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Seeking Technical Advice

I have a bit of a problem to solve around here. My database guy at work, Paul, uses an internet/network connection that's provided by Fort Leavenworth's Directorate of Information Management(or DOIM). Despite the name of the organization I assure you that this is the US Army, not the KGB. Anyway, Paul's connection comes through DOIM, and DOIM has the most restrictive network policy I have ever seen. On top of the fact that they block the majority of websites out there, they also dictate how you can use your extremely locked down machine.

For example, they don't like it when he disconnects his laptop. I take mine home every night, but Paul usually leaves his docked. This is fine, as he doesn't do any work from home. I do most of my work from home, and well outside business hours. Different strokes, and that's fine. But sometimes Paul travels for work, and needs to take his laptop with him, and DOIM gets very upset when he does this.

The most annoying restriction however, and the reason I'm writing this up on my website (and through the magic of syndication: Google Reader and Facebook Notes) is his USB port, and the fact that he can only use it for input devices, like his mouse and keyboard. USB flash drives are strictly prohibited. The hamper this places on us is that if he needs to copy something to or from one of our network-isolated simulation machines, he has very little recourse.

I am able to take care of it for him, but that's only because I refuse to connect to DOIM's restrictive network, and get my machine locked down. Instead, I tether my cell phone, and use that for my internet access. It obviously isn't as fast as a hard-wired connection, but it gets the job done. I'm writing this blog post through my phone's internet connection right now.

As it is right now, Paul has to ask someone else to move files for him, between the internet and our simulation machines. This is not an acceptable situation, in my opinion. He is not able to complete his job with the tools he's been given. I have a couple of ideas, but I'd be happy to hear yours.

My first major idea is USBnet. Basically, I would like to set up a network connection over USB between Paul's machine and the closest machine on the simulation network. It isn't likely that DOIM is technically adept enough to detect or restrict this, and it's also possible that they wouldn't even have a problem with it, especially if I talk to them first. This way, he'd be able to move files in and out of a non-production staging area on the closest simulation machine, as simply as if they were sitting on his own laptop. This is the ideal solution.

Another idea is for Paul to write to rewritable CDs. This would certainly work, but it would be extremely clumsy, and would still require an inordinate number of CDs. One positive of this though would be that the folks in supply would maybe possibly see that tons of CDs were being used because of an illogical restriction. However, supply and DOIM are not particularly associated.

Basically what I'm looking for is a creative solution for what is an unworkable situation. Any ideas?

11:12 AM, Oct 4, 2009

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Chatty Insanity

I chat using google Talk. A lot. Instant messaging is a big part of my daily routine, almost regardless of what I have going on. At any typical moment, I'll commonly have at least fifteen chat windows up, with conversations in various stages and degrees of activity. As such, I can't use the chat feature within gmail, as I'd have so many miniature windows up that I wouldn't be able to use my actual email, which I'm using constantly for work and otherwise.

I've been using gmail for about five and a half years, and Google Talk for a little over four(since it came out). I was talking to Derek this morning about nothing in particular, and it occurred to me that since, by default, all my chats are logged in my gmail account, I could probably find out how many times I've had a chat window open with a particular person. So I started searching. Unfortunately, Google has no reporting tools available to the public, that could probably have compiled in seconds all the information I mined over a period of an hour or two. So, I made do, and forged on.

The results were absolutely shocking. I know I communicate a lot over instant messaging, but I wasn't prepared for the numbers I saw. Just Derek, with whom I was chatting at that moment, accounts for 264 individual conversations, many of which go for hundreds of messages apiece. I decided to dig more deeply, and found that Derek is quite literally the tip of the iceberg. Instead of regaling you with exasperated prose about my internet addiction, I did what any good geek would do. I made a chart. Click it for the full-size image.

This image is a chart of the aggregate total of all the chats I was able to find of everyone in my chat list with more than ten total chats in my history. Sorry, Josh Olsen, but our six conversations didn't make the cut. As you can see, the distribution is pretty one-sided. Mr Jeffrey Denny handily tops out my list, and is followed by Chris Harper, Matthew Staub, and Brad Schmitt before the number dips into the triple digits, of which Nicolas Bock is the chief. In short, I have personally authored hundreds of thousands of words of informal correspondence with friends, relatives, colleagues, and a group I affectionately call, "the ladies."

Speaking thereof, I also made charts that isolated the numbers to the two commonly-accepted genders of our time: men and women. This is all tied together in greater resolution and numeric verbosity in a spreadsheet, from which these quite possibly useless charts are derived.

This all adds up to almost fourteen thousand individual conversations. However, as great is my fascination with these numbers, greater still is my enthusiasm for compiling them for you.

1:52 PM, Oct 23, 2009

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