Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fun New Computer Stuff at Work

Sorry I haven't posted in a bit. Been busy so I thought I'd take a moment to blog a bit about what's been taking a lot of my time from my podcasting series.

By day, I am a mainframe system administrator. The fun parts - for me - of computer systems are 1) learning them and 2) solving problems. The not-as-much part is making detail changes to systems like the ones I've done hundeds of times before. It's an important part of managing a computer system that actually does helpful things for other people; and I really don't mind (really) - it's just not as much fun.

This week so far has been *way* fun all over again for me. At work we have a new (and big and powerful) new system that - da da da - uses a new operating system and set of configuration tools. I am involved (with some contractors and others at work) in the process of configuring this new system and installing a number of AIX (an IBM version of Unix) Lpars (kind of like virtual machines).

AIX isn't exactly a "sexy" operating system like Ubuntu, but it is Unix and I'm being introduced to a lot of things that Unix and Linux server admins probably do every day. Oh and the new system supports Linux Lpars (*sweet*) as well as AIX ones.

AIX is required for a major new application my company will be converting much of it's business processes to. However, my management is also interested in seeing where we might have opportunities to take advantage of Linux and other open source software - especially if it can support test beds (or portions of the test beds) for this new application.

So in addition to my current mainframe duties (which I like), I'm being paid to learn/use AIX and probably Linux servers. On top of that some of what I'll learn will help me learn more about what's under the covers of my personal Ubuntu system. I'm unapologetic in my likes for the Linux :) .

So I'm putting in more hours at work, and my brain needs more down-time to absorb all this new stuff; but don't worry about me - if you are a computer geek, envy me (oh yeah).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Podcasts - The Basics Part 2

So what kind of podcasts do I listen to? A lot. These all fall into many of my areas of interest, you can find podcasts that are more your own tastes. See , and the podcast area of the iTunes store for good starting places for finding podcasts. Once you start listening to a few, you almost certainly will hear promos in those shows for others you might like.

If you are into Sci-fi/speculative fiction, check out the Parsec Award winners and nominees. The competition in most of the categories is such that all the nominees are winners in my book.

Audio Fiction - Novels: Many of these are available at . If they are already completed podcast novels, I tend to get the chapters there. If they are in progress, I usually get them from the author's site. The version is closer to traditional audio books; the "author's direct" episodes typically include news and banter along with the book content - this is where you get to know the author and learn how to get involved personally.

I listen to all the books from Scott Sigler (, J.C. Hutchins (, Tee Morris (, Nathan Lowell (, and Christiana Ellis ( I also recommend novels by Mur Lafferty (, Philippa Ballantine (, and Seth Harwood ( - I just haven't listened to ALL their stuff. Again, check out the Parsec Awards nominees.

End of Part 2... Coming soon, Part 3 - More podcasts I listen to.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Podcasts - The Basics Part 1

I really like podcasts. Some people listen to music, others talk radio, or public radio. I listen to podcasts. They are kind of like "internet radio shows" you download to your computer and mp3 player. There are "video shows" available too - I just don't have a portable video player.

First of all they are free! (O.K. some aren't, but the vast majority are free.) If you have internet access (preferably high speed) and a computer, you can easily have access to any of thousands of these " shows". A portable MP3/media player is a good idea, with the Apple iPods being the most popular. The free program iTunes - you know the one you probably use to buy music (and maybe videos) - can be very easily used to subscribe to podcasts.

Subscribe? You know when you subscribe to a magazine, when a new issue is available it is mailed to you. When you subscribe to a podcast, iTunes (or some similar program) automatically downloads new episodes when they become available. Then it automatically syncs them with your iPod when you connect it to your computer. Pretty cool!

Oh and how do you subscribe to podcasts? You can search for them in iTunes. Also if you find a website for a podcast you are interested in, there almost always is a handy "subscribe in iTunes" button prominently displayed on the site.

I'm sure there are also really easy and cool ways to get podcasts on your iPhone, but I don't have one so ...

I actually use a slightly more involved process, since I am cheap and I can handle a few more steps - especially since it gives me a bit more control (a degree of control most people wouldn't care about - I'm a computer geek, it goes with the territory). I won't bore you with what I actually do, it would probably bore me to write it.

End of Part 1 ... Coming soon, Part 2 - What are these shows he's listening to?