Monday, December 22, 2008

Early Monday morn Linkfest: Utility Focus

Looks like this posting session might stretch into the cold and windy wee hours of the morning.

I just can’t help but share!

Goodness me.

CLI Tips

Always on the lookout for arcane but useful CLI tips I found these this past week:

  • Run cmd.exe as Local System in Safe Mode – TinyApps blog. Great tip from Miles on how to load a command-line window (cmd) session in LocalSystem Account while in Safe Mode. That is something that isn’t normally possible. From Miles’ more thorough accounting in his post:

Here are the combined steps (which assume you are booted into Safe Mode):

  1. Add a key to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Minimal named lscmd or what have you.
  2. sc create lscmd binpath= "cmd /K start" type= own type= interact
  3. sc start lscmd
  4. A new cmd.exe window will open with LocalSystem privileges. When you are finished, close the window, delete the registry key you made, and delete the service: sc delete lscmd .
  • Batch Files, Task Scheduler and PSTools – and a EULA? - Ask the Performance Team. I love Sysinternals tools and they work great. However you may have noticed that some tools launch (for the first time run) on a system by popping up a EULA to clear first. If you are trying to fire them off via a batch-file or Task Scheduler, they might fail due to the need to accept the EULA first.  The Performance Team provides two clever workarounds.  One involves dropping some registry keys to show that the EULA was agreed to, prior to executing the file.  The other involves passing the Sysinternals tool a –accepteula argument as well.  They note this may or may-not work on all tools.

Clearly Chrome (with a Foxy tease tossed in)

GSD commenter “comment gravity well” has been keeping me on my toes with Chome/ium lately!  I had teased that I had found two neat new Chrome/ium related items this week and was reminded in the process that I had to go back and check progress on some other related items I hadn’t spent time with lately.

  • Chrome Privacy Guard (CPG) - Die Milchtüte - (freeware) – Mini utility that strips out the unique ID from each installed build of Chrome on a system. Most users of Chrome don’t know about this feature or if they do, could care less.  Some however would like a little more privacy and to be free of this “feature” for Chrome.  Source-code available from site for inspection. From the developer’s description:

…I wrote a small tool that automatically deletes the unique Client ID before each run of Google Chrome.

People that never close their browser will obviously not benefit from that tool. In the future you should always start the included ChromePrivacyGuard.exe instead of the original Chrome executable. This tool scans the "Local State" file inside the Chrome directory and removes all informations regarding the Client ID and afterwards automatically starts Chrome.

In any case you should also disable the option inside Google Chrome to allow it to send statistical data to Google.

  • UnChrome - (freeware) – An alternative tool to remove the Unique ID from Chrome.  Closes source and you get a pop-up ad for the developer’s other software offerings as well.  Your choice.  Spotted via Download Squad.

  • Iron - (freeware) – This German build of Chrome/ium is for privacy (though not an anonymizer) fans in that it strips out not only the Unique ID from Chrome, but a host of additional concerns and “features” that Chrome brings with it. “comment gravity well” also adds that it has some rudimentary ad-blocking as well.  I’m going to have to play with this one a bit.

  • Greasemetal - an Userscript Runtime for Google Chrome – Adds some additional custom functionality to Chrome.  Not quite at “Add-on” level like one would think of with Firefox, but some of the scripts can add some additional features.  Your mileage may vary.

  • Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition 3.1 Beta 2 Released - – Just in case you wanted to see what all the fuss was about with Firefox 3.1b2 but didn’t want to hose or risk damage to your existing 3.0.x installation.  This is a safe way to test and play.

USB Tools and Utilities

I love a good utility to help with USB devices.  I’ve found some new ones and am reposting some oldies but goodies!

  • PAR – EjectUSB - (freeware) – Clever little utility that assists you in automatically shutting down any running programs that might tie into a USB device and then eject the USB device in question. From the developer’s description:

Designed to be a simple utility to close all programs running from a specified drive or folder and then attempt ejection if a drive was specified. Extended functionality includes flushing the file cache, closing Explorer windows and removing registry entries and Recent Document shortcuts referencing the specified drive or folder.

  • USB Disk Ejector - (freeware) – Nice, simple and works the majority of the time. Provides a “real-world” GUI window that offers up a clear image and description of the USB device you are trying to eject.  Helps (but isn’t perfect) about cleanly ejecting USB devices without some of the hangs that sometimes occur using the Windows USB ejection method. For stubborn cases keep reading this section for a better alternative. I use this one almost daily as I have a number of USB storage devices connected to my work system and was often ejecting the wrong one!
  • AutoRunGuard - (freeware) – Neat little batch-file/executable combo that allows you to set your system to auto-scan an attached USB drive for virus/malware (and then some).  Really cool and not nearly as challenging to use as you might think. More at this recent GSD post: Grand Stream Dreams: USB Security: AutoRunGuard, Encryption ...
  • USBDeview - (freeware) – NirSoft application that lists all USB devices currently and historically connected to your computer. Lots of detailed log information. Must carry application.
  • USB drive letter manager – USBDLM - (freeware) – Neat little sysadmin’s friend that (with a bit of INI file modding) can force USB devices to use a particular drive letter, or range of drive letters. It has a few more bells and whistles, but that pretty much covers it. Not a regular tool, but folks who do network drive mapping might find it useful and handy.
  • Desk Drive - (freeware) – Blue Onion software helps you mange your USB devices by allowing quick access to your inserted USB storage contents.  When running Desk Drive adds a desktop icon pointing to the drive.  When the device is removed, the shortcut goes away. Perfect!
  • USB Image Tool - (freeware) – Use this neat tool by Alex’s coding playground that simply and easily creates images of USB flash drives.  From the website:
  • Features

    • create image files of USB flash drives
    • restore images of USB flash drives
    • compressed image file format
    • show USB device information
    • manage favorite USB images
    • command line utility

  • USB Safely Remove - (freeware) – Amazing tool that not only gives you “real names” for USB devices so you can remove them correctly and accurately, but it also provides detailed information on what process/files are keeping a USB device from ejecting and the ability to close/terminate that process first, set custom autorun scripts to execute before the device is ejected (say make a backup), command-line support, eject memory cards (and not the reader device), and remove “phantom” memory card drives, and a host of other tools. Awesomeness for USB device wrangling. Giddy-up!

Windows Live Writer – Update

Yep. Most everyone’s favorite blogging tool has just gotten another update.  This might be the last before it goes “gold”!

I can’t tell much of a difference between this one and the previous version I was using. The link has a change-log of sorts, but most of those features I either wasn’t interested in using, or thought they already had something similar going already  I still dislike the lightened color-bar customizing. It is way too washed out an effect than the previous versions.  I also am bummed I can’t seem to customize the toolbar nor am I offered a quick-pick for font-color changing. However, minor quibbles aside, it’s still the strongest blogging tool out there (IMHO) and I use it exclusively for all posting.

NirSoft Updates

If it’s from Nir, it’s all good! Here are the updates on particular utilities that interest me.

  • PingInfoView version 1.20 -- Great tool that allows Pinging to multiple host names/IP addresses.  Updates include New column: % Failed, and new options: Beep On Failed Pings and Put Icon On Tray.
  • RegFromApp version 1.15 – Allows monitoring and generation of RegEdit .reg file from Registry changes made by a monitored application.  Multiple updates include automatic stop when the process that you inspect is terminated, remembers that last sort in select process dialog-box, added new command-line option: /AttachProcess, automatic save to .reg file and exit when the inspected process is terminated (/AutoSave in command-line)
  • WirelessKeyView version 1.20 – Use this tool to recover lost WEP/WPA keys stored by Windows Wireless Zero Configuration service.  This update allows extraction of the wireless keys from an external instance of Windows XP (in Advanced Options) which could be useful to investigators or sysadmins.
  • WirelessNetView version 1.12 – More wireless fun that monitors wireless networks in your area.  Now provides a new option: Beep On New Network.
  • MozillaCacheView version 1.16 -- - Great and handy tool that simply and effectively displays the cached files of Mozilla/Firefox browsers. Nir does some deep under-the-hood repair work on this one and has added a 'Hide Missing Cache Files' option as well as fixed a serious bug in that for some systems, MozillaCacheView didn't display all cache files. Oops!  Now all better!

Happy Holidays!

--Claus V.

1 comment:

Nathaniel said...

Unlocker ( is nice for seeing what exactly is tying up your USB storage when you're trying to eject it. I'm not sure if you can run it portable, though.

WLW: Nice. The beta version I've been using has been fairly solid, though maybe a bit clunky. And... I just recently found out that Open Drafts are actually open, not just recent drafts. I wasn't sure about it before, but now I got my drafts cleaned out. Lolz.