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July 2010 Archives

We love xkcd

We'd like to honor each and every SysAdmin out there laboring in the networks, armpit deep in Cat5, fending off feral lusers, and maintaining that small black box with a flashing red light called The Internet. We salute you, SysAdmin heroes and heroines far and wide!

Now, to unveil the winners of our SysAdmin Survival Pack.

First, a thank you to our nominators, without whom we wouldn't have heard the harrowing tales of our esteemed SysAdmin nominees. May your your emails arrive with attachments intact and your hard disks be free of malware henceforth.

It wasn't easy to randomly throw darts--er, carefully choose the 10 nominees selected for public praise and voting. We hope that all the nominees get the respect they deserve today, but especially our winner, chosen by popular vote:

SysAdmin King Daniel O., Director of IT, in Fresno, CA, who wins a Steampunk cork pop gun and all this stuff
And his nominator Tracy B., who wins a $100 ThinkGeek gift certificate

The winning entry, written by Tracy:
"We work for a Boys & Girls Club, and Daniel is our sole IT person for 16 sites, and often has to deal with staff and volunteers who are clueless on how computers operate. "Oh, it needs to be turned on for the printer to be used by other people?" or "My computer died, and I forgot that you told me I needed to back up my files. Is there someway that I can get that document back?" Since we're a non-profit, we get donated doorstops by people who've upgraded their systems, and think they're doing a wonderful thing by giving us something that still uses Windows 95. Somehow, he's been able to integrate everything, keep it all running and still teach kids how to properly navigate the internet. I realize that we're small potatoes compared to others, but to several thousand kids who use our computer rooms on a daily basis, Danny's dedication and devotion to technology is something we depend on...and often, underappreciate."

Runners-up each receiving a $50 gift certificate:
1. Jeff L., The (Not So Social) Systems Administrator, in College Station, TX
2. Devon M., SysAdmin, QA, Technology Go-To Guy, in Chicago, IL

Random $30 gift certificate-winning voter: wolfdragoons24

Congratulations, winners! We'll be in touch via email soon.

So happy SysAdmin Day, geeks. We leave you with this epic story submitted by Indigo Dreams:

"Early in the day on April 1st, I noticed that the ubiquitous Rick Roll video was playing on our website, and I thought, "we got hacked!" I started drafting an email to clients while an engineer tried to go in and disable our servers... and he was blocked.

There was a little panic. Our head engineer called up Greg, our SysAdmin, and asked him to go manually unplug the servers. A little later, we got a call from Greg. He said there were cops at the data center because someone was inside with a gun. We heard shots in the background, and Greg said that he had to go, and hung up.

We did the only logical thing in this situation: we called 911. Greg called back, and we told him we called the cops and then had to get off of the phone because 911 was calling back.

While talking to 911, our CEO finally called back, and as it turns out, the ENTIRE thing was a ruse. The video was only playing locally on our IP. The guys were blocked out to keep them from discovering that. Greg was never at the data center--he was at his computer at home with sound effects.

But we had actually called the cops! As it turns out, they sent five squads to the data center. When they found out it was a prank, they paid a visit to our good old SysAdmin at home. He didn't get in trouble in the end, but the cops did ask him what he expected to happen given the situation, and suggested something a little more "low-key" next time.

We've printed up a bunch of Len Peralta's fantastic Geek A Week card packs featuring Veronica Belmont, Adam Savage, Morgan Webb, Wil Wheaton (it's his birthday today, w00t!), Phil Plait, Jonathan Coulton, RiffTrax, and Kevin Smith.

These were supposed to come with us to Comic-Con, but fate intervened and UPS never made it in time. So congratulations, internetters who didn't go to Comic-Con! Now you have the chance to win the cards fair and square and randomly.

Thursday, August 5th giveaway:

UPDATE 5:49pm ET: Our 10 winners have been contacted via email!

We have 5 packs to give away today, and we'll dip back into the entries later when our boxes finally make it back to ThinkGeek Headquarters in the next week.

Also, just so you know, by entering to win these cards you hereby agree to not be a dick for the next 24 hours in accordance with Don't Be a Dick Day, held in honor of Mr. Wheaton's birthday on this the 29th day of July in the year 2010.

So say we all.

UPDATE 7/29 4:28pm: Our five winners (who all just happen to be on Twitter) are: @MercyGrace, @TarielOfLorien, @RockettMan, @sonofbelial, and @ceemonster. Thanks for playing and we'll do this giveaway again soon!

OMG is this really happening!?

Our away mission to San Diego Comic-Con is complete, and the photo above of Timmy and our own Mike Kochis posing with Chief Tyrol pretty much says it all:

IT WAS AWESOME.

We wandered the floor and met folks from Marvel, Dumbrella's @rstevens & @jonrosenberg, and Penny Arcade; finally met @geekgirls and @geekgirldiva and @nerdrage42 at the Geek Girls tweetup; admired the beautiful artwork on display and sale; saw luminaries such as Kari Byron, Doc Hammer, @donttrythis, and Marian Call standing only a few feet away from our very own persons; met @grantimahara and @bonniegrrl; hung out with SDCC staff; stared at some really awesome (and some kinda sad) cosplay; and gave away stuff.

Highlights included handing out free ice cream with @icecreamman at w00tstock and chatting with @rifftrax and @molly23, Barenaked Ladies playing the Big Bang Theory theme before the panel, The Guild panel where we saw a preview of their Bollywood video (posted today!), hearing random stuff (like Incognito) discussed at the Venture Bros panel, and Jamie Hyneman's beet-red face all during the Mythbuster's panel.

We found the crowd respectful and in high spirits, and pretty pleasant-smelling even through Saturday. Between the panels, people-watching, and parties, everything unfolded exactly as they should have: it was like stumbling into a new restaurant and finding precisely what you were craving.

(Click through to see the entire SDCC set.)

The one thing we didn't manage to do is tragic: Timmy's costumes didn't make it out to San Diego in time for the Con. You may have heard us quietly weeping via Twitter, but in case you missed it, UPS didn't get our boxes of RPSLS totes, Geek A Week card packs, Timmy clones, and Timmy's extra-awesome-super-amazing closet of cosplay to us.

We shall make this sad fact up to Timmy's Volunteer Costuming Corps (TVCC) by taking photos of Timmy in each of his getups, and we're planning on displaying the entire collection at ThinkGeek HQ ever after. And the other freebies that didn't make it will be dispersed via Twitter and Facebook, which is maybe even better for you guys. You may thank UPS for that. (And a sincere thank you to @EvanAtUPS for trying to intercept our boxes while they were somewhere in New Mexico.)

And that photo of Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day all romance-novel-ized was to distract you from the FAILage. Did it work?

"So," you may be thinking, "I was at Comic-Con and you guys didn't have a booth so I couldn't frakkin' find you because you kept moving around and how the heck was I supposed to get my free stuff!?"

Sorry if you couldn't find us! We wanted to fully experience the exhaustion of being an attendee and not a booth monkey. The upside to this is we had a good time and got to meet lots of people. But next year--we'll see about next year. This trip was officially reconnaissance and we'll try to be more accessible in 2011. (No promises, mind you, but we'd like to try.)

That also means that if you have suggestions for next time--or our Twitter coverage (was it too much? too little?)--please leave a note in the comments. What would you like to see us do? If you're a vendor or organizer or party-person, how could we work with you to multiply our powers of awesome?

Because that's what we learned from Comic-Con: geeks are better together. Awwwww.


Last week we launched our SysAdmin Day Survival Pack contest with prizes like a handmade Steampunk cork gun, our USB Rocket Launcher, Gunnar Computer Glasses, Luxeed U5 Dynamic Pixel LED Keyboard, and more.

And here are our ten finalists, in no particular order! They're all worth a read, and you'll find the voting form below. You may vote for up to 3 and only 3 nominees--we won't count more votes than that. Oh, and btw, your vote enters you for a chance to win a $30 ThinkGeek gift certificate.

The voting period lasts through July 29th at midnight, Eastern time, so be sure to vote by then! We'll announce our winners on SysAdmin Day, July 30.

UPDATE 7/30/10 9:20am ET: Voting is closed, and our winners have been announced! Congrats to Daniel O, Director of IT, in Fresno, CA!


1. Mark K., Network Administrator, in Wilmington, DE
nominated by Ben C.
Mark works tirelessly to keep the interwebz routed. Once when experiencing an outage, spiderman-like, he extended a prosthetic patch cable from each arm to bridge a disruption. Mark works tirelessly to all hours of the night personally powering the internets with his exercise-generator bike. Mark also keeps a stash of 10,000 AOL install CDs "just in case" our fiber lines fail.

2. Daniel O., Director of IT, in Fresno, CA
nominated by Tracy B.
We work for a Boys & Girls Club, and Daniel is our sole IT person for 16 sites, and often has to deal with staff and volunteers who are clueless on how computers operate. "Oh, it needs to be turned on for the printer to be used by other people?" or "My computer died, and I forgot that you told me I needed to back up my files. Is there someway that I can get that document back?" Since we're a non-profit, we get donated doorstops by people who've upgraded their systems, and think they're doing a wonderful thing by giving us something that still uses Windows 95. Somehow, he's been able to integrate everything, keep it all running and still teach kids how to properly navigate the internet. I realize that we're small potatoes compared to others, but to several thousand kids who use our computer rooms on a daily basis, Danny's dedication and devotion to technology is something we depend on...and often, underappreciate.

3. Jeff L., The (Not So Social) Systems Administrator, in College Station, TX
nominated by Kelly D.
In a dark corner of an office, in the ambient light cast by a wall of monitors, resides the NSSSA (NotSoSocialSystemsAdmin).One monitor will have virtualization going on, another a photo of an asylum & yet another might be tracking & containing Conficker while he supports the guild on a fourth. True Story. BUT, our systems run like lightening all due to the efforts of our NSSSA. He deserves to be SysKing for two reasons:(1)He is still a little mad that no one texted him that one weekend we had great weather to tell him to go outside&(2)glass bottled cokes are the only perks we can afford. Our NSSSA is not allowed to have a LART or even a PFY to offer assistance during the worst IUFs caused by their failure to RTFM. And he settles for that. Mostly because he hates talking to people, but that's not the point. The point is that we've got an underpaid and really appreciated NSSSA here and we need YOU to help us let him know how much we care. Mostly because he hates when we talk to him.

4. Cassie E., Systems Administrator, in Denver, CO
nominated by Cary H.
Defender of Domain, Master of Disaster... recovery plans, Vanquisher of Viruses. Cassie has been SysAdmin for Pinion for two years and is always at the ready, traveling between multiple facilities across several states to maintain and upgrade servers, switches, routers and workstations at each. Cassie is calm and patient, often explaining to deaf ears the cause of their plight. She is polite: always "please and thank you", never "move". And though training for a marathon, planning a wedding and maintaining whatever semblance of a social life a sysadmin can really have, she is continually dedicated to her company, career and coworkers at all times... even when Lost is on.

5. Bill H., Web Manager, in Terre Haute, IN
nominated by Martin C.
If you think working in a corporate world is fun, try working in an institution of higher education. A world where everything is decided by committee and a world where you need to get 2 committees to agree before adding a button to the home page. No, this isn't the Twilight Zone, it is Indiana State University. Bill has been working the web for many years. He helped create one of the first sites in Illinois (for the government) and has had the honor of being cussed out by a former president of the United States. Bill is caught in a world where he tries to keep the multitude of personal, departmental, and primary sites running smoothly, keeping everything functional, and making a gaggle of committee members happy while keeping his sanity. (No guarantee on the sanity). Bill needs toys to play with before he trades in his geek card for a rubber room.

6. Victoria D., Network Systems Administrator, in Cleveland, OH
nominated by Eric W.
Vicky is the Network Systems Administrator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Though a glamour-less job, it is one that requires the most work in the building and rarely gets the appreciation it deserves. Since we cannot block normally-flagged content due to research (i.e. Sex Pistols, etc.), she must constantly safeguard our systems by other various means. Vicky should definitely be nominated as the SysQueen of 2010 because she's constantly working and just so darned stubborn! Recently, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and even when told (nay, ordered) not to work, she remotely logged in from her bed to command the network! While she's back to work now, she sits in the deepest, darkest dungeons of the Facilities department and seeks no adulation for her hard work (even though I maintain she deserves our constant appreciation). Adventure. Hmph! Excitement. Hmph! A SysAdmin craves not these things.

7. Isaac S. in Houston, TX
nominated by Gabriela Y.
I'd respectfully like to nominate my Sysadmin. As with all Sysadmins, mine is not human, he is, according to himself, a semi-God.What can one say about the Lord of the Servers? Commander of Internet Filters, Mage of the Code, Maker of Miracles and Guard against disaster and ultimate annihilation? (I'm trying to get on his good side) This semi-god of cyberspace can determine your future with a single key stroke (how's that for power?), can be magnanimous or a tyrant depending on his caffeine intake and he's not afraid to flaunt his trekkiness. His daily endeavors include repeating phrases such as "No, the printer does not have a virus", "I cannot save internet into your flash drive", and "Click on the icon in your desktop... the one on your screen, not your actual desk" But mostly, he deserves a treat and recognition on his day, because he excels in what he does, making entire companies work from his console 24/7. I can send you this nomination because of him. Are you working in cahoots?

8. Devon M., SysAdmin, QA, Technology Go-To Guy, in Chicago, IL
nominated by Jennifer U.
Already known for being an all around nice guy who you can count on in a pinch, Devon's ability to obliterate the box most people think in to solve problems quickly became legendary in the office courtesy of one particular day when ComEd unexpectedly cut our building's power in the middle of the workday with no plans of reinstating it until the middle of the night. While almost everyone else was sitting around with a "snow day" mentality, our customer service team was in a panic because phones & computers were dead. Devon's level head & focus saved the day. In an effort that can only be described as "MacGyver-ian", Devon used 2 borrowed smart phones & some sort of wicked tech voodoo to re-route our customer service team's phone system to a series of cellphones. Our CS Manager estimated that Devon saved the company from losing at least $10,000 in revenue. Maybe re-routing phone systems with a smart-phone is routine at other companies, but we were mightily impressed by the effort!

9. Jackie B., GuppyJack the Queen of Code, in Calgary, Alberta
nominated by Amilee W.
Jackie is a single mother, yes, I'm playing on your sympathy, but really? She doesn't need it. She's super strong willed with this uncanny ability to code and fix things without even trying. Not only does she spend upwards of 12 hours a day at work fixing errors and problems with code and computers, she comes home and gives her daughter all the love in the world she needs. She's also not bad lookin. This is a problem for a career minded femme in a company comprising of pretty much all males. Not only does she have to defend against other jealous admins (which is every other day) she also has to deal with them wanting to go out with her. Intelligent, beautiful, single and independent. Come on, if she doesn't need protection who does?

10. Lew A., System Guru, in Athens, GA
nominated by Kate S. (and 5 others)
One particularly awesome Lew moment comes to mind; he and his wife were on vacation, presumably driving somewhere to get away from us, when we had a problem with a site launch. After an embarrassing number of calls to his cell phone, he actually braved the wrath of his long-suffering wife to pull over at a McDonald's to pick up wi-fi and fix the problem. I'm not sure Mrs. Lew will forgive us, but it certainly made the client happy. That's just sort of typical Lew. He works on weekends, you can catch him on chat at 11pm Sunday night, and he's an absurdly talented codsyser on top of all of that. Definitely deserving of a little love from ThinkGeek.

UPDATE 7/30/10 9:20am ET: Voting is closed, and our winners have been announced! Congrats to Daniel O, Director of IT, in Fresno, CA!

It's the time of year when everybody starts talking about San Diego Comic-Con. Usually you'd find us rocking back and forth, muttering something about lucky dogs and how Fairfax, Virginia is the most magical place in the world anyways.

But this year, some of us monkeys are going! For those stuck at home, we'll try to take plenty of photos so you may live vicariously through our adventures. And for those we hope to meet at SDCC (and oh, we do, because we'll have things to give you), here's the game plan.

Where you will find us

Thursday night is w00tstock night, that most amazing night of geekery on stage. And we're working with Ice Cream Man, the dude in the ice cream truck that gives away frozen treats, to deliver the best waiting-in-line experience you've ever had. He'll be set up around 5:15 and we'll be there with $30 gift certificates for the first 10 people to come by and say they're with Timmy. The magical fountain of free ice cream will dry up by 6:15 at the latest.

If you haven't been to a w00tstock before, you gotta come to this one. If you have been before, you still have to come. The Venn diagram for this can only be described as a circle of awesome. The show is at 4th & B and doors open at 6:30; show is at 7:30. Len will have his Geek A Week card packs handy, too!

On Friday night, we'll be in attendance at RiffTrax Live, and the Geek Girls Network tweetup at Jolt 'N Joes. Other events to be tweeted.

Saturday night is the San Diego Zombie Walk starting at 4th and Broadway at 6pm, and though we might miss the braaaains, we'd like to lurch in to the Happy Hour of the Undead that will follow. Other events to be tweeted.

Some of the panels an' stuff we'll likely be attending: Big Bang Theory, Marvel: Cup O' Joe, The Joss Whedon Experience, AOTS, Geek Girls Exist, Adult Swim Panel, Girls Gone Genre, Mythbusters, Futurama, The Guild, and anything Star Wars, TRON, or Green Lantern.

"Can I buy/steal things from your booth?"

There is no booth; we're not there to sell things and we get twitchy sitting in one spot for too long so we're mobile this year. (Follow @thinkgeek for updates on location and Timmy's adventures in costumery.)

Here's what we look like so you'll be able to spot us:

Left to right: Mike, who wishes the Tribble could come along; Carrie, who'll tweet the entire time; and Jamie, who will almost certainly be smiling like that the entire trip.

When you find us, you'll first notice the amazing double rainbows. If you survive that, we'll have a top-secret coupon code to give you, some effing sweet Geek A Week card packs by Len Peralta, and other random goodies we'll carry around for your amusement.

And of course, there will be Timmy and his costumes, with whom you will be allowed to pose for photographs. But please do not ask him to sign your butt, boobs, or any other nakey bits. He's a professional for cripe's sake.

Jul
16
2010

Geek A Week, IRL

Len Peralta is an illustrator and all-around awesome guy who we got to know through Paul and Storm, who are also awesome but a little less artistic.

You may have seen Len drawing crazy hivemind posters on stage at w00tstock, and you may have heard of his Geek A Week card project for which--self explanatorily--he draws one geek (like Jonathan Coulton, RiffTrax, Major Nelson, Wil Wheaton, Kevin Smith, and Morgan Webb) into a trading card each week and posts it online.

But did you know that some of those cards exist in the meatspace you and I call IRL? IT IS NOW TRUE.

We've printed up a very small, very special batch of Len's Geek A Week cards just for San Diego Comic Con. The cards included in this pack are:

How can you get your hot little hands on one of these packs? Begging, bribery, exorbitant amounts of money thrown carelessly at eBay thinking you wouldn't win it anyways? No. We're giving them away.

Len will have a bunch at the SDCC w00tstock on Thursday night, and we'll have them on our persons at SDCC the rest of the weekend. (Yes, we're going! More on that tomorrow.) We'll probably give a few packs away over Twitter, too, for those sad sacks not lucky enough to go to SDCC.

We're hoping we'll be able to print up some more of these cards later, but in the meantime, feast your eyes upon Len's Geek A Week collection thus far:

UPDATE 7/26/2010 1:30p ET: The list of 10 finalists is now posted and ready for voting!

Every day, rain or shine, and often remotely in the wee hours, SysAdmins get to work protecting your inbox, routing the internets, shoring up your network, and monitoring your web history.* All this while fighting back lusers who still--still--haven't learned to restart before picking up the phone. (Maybe they're from the past?)

So to celebrate SysAdmin Day on July 30th, we want to give one extraordinary SysAdmin exactly what he or she needs: PROTECTION.

SysAdmin Day Survival Pack prizes:

Help us find the SysKing or SysQueen of 2010 and winner of those glorious shiny objects above by entering your mini-essay (1,000 characters or less) by midnight on July 25, 2010. (Please note selfishly: If your nominee wins, you'll snag a $100 gift certificate, too.)

On July 26 we'll post our favorite 10 nominees here on our blog and open up the field to voting through July 29th. The winner will be announced on July 30th. More information and legalese on the process (including how you have to be in the US or Canada [except Quebec] to win) is on the official contest page, but you can enter your favorite SysAdmin below.

Good luck to our entrants, and may all lusers try turning it off and on again before bugging SysAdmins on July 30th!

UPDATE 7/26/2010 1:30p ET: The list of 10 finalists is now posted and ready for voting!

*Probably not in an evil way, like to extort you, but they could, you know. Not that this is a threat or anything. Certainly not.

Tim and his loot

We can hardly remember what it was like an entire month ago when it wasn't 105 degrees out and we didn't have to wear stillsuits just to get across the parking lot.

But we were reminded of those sweeter, gentler days when we got an email from Tim, our Ultimate GeekDad Giveaway winner who seems to have recovered from the shock of being randomly drawn to win a whole pile of awesome for Father's Day. We were happy to hear that not only was our contest winner a father of two, but also a network systems manager.

It couldn't have worked out better--except for creating iPad envy at his office:

"The only negative part of this whole thing is that I had to tell the Network Tech that works for me that I won. He had entered the contest several times to win the iPad for his wife. She was wanting a laptop badly. It was sort of sad, afterall, he told me about the contest last Wednesday. At the last minute, I entered the contest and won! He took it fairly well, he's a very good sport."

Tim and his kids playing with his loot

And not only do his sons share the brand-new Xbox 360 (how nice of them!) but they're putting the tech to work:

"The boys and I will use the 8gb video watch for martial arts. They just promoted to 1st Dan in Hapkido and I have made them several training videos that will be ultra handy on the video watch."

That's right: Tim and his boys are into Tactical Hapkido. Luckily they haven't had to use their mad skillz to defend their loot, but it's good to know this geek family is prepared--'cause that's a lot of stuff.

Thanks for the update from the field, Tim!