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Random Musings from an Overactive Mind

By Chad Strunk ·
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Wireless secuirty and the neighbors

by Chad Strunk In reply to Random Musings from an Ov ...

<p>Anyone with a wireless network or even a computer with a
wireless card has seen it. You turn your wireless device on, scan the
airwaves and viola! You are treated to a half-dozen wireless networks
from your neighbors. Unless you live in Silicon Valley, I'm sure half
will have NO security and the other half will have WEP (which really
can't be considered security these days.) </p>
<p>I've known a few people to jump on those networks and use their
neighbors connection to the Internet as their connection. The honorable
ones make a deal with their neighbor - a few dollars to help them cover
their costs - but there are others that will just take it. I'm well
aware of the current debate over using an open network connection, but
come on...<strong>this is stealing</strong>.</p>
<p>So, what are you to do? Well, assuming that most people reading this
are IT Pros, the nice thing would be to talk to your neighbors and help
them secure their networks. Not only will this be a grand opportunity
to talk to your neighbors - a dying art these days - but they'll
appreciate the help and you'll feel better for it. </p>
<p>Some discussion points are...</p>
<ul>
<li>Tell them only WPA is good security. WEP, SSID hiding, turning down
the power, and MAC filtering is not good security. (If you're wondering
why these aren't secure read/listen to the Security Now! podcast at <a href="http://www.grc.com/securitynow.htm">http://www.grc.com/securitynow.htm</a> for a very good explanation.)</li>
<li>If they don't have an access point or wireless router capable of WPA, help them choose one.</li>
<li>Help them setup WPA and - assiming it's pre-shared key (PSK) - use <strong>a really long and complicated passcode</strong>. I mean <strong>l o n g</strong>
- like at least 30 characters - and use UPPERCASE and lowercase
letters, numbers, and symbols. (NOTE: some WiFi devices may not like
symbols...check the instructions or don't use them if you're not
sure.)  Personally, I fired up my favorite random password
generator (<a href="http://www.hirtlesoftware.com/p_passpr.htm">http://www.hirtlesoftware.com/p_passpr.htm</a&gt
to make my PSK. I didn't feel that I could be that random just typing
it on the keyboard. (That's right kids, you won't be typing this
passcode. Save it to a text document on a USB key and walk it around to
the wireless computers. Cut and paste it where needed.)</li>
<li>Help them change their SSID so the roving wireless user can't
automatically lock on to their network. (But remind them that this
isn't a form of security.)</li>
<li>Help them change the password on their A/P or router.</li>
<li>If you have other wireless networks in your neighborhood, help them
choose a frequency (1, 6, and 11 in the 2.4 GHz range in the USA) that
will interfere with the neighbors the least. Since you're visiting all
of the neighbors, you can easily keep a map.</li>
<li>If you're using their network, make a deal with them. It doesn't
necessarily have to be money...you could trade your time. For instance,
you could mow their lawn or shovel their walk.</li></ul>
<p>My 2 cents.</p>

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Let it snow!

by Chad Strunk In reply to Random Musings from an Ov ...

<p>For those of you that haven't been watching the national weather report, Minnesota is under a Winter Storm Watch and Warning. This means it's gonna snow...a lot; however, this is not what brings dread to most Minnesotan's heart. No. It's the fact that this will be the first snow of the season. </p>
<p>Normally, the first snow of the season in these parts is a few flurries in October. Nothing major, just enough to gently remind people how to drive in the stuff. Unfortunately, most people overreact and there's hours of gridlock in the Twin Cities. Soon people remember how to drive and things return to normal pretty quickly. </p>
<p>This year is far from normal.  This year we have not had our light dusting to remind people. This year we have had tornados in November!  And now, our first snow of the season could very well be a full fledged blizzard right dab in time for evening rush hours! </p>
<p>I - for one - will be hoping for a couple of feet of snow.  Even here that will close the city long enough to remind people what to do in winter. </p>
<p>My 2 cents. </p>

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White Christmas Indeed!

by Chad Strunk In reply to Random Musings from an Ov ...

Well, the storm that I last wrote about wasn't much of a storm here.  It was warm enough here to rain.  The snow came late and didn't do much to cover it all up.  It's snowing now though...and enough to make life more interesting.  It's so pretty...and so obvious that people do not understand basic physics.  As I said - it makes life more interesting.<br /><br />I'm writing justifications and other business docs left and right now.  I never thought I'd write this much; however, my efforts appear to be fruitful.  Let me just say, friends don't let friends send Word DOCs.  Send a PDF, your non-MS friends will appreciate the thought and unless they have Acrobat no one will be able to edit it.<br />

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Confessions of a MS Partner

by Chad Strunk In reply to Random Musings from an Ov ...

I have a confession to make.<br /><br />I am a Microsoft Partner.<br /><br />Let me explain how this came to be.<br /><br />As the owner of a small (that is, one person) consulting company, I look for opportunities to learn how to make software behave.  In particular, I concentrate on making Microsoft software work right for my clients.  So, when I found a program at Microsoft called the Action Pack where I could get a boatload of software for a mere $299, I jumped at the opportunity.  Microsoft happily sent me a box full of software with Not For Resale licenses of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Office, Virtual PC and a slew of other software.  I built a server and started to tinker.<br /><br />Then my career changed.<br /><br />I got a full time job where I write justifications and supervise other people.  My need to know the <em>finer </em>points of Windows and Exchange are gone.  Sure, I still need to know what these titles do, but I don't need to know how to configure it.  I have people that working for me that need to know that.<br /><br />Sure, I'm still a business owner, but it's not my full time job.  In fact, as time goes on, it's less and less of a job and more like a hobby.  Spending $299 a year for a bunch of software that I don't use is - at best - wasteful.  Sure, I still need a server, but I don't want to spend money on something I use occasionally...especially when my business isn't bringing in money.  I've decided that I will not renew my Action Pack subscription; however, this means that I must purge all traces of the software that I received in the Action Pack.  Thankfully, Linux  - specifically, openSUSE - will come to my rescue.<br /><br />Over the past week, I've been dismantling the infrastructure on my network.  Gone is the Windows DHCP service.  Gone is the Exchange server.  Gone are the files I stored in SharePoint.  In a few days - perhaps even tonight - I will install openSUSE and my affair with Linux will begin.<br /><br />I do have one problem though.  While my ISP has a webmail interface, it's butt ugly and doesn't work as well as more advanced webmail interfaces like Outlook Web Access, Gmail, and Yahoomail.  Plus, I don't like to keep all of my email on my ISP's servers.  To solve that problem, I think I still want my own email server, but I don't know which one.  Hopefully, I will find something soon.

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Joining the Suits

by Chad Strunk In reply to Random Musings from an Ov ...

Yup, though I may be shunned by my technically-minded friends, I'm working on joining the "Suits".  I've told my boss - the Director of IT - and HR that I have a desire to learn a new craft - managing people.  My reasons are many, but the primary reasons are 1) I'm at the "top" of my current career path (I mean really...my title is already Sr. Network Engineer...what's next?), I already manage projects of all sizes, I'm getting bored with trying to be uber-geek, and - most of all - I'm finding myself a lot more satisfied with helping the members of my team shine rather than directing the spotlight to myself.<br /><br />What am I doing about this desire?  So far I am...<br /><br />- I'm reading books, articles, blogs, etc. on management - especially IT-specific management.  (I've already concluded I've already observed the best and worst of IT management.)<br /><br />- Attending what my organization offers to managers.  (The next seminar is on performance reviews.)<br /><br />- Looking into a Masters of Management degree from a local university.<br /><br />By the way, I have installed SuSE and I like it, but I haven't done much with it after I got it installed.  

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Hardware vs. Linux

by Chad Strunk In reply to Random Musings from an Ov ...

In the begining of February, I "nuked" the installation of Windows Server 2003 on my server in favor of running openSuSE 10.0.  By in large, things were successful, but I could only get the sound working for events.  For the life of me, I could not get a CD to play.  Ever since then, I've been playing with the audio drivers and things have not improved.  In terms of the title, hardware is wining.<br /><br />Why is this so?  <br /><br />Well, for one thing, I have an ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard.  Great if you're running Windows, but ASUS isn't the best when it comes to Linux.  I soon found out that what little Linux drivers exist on the ASUS site, they're at least a year old.  Thankfully, the fine folks at SuSE have put together a comprehensive list of drivers, but it doesn't quite cover everything.<br /><br />The moral of this story is if your building a box to run any Linux distro, you must check the availability of drivers before you make your purchase.<br />  In fact, I'd go so far as to chose only those brands that provide serious support to Linux rather than lip service.<br />

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A problem for Desktop Linux

by Chad Strunk In reply to Random Musings from an Ov ...

As I've mentioned in past posts, I'm running openSuSE 10.0 on my - formerly Windows-based - server.  By in large, I'm loving it, but there are a few snafus.  Hardware support is a little lacking - but the Linux community is working as hard as they can to fix that one.  The issue I ran into this morning may present a larger problem if Linux will be accepted on the desktop.<br /><br />To put it simply, during a Kernel update, I was presented with a dialog box that said if I'm using the LILO bootloader I need to execute /suse/lilo.<br /><br />I'm willing to bet that only a smallish subset of the number of people running desktop Linux know what bootloader they're running.  If that's true, then the ratio of that subset to the set of people that don't have a clue what a bootloader is, much less which one it is, will only grow more lopsided.  As anyone working in IT knows, there's a lot of people that don't care and don't want to learn.  <br /><br />They're absolutely correct.  They shouldn't have to learn.  The computer should have the ability to look at it's own bootloader and execute the patch.  After all, I've already clicked on the install button.  Until these complexities are hiden from the average user, Linux will continue to carry the "geek-only" operating system tag.  That, ladies and gentlemen, would be a darn shame.<br />

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My IE7 first impressions

by Chad Strunk In reply to Random Musings from an Ov ...

<p>I've used Firefox for quite some time - before version 1.0 was released.  I was drawn to it by tab and other functional improvements.  However, on a lark, I downloaded and installed IE 7 beta 3 and I have to admit, I'm impressed.  Tabbing works almost exactly as I expect it and I'm more and more comfortable with the new interface.</p>
<p>I'm not fond of the RSS functionality - I definitely would rather see something more along the lines of Wizz RSS where the links from the RSS feeds work on another open window.  I'd also like the ability to open favorites in a new tab rather than an already open window.  I also like the ability to set a minimum font size in Firefox - something lacking in any version of IE.  I've found ways to work around the favorites/tabs issue and the font size is an annoyance, but I think the RSS issues will be hard to overcome.</p>
<p>Do I think IE 7 is a significant upgrade?  Yes, I do.</p>
<p>Do I think IE 7 is revolutionary?  No, I don't.  many of the features have been in other browsers for quite some time.  Microsoft is playing catchup.</p>
<p>Will I switch back to IE 7?  No, I don't think so.  As I said, I don't like the way IE handles RSS.  Perhaps someone will create an extension one day.</p>
<p>My 2 cents</p>

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