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Jan 31, 2012

Think X-Men is Fake? Apparently Mutants Really Do Exist!

I was fiddling around the interwebs the other day and came across a really interesting video. It's of a boy named Nong Youhui from Southern China that has a really amazing ability. One that you probably would only see in comics or in an X-Men movie. Young Nong has glow-in-the-dark eyes, and he has friggin' night vision!

Medical tests show that Nong can read perfectly in the dark, and can see as clearly as we all do during the day! Also, Doctors looking into this strange “super power” can’t find anything medically wrong, or harmful with his ability that is very similar to that of a cat. Check out this video:

 

 

What do you think about this? Should he go to Professor Xaviers School for Gifted Youngsters?

Jan 30, 2012

Free Open Source Cloning and Software Deployment

I once wrote here on Bauer-Power about a really great open source cloning solution called FOG. Not only does it handle disk cloning though, but it can do a lot of computer management tasks. It can deploy software, it can rename computers, it can map printers, it can even join computers to Active Directory. All of this for free!

I also wrote an article on how to Sysprep Windows 7 easily. The main reason I wrote that one is because the standard method for creating an answer XML file for Sysprep in Windows 7 is kind of a pain in the butt. My way simplifies it with the help of a free 3rd party tool.

Well I got a related email from Bauer-Power reader, Matt Bradley, on Sysprepping Windows 7 based on my article above, and how FOG's FOGCrypt program fit in. In this latest Tech Chop, I tell you more about FOG, and I try to answer Matt's question about FOGCrypt!

What do you think? Did I answer Matt's question? Do you have a question yourself about FOG? Let me know in the comments!


Jan 27, 2012

Anonymous Taking Down Facebook Tomorrow? Is The Threat Real or Fake?

I read on CNET the other day that Anonymous is planning a massive cyber attack on the social networking giant Facebook tomorrow, January 28th at 12:00AM. Then later on down the article it says that a tweet from @AnonOps said that the video is a hoax. So is the threat real?

It may be real if enough idiots actually listen to the video and download the DDoS tools Low Orbit Ion Cannon or High Orbit Ion Cannon as the notes for the Youtube video suggest. It may not be officially sponsored by the group who started Anonymous, but then again Anonymous is an idea not a group right? So if enough people get together, then that makes the threat real, however doubtful their success may be.

In the video the computerised voice says that even though Facebook has over 60,000, they can still be brought down. Possible maybe, but doubtful. According to the response from Facebook's representative in the CNET article:

We expect Anonymous just like we expect any other attack on any other day. Due to our size, we face the same threats as seen everywhere else on the Web, but we have developed partnerships, backend systems, and protocols to confront the full range of security challenges we face. Facebook has always been committed to protecting our users' information, and we will continue to innovate and work tirelessly to defend this data.

Here is the video from Youtube:


One of the comments on the video from user Dragonking1984 says:

This seems like it's not from Anonymous since bringing down Facebook would be counter to there goal. in fact taking down something like Facebook would only make the people they clame there trying to help mad at them. i think this is someone who wants to discredit this groups work and make them lose popularity in the eyes of the internet community. Also normally Anonymous only goes after those that either do something "unjust" or provoke the group directly. This seems out of character for them.

I tend to agree with Dragonking. I also think that although taking down a big website like Facebook would send a message, it may not be the message one would like to send. Facebook has even come out publicly saying they are against SOPA, so why would you even think about taking them down in protest of SOPA? All it will do is piss off a large group of avid Facebook users that generally back the operations that Anonynmous is doing. They are kind of like Robinhood that way I guess. However if Anonymous, or some other jerks, start attacking innocent sites like Facebook, it will only server to hurt their cause.

Also the video suggests that there is no way the government can take down people who participate in this because there will be too many of them. That is just plain ignorance talking I think. It's up to you though if you want to gamble on your life like that. Being found guilty of performing a DDoS attack can get you up to 10 years in prison! Is it worth it to prove a point that nobody will get? I don't think so.

What do you think about this latest Facebook DDoS threat? Do you think we should worry about the script kiddies that think this is a good idea? I want to know in the comments.

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Jan 26, 2012

Got a Nasty Virus? Sweep That Crap On Boot Up!

I am a huge fan of Microsoft’s latest antivirus programs. I have used many antivirus programs over the years, Norton, McAfee, Symantec, AVG, Sophos, TrendMicro, etc. I have had the best results from Microsoft Security Essentials, and it’s corporate counterpart Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection.

Microsoft has stepped up to the security plate again, this time offering a really cool free tool that is based on Microsoft Security Essentials product that will allow you to boot to a USB drive, and run an offline malware scan.

The tool is called Microsoft System Sweeper. From the download page:

Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper Beta is not a replacement for a full antivirus solution providing ongoing protection; it is meant to be used in situations where you cannot start your PC due to a virus or other malware infection.

Check out this video showing System Sweeper in Action:

What do you think about this tool? Sounds awesome? Perhaps you know of a better tool. Let us know in the comments.

Jan 25, 2012

Ubuntu Getting Rid of Menus for HUD? Screw That!

I have been a long time Ubuntu user. I have used it since at least version 5.04. It has seriously been the base for all things I have ever learned in Linux. Like most people I started out on the Linux desktop with Ubuntu and moved up to servers when I started getting more familiar with the terminal and it's commands. Things have been changing on Ubuntu a lot over the last few releases, and I'm now rather over the awesomeness that Ubuntu once was.

I just read today that the upcoming release of Ubuntu, version 12.04, is doing another drastic change. The last big one was forcing Unity down everyone's throats. Some people like it I guesss, but I'm a Gnome man and I like to keep my UI's the way they are. I am familiar with them, and I know where everything is. When Ubuntu made Unity the default I started to get a little ticked at them. With the news I learned about today that they are going to ditch their menus for a HUD or Head's Up Display, they are replacing menus from all the apps with a friggin' search bar! WTF is that?

Check out this video:

I mentioned in my latest Tech Chop video that I was thinking about changing Linux distros this year. This is just another thing that is motivating me, and I'm sure lots of others, to another platform. Maybe I'm a little pig-headed about changes like this, but the old UI, and menu system worked well. Very well in fact, and I just don't see the importance of changing that. 

What do you think about the new HUD system? Think it will be easier to use? Think it will suck because every little command you want to do you have to run through the search box? Let me know your take on it in the comments! Also, if you have recently switched away from Ubuntu, what's your distro of choice now?

[Via Geek.com

Jan 24, 2012

Remove Tourists From Photos Easily For Free

Blogging is going to be few and far between people. I am suffering from a pretty good case of writer’s block. I haven’t had to solve any new big problems at work lately with some cool new open source platform, so the projects that often fuel my most popular articles aren’t needed right now, and here we are.

I thought I would share with you something I found though which sounds very cool. It allows you to drag and drop three photos of particular scene and it automagically crops out the stuff you don’t want. Tourists, cars, mother-in-laws, whatever!

It’s called Tourist Remover from Snapmania. From their page:

Remove moving objects such as tourists or passing cars from your photos. Take multiple photos from the same scene and the «Tourist Remover» blends them into a composite photo without any interfering elements.

Tourist Remover - Google Chrome_2012-01-24_13-16-38

I found this cool tool from reading a blog article on Practical Hacks. They took the following three pictures:

Tourist Remover example

Tourist Remover example

Tourist Remover example

With those three images, they were able to remove the cars and get a clean image of just the background. Check it out!

Pretty cool right? You could do the same thing in Photoshop, or Gimp but it would take a lot of time to do it. Also, not everyone knows how to use Photoshop that well. This tool is designed for the average user to be simple and intuitive.

Did I mention it’s free too? That’s right, just sign up and you also get 100MB of free storage to save your files, plus you can create web albums and slideshows for your friends. If you need more space, they also have paid plans starting at about $4.90 per month.

Do you use Snapmania? Know of another cool free tool that does this? Let us know in the comments!

[Via Practical Hacks]

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Jan 20, 2012

Anonymous Pissed About MegaUpload Being Taken Down

If you hadn't heard, the file hosting site called MegaUpload was recently taken down by the US Government after the FBI served warrants in New Zealand to arrest the website's owner, Kim Dotcom, and several others. The US Government was able to seize the websites MegaUpload, MegaLive, MegaPorn and MegaVideo along with $50 Million in assets. The funny thing about this? The US Government didn't need SOPA or PIPA to do it either. Which begs the question, if the US Government has the power to server warrants in other countries, why the hell do they even need legislation like SOPA and PIPA to censor the internet?

The news of these sites being taken down in the looming shadow of the PIPA and SOPA debates as infuriated the Internet hacktavist group Anonymous, who began a campaign last night via Twitter called #OpMegaUpload to launch DDoS attackes on sites owned by the FBI, The Department of Justice, The MPAA and the RIAA. Apparently, this is the most wide-spread attack ever conducted by the group.

From The Mark News:

Anonymous HacktavistYesterday's retaliatory attack on U.S. government and entertainment lobby groups' websites was the largest ever undertaken by Anonymous, the hacker collective. All told, more than 5,600 people around the world joined in to carry out the distributed denial-of-service attacks against the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Universal Music, and the U.S. Copyright Office. According to Anonymous, that's the most sites the group has ever targeted in one attack.

One of the genius methods used in the attack was the use of fake links via Twitter to get total strangers to assist in the attacks. According to Silicon Republic:

The latest Anonymous attack, dubbed #OpMegaupload and spread via Twitter, tricks internet users into clicking on an Anonymous link that instantly launches a denial of service (DDOS) attack on US government websites or any site of the hacker group’s choosing.

So if you clicked on any of the links in the Twitter feed for #OpMegaUpload last night, congratulations, you helped out Anonymous in their attacks! Woot! You are now a hacktavist! You may want to think twice about clicking on links from Anonymous in the future though if you don't want to end up in jail. According to Graham Cluley from Sophos:

If you participate in such an attack, you could find yourself receiving a lengthy jail sentence. I'm not sure if participants in this instance would get away with claiming that they innocently clicked on links by mistake, so make sure you always trust the links you click on, even if they're shared by a friend on social networking sites.

What do you think about last night's attack? Is Anonymous fighting the good fight or are they hurting the cause to stop SOPA and PIPA? Let me know your take in the comments!

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Jan 19, 2012

How-To Bypass DNS-Based Web Filtering on Android

Hello everyone! How about that Internet blackout yesterday to protest SOPA and PIPA huh? If you were affected by it, let me know in the comments. I was not affected by it because I was in Tucson, AZ for the last few weeks for family business and have been away from a computer. That also explains why there haven't been any new posts here in a while. I've just been pre-occupied with other things.

Anyhoo, I'm back and I thought I would write up something quick on how to bypass DNS-Based web filtering on your Android phone. To give you some background on this post, you may know that I am a big fan of OpenDNS. I think it provides a great, free webfiltering solution for small business. It's easy to setup, and will block known malicious sites to help keep your network free of malware. It can also be used to filter out sites like Facebook and Twitter to keep your employees on track, and block out the distractions. The only problem with OpenDNS is that it's purely DNS based filtering. That means, if you change your network settings to use a different public DNS host, like Google for example (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4) you will no longer be filtered.

Well, at my company we use OpenDNS, and not only do we filter out malicious sites, we also filter out porn, gambling and social networking. The later is filtered per the request of our VP of Sales who doesn't want his team surfing Facebook all day instead of making calls. Makes perfect sense. Well since I like to connect my Android phone to the wifi at work, that also blocks my Facebook app.

I found a really cool free Android app called Wifi Static that allows me to set a static IP on my cell phone when connected to certain access points, like my work's for example. With a static IP, I can manually set my DNS servers, and as I said above, all you need to bypass DNS based filtering is another DNS server. Bam! Now I can use my Facebook app while connected to wifi. Simple!

Here are some screenshots of the app:

 

 

There are some things to consider before setting a static IP on a DHCP network. You need to find out what the DHCP scope range is so you don't cause an IP conflict. If you have that info, you can scan the network for an IP address outside of that range using a tool like Angry IP. If you don't manage the network, you may have to hit-up the network administratior for it, and they might not be too enthused about you bypassing their security. Just food for thought.

Know of other free tools for Android to bypass web filtering? Maybe something that lets you tunnel through Websense? Let us know in the comments!

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Jan 9, 2012

EasyDNS Got Hit By a DDoS Attack Saturday

Greetings everyone, I hope you had a better weekend than me. You see, since I am the Systems Engineer for my company, I am pretty much on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Maybe in the future we will be able to do some sort of rotation, but since we are a small company that is just not going to happen any time soon.

Anyway, on Saturday, January 7th I started getting some strange email alerts. I would get a message saying one of my company websites was down from our external monitoring company, but when I went to browse to the site, it was up. I would get an email from one of our customers saying they couldn't pull data from our API, but our services were up. It was on and off for a few hours, and there was nothing in the web server logs suggesting issues. Then it hit me, "I wonder if there is a problem with DNS."

My company uses EasyDNS for our public DNS services. We chose them for their custom TTL, and the ability to do instant DNS failover. Also, they had some really affordable prices. Up until Saturday, their service has been great also. Well, when I logged into their site I found out they were under a Distributed Denial of Service attack which was affecting their customers, and that meant us. The target of the attack was a porn website which has prompted EasyDNS to enact a no porn DNS hosting policy.

From their blog:

easydnsEvery single DDoS attack in this company's history has involved one of the following: ponzi/HYIP sites, porn sites or gambling/casino/betting. (Yesterday's attack was porn.)

HYIP/ponzi websites are already specifically excluded from service here in our AUP. We will now be adding exclusions and associated prescreening for porn/casino/betting websites.

We pass no moral judgement on these types of endeavors. But it makes no sense to ruin a business we spent over 15 years building to repeatedly get our brains bashed in for these types of websites. They'll have to make other arrangements.

We will be reaching out to existing members in these categories to either allow specific cases of grandfathering-in, additional precautions (segmentation) or assistance relocating.

In an attempt to mitigate problems like this in the future, I found myself two FREE providers of secondary DNS. These are great in this type of instance when your main DNS provider fails, or gets his with a DDoS attack. If your DNS provider provides a way of zone transfers to a secondary carrier, check them out! Here they are:

  • Twisted 4 Life - Allows a maximum of 10 free domains for secondary DNS
  • Puck - Allows an unlimited amount of domains for secondary DNS

Since they are both free, I decided to use them both. I figure the chances of all three going down at once is very slim. I also feel that the free service as a backup is fine. I wouldn't recommend using a free service for a primary DNS if this is for company web servers. For production websites for a company, you really need to have something that is reliable with service level agreements.

Do you know of any other free secondary DNS providers? Do you use them? Let us know of other ones in the comments.

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Jan 6, 2012

Me Free Running at The Beach (Stop Laughing!)

For all of you haters who watched Tech Chop Episode 12 and didn't think I would ever go out and do some free running then you are sadly mistaken my friends! That's right, the other day I went to the beach in Carlsbad, CA and my wife caught this epic video of me doing some free running!

What? What is freerunning you say? Well let me just say that it is probably one of the most bad ass things you will ever see. In fact, it is so bad ass, you see it a lot in movies these days. You saw freerunning in Casino Royale, in Die Hard With a Vengeance and there was even a B-Rated action flick called Freerunner.

From Wikipedia:

Freerunning (or free running) is a form of urban acrobatics in which participants, known as freerunners (or practitioners, though this is a generic term used for freerunning and parkour), use the city and rural landscape to perform movements through its structures. It incorporates efficient movements from parkour, and adds aesthetic vaults and other acrobatics, such as street stunts, creating an athletic and aesthetically pleasing way of moving. It is commonly practiced at gymnasiums and in urban areas (such as cities or towns) that are cluttered with obstacles.

So anyway, here is my fat ass doing my first attempt at freerunning that I posted on Facebook:



You like that huh? No? Okay, here is a video of some real free runners for you haters!



Alright, I'll agree that my pathetic display is nowhere near as cool as those guys. Maybe after I practice a little more and lose about 50lbs I will get there. :-)

To make me feel better though, here is a video of some freerunning/parkour fails!



Yup, that made me feel better. At least I didn't tear my nut sack at the beach!

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Jan 5, 2012

Quit Smoking Via Text Messages

On Monday I posted my latest Tech Chop where I laid out my 10 new years resolutions for 2012. In the video I give a lot of IT related resolutions, and also a few regular ones like working out on my Total Gym clone again. One I did not do, because I kicked the habbit years ago, is quit smoking.

I think it's safe to say that quitting smoking and losing weight are probably the two most common resolutions people make for New Years. In my experience, losing weight is easy, it's quitting smoking that is truly difficult. I ended up quitting by using the nicotine patch. Even with the patch, it was a daily struggle to fight the cravings. What if you don't want to use the patch, or the gum? What if you think you are strong enough mentally to kick smoking cold turkey? I may have something that may help.

It's a texting service from Smokefree.gov called SmokefreeTXT. From their page:

SmokefreeTXT is a free mobile service designed for young adults across the United States. SmokefreeTXT was created to provide 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips to help smokers stop smoking for good.

Signing up is quick and easy – and FREE!

There are 2 ways to sign up:

  1. Text the word QUIT to IQUIT (47848) from your mobile phone, answer a few questions, and you’ll start receiving messages.
  2. Click the button to the right to sign up, answer a few questions, and you’ll start receiving text messages.

If you pay for individual texts, this program may not be for you.* Check with your mobile provider.
If you’re not trying to quit smoking but you are interested in seeing how SmokefreeTXT works, we invite you to sign up. But first, please send an email for instructions on how to sign up.

Now standard rates do apply, but if you have an unlimited texting plan it won't be an issue. If you don't have unlimited, you can control the number of texts they send you. Still,  I'm sure that at $5.00 a pack, text rates are cheaper than actually smoking.

Will a text message help you quit? Knowing how hard it was for me to quit, I'm not sold. What do you think about text messages to help you quit smoking? Let me know in the comments.

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Jan 4, 2012

Google, Amazon, Facebook, eBay and More May Go Dark to Protest SOPA

If you have been following me on Twitter you know how I feel about the current bill proposals in the US Government these days to stop online piracy. These bills, although designed to stop illegal copyright infringement online, will do more harm than good though. In fact they will do little or nothing to stop piracy, but could harm many websites like Youtube and Facebook. If a 13 year old girl decided to put up a cover of a Katy Perry song on Youtube, the record companies could force Youtube to take down the video, or face having their site shutdown by the government. This is a clear violation of our first ammendment which gives us the freedom of speech at the request of special interests like the sleeze bags at the RIAA.

The internet is up in arms over these bills called PIPA and SOPA which will give the US government the same authority to censor the internet like China and Iran, and frankly it is very scary. One of the most well known supporters of the bills was GoDaddy which lost over 40,000 domains last month as domain owners moved their domains to other registrars that don't support these bills in protest. I was included in that movement as I moved Bauer-Power.net, TechChop.com, and Ninjurl.us away from GoDaddy over to NameCheap.

Well, there are rumors that another big protest is in the works. This time from some of the biggest names on the Internet. Apparently Google, Facebook, Amazon, eBay and others are coordinating a joint blackout. That means no internet searches, no farmville, no great deals, pretty much the sites you visit the most will be unavailable. Imagine how you will feel that day? I know in IT, I use Google constantly. It will actually hurt me to not have that even for one day, but I'm all for it if it gets the message across to congress that censoring the internet is wrong for America.

Google Facebook Blackout

According to Alec Liu of Fox News:

The action would be a dramatic response to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill backed by the motion picture and recording industries that is intended to eliminate theft online once and for all. HR 3261 would require ISPs to block access to sites that infringe on copyrights -- but how exactly it does that has many up in arms. The creators of some of the web's biggest sites argue it could instead dramatically restrict law-abiding U.S. companies -- and reshape the web as we know it.

The US Senate is set to debate these bills more on the 24th, which means if a blackout from these websites is going to happen, it will be in the upcoming few weeks.

What do you think about this? Is it a good move on the part of these large websites? Let us know what you think about a coordinated blackout protest in the comments!

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Jan 3, 2012

My New Years Resolutions

Happy Welcome Back to Work Day everyone! I hope you all had a safe and happy New Years celebration over the weekend! If you are like me, then you are back to work today, and for some of you you also have some New Years resolutions. I am no different, I thought about it over the break and came up with some things I wanted to do this year.

I decided to do the first Tech Chop of the year from my car since my parents and my brother were in town from Colorado, and I couldn't set up my green screen and lighting like I normally do. The audio kind of sucks also because I used my cheap Aiptek camera that has a sub-par mic jack. It was the best one to use in my car though because it was easy to mount. I also bought a new lavalier micophone, so I'm hoping future episodes have better audio quality.

Anyway, in this episode, I give you my 10 resolutions for 2012:

Do you have any New Years resolutions? Are they IT related? Are they standard ones? What do you want to change in the new year? Let me know in the comments!

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My New Favorite Free Media Converter

In the past for media conversions I always like Pazera's free converters. The problem with Pazera's converters is that there is a separate converter for each format. If you want to convert AVI to MP4, you have to download one converter, if you want to go from FLV to MPEG, that's another one. It adds up fast if you do a lot of media conversions.

I found one today while looking for a free MP4 to FLV converter. It's called Quick Media Converter HD or QMC. Like just about every media converter out there it is a GUI front end for FFMPEG. This tool is really easy to use, and you don't need to be a super genius to click the buttons and convert files.

Here is a screen shot of it so you can get an idea of what you get with it:

 

As you can see from the picture, it's really intuitive. The icons across the top in Easy Mode really does make it easy to use. One thing I should tell you is that this software is packaged with a tool bar that you can opt-out of at insstall time. Make sure you watch for it though, and don't just keep hitting Next to do the install.

What's your favorite media converter? Do you use something else? Let us know in the comments!

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