Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/24/2020

More Links For Pandemic Quarantine Distraction

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

It just keeps going and going and going.

Honestly, the worst part about all this is that I’ve been so busy I can’t even enjoy the fantastic boredom that everyone keeps complaining about. I’ve read all the “inspirational” and “motivational” tweets that tell me I should come out of this quarantine with a new skill or new business or, at least, a new “side hustle”, but honestly, I’ve been so busy doing actual work and not defrauding my employer by only pretending to work from home that I just haven’t had the time. Seriously, I get that their point is all the excuses about not having enough time shouldn’t be an issue for all the people who are “bored” at home with nothing to do, but I really, in all sincerity, have been busier working from home in all this than I would be in the office. No joke.
But, I do still manage to find you, dear readers, links to amuse and distract in this time of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Here they are.

First, a little something for the geeks, via Boing Boing: 108 Rare and Bizarre Media Types. My fellow computer geeks, I promise you this will hit at least ONE data storage media that you’ve never heard of before. Utterly fascinating and, again for the geeks here, a wonderful way to spend about 35 minutes learning about more of the deep history of our profession.
Now, if you are, somehow, able to create in this climate of terror, may I suggest that you try creating a tiny ‘zine? What, you may ask, is a “zine”? Excellent question. According to The Bindery blog, “[a] zine is a self-published, non-commercial print-work that is typically produced in small, limited batches.” So, basically, a small, short-run, DIY magazine, of sorts. They can be pretty much whatever you want. And, if you want to save on paper and make literally small ones, as in from one sheet of paper, “Teen Zine Workshop” – Zine Instructions and Zine Template + Layout Document, both from Umami Design. You’ll have to decide what goes into it, but those links give you the tools to lay a zine out and get it assembled. And, if you’re hurting for ideas, you can always go back to last week’s post and write some funky COVID-19 haiku!
If those two options don’t strike your fancy, you can always check out David Brin’s Science Fiction Recommendations to find something to read. He’s an award-winning science-fiction author and a genius; just ask him! Seriously, though, he really does write brilliantly smart scifi and is an actual scientist, so, genius isn’t really an unreasonable assertion. Or, if you’re looking for something shorter, you can try Tor’s Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: March 2020, or the Internet Archive’s collection of Amazing Stories magazine, or their collection of detective pulp magazines or their collection of fantasy pulp magazines. There may be some overlap there, but all good, free, reading material.

And, finally, again from Boing Boing, if you’re worried about your food situation, here’s How long you can safely keep condiments in your pantry and fridge. They reference an article off-site, but they give you the shelf life of some of the most common condiments you probably have. But, if all that is too much for you, Make Magazine has 15 Drink Recipes From Latte to Mead to help take the edge off. (I’ll leave you, dear reader, to decide the appropriate alcohol content of your libations.)

And, that wraps another fun and exciting week in the COVID-19 quarantine zone! See you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/31/2020

Pre-Written Emails

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I love short-cuts and time-saving templates.

When I was a kid, my mother had a book of example letters for every occasion. I loved that book and the idea behind it. Every page was a pre-written example letter or template that addressed a problem. All you had to do was copy that letter, change the names and specific circumstances for your particular situation, and you were all set. When I skimmed through that book, I felt like I was going to see a huge, exciting world as an adult and these were the keys to unlock all the doors to that adult world.
As a young adult, I actually got an updated copy of that book which came with a CD of templates for those letters. You could open them in your favorite word processor and customize them as required. Now, with the internet, I don’t really need those books, or that CD, because I can find anything I might need out there, somewhere.
One site, Canned Emails, has the very modern equivalent of those template letters. And, you can even choose between the raw text of them, or actually use the website to send the emails via your email client!
The emails are all pretty basic, but they cover a wide range of regular communications and, honestly, sometimes keeping it short and to the point is the best way to go any way.

See you next week with, well, something. Honestly, I haven’t planned that far in advance. So, I’ll be as surprised as you!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words! But, I keep thinking I should rename it to The Cheerful Nihilist or something else ironic like that.

10/18/2019

AI Art Generator

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Surrealism at its most tech?

Maybe.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days, especially the newish “generative adversarial network” variety. Generative adversarial networks, or “GANs”, really came to public attention, and mine, with the This Person Does Not Exist website that generates uncomfortably believable portraits based on machine learning through observation of other photos. It’s fascinating, but also a little disturbing.
Now, with the same technology, you can make art that is unique and based on computer generated output from a GAN at Artbreeder. Artbreeder makes more than portraits and can generate landscapes, creatures, albums covers and, yes, portraits. It can be totally random, or you can combine things from a list of photos or, for some options, change settings to effect the outcomes. It is free, but you’ll have to make an account that’s connected to an email address. And, you’re restricted to 25 downloads. The landscapes and portraits are the best, though, if you’re wanting to make a kind of abstract monster, that comes out well, too. You can see some of the things I’ve created at my profile page, but I definitely encourage you to set up a free account and play with it yourself.
It’s a fun, if surreal, way to waste a little time on a Friday afternoon.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/24/2019

Lightroom Masterclass

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Finally learn Lightroom!

Remember last week, how I was saying that I used Lightroom more than Photoshop? There’s a reason for that. Actually, there are several reasons, but the big one is that Lightroom is actually made specifically for photographers. For most of us, it has the basic tools that non-techs would want to have to quickly edit our photos. Granted, I am, actually, a computer geek, but I generally don’t want to spend hours and hours of my non-work time in front of a computer. (Yes, I do see the irony of that statement one a blog/website, but, still…) In any case, Lightroom lets you quickly get just enough editing to make good photos a LOT better. But, it only does that if you know how to use it. Personally, I hate spending money on training, if I can help it, but, sometimes, I have to admit that it’s good to see the industry accepted way of doing things with software. So, all of that is to say that this week, thanks to PetaPixel, again, I’m bringing you a link to a 30-minute Masterclass in Lightroom by Mango Street. They really cram in a lot of information in that 30 minutes, too! But, trust me, it’s all great training, even if it goes a little fast for someone who hasn’t used Lightroom much. Good news, though, you can go to the Mango Street YouTube channel for all their other tutorials where you can get a bit more in depth and get more tutorials about other aspects of photography, too.
It is all free, and all very good info, so go check it out!
Then, after you get inspired, go out and shoot some fresh photos to test out your new editing skills!

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

5/17/2019

Quick Photoshop Tutorial

Filed under: Art,Fun,GUI Center,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Selecting edges is hard!

As a professional computer geek and an amateur photographer, everyone expects me to to know Photoshop like a graphic designer. The truth is, though, I enjoy photography because it gets me out from behind the computer. I really spend more time making the photo in the camera than I do editing it afterwards. Oh, sure, I do pull all my images into Lightroom to clean up the exposure and colors a bit, but I rarely do more than that. Unless it’s a little cropping.
But, a couple of jobs ago, I did find myself doing a significant amount of editing for the company website. Usually, that meant cutting out some one of the company products and putting on a better background or no background at all. I hated it. I hated it because selecting fine edges was incredibly hard for me. It was super tedious and if I ever hit something like hair, well, let’s just say I was glad to be working in a mostly industrial environment.
Of course, the truth is that I wasn’t using all the selection tools to their greatest effect. If only I had been following PetaPixel back then, so that I could have possibly found their 1 minute tutorial on using Photoshop’s refine edge brush! Wow! What a huge help that would have been!
So, in the spirit of helping my fellow geeks, because who else would be reading this blog on a Friday, enjoy!
Seriously, it really is only a minute and it will help you tremendously with your selections in Photoshop. And, if you like that, there’s a whole Definitely worth checking out.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/26/2019

Government Sponsored Font

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Your tax dollars at work for better design!

No, seriously, this is actually US tax dollars working to develop a “better” font. Not even kidding.
Believe it or not, there’s a little something called the United States Web Design System that’s collaborative team specifically started to “…make it easier to build accessible, mobile-friendly government websites for the American public.” And, as it turns out, they have some resources that might be helpful for non-governmental web designers, too. One such is a simple font called Public Sans, which they call “A strong, neutral typeface for text or display.” Which it is, actually. It can be downloaded from their GitHub page, which further describes the font as “principles-driven” and “open-source”. It’s also a fairly nice, and free, change from Helvetica. Oh, and it includes webfonts, so you can, in fact, use it to unify your on-line and off-line branding identity.
And, again, all freely available and all brought to you, one way or another, by the United States of America Federal Government.
Sometimes, the government really IS here to help!

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

1/18/2019

More Free Alternatives

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I’m tired and lazy, but it’s Friday, so here’s a post for you.

The brave few who are regular readers here know I dig free software. I also have had aspirations of being a bit of an artist, writer and photographer. Sadly, I was more devoted to eating well and living comfortably than I was any art, so I didn’t get too far. But, as I get older, I also get cheaper and less willing to spend money on hobbies, which often leads me to seek out free software.
Anyone who’s done any serious computer graphics work knows that Adobe has some of the best software available. In fact, I actually subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan. I wasn’t a huge fan of the subscription model, but getting the latest version of Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 a month is actually a pretty good deal. Still, there’s a lot more that I wouldn’t use as often and therefore I’m not quite as willing to pony up the steep prices to get. For that, I’m back to my old quest for free software. Thankfully, David Murphy at Lifehacker has compiled the super useful 27 Free Alternatives to Adobe’s Expensive App Subscriptions. He’s done all the leg-work for you. I can’t vouch for all his choices, but for years I used GIMP instead of Photoshop, because it was free.

In any case, it’s been a busy week, for reasons I hope I can reveal soon, and I just haven’t had time to give you more than this simple link. Also, this week the link should actually work, unlike last week when Scrivener added some extra characters to the link code making an endless loop. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Scrivener for writing, but blog posts need clean code and text and until I figure out how to make that more seamless, I’ll use a text editor for blog posts before they go up.
Oh, and I did go back and fix those links from last week if you want to check out the incredible animated GIFs.

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/11/2019

Advanced Animated GIFs

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:22 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Let’s not get into a discussion of how to pronounce “GIF”.

All I’ll say is that the creators of the format pronounced it like the peanut butter brand.
Either way, my purpose this week is to share two things from the same source. First, there’s the super cool, trippy animations from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder.

An animated GIF from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder

Just look at that incredible GIF. It repeats, but it seems to just run endlessly. It’s amazing. Hit the linked site for more of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, head over to his other site necessary-disorder tutorials where the young Frenchman shares his process and tools for making these amazing works of animated art.

Another animated GIF from Etienne Jacob, aka Necessary-Disorder

I’d share more, but it’s been a crazy couple of weeks at work and I’ve been super busy there, and on a little something I’m keeping under wraps for now. Hopefully, though, there will be some good news to share with you, dear blog readers, before the end of the month.

9/30/2018

DIY Pop Art Prints

Filed under: Art,Fun,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Like Andy Warhol, but that match your decor.

If you don’t know who Andy Warhol is, this post may not make sense to you. Also, you may not be old enough to be reading my blog. Seriously, though, if you don’t know who he is, please, for the love of art, go look him up.
One of the many things I enjoy about Andy Warhol is that he supported himself and his art via work in advertising. Even well after he was a well-known and successful artist, he kept up his advertising work. I suspect that, like many artists, the regular job provided a sense of security. Either way, he made some of the most incredible modern art. In fact, even if you’re somehow not familiar with the artist, you’ve no doubt seen his Campbell’s Soup Can work, or something that riffs off of it. Or, you’ll have seen some of his other prints, like Marilyn Monroe or the arguably better known Chairman Mao. Those prints all derive from silk screen work that, while complicated to do in his style, is actually a technique well within the grasp of the motivated hobbyist. As a kid I remember watching my older siblings silk screening t-shirts.
And that’s why, this week, I’m sharing Watch how to make prints like Andy Warhol from Boing Boing. At that link you’ll find a really good tutorial on doing just that. It’s only about five minutes long, and obviously only a start on actually doing this entire process, but it’s well worth the look. And, I even know, personally, at least one current artist who’s using this method to produce work, so it’s definitely still viable!
Go check it out and maybe give it a try this weekend!

10/27/2017

NaNoWriMo Prep – Templates and Worksheets

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,The Tools — 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 a First Quarter Moon

Trying to get all your ideas and characters organized for National Novel Writing Month? I can help!

It may not always be obvious, especially to those closest to me, but I love being organized. What’s probably more obvious is that I played a lot of role-playing games growing up. I think it’s safe to say almost every hopeful writer or professional geek my age or younger played Dungeons and Dragons, or something similar. But, for me, the best part of that was always before the game started when we were making characters and filling out their character record sheets. I absolutely loved thinking about all the things they might buy at the market for use in surviving their adventures. And, along with that, describing their looks, their clothes, their family relationships and other background details. Not everyone did all of that, but, like I mentioned, it was just about my most favorite part. And, now, it’s one of my favorite parts of writing. Unfortunately, it can also become one of my favorite distractions from actually writing. Don’t let that happen to you! But, also, as you’re planning your novel, it’s good to try and think about who’s going to be in it, what they’re going to do and where they’re going to do it. So, toward that end, I’ve got some, hopefully, fun novel planning worksheets, or “printables” as the fancy kids call them these days, for you.
First, from the All Freelance Writing website, I’ve got an article by Jennifer Mattern which collects her favorite Novel Planning Tools and Worksheets. It’s a short list, but it’s also a great place to start if you’re just looking for the bare minimums to get you started.
Much more complete is the list of links gathered by Eva Deverell in her Creative Writing Worksheets post. Frankly, it’s a pretty complete list and you could stop there without worrying about missing out on anything, even if you do have to chase them to all their respective sites.
If you’re a more visual guy, like me, then maybe you should try this collection of “pins” at Pinterest titled “Novel Writing Worksheets”. It’s got a lot of “printables” besides the planning worksheets that might help, especially if you find yourself needing a little help creatively in a crunch.
My personal favorite, however, is the group of Evernote templates for planning your novel (or story) at the Evernote blog. I’m 99% sure I’ve mentioned these before, but they’ve updated them and added a few. If you use Evernote to plan and organize any other aspect of your life, I highly recommend that you take a look at these templates. They’re really well done and should cover any creative writing need. Seriously.

The next question is, of course, what are you going to use to actually write your novel?
If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format. If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead. It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer. And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo. And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator. I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text. I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools. I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs. I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one. Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level. So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers. Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

This post originally appeared at the Fantasist’s Scroll.

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