Feb 14, 2017

4 Software Tools to Help Run and Operate Your PC Like a Pro

We often use cars as analogies for computers, but it's not exactly a 1:1 matchup. With cars, hardware modifications are responsible for improvements, but with computers, both hardware and software can make a difference. Here are four kinds of software tools you can use to run your computer like a pro.

Hardware Monitor Tools

Software tools can help you monitor your hardware to make sure your computer is running smoothly under the hood. Like smartphones, computers generate a lot of heat, with some parts running as hot as boiling water. Heat sinks and fans may be needed to keep your computer from overheating — and if these parts aren’t working correctly, your computer can be at risk of malfunction.

Hardware monitoring tools help you keep your computer’s temperature under control and your machine running right. These tools give you dashboards that display key hardware information, including the voltage and temperature of different parts of your computer, and how well your fans are running. Some of today’s best hardware monitoring tools include HWMonitor, Speed Fan and Open Hardware Monitor.

PC Tune-up Utilities

To keep your computer running at top speed, you need a PC tune-up utility. With constant use, your computer will inevitably start to slow down. Outdated drivers from obsolete apps, archived files you no longer use and large cached data can all slow down your performance.

PC tune-up utilities help fix this problem, automating tasks such as defragging your hard drive, fixing your Windows registry, and deleting duplicate files to free up disk space. Some utilities also have advanced functions such as optimizing your boot process. PC tune-up utilities come in both freeware and premium varieties. CCleaner is a popular free tune-up utility, but PCMag rates iolo System Mechanic as today’s best premium option.

Password Managers

A long password is a strong password, but the downside is that it can be hard to remember. Of course, creating one that's hard to remember makes it tempting to leave that information lying around on a sticky note, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a password altogether. On the other hand, creating a password along the likes of "ABC123" can make it easy to crack.

Password managers overcome these difficulties by automatically generating strong passwords for each site you visit that requires a login. The manager program then saves and inputs your passwords for you the next time you log in, relieving you of the need to type it in each time. Advanced password managers can also remember billing information for credit card purchases. Some managers have other advanced features such as syncing your passwords across all your devices.

Automated Cloud Backups

In an age of rampant cybercrime and ransomware, having reliable backups for your data is a necessity. Without a good backup system, you run the risk of losing all your files at any time. The most efficient way to back up your data is to schedule automated cloud backups. Backing up your data on the cloud allows you an unlimited amount of storage space. Top backup services such as Mozy provide military-grade encryption to ensure your data stays safe in the cloud.

Feb 12, 2017

I admit it. I'm a huge professional wrestling nerd!

PThis isn't going to be a technical post today. It's definitely going to fall in the realm of geekiness though, and it's something I need to get off my chest for some reason. Sort of like alcoholism I guess, one only truly can get help if they admit they have a problem. Then again, like is famously said, it's not a problem if you do it every day!

In all serious though, I love professional wrestling. I am what they say in the business, a huge mark! I am not going to lie and say I've been some super fan my whole life. I obviously enjoyed it when I was a kid in the 80's with Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, The Junkyard Dog, Rowdy Roddy Piper, etc. I stopped watching in the early 90's during my high school years. It was in the late 1998 that got into it again when I was in the Navy. We used to huddle around the TV in our berthing area every Monday and watch Monday Night Raw. It was awesome!

Like an idiot, I got married in 2000, and my wife hated professional wrestling so I stopped watching it for a very long time. When I got divorced in 2014 I decided to see what was going on in the WWE and I was hooked again! Since I became single again, I've also branched out into watching the bigger independent promotions like Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground and most recently WCPW. I can't get enough!

In fact, I am a very active person these days. I like to go jogging every day, and on my jogs I listen to wrestling podcasts like Conversation with The Big Guy, WrestleZone Radio and Talk is Jericho!

Wrestling is Fake

The biggest criticism I hear of professional wrestling is that it's fake. In response to that I always say, it's not fake, it's scripted! In all serious though, everyone knows that matches are pre-determined, the punches are pulled, the kicks are sold, etc. That being said, the risks profession wrestler take to put on their live performance is very real. Jumping off a 20 foot high steel cage and landing on a table hurts. Yes, the table breaks your fall, but it still hurts. Having a 250 pound man land on you from a 20 foot fall also hurts very much. I'll say it again, the risks are real.

Shane McMahon Elbow Drop Off Hell In a Cell at Wrestle Mania 32

Not only do some of these stunts hurt, they also sometimes end careers. Here is a video with a young Steve Austin in Japan performing a pile driver incorrectly and breaking Masahiro Chono's neck in 1992.

The ironic thing about that is that Steve Austin later in his WWE run would also suffer a career ending neck injury when Owen Hart botched the exact same move.

The pile driver has effectively been banned in WWE because of this sort of thing. They still allow a less risky version of the pile driver known as the Tomb Stone pile driver, and it's only allowed to be done by The Undertaker and Kane, two of WWE's biggest and strongest performers.

Just last year during the inaugural Universal Championship match, Seth Rollins threw Finn Balor into the ring barricade and it dislocated Balor's shoulder. Balor popped his shoulder back in and finished the match anyway like a complete bad ass, and went on to be the inaugural Universal Champion only to have to give up his title the next night because he had to go on hiatus due to his injury.

Check it out.

So now we know the risks are real, and the injuries are real there is still a problem with predetermined endings right? Well, not really if you stop thinking of it like fake fighting, and more like you are watching a staged performance. You would never go to a circus and say that the trapeze act, or the tight rope walking acts are fake. They are just as scripted, but the risk is real! Think of it more like a live action stunt spectacular!

Another way to look at it is like watching an action movie, or a TV show like Game of Thrones. You don't watch those things and yell at the screen that it's fake right? It's entertainment, it has a good story, and looks real enough that you can get into it.

Bottom line, it's supposed to be fun.

Some People Think MMA is Better

Some people prefer to watch real fighting. I get that, and I enjoy a good MMA fight myself having grown up taking martial arts classes off and on my whole life. I like watching a great fight! That being said, is MMA better? Not in my opinion, and the reason why is the lack of story and it is hard to follow sometimes.

When you have two random guys rolling on the ground grappling, it can be hard to see exactly what they are doing, and that sometimes makes me lose interest. In wrestling, movements are big, flashy and there is always a cool finishing move like in a good video game! I'd prefer to see Randy Orton hit an RKO out of nowhere a million times than see one fight where Conor McGregor chokes someone out. Real MMA endings are more often than not pretty boring.

The Apparel is Cool

My girlfriend can attest that I have way too many wrestler tshirts. I have some from WWE Shop, some from TNA's Shop, and a few from Pro Wrestling Tees. I like the last one the best because a big portion of the sales go directly to the wrestlers instead of the promoters and that's how most of the independent guys make their money.

I also have a bunch from TeePublic which I like because the fit is perfect, and the designs are super unique because they are made by fans. At the time of this writing, you can take 25% off your order too with code COOLCAT25 at checkout. Here are a few of my favorites:

Tyrus T-Shirt

The Shirt of Jericho - Drink it in!

Moose T-Shirt
Finn Balor T-Shirt

I Prefer Sports Entertainment Over Sport

In the end, I think I just prefer to be entertained over the actual sport of it. You like your favorite football, basketball and baseball teams right? Well, I like my favorite wrestlers and wrestling promotions. It's the story that draws me in, and the whole spectacle of it that makes me stay. It's also really amazing to see these amazing stunts being performed, and if done well, nobody seriously gets hurt doing it. As mentioned above, that's not always the case either, and when a serious injury does happen, it's amazing to see these performers power through it all to put on a good show.

Tonight is a great night for it too because WWE SmackDown Live is having their Elimination Chamber special tonight and WCPW is also having their True Destiny special! Time to get the beer and popcorn ready!

Jan 23, 2017

3 Services Like Uber, But For IT Freelancers

I spend a lot of time thinking about the future. I'll be honest, I'm coming up on six years at my currently company that shall not be named. I love working here, and hope to keep working here for the very far reaching future. I've told others that I work with, that as long as the company sees value in me, I'll be loyal to the company. Still though, you never know what might happen.

For a lot of you in the Information Technology (IT) business, you probably work in a big city. So getting laid-off, although it still sucks, as long as you have a good looking resume and know your stuff, you will find a new job relatively quick. It's the best thing about IT, everyone uses computers so there is always a need for IT experts.

Well, that was my thinking until I moved to a podunk little one-horse town in nowhere Colorado. It is a rural area with a ton of small businesses, and no permanent IT jobs! Everyone out here outsources to independent contractors, and the only jobs don't pay what you can make in the big city. This situation makes me kind of nervous, because if my current company decides that they don't like me working remotely from podunk Colorado, then what will I do?

Well, I've been planning it for the last few years actually. I call it my "plan b", and that is to start my own independent IT consulting business. I got to talking with a local dentist up the street about who fixes his computers when they have issues. He said he had to call a company in a town that is an hour away, and usually it takes them a few days before they can come on site. That means that when something goes down for this dentist, his business could potentially be on hold for a few days! What's that I smell? Opportunity!

Back when I first got into IT in San Diego, I used to do my own home computer business on the side. I learned then that if push came to shove, I could make money on my own. I also learned about a few tools one can use to get jobs, and they are sort of like Uber, the independent taxi-like service that is letting millions of people work on their own time and use their car to make money. These tools, unlike Uber, are geared towards IT people. Here they are:

All of these services have apps that you can download to your phone. They will also send you email and text alerts when contract or freelance jobs come up!

When you are thinking about setting out on your own, and being your own boss it can be a scary prospect. However, if you plan for it right, and execute it properly, you can make decent money doing freelance work like this and being your own boss.

Like I said, for me this is my plan B option. I sincerely hope things continue your work out with my current company, but you never know what the future may bring. It gives me peace of mind having options like the services above to know that I will be able to find work if I need it.

Jan 4, 2017

Trying a new backup software program at home

For years I have been using Crashplan for home backups, but I stopped using their cloud service for backups because if I forget to renew they delete all my backups in the cloud and I have to start over. I started just using their software to backup to a local NAS device I have with RAID5 enabled. I figure that was good enough for most things I needed.

Well, I noticed that on my laptop that I had configured to backup to the NAS (Using a technique I developed) stopped working. I'm not sure if Crashplan got wise to it or what, but it stopped backing my stuff up and said it couldn't connect to the backup location. I decided I needed to use something else.

I at first thought about using the built in Windows backup program, but the problem with that is that it doesn't use encryption or offer an option to password protect your backups. I'm backing up files from my Bitlocker Encrypted files to an un-encrypted NAS device. I don't want to compromise that encryption security by storing my files un-encrypted on the backup device. Makes sense right?

So I decided to try out a free third party backup program called AOMEI Backupper Standard!

Here are the features from their page:

  • Backup system and create a system image to keep Windows and applications safe.
  • Backup entire hard disk (HDD), SSD or specified partitions to create an image file.
  • Backup or sync your most important files and folders on a regular basis.
  • Set and forget with automatic backup, incremental/differential backups to save time and storage.
  • Clone a smaller HDD to a larger HDD for disk upgrade, or clone HDD to SSD for better performance.
  • Real-time file sync: monitor files for changes and synchronize new added, modified or deleted files from source to target path as soon as the change has occurred.
Besides what's listed, they also offer encryption and compression settings as well as the ability to email you when backups complete or fail so you can set it and forget it!

I will try this out for the next few weeks. If it continues to work well, I think I may have found my new backup solution!

Jan 1, 2017

ExtraTorrent under major DDoS attack

ExtraTorrent has been under massive DDoS attack for the last few days. It's still going on apparently. For the last few days users may have noticed their RSS feeds are no longer working because if it. Also if you try to browse to their site now, you are greeted with the following CloudFlare DDoS protection screen:

I've also noticed that periodically you will also see a 503 Service Unavailable error, or you will get an error page from CloudFlare saying they can't connect to the backend web servers.

This has obviously been happening since at least around Christmas time. TorrentFreak reported the following on December 27th:

The popular torrent site ExtraTorrent has suffered several major DDoS attacks over the past few days. The problems appear to be related to the site's recent ban of 'unofficial' proxy services. Meanwhile, The Pirate Bay is also down, but for now it's unclear what's causing the issues on their end. 
ExtraTorrent, one of the largest torrent sites on the Internet, just experienced one of the most turbulent weekends in its ten year history. 
While many people were celebrating Christmas, the site’s operators were busy keeping the site online, after it was pounded by DDoS attacks. 
“Extratorrent faced tons of cyberattacks over the last three days. Most of them were DDOS attacks. Cloudflare can’t help us because we get 40 to 50 million requests from the U.S. every hour!” ExtraTorrent’s SAM informed us. 
To counter the attacks the site temporarily limited several functions to save resources. The login functionality for users is disabled, for example, so there are no fresh torrents. In addition, the site’s operators have removed the added protection against unofficial mirror and proxy sites.

In the meantime, you can use alternative sites like LimeTorrents or Yify to get your movies and TV shows although none of them support RSS feeds. Hopefully ExtraTorrent can get this straightened out soon.

Dec 21, 2016

Getting Exchange or Office365 Calendar to Sync on your Google Pixel

Merry Christmas to me! I was due for a phone upgrade with Verizon so I opted for the new Google Pixel phone! I went with the 5" model because I hate giant "Zack Morris" phones. So far I like everything on the Pixel except how Google wants you to setup email.

If the only email you use is Gmail, then you have nothing to worry about. By default the only email client that comes with the Pixel is the Gmail client, and it works well for Gmail users.

However, if you are like me and millions of other users, you need Exchange or Office365 support for work email. The Gmail client will setup the email part for that fine, but it will not work with Exchange/Office365 calendar. WTF Google!?

No problem, Bauer-Power here! To make this work, you just need an easy to use third party email client. I found a free one that works great in the Google Play store called VMWare Boxer Email!

The cool thing about it, at least on the Pixel, is that it integrates with the Google Calendar client. VMWare Boxer has it's own built in calendar display though, so if you want to use Google's Calendar client you will want to disable calendar notifications in VMWare Boxer.

For you Evernote users, VMWare Boxer has integration for that as well!

Once I installed VMWare Boxer for email, everything else on the Pixel was pretty bad ass. My only gripe is their lack of Exchange support.

Do you have a Pixel? Do you like it? Dislike it? Let us know in the comments.

Dec 20, 2016

How To Handle NAT Reflection on a Sonicwall for a Cisco Expressway One NIC Configuration

Holy hell folks. I ran into an issue over the last few weeks that seemed way harder than it should have been in my opinion. The problem I ran into was a mix of a difference in terminology between Cisco and Sonicwall, and how they handle traffic going from an internal LAN to a WAN IP. For instance, for this setup Cisco said that I needed a NAT reflection policy on my firewall. Well, Sonicwall doesn't know what a NAT reflection policy is, because they call it a loopback policy.

Another thing I ran into is how Sonicwall handles loopback, it's not how Cisco wants it done. For instance, when you want an internal LAN server to talk to another server on it's public IP address, Sonicwall NAT's the connection outbound in order to communicate to the public IP of the server you want to connect to,

Ok, that being said, here is a really basic diagram of my setup. The IP addresses have been changed to protect the innocent. In this example, is the public IP of my Expressway-E device that is NAT'd to it's internal LAN IP of The Expressway-E is setup with a single NIC, with static NAT enabled.

In this configuration, Expressway-C ( sends traffic to the public NAT IP of Expressway-E ( so Cisco says you need a NAT reflection policy on your firewall. In an ASA firewall, you would configure that as follows:

object network obj-

object network obj-

object network obj-

nat (inside,outside) source static obj- obj- destination static
obj- obj-
Simple enough right? Not on Sonicwall. What I found, as I mentioned before, is that with the loopback policy, which Sonicwall documentation, and support says needs to be configured from "All firewalled subnets" usually, causes the outbound traffic of Expressway-C to be NAT'd to a public IP address in order to send traffic to the public NAT'd IP address of Expressway-E. Because of that nonsense, in order for traffic to flow the way you need it to, you actually have to assign a public NAT address for Expressway-C as well, and configure it for NAT, then use the internal and external IP of Expressway-C in a specific loopback policy with Expressway-E... Confused yet?

Let me see if I can break this down...

On the Sonicwall, assign a public IP address for Expressway-C, let's use in this example. You will need to create a NAT rule to to point to Make sure it's reflexive so that the outbound traffic of goes out as as well. Your network should now look like this:

Now you need to create your loopback policy (NAT reflection) as follows:

  • Original Source:
  • Translated Source:
  • Original Destination:
  • Translated Destination:
  • Original Service: Any
  • Translated Service: Original
  • Inbound Interface: Any
  • Outbound Interface: Any
  • Comment: NAT reflection
Once we did that, the Expressway setup correctly, and our external MRA phones were able to register and make inbound and outbound calls. When I set this up my Cisco Engineer's mind was blown, but it was the only way we could get it to work.

One thing to note, even though you created a NAT address for Expressway-C, it's still not exposed to the public in your firewall rules (At least it shouldn't be, if it is you need to check your rules). This whole setup is just so Expressway-E knows who is talking to it, and can send the appropriate traffic back to Expressway-C.

If this is confusing to you, take comfort in the fact that it took me two weeks to figure this out, and Sonicwall support, and Cisco TAC was no help at all. I'm writing this in the hopes that it will help out some other poor Systems/Network Engineer that has to make a Cisco Expressway work with a Sonicwall in the future, because there is no documentation on this ANYWHERE!

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Dec 15, 2016

Holy crap Yahoo! Can't you get your security shit together?

Y from the Yahoo logo
Y from the Yahoo logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's happened yet again. It was only a few months ago when Yahoo revealed that around 500 million of their users had their accounts hacked back in 2014. This latest report double the last report of affected users at roughly 1 billion users! This attack, Yahoo says, dates back to 2013.

From RT:
Yahoo says it believes hackers stole data from more than one billion user accounts in August 2013, making it the email company's largest data breach. 
The tech company said the information stolen by hackers may have included names, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates and security questions and answers. 
The company said it believed bank account information and payment card data was not affected.

Wow Yahoo... Really?

This information is now being made available only because Verizon is looking to buy out the once formidable Internet giant. Verizon is offering a cool $4.8 billion.

With all of the news about Yahoo's crappy security, I think Verizon should lower their bid...

What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments.

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