Sunday, October 28, 2012

For-Sec & Utility Jumble Linkfest


The short weekend is done. The “Sandy Watch” is on for what could be -- for our northeastern friends -- a storm event to be remembered for many years to come. So comes a pile of security/forensic and utility-minded links spill out below for the curious and information hungry.

Forensics and Security

Girl, Unallocated: Be Very Quiet... I'm Tracking Emails Through Headers - Girl, Unallocated Blog. The Girl has a great post looking at email headers and their bits and perils. One gem is a report (PDF) from Stroz Friedberg and a particular focus on email headers. The report as a whole is a great read and again provides a lesson in technical report writing and presentation as well as some forensics pushback on anti-forensics techniques. At 102 pages, it isn’t a brief, but well worth the time to download and study.

The Girl’s post reminded me of another great publicly-available report that addressed emails in a forensic investigation.  In my GSD post Interesting Malware in Email Attempt - URL Scanner Links, I wrote the following bits at the end:

A recent Digital Forensics Case Leads post has mention of a super-fantastic investigation/forensic report involving anonymous emails. This is must-read material, not just in terms of the investigative methodology but also the way the report was composed and presented. Very clearly done!  I’m keeping a saved copy of the report for future reference; both technically and as a report template. From the post via the link above:

“University of Illinois recently released a detailed investigation report (PDF) regarding anonymous emails allegedly sent by its Chief of Staff to the University's Senates Conference. The report is an interesting read, and also serves as a potentially useful model for those looking for report samples and templates.”

How a Google Headhunter's E-Mail Unraveled a Massive Net Security Hole - Threat Level @  I almost overlooked Kim Zetter’s post on how Mathematician Zach Harris -- as an exercise -- discovered a flaw in some providers user of a weak DKIM key to sign emails originating from them. Fascinating and short read.

DEFT 7.2 and DEFT english manual, ready for download! DEFT Linux - Computer Forensics live cd . New DEFT version out. Last one in x32 bits. Future versions will be strictly x64 flavored.

Xplico – Xplico 1.0.1 - Xplico new version release just dropped. From the brief post:


  • nDPI integration
  • performace improved
  • FTP dissector improved
  • Added the prism dissector
  • CLI execution bug fixed
  • PCAP-over-IP SSL encryption
  • IRC dissector improved
  • File reconstruction from Fragmented Payloads improved
  • FaceBook Chat updated
  • FaceBook Message (partial)
  • HTTP without initial packets (packets lost)
  • RTP dissector improved
  • PCAP2WAV, RTP2WAV interface added

And don’t forget! Now you can update/get via apt-get! for Ubuntu 11.04 and higher.  Sweet!

sudo bash -c 'echo "deb $(lsb_release -s -c) main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list'
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys 791C25CE
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xplico

LastActivityView - Nirsoft brand new utility! - Use this new tool to view the latest computer activity in Windows operating system. Nir Softer has some more details on his NirBlog: New utility that shows general computer activity. Could be useful for incident response and analysis and other “quick peeks” for key system activity indicators to narrow down the search.

FileAlyzer Portable (detailed file analyzer) Released

Hacking KeyLoggers - Open Security Research has a great post that not only identified a USB keylogging device, but takes it to the next level in hacking it to determine the impact of the device and when it might have been dropped. Clever stuff.

Attacking TrueCrypt - The H Security: News and Features. Another interesting post that almost slipped by me. Interesting by itself but also shows the benefit of using “cascaded algorithms” in TrueCrypt to thwart current attacks…for now.

Restoration of defocused and blurred images - This is super cool.  Vladimir Yuzhikov hasn’t just done a proof of concept for de-fuzzing blurred imaged (either out of focus or those blurred with a mathematical algorithm), no, he has actually released a free Windows app to demonstrate the possibilities. Besides images, text that is out of focus can be unblurred as well. This is very fascinating and could assist investigators facing images and other digital files with blurred faces or content. It’s not exactly easy or guaranteed to work, but it is very promising start and Vladimir notes he is continuing development and refinement. Read his work please and snag the download.

Google Drive opens backdoor to Google accounts - The H Security: News and Features . Quoting from the post, “The Windows and Mac OS X desktop clients for Google's Drive file storage and synchronisation service open a backdoor to users' Google accounts which could allow the curious to access a Drive user's email, contacts and calendar entries.”  read the post for more info. As usual it seems to be a convenience versus security trade-off again. Choose your cake wisely. I stick with using only the web interfaces and pass on the client versions of these cloud-based storages services…for now.


The TinyApps bloggist has been hard at work digging out great tips and techniques for importing the virtualized “Windows XP Mode” into popular virtualization software. As always, the posts are impeccable with lots of details and supporting source documentation for additional study and research.

Oracle VM VirtualBox - Version 4.2.4 just dropped…by the way. I almost missed it were it not for my RSS feed filters. See the changelog for more details.  And be sure to grab the 4.2.4 VM VirtualBox Extension Pack as well.

Miles’ posts reminded me of an earlier GSD summer post Virtual Solutions and his great post comment guiding me to getting MS’s IE VirtualPC images running in Virtual Box.

How to run Microsoft’s IE VPC images in VirtualBox

ievms - Automated installation of the Microsoft IE App Compat virtual machines

Browser Plugin Update Time…Again.

Yes dear readers, it is “Jack and Jill” time again. Bother.

Adobe Shockwave got updated, as of this post, the newest (Windows) version of Adobe Shockwave is currently

Adobe Flash was updated as well. Newest (Windows) version is currently 11.4.402.287.

Java also got a quick update to both build versions. Windows Java updates are available in 1.6.0_36 and 1.7.0_09.

Trying to figure out if all your browser plug-ins are current can be a super-pain for the inexperienced and geekless.

My go-to recommendation remains to pop over to Qualys BrowserCheck in each of your installed web-browsers, be it Chrome, Windows IE, or Firefox. Alas, Opera, Safari, and other browsers are not currently supported, however a check in one of the supported browsers may quite likely uncover a outdated plug in, patching it may fix the others in the process.  For a backup check, hope over next to The Secunia Online Software Inspector for a second opinion.

If you want a good all-in-one location to manually download your plugs, check out Browsers and Plugins Downloads over at

Utility and SysAdmin Finds of the Week

Defrag Tools: #13 - WinDbg - Defrag Tools @ Channel 9. New video on Sysinternals tool usage; specifically integrating Debugging Tools for Windows.

Case of the CertUtil Import Refusing The Correct Password - chentiangemalc. Great practicum post on troubleshooting a strange password error where the password was correct but not being taken.

SpeedyFox - Boost Firefox,Skype,Chrome,Thunderbird in a Single Click! - CRYSTALIDEA Software . It has been forever…like dinosaurs roaming the earth eras ago…since I last saw any post anywhere on speeding up a pokey Firefox browser by “optimizing” the JSON databases. This is a dead-simple process to improve launch-time for a well-used Firefox browser. It’s been months since I last optimized mine. When I went to run SpeedyFox, my favorite tool to do so, I wondered if there had been an updated release. My version was at least a year old.  Happily I found there was a newer version, and that it now supports optimizing Chrome-based browsers as well. It remains available as a free edition. Current version is 2.0.3 but while I was sleeping, the developers have been adding support for Skype, Chrome (including SRWare Iron and Pale Moon), Mozilla Thunderbird, and Firefox (including Epic Browser). There is a Mac version (Firefox only) also.

If you use Firefox/Chrome/Thunderbird, stop, drop and run right now!  Did I mention it supports custom paths to your browser profiles so you can optimize portable versions on your drive/disks? Sweet baby Jebus!

CR2 Converter - I shot a lot of photos for Lavie and her family last weekend with the Canon 5D Mark II.  Pops asked for copies and when I was getting ready to pass them off, I realized I had not changed the setting from “RAW” only to RAW+JPEG. So I had over 300 digital images in RAW .cr2 format that his computer cannot read and that are not really a practical format for him anyway to use. Sure, I could batch-convert them in Lightroom/Photoshop, but I really just needed to get them quickly on a CD for him.  I have more than a few RAW freeware tools for tweaking individual RAW file images but that was too time-consuming to use. Luckily, with just a bit of Google diving, I found the freeware Canon RAW Image Converter “CR2 Converter”.   It supports batch-conversion and did an acceptable job for this task. My i7 x64 8 GB RAM system chewed through converting the files in no-time.  To my eyes the resulting images were a bit lightly purple-tinted…not bad or unpleasant but definitely noticeable when compared to the RAW file. Nothing that some simple color correction can’t fix if really important. For Pops it wasn’t but YMMV.  I wouldn’t use it everyday for batch processing but for quick-n-dirty RAW .cr2 to JPEG/JPG/GIF/BMP/PNG/TIFF conversions it is a super time-saver. Tuck it away for when needed in a pinch.

Cheers and hopes and prayers for the very best across the north-east seaboard as Sandy rolls in.

--Claus V.

Windows 8 - “It’s here” edition

I don’t know…it seemed like an appropriate lead-in to this Windows 8 post now that Windows 8 has been officially released.

  • Poltergeist freaked a LOT of folks out when first released, with special effects, plotline of a normal family with their normal lives torn apart by a new evil released by new building over a hallowed ground.
  • Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne Freeling looks like she is reaching out to try to use the TV as a “touch/Surface” interface.  And she does get quite the interactive experience out of it!
  • What seemed like pretty successful mainstream horror at the time now has become --over time and filmmaking sophistication--pretty cheesy and not even Halloween showing worthy to the youth of today.  Despite this, it remains regarded by many as a horror movie classic and possibly one of the very best and beloved ever made.
  • A number of the actors that made the movie so compelling have since died fueling rumors the movie was cursed.

I wonder if Windows 8 will leave a similar mark on the Microsoft OS landscape?

So before we get to the Win8 linkage below, what’s my opinion?

  • No “Family Pack” available…at least for now. However the $40/upgrade price per system still beats the Win7 family pack price so to upgrade our systems one-at-a-time this would still be fairly economical. In fact, Alvis's recent laptop purchase this summer might qualify for an even steeper discount…if I dared put it on her system.  Which I do not.
  • I am not going to install Win-8 on any of our home systems, all running Win 7 Home Premium (x64) for now. Why? Well…
  • …Win7 is too solid and perfect for my needs right now. I have no compelling reason to upgrade to Win8 just yet. Yes, I will miss out on the even faster boot times, the enhanced file/copy features, and the super-cool task-manager, and those crazy tile-apps. I can live with that for now.
  • In running Win8 in a virtual machine pretty regularly now, I can comfortably work-around automatically bypassing the Start Screen interface and add back the traditional Start Menu. That will no longer be my primary concern or objection for NOT making the Win8 upgrade.
  • Windows 8 is here to stay. This is the new face of Microsoft. Get over it. Get it. Or get a Mac or Linux or a Chromebook or a tablet or a game-console. Seriously. The days of desktop systems are on the decline. Sure, there will always be some hard-core geeks and freaks who will always want and need a traditional “desktop” based interface and OS system but between DRM  & DCMA changes, a brand-new, cutting-edge, super-efficient and user/platform agnostic computing technology is coming! Deal with it. They are called Smart dumb-terminals/tablets/phones & The Cloud!
  • Umm…sorry, I forgot, that terminal/mainframe technology was how things got started in the first place before all that “personal computer” technology got us distracted on his march down a dead branch of the technology tree; kinda like how the railroad and Model-T’s got us all horribly sidetracked from the horse-n-buggy technology. My bad. Let’s head back to the past to make progress for the people again. Control the medium…control the message…control the consumption.


Drama aside, I’ll probably upgrade our systems to Windows 8 by spring of next year. It will need some post-install tweaking, some training to get up to speed for support and user navigation, stuff like that. However at the core, past all the interface changes and Modern versus Desktop usage sea-change, it seems to be a solid and advanced OS. I wouldn’t discourage folks looking to pick up a new system from adopting it. I wouldn’t discourage friends and family still using XP/Vista to switch to it. What I can’t do is find a compelling reason to try to convince anyone using Windows 7 right now on a system they have bought or built in the last two years or so to UPGRADE to Windows 8. Not yet at least.

Windows 8 could have been so much more by just being a bit more balanced between the old and the new. Instead they decided to go boldly forward and not look back.

Time will tell…but for now…”It’s here”.

If you like Windows…my advise is just deal with Windows 8 and try not to look too hard at the corpses popping out of the pit in the back-yard.

HUMOR: Ah. So that’s what happened. - Kurt Shintaku's Blog

Win8 - Start Here - Get It

Win8 - Related Products and Services

  • nothing new of note since last post.

Win8 - Install It

Win8 - Under the Hood

Win8 - To Go

  • nothing new of note since last post.

Win8 - Tweaks

Post Update: On October 29th, Kent over at Windows 7 Hacker blog picked up the technique from Tenniswood Blog I posted above (and included a hat-tip back-link here to GSD) regarding a patch to enable multi-user concurrent Remote Desktop sessions in Win 8. It seemed very similar to one for Windows 7 I had posted about three years ago (RDC hack post & followup clarification post) so I didn’t think much of it. I did not install it on my own virtual Windows 8 test system. A few days later a dear friend emailed me his perspective about the patch and potential concerns. So I’m coming back and adding a few more thoughts. First the technique requires application of Windows 8 Patcher which changes some Windows OS file binaries to enable the process to work and can remove the watermark from Windows 8 Release Preview. Second, I’m no programmer so I cannot fairly analyze the source code to confirm it may not have other effects on the system/stability/security once modified. It seems to be based on or very similar to prior Win 7 work for the same feature enablement. The developer of the code is a very smart and clever programmer and has given a number of presentations in the computer security industry; his best work is in the field of bootkits and rootkits. Back in 2009 there was a bit of love/hate swirling around the security industry based on some of his work. All this to say, please treat with consideration the application of the patch with care and forethought. It should fall under the “here may be dragons” label. Is this a feature you really, really need on your Windows system? Are there vetted/stable alternatives you have already explored first and found lacking? Have you done due-diligence and after reviewing the open-source code provided found it sufficiently clear and safe for your purpose? Is this a patch you are authorized to apply to a system? All I am saying is read the whole forum thread to familiarize yourself with it first.I confess I find it technically interesting, but TightVNC meets my remote session needs and I don’t need to run multi-user concurrent sessions on my personal Windows 7/8 boxes. Do you really need it? If you do apply the patch, future Microsoft updates may impact how the patched system works (or even prevent it from working). Enough said. Moving on…

Win8 - Deeper Insights

Win8 - Usage Tips

Win8 - Miscellanea, Rumors, & General Grumblings

Windows 8 - GSD Previously Posted

Cheers and good luck.

--Claus V.

Displaying digital media on an older HDTV - Dad Approved


CC attribution: by Daniel Oines (dn1967b) on flickr.

Being a child of the 70’s and 80’s, one common family event was family “slide show” time. Dad, being a hard-core amateur photographer (we had a dark room, chemicals, print paper, etc.) took lots of SLR photos. So naturally we had lots of slides.  That meant after trips or for family get-togethers, down would come the project screen, up would go the slide projector, and out would come the boxes upon boxes of slide carousels.

Hummm…and in the next slide…ca-chuka-chucka…we can see…first young Claus proudly showing his tiny perch caught on his bamboo fishing pole…and in the next…ca-chuka-chucka…Claus has fallen off the pier into the lake. See how the pole floats? Alas, Claus does not. Ha-ha, dad.

Ain’t technology grand?

Fast forward to 2012.  Dad is now well into the transition from 35mm SLR photography to DSLR photography. That is generating a lot of digital photos from his vacation trips and amateur anthro/paleo field-work. Not to mention digital photos from iPhones and point-n-shoot cameras he and his wife both have and use for the daily life and family events.

Up to now, he has been able view them quite successfully on his desktop PC at home. However when there is a large family gathering at his house, he has to fetch the correct camera, connect it to his Sony Bravia KDL52W4100 HDTV via a low-quality video-in (yellow RCA) plug. While serviceable, Dad’s got a sharp eye and the high quality of his digital shots isn’t done justice with the low-quality of the input method.  This older HDTV doesn’t have any slots for USB/memory cards like his PC does. Bummer.

So he asked me for advice.

I needed to find a dead-simple solution to bring him the ability to show his great digital photographs as close to HD as possible on his older HDTV.  Maybe move the desktop PC to the living room or use a super-long D-sub VGA output cable from the den to the back of the TV?  Well, yes…but…

Here’s what we did.

Part 1 - IncrediSonic Ultra Play IMP150

I advised him to pick up a IncrediSonic Ultra Play IMP150 (Amazon link) multi-media player. It has a USB port and supports HDMI output. (The same model is on  There is the unit, a remote, an A/C adapter, and some low-def audio/video cables in the box.

I recommended this one to him for few reasons. First the Amazon product page has a mini-review video. I wanted him to be able to view the video to make sure the operation seemed logical and non-techy to use for him. The sub $40 price was great. It had an HDMI output that supported 1080p. Dad isn’t using all his HDMI ports on his Bravia TV so connecting it in HD output would be supported.  Not only would it support his digital image files, but it also could support many video file formats as well. It supported SD media sticks (from the point-n-shoot cameras). It has a USB port so media on a non-supported memory card format could be copied to a USB stick for display. Finally, the menu-interface and navigation seemed pretty intuitive.

More videos of that product in action:

IncrediSonic Ultra Play HD Media Player - MyKeyReviews - YouTube

Vorstellung des Incredi Sonic Ultra Play IMP150 - HD TV Digital Mini Media Player (HDMI,USB,1080 p) - YouTube

Note, there are quite a few other similar products that have pretty much the same features if you like this solution but want to explore other products, take your pick.

Part 2 - Patriot Xporter XT Rage 32 GB USB stick

Patriot Xporter XT Rage 32 GB USB 2.0 High Speed Flash Drive - Amazon product link

Patriot Xporter XT Rage 32GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive Model PEF32GRUSB - NewEgg product link

Dad does have a number of USB sticks that could have been used, but I recommended he use a new dedicated stick just for showing his digital photos/media on this unit.  There were probably even faster USB sticks than this one, but I have been pleased with my Patriot Xporter flash drive for many years. This 32 GB model has lots of storage room over his 4 GB models, and the smaller format would (hopefully) mean it wouldn’t stick out of the USB port on the IncrediSonic device like a standard USB stick would and risk over-torque/breaking of the USB port connection soldier points to the device system-board if dropped/banged/etc.

I could have found an even smaller USB micro-plug but then I was worried about possible loosing of it, or it being hard to manipulate on the desktop system.

The storage size and physical size of this unit seemed the best balance for his particular needs; adjust accordingly.

Part 3 - HDMI Cable(s)

So here is where my plan came together.

I pointed Dad to this AmazonBasics 2-Pack, High-Speed HDMI Cables 6.5 feet cable set. NewEgg also has more than a few HDMI cable picks as well.

This would so be easier and better quality than continuing to use that silly yellow video out/in RCA plug connection!

I went with the 6.5 ft length so he could leave it plugged in on the back input panel of the HDTV display and then tuck the cord away when not in use. Then there would be enough length to allow it to stretch to where he could put the IncrediSonic device close enough to a A/C source and high-enough for the remote signal to reach it.

The 2-pack was recommended so he could leave one permanently attached to the back of the TV as mentioned but the “spare” could be kept in the box/bag with the IncrediSonic so he could take it on the go when he visited other family members who also had a HDTV with HDMI inputs. This way the show could conveniently go on the road!

Dad ordered the set the next day from my recommendations and a few days later had the whole thing running perfectly. He was beyond pleased with the quality of the display.

I reminded him that according to the reviews, it defaults to 720p HD format but if the HDTV supports 1080p, he can change a setting on the device to get even better display quality for his DSLR digital photos.

This or a similar “kit” might be really valuable for ForSec and/or other digital media users who need a standby for showing digital media presentations…just in case that laptop doesn’t work, or that TV/display provided isn’t what they said it would be, or if the one cable you need to use your standard setup goes bad. This particular combo came in a just under $100. Not bad.

Definitely Valca Sr. approved.

--Claus V.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pile ‘o Linkage

Chain links _ Flickr - Photo Sharing!_2012-08-25_17-32-04CC attribution: "Chain links" by HowardLake on flickr.

Time to unload them…


Adobe Reader XI (11)

Network Bits

For the SysAdmins


  • Updates: Autoruns v11.34, ProcDump v5.0, Sigcheck v1.8, VMMap v3.11 - Sysinternals Site blog
  • Process Explorer v15.23 - Sysinternals
  • PsPing - Sysinternals new CLI tool to measure network performance including bandwidth available between systems. Also can generate histograms of results.
  • Rapid Environment Editor - Most folks won’t have any need to ever edit their Windows environment variables. But if you are a tweaker or geek or sysadmin, you might need to. This looks to be the tool for you! in addition it provides Error checking to highlight any problems with the entries. I had two “abandoned” items in my system I cleaned up with it. Really a nice portable tool to keep handy.
  • MetroTextual 1.1 - SingularLabs - Minor update to a Win8’ish style notepad tool. I posted quite a bit about it earlier MetroTextual - Spirit of the notepad known as Bend...  This new version has some fixes and feature enhancements. However I noticed on my Win7 x64 system that while v1.0 seemed OK, version 1.1 garbles selected text. I like the newest feature adds but it remains a work in progress…which raises the same question Scott Hanselman of ComputerZen pondered: A Bug Report is a Gift.  What is the best way to report it to the developers…from within the app?

    before text selection…

    after text selection…
  • HexDive 0.5 – Adding a bit of a context… & HexDive 0.6 – new strings and more -Context… - Hexacorn continues to make great leaps of improvement in the free and super-useful HexDive tool to look for interesting string patterns in files. Check it out!
  • PeStudio 4.10 - Winitor - Speaking of binary analysis, PeStudio is a new-to-me tool to aid in application binary analysis. Cool!

New “Defrag” Tools Videos (and others also)

Microsoft/Sysinternals and their Channel9 team have really scored a home-run with their “Defrag Tools” video series. Each week (or sooner) a new quality video comes out..with clear file download links/formats…that reviews or expands an in-depth review of Sysinternals tools and usage.  I’ve already posted links for Episodes 1-6 and now we have 7-12 out.  I download these at home and tuck them away for replay on rainy days or presidential debates. Even when I consider myself very comfortable using a particular Sysinternals utility, walkthroughs such as these always leave me with a new tip/trick/configuration tweak that I didn’t have before.

A great supplemental Channel 9 is The Defrag Show

See also this WEBCAST: Maximizing Windows 7 Performance: Troubleshooting Tips (1hr 1min) as found by Kurt Shintaku and add it to your video bag as well.

Google Fonts

Font geek? Me too!

I frequently hit the following sites looking for new and impactful free-use fonts for maximum impact on presentations and documents where having just the right font can add a punch of enhancement.

So I got really excited when I found that Google has a web font collection (500+) under the Open Font License.

Now this is really cool!.


--Claus V.

Grandpa would not be impressed…

My late maternal grandfather was an F.B.I. Special Agent back from the ‘40’s to late 1960’s.

So I was bemused when a gentleman from the church brought me his wife’s XP laptop that when booted displayed an “official” looking lock screen from the “FBI” (complete with FBI seal) saying computer violations were found and locked by the FBI unless the user paid them a fine via a legitimate “MoneyPak” service.



It was just a run-of-the-mill Trojan drive-by infection crafted by scummy scammers.

It took the better part of a Monday night NFL football game to clean, but I was able to get things restored and back in service.

…and then updated all the third-party browser apps (Java, Flash, Shockwave, etc.) as well as the latest version of the installed AV/AM software.

Related: SOPA reincarnates to hold your computer hostage - ZDNet.

--Claus V.

Wacom CTE-430 Drawing Tablet & Windows 7

I was cleaning out my home “tech closet” last week.

Tearing down old cell-phone boxes, old hard-drive product boxes, laptop boxes now that they have been “burned in” and I’m not returning them to the store…stuff like that. Sorting plastics/papers for recycling, etc.

While I was putting some of the small-bits I wanted to hold onto in my catch-all shoeboxes for such things tech, I found my old Wacom CTE-430 (Sapphire) drawing tablet and pen.  I had got this a long time ago when Lavie was doing drafting and design work on the computer.

As a young kid, Alvis had a copy of Disney’s Magic Artist and Sketch Board that she loved. But as she got older she outgrew it so it was passed on to relative’s family who had young children to use.

Now that Alvis is much older and quite the artist, I wondered if she would be interested again in trying the whole “digital artist” thing. Her preferred medium are watercolors, pastels, colored pencils, charcoals, and other medium that are -- by nature -- very messy and require lots of scattering of these items across the desks, the floors, the window ledges, etc.  Oh, and lots of my favorite mugs left next to the kitchen sink soaking brushes in soapy water.

Maybe Alvis would find it relaxing to do some digital sketch-work again when she was bored but didn’t feel like hauling out her normal art supplies.

So I decided to connect it to my Win7 x64 system.  It found some drivers and seemed to work OK but some of the pressure support for the pen didn’t seem to work.

Did some Google work and found the Wacom site but the US driver page wouldn’t work correctly to let me grab the drivers using the form selection boxes.

Eventually I found a direct link to the driver page I was looking for:

Driver 5.2.5-5a(RC) for Windows 7, Vista & XP (32 & 64 bit versions) - Wacom Graphire3

Downloaded and installed fine on our Windows 7 x64 systems.

Next I needed to find a few paint programs that supported tablet usage. This Gizmo’s Freeware page had more than I was looking for. Score!

Best Free Paint Program - Gizmo's Freeware

I downloaded and installed quit a few of them on Alvis’s system.

In the end we both thought the Art Rage 2 “Starter Edition” (free) was the best starting point. The sketching surface and tools were very easy to get started with.   Alvis thought this was hands-down the easiest of the bunch to use and play with. If she really gets into it, we will probably spring for the full Art Rage Studio Pro version. at $60 it seems a great value for new digital artists.

The others are also quite good, Project Dogwaffle & MyPaint were particularly well rounded applications.

We aren’t quite up to using the tablet in Photoshop yet, but I think with some practice, it could be useful there as well supplementing digital photo editing work.

Nice to know “old technology” can find new life…


--Claus V.

…in which the power of “The Force” is realized…

Alvis: “I went by the auto parts store and picked up some windshield wipers. The auto parts guy help me pick out the right ones.”

me: “Great. You need some help putting them on the car when I get home or do you think you can do it yourself?”

Alvis: “They’re already on. The auto parts guy asked if I wanted him to put them on for me.  I said sure!”

me: “m’hmm…”

Alvis: “So he went outside with me and put them on the car. Wasn’t that great?!”

me: “m’hmm…”

And the young Jedi Padawan comes into her own…. 

Just don’t you dare try to put her in a binder

--Claus V.

Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) Upgrade

Morning tasks after booting the coffee maker.

  1. Find in RSS feeds that my Ubuntu 12.04 LTS install has a 12.10 upgrade available.
    ●  Ubuntu 12.10 “Quantal Quetzal” takes flight with a bag full of Juju - Ars Technica
    ●  Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) released! - Ubuntu
    ●  Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) review - ZDNet
  2. Find in RSS feeds that my Oracle VirtualBox software has upgrade available.
    ●  Stormy October patch day for Oracle - The H Security: News and Features
    ●  What's New in Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.2? - Oracle (The Fat Bloke Sings) blog
    ●  Oracle Announces Latest Release of Oracle VM VirtualBox - Oracle
  3. Download and update VirtualBox and matching VM Extension Pack appliance.
    ●  Downloads – Oracle VM VirtualBox
  4. Launch and run Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and use Update Manager to bring this version as current as possible, pre-12.10 upgrade.
  5. Reboot and re-run updater…check version, still 12.04 and additional update checks show no 12.10 version offered.
  6. Hit the Googles and find trick to run from sudo “update-manager -d”. That does the trick and upgrade option to 12.10 now available to grab.
    ●  Howto: Upgrade to Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal from 12.04, 11.04, 11.10 | Desktop & Server - Unixmen
  7. Apparently I’m jumping the gun a bit on the new bits as dialog box says it is a “development version”, but apply Ubuntu update anyway…
  8. Get warning message that video hardware may not be sufficiently supported. Do I want to abort upgrade for now? Nope. Note complaints of 3D acceleration. Check VirtualBox settings and find I have that option disabled for this system. Note to self to enable after reboot.
  9. Reboot.
  10. Log in and kick the tires a bit.
  11. Disable the “expanded search” feature. System Settings --> Personal --> Privacy --> Search Results “Off”.
    Canonical adds a 'kill switch' for Ubuntu's Amazon search - PCWorld
    Online Dash Search Update - jonobacon@home

  12. Yep.  OS window performance and transition fade effects now slow-as-molasses.
  13. Remembered to upgrade/install VirtualBox 4.2.2 Guest Additions for Linux into system. Done.
  14. Reboot.
  15. Video performance a bit better but not a lot. Reboot.
  16. Disabled 3D acceleration setting in VirtualBox.
  17. Video performance only a hair-width better. Hopefully better VirtualBox video driver support for Ubuntu 12.10 will be released soon…
  18. Searched and found more posts on the issue.
    Ubuntu 12.10 – VirtualBox Guest Additions not Working -Complete, Concrete, Concise
    #10901 (vboxvideo fails to auto-load on Ubuntu 12.10 Guest) – Oracle VM VirtualBox • View topic - Ubuntu 12.10 "virtually" unusable
  19. Edited “/etc/modules” file to include “vboxvideo” line as suggested above. Shut down.
    [ubuntu] newbie question on editing as root - Ubuntu Forums
  20. Re-enabled 3D acceleration setting in VirtualBox machine settings. Powered VM back up.
  21. Ubuntu 12.10 video performance in VirtualBox 4.2.2 now back to normal (pretty darn fast) speed again. Yay!
  22. Check “Upgrade to Quantal Quetzal” off my to-do list.


--Claus V.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Future Mobile Phone Upgrade?

I’m in the process of planning for a mobile phone upgrade, maybe by the end of the year.

Currently I have a Samsung Mythic SGH-a897 on AT&T carrier. The standard 2-year contract has long since ended.

It is a “smart-phone” but I don’t carry a data-plan with it and only chose it because I am a frequent texter and the haptic virtual keyboard far outshined all the other available models with a full keyboard (virtual and actual) offering.  It still runs great and the battery usually lasts two or three days of talk-time, always-on standby, and my texting.  The camera is adequate, but not nearly a replacement for a digital camera which is why my Canon S95 is almost always EDC now. Not once have I missed not having a data plan or being able to tether it to my home WiFi. Nor do/can I really carry music files on it. Sure I’ve tried, but it really didn’t seem to work too well. So I also have a little iPod shuffle (clip model) with me as well for tunage.

I could continue to happily roll along this way for the next few years, however there has been a sea change around the Valca home and extended family.

  • Both parental units now have iPhone 4’s.
  • Both Alvis and Lavie now have iPhone 4’s.
  • Bro has an iPhone 4s.

Providing tech-support (of sorts) for these devices has made me a bit more aware of the extended benefits of smart phones so it seems it’s time for me to move forward.

So…I guess that means I’m getting an iPhone 5. Right?

Probably not.

At work, a daily occurrence is the often heated discussion between the iPhone tech holders versus the Android phone holders; which is better, who rooted what, what latest confectionary OS has been downloaded and on what platform (and who is still waiting), etc.  Constantly.

And I’m tired of it.

In fact, it reminds me of the OS platform debates that the phone-platform wars supplanted; Windows vs. Apple vs. Linux.

I can see why the iPhone crowd is so passionate. I often borrow Lavie’s iPhone in bed and use it to look up the cable/TV schedule in Safari…or maybe a quick Wikipedia peek to scratch a mental itch. When I do use it the interface is very easy and intuitive to use. And the hardware is very polished (design wise) and just makes sense.

And I can also see the wide and expansive range of apps available on both the Android and iPhone platforms. Sure is lots of handy things there.

And being able to have one device for above average quick-picture snaps and carry a good collection of digital music and videos would be really, really nice.

But despite having regularly used the iPhone platforms, and dabbled with Android phones/apps, there is a good chance that I might take the path less traveled and plunk down for a Windows 8 Phone.

Funny thing is, not once, never-ever, at-all, have I actually seen one of these mythical “Windows Phones” out in the wild. They have only been seen my be in the cell-phone petting zoos. None of my family have one, none of my circle of friends, not even the chance-met stranger. Considering the very-small market-share Windows Phones are reported to hold, I guess that isn’t surprising.

So since I’ve not been able to get first-hand feedback from a real-world person I’ve had to read the Net and reviews and on-line feedback on the current Windows 7 Phone. Oh yeah, and watch Bones use one on TV.  Not having access to a real-world Windows Phone is the biggest concern that is holding me back a bit and preventing me from becoming a Windows 8 Phone “evangelist” among the Apple/Droid crowd I rub-shoulders with.

Online feedback usually falls along three lines;

  1. The UI is really nice and refreshingly different.
  2. The (Windows 7 Phone) hardware isn’t quite up to the task; it’s adequate, but could be better for the OS demands.
  3. There just aren’t nearly as many Apps for the Windows Phone platform as iPhone or Android. Get a Windows Phone and you might starve to App death.

The first one appeals to me. Unlike the tiles under Windows 8 OS, active tiles and the blocking layout really appeal to me here on a phone device. I get it. Logical, orderly, strong & solid. The design really fits me.

The new Windows 8 Phone hardware and OS seem to be fully developed now and should resolve performance issues and expectations held under the second point.

The third item really doesn’t bother me. Can I surf the net? Can I listen to music, or videos, or connect to my email account?  Does it take good digital photos? SkyDrive support? Can I still text? Yes? I’m covered. And I continue to pop-in and check out the Windows Phone Marketplace.

So what hardware offerings and I considering?

Current leader: Samsung ATIV S

What I like about this model:

  • The case design just rocks. While not steampunk, there is an air of industrial design to it. I particularly like the brushed aluminum back plate and the sliver of perforated grill on the back. There is something mechanical about the design. The front looks very similar (though wider and taller) to my Samsung Mystic in fact. The edges are rounded, but not too funky. It has a pretty square top-view and the bottom is more curvy and reminds me of retro Italian sport-car design from the sixties.
  • Hardware specs are nice: 1.5 Ghz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8 MP camera (and front-facing camera as well), 16/32GB storage, and MicroSD slot support.
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n supported.
  • 4.8” HD display.
  • 3.5mm earjack.
  • Looks like it will fit in my current Samsung holster.
  • Want.
  • Price? Still an unknown.

In Second Place: HTC Windows Phone 8X

From what I know, HTC is one of the top-tier manufacturers of Android phones. So they have clearly been in the business for a while and can deliver great hardware.

Thoughts about  HTC Windows Phone(s)

  • HTC is a mobile smartphone platform leader. HTC’s got back.
  • I’m not as crazy about the case styling. I could accept the 8X model case, larger, more uniform, if I were to get it in black. The 8S being both smaller, and with that crazy Dairy Queen cone “dip” styling at the bottom leaves me unimpressed.
  • 8X display is 4.3” HD, just a bit less than the ATIV.
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n supported.
  • 3.5mm earjack.

Hardware-wise the 8X seems a close match for the ATIV, but the styling leaves me uncomfortable.

In Close Third: Nokia Lumina 920/82

Initial impressions about Nokia Windows Phone(s)

  • Sigh…I do like the “bold” color styling of the Nokia’s just a bit more than the HTC. Barely. But then the roundy horizontal cross section loses my interest.
  • The way the screen glass rounds to the device is interesting.
  • Is that inductive (cordless) charging I see? Hmm.
  • 8.7 MP camera…largest of all contenders.
  • 4.5” HD screen.
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n supported.
  • 3.5mm earjack.
  • Camera/video handling seems to be the major point to stand out this device from the rest.
  • Turn-by-Turn voice navigation with Nokia Maps app.

Additional Viewpoints

And then there are the rumors and rumblings of a Microsoft-hardware released product down the road…

Would I consider a Microsoft-provided Windows Phone? Sure..if the hardware matched and the price was competitive.  Will that possibility keep me from picking up a Windows 8 phone before the end of the year…certainly not…unless it was 100% confirmed that Jonas Daehnert’s outstanding MS phone design got picked up by Redmond.

A few basic How-To’s

Now I need to work some numbers with AT&T to see if their "AT&T Shared Data” plan would provide a better value once a third smartphone/data sucker is added or if our current method of have a shared Family call plan with unlimited texting package for everyone + individual data plans for each phone would be cheaper.

Will keep you posted on any new Windows 8 phone goings-on and how my considerations are running.

And if any GSD followers are actually using a Windows 7 phone and would like to leave their own thoughts on “real-world” usage to counterpoint the iPhone/Droid fans, they would be appreciated.


Claus V.