Near Real-Time Tracking


You can find out what I'm up to in near real-time via: Google+ and/or Twitter (@sholden).  I also recommend checking out my AztecMedia.net (@adwatch) produced podcasts: Tech News Radio (@technewsradio),  Jersey Boys Podcast, and Veteran Stories.



Review of Six Flags Magic Mountain

IMG_20150529_104124-COLLAGE

On Friday, May 29th Carson and I went on a day trip up to Valencia, CA to ride roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Here are the rides we went on and they are prioritize with our favorites (high to low):

  1. Scream: Smooth, fun, easy to see where you are going, 
  2. Batman: Smooth, fun, easy to see where you are going.
  3. Twisted Colossus (new!): Very fast, long, not as easy to see where you are going, intense
  4. Gold Rusher: very simple, classic easy style
  5. Ninja: a lot like Batman but not as intense
  6. Viper: Very fast, bumpy for Carson
  7. Orient Express: slow and clam
  8. Grand Carousel: great way to end the day [only horses though :-( ]
  9. X2: Way to scary
  10. Full Throttle: huge loop; slow at top (feels like falling - yuck!), plus one "trick" that we won't tell you about but we did not like it
  11. Apocalypse: Very jerky, long wait

Basically we both agreed that we like smooth and easy to see where we are going roller coasters.  We don't like: feeling like we are falling, bumpy, and going backwards.

All in all we really liked the majority of rides and look forward to going back sometime in the future.


Photo Tip - Try Black and White (B&W)

I am not an expert in photography but here is a tip that has been useful for me.  

When I get a picture that has some sort of issue like to much light or not completely in focus, I do a conversion to black and white (B&W) to see what I get.

Here is a recent example (using Picasa 3 on Windows) that looks pretty good to me:

Carson's Birthday Party

Do you have any other suggestions for situations like this?


Nexus 7 vs. Nexus 6 - Different GPS Driving Notifications With Google Maps

Nexus7vsNexus6-for-gps-google-maps

I think I've found a good reason to keep my Nexus 7 (2013) as my daily GPS unit in my car compared to my new Nexus 6.

Here is a Screen Shot #1 comparison (click on image for bigger resolution):

Google Maps

And here is Screen Shot #2 comparison (click on image for bigger resolution):

Google Maps1

It appears that since the Nexus 7 (left images) is a tablet and has more screen real estate then the smartphone Nexus 6 (right images) you get the alternative route time notifications as you are driving your selected route in Google Maps.

These notifications are actually a great feature, and I use it all the time for making real time route changes.

If anyone knows if there is actually a way to enable this on the Nexus 6 then please let me know.  

NOTE: I did load up Waze on the Nexus 6 to see if that application had the route time notifications but from what I could tell it doesn't.


Fixing Our Pool Pump and Leak On The Cheap

Over the last couple of years, slowly and surely there has been an air leak into our pool pumping system.  Everything seem to point to the old metal pipes underground with the line pulling water out of the pool to the pump more probable than line pumping the water back in the pool.

This last month things got significantly worse and we'd need to do something.  There was just too much air in the line to pull water through the system to keep the pool clean.

We got a couple of quotes to dig up the old pipes and replace them.  You know you are in trouble when both quotes came back in the same large ballpark called "Unaffordable."  

I was curious of what type of portable pumping options there might be out there to keep things going until we could decide what to do.  So I started Googling. And then it hit me as I'm looking at these portable pumps -- I had all the pieces they had.  I just needed  to run the pipping where the leak was over ground.  It couldn't be that easy could it? Well, it turn out to be significantly easier and less expensive that expected.

Fixing-pump

My friend Gary listened to my plan and agreed to help.  I got all the parts and pieces at Home Depot for under $40; and Gary was able to take my plan and make it work in just under 2 hours.  We capped off the old pipe, hooked up a new line from the pump into the pool, tested it for any leaks, and even created a DIY safety lid out of spare wood.

The "re-mastered" system is working great, and I believe it will work long enough for us to figure out what we really want to do in the pool area and budget accordingly.  Thanks Gary!

 


Notes From Leadership Summit 2014

WCGLS-Icon

Below I have a link to an Adobe PDF of my personal notes from attending Willow Creek Association's Leadership Summit 2014 this past week.  I was not able to attend in person, but I did attend via video broadcast with my church at Journey Community Church in La Mesa, CA.

Here are few take aways:

  • Leadership requires a commitment to a constant and dedicated learning process that never ends.
  • Leadership is not management.  If you want to be a better manager, then check out: www.manager-tools.com.
  • Successful deployment of strategies and vision require teams, and teams require multifaceted leadership skills/abilities/traits (for instance: humility, vulnerability, trust, truth, honesty, integrity).
  • Sometimes you just need to "figure it out."
  • Michael Jr is very funny.

Next year's conference is August 6-7, 2015.  If you get a chance, then I highly recommend you attend if you are in a leadership position.  I probably won't be able to attend as next year's DEFCON is August 7-9, 2015.

Here is the link to the PDF.  Let me know if you have any questions, comments, corrections, etc.

 


TIP - Outlook 2013 Workaround for IMAP Test Account Feature

I ran into a "blocking function" in getting IMAP working with Outlook 2013 recently.  There is a feature in Outlook 2013 that requires you to Test Account Settings ... before an IMAP email account will be created the first time.  The testing is mandatory with no apparent way to turn it off.

It turns out that the IMAP server I was trying to connect to has a digital certificate issue that prompts via GUI a user acknowledgement to agree to use the certificate.  However, when you are doing a Test Account Settings  ... setup the first time the certificate dialog never comes up and the testing fails. A failed test means the account won't be created.

The work around I found was to create a working IMAP connection using my GMAIL account, and then re-editing the IMAP settings for the server that I wanted to connect to.  And in that case you can turn off the Test Account Settings option.


Recipe - Healthy Corn Dogs

Carson-steve-corndogs1

A while back (just after Christmas) Carson and I made our own version of the following corn dog recipe from the Skinny Fork called "Baked Whole Wheat Corn Dogs.".

We basically kept the main parts of the recipe but didn't do the following:

  • No Brown Sugar
  • No Paprika
  • No Cayenne
  • No Chili Powder
  • No Poppy Seeds

We also did half the recipe getting 6 turkey corn dogs and not the 10-12 turkey corn dogs if you follow the recipe.

They turned out great, but they did need a good helping of either ketchup or mustard depending on your taste.  Making them very plain and then seeing what we could do with them in the future was our plan.  

I think adding the spices/flavors would be good for anyone without picky kids. I also think these would be great with Hebrew National hot dogs or a pre-cooked sausage.

By the way, the picture above was the 2nd picture.  Here is the 1st picture with an expert photo bomb from Conrad --

Carson-steve-corndog2

 


Recipe - Steve's Veggie Pancakes

Veggie-pancake-recipe

There was a recent Zucchini Pancakes recipe in the Union Tribune.  I thought it sounded good, but I figured I might be able to make it simpler with more basic ingredients.

So I got the following: 1 yellow squash, 1 Italian squash, 1 yellow onion, 1 sweet potato, and 1 jalapeno.  I then grated them all into a big bowl and mixed them all together (aka the 'veggie mix'). 

Then I scooped 3 cups of the veggie mix into another mixing bowl, added 1 egg, and a half-cup of Italian bread crumbs.

I then cooked these in a skillet (high heat) until golden brown on both sides using standard canola oil.  This made about 7 pancakes and they turned out great. 

I then took what was left over in the grated bowl (~3 cups) and made another batch.  I cooked these using Kirkland Canola Oil Cooking Spray.  I think these actually turned out better and probably slightly more healthier.

I think the Jalapeno is the key special ingredient that added the majority of the flavor that the original recipe had by adding several spices.  I'm sure you could tweak the flavor based on what your tastes are - garlic, salt & pepper, more onion, etc.


How I Studied For & Passed The CISSP

I got asked the other day at work on how I studied to pass the Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) back in Dec 2011. While I was relaying my experience, I made a few notes, and I figured it would be good to document the endeavor in a blog post.

AFC79C51-1617-4C5A-85ED-C70FE57E43BF

I think my main advantage was that I was able to get access to SANS Management 414 class via their self-study content using training dollars from work [direct link for more info].  While expensive, the 'do it on your own time' offering was much better for me than going to a class (which can also be expensive). 

One of the other key features that I liked about the self-study offering was there were seperate MP3s of all the sessions plus the online course review material.  This allowed me to binge listen to the audio content during my daily exercise, drives in the car, and while on travel (which happend about 5 times during my prep time before the test). The only bad news about all this 'listening' is that when I have a CISSP related nightmare I still hear Dr. Eric Cole's voice.

The package included printed slides for all the material (sync'd online to the audio feed): [Domain 1 - Information Security Governance & Risk Management; Domain 2 - Access Controls; Domain 3 - Cryptography; Domain 4 - Physical Security; Domain 5 - Systems Architecture & Design; Domain 6 - Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Planning; Domain 7 - Telecommunications & Network Security; Domain 8 - Application Security; Domain 9 - Operations Security; Domain 10 - Legal, Regulations, Compliance, & Investigation], and a copy of the following book - "CISSP Study Guide" by Eric Conrad, Seth Misenar, Joshua Feldman. Also included was a series of pre-tests both online and paper and then a full practice test that was online.

Other books I used for reference included:

Once I went through all the material one time via MP3/Slides, I then deteremined when there was a class about 16 weeks/4 mouths in the future and signed up for that one.  I found it very useful to have a target date on the calendar to motivate me to block out time for studying.  I then spent every Off-Friday from work and ~4 hours each Saturday and Sunday studying the material up to the test week.  The test was on Tuesday and I pretty much studied full time Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before the test.  If my math is correct that was about ~250 hours of studying (not including the MP3 material listening which I continued doing during my exercise, driving, etc times up to the test).

In addition to the study reference material above, I also took a great deal of practice tests.  If there was a test I could take I took it. My prevous experience getting a Windows OS certification and Security+ was that there was a ton on of value in reviewing as many questions as possible. This turned into a a pretty detailed stats tracking on how I was doing and where I needed extra focus.  Here is the "final" view of my spreadsheet tracker I setup in Google Docs:

Cissp-test-tracking-1Cissp-test-tracking-2

The other thing I did that really helped was that any question I missed during any of the tests I took and turned it into a 3x5 study card.  I also kept the cards organized by the 10 major topic areas of CISSP.  This helped me really focus on studying the areas that needed the most work.  By the end I'm pretty sure I had 400 cards, and on the day of the text all I did before the test was drill through those cards.

What about the actual test?  Yes, it was very hard. Definitely the hardest test I've ever taken. I was the last one to leave taking up all but the last 5 minutes before the scheduled end time.  I don't know how well I did other than I passed.  And since that was the goal -- mission accomplished!

If you have any additional questions, comments, etc. then please let me know.

[Originally written on 2/24/2012 but updated 2/23/3014]


Some Recommendations For Headphones

Headphones

I am pretty happy with my Sennheiser HD202 headphones that I use at work, my Sony MDR-XD-200 that I use at home, and my travel  audio-technica Quiet-Point ATA-ANC7.  

I picked each one specific to issues I was trying to resolve where I use headphones.  The HD202 cover my ears very comfortably, but aren't so noise reducing that if someone knocked on my office door I would still hear them.  The MDR-XD-200 were 50% off, have excel sound quality, and are something you can wear for hours without much fatigue which is great for movies and audio editing.  The Quiet Points were cheaper than the Bose that I had before the were stolen, and fold up pretty well in thier protected case for travel.

Even though I'm content, I find it very interesting to get other folks opinions, suggestions, recommendations, etc. on headphones.

A recent This Week In Google (TWIG) [#234] recommended the following after discussing the recent ad during the Super Bowl for Beats:

Leo also mentioned that Headroom was a good site with more info.  And the Home Theater Geeks podcast have several very detailed podcasts in their library about headphones.  If you want to get very technical on headphones (and even some ear buds) these podcasts are highly recommended.

So ... do you have a favorite headphone? And why?