Security

This morning I made a concerted effort to take care of myself. I took a long bath, shaved my legs, slathered myself in sunscreen, and put on shorts for possibly the first time this season. And, look at me, I am wearing sandals. My room is next, because Marie Kondo lies. She says that if you clean your room, you’ll never go back to it looking like a disaster area because you’ll be so proud of yourself.

Unfortunately, not so much. Maybe this advice is for regular people, who don’t have the type depression I feel, which a lot of the time centers around “nothing matters.” I don’t feel happy, I don’t feel sad, I just feel empty inside with nothing to fill it. Also, I think there’s something psychological about having everything I need within immediate reach. My house burned down when I was 11, and I think it triggered something in my brain that I need to be able to see all my stuff at once, because you never know when you won’t have it anymore. Additionally, even though it feels good to me (at times, anyway… maybe a nap), I won’t sleep naked, either… because what am I going to do if the fire alarm goes off? I don’t have time to look for pants. I suppose that is one advantage to being male. I’d only have to look for pants… otherwise, I’d be running down the stairs, as Dana & Counselor coined, “tatas akimbo.”

[Editor’s Note: Happy birthday, Counselor. I hope you get lots of cake and presents…. but mostly cake.]

For Dana, who I don’t think has seen it, “tatas akimbo” reminds me of a villain Arms_akimboon Freakazoid! called “Arms Akimbo.” I can’t think of one without the other. For those of you not in the know, it’s still one of my favorite Amblin Entertainment cartoons ever.

It’s about a teenager named Dexter Douglas who gets trapped in the Internet and the electricity turns him into a comic superhero. The humor is MUCH like The Tick and Venture Brothers, but of course the Internet angle speaks to me… as well as the double personality that goes along with being a mild-mannered nerd at home and an ADHD spazz when he “freaks out.” I suppose Dexter is kind of like Clark Kent, if Kent was constantly glued to a computer terminal alone in his room.

It’s voiced by the usual Amblin crew (meaning also on Animaniacs and Histeria!), like Tress MacNeille, Paul Rugg, and Maurice LaMarche- but adds guests that are equally hilarious, like Ed Asner, Ricardo Montalbán, and Craig Ferguson. I am still sort of bitter that F! only got two seasons, because every single episode is fall-down funny, particularly a standalone episode regarding a British “superhero” named “Lord Bravery…” conceived as an homage to John Cleese. He wants to call himself “Lord Bravery,” but quickly finds out it’s a copyright infringement. Hilarity ensues.

You can buy both seasons of F! on YouTube for $40.00, or $2.00 per episode. I am hoping that because Animaniacs is now on Netflix that they’ll add Freakazoid! and Histeria! as well, but I’m not holding my breath.

Histeria! is the least known of all the Amblin Entertainment cartoons, but it combines real historical events with extremely smart comedy… such as information about President Taft to the theme of Shaft. It was conceived as an animated version of Saturday Night Live, more a cartoon sketch show that met the WB network’s policies on education for  children… and, like all Amblin shows, built with jokes that go right over the kids’ heads and make adults fall on the floor. For instance, with the Taft thing, I highly doubt that the children watching would know the movie being parodied.

You know, this entry started out with me talking about taking care of myself, and it’s amazing how much my mood has lifted by talking about all this comedy… for instance, thinking about Dexter Douglas again, which I haven’t in years, reminds me of me. For all practical intents and purposes, Dexter and I are the same person… particularly when I get into Linux command line mode. Not so much with DOS. I haven’t used it since fifth grade, so I have to Google everything I need to do with it. I also hate that the commands are just different enough that it wastes my time. For example, in DOS it’s ipconfig. In Linux, it’s ifconfig. I am so lucky that the amount of time I have to use DOS is negligible. Otherwise, I think I’d be tearing my hair out on a daily basis.

Now, just because I’ve said this, my punishment will be that in my next job, my Microsoft operating system will be installed without a graphical user interface and coworkers who say, how did you make it this long in IT without learning DOS, n00b? It evens out. Most Microsoft people are terrified of Linux and won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. My entrance into Dexter Douglas-land started in college, when I had, as my friend Leslie so aptly put it, an idealistic Red Hat phase. One of my close friends was a Linux system administrator, and I was hooked from day one. I started using Debian-based distributions when they progressed beyond Slackware, which, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just take it on faith that it is a lesson in gut-wrenching pain… unless you really know what you’re doing.

I did not.

With most operating systems, if there are pieces of software that you need to get another piece of software to run, it will tell you… like having to install the Dot Net framework to run Quicken. With Slackware, you had to find all the dependencies yourself, and most of the time, compile software from source code rather than it coming in a .deb executable (equal to a Windows .exe). I only knew one person in college that preferred Slackware because it was so difficult, because it gave her bragging rights. I would just sigh and rub my temple with my middle finger when it came up.

Joe, the aforementioned Linux system administrator, set up a web server for my friend Luke and me, and that’s how I really got started with the command line. That was in 1997, and I haven’t looked back… although I knew UNIX a little bit from just being in college, period. In those days, UH e-mail was hosted on either a UNIX or VAX/VAX box, depending on which one you were assigned, with pine as your client. Moving up in the world to Outlook and/or Entourage was a big damn deal.

We also had staff and students that used a popular e-mail client called Eudora. One of the funniest support calls I ever took was a lady who called up and asked how to configure her “Endora” account. I had to mute the phone I was laughing so hard. When I recovered, I said, “do you mean your Eudora account? I think Endora was the grandmother on Bewitched.” It’s been so long that I don’t remember whether she laughed or was peeved, but I certainly remember how quickly I started shaking with laughter, willing no sound to come out.

And now that we’re on the subject of computer support calls, here are my top “favorites:”

  • A man called up and said that his computer wouldn’t turn on. I knew to check physical connections first, so I asked him if it was plugged in. We go back and forth for way too long, because he insists that it is. I am moments away from telling him that his power supply is toast when I hear, “wait.” It was plugged in, but he had plugged the power strip into itself instead of into the wall.
  • At the UH Helpdesk, like most others, when you first call in you get a list of network outages (if there are any that day). When I pick up the phone, she says, “I just heard the network was down and my monitor is blinking on and off. Are those two things related? Again, it was all I could do not to fall apart laughing, so on the verge of tears running down my face, I said, “ma’am, I hope not.”
  • It is simply amazing just how many people think you can help them solve their computer problems while their computer is at home and they are driving.
  • And finally, through no fault of their own (because why would you know this if you weren’t a computer person?), there were so many people who called in with their theses erased, their PhotoShop projects ruined, etc. because they didn’t know that a magnet would erase the data on a floppy drive and would stick them to the side of their CPUs or on the refrigerator in order not to forget them. And of course there weren’t any backups. Why would that be important?
    • As a side note, even though USB drives are more stable than floppies, please just put copies of files on them. Mobile drives are prone to errors, loss, theft, etc. With errors, sometimes they can be fixed, and sometimes the drive is bricked. Please, for the love of God, don’t let that bricked USB stick contain your only copy of your doctoral research. I used to be wary of cloud storage, but I got over it. Now, if I have sensitive documents I password protect them, zip them, and then add a second password to the zip file. I do very little with Google Docs, Office Live, etc. and just download my files to whichever computer I’m using at the time… including my phone and iPad.
      • I also use LastPass to keep track of all my passwords in an encrypted vault. The only password I need to know from memory is the one for my e-mail, and the rest are complicated random strings. For instance, my bank and blog passwords are 25 characters. In terms of hacking, your best bet at security is to make passwords so long that it takes years to crack them. It won’t stop a hacker if he/she is that dedicated, but most will move on to the people who still think Password123 is a valid option. LastPass is available for all browsers and mobile devices, and on my Android, works with my fingerprint reader (don’t know about iOS).

The bottom line is that there are very few computer problems I haven’t encountered in the 20 years I’ve been doing this… and in 20 years, those problems haven’t changed. There are still people who write down their passwords in a notebook and keep it either on top of their desks or in an unlocked drawer. There are still people who put their network credentials on a Post-It note and stick it to the bottom of their keyboards…. that way, no one has to hack your network at all. You’ve just let them in the front door……………….

Which is kind of like having to run out of a burning house, tatas akimbo.

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