Apr 7, 2015

The Best (and Worst) Corporate Responses to High-Profile Hacks

We live in an age where data breaches are common, hitting even some of the biggest corporations in the world. The data breach that struck Target during the holiday shopping season in 2013, for example, saw victims awarded up to $10,000 each for the error. One of the most important factors about these situations isn't necessarily that a breach occurred, but rather how a company chose to respond. The best (and worst) corporate responses to high-profile hacks are a veritable education in how to react should your organization fall victim to the same fate.


The unprecedented data breach that struck Sony in late 2014 will go down in history for a number of reasons — including Sony's poor response. From the moment information about the hack became public, it was clear that the technology giant had very little under control. The hack itself started around November 24, but was not formally addressed until a few weeks later.

Afterwards, Sony played the blame game by pointing the finger at both the North Korean government and at disgruntled former employees, in an attempt to take the focus off the colossal security failure. Fallout from the hack is still going on, and the lawsuits from past and current employees alone is expected to cost millions when everything is said and done.

Home Depot

On the other end of the spectrum is the corporate response to a high profile hack that struck Home Depot recently. Home Depot's CEO Frank Blake was already transitioning into retirement by the time the company's internal systems had been breached. Instead of leaving a gigantic cyber mess for his successor to clean up, or blaming others for his company's mistakes (as was the case with Sony), Blake did essentially the opposite.

He and his team quickly made information about the breach public and accepted full responsibility, both in an attempt to save the company's public image and to legitimately warn past and current customers that an issue had occurred. He and his security team got to work fixing the problem and apologized in a touching public statement only a few hours after the breach had been discovered.

The most important lesson to learn from Home Depot is that all throughout the ordeal, Blake and his team emphasized that their concern was not with themselves, but with their customers. This went a long way toward restoring much of the goodwill that had been devastated by the hack.


Another poor response to a massive hack also comes from one of the world's largest corporations — Apple. Following the iCloud photo hacking scandal in September of 2014, Apple was quick to issue a statement denying all responsibility for the attack. To make matters worse, Apple went as far as blaming the victims. The company indicated that if only celebrities had been using stronger passwords, they wouldn't have had these types of issues. The fact that Apple would later release patches for the flaw in its security system implies Apple executives are putting at least some of the blame on themselves, even if they haven't said so publicly.

Mar 20, 2015

Free alternative to Plex on your Android device

A little while ago I wrote about a free alternative to the Plex app for Roku. That all started because I didn't want my smoking hot girlfriend to have to pay $4.99 to stream videos from the Plex media server I setup on her laptop.

Well, the other night my kids were hogging our two televisions, and I wanted to watch John Wick on Plex, so I downloaded the Plex app for my Android tablet, and tried to play it. It played for a few minutes before telling me I had to pay $4.99 to watch my movie!

I love Plex, and have been using it for years, but their new tactic to force people to pay for something that used to be optional is extortion, and I refuse to give in!

Well, I found an app that can detect my Plex server and stream it's contents on my Android device. It's called AllConnect!

From Google Play:
Instantly stream your favorite music, photos and movies to your smart TV, Chromecast, Amazon FireTV, Apple TV, Xbox and many more.

The complete streaming solution for your Android device. Simple and intuitive design makes it very easy to stream all your media to any screen or speakers.

  • All your media in one place: music, photos, videos, movies, tv shows etc.
  • Stream to all connected devices: Apple TV, AirPlay speakers, Chromecast, DLNA devices, smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Philips, etc.), Xiaomi Box, Amazon FireTV, Xbox and more.
  • Stream to XBMC, Raspbmc, Airfoil speakers and more.
  • Stream from any source: media servers, online channels and the cloud
AllConnect is the only app on the market that supports all streaming technologies and works out of the box with more than 5 billion devices.
Here is a screenshot from my Galaxy Tab 3 where it detects my Plex media server as a media source:

I will admit that the interface of AllConnect isn't as pretty as Plex, but it plays my movies and I don't have to pay anything. I think the trade off is worth it.

What do you use to stream your Plex media stuff on your Android device? Let us know in the comments!

Mar 19, 2015

How to reset the root password on Ubuntu using a Live DVD

Yesterday I talked about how to mount an lvm2 volume in Ubuntu using a live DVD. In that post I talked about needing to do that to reset a root password for a server that I hadn't logged into in a while. In this post, I'm going to tell you how to reset that root password!

If you just do standard partitioning, this is pretty easy. Just mount the root partition of your systems hard disk (You can find it by running fdisk -l). Let's say your root partition is in /dev/sda1. Then you would run:
#sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
If your root partition is in an lvm2 container, follow my instructions from yesterday.

Once you have your root partition mounted, then you need to chroot into that partition:
#sudo chroot /mnt
If you get a bash error, then that means you are mounting your system with a live DVD that doesn't match the architecture. For instance, if your system is running the 32 bit version of Ubuntu, you need to mount the root partition with a 32 bit Ubuntu live desktop DVD. The same goes with 64 bit.

If you didn't get an error, you should now be root on your system. Just run passwd now to set the new root password.

You can also do this to reset another user's password. For that just run passwd username.

Mar 18, 2015

How To Mount an LVM2 Volume Using an Ubuntu Live CD/DVD

The other day I had this Ubuntu Linux VM that I hadn't logged onto in a really long time, and for the life of me I couldn't remember the password I set for root. Yeah, I know, I'm not supposed to use root and I'm only supposed to use sudo. Well I don't. I always activate root!

What can I say? I like to live dangerously...

In order to reset it, I had to boot up to a live DVD and chroot into the root partition. The problem was the root partition and the swap partition were both stored in an lvm2 container. To mount a container like that in a live DVD is pretty simple. Just do the following:
  •   Boot using the live DVD. Install lvm2 by running:
    # apt-get install lvm2
  • To make sure the hard disk is recognized, you can use fdisk.
    # fdisk -lu
  • Run pvscan to scan all disks for an lvm2 volume. This is to make sure your LVM hard disk is detected by Ubuntu.
    # pvscan
  • After that run vgscan to scan disks for volume groups.
    # vgscan
  • Activate all volume groups available.
    # vgchange -a y
  • Run lvscan to scan all disks for logical volumes. You can see partitions inside the hard disk are now active.
    # lvscan
  • Your actual partitions contained in the lvm2 volume will now be listed. Mine were:
    ACTIVE '/dev/ubuntu/root' [50 GB] inherit
    ACTIVE '/dev/ubuntu/swap' [4 GB] inherit
  • Mount the root partition to any directory you want, usually to /mnt
    # mount /dev/ubuntu/root /mnt
  • You can access the partition in the /mnt directory now
This is handy if you have to recover files from a dead system, or like in my case, you need to chroot in and reset the root password.

Please... Don't judge me!

One thing you might want to do is make sure that the live DVD you are using has the same architecture as the system you want to mount. For instance, if your system is running 32 bit Ubuntu, make sure you use a 32 bit Ubuntu desktop live DVD. If your system is running 64 bit Ubuntu, use the 64 bit Ubuntu desktop live DVD. You savvy?

If you have any questions, hit me up in the comments.
[Via Linux Wave]

Mar 17, 2015

Beyond Siri: Where Will We Find Voice Recognition Software in the Future?

The voice recognition software industry is worth $21 billion a year in revenue with an annual growth rate of 10.7 percent, according to IBISWorld’s Speech & Voice Recognition Software Developers market research report. While voice recognition software has been around for decades, mainstream tools like Siri have pushed it center stage. But the technology is still advancing with no signs of slowing down. Learn more about the history of voice recognition and where is future is headed.

History of voice recognition

New Electronics reports that voice recognition technology surfaced in the 1950s with the development of "Audrey" by Bell Laboratories. The software could recognize digits from a single voice. In 1982, Kurzwell Applied Intelligence unveiled a commercial speech recognition system. Dragon Dictate was released in 1990 and its newer, faster and easier-to-operate model is used in PCs and Macs today.

How does voice recognition work?

When you speak a dictated text message to your smartphone, it sends the data to a central server. From there it accesses its voice recognition software and database. The software analyzes your speech and breaks it down into small parts called phonemes. Next, the audio software in your smartphone can analyze its order and even context of how its used to figure out what you want.

As you may have noticed, Siri and other voice recognition programs don't always work perfectly, but when you speak clearly and slowly enough, it responds accurately. Your smartphone or computer is probably the most common way you’ve used voice recognition software, but other devices are already using the technology (or slated to soon).


MIT Technology Review reports that Nuance Communications (owner of Dragon software) is perfecting a new software system called Dragon TV. Instead of finding shows with your remote or DVR, you can simply ask your TV to find movies starring Clint Eastwood. Samsung televisions already use a version of this technology. The Samsung Smart TV enables you to activate it by saying a command like "Hi, TV" to turn it on and start channel surfing.


If you don't need a TV that can listen and talk to you, choose a voice remote insead. DISH's Hopper Voice Remote keeps your hands free while you're looking for your favorite show. Tell it what you’re looking for and let it do all the work. There's still a clickable touchpad at its center to help you swipe, scroll and zoom for intuitive commands if you want to channel surf the old-fashioned way with a modern twist.

Wearable technology

Google Glass and Google’s Smart Watch are both installed with voice recognition software to turn its users into efficient, hands-free multitaskers. While Google Glass' future remains unclear, smart watches are already on the mass market. The Samsung Gear S connects to your Samsung phone with the ability to make calls and text. Apple’s anticipated smartwatch features all-day battery life, audio playback, camera and the ability to make calls and send texts.


Many workers dream of the day their car can run by themselves and navigate traffic while they catch up on a project or take a snooze. For now, you can already use voice recognition in Toyotas and other cars to check fuel prices, check your stocks, get directions and even make a call. But how wide is vehicle voice technology’s reach? IHS Technology reported that voice recognition will be installed in more than half of new cars by 2019.

Mar 2, 2015

Smart Business: 4 Contract-Free Tech Upgrades

In the Harvard Business Review's report, "Smart but Safe: How Small Businesses Use Technology to Grow Revenue," 40 percent of small- and medium-sized companies are still not using hosted/cloud solutions. Meanwhile, those same companies are spending $2,000 annually (per employee) for IT needs alone. Small and large businesses alike can reduce IT costs and protect their data by tapping into online and cloud-based resources. Everything from office security to project management can now be addressed in the cloud and save your company time and money. Here are four ways to get started with contract-free solutions that streamline your business.

Online Cloud Backup

It's no longer necessary to hire an expensive IT consultant, stock your equipment room with bulky servers and sign lengthy contracts for data-backup systems. An online system can store all of your data and programs in the cloud and keep them within reach even during a disaster. Use a system like Google Drive for business for automatic backup, protect critical files and give you access to your info from anywhere. That means if your system goes down while you're on a flight to see an important client, you can still log in with your airline's Wi-Fi and restore all of your data right from your computer.

Security Camera Systems

Internet cameras, IP or Internet Protocol cams send and receive data over a local area network (LAN) over the Internet. This gives business owners the peace of mind to see what's going on at the office when you're not around. Check-in to see who's still working or if anyone is in the building that shouldn't be. Lorex is among the first IP cameras on the market that can be set up without the need for an IT guru or complex technology knowledge. Instead, just use your smartphone with Lorex's ping mobile app and QR code located on the back of the camera to get it up and running. Best of all, Lorex offers contract-free service.

Streamline Project Management

Outsourcing your project management needs can be simplified with a tool like Asana. Born within Facebook to help streamline its management needs, Asana rapidly grew and became available to the public. The system now offers an easy way to collaborate with your entire team no matter if they're in the office or working remotely. Users can log in, create a task and invite others to collaborate. Read responses within Asana, approve next steps and upload files as needed.

Get Inbound Marketing Help

Business owners may have in-depth management experience and ideas but lack effective marketing skills. It’s also impossible for businesses to do it all from running a company to finding new clients. Get inbound marketing help with a service like HubSpot to get education and consulting to help your business grow. Choose from packages ranging from inbound consulting to getting priority technical support to help with your marketing campaigns. You can even get the scoop on A/B testing and advanced analytics to measure what's working and what's not.

Feb 27, 2015

Net Neutrality Wins! New FCC Rules Protect The Internet from ISP's!

Some interesting stats from the public's recent victory over evil ISP's wishing to put a strangle hold on our free and open Internet!

Via Battle For The Net

Feb 25, 2015

Your Roku Plex app is asking for money? Don't panic!

My smoking hot girlfriend recently cut the cable at her house and switched over to using Roku Sticks. Very similar to what I did a few years ago. She signed up for Netflix and Hulu, and since I'm a veteran I introduced her to the wonderful world of Torrents and Plex!

Well, the other night she sent me a text saying that her Plex App on Roku was telling her that her trial has expired and that she has to pay to activate it! What the hell? When did that happen? I've been using Plex for years and haven't had to pay a dime!

Well, apparently if you are a new user to Plex (Anyone who has signed up after December 2013) then they make you pay a one time fee of $5 to use their app on Roku. I suppose the fee is nominal, and Plex should be supported, but you know me... I like free!

The good news for cheap skates like me, and my smoking hot girlfriend is that there is a free alternative to the Plex App for Roku users. It's called RARflix!

The look and feel is almost identical to the Plex App, but if you are a new user to Plex, you don't have to pay the $5 admittance fee!

Here is a picture of the RARflix icon next to the Plex App icon on my daughter's Roku:

As you can see, the RARflix icon is almost identical to the original Plex icon. The look and functionality of the app itself is also almost identical except the video/TV show icons are a little bit smaller. Here is a screen shot of that:

To install the RARflix channel, just click here to add it to your Roku account.

If you have been looking for a way to get out of paying $5 to use Plex, I think you've found it!

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