Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Link-Ka-Bobs


I've been working hard on catching up on my Zzzzz's.  It was a hard week as we ramped up and delivered a new phone system at another of our offices Friday night.  As the local project-lead, I'm very lucky to have such an incredible team of telecom specialists and a great vendor helping pull this thing off.

I'm pretty good with keeping track of the project elements, doing the groundwork and data collection, drawing floorplans in Visio, catching critical details that others overlook, stuff like that.  But when it comes to tracing out the wires and learning how all the phone system components get hooked together, I have to lean very heavily on these professionals.  What's even better, is just how willing they are to let me get in the middle of them and show me what they are doing and help me understand and learn better techniques.

Each deployment I learn something new and (hopefully) become a better project-lead for it.

I value new information and perspectives and am willing to admit when I'm in over my head. However, that just drives me stronger to learn and master what I find I don't know.

So this weekend I've been sleeping in until at least 9am each morning, catching up on household chores, and restocking the pantry.

Oh for a Dead Cow past Midnight

I usually see Houston by daylight.  The traffic jams in the commutes, the street flooding, the daily grind of the city.  However it is amazing to me these past late-night returns home, just how vibrant and alive Houston is way past midnight.  Lots of restaurants open, the lights aglow in neon.  Office towers with lights still on, steady traffic on the freeways.

I skipped past most of the Houston joints early Saturday morning, nursing a heavy craving for a burger at 1 AM.  When I got back to my suburb, I drove around for twenty minutes looking for something, anything open that served dead ground cow.  The only other place I knew of was another twenty minutes across town from where I lived. Even all the nearby fast-food places had long-since closed up.

I ended up at home unsatisfied and ate a leftover Schlotzsky's deli Thai chicken pizza Lavie had gotten the night before, a Weight Watcher's TV dinner buried in the freezer, and two bowls of Captain Crunch Peanut Butter cereal.  Still would have enjoyed a dead cow better.

Bullwatching in the 'Burbs

The other week I was driving home a back-way to our subdivision and came across an odd sight.

There were three middle-aged guys standing about fifteen to twenty yards apart, kind of at the points of a rectangular pattern in a front yard.  Each had their shirts unbuttoned and were in jeans.

In each of their hands appeared to be a canned beverage.  I assume of a beer or lager form.

In the middle of their posse was a guy, similarly attired, sitting atop a John Deere riding lawnmower doing slow circles of mowing.

It was the funniest thing I had seen.

Surely there had to be a story behind this.  Maybe the cable was out?  Maybe they were seeing how well the mower performed prior to buying it?  Maybe there was something deeply evocative to them about watching a man subdue a lawn astride a loud and mean beast in a ring.

Or maybe the ribs hadn't quite reached doneness yet but the beer intake had.

Oh my.

Software Link Ka-Bobs

The great free screen capture shootout for Windows! - Confessions of a Freeware Junkie blogger maximillian_x runs down a great comparative assessment of screen capture tools including Donation Coder Screenshot Captor, EasyCapture, FastStone Capture, Gadwin PrintScreen, Greenshot, and MWSnap.

The verdict?  Donation Coder Screenshot Captor.  I've always loved and recommended FastStone Capture, but after downloading and playing with Screenshot Captor, I must say it is an impressive application.

LIfehacker has hosted a Battle of the Notepad Alternatives poll.  The comments are jammed-packed with suggestions.  Quite a few I've already covered and enjoy including NOTEPAD++, flo's freeware - Notepad2, and PSPad. Others suggested were TextPad, ConTEXT, EditPad Lite, Crimson editor, metapad, LopeEdit, and EmEditor.

Do we really need yet another utility to tweak XP and Vista settings? Guess so.  Welcome RegToy to the party, folks.  Via Download Squad.

If you decided to go to the bleeding edge of beta Java SE builds, then be aware that Java SE 6 Update 10 Build 22 is now available.  I've been running these on all my systems and haven't had any issues as well as find that Java in Firefox seems a bit "crisper".

Finally, DownloadSquad announces Ad-Aware 2008 Beta released...Vista compatibility. I strongly recommended LavaSoft's Ad-Aware SE Personal to home users in the past. With Ad-Aware 2007, the GUI got a redesign, the engine was improved, and support for additional web-browsers was folded in.  Unfortunately, now it requires a service to run to work. That results in the Ad-Aware 2007 version not being "portable" on USB like the SE version was.  Bummer.  However, it is still a very consumer-friendly product and I still recommend it for home users looking for a freeware malware scanning tool.  By the way, if you still like the old Ad-Aware SE Personal, auto-update downloads of the DAT file ended a long time ago. But if you do a bit of work and and clever, you can still manually download and install compatible DAT files for your SE version a bit longer.

For the Forensics Fans

Harlan Carvey, author, blogger and computer forensics guru has been hard at work behind the scenes at his Windows Incident Response blog.

His Free Analysis post leads us to a number of additional free tools of benefit not just to the forensic guys who tool around in black tinted-window Tahoe's, but also us common Joe Sysadmins who love tools to help carve up a system we are assessing.  I really liked the Event Log Explorer utility Harlan mentioned.  Great tool for sorting through Windows system event logs.

Harlan has also updated his remarkable RegRipper utility that helps will (off-line) registry hive file analysis and review.  I've been playing with it at work and it is simply amazing.  This version is the "basic" release.  I can't wait to see what the "advanced" version he mentions from time to time is capable of.

Thanks for sharing your candy with us, Harlan!

Yumm.  It's all good and tasty. get that Dutch Apple Pie out of our oven for dinner dessert.



H. Carvey said...


Thanks for the shout-out!

We'll see how things go with this latest update, because I'm thinking that will have an effect on any future developments...but to honest, I use the "candy" everyday, and love it!!

H. Carvey said...

I can't wait to see what the "advanced" version he mentions from time to time is capable of.

One of the benefits of the Advanced edition will be selection of arbitrary plugins files...currently, in the Basic edition, this is hard-coded.

There are also some other goodies...I'll be incorporating the ability to create a timeline file, for inclusion into Excel, MIT's Simile Timeline, etc.

However, one of the drawbacks of providing something like this for free is that there's no support for it...not for the development of the GUI or of the plugins. Sure, I have received a couple of "hey, this tool cut my work down from hours to minutes", but so far I've only received one offer for a contribution via PayPal. There are other forms of support besides money...but with none, tools like this can only go so far...