September 5: nerd-person

The voice someone uses when explaining something technical or generally nerdy.

I always switch to the nerd-person when discussing the finer points of ewok economics

Order a nerd-person mug — or a mug with any definition — on urbandictionary.com.

This made me laugh this morning.  It instantly reminded me of my friend Mark, the programmer guy, who explains technical things to me until my eyes glaze over, thinking I will understand.  I’m sure I DO get information out of it, but ohmyfuckinggod.   Speaking in the nerd-person, for sure.

So,  if you noticed that I haven’t been around much, it’s because I have my head down and am working 70+ hours a week.  It’s killin’ me.  The powers that be (at my work) are on a rampage to cut costs and casting aspersions upon at least half of the people in the office.  It is very tense,  jobs are going to be lost, mine included.  So much for 20 years of loyalty.  It’s not worth much, apparently.   I think the boss doesn’t think females should do IT because we’re not analytical enough.   Or maybe it’s just me.  I’m not articulate under the best of circumstances and when I get railed at by male authority figures I go into DeerInHeadights mode.  Not a good survival tactic.

An example of how I’ve lost my marbles:   A couple of months ago I had decided it was time to upgrade the blackberries for staff while we still had some budget.  The new iPhones were coming out and everyone was excited,  but realistically, their battery life sucks.  We were standardized on blackberries and everyone already knows how to use them so that’s what my plans were, new blackberries.   But the big boss, that male authority figure, never talks to me and he likes gadgets, so I thought I would engage him with a little debate and get some input from him about whether we should get blackberries or iPhones.  We went back and forth and I argued for the iPhones just for fun.   He wanted me to present a business case for them (why did I start this? yes, I am insane) which was more or less impossible because it’s a fairly bad idea.  He threw all of this in my face during our “meeting” about my job telling me I was not analytical and we should not run IT based on my “feelings”.   Could I explain any of what I just wrote here to him?  No.  DeerInHeadlights mode.  I sat there and took it for 90 minutes.  I didn’t cry, which was apparently a big disappointment for him.   He kept saying things like “Don’t take it personally, but are you even equipped to do your job? I’m going to get someone in here to see if you can really do your job.”  Sweet jeebus, I BUILT that job.  We had 3 un-networked PCs when I started there.

A lot of what is going on seems to be office politics, and the rest is the boss being on a diet and having hunger rage.  It’s scary having your future in hands like that and not being able to do much about it.   There’s more to it, of course, and the bottom line is always money, but it’s certainly been painful for the last few weeks.  I’ve now got a repetitive stress injury in my mouse arm called ulnar nerve compression (I think) and the fix is to not use it until it’s better.  That’s not really an option, of course.  But I haven’t been going online for fun.  😦 I miss you guys.

Anyway, Bob’s got me on his health insurance so if I do get canned there will be that.  I don’t have a degree and no current credentials, my bad for being complacent and learning things on my own.  It’s a tough job market out there and I don’t suppose I can compete.   Look, I’ve already given up before I’ve started!

I guess I can always go wash dishes somewhere.    Feh.

Re-use, re-cycle, re-purpose and … hack it?

Your College Gets a Supercomputer! And Yours, and Yours!
Chronicle of Higher Education (08/10/09) Young, Jeffrey R.

There may soon be a supercomputer for every college thanks to the declining assembly costs and growing power of these systems. Monmouth College, for instance, built a homemade supercomputer out of dozens of old high-end computers purchased on eBay for about $200 per unit.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has constructed a series of shared supercomputers that any college can access online. Supercomputers are critical tools for the modeling of complex phenomena, and also are instrumental in many projects that display high-resolution images of data.

A 2006 report from the National Science Foundation (NSF) contends that increasing supercomputer access is vital to the maintenance of U.S. research’s competitiveness, and says that “problems of national need” will not be addressed unless more schools and more professors can use supercomputers to tackle their biggest challenges.

Last year several colleges initiated a program to spread awareness about supercomputing by designating a professor at each participating campus as a proselytizer and tech-support contact for the NSF-supported TeraGrid supercomputer network.

Monmouth professor Christopher G. Fasano, who put together the institution’s supercomputer, is concerned that “a new kind of digital divide” could manifest itself if small colleges do not make appropriate supercomputing investments, and thus fail to draw the best students and researchers. He says that exposure to supercomputing is becoming an essential need for students, especially if they are to go to graduate school in technical disciplines.


In other news, one of my work websites got hacked tonight [at 10:14, to be precise.  TMI, I know].  Didn’t matter, because I’d completely hosed it the night before which also didn’t matter, because it’s one of the WP blogs that someone begged me to set up and then never used at all.  Grrr. That’s way more annoying than the hack job, just for the record.

It sat for a year, with me updating it periodically with the WP updates but nothing else ever happening to it, and then I updated to 2.8.3 on the 11th which was IMMEDIATELY prior to WP coming out with the news of the bad wp-login file.  Sheesh.  Anyway, I tried something different when I updated it and ended up hosing it all but did NOT get the wp-login file up to the safe version, just had a generic 2.8.3 install there …  and lo and behold I started getting password change emails to the admin account tonight.  Bastards.  The 22 blogs that we DO use were all updated* again* today so they were fine.

Man, those hackers/spammers/scriptkiddies were right on top of this.   I haven’t really read about it (perhaps I should?) but I imagine the idea is to take over the blog and use it for spamming purposes.  The blog’s on a hardened Linux box so they won’t be able to do anything else but it I guess it was instructive.


Later, that same week:  I am full of shit, as usual.  Wasn’t any hack, just an annoying hacker attempt to change a password with that vulnerability in the wp-login file.  No breach.  I cleaned all the bad install up, anyway, and took the thing down.  If the user wants a new one she will have to buy me something pretty or drinkable.    Ciroc would be just right.

My Paranoiaz, watch them grow

Researchers Take Over Dangerous Botnet
Dark Reading (05/04/09) Higgins, Kelly Jackson

University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers temporarily commandeered an infamous botnet known for stealing financial data and found that the threat it represents is even greater than had been originally assumed.

The Torpig/Sinowal/Anserin mini-botnet targets organizations and users to steal bank account information or other sensitive personal data. It is considered more dangerous than big-name botnets because of its small scale and stealthiness. Torpig uses drive-by download attacks as its initial mode of infection, and upon infection the botnet can unleash crafty phishing attacks that produce bogus but authentic-looking Web pages and forms that trick users into exposing their credentials.

The UCSB researchers accumulated approximately 70 GB of data for the 10 days they were in control of Torpig, and in that period the botnet stole banking credentials of 8,310 accounts from more than 400 financial institutions, including PayPal, Capital One, E-Trade, and Chase. Nearly half of the 1,660 stolen debit and credit card accounts the researchers counted belonged to victims in the United States.

“The level of sophistication, the amount of data that it is able to steal, and the fact that it has been active for more than three years is truly remarkable,” says UCSB researcher Brett Stone-Gross. The researchers’ disclosures provoked debate on whether the information they exposed about Torpig, its workings, and its victims could compromise efforts to eventually undo the botnet. “This [research] does create a road map … for the [botnet] criminals to fix, and not just for others to exploit,” says RSA’s Sean Brady.

Various vexations in Virginia

I have my hotel room window Wide Open – haven’t been in a hotel room with a suicide window in a long time.  I’ve kept it open most of the time I’m here.  This morning I’ve been hearing loud calls from big Canadian geese circling the buildings.  They act like they lost something, keep coming back looking for it.  Their calls draw me to the window every time.  I hang out the window and call back to them, just in case it’s me they’re looking for.  I should put some clothes on.

I’m packing up; we’re leaving at 11 but I thought I’d get some hotel bashing in first.  The room, particularly the bathroom, smells like a #hobovagina (and did before I went in there!) and the carpet reeeeeallly needs to be cleaned.  My shower curtain rod was only connected on one end so I could theoretically have aimed the water toward the sink and still been covered.  Free coffee downstairs all the time and it’s drinkable.  Cookies sometimes, too, which I have been working (mostly successfully) to avoid. Staff has all been trained to say “Hi!” in a sprightly manner when you’re concentrating on something else (like all the coffee you’re hijacking to your room) and each time it makes me jump.  Good job!  

They have in-room exercise kits, that was cool! Mostly cool because their little gym is 80 degrees and moist from the pool.  No fans.  Makes working out in there more or less impossible if you need any degree of comfort while you do it.  The in-room kit has an 8 lb ball with handles, a yoga block and mat, and some handweights.  Should have a jump rope, too, but maybe that would be too noisy.  Anyway, I can do a little muscle work in-room and a little yoga and my various stretching things so it’s not all bad.  Downstairs they have a nice little pool replete with jr lifeguard.  I went down there and did some water aerobics, that was fun except for the chlorine OD.  It’s always something.

I have many bad things to say about the training we received here, but I’ll save that for another post.  I’ve got to get packing. Literally.