Certifications

broken-computer-1On October 17th, I was laid off from what was supposed to be a long term contract at IBM after having previously laid off at another job at a certain ailing mortgage company.  Job hunting as been really tough and the only thing that has looked really good so far is sales job at Tiger Direct.

What’s holding me back, besides the terrible economy, is the fact that I may have 8 years of experience working at a help desk, but I don’t have a single technical certification to “prove” what I know.  Sadly, too many hiring decisions are made by folks who can’t tell a cd-rom drive from a cup holder, and technical certifications are the only things they have to tell them if you know what you’re talking about.  Personally, I find the dependence on technical certifications to be silly at best, but those are the rules that we have to live by.

For those of you who are also jobless and looking to improve your resume, here are some links with important information for those who are also looking to get their technical certs.  This post is by no means complete or exhaustive.  I’ll past more on the certifications page as I have time.

Certification Companies

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Portable Apps

Portableapps.comPortableapps.com is an exciting website for geeks on the go.  Some of the best open source apps for Windows have been shrunkand encapsulated to work on your portable flash drive.  Everything from The Gimp to VLC (with DVD and DIVX codecs) are available for free.  If you’re like me, your workplace doesn’t like people installing outside software on company machines, but with the software from Portable Apps, you can install the software on a thumb drive, and your settings will save to a file on the thumb drive, not to the Windows registry.

I’ve lost my key. Can you pass me that banana?

Patrick White from the Globe and Mail has an interesting article on a section of the hacker community that even I wasn’t aware of.  Amatuer lockpicking, a sort of offline cousin to computer hacking, is gaining interest in the hacker community and is even showcased at the annual Defcon conference.  See the entire article here here.  HT to lewrockwell.com

Other Links:

Heathstuff

t’s no secret that one of my hobbies is ham radio.  I’ve got a few projects lying around that I would like to see working.  Today while looking for information on refurbishing a Heathkit SB-101 transceiver, I found a website called Heathstuff with lots of useful information related to Heathkit radios.  The link is here:  http://www.kiyoinc.com/heathstuff.html

Sadly, the pages have not been updated since February 2004.  The owner, AH6GI, has a lot of good information here, and I hope it helps you out.

An Introduction to GnuPG for Windows

An Introduction to GnuPG for Windows

What is it?
GnuPG or “GPG” is a free and open source cryptography software package based on the PGP “Pretty Good Privacy” software system. GPG 1.0 was released in 1999 and steady development has continued since then. Unlike many software packages that you have to wait for new versions to become available, GPG is an open source application. That means that developers are constantly working on this software and new updates are produced regularly and free of charge. This software will not simply become abandoned by a single developer after a few years because people are always welcome to download the source code, make improvements, and keep the project alive. GPG is also interoperable with dozens of operating systems from all versions of Windows 95 and up, Linux, Unix variants including Sun Microsystems Solaris operating system and Apple’s OSX operating system.

What can it do for me?
Imagine a lockbox with a small keyhole. You own the key and anything inside of the lockbox is reasonably safe as long as you don’t give away or lose the key. Computer data can be locked in the same way. The lock is called encryption. Unlike the flimsy lock or key that may come with a lockbox, GPG uses a highly advanced encryption system that is on par with those used by the US Government. You can use GPG to encrypt your personal files on your desktop, emails and or files that you send to a co-worker or family member.

How does it work?
Unlike the lockbox illustration, GPG gives you two keys. The first is the private key. This is similar to the key that you have with your lockbox. It can be used to unlock the encrypted data so you can use it. It’s best the keep this key secret as you don’t want just anyone having access to it. One of the best strategies is to keep it on a floppy or on a USB flash drive that is physically secured. The second key is the public key. This is the key that you use to encrypt data. The public key does not have the credentials nor does it contain the data needed to decrypt any lock software. Furthermore, it is impossible to derive the encryption from the public key. The public key is meant for you to keep on your computer and to share with others. Why would you want to give other people your encryption key? If your colleague wants to send an important and confidential document to you, they could lock it, and only your private key could unlock it. If someone were to intercept that document they could not read it without your private key.

Where can I find more information?
There is an abundant amount of information on the web concerning GPG, PGP, and other personal encryptions software packages. One good place to start is Gpg4Win for Novices. This is an online document that will guide you through setting up your GPG in windows on a basic level. It can be found at: http://www.gpg4win.org/handbuecher/novices.html. For those who are more technically oriented and have more time to read long technical manuals, check out the official documentation at: http://www.gnupg.org/documentation/manuals/gnupg/. Gpg4Win can be downloaded at http://www.gpg4win.org/.

G33K B33R

I picked up Bawls G33K B33R at our unfriendly neighborhood Tiger Direct yesterday, and I have to say that I was pleasently surprised.  G33K B33R is not the worst root beer out there.  I would say that it is not quite as fulfilling as A&W from the tap with lots of head, but it is much better than the root beer from Jones Soda or even Barq’s.  I enojeyed it except for the price at $2/bottle and the fact that I have to go across town to find a bottle.  Definately worth a try if you’re not a penny pincher like me and you enjoy a cold root beer.