Archive for October, 2008

If this was a tweet, it would be the world’s longest.

…So just keep that in mind twenty seconds from now when you are done reading this glorified excuse for a pamphlet.

Dear sweet virile heroic vampire Jesus!, I am bored at work.

So bored that I actually finished all my work.

So bored that redstate cannot get me to laugh.

So bored even the internet sucks.

My last resort, google image search, only yielded half-assed results:

I GISed for "random happy picture" and all I got was this crappy bronze Tony Bennett portrait.
I GISed for”random happy picture” and all I got was this bronze Tony Bennett.

Random quote search revealed this wisdom from a fellow Democrat:

“Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, “Thank God, I’m still alive.” But, of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again.”
– Barbara Boxer, Senator

Sometimes, seems not much is going on in the world, and I guess that would be a good thing, if in fact nothing was actually going on, but I know it’s just because I live in the Heart of Darkness, Augusta, GA, where as long you have a pulse, a Hummer3, and an AM radio for the Austin Rhodes Show in the afternoon, you can get by okay.   Note to wider world: Austin Rhodes (a local Rush Limbaugh-style personality on the radio) is a really good topic for the future.  I recently heard that his crazy-pill prescription was losing its efficacy, and that he had to double it up for MAXIMUM SUCK.

Anyway, that’s the best I can muster today.

p.s. On a political note, I am glad that everything seems to be on track for an Obama/Dem sweep this year.  Here’s hoping it takes them a little while longer to fuck it all up than it took for the Republicans.

I wish I could send some more money, but I’m strapped right now. So good luck and please subscribe me to your newsletter, anyway.

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File Under: Neat Crap I Found From Reddit (As usual)

Hmm…………well this guy named Rankin took these super detailed photos of some folks’ eyes.  I don’t know much about the artist but I liked the hugely detailed pictures.

Go here to take a look, go here for Rankin’s homepage (he has some other neat stuff besides this).

P.S.  Obviously, a collage of these would make a great wallpaper, so I made one (Unfortunately 16:10 looked like crap, but this stretches very well on a widescreen monitor).  Thanks Picasa!

Download it here:

For some reason…

This just makes me wanna break out into “America! Fuck Yeah!”

Comin' again to save the motherfuckin' day, Yeah!

Comin' again to save the motherfuckin' day, yeah!

h/t to The Field , always a great read from Al Giordano.

photo credit: Lisa Bocook

Insecurity + Time = Resigned Smile

So I had to take a self-portrait for work today.  We are getting these new more official-ish name tags for use at certain on-site Tech jobs, it’s all part of a cruddy corporate philosophy of looking professional even though the proscenium of appearance is most often entered upon by the lackluster banality of one’s work ethic.  But, I promise you, I’m completely exceptional, as is America.

Anyway, I was even more befuddled than usual upon taking my own picture and thought it might be instructive, humility-wise, sharing the experience with you.

#1

Artist in repose, hat freshly removed, not even bothering to sit upright in chair.

#2

For fuck’s sake, I’m immediately in front of an over-bright ugly lamp (out of which appears to be popping an alarmed-looking newborn baby). I’m no photographer but this is just a travesty of misplaced elements. Hence I shall call this one Glasses Akimbo! and proceed to mock it indefinitely.

#3

I had a good feeling about this one.  And then it was gone.  Perhaps as an album cover though, if I ever start a Kevin Shields tribute band.  I might even leave the text just for the self-referential fourth-wall cred.

#4

You can tell I’m starting to take this a little more seriously, but as usual when I take a photo I look like I’m covering up for the fact that I just farted.

#5

And here’s one where even I know I haven’t gotten away with it.

#6

Aww, not terrible, but I had to have another go because my teeth, as usual, are terrible.

Stoned immaculate, at least by all appearances.  You can tell I’m trying to hide those teeth.

#7

My son was wondering what the heck is going on at this point, so I just took this last one in a hurry, and in the end, I just had to say “fuck it” and go with it.  Because, you know?  Fuck it.

#8 For A Perfect World

And here is me slingin’ an imaginary Hughes Dirty, or what I call a Doc Holiday (think Val Kilmer in “Tombstone”), because got-dammit puberty is going to be great when it finally comes along.

Gramps.

I found out today from my mother that – although nothing is ever definite about these things – it would appear that my Grandfather, John Henry Bylinowski, is teetering on the edge of life and death, and it’s starting to look like he’s running out of comebacks.

Well past eighty, he has been sick for so very long, really since the turn of the century.   Alzheimers, continual infections, as well as the natural tapering off of his abilities due to age, previous illness, and just plain years of hard work. I can’t help but (selfishly) think that in a way I’ll be, not glad to see him go, but glad that at least the majority of my memories of him were incredible ones, and not filled with decades of slow decline and final unknowingness.

Ah, what to say?  It’s hard to express the sort of childlike glee I used to have when going down into Grampa’s basement at his old house in Alabama.  It seems so near to me but so hard to really tell it. Going down the crickety brown staircase, you never knew what he would be getting into down there, but you always knew it would be neat to hear him tell of it, and even though I’ve never been the sort of handyman that he was, I think it was at partially attributable to his inquisitiveness and natural sense of wonder that I later found a love for networks and for figuring that that solving practical problems is really a big part of what keeps me feeling good.

& So now he may soon leave us all, and we are left unsatisfied, groping with the pale and misbegotten eulogy to which most of us are fated, that indeed John Bylinowski may have never made a zillion dollars or found the cure for cancer or singlehandedly saved a baby from a burning building, but you know what? The man never complained about a goddamned thing that befell him, he charted his own path in life, followed it as best he could, and for that (and for a lot more) I am so glad that he was mine and I was his for these past 32 years.

I will miss him if he goes.  I already have missed him for years now.  Alzheimer’s prepares you for these things in a way that nothing else can, but still, the thought of not having the solid presence of Grampa in the room with us will be hard to fathom and will in the end make me have to trudge through these old wounds again for awhile.  I don’t mind it though: if there was ever anyone worth missing this much, it is him.

The truly tender spot in my mind is contemplating the possibility of life without Grampa for my Grandmother, who has for as long as I can remember, been one of the halest, heartiest people I know.  Watching his decline while she gracefully ages with him worries me to no end, because once he is gone, her role as his caretaker will be forsaken, and sadly so.  She has tirelessly worked to make his life as comfortable as possible  – and this reaches way back in time to far before his health was ever bad – but since things became worse for him physically, she has and continues to do an outstanding job, though I fear she would disagree, as she has always been very hard on herself.

I have to make a conscious effort to keep my mind off the apocryphal aspect of this whole situation, because as we all know, stories abound like this in families all across the world: an aged grandfather dies, and the grandmother wastes away from grief shortly thereafter.  While it’s hard not to be moved by the sort of symbolic power that these stories can have, for the life of me I cannot embrace it for our family.  I know it will be hard for Grandmother and it will be a terrible time for her when Gramps moves on, but I just hope that she can see it through because the world just isn’t ready to see them both off yet.  How in the world will I know when to put a coat on in the evenings (in the summertime, no less) without my grandmother?  I just can’t MAKE those kinds of logical connections without her!  Somebody still needs to be around to make sure my nose is clean, dammit, and I think Grandmother still has a of of life left in her.  I hope she will agree, when and if the worst comes to pass.  Because to my mind at least, the worst has already come to pass: a brilliant person has been dulled by time and disease.  (And to be sure, Gramps would never EVER admit to having been brilliant, though I think beneath it all, he was smarter than he was modest.)

Good luck in the next few days, Gramps (and you too Grandmother), and Godspeed no matter what happens. I love you both very much.

Make spyware your bitch.

Ever wonder why viruses are so hard to get rid of?  I mean, you spent the f’n 50 bucks or whatever on Norton/McAfee/PCTools/whatever……so WHY ARE THESE POPUPS STILL CRUSHING MY SOUL, SYMANTEC SUPPORT TEAM????

I know why.

It’s because those big companies suck are too mainstream to be very effective in a culture where the mainstream software out there is the most easily exploitable angle for anyone trying to subvert your defense against attacks.  It really is that simple.  Yes, your heuristics analysis engine is doing it’s level best to detect new attacks as they come in, but there really is no magic killer app out there for preventing cutting edge (what we call “0-day”) exploits. So, you find yourself with a MOSTLY effective tool against well-defined attacks, but one that is sorely lacking on 0-day defense.  Don’t let their marketing fool you.  It can take days or even weeks for a new exploit to be fully countered in ANY of the mainstream products out there.

Granted, you still have to have those protections, and this is not a bash against the AV industry in general.  But what do you do when you inevitably find Norton has been yet again caught with its pants down, and suddenly your computer has lately taken a keen interest in selling you Viagra or DonkeyLovinCuties.com memberships?

You gotta get out of the mainstream.

There are three very simple tools I use at work, all the time, to get me out of the messes I see everyday. There is a more exhaustive list, but these three programs have saved me literally hours of work, and made a small hero at many offices, time and time again.

Here’s my standard operating procedure, just three small downloads that can save you from, god forbid, calling GeekSquad or some other high-priced horror:

First a small preface, before you get started:   Safe Mode with Networking is your friend and ally in this crisis.

“But hey, smarmy tech guy, I don’t know to get into that mode, and even if I did, I might mess something up!”

Well, that’s not a problem, because I’ll tell you right now. Safe Mode (w/ Networking) is both very easy to access and very safe to use, even for novices.  Just shut down your computer, start her back up, and as soon as you see your screen turn on, start tapping F8, until you get the Windows boot menu.

Boot Menu.  Do not taunt Boot Menu.

Boot Menu. Do not taunt Boot Menu.

Just use your arrow keys to scroll up until you reach the second choice from the top and then hit enter.  That’s it!  Next you’ll see windows start up in a somewhat tacky looking but recognizable way, and then just click YES when it asks if you want to start in Safe Mode.  Done and done.

Now that you are in Safe Mode with Networking, what do you do?  Well, you’ve started in this mode because just starting in Safe Mode alone would not give you any access to the internet at all, and you’re going to need that functionality to get the three programs you need.  So let’s go anti-spyware hunting!

  1. Combofix – this program has been around awhile, and though not a fix-all program, I’ve found that it easily surpasses most of the paid programs out there in terms of addressing the more heinous problems I’ve seen. Just look down the page til you see the link for download, then download this puppy to your desktop. Now, ignore it for a minute while we go get the next proggy which will help you.
  2. SDFix – another direct and very effective program for getting rid of the more obscure mini-atrocities I see every single day. Again, download from the link provided, then forget about it and move on to the pièce de résistance:
  3. Superantispyware – Free Version – this program with the really bad marketing department and yeah, a really dull name, also happens to be a very effective program to use, particularly when used in tandem with the first two.  It is included last in the list because it is the last program you will use in the cycle.  However, I strongly recommend you keep it. Just scroll down the page, and download the free version of the program, and then again, forget about it for a minute. Note: there is also a paid version of the program that includes resident protection, but truth be told, its not much more effective than something like Adaware 200X Pro

Now that you’ve got your three juggernauts sitting pretty on your desktop, it’s time to start letting them go to work for you.  Start with Combofix: just double-click, agree to the various disclaimers that pop up (yes, there are warnings involved with the use of this program – but I have not had a single experience in which this process failed.  Now, it may not have always taken care of the problem in its entirety, but it has NEVER crashed any system I’ve worked on, and we are talking about HUNDREDS of systems.  Therefore:  doubleclick, agree to disclaimers, and then just go get a coffee, a crabcake, and a good Rolling Stone article to read, because it’s going to take upwards of twenty minutes for it to go through its various motions. Note: it may ask you to reboot; when it does, to steal a phrase from the marketing geniuses at Selsun Blue, “that just means it’s working.” Just reboot as normal and let it finish the job it has started.  Once all is said and done, it will pop up a logfile which will describe everything it has (or hasn’t) found.  Since this program has run its course, your final step is to shut down the computer and restart in safe mode again, just like the instructions above illustrated.  But, all told, that’s the end of step one.

Step two is SDFix.  Next verse, same as the first, with a little difference at the beginning.  This time, when you double-click this file, and it will pop up a little self-extraction dialogue asking you to choose where to dump the working files of the program, i.e. where on your system you want the program to be located.  Just click next and it will send the program by default to a directory called SDFix on the root of your C drive. So once that is done, open up My Computer and simply doubleclick on the C drive.  The SDFix folder will usually appear in alphabetical order along with all the other usual directories (e.g, “Documents and Settings”, “Windows”, “Programs Files”, among others). Doubleclick on the SDFix folder and doubleclick on the file called RunThis.  Again, dialogue boxes will pop up and a command prompt telling you to choose Y to being scanning and N to exit the program.  Select Y and then see procedure above regarding coffee, crabcakes, etc.  It will take awhile, almost always at the end of the process it will ask for a reboot.  Just Say Yes, and then, again, wait awhile for it to finish up.  Once again, the process ends, we get a log file pop-up, and hopefully by this time a more stable system.

But, um, well, you may still see evidence of problems.  It happens, and when it does, that’s when we break out the secret weapon: Superantispyware will almost always clean up all the loose ends.  Note: do not restart into Safe Mode again just yet. We need to install Superantispyware from the regular mode of Windows.  I’m not sure why, but when installing in safe mode I have always gotten permissions errors.  I think it’s probably a small glitch in the program, but hey, even pretty girls can have sharp knees, and programs are not perfect either.  Anyway, just install the program as you normally would any other, then let it update itself from its own servers.  After this has completed, you have two choices: you can then start in Safe Mode to do the scan, or just go ahead and run it. Personally, I just go for it right then, because it usually is able to to the job just fine.  Run it, select Full Scan, let it whistle, whir, & wheeze its way about for twenty minutes, and when the job is complete, it will present you with a list of remaining spyware on the system.  Just hit next to get rid of it, and then at this point it will probably ask you to reboot.  FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, because it is key: every file that has been identified as troublesome will likely not be able to be deleted until the system is restarted, because of the way locked files are handled in Windows.  So, just reboot as normal, and when your PC lurches out of its temporary slumber, you SHOULD have a fully working PC again.

Your welcome.    /obligatory Nick Burns catchphrase

Now, what if scenarios abound here that I’m not going to get too deep into, but I’ll mention a couple that have dogged me in my time as a field tech.

  1. What if the process completes, but it’s the same as before?  In that case, you have two options.  Either take it to a pro, someone like me who can actually manually edit your registry hive, and seek out the uncommon .dll and .tmp files in your system32 directory that have slipped past even these stalwart response programs. It’s rare but it does happen, and when it does, it’s usually too much for a novice to handle.  At the very least you can say you practiced due diligence before handing your money over to some geek with bad breath and low social ability. The other options is to run the whole process again.  For some reason, it just seems to work, I guess because maybe since you have just gotten rid of some of the more obvious things, a second round of scans can sometimes pickup extra goods.
  2. What if something goes wrong during the process, and one of the scans doesn’t complete?  That’s usually not a problem, just start over from step one, and the next time should be the charm.  If that still doesn’t work, then, again, you probably have acquired a piece of malware that simply doesn’t have an easy fix, or you might have a broken piece of spyware in the system that is locking up the “catchme scanners” – the realtime in-memory malware locators that are the central reason these programs work so well.  This scenario is RARE, and when it does happen, you can rest assured that when you call a tech to help you out, your money will be well spent – just try to spend it on a local company though, as opposed to the big box stores, because chances are, you’ll get a better deal and a better technician.
  3. What if when you start combofix or sdfix, you can’t even get these programs to run at all in safe mode?  This is something I DO run into a bit, and it usually just means that you have a piece of malware that includes a scanner blacklist.  It’s like an antivirus program for viruses that comes along with the malicious code. To simplify: your particular virus/spyware may have within it a separate process that is constantly screening defensively for files that are known to be capable of destroying it.  When this happens (and it does), it will disallow you to run that program at all, but the fix is usually amazingly stupid simple: just rename the file you are trying to run – if combofix.exe won’t start, just rename it to combofix2.exe, and chances are you will have gotten around the blacklist. Likewise for sdfix.exe and superantispyware.exe.  Some of these programs may have blacklisting enabled, but in my experience it is a piss-poor implementation, and one that can easily thwarted.

So give it a shot.  You can turn that frown upside down!

Caveat:  this tutorial is only approved (as yet) for Windows XP machines running SP2 or above.  I do not recommend using Combofix or SDFix on Vista as yet, as there are still some kinks to be worked out in my experience, but Superantispyware DOES work just fine in all flavors of Vista, so just start with it if you have Vista.  Thanks for reading and if you find any of this useful to you, consider donating to this blog, but if you don’t care to do that, at least give me some comments on how this worked out for you, and I’ll try to keep new procedures up to date in the future.

Hey watch it! Your Foot’s in the Door of the IT Industry!

I was just asked, for the millionth – well, okay, dozenth – time, by a prospective employee:  how did you get to be IT Field Manager?

This was asked by someone who is basically where I was five years ago: freshly certified in a couple things, some experience on home systems, but essentially no real experience on a zillion other things that you really do need to be hireable.

My first response, as always is:  you REALLY need to get out more if you are jealous of this job.  As fun as this work is sometimes, it’s also really low-paying in my market, and on top of that the pay IN NO WAY matches the stress level one is sometimes (thankfully, not too often) forced to endure.

I just came off two weeks straight of mindbogglingly frustrating work: application migration from an old W2K server to a new 2008 box, surrounded by the crazy micromanagement stylings of financial planning people who wanted to know why this shit wasn’t done yesterday, who are dealing with stress of their own, for obvious reasons (the financial market is tanking in case you missed it).  I will spare you the whiny details, because they really don’t matter, but during that time I probably would have traded this job for flipping burgers. Omigod, it so totally got in the way of my blog and everything!

Anyhow, getting back to my original point: this college boy whose résumé I’m looking at.  He wants to know how to get his foot in the door, I’m late for lunch and frankly not interested in this sort of discussion since I don’t make the final hiring decisions here, it did occur to me that this is a good question to ask, and one that I myself spent much time on when I was in his shoes.

Honestly – and unfortunately – the best answers are the ones we always hear from “establishment” (and yes that does suck for him): you have to meet one of two criteria to get your foot in the door:

  • Know someone in the company, or

  • Be prepared to do shitty helpdesk-type work for at least a year, maybe more depending on turnover at your company.

In the off-chance you do squeak through to a higher paygrade, be prepared to be in way over your head and YOU BETTER BE GOOD AT FAKING IT.

I remember when I first started working here at my job, I was thrown into doing warranty work for Dell systems, something I had already been doing for awhile, and was quote good at.  The job I wanted was Field Manager, which is where I’m at now, so frankly I was of course disappointed for not getting any new challenges at the new job.  Less than six months later, our then-FM decided to leave the company, something of a surprise, but good news for me, so I thought, until lo and behold, the job was given instead to a guy that had been hired after me!!!! (Well, okay, we’re talking about two months seniority, but dang if I didn’t feel betrayed anyway.)  Needless to say I was madder than a rattlesnake trying to bite a fencepost about that, because I felt that my EPIC LEVELS OF SENIORITY would totally allow me to bitchslap all comers.

Well, guess what?  That decision turned out to be completely appropriate in the end. First of all, he was just a better fit for the job at the time (read: more qualified, better temperament, the list goes on and on), and I can see that now.  I ended up as first the Assistant then full-fledged Sales Manager a bit further down the road, which was boring to me but a good lesson in customer service as well as a great way to get me to relinquish the last layers of my geeky insecurity with other people, for lack of a better term.  Next stop was General Manager at a satellite office, which lasted about eight months, and again, though not the sort of work I envisioned for myself, had some real value in terms of seeing up close what it takes to run the whole show (very apropos, since I am now thinking of starting consulting work full-time in the semi-near future). Anyway, finally the replacement Field Manager left for slightly greener pastures, and I was a shoe-in at that point for the job I had wanted for the past three years.  I took it and ran with it, and have in my opinion stepped up to the plate very admirably; even though the pay is not what it really should be, the work itself can be fascinating, and at least it’s got great relevancy for whatever my immediate job future may hold.

How did I get there?  There was no magic to it.  The main thing to my mind is that I showed the people I work with everyday that I am a real team player.  This is not just lip service, I mean I really went into work sometimes with the express purpose of making sure everybody in the office KNEW FOR A FACT, that when problems arise:

I AM ON IT, DUDE.

Camaraderie, and Honesty (with tact) are my top priorities, and even though there is always a bit of minor infighting in this work environment, I was damned careful not to burn any bridges (even though frankly it was hard to keep my hands off the match at times – we had some really crap mid-level guys to deal with for a time there.)

So, hey, College Guy, I feel ya.  You passed one test for sure: you came through the front door of our office, in person, resume in hand, and you did what you could get that position here.  Is it going to be enough to get you the job you want?   More than likely you won’t get the job (I know my boss, and he is fair, but having been burned in the past, he’s also tough about committing to new meat) – but keep it up.  Even shitty warranty techs can eventually get there, with a little patience.


October 2008
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Currently Reading:

Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame - Charles Bukowski

Currently Listening:

Mr. Bungle - California

Why, yes, I am cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.

You lika de juice????