Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year’s Day - First Post 2011

Same day I came out with my first post after a long drought, I fell upon this article Blogging Seems To Have Peaked, Says Pew Report over at ReadWriteWeb.  According to the study, blogging activity on-line has heavily dropped, while on-line content consumption has continued to grow.  Looking back at my side-bar, I have to confess that my raw content-generation post numbers have declined since my high-water mark in 2007.  However I would like to argue that while volume has decreased, quality has increased slightly.

Of course, the amount of leisure time I have available has also decreased which accounts for much of the decline in GSD posting.  At the same time, I could probably work on being more disciplined with some of my time.  Couple that with our “study” slowly turning into a laundry-room/super-closet of sorts and my blogging desk hidey-hole has disappeared. Yesterday I took down and stored away the Christmas decorations for another year (almost two-weeks early from my usual procrastinations).  This brought on a major re-setting of the living/family room area and I now have a micro-desk area set up there instead.  Maybe that will stimulate the blogging juices as well.

In the meantime, here is a getting-the-new-year started linkfest of new applications and neat utilities to jump-start the effort to push the GSD post-count for 2011 upward again.

FreeCommander XE Beta now public

FreeCommander remains my #1 top go-to dual-pane file manager.  I’ve tried tons of other file-managers and while there are many great options out there now, IMHO, none come close to the features and flexibility of FreeCommander.  It just works with the way I jockey files all day.

The developer, Marek Jasinski, was kind enough to give me private access to the alpha builds of the next generation of FreeCommander and I have been diligently putting them through the paces.

So it just in the last week or two that he posted the first publically available release of FreeCommander XE.  While it retains the same form and function of FreeCommander, the style has been seriously updated and the fine-tuning control is greatly enhanced.  You can get both the install version or a “portable” zip file version from that page.  Just be aware that it is still clearly a developmental “preview” release so while most of the features will work as planned, you might be a bit frustrated with what still does not if you are a power FreeCommander user.  I’m still not ready to replace the latest stable version of the “old” FreeCommander with this version just yet.  But it is a nice look at what is to come.

Other related tips that might be of use to you if you are both a FC user and a TeraCopy user.

Run Command Links

When I am setting up special purpose XP systems, sometimes I have to make some tweaks to system settings.  Going the long way through menu systems to get to a particular windows is time consuming, so pulling it up via a run line is a big time-saver.  I’ve memorized many of them, but every now and then I can’t recall and Windows doesn’t make it easy to access the commands if you don’t know what they are to start.

Here are three bookmark-worthy resources for just when you need them most (XP/Win7).

VirtualBox 4.0 Final

Oracle has now released the final public release of VirtualBox now sitting at 4.0 - Downloads - VirtualBox.

You can also get it via their ftp page: Index of /virtualbox/

Brett Shavers of WinFE Blog fame recently reminded me of the MobaLiveCD tool.  While not related to VirtualBox, it does provide a clever and portable Qemu package to run virtual sessions of LiveCD’s for down-n-dirty testing.  It worked on my rippin-fast Win7 x64 laptop, but was very, very slow in performance.  So while handy in a portable pinch, it probably isn’t useful for production-level virtualization work.

There is also ‘s Portable-VirtualBox project.  As I understand it currently, while there is a v4.0.0 new release support out, Oracle has now required the developer to remove direct inclusions of VirtualBox items from the package, and it is now set up in a manner that first downloads the VBox binaries then unpacks them for the portable setup process. And USB support still is in works as well at the moment.  YMMV.  See also How To Make Portable VirtualBox 4.0 For Windows at

Network Briefs

Always a great source of personal tippage, TinyApps passed on a lead to the Dualcomm Mini USB Powered 5-Port 10/100 Ethernet Switch TAP.  How cool is this at less than $100? They also offer this larger Dualcomm USB Powered Gigabit Ethernet Switch TAP at a $150 price point.  In both cases Port #1 is mirrored to Port #5.  See also this brief post by George Starcher » Review – DualComm – Ethernet Tap.

Speaking of taps, in a former GSD post on the subject I offered these references:

As such here are some related materials on that subject for future reference when needed.

…But first, read and review this brief TaoSecurity post on SPANs versus Taps: TaoSecurity: Expert Commentary on SPAN and RSPAN Weaknesses

It links to two MOST Excellent articles on the issues of using spanned switch ports for collecting your network capture data, both form Tim O’Neill:

OK, now the linkage on SPAN’ing

And my oldies but goodies favorites:

CDP - What Switch Am I Connected To? and Monitoring Traffic with Span Ports – SynJunkie.  Two really great posts out of series of ones touching on network monitoring, and Cisco switch/router configuration techniques.  I’m singling these out in particular as they are of interest to sysadmin troubleshooting on the network as well as traffic captures.

And recently found this Wireshark Wiki article as well -- CaptureSetup/Ethernet.

Which is neat as I just ordered up some additional reference for the new year: Wireshark Network Analysis: The Official Wireshark Certified Network Analyst Study Guide by Laura Chappell, Gerald Combs.  I sooo can’t wait for this one to arrive!

Finally, the Microsoft Network Monitor blog has this new post: Filtering On Timestamps which is good information to know if you prefer Network Monitor or NMcap (CLI) for your traffic capture handling.  Don’t miss the tip link to the online Date format converter page to assist in your conversion work.

Utility Roundup

Via the German blogger Caschy (through Google Translate magic), CopyTrans TuneSwift.  There are more than a few ways to move your iTunes stores from one system/location to another…though they all have their own quirks and shortcomings.

Check out either the CopyTrans Suite of tools or the CopyTrans specific utility as it may have a full-featured backup/transfer/restore solution you are looking for for iTunes/iPod management and recovery.  Currently CopyTrans is being offered for free, but will switch to a pay-version 03/15/2011.  You will need an unlock code so either use the one Caschy has provided on his page or the direct one on this CopyTrans page.

Because I never can remember the conversion rates for bps to Bps to Mbps as I deal with various network bandwidth graphs I’ve settled on Converber Portable over at to prove me a super-handy tool for all my IT figure conversion needs.  Tip: While it can do so much more, just set the “Category” field to “Computer” to filter down the list of over 1324 various units of measure in 38 categories to just those used in the IT field.  It’s much less overwhelming that way!

ImageX GUI (GImageX) still remains my fav ImageX CLI Gui-based tool for super-fast WIM management.  However, 4SYSOPS recently posted about an alternative ImageX gui manager GDism ELDI v3.0.2. As Michael Pietroforte points out, the strongest feature/drawback might be the fact that it is a Java application so depending on your viewpoint on Java, that may or may not be a good thing.  That said it is a nice alternative. (Note: the CGI ‘avatar’ figure displayed on the ELDI page might be a bit racy for some so depending on policy standards, you may want to check the page out at home first before hitting it from work…just to be safe.)

First there was Orca for picking apart and manipulating MSI packages. Then came InstEd It! which seriously seemed to expand the options available.  Then I really fell in love with the light but perfectly handy (for me) lessmsi tool (still alive and cool). Now comes wind from Kurt Shintaku via his blog post RELEASE: MSI Explorer – Inspection Tool for .MSI installation packages of yet another MSI package inspection/change tool; MSI Explorer coded by Sateesh Arveti.

Ryan at CyberNet News seems to have slowed down on the blogging as well, but his post Stress Test a PC with HeavyLoad offers an additional (portable) freeware tool that can be used to put the heavy on a system for load-testing and performance monitoring.  Don’t forget other beefier tools such as the Phoronix Test Suite and Inquisitor. MakeUseOf blog also offered a while back The 5 Best Free Benchmark Programs for Windows.

See also the JAM Software - FileList CLI tool (freeware) for generating file-lists in a given directory.  Check out the ReadMe for additional CLI arguments.

What the Web Says…

Sometimes you have to go to the Web to find out just what is what and where stuff is ranked.  These were pretty cool finds this past week.

Browserscope - From the web-page “Browserscope is a community-driven project for profiling web browsers. The goals are to foster innovation by tracking browser functionality and to be a resource for web developers.”

namebench - From the project page “It hunts down the fastest DNS servers available for your computer to use. namebench runs a fair and thorough benchmark using your web browser history, tcpdump output, or standardized datasets in order to provide an individualized recommendation.”

See also the super-tiny, fully portable GRC’s DNS Nameserver Performance Benchmark utility for a no-install alternative.

Finally, got an Intel chip-based Windows system? You might want to hop over and try the Intel Driver Update Utility.  Ed Bott gets the hat-tip and has more information on his How to update Intel drivers automatically blog post.  I found a very new wired Ethernet port driver update for my new Laptop.  Please carefully note this one item from the Intel page easily overlooked:

Intel® Wired Networking note: If the Intel Driver Update Utility shows your Intel wired networking product ending in '(OEM)', Intel recommends you use the networking software provided by your computer manufacturer. OEMs may have optimized the drivers for your system.

Happy New Year!

Claus V.

1 comment:

Kurt said...

Man - when you blog, you BLOG. And I thought some of my posts were long... But in all seriousness, I saw your inbound link to me per WordPress and checked your blog out. VERY high quality posts. Hope you continue to blog. I know Twitter has eaten my blogging time up but I find that my twit feed makes for a good reference for what I should blog about later.