Thursday, March 27, 2008

Say Anything

My feelings about working:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thou Shalt Kinda-Sorta Covet

At work, they gave me a 2.4 GHz Core2 Duo with 2 GB ram, 160 GB hard drive, NVIDIA GeForce 7300 LE graphics card, and a pair of 20" LCD Monitors. It has Windows XP Professional, fully updated, of course. It's nice:
At home, I have an older Dell GX260, upgraded the CPU from 1.8 GHz to 2.26 GHz, 1 GB ram, a 200 GB hard drive -dual boot Windows XP Professional and Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon, NVIDIA GeForce4 440 graphics card, and one really big and heavy 21" CRT monitor.

To be honest, I can tell only a wee bit of speed difference between the two. Some webpages load a bit quicker, but you have to really pay attention to notice. If I used Flight Simulator or Flight Gear, I'm sure I'd notice a difference. Otherwise, I don't really do much to tax my home system. Adding another gig to it might help with MS Virtual PC, but other than that, I have no need to upgrade.

A couple of weeks ago, a nice HP, 2.8 GHz, 160 GB hard drive came in. I was temped to change over to that one, especially since it could go to 4 GB of faster memory. That would be nice when working with multiple virtual machines. I played with different graphics cards in it, and had visions of sugarplums dancing on my screen.

A few days after f0ndling the HP, installing and testing Windows and Ubuntu Hardy on it, I realized the machine would work much better for the Edubuntu Classroom I'm working on. Especially since it can go to 4 GB of memory -something really important in Linux Terminal Services. I re-wiped the hard drive, and installed Edubuntu Server on it. I'll probably wipe it again and install Edubuntu Hardy on it, when it comes out in a month.

The upgraded Dell GX260 I have works just fine. Better than fine. It's not slow at all, has enough memory for what I need, and is extremely easy to work inside. Even my mammoth of an HP laptop (should be called 'portable desktop') works just fine. I have no need to get a new computer, or even take another donated one.

Maybe the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet...." should have been:
"Thou can covet for a short time, as long as you eventually come to realize you didn't really need or want what you were coveting."

It would be nice to have two big LCD monitors at my home computer, though.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Advantage of No Money

My new job is excellent. If you watch the IT crowd, it's like that, but at a University. In the last few days, I've:
  • Set up my workstation
  • Replaced 14 computers in a computer lab
  • Installed more memory in all 14 computers
  • Nuked the hard drives from the old 14 computers
  • Set up 3 iMac G5's
I did some more stuff, but that's what I remember so far. The time change has left me with sleep deprivation, and brain fog.

What's really cool is that everything I've been doing, I learned mostly from my experience with Free Geek. At school, I've learned the fine details of how and why things work, but Free Geek has provided a hands on experience that I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else. In school, we had some hands on experience, but a lot of the learning environment is simulation. Some of the simulations (Samacademy, for instance) were not very good. Others, TestOut for instance, were very good, and very helpful. But simulations just don't provide you with enough problems to overcome in the real world. Free Geek provides you with almost every problem you can imagine.

Free Geek has also provided a major unexpected advantage over others in my field: I've had to learn how to do things cheap. I haven't had the advantage of money to spend on equipment. Maybe, I should rename it, Redneck Geek. Then again, I guess that would be redundant. In trying to make things work with no money, I've had to be very creative, very resourceful, and very patient. Luckily, I'm already a patient person, and Free Geek has helped me exercise that character trait.

Taking that to a University IT department can be a major plus. While others are use to having a budget to work with, I haven't had that luxury. Taking that mindset -frugal computing- to a business can be a major advantage, especially in an interview.

"I've collected, repaired, and rebuilt 50 or so computers. I've practice careful data destruction, and on occasion, consumer-level computer forensics. I've installed the system in those computers, delivered and installed them, and provided support for those computers. I've also set up a classroom network using terminal services. I've done that with absolutely no money or budget."

For a IT student trying to get a first job in the field, Free Geek is a major help.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Forbidden Fruit

Last week, Nancy and I took some furniture to my stepson. On the way home, we stopped at The Mall at Millenia for dinner. I had a Giro. I like Giros (or, would it be Giri?). After that, we walked around so I could do my usually grumbling at all the over-consumers, so I could justifiy my lack of income. Anytime we go to the Millenia Mall, we stop by the Apple store.

(Image from Flickr - not me)
This is about how crowded the Apple store at the mall usually is. I've been to the mall a few times, and many of the other store may have few, if any, customers, Apple is always crowded. I'm willing to be they have people waiting at opening, and must do 'last call' a few times before closing at night.

It easy to see why Apple has such a cult status. Even I get drawn in to the beautiful machines. Deux ex machina. The sleek, smooth curves, wonderful lines....SEE! There it goes. The reality distortion field is real. I'm willing to be its alien technology.

Apple does make good equipment. Their OSX operating system isn't half bad either. Far better than Windows. They also have programs like Garage Band, iMovie, and other such iLife stuff that make content creation very easy. When it comes to content creation, OSX is way past the rest of the bunch. Even Microsoft programs seem to look and work better on OSX. Most people think they need MS Office, but NeoOffice works just fine, and writes in .doc format. should soon have a native aqua version for OSX.

Content creation is where the future of the internet is moving. Content for entertainment, news, and especially education. The easier it is for anyone to make content, the easier it will be to become an 'internet star'. Apple is making the path to internet stardom almost thoughtless. While businesses are moving to collaborative environments -where the emphasis on good hardware is greatly reduced- content creators will still need good hardware. For business, a thin client will do, but to record, edit, and publish an audio or video lecture on Quantum physics, you'll need high quality equipment. Even business will need good content creators. Apple is in the lead on content creation.

It always takes me great strength to walk out of the Apple store. Being an Ubuntu fan boy, it's still difficult to leave. Even while walking away, I hear myself saying things like, "Well, it is based on FreeBSD", and "There's lots of Open Source software for OSX", and "I could really use it for (insert rationalization here)", and other such nonsense. In reality, without the distortion field, I covet those beautiful machines.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ubuntu Server

I've acquired a copy of Beginning Ubuntu Server Administration:

I've picked out a rather beat-up machine to use for server practice. I've tried hacking it through by myself, but I get stuck trying to network it. I'm going to follow this book, and learn as much as I can this way.

Why Ubuntu Server? Why not Red Hat, SuSE, or at least CentOS?

I'm somewhat good at short term trend predictions, especially in technology. I think Ubuntu's mastery of desktop adoption will carry over to enterprise level server adoption. As Ubuntu desktop grows, the server will follow. While I don't think too many are going to abandon their Red Hat installations, I think many new servers will be set up with Ubuntu. So, this is a skill I need to learn. While I could do it in a virtual machine - VMware or Virtual Box- I'd rather set it up on dedicated hardware. I want to make it work in a real setting. While virtual machines are important for more things than I'm aware of right now, they still seem more like computers in Second Life.

By the time I learn what I'll need in Ubuntu Server, it will be a necessary skill for most IT people, especially ones that claim to know and use Linux. That, and I want to show Nancy that The Command Line isn't Cranium Command - a no-longer-used audio animatronic show at Epcot in the Wonders Of Life pavilion.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Edubuntu LTSP update

We've run into a stumble. It seems most of the computers will not boot to the network. There is a selection in the BIOS to enable network boot, but without PXE, it's a no-go. So, I visited the Ubuntu LTSP documentation site, and found instructions for creating etherboot disks. Now we have to boot each computer from a Edubuntu LiveCd, find the type of Network Interface Card, look it up on ROM-o-matic, and create a CD or floppy boot disk to boot to the network.

An LTSP set up isn't easy. It will help keep older hardware in use, if we can get it to work right. This first setup we're doing will help us learn what to expect for the next network we create. Hopefully, the next setup will be easier.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

New Job

Last week, Nancy saw a job in the classifieds. An IT help desk position for UCF. I sent in my resume. Good thing I check my spam folder often. The response came there, instead of my inbox. I went in for an interview on Thursday. Panel style interview. In retrospect, I realized it was the first interview for me. First ever. They hired me.

I'll be working in IT, at a University! A University I'll be going to in the fall.

I was born a luck child. Times like this make me look for Frey over my shoulder.

I'm really curious what it was that led them to choose me. I'll ask in the next few week, and maybe post about it.

This job is about getting experience in the IT field. Free Geek has really helped with that, and I think it may have been a part of their choice in me. But this job will show me how things work in a large environment. I hope it will push my knowledge around a bit. Show me what I need to learn.