Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ultimate Free Antivirus?

So I've spent all day trying to remove a never-before-seen virus from a small government office computer network. AVG didn't touch it. The virus laughed at AVAST! Clamwin turned tail and ran. So which package removed the nasty virus? Windows Live OneCare Protection Center! That's right, something from Microsoft worked admirably!

Even though the virus didn't have a name and wasn't detected by three different up-to-date scanners, the Windows online scan worked admirably. Although it couldn't identify the virus nor remove it, it did say that a certain file was infected. I booted from my trusty Ultimate Boot CD, went to the file that was pointed out by the Windows Live OneCare Protection Center, deleted it, then replaced it with an empty file with the same name to prevent it being recreated. Voila! Virus-free computer.

Maybe Microsoft ain's so bad, after all. Oh yeah, if the customer were using Linux or OS X, none of this would have been necessary. But then again, if frogs had wings . . .

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Still on a soapbox - Cable is better than DSL - at least in Edwardsville

OK, I know I promised I'd blog about software, but services have been on my mind lately. As I'm sure you've realized, I live in Saint Louis, and work in the surrounding area. Over in Edwardsville, Illinois, I've noticed a pattern in SBC's DSL sales and service.

First let me say this: the technicians that SBC employs to go on site and install or repair the wiring are top-notch. Always neatly dressed, they bear themselves professionally, work carefully, communicate well, and deliver what they promise.

The rest of SBC seems to have lost touch with this group's values. Salespeople seem to overpromise and underdeliver. In both examples that I have for customers, SBC promised DSL speeds starting at 384k and topping out at 1.2M. At one site, the service never, ever worked. At the other, 384k is top speed. 384k is fine for checking e-mail and reading the news, but downloading a 30 megabyte file takes 10 minutes. At most of my customers (which use cable, by the way) this download takes at most 2 minutes.

So site 1 never worked - but they paid for a months service that SBC says should have worked, but didn't. I checked and rechecked the internal wiring, and found it perfect. I moved the DSL modem to the demarcation point, and still no results. Calling SBC yielded the same pat answer - our automated tests show that the trouble is inside your building, so pay us a fortune to fix it, or have your technician (me) fix it. This seems to be to for the customers safety, but the representatives used it as a deterrent to the customers' persuing the issue further.

After the customer repeatedly called SBC, he reached a technician that knows me personally, and knows that I do quality work (Thanks, Tiny!), so he dispatched an SBC technician to the site. When the SBC tech arrived and hooked up his diagnostic machine, he informed the customer that DSL will never work there - the site is just too far from the central office to be any use. So then the customer is without Internet service for another month while we wait on Charter to deliver their service. Incidentally, the Charter service has worked quite well, with only minor hickups.

Site 2 is currently in the throes of a similar situation - the DSL is slow (support says we may be too far from the Central Office), and our supposedly static IP address has been anything but. When the customer called SBC Tech Support, we no longer reach a call center in America. Evey support rep has had an Indian accent - some more understandable than others. The customer says that the last one was consistently rude to her, and wouldn't even transfer her to his manager, saying that there is no manager for him to transfer her to. I'm going to go deal with this this morning.

So, the problems with SBC (AT&T) DSL that I perceive are:

  • Sales reps are too generous and optimistic in their assessment of SBC's potential offerings to a given customer based on their distance from the Central Office.
  • Support reps are all too eager to blame the customer, her equipment, and her premise wiring.
  • Support reps tend to be rude.
  • Support reps may not speak English as a first language.
What can we do about it? Complaining to your sales person may help - the sales reps have been somewhat helpful as they know that the support reps are making them look bad, but their abilities to affect a situation in progress are limited. They usually wind up being a diplomat for SBC and doing damage control.

Otherwise, I'm not sure. Cable seems like the obvious choice. Charter Communications is our local provider, and they have yet to disappoint me with respect to download speeds or service continuity. I've never reached a commercial support rep that didn't speak English as a first language, and they've always been professional, knowledgable, and polite. But the pricing is commensurate with the service - expect a 1.2M down with a static IP to cost at least $100 per month, while a DSL line may be half that.

Now, my other sites with DSL (a few in Saint Louis, Southern Illinois, and two in Indiana) have consistently high speeds (one, in Indianapolis, is an SBC customer) and seldom experience outtages. Why is Edwardsville prone to such failures in delivery?

So, if you live in Edwardsville, Illinois, the 1st question should of an SBC sales rep should be, "What is the length of the wire from the Central Office to my business?" If it's more than 10,000 feet or so, consider cable Internet instead.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Firefox On the News

So I'm watching the local coverage of the elections around 9 or 10 last night on Saint Louis Channel 2, and they were using Firefox 2's tabbed browsing feature to compare the candidates.

Too cool!

Why? Well, Internet Explorer 7 is out and easily available - Firefox 2 came out at about the same time. Both feature tabbed browsing, but the newscaster was clearly using Firefox 2. In your face, Microsoft!

HPTI Calendar

If you would like to get your own Google Calendar, go here:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Linux Vs. Windows

In a blog post (The World Just Isn't Ready for Linux) I read on ZDNET this morning, the author cites many good reasons for the average user to stick with Windows instead of moving to Linux. As things stand, I'm in 100% agreement.

The author cited Ubuntu as his favorite flavor of Linux, and said that there are too many flavors of Linux for the typical user to choose from - I agree. My own favorite flavor is Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED), which retails for around $50.00US per year. Some vendors sell the desktop license for less if you download the operating system yourself. If you're cheap like me, OpenSuse is available for free, and has most of the same applications as SLED, but fewer bells and whistles - mainly regarding the user interface.

The most obvious example of the difference between OpenSuse and SLED is the multiple-desktop switching - OpenSuse switched from desktop to desktop with no transistion effects - its like changing the channel on the TV. SLED "flips" from desktop to desktop with an effect like a rotating cube - check out some screenshots here. Some folks dismiss this as mere "eye candy" - but the effect is profound. It gives the user a frame of reference that makes more sense than "virtual desktops" by giving more natural visual cues.

Despite the ease of installation (which I guess is as easy as Ubuntu), the author of the aforementioned ZDNET article is again quite correct in that once its installed, the typical user won't know what to do with it. SUSE make finding and installing new packages a snap with YAST (Yet Another System Tool), but it only finds the packages that Suse is distibuting. Overall, there are four different ways to install applications in Suse that come to mind - and most DON'T involve YAST. There is not typically a simple setup program that makes things go then drops a nice icon on your desktop. Note to developers: a nice ./install that takes care of the particulars on any given flavor of Linux would be nice, but is likely too much to ask.

Which brings me to the most important point about Linux and the free software movement: don't ask for much - this stuff is FREE, the developers are likely uncompensated, so they have little incentive to personally support their application like a for-profit outfit would. Can't figure out how to make a program run? Tough, RTFM (Read the freakin' manual) is the typical answer - and rightly so - you're lucky to have the program at all since you didn't have to write it yourself or pay a bunch of money for it. The average Windows user may spend a fortune on software during the lifetime of his computer compared to a Linux geek, but the time and frustration saved by the Windows user is usually worth it.

Linux is a labor of love.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

AVG Antivirus licks the competition again!

The blog that I link to in the headline for this blog entry mentions AVG 7.1 has the lowest system resource usage, and says that:

Norton Internet Security 2006 was the worst resource hog, McAfee VirusScan Enterprise 8 was the second worst, but Norton Internet Security 2007 seemed to have improved to the third worst resource hog. Trend Micro PC-cillin AV 2006 was the fourth worst resource hog . . .

Good thing I sell AVG - if you don't have it and want to get it, give me a call. Mention this ad, and I'll throw in a free container of anti-static screen wipes.

Ultimate List of FREE Software from Microsoft!

So its a cold, dreary November day. I'm still recovering from some ailment or another involving lots of mucus. What do you think old Justin's doing? Worrying about that strange grinding noise coming from the dishwasher? No, I'm reading about free Windows stuff, of course!

Oh my Gosh, I've got to try the Microsoft Memory Diagnostic Tool! This is an excellent alternative to the RAM test utility that I described a month or two ago. That one involved burning a CD or creating a boot floppy and then booting from it, well this one does too - nope, being an elite computer tech ain't easy.

And my life would not be complete without the Windows Command Line Port Scanner! For those not in the know, this means that Microsoft made a tool that can return information about itself and other computers' networking states and capabilities. Sound complicated? It's not! Imagine you can't get your mail from and you're not sure that you have the right server - aim this tool at your mail server, let it rip, and see what services are really offered by that server.

The Windows Installer Cleanup Utility has saved my hide several times - this is useful when you uninstall an application, check, see that most if not all of it is gone, but still see its entry in the Add/Remove Programs dialog. I've gotten the most mileage out of this when confronted with HP All-In-One applications and drivers that won't reinstall after being uninstalled.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Multiple Concurrent Remote Desktop Users on Windows XP Pro

Sometimes, one good computer just isn't enough. But when all you've got is one good one (and the rest suck), you can patch your XP Pro (sorry, no Home or 2K) to support multiple simultaneous logins via remote desktop.

Originally, this was an involved process. Our friends at Sala Source made it easy. Download the patch from, install it, reboot, and feel the joy. This is a HACK using a beta version of the terminal services software, so use it at your own risk.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Strange Windows Errors? Maybe your memory is bad . . .

Of course you have a bad memory, but I'm talking about your computer's memory! The RAM is a small board or two that typically stand vertically off of the motherboard, and although there are no moving parts, failure of RAM is not as uncommon as I would hope, and the problems can look an aweful lot like hard drive failure -

  • blue screens of death
  • corrupted registry files (a good example of this is when you get the message: Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM)
  • unexplained spontaneous reboots
Well, there's no good way from Windows to tell if you RAM has gone bad (or you bought bad RAM, or you got it with your new computer!)

However, if you go to and download the latest zipped .iso (pronounced eezo), extract it, and burn it to a CD using your favorite .iso burning tool (mine's here), then boot off your new CD, you'll have a very reliable, easy to use diagnostic that will help you decide if indeed your RAM has bit the big one.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lost Microsoft Product Keys?

WinKeyFinder 1.72.20 Final is the one-stop solution for lost product keys. Load this bad boy up, let 'er rip, and find all those product keys you shouldn't have thrown away. Works for all Windows - 2000, 95, 98, ME, and XP. Also works with MS Works, Office 95, 97, 2000, XP, and 2003 (all editions!).

Who wants encrypted e-mail?

I work with a lot if medical organizations that must comply with HIPAA. All of them have and use e-mail, and they all swear that they're not exchanging personally identifiable protected health information (PHI) via unencrypted e-mail. However, many have been exchanging financial data through this medium.

I know that some of you reading this can think of many instances where it is better that a third party not read your e-mail, either because it contains sensitive financial info or you need to share health information more freely.

How interested are you? Tell me via the comment button below. IThis is very inexpensive, using freely available tools. These same tools make it simple to get going, and even simpler to exchange e-mail in a safe and compliant manner.

If the feedback is positive, I'll devote my next blog entry to a step-by-step how-to.

Cool Windows Screensavers

Does you sysadmin allow you to pick your screensaver? In not, then go home and read the rest of this! But if you're working in a low security environment, and have an itch for something different from that plain old bouncing logon box, go to and pick out a pretty one. These are open-source, and safe for use at work as they are free of spyware and adware.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Does your Pop-Up blocker really work?

I found this nifty site this evening: which does exactly what they say: It provides many different popups to test your popup blocking system.

My Firefox Web Browser version passed every test but the "Drop Down" Popup, and the "Sticky" popup.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Windows Crap Cleaner

Many, many myriad utilities are advertised on the web purporting to fix your computer, make it faster, and clean up unused or problematic files. Most of these are crap - loaded with spyware, they will gladly download yet more spyware and ruin your computing experience.

Enter CCleaner, which my friend Sue showed me a few weeks ago, claiming that it was recommended on Microsoft's web site, and saying that it was a wonderful tool. I was skeptical, but it was worth a try!

I downloaded it, installed it, and ran it, and, much to my delight, it works as advertised, cleaning up unused and unnecessary files, cleaning out and even repairing the registry, and fixing all sorts of irritating problems, including addind an add/remove programs that works better than the Microsoft Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Easy, Free VPN Solution

Remember my post about IPCop? Well, here's yet another gem that's free for those who are willing to work for it - OpenVPN. The reward is an easy to set up, easy to administer Virtual Private Network connection. The OpenVPN GUI provides an easy way for clients to connect. also explains how to create an easy-to-install client package that can customized for your own VPN (Not for NEWBIES!).

Before you freak out and try putting this all together, check out this tutorial on getting OpenVPN to work with your IPCop. The Zerina VPN Plugin is beautifully made, thought not fully implemented, and makes ready-to-use .ovpn configuration files. It also makes and exports its own certificates, and lastly, and possibly the biggest headache it solves, it automatically configures client and server routes.

So now that you can remotely join your internal network, what will you do with it? 1st up, Windows Network browsing services won't work. If you have a DNS or WINS server on your internal network, point your TAP Interface's at one or both of these, and you'll be able to use your familier Network Neighborhood stuff. If these services are unavailable, then you're stuck using hosts IP addresses (ie \\

Beyond Windows File Sharing, most everything else should work through your shiny new Ecnrypted Tunnel without a hitch.

Opera 9

Opera 9 has arrived on the scene somewhat quietly, but it has a lot of features rivaling Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 (which is now at Beta 3). From what I can tell, there's not much reason to switch if your a Windows user -Firefox pretty much takes the prize. But Mac and Linux users, REJOICE! There's finally something better than Firefox (arguably) - I say this because it has an excellent implementation of Flash on the Mac. On my OSX Tiger box, My son's favorite Scooby Doo game will crash after a little while, hanging the browser. It doesn't matter which one I use, Firefox, Internet Exploder for Mac, or Safari, it crashed. But Opera held up admirably. And when my kids are happy, I'm happy.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Calendar for Higher Power Technology, Inc.

If you would like to get your own Google Calendar, go here:

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mac Music Making Gem for DJ's

"Dekstasy" has been around for quite some time, and hasn't seen any development since last year. That said, this app is very very useful, although I can't say its easy to use. It allows a DJ to perfectly beat-match mp3's and other music files. It has a rudimentary fx processor, and is capable of seamless looping.

For instance, it has a tabbed interface. It would benefit, instead, from multiple windows - the mixer/fx are on one tab, while the cueing, looping, and bpm controls are on others. This makes it painful to use, impacting the agility of a performer. That said, it can almost flawlessly sped up and slow down music without it sounding like its dragging or "chipmunked."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Windows NT/2000/2003 Password Reset

aka Hacking Your Windows Systems

If you need access to a local system (that is, you can lay your grubby little hands on it) that is not part of a Windows Domain, or you need local account for administration or repair purposes (like you need to work in safe mode without a network), the

Offline NT Password Reset and Registry Editor

Offers both boot floppies and boot CD's that allow you to clear the local administrator's password. This is of limited usefulness on an AD Domain Controller as it resets the Machine Account, and not the Domain Account, which is what a DC is interested in.

Unlocking NT/2000 Servers (Domain Controllers)

This set of directions are meant for the experts - but he makes it easy for just about anyone who's comfortable in front of a computer to follow. Requires physical access to a DC. Remember, any computer I can touch, I can own. This goes for most anybody else, too.

Resetting the Administrator's Password on a Windows 2003 Domain Controller
This is for Win2k3, but will likely work for Win2k also. It requires a bit of work and again, requires you can be in front of the server. Also requires a few more applications, which the author kindly provides links to.


If you use this info to gain access to stuff you shouldn't be accessing, or even just for general meanness, you can be fired, and even go to jail, which you would deserve.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Free Windows/Mac/Linux Desktops!

A lot of my customers have been wondering where they can get free screensavers and desktops for Windows systems. To all of my customers: they typically aren't worth the potential trouble. Spyware and viruses are often hidden in them because they know that the typical Windows user tired long ago of the bouncing "Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete To Log In." As an added disincentive, I've configured Group Policy at most of my sites to prevent changing of the screensaver.

Now that that's out of the way, lets talk about Macdesktops - although it purports to be for Macintosh's, and a lot of desktops are feature Apple logos and themes, the fact is that these are simple images that can be used on any computer desktop!

Once you're at the site, pick a category, find a picture you like, click on the desired resolution (most of my customers are either using 800x600 or 1024x768 - if you not sure, go with 1024x768!), then right-click on the image and choose "set as background." Now you have a new background!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Suse 10 has been out for some time now, and has shown itself to be a robust solution for both desktops and servers. I've had OpenSuse 10 for several months, and almost bought a copy of Suse 10 Professional yesterday. Then I realized that Suse 10.1 is almost here and decided that it would be silly of me to buy 10.0.

So I downloaded the 5 OpenSuse 10.0 CD's using BitTorrent - no FTP install this time, I can't stand to be without my lappy for three days. I then put the 5 CD's together on one DVD using Novell's Tutorial Making a DVD from CDs and installed it - the install was completely finished within three hours.

Free Linux Antivirus - Finally, an alternative to ClamAV!

Woohoo! My fave free antivirus for NONCOMMERCIAL use - Avast - has finally released a Linux version for home users. It looks like it has the least demands of any antivirus system with respect to dependancies, only requiring the GTK+ 2.x libraries if you want to use the graphical user interface. Oh, and they demand you register (its FREE!) if you want the required serial number.

Free Windows Antivirus

Avast is also available for MS Windows - I prefer this one for home users due to the ease of use and nice interface. This one also demands free registration.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Virtual Desktop Managers

I'll never forget the first time I installed Linux and discovered virtual desktops - I was thrilled - before too long, I had a unique background image on each desktop, and was telling my high-school buddies how lame Windows was.

A freely available desktop manager exists from none other than the MotherShip herself. It lacks the fullness of features that can be found in the imaginatively named:

"Desktop Manager"

for OS X (and supporting Tiger, and as an added bonus, working quite well on an Intel-based Powerbook, though I didn't check its status in the aforementioned Rosettatest) - this cool app has a half-dozen or so available transitions between pages, flexible ways to change screens, and many other cool features. Now if only I coluld assign a new desktop to each "virtual" desktop.

er-hem, anyhow,

Virtual Desktop Manager

Manage up to four desktops from the Windows taskbar with this PowerToy. - Microsoft's description is as good as any. Unfortunately, this is all it does, and it offers no thumbnails of screens, and no nifty transitions. It works on XP, not 2k or 9x.

Alt-Tab Replacement

MS's description: With this PowerToy, in addition to seeing the icon of the application window you are switching to, you will also see a preview of the page. This helps particularly when multiple sessions of an application are open.

I say: This has been around a while, and I wish MS would do more along the lines of these two power toys to innovate on the interface. This reminds me a bit of how OS X and other desktop managers use thumbnails to show you whats up - I use a hot corner in OS X to activate Expose's "All Windows" function - quickly filling my screen with clickable perfect little thumbs of my work.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Opera 8.5

Rejoice! Yet another app that has builds for OS X, Linux, and Win32!

Opera, the long time 3rd or 4th place browser (behind IE, Mozilla, and Safari) has released version 8.5, from which I am composing this blog on a Suse 10.0 machine. It is freely available, and is an excellent alternative to Internet Exploder if you're a Windows Weenie. However, Firefox is still my fave - Opera has some trouble rendering pages; for instance, the Blogspot web post editor is missing 90% of the buttons that I can use in Firefox on any platform - I'll check the Windows one and see how it behaves. Yup, identical results- web-based apps don't seem to render in Opera in either Linux or Windows.

Still in all, it has a good interface, and sports most of the features that make Firefox a good choice. Its nice to know that Mozilla and Microsoft aren't the only cross-platform browsing game in town!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Why I Won't be Buying an Intel Mac Soon

Well, I had a dickens of a time making either KisMac or MacStumbler work on an Intel Powerbook 17" using the integrated WLAN adapter, which, by the way, I'm not sure whether it is an Airport or an Airport Extreme. However, IStumbler worked great for basic WiFi discovery; I didn't try the Bluetooth discovery.

That's not the only reason, however. Most of the cool apps that I know and love (NMap among them) are either a big pain to get running, or run slowly. The ones that run slowly, however, seem to run stably, and the slowness more tolerable once you convince yourself that its only temporary and that the developers of your app will make a free upgrade for Intel users. However, rumor has it that some developers are planning Intel support as a paid upgrade - that's right, some apps (like MS's Office suite) are going to charge for the upgraded version of their app, and the rumor didn't make it sound like it was going to have any new features or interface changes, it'll just be faster.

I'm willing to bet that the development of many current freeware and open sourc Mac apps will end as some developers may turn their attention elsewhere.

RosettaTest is a nifty app that resembles the "Force Quit Applications" applet in OS X, but it has a little red "R" on the corner af applications that are running under Rosetta, thus diagnosing the likely cause of the sluggishness of your application.

AbiWord is a nifty word processing app not too dissimilar from, but not requiring of X11 and only being a word processor, nothing more, nothing less. Abiword ran very well under Rosetta. and NeoOffice 2.0.x is nearing completion for Intel processors, and can be downloaded using the
Intel and PPC based non-qa'ed Community Builds link. Remember, it requires X11, which can be installed using your OS X Tiger CD.

NeoOffice reportedly won't run on the Intel Mac, so I haven't even tried it. That being said, I've used it on a PPC, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Why Your Mac Will Need Antivirus as Much as Your PC Does

In recent weeks, my work has reminded how fragile the ecosystem of our computers can be. Spyware, adware, viruses, worms, and trojans (all called malware) can all throw a computer into turmoil. It used to be just a Windows thing, and still pretty much is. Apple computers and machines running Linux would see the occasional malware, but most of them were just to prove that Linux and Mac users shouldn't get too comfortable, and were never released into the wild. Those that were enjoy little success as the *nix systems (Mac included) are inherently more secure as some actions necessary for the success of a virus require interaction from the user ie username and password as if to ask,"are you sure you want to do that?"

I'm afraid that Apple's move to Intel processors made the job of writing viruses for OS X a little bit easier. Intel makes a good processor, their (and AMD's) wild success is the main reason they can be exploited for reasons not dissimilar to the million monkeys at a million typewriters theory. Before you get too upset, let me explain myself: there are just tons of x86 compatible computers out there, and tons of people have the ability to develop software for x86-based machines. Hacking, smashing the stack, overflowing buffers, and all the other nasty tricks are just a small step beyond the scope of typical programming projects, and with the temptation of the Dark Side available to literally millions more developers, more viruses will be written for Intel and compatible architectures.

So, with this in mind, we see that many programmers already know the dirty tricks that work on x86's, and Apple will now be using x86 processors. So those dirty tricks will be arriving on your Mac's doorstep soon.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mac Wireless/Wired Network Auditing Tools

Kismet for Mac (Kismac)

Every geek that's been around the block once or twice knows that Kismet is the Swiss Army Knife of wireless network auditing tools - not only does it act as a "stumbler," but it can perform brute-force cracks on WEP and WPA encryptions.

I haven't tried it personally as I don't have an Apple laptop (mine's a Toshiba that dual-boots between XP and Red Hat 9.2), but the reading I've done so far indicates that there is limited driver support for Wireless adapters (hmmm, that's why I don't use Kismet on my laptop, I'm too cheap to go out and buy a Prism branded Wifi adapter), but it fully supports the Airport card, and partially supports the Airport Extreme. An added bonus - the above link is to the version that supposedly is made for the Intel-based Macs.


From the creator's site: MacStumbler is a utility to display information about nearby 802.11b and 802.11g wireless access points. It is mainly designed to be a tool to help find access points while traveling, or to diagnose wireless network problems. Additionally, MacStumbler can be used for "wardriving", which involves co-ordinating with a GPS unit while traveling around to help produce a map of all access points in a given area.


Nmap is the most venerable of command-line network scannng tools. Ports are available for Windows, OS X, Linux, and likely for Atari, Comodore, and Amiga systems if you look hard enough. This tool can map networks, and map the open ports on the systems that comprise that network. As if that's not enough, it can enumerate the services running on those ports (banner grabbing), and identify the remote OS through a techniue called "fingerprinting."

Not for the faint of heart (or the feeble-minded), nmap has more options that about any command-line app that I've run across.

Friday, March 24, 2006

ISO's Agogo!

Windows XP CD Image Power Toy

This power toy is a Windows 2000/2003/XP compatible ISO recorder and burner. For those of us who don't know what that is, you can probably safely ignore this post. But for the rest of you, this tool does the work of what is sometimes fairly pricey software. It adds several options to the Windows context menu for managing disc images - either creating ISO's from the selecting folders or files, or, if one has right-clicked on an ISO, will provide the ability to burn it to a CD. For Vista users (I guess you're the earliest adopters at the time of this writing, as I've never laid eyes on it), the developer has thoughtfully included DVD burning abilities.

Free Hardware Firewall!

Well, actually, it requires its own PC with at least 2 network adapters (preferably popular name brand units as the choice of drivers is large, but finite), but that PC can be 10 years old! No, really, this is an excellent use for that old desktop computer you've been thinking of giving to Dear Aunt Sophie, she's so smart and persistent, I'm sure she'd love to get on the Internet! But really, you'd love having an IPCop more as it has a built-in firewall, proxy server, and Intrusion Detection System (IDS). It comes as an ISO, so download the afore-mentioned power toy if you're a Windows Weenie (you know who you are). If you're a Mac user, you have to use the Disk Utility app to burn it (don't worry, its easy!). If you're a Linux user, you'll likely know just what to do.

From the beginning, I loved the access to cool statistics about my web usage, the IDS logs tickled me pink, and lastly, there's a zillion add-on modules that can do everything from content filtering to time-based access control. Heck, the content filters even have the ability to update from an open-source blacklist project. Bluecoat systems typically gets $60.00/year for 5 users for that!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

As promised, Windows Application Auditing Freeware

WinAudit is a freely available app from those nice folks at Parmavex Services across the Pond in Great Britain. This nifty lil' tool will snap on a rubber glove and give your PC a very thorough examination - telling you more than you ever wanted to know about your PC. I tend to pare down the options to installed hardware, software, and sytem uptime.
Netzup is a frightfully clever app that works remotely, exploiting null connections, IPC$ shares, and the like. It can silently install applications and execute programs. Also, can also enumerate the remote PC's registries and gather a list of installed software for auditing purposes.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Free Exchange E-Mail Archiving Solution (oh, and more Mac stuff!)

Mailarchiva - a freely available, Open Source, MS Exchange compatible e-mail retention system. I haven't downloaded and installed it yet, but I will soon!

More Mac Games! has oodles of freeware games and applications - my faves being Neverball - that venerable old Linux game, and Linium, a new twist on the old game of Jezzball.

Mac Antivirus - ClamXAV
This has a simple GUI, and all of the functionality you need to keep your Mac virus free. Except for automatic scans. And on-access scanning. And automatic updates. Alright, its pretty basic, but compared to other Mac antivirus offerings, this one ROCKS. Oh, and it's free.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Free Windows Network User Accounting

Well, I've been trying to find an affordable, easy to use, Security Event Management (SEM) system for my customers, and have had absolutely zero luck. Apparantly, affordable, easy to use, and SEM only occur in the same sentence on my blog. Systems I looked into costed from around $1,000/year (this is for 10 PC's and a server) to upwards to $100,000 (I didn't look at that one for long), and seemed overwhelming to say the least. What I need is a system that does a few things:
  1. Tells me who logged onto which computer, when, and when they logged off.
  2. Tells me if somebody logged on during a time they do not typically log on, or if someone used a computer that they don't normally use.
  3. Watches a few directories on the server, and lets me know which and when files are accessed, changed, or deleted.
  4. Is simple enough to use that any Business Office Manager or Facility Admnistrator can use it.

Actually, the title of this post is my first glimmer of hope that I may be able to cobble together this solution from freeware and Open Source components.

Free Windows Network User Accounting is a PHP-based system that works on any server that has Exchange or Apache (Windows or otherwise!). The downside is that noobs will not necessarily enjoy installing PHP in their servers, which is a requirement to run this app. Next up, one will need a way to run scripts on Windows machines at logon and logoff (Hello Group Policy!). And finally, you will need to figure out how to add a new directory to your internal web server. I spent roughly three hours making this work, but it works great! My one complaint (aside from the difficulty of installation) is that the page takes a noticeable amount of time to render, but that may be due to some misconfiguration on my part, as this was the first PHP server I had set up.

Later, I'll share the FREE installed software auditing apps I've found. One works remotely, and one works locally.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

OS X Essential Web Sites

OS X was reently named by the March 2, 2006 issue of Network Computing (p. 54) that "OS X is top-of-the-heap in useability, even beating out Windows." I agree, and sometimes feel that I bear an onerous burden in supporting Windows. So let's have some fun with our Apples tonight!

This web site kinda beat me to the punch and put a lot of great open-source OS X capable applications, including music, web browsing, and a personal favorite - Democracy, which runs on Windows, too. Many of the apps that I am pointing out can also be found here.

The blog, Tao of the Mac, is a bit cerebral for most end-users, but for the techies out there, this guy is good reading.

This site has open source apps for most every platform imaginable - much like Sourceforge, this web site has lots of great multi-platform apps and games. Something for everyone! On the down side, navigating this site can be confusing, and the apps are often very technical in nature.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Yet More WinXP Gems

I was working today, and realized that there are two more tools that users shouldn't be without.


This handy app extends Windows' contextual menus to include options for creating and opening almost every kind of compressed file you can imagine. Archive types include: .arj, .zip, .tar, .tar.gz, and their very own .ice (fabulous for compressing plain-text files, I found it to be about 300% more effective).

SnadBoy's Revelation

This Win2k/XP/9x tool can reveal passwords hidden behind the stars, dots, and asterisks used by Windows. Invaluable when you forget your Outlook, Outlook Express, and dial-up passwords. I'm sure that it works with a lot of other apps, too.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Essential Freeware for Windows Users

I know that Microsoft is considered an evil empire and shouldn't have any place on a web site devoted to Open Source and Freeware, but let's face it, internal combustion is widely used although there are viable alternatives available. Most of the end users I support can't use Linux or OS X because nobody developes the kind of applications they need (office management systems and medical records systems). So, here's some essential Windows security freeware:

Windows Defender

This was MS Antispyware. I think I liked the old version better - it seemed a bit more techie, and much more stable. Beta 2 works fine on my laptop computer, but my dekstop gags on it. Admittedly, my laptop is 3 years newer than my dekstop, but they are both running WinXP and the desktop is typically very stable the rest of the time.

AVG Free

This antivirus app is for those of you who aren't computing in a networked, managed environment. Also, it is available for Windows XP and for Linux! Maybe they'll port it over to OS X soon - hint, hint. The pay version has a very nifty central management consol
e (AVGAdmin) that has uses way beyond the typical AV console - such as figuring out which users were using which workstations when.

Windows OneCare Live

Free (for now), and soon to be an incredible deal (3 PC's for $49.95 per year). Thumbs up to the ease of use and comprehensive coverage, thumbs down to the draconian firewall and poor interface and manageability.


A good Microsoft-developed registry cleaner that seems to still work (for the most part, read on, gentle reader), despite the fact that it was made for Windows 95, 98, and NT. I know it still works well in Win2k and XP SP1. XP SP2 had problems and would not run it.

It is best for fixing registry bloat - that is, removing invalid or unnecessary entries. This can speed boots and generally speeds things up. I've also had improvements in stability.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Welcome to Darnitol's Mac, Linux, and Open Source Software Blog!

My Mission: To create a blog that will help me find these freeware gems in the future, and to help all of you find these freeware gems in the first place. I hope that this will be more than a list of open source softwares, it will be a dialog, directory, and occasional sounding board about open source programs, operating systems (both open-source and commercial), and security.

Why am I qualified to accept this mission? Well, I use several PC's with several OS's - among them are Win2K3, Suse, and FreeBSD servers, and Windows XP, Mac OS X, RedHat (well, Fedora, now), and Suse desktops. Additionally, I'm a cheapskate. My friends (figuratively speaking, as I don't really know any of them) that write Open Source and freeware programs provide me with invaluable resources - typically free as in beer, although some of the open-source server offerings are free as in puppies - that I now cannot live without.

My job involves providing my hardware, software, and networking expertise to small healthcare organizations. Most of these groups depend on public funding for their survival, so they typically cannot afford the latest and greatest commercial applications and OS's. Fortunately Open-Source, Freeware, and low-cost alternatives are not only available, they are useable, and often times comparable to the commercially available apps that they mimic. So don't forget to make a donation, either of time (programmers!) or of money (the rest of us!).

Open Source and Freeware Apps - Multiple Platforms
If you can't find your platform on these guys download pages, you're way more geek than I!

IMHO, the premier office suite for the next decade! Cross platform compatibility is only a minor feature when compared to the easy to use, functional applications that come as part of this package from Sun and Friends.
  • Writer - Excellent word processor with features and useability rivaling MS Office (any version).
  • Calc - Compares well to Excel - again with the MS comparison, but they're unavoidable, aren't they?
  • Impress - MS PowerPoint, anyone?
  • Base - Similar in form and function to Access. Admittedly, I haven't played much with it, so I'll have to say more on it later.
  • Draw - nice buiness drawing system - think Visio

Mozilla Firefox

If you use a Windows OS, its become difficult to use Internet Explorer without picking spyware. If you use a Mac, IE is no longer supported. If you use Linux, well, IE is not a consideration. A while back, I found a browser to get excited about, and remain so, no matter which platform I use. All politics and prejudice aside, this is the best browser available.

Firefox has lots of useful (and useless) plugins. Oh, and its searchbar is able to use almost any search engine.

Google Earth

Sadly, this fabulous app is unavailable for anything but Mac OS X (I upgraded to Tiger jut so I could run this) and Windows. Overlooking that, this program is just fun. You are presented with a virtual Earth that can be looked at from every angle. The web site has a wonderful collection of fun and informative tools, like near-real time weather maps, and extra maps and plugins.