Friday, October 26, 2012

My Geeked-out Laptop

A fairly boring iPhoto of my Alienware laptop, but this post does serve well to test upload capability from the Blogger app on my iPhone.

Same Old Story

I hate that I can't keep a blog going long enough for it to grow and catch on with a core group of people. I say that not to be down on myself so much as to simply state the truth as it exists. It is the truth. I actually love to write and share with people. A big part of the lackluster blogging on my part is due to the lack of interaction from other people. A chicken-and-the-egg scenario, if you will. As another year winds slowly to a close, however, I find myself looking longingly at this blog and instantly thinking of the possibilities. Not to mention that I have a longing in my soul to keep it going. This blog still has the potential to be unique and fit a niche, I believe. I simply need to put forth the effort and "finish the course."

In all honesty, a lot has happened this year. I left my job as the graphic designer & web developer for a small, international ministry to take on a job as an Application Support Specialist (read: ASP.NET, C#, and SQL programmer) in the Student Enrollment Services Project Management Group at the University of Texas at Arlington. It was a major move, and it was not a decision that was made lightly, but it is the fulfillment of a long-standing dream in my life so, in the end, the decision was a no-brainer. And now I look to the future.

As my life comes into what I believe is a rich and full "summer season", I find I am thirsty for other outlets. It is time for me to really focus on something that is so radically different from what I've always pursued as a hobby in the past. I believe that the only way I can "succeed" as a blogger is to be real and simply combine my core passions into one large, cohesive whole and share my story with the world without any thought of receiving anything in return, aside from meaningful and intelligent conversations with anyone who discovers me here. I need to give serendipity a chance to find me. That means, ultimately, that I must set forth with no rules and keep this as a free-form experiment for now. I need room to grow and make mistakes so that I can learn and grow, but I do hope that you will stick around and hang on for the ride!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Passion Discovered

I know. I am late in posting to the blog this week. To say it's been a crazy week is an understatement. I am working on a few posts, including a concept for an on-going series and, hopefully, getting some tools in place to enable me to record my own thoughts about current tech news, and maybe even some reviews. In addition to all of that, I will confess that I have discovered Magic: The Gathering.

Actually, the game is not a new thing to me. I've known about it for years, but have never played it until just a few weeks ago. I am thoroughly hooked, to say the very least. It's scratching an itch that, until quite recently, I didn't really know existed. So, I will undoubtedly begin an ongoing article series covering my love of one of the greatest geek games in existence today.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Birth of a Geek, Conclusion

I couldn't stop looking at it. In all actuality, I couldn't really believe that I was seeing what I was seeing. And I couldn't stop looking at it. A brand new computer was sitting on a desk that wasn't there the previous day in our family living room. It was Christmas and I was so excited I simply could not speak, nor do anything but sit there and stare. That Commodore 64 was my virtual best friend for the next 4 years. I hated that I had to share it with everyone else, but oh how I cherished those times we did have together. For a while, I even learned how to create very basic programs with it.

Then, in seventh grade Computer Science class, I was introduced to the Macintosh, and so I learned how to create simple, basic programs for the Mac. The next year, my parents upgraded the aging Commodore 64 to an AMD-based 386 machine, and it lasted well into my high school years. By that time, I had moved on and was well on my way to becoming a graphic designer. I had forgotten all about my days as a fledgling computer geek. Shortly after high school, in late 1997, I became friends with someone who would become one of the most valued and most influential people in my life. We are still best friends today, and he is still very influential to me as a geek. He introduced me to many "Ways of the Geek", quite a few of which were very new to me, including a passion for coding.

After we had been friends for a few years, in 2002, my friend introduced me to the joys of web development. Back in those days, we created God-awful, table-based designs using Macromedia's Dreamweaver, Flash, and Fireworks software. Even so, those designs were cutting-edge when compared to other sites on the web, and the entire process spoke to me as a graphic designer and geek. Of course, I would go on a few months later to build my first PC, and so the seed that was planted began to sprout and grow. A few years later, in late 2005, I would finally begin to teach myself how to hand code HTML. I still created table-based sites, but the next year I was introduced to standards-based coding with XHTML and CSS. I wrapped my head around CSS and quickly became an expert standards-based coder.

I was always thirsty for more, though. I wanted to dive into PHP and MySQL, so I did. I still don't have a full grasp of those technologies, but that is from a lack of coding with them on a consistent basis. Real life necessities such as work and family filled my free time, along with spending time with my best friend. Yet, here I am, a decade later, still harboring a craving for all things software development and programming. I love my current job as a graphic designer, but beginning later this year, in August, I will be going back to school to learn software development and programming. I have not yet decided on a track, but it will be either Java and open-source oriented, or purely .NET and SQL Server. I will say that, at the moment, I am leaning heavily toward .NET, for reasons which I will not detail here.

But, that is where this blog comes in. So, now that you know my history, as well as my future aspirations, won't you stick around and see what else is on tap? I am, after all, only just truly beginning my journey!

Restore Deleted Bookmarks in Chrome

Here's a quick tip that just saved my bottom. In Chrome, if you accidentally delete a bookmark, or bookmark folder, you can easily recover it by utilizing Chrome's automated Bookmarks backup file. Here's how.

On Mac OS X:
Open Finder and navigate to your user account under Places, if not already there. Then, go to Library > Application Support > Google > Chrome > Default.

On Windows 7:
The process is the same, but the directory structure is different. Here's how to find the folder.
Open Windows Explore, then go to Computer > OS (C:) > Users > [your username folder] > AppData > Local > Google > Chrome > UserData > Default

On Linux:
    *Note that I tested this in Lubuntu, but it should be the same for all users. If you are using Chromium, the directory name will be "chromium." If you are using Chrome, the directory will be "google-chrome."
Open a terminal and navigate to the following:
    For Chromium:

    user@hostname:~$ cd .config/chromium/Default

    For Chrome:

    user@hostname:~$ cd .config/chromium/Default

Inside the Default folder, you should see two files: Bookmarks and Bookmarks.bak. Make a backup copy of the Bookmarks file in another folder on your computer, then delete the existing Bookmarks file in the Default folder. Make a copy of the Bookmarks.bak and rename it to Bookmarks.
Restart Chrome and you should have your deleted bookmark(s) back!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Birth of a Geek, Part 2

At the time I thought it was the greatest thing that could happen to me. I mean, what computer geek wouldn't love working at Fry's while working on a degree? It only took a couple of months to discover that, as a computer geek, working at Fry's was not all it was cracked up to be. However, I did get to meet and converse with other computer geeks, some more "hardcore" than myself, some less so. It was also during my tenure at this big-box retailer that I came face-to-face with Linux. Sure, I'd seen and heard about the "Geek's Operating System" (my terminology) before, but had never given it more than a quick passing thought.

Then, one day, after transferring from the "front-lines" to the software department, I found I had a lot of extra time on my hands to just peruse the software being sold. Of course, this was at a time in the world when Red Hat still sold boxed copies of Linux and before SuSE became part of Novell. In fact, you could even buy a "boxed" copy of Slackware Linux at Fry's back in those days. Looking back I can say that I did indeed enjoy those few months that I worked at Fry's, to the extent that I could, at any rate. Hell, I actually still love the store itself to this day. I refuse to buy motherboards, CPUs, RAM, hard drives - anything, really - from anyone else. Toward the end of my days as a Fry's employee, one of my co-workers presented me with two CDs containing the latest version of SuSE Linux (unfortunately, I do not remember which version it was, now, but it was the last version to come out pre-Novell). I went home after work that night and immediately installed it as a second OS alongside Windows XP Pro on my PC. The rest, as they say, is history. Thus began my trip down the rabbit hole, so to speak. I was hooked.

That version of SuSE Linux came with KDE as the default desktop choice (I honestly don't remember having the option to install the Gnome desktop instead. If I am wrong about this, please correct me), and I fell in love with it. Of course, I would later move on to RedHat/Fedora and the Gnome desktop. Such is the way of things in the world Linus built. I remember the installation was surprisingly pain-free, especially as a second OS on a PC filled with hardware intended for gaming in Windows. The sheer volume of included, high-quality software, out of the box, was the other thing that was a very pleasant surprise. From that moment forward I became a lover of all things open-source. I could easily see the power and flexibility provided by "Free and Open-Source Software", hereby referred to as FOSS in this article. Aside from gaming, I quickly discovered that I could do anything that I normally did in Windows, such as chat online, surf the web in a modern browser, or any other geekery. Plus, it was fast!

It wasn't long before I realized I had stumbled into a unique opportunity to grow as a geek and pursue the "higher calling" of becoming a Linux-savvy professional. And so, rather naively, I sought out all I could find on how-to become a pro Linux tech. One large life-mistake later, in addition to moving away from Dallas to Houston during the summer of 2004, my dream came true. I got a job as a Web Technician at EV1 Servers in Houston where I was thrust into the very heart of IT geek culture. I was taught Linux and learned how to provide tech support for Linux servers and I loved absolutely every minute of that job. I will always look back on it with great fondness. That job was short-lived, unfortunately, due to that horrible mistake I mentioned above, as I was forced to move back to Dallas a few months later.

I still love and use Linux to this day, though. I've grown leaps and bounds in my knowledge of it, and have learned how to configure some of the smallest details and settings in various Linux distros, although the *buntu distros are my current go-to, with Lubuntu being my overall favorite for everyday use. Sorry, no discourse here about the perceived pros or cons of the Unity desktop in Ubuntu. Gotta keep some things un-aired!

A few years ago I began to rediscover my old, childhood desire to immerse myself in the world of software development, thus becoming what I equated as the "Ultimate Computer Geek." Linux will do that to you, and it's not an entirely bad thing, to be honest.

Check back next week for Part 3, in which I conclude this article series!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Birth of a Geek, Part 1

I will always look back on my days as a fledgling computer geek with great fondness. I had clearly marked a line in the sand that represented the absolute limit of my comfort zone at the time, and then dared myself to cross it, unabashed, full of confidence. I wanted to be elite; to be a true computer geek. Sure, I had spent a few months experimenting with an old Compaq Deskpro En business desktop that had been given to me by a close friend. I cut my teeth on that thing, really. I learned how to upgrade my RAM from 64MB to 128 MB; I installed a discrete PCI-based graphics card (the machine had no AGP slot); and I learned everything I could about Windows 2000 Professional simply by tinkering, experimenting, and often breaking it to the point that I had to reinstall and start from scratch. I had a master plan, though, and it began with the research and planning toward building my own computer. To me, at the time, that was the initiation ceremony. In my own mind I could not possibly consider myself to be a true computer geek if I had not built my own rig from my own carefully drawn blueprints.

I began with a copy of the current issue of Maximum PC, back in 2002. That issue was the Holy Grail for me at the time, because the main article was a complete guide to building your own rig, including recommended parts and practices. I planned for weeks. A few months, actually. Cash was tight so instead of going all out for a top-of-the-line case, I went with a simple beige box. I cared little for aesthetics at that time. All that mattered was having my own computer that I had built myself. The one area where I did splurge, however, was in CPU and RAM.

I clearly remember the day when I made the drive to Addison to a "hobbyists" computer parts store where I made my first purchase for the rig: an AMD CPU. It was a Thunderbird 1.1 GHz chip and I put that thing through its paces over the following couple of years. For RAM I went with 256 MB of either Corsair or Kingston (I can't honestly remember, now, it's been so long since then), which was a respectable amount of memory at the time. Hard drive was a Western Digital 40GB drive and I used a 17" Dell CRT monitor that was given to me by a dear friend at work. And, of course, the only operating system I could conceive of using at the time was Windows 2000 Professional, although a few months later I managed to get my hands on a pirated copy of Windows XP.

I'll never forget assembling and testing that computer from those parts. I was on Cloud 9 and I had such an amazing sense of accomplishment. I went on to later add a discrete graphics card and other small, incremental upgrades as necessary. That rig carried me through the "Golden Age" of gaming, as I often refer to it. Others may know it as the time of the Quake 3 engine's reign over the world of computer games. I played and mastered Quake II, Quake 3 Arena, Warcraft 3, Serious Sam 1 & 2, and Neverwinter Nights with the aid of that first "Frankenstein" rig. I also continued to push my knowledge of Windows XP system administration. In fact, I learned all I could about software and operating systems. Those were the good ol' days. Even though I look back on that period with great affection, they were definitely awkward, in a way. And, I was quite aware that an evolution must take place at some point. So, it seemed quite natural to me when, in late 2003 into early 2004, I began to look longingly at Linux. And thus began a new phase in my life as a computer geek, when I pushed myself to the next level again and began an insanely fun pursuit with a very specific purpose and goal in mind.

Check back next week for Part 2 of this ongoing series!