’ve done them once or twice.
In any case, this may not be “fun” exactly, but it did seem like something useful for my readers who might be packing for holiday travel soon.
Feel free to leave your tips in the comments! And come back next week for some more advice that may be handy this holiday season!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/9/2018

Book Cheaper Flights

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — 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 Crescent

Well, for at least some weekends.

Last week, I shared a service that let you buy airline tickets on an installment basis before you fly. Hopefully, for anyone who might need it, that was helpful with enough time to pay off your flight. This week, I’m afraid, I don’t have anything that will likely be of help during the holidays, because, frankly, traveling during the holidays is never fun. If you haven’t done it, and can avoid it, I encourage you to do so. I’ve flown before Thanksgiving and Christmas both, and neither is an experience that I can really recommend. Also, airlines charge premium prices on those weekends because, well, they can. I mean, they really have you over a barrel. Every “good” son or daughter wants to get home for the holidays, so they can suffer through family dinners where someone is mad at someone else or is disappointed in how their lives turned out or whatever. At least, if holiday movies aren’t lying to us. (My family was always fantastic and warm and kind during the holidays, of course.)
But, if you can manage to travel on some other weekend, then WeekendFlights, is for you! You just go to the site, put in your point of origin and your destination and they whip up a calendar with all the weekend rates on it, highlighting the best, and worst, weekends to fly. (If you go, you’ll see that Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend after Christmas are flagged as some of the worst times to travel.) Yes, it is a short trip, but, if you’re looking for a quick, weekend getaway, this site can help you save on the airfare.
Check it out and see if you can save!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

9/14/2018

Send Big Files

Filed under: Red Herrings,The Day Job — 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 Waxing Crescent

Frustrated with email limitations on big attachments?

Lately, I seem to be offering up solutions for email problems. I guess, email is on my mind lately. Don’t get me wrong, I love email. I frankly think it’s one of the most incredible things about the internet and quite possibly the greatest invention since sliced bread. Seriously. Think about it. Email connects us almost instantly with virtually anyone else in the world who has an email address. No time spent waiting for postal carriers to get a letter from where we are to where they are which might take days or weeks. Just near instantaneous communication.
Of course, there are some limitations. Obviously, I can’t send someone physical objects directly via email. I suppose, though, that when 3D printer technology catches up to our imaginations, we could send the digital files for some object and then you could print it locally, but that’s far, far in the future. Also? Most email systems have pretty strict limits on how big a file you can even send. Most top out around 25 megabytes, but some are really strict and are capped at as little as 5 megabytes. So, what can you do to keep those limits from killing your ability to share your big, beautiful Photoshop files? Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
In this case, the way is Send by Firefox. Yes, by the people who make the Firefox web browser, but, no, you don’t have to have Firefox to use it. You can watch a small video of how it works here, but really, it’s just a matter of uploading a file and following the instructions. They do recommend that you keep files under 1 gigabyte, but if you’re sending files that big, you’re really better off talking to your IT Department about setting up an FTP server for you. (Don’t worry, they’ll know what that means.)
In any case, this should be a simple solution for you under most circumstances.
And, that’s about the best you can hope for on a Friday!
Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you back here next week!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

9/7/2018

Burner Email Addresses

Filed under: Red Herrings,The Day Job — 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 Crescent

Because having a disposable email means having privacy.

I hate spam. I mean, I really hate spam and spammers with a passion. As a system administrator, which is what I really am no matter what fancy title I may currently have, I can tell you that dealing with spam is the single most time-consuming and irritating thing about having an email server. The last time I checked, spam accounted for something like 75% of all email communication. The problem is, a lot of the time, to get the one thing you want from a site, you are forced to sign up for an email newsletter that you don’t really want. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually like email newsletters. I subscribe to several and I’m even working on setting up one of my own. But, for those times you really just want the one “free” download a site is offering and don’t have any intention of coming back, what are you to do? Or, what if you’re not even sure that it’s a legitimate download or website? Maybe you’re afraid that a hacker has set up a site just to collect personal information, what then?
Well, then, you use nBox by notif.me to setup a free, anonymous and private “burner” email for any site you want to sign up for. You can then choose how and when you’re notified when they send something out. You can even delete the addresses you’ve used for sites you don’t want to be bothered with any more and *poof* they’re all gone, all at once.
And, yes, it’s free. How? Well, it’s free because it’s notif.me’s way of advertising and getting the word out about their service.
So, why not try it and take control of your email notifications this fine Friday?

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.

1/26/2018

When To Buy What

Filed under: About The Author,Personal Care,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

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

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

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

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

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

 

12/24/2017

The Coldest War of All

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Our nation’s finest tracking holiday spirit.

As I usually do at this time of year, I’m reminding you of where to find Santa and, more specifically, how to track his progress.
During the Cold War, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, more popularly known as “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, 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 sanctioned 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!  Besides, it’s about time for the Federal Government to bring us a little holiday cheer, don’t you think?
I’ll post again on Friday, but, until then, have a very merry Christmas!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/22/2017

Charitable Giving

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

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

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

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

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

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/1/2017

Historical European Martial Arts Documentary

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — 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

Martial arts aren’t just Asian!

Most of the time, when someone mentions “martial arts” you think of kung fu or karate or something similar. But, relatively recently, and by that I mean in the past twenty or thirty years, there’s been quite a Renaissance, if you’ll pardon the pun, in Western or European combat arts. Over the years, I’ve read about several of the groups that have driven some of this interest, but recently, I came across one that was new to me, HEMA or Historical European Martial Arts. And, more or less in keeping with the theme from the past month, I have a link to a free, 90-minute documentary on Historical European Martial Arts titled “Back To The Source”.
It’s quite good, actually, even if it’s free. And, it’s a lovely look at an alternate way to enjoy violence in a relatively safe way.

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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