Loading...


Apr 25, 2011

Autopatcher is Back Bitches!

Back in September of 2007 I wrote a quick post taking about how Autopatcher was down, and was no longer developing future releases. Well I checked today, and they are back my friends! Now you can get your systems all up to date in one friggin’ shot again and bypass Windows Update!

If you have never used Autopatcher, get ready to live! This tool makes your life so much friggin’ easier especially if you use disk imaging solutions like Symantec Ghost, or Fog and after a few months your images get out of date. With this free tool, you can slam down and image, and get them patched up lickity split! It’s even faster than using WSUS!

Here is a description from their site:

How many times did you have to leave your computer, after a format, to download the updates you had before it? How many times did you have to go do something else, leaving your friend’s computer download the load of updates with their poor little dial-up modem? How many times have you wished for the updates to be portable from one computer to another and not require but a few mouse clicks to install?

If you’re the “computer guy” of the pack, no doubt the answer to the above questions was “I’ve lost count”! And if you have one or two computers you should consider yourself lucky as well. Think of what would happen if you had to update ten or twenty computers daily!

Is there any way to avoid all this trouble?

Besides the updates one finds on Windows Update (which are not portable), Microsoft also issues special updates (called administrative updates or network install updates), which do not require an Internet connection present during the installation process. The user however will have to answer to a series of (for the most part identical) questions. Even this can be an annoyance since it requires the user’s presence for quite some time.

The solution!

AutoPatcher is based on the functionality of these special updates, automating their installation process. This way, with only a few mouse clicks and two minutes of your time, AutoPatcher is able to continue with the installation of the items you selected. In short, AutoPatcher combines the advantage of both Windows Update (presentation and description of updates and automated installation), and the special administrative updates (portability and installation without the need of an Internet connection).

AutoPatcher

A new thing I like in this version is besides Microsoft products, it also now provides updates for Adobe Reader and Adobe Air too! Boom!

AutoPatcher Adobe

I am super excited about this! Autopatcher made my life a lot easier before it went away, and now that it is back and compatible with Windows 7 as well as updating non-Microsoft products it will make my life easier again!

Do you know of any tools like Autopatcher? Are the free? Let us know in the comments.

Apr 22, 2011

The Role of Certifications

I thought I would post this article because I have been thinking about it lately. I’ve been thinking about it because I have been spending the last few months boning up on certifications. Wednesday in fact, I completed the Microsoft 70-646 exam which was the last test I needed to get my MCITP: Server Administrator.

If you are not in the loop, Microsoft has changed the way they do certifications. The big bread and butter certs were MCSA and MCSE. Well, Microsoft has gotten rid of those certs and replaced them with a new series. It allows IT professionals to certify in certain areas of IT easier. Still though, there are a couple that are basically the same as before. I would say that the MCITP: Server Administrator was closest to the MCSA, and the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator is most closest to MCSE.

CompTIASo what does that mean if you are a hiring manager? For one, if you are interviewing a candidate that boasts that they are an MCSE, it means they are not current on the latest technologies. If you are a manager that cares about certs, that’s a big deal. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t know what they are doing.

You see the real trick about certifications is not that you have them, it’s what you know. If you have a certification, it looks great on a resume, and will get your foot in the door. That’s where the certification’s job really stops. If it can get you in for an interview, then it’s done it’s job. Pure and simple. Now the rest is up to you. If you don’t know what you are talking about in the interview, then you won’t get the job.

Another thing a certification will do for you is give you more weight when an employer is trying to decide between two good candidates. If they have to choose between two talented individuals, one is certified and the other is not, then chances are the employer will choose the candidate that is certified. Certifications, like college degrees, show employers that you can set goals for yourself and work to achieve them.

So in the end, the certification is really only good for resume decoration. They look great on paper, but the real test of a technician is not what they know both with book smarts, but what they have learned in actual experience. I should know, I work to get certs mainly for their value on my resume, but it’s my every day experience in the trenches that has gotten me my jobs.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Apr 18, 2011

Open Source Cola?

I was bumming around Stumbleupon this morning while watching a training video getting ready for my upcoming Microsoft Certification test. The video was on WSUS, which is fairly rudimentary so I was zoning out. Anyway, I came across something really interesting.

We have all heard of Open Source software right? I mean I write about Open Source software on Bauer-Power all the time. Open Source is usually free, and that’s what makes it awesome! Also the fact that the source code itself is freely available, and modifiable is another thing that makes it really great.

What about Cola though? Wouldn’t it be great if Coke or Pepsi released their secret formula so we could make their drinks at home? They of course would never do that because if they did that, you might make it yourself and wouldn’t need to buy their product any more right?

Well, a group of guys got together and did exactly that. They created a Cola that is completely Open Source. By that I mean the recipe is freely available, and also modifiable. You are free to modify their recipe to make your own cola and even sell it as long as you release your recipe under the same GNU GPL.

Want to try to make it yourself? From Wikipedia, here is the recipe:

OpencolaFlavoring Formula:

  • 10.0 g food-grade gum arabic
  • 3.50 mL orange oil
  • 3.00 mL water
  • 2.75 mL lime oil
  • 1.25 mL cassia oil
  • 1.00 mL lemon oil
  • 1.00 mL nutmeg oil
  • 0.25 mL coriander oil
  • 0.25 mL neroli oil
  • 0.25 mL lavender oil

Concentrate Formula:

  • 2.36 kg plain granulated white table sugar
  • 2.28 L water
  • 30.0 mL caramel color
  • 17.5 mL (3.50 tsp.) 75% phosphoric acid or citric acid
  • 10.0 mL (2.00 tsp.) flavoring formula
  • 2.50 mL (0.50 tsp.) caffeine (optional)

Dilution:

After mixing up the concentrate to the prescribed recipe, the syrup is diluted 5:1 with ("preferably sodium-free") soda water to make the finished drink; at this dilution, the above combination of ingredients will yield approximately 24 litres of OpenCola.

For more detailed instructions, and also ways of carbonating the concoction (I personally would probably just drop a brick of dry ice into the mix) visit this link here: (ColaWP.com)

Have you ever made Open Cola? Think you are going to try it yourself? Let us know how it went/goes in the comments!

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,

Apr 13, 2011

PWN Your Friends on Foursquare and Facebook Places

I recently posted that I may be slightly addicted to Foursquare, the social media game you play with your friends as well as gets you good deals and helps you discover your city. Well I think I may have taken my social game play to a whole new level.

A couple of days ago I got an email from my friend Ryan telling me about an app for his iPhone called Checkmate. With Checkmate, and $0.99 you can set your Foursquare check-ins on autopilot. You never even have to take your phone out of your pocket because Checkmate will automatically check in for you.

That’s awesome! However I don’t have an iPhone, and I don’t like paying for apps. That got me thinking though about apps for my Android, so I decided to hit up the Android Marketplace to look for a similar app that’s free.

Enter Mayor Monster Ninja! Not only is it free, but it supports check-in for Facebook Places as well as Foursquare! Double PWNAGE! Here is a description from the Marketplace:

Mayor_Monster_NinjaMayorMonster makes you the NINJA of social world! :-)
Social places is 'where' we have the best fun! You want to share your place and be more social.

Monsters will do check-ins on Foursquare and take over all mayorships for you! You can even use Facebook places and Ninja style check-in to any venue you like!

Browse venues, check-ins, auto-checkin history, add venues to your list, customize the service and wait for Monsters to take over venues for you...

  • Monsters mode: does auto-check-in to list of venues you selected
  • LocationSpy mode: does auto-check-in when you are close to venues you checked in before.

You can use any of these modes or both of them together, as you wish!
Key features:

  • Foursquare places / check-in
  • Facebook places / check-in
  • Ninja style check-in
  • AutoCheck-in by Monsters

Mayor Monster NINJA is fully integrated with Foursquare and Facebook places!

Is this cheating? Well, if by cheating you mean helpful, then yes! Do you use a similar app? Let us know what you think about this tool in the comments.

Apr 12, 2011

Free Online Disk Partitioner For Windows

As many of you know, by day I am a VMware administrator. I manage hundreds of virtual Windows machines. Every once in a while these machines start running low on disk space. In the old days, on physical servers, if you were running low on disk space you had to do major cleanup. If cleanup wasn’t possible, then you had to look at cloning the drive to a bigger drive, and running some offline disk partitioning software like Gparted to fill the entire disk right? Each of those things requires downtime. Downtime sucks.

Well, Windows Vista, 2008, 7, and 2008 R2 come along and smartened up. Plus you have the awesomeness of virtualization and now all of a sudden things are easier. In VMware you can just add an extra 10 Gigs of disk space to your system drive all willy nilly like, then in your newer Windows OS, just go into the disk manager and extend the volume. Easy peasy right?

What about legacy operating systems? By that I mean something like Windows 2003 R2 64bit? Well with that you are shit out of luck pal. You can still add the extra 10GB to your system partition, but you can’t extend it without rebooting to your GParted live CD again.

Well, at least with Windows XP and below there is a free solution. It is called EASUS Partition Master Home. With it, and just like Vista and Windows 7, you can move and resize your disk partitions on the fly without rebooting!

easus-partition-manager-software

Here are a list of benefits from their website:

  • FREE partition manager for Windows 32 bit & 64 bit HOME USERS. No Adware and Toolbar.
  • Support removable devices like flash drives and memory cards.
  • Extend system partition to maximize computer performance.
  • Partition Manager utility for better hard disk management and computer performance maximization.
  • Copy Wizard to copy partition or migrate entire hard disk to another without Windows system reinstallation.

So that’s cool that it is free for workstations, but what about us folks that work on servers?

Well, EASUS makes a version for servers as well called EASUS Partition Master Server, however it is not free. For about $160 per server though, this will let you re-size server partitions without rebooting. If you have a whole slew of servers, you may want to purchase the enterprise edition for $400.

Of course, there are sites that are giving away the server edition for free… *wink* *wink*

What software do you use to resize partitions on the fly without rebooting? Know of any free ones that you can use on a Windows Server? Let us know in the comments.

Apr 11, 2011

How To Find a Driver For an Unknown Device

Sometimes there are things when working with computers that really just chaps your hide. Well, at the very least it chaps my hide. One of those things is right after performing a fresh install of Windows, and you are installing device drivers. There is always that one f’ing driver that you can’t find to an ambiguous device that is “Unknown”.

Like the rest of us you go to the manufacturer’s website, Dell, HP or whatever, and start looking for all the possible drivers that might foot the bill, but alas none of them make sense. Is it the chipset driver? Hell no! Is it the Bluetooth driver? Nope! Is it the biometric driver? Nada! WTF is this thing?

You see where I’m going with this right? Well it turns out that a tool that I blogged about back in 2007 called DriverMax actually can scan your computer, identify the device, and download the driver for you. All in one app! When I originally blogged about it, all I mentioned was it’s ability to backup drivers from one PC to another. Well, it will also update your drivers to the latest versions, and will help you identify those pesky unknowns too! Plus, it’s free! All you have to do is register an account.

To test it out, one of the Desktop techs I work with gave me an HP Elitebook 8440p that he just couldn’t find the right driver for. We had everything else installed except the one *gasp* unknown device!

Computer Management_2011-04-08_11-38-12

I went ahead and launched DriverMax, and after first running the Driver Updates wizard, I ran the Identify Unknown Hardware Wizard.

DriverMax - 2

After a few seconds the scan was done DriverMax opened up a web browser to a page showing me what the device most likely was, and gave me a link where I could search the DriverMax site for the driver.

Identified hardware - Windows Internet Explorer_2011-04-08_11-38-35

It turned out that the missing device was for a built in biometric scanner. The Desktop tech said that he swore he downloaded that from the HP website, and it couldn’t possibly be the missing driver. I decided to download the driver from the DriverMax site to test it out. Guess what? It WAS the missing driver!

validity-sensor

As I mentioned above Drivermax is free, and registering an account is free but there are limitations that aren’t there if you pay for their premium subscription which is about $30. I think for most of us though, the free version will do what we need. Usually that is to find that one pesky f’ing driver!

Know of another free tool like this? How about one that you don’t have to register, or one without limitations? Let us know about your favorite driver software in the comments!

Apr 8, 2011

Evolution of A Techie Dorm Room

I was surfing around Stumbleupon today, and came across this picture I thought would make you guys laugh. Especially if you are a techie that attended college. Now, this pic doesn’t really apply to me because while I was going to college I was married, so I lived with my wife and couldn’t decorate my living quarters in such nerdy ways. Although if I did have my own place, it would most likely look like one of the images below.

 

In the below image from CourseHero.com, the artist takes you through an evolution of the natural collegiate habitat of the techie from the early to mid 1990’s to modern day. Enjoy!

 

del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Apr 7, 2011

My Clean PC? Save Your Money. You Don’t Need It!

I’m sure you’ve seen it, the commercial for MyCleanPC.com telling you to get  a free diagnostic scan of your PC and it will magically make it super fast! Hell, they say that even if you have anti-virus on your machine, you could still be vulnerable to a virus attack.

Ok, that last part is slightly true. There is a chance you can have a virus that your antivirus might not catch. I’m willing to bet though that MyCleanPC won’t catch it either. Mainly because it is not an anti-virus, or anti-malware scanner at all. It is a registry cleaner. You would think with the way they talk about it in the commercial, that it’s the next best thing since Symantec, but alas, it’s not!

So what’s a registry cleaner you ask? According to Wikipedia:

A registry cleaner is a type of software utility designed for the Microsoft Windows operating system whose purpose is to remove redundant or unwanted items from the Windows registry. However, the necessity and usefulness of registry cleaners is a controversial topic, with experts in disagreement over their benefit. The problem is further clouded by the fact that malware and scareware are often associated with utilities of this type.

If you haven’t seen the commercial, here you go:

 

I ran a scan for shits and giggles on my netbook. Here are the results:

MyCleanPC Registry Cleaner_2011-04-06_22-29-37

Now doesn’t all that red look scary? Doesn’t it just make you want to click that giant green button so you can go buy the program? Before you do, you should know that this is fairly common. As you use a computer over time, you tend to accumulate junk. Certainly not evidence of a *gasp* virus!

Many IT techs would recommend against using registry cleaners because some times the cleaner might delete something it shouldn’t have and it could make your computer worse. Frankly, any time you mess with the registry you take that risk. On the flipside of the coin, some admins swear by them.

Personally, I can take or leave registry cleaners. I have used them in the past, but I have never seen a solid performance increase from using one. Generally if your PC is slow, you need to run a defrag on your hard drive, and do a spyware cleanup. Registry cleaning can be a bonus on that.

So lets say you are hell bent on using a registry cleaner. MyCleanPC is roughly $40 for the full version. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little while typing that. $40? Give me a break. If you want to use a registry cleaner, I recommend good ol’ CCleaner. It’s fast, proven, effective and most importantly it’s free!

ccleaner

What about you? What’s your take on registry cleaners? Like them, dislike them, non-committal? Let us know your opinion on this subject in the comments!

Apr 6, 2011

I’m Addicted To Foursquare!

I think it’s time that I come out and talk about a problem I am having lately. I know the first stop on the road to recovery is admitting that I have a problem. No, my problem is not smoking 7oz crack rocks like Charlie Sheen. My problem is that I am addicted to the online social media game known as Foursquare.

I’ve been a member for a while, but only recently got into it. I started off slow. Only really checking in if I thought about it. You know, casual use. Then I finally got the integration with Twitter and Facebook working correctly on my HTC Evo, and it’s like a whole new world has been revealed to me! You see I already liked updating my Twitter feed and Facebook with random nonsense I was doing throughout the day, but Foursquare lets me do that while at the same time trying to outdo my friends!

You get points for checking into places, and points for stuff like discovering your first Martial Arts Dojo. If you visit a particular place the most, you can become the Mayor! So you are probably thinking what a tremendous waste of time it is, but before you click off the blog keep reading a bit.

FourSquare-Logo

You see, Foursquare isn’t just a game, it’s a way to discover new places while also getting sweet deals! Yes, I said you get deals! Some businesses realized that Foursquare gave people wandering about a reason to check out their establishment by allowing businesses to offer you free stuff, discounts etc. just for checking in. Many places give really great deals just for becoming Mayor!

So any way, I may have a problem. However until I get help, I would love for you to join me! I’m ElDiPablo!

del.icio.us Tags: ,,

Apr 5, 2011

Small Business Accounting Software Simplified and FREE

It’s tax season again, and all of us are turning out our pockets so good ol’ Uncle Sam can get his piece of our pie. Who am I to tell Uncle Sam he can’t have my hard earned money? So my wife and I went down to our new accountant’s office. This year I got an accountant that is familiar with blogging and technology because as I started to do last year, I am writing off my blog’s expenses since I actually make money off it.

So I’m showing the accountant my Google Adsense info, and explain to her about the blog and she proceeds to tell me that I can no longer consider my blog as a hobby, and I have to start considering it a business that is trying to make a profit. Since it’s a business I need to start keeping better track of my income and expenses.

I never took it too seriously because my last accountant first of all didn’t know what a blog was, treated it like a hobby, and pretty much didn’t take it too seriously. Many of the receipts I brought to her to write off she laughed at and said no. My new accountant is completely opposite. Especially when she sees the amount of Google money I bring in per month. Anyway, it’s time to get organized with my money.

The first thing she had me do was open a new bank account dedicated to Bauer-Power income. From there I needed to find an accounting program to keep track of my spending and earnings. Fairly simple right?

I looked online for an Open Source alternative to Quickbooks, or Peachtree and found a program called PostBooks by Xtuple. It was a really robust accounting system that offered way more than basic book keeping. A little too much for what I needed in fact. I mean I wasn't really doing any point of sale, Billing, Payroll etc. All I do is write some stuff about software on a blog, or how to fix computer problems and you guys do the rest by clicking on ads if they interest you.

easy-cash-managerNope, all I needed was something I could track income and expense, then print that out in a report. I found that in a super simple program called Easy Cash Manager. Here is a description from Moor Computer Programs, the creators of the tool:

Easy Cash Manager is a simple book-keeping program. You can use the program to keep records of your incomes and expenses. You're probably wondering why you shouldn't just use Excel for that. I will explain. Excel is a spreadsheet program which has a lot of functions. The versatility is quite useful, because you have a lot of functionality in one single program. But from the other side, sometimes you need a lot of time to find out how exactly you can do what you want to do, or sometimes you don't understand how to get certain configuration right. Easy Cash Manager is a very simple program with only a few functions. Easy Cash Manager is meant for people who just want to manage their financial stuff without having to read three books "Excel for beginners" before they know how to.

Myself, I'm a lazy computer user and I find that everybody can be. If I want to do something with my computer, I simply don't want to use programs which are too complex to understand in a short time. I prefer using programs which are very easy because they are created for exactly what I want to do. Easy Cash Manager is such a program, meant for simple book-keeping. The program doesn't have many functions that you won't use, so you will learn how to use the program very easily. The program has been created for usability and the word 'ease' is very important.

All the above applies to me exactly. I didn’t want something like Quickbooks, Peachtree or even PostBooks because they were too damned complicated. Lets face it, I’m not an accountant. I can however keep track of my income and expenses then print out a simple report, or even export my info to a CSV file to give to my accountant who knows what to do with the numbers. I’m not sure you can make it easier than that. Plus it’s free!

The only problem I’ve found is that this software comes in an ugly green color by default, but that can be easily changed by going to Display > Coulour Scheme and choosing your color scheme.

Easy Cash Manager_Color_Scheme

Are you a blogger that makes a little Adsense money on the side? How do you keep track of it for tax time? Let us know in the comments.

Apr 4, 2011

Last PWN3D Post! Deleted Domain Accounts. Meh.

Ok, so this is going to be my last post on my recent encounter with a hack attack. If you haven’t been following for the last few posts, a local business owner I trade services with got his Domain Controller hacked into, and the hacker did some mischievous things to make the business owner’s life difficult.

The last thing I will talk about that the hacker did was delete a couple of domain user accounts. The reason I saved this for last is because it is also the easiest to fix. Also, I have written about restoring tombstoned Active Directory accounts in the past using a free tool called ADRestore.net.

The reason this works, and is easy to fix, is that when you delete an account in Active Directory, kind of like deleting something on your desktop, it’s not really deleted. Instead of going to never never land, the account is just marked as a tombstone in Active Directory, and hidden. Sure, after a while the tombstones get cleaned out, but that takes a while. As long as you discover the missing account soon enough, you can recover it.

ADRestore

With ADRestore.net, you can browse the tombstones in Active Directory and restore them easily with a click of the mouse. Read my original post about ADRestore.net here: (ADRestore.net)

Apr 1, 2011

Domain Backdoor Accounts? Ah Crap!

This will be my second to last post on the topic of, “Oh sweet baby Jesus! My client got his Domain Controller Hacked!” If you haven’t been following my posts for the last few days, a local business man and I sort of barter for services. I fix his computers and he gives me and my family free stuff. Well, a few days ago it turned out that his Domain Controller got rooted. Nice!

So far in this series I’ve mentioned how I was able to reset the Domain Admin password because the attacker changed it. I talked about how I think the attacker got in, and what I did to fix that. Now I’m going to talk about something else I found on this server. Backdoor accounts!

Never heard of a backdoor account? Here is a clip from the movie Tron Legacy as an example of how a backdoor account can be used:

 

So you get the idea right? Basically according to Wikipedia a Backdoor is:

…a method of bypassing normal authentication, securing remote access to a computer, obtaining access to plaintext, and so on, while attempting to remain undetected. The backdoor may take the form of an installed program (e.g., Back Orifice) or may subvert the system through a rootkit.

built-inOr in this case, new accounts with higher level access than they should. Along with newly created accounts, they also changed some built-in accounts. Once account  was called something like SUPPORT_3746578e0. If you ever look into the built in accounts for some Windows operating systems, this account is is used for Microsoft Support to fix your machine for you. By default this account should be in the HelpServicesGroup only. The other account they messed with was Guest. By default this account should only be a member of the Guests group.

Well this hacker went ahead and put the above accounts in the Built-In Administrators group as well as the Domain Administrators groups. He also created a couple of other rather legit looking accounts, and added them to those same groups. He probably did this so if one of his accounts got discovered, he could get in with another. Good idea.

I went ahead and deleted the ones they created, but for the built-in accounts if you delete them, they will come back at reboot. So for them I renamed them and changed their passwords to a ridiculously long random password, removed them from the above groups, and set their login hours to denied. I also created a fake Guest account with a similar ridiculously long password and no access as well. I also went through all the groups with administrative access and removed any suspicious accounts that had no business being there.

After a reboot for something else I was working on, I found that the hacker had put something in place that restored Administrator access to the built-in accounts of Guest and SUPPORT_3746578e0. Pretty slick if you asked me. This time it was the fake Guest account that had the access though, that’s how I knew something was amiss!

Tiger craneI checked in all the usual places for startup scripts, but couldn’t find where that guy put it. For that I just had to fight his Kung Fu with some Tiger Crane, and write my own startup script that deleted those accounts at startup, and checked for them every so often and if found delete them. Kind of a pain in the arse if you ask me!

On top of my script I also created a group policy that restricted the members of the Domain Admins group and the Built-in Administrators group to just the user accounts that needed to be there.

I am fairly certain I got all the backdoors, and cut off the attacker’s access. Still though, after you’ve been compromised you can’t be too sure. That is why I have been actively monitoring the security logs vigilantly, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Got any other suggestions? Places to look for that damned startup script? Anything you would do differently? Let me know in the comments.

del.icio.us Tags: ,,,



Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

 
Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | stopping spam