Sunday, June 30, 2013

Odds and Ends: Recent Utilities and Tips of Note

Here is a quick dash-off of some free software and utilities that struck my fancy.

Please use caution as your fancy may not be quite as robust as mine…

  • Portable Update - free and interesting tool to update your MS Windows system in an isolated environment.
  • WSUS Offline Update - This is the tool that we use to do almost all our heavy post-image application Microsoft system updating. It was updated to version 8.4 on May 27 2013.
  • JavaRa 2.2 - SingularLabs JavaRa freeware utility that lets you deploy, update and remove the JRE. Really handy when you are dealing with lots of deployments or think you have a mis-install of JRE causing issues.
  • Updates: Autoruns v11.6, Procexp v15.31, Procmon v3.05, Sigcheck v1.92 - Sysinternals
  • TurnedOnTimesView - Nirsoft - new tool from Nir Sofer that reads the Windows Event logs and only reports on those system system launch/shutdown events.  Read Nir’s utility announcement at his blog.  I had been using PC On/Off Time but the freeware version was limited to the last 3-weeks it would report on. The NirSoft version doesn’t quite have the nice graphical view but has no limitations at all on the range of event log data it reports, and the NirSoft app allows you to export your data to a file.
  • Macrium Reflect FREE Edition - version 5.2 -  Information and download. This BetaNews post has more details on the improvements: Macrium Reflect Free improves Explorer integration, updates recovery builder tool
  • Parted Magic - Linux LiveCD - an awesome good tool that seems to be updated every other day. That is a REAL work of love to keep up that effort. Latest version was released June 14 2013 at version 2013_06_15. I used this tool to overcome a particularly interesting image deployment situation recently and it really worked brilliantly well. You will have to wait just a bit for that blog post to come! It was a great “thinking outside the box” solution.
  • Sandboxie  - Major update of version 4.02. For some details take a look at at BetaNews post: Sandboxie adds full 64-bit protection, improves compatibility
  • Oracle VM VirtualBox - free - Newly released version 4.2.14 (and matching Extension Pack) came out June 21 2013. See the Changelog for details.
  • PassMark MemTest86 - Now at Version 4.2.0 released March 18 2013. It’s nice to see this perennial RAM tester still supported and being updated regularly. You may also remember Memtest86+ which is very similar, but hasn’t been updated in several years. I carry both, just in case.
  • Running Mac OS X on Windows VMware Workstation - Chris Nackers Blog. While I do Apple iOS quite well on our iPhones and iPad, I don’t have any experience on OS X. Last time I used a Macintosh was back when it was a chunky box with a black/white monitor. Seriously! However I am always on the lookout for cool ways and tips to load different OS versions in virtual machines so this well-written guide really caught my eye. Chris Nackers is a neat IT guy and Microsoft MVP. I’m digging RSS feeding his blog. You should too!
  • Native VHD Boot in Windows 8 - 4sysops - Nice post by Timothy Warner. Don’t let the title fool you. He walks through setting up a Windows Server 2012 build in a “Boot from VHD” configuration. We’ve covered booting from VHD before here at GSD and it never fails to amaze me just how cool that ability is for Windows multi-boot fans.


Claus Valca.

Forensic News and Blog Update Link Fest

Here is a mini-roundup of some great forensic posts over the past few weeks I bookmarked.

Meanwhile, in the world of digital forensics, our dear friend Dr. Neal Krawetz has had his hands full between teaching us the nuances of digital image forensics and fighting the noble fight against clarity, objectivity, and transparency in the world of digital news photography and photography contests. You go Dr. Krawetz!

When I grow up I want to be gothic physical/digital forensic examiner…just like Abby Sciuto!


(IN)SECURE Magazine - June 2013 edition (PDF download) covers a number of great topics this month including:

    • Becoming a computer forensic examiner
    • UEFI secure boot: Next generation booting or a controversial debate
    • How to detect malicious network behavior
    • DNS attacks on the rise: Rethink your security posture
    • IT security jobs: What's in demand and how to meet it
    • Remote support and security: What you don’t know can hurt you


--Claus V.

Microsoft’s EMET v 4.0 Released … in case you missed it

Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit 4.0 - EMET - just got released about two weeks ago.

It really hasn’t made that big a splash in the security news pond; maybe getting lost in all the waves from coverage on our domestic network digital data gathering, leaks in the SS Minnow, and that whole Facebook Shadow Profile data collection fiasco.

Oh, then there is that whole breaking story in the food world that has everyone shocked and a-twitter--How Cronuts Are Driving New York City Crazy.

So it’s not surprising that news of the release of a Windows-specific security tool to prevent advanced malware attacks got little notice.

So here you go.  Little rock toss into a big pond.


I’ve got it running on all our home systems as well as all my Windows virtual machines. I’ve seen no performance issues at all and it is super-quiet; no chatter at all. Accordingly, I would recommend it to all my friends/family-members, especially those who insist on using Internet Explorer and do a lot of work in MS Office applications and documents. It is not a solution to replace any existing anti-virus/anti-malware security software you have, but rather it works to supplement and harden it.  I’m running it aside Microsoft Security Essentials (Win 7 systems), Windows Defender (Win 8 systems), and Bitdefender Antivirus Free (Win 8 systems). It works great.

Not impressed enough yet to download?

Well, did I mention it has “skins” so you can change the theme to some pretty snazzy color schemes?

Seriously, if you spend any time on the Web (particularly in IE) and run a Windows system, then you really should consider deployment of this tool. Just take the default configuration settings to get started, then you can tweak away and add additional protection coverage after you read the manual.


Claus Valca.

Short List of free video-editing apps

It’s been quite a while since my Video-Editing Resource Roundup back in 2009. Check that link out for a recap, though quite a few have disappeared in the time since that post first was written.

There are tons of resources, but these (beyond the Microsoft ones that come on/with Windows) are the primary free versions that I am playing with nowadays.

  • Shotcut by MLT Framework - a free, open-source cross-platform video editor. It has a nice GUI and runs on Linux, OS X, and Windows. For a brief introduction, take a look at this review by AddictiveTips blogger Waqas Ahmed. Shotcut: Nifty Multi-Platform Video Clip Editor With Custom Filters
  • Lightworks - Wow. This one still amazes me. The free version is a bit stripped down with some of the supported features but for most wanna-be video-editors, it’s a great place to get your feet wet and have the water go quickly over your head. Download. The newest version requires activation, but you can register for a free account to activate it.
  • Avidemux - free and no-frills video editor do to basic cutting/filtering/encoding. Latest version is 2.6.4 released May 09 2013 so it is still being updated regularly. Good place if you want an alternative video editor but don’t need all the bells and whistles of the big-boy-toys.
  • VirtualDub - video capture software that also lets you do pre/post processing. Pretty cool if you don’t want to use the manufacturer’s software that come with the video device.

Moving on now…

Claus V.

Mostly Wi-Fi and Network Security: Linkfest

Ok. In the time it took me to work on that last post (mostly), I was able to cycle some laundry through the machines AND get my VMWare Player build of Windows 8.1 up and running.

It tossed me a few curves, but nothing that big a deal.


I tried the new and updated “Windows Start button” all for five minutes before ditching it for the free IOBit StartMenu8. Went on with no issues. Tossed on Google Chrome (Dev), FreeCommanderXE beta, dropped some snazzy wallpapers on to cycle through, added Process Explorer to run in the system tray, and while I kept Windows Defender this time, I supplemented it with Microsoft's EMET 4.0.

That’s it for now, more tweaking and testing and twisting it in the weeks to come. Expect some follow-up Windows 8/8.1 posts as well around here.

So now let’s turn to the world of Wi-Fi (in)Secuirty and networking in this GSD Link Fest edition:

Wi-Fi, Web, and Networking Security Headaches Galore - Pineapple Flavored!

All great videos to watch on your own or with your IT team for a mini training & discussion session.

Networking Tools

There have been a number of nice networking tool updates recently:

Microsoft Message Analyzer Beta 3 Released!

The next beta version of Microsoft’s answer to Wireshark is out.

It is a far and different animal from the old MS Network Monitor platform and takes a lot of work getting used to.

Tip: you have to be registered on the Microsoft Connect site to get the non-public download. I have been from some time but when I tried to find the actual MA Beta 3 bits for download on the project page, I couldn’t find them. I looked, waited a few days, looked some more, nada.

Finally I backed out a bit and found a “new” (3rd) “Message Analyzer, Network Monitor and Protocol Test Suites” product program listed that I wasn’t joined to. I joined it and there were the bits. Ok…I guess that was my bad by assuming that just because I had joined a particular Product, that other Programs could be added without me realizing it. Oh well.

Note: I believe it requires a Windows 7/8 platform as well as some .NET packages. It definitely doesn’t seem to be supported on XP. Come-on team, time to upgrade that OS!

Wi-Fi Tools and Updates

  • Wi-Fi Inspector - Xirrus - Neat and techy-looking free Wi-Fi signal scanner. Now updated to version I keep this on handy
  • inSSIDer for Home - MetaGeek - This seriously-updated edition of inSSIDer really rocks! This is the free version for home users but they also offer a super-cool Office version that has some additional graphing and reporting features, Finally they also offer some super-beefy enterprise-level Wi-Fi assessment and troubleshooting software tools. Neat stuff here.
  • HeatMapper - Ekahau’s free Wi-Fi coverage mapping tool for homes and small offices. Simple registration required for the free download. Current version 1.1.4 (March 03 2012) with Win8 Consumer preview support.
  • Cisco Meraki - WiFi Mapper - Cisco product that can run in a browser session via a Java application. Nice basic review here: Wi-Fi Testing and Mapping Apps for Techs via Technibble
  • WifiInfoView - free NirSoft tool to capture information on Wi-Fi networks that are broadcasting in your vicinity. This version works on Windows Vista - Windows 7/8. Not XP, however.
  • WirelessNetView - free NirSoft tool that also captures broadcasting Wi-Fi network details. This one does run on XP.
  • Wireless Network Watcher - free NirSoft tool that shows who is connected to your wireless network.
  • SoftPerfect WiFi Guard - free app that also shows who is on your wireless network, but has an added feature of alerting you if a new device joins that is unknown

Stay safe and remain watchful!

Claus Valca

Rapid-Fire Security Linkfest

Time to empty out the “to-blog” hopper again.

In this edition, critical and curious security-related posts. Culled from the Web buffet bar over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile…we are installing Windows 8.1 Beta in a fresh VMWare Player build. Details to follow.

And the Password is…”stealmecrackme

Compromising Situations

Locking it down & Cleaning up the Mess

And now a GSD PSA:

  • Parents--make sure your kids view this TED presentation--no matter what their age.
  • Children--make sure your parents view this TED presentation--no matter what their age.
  • Employers--consider sharing with your employees.

Juan Enriquez: Your online life, permanent as a tattoo - - video appx 6 min.

“What if Andy Warhol had it wrong, and instead of being famous for 15 minutes, we’re only anonymous for that long? In this short talk, Juan Enriquez looks at the surprisingly permanent effects of digital sharing on our personal privacy. He shares insight from the ancient Greeks to help us deal with our new “digital tattoos.”

For even more TED videos on the impact of digital media, check out this related playlist of 10 more brief TED Talks: Our digital lives


--Claus V.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

iPhone Tips - When you don’t care to RTFM

Just for my reference….moving on.

Understanding iOS Status Bar Symbols - Apple Club

hyperlink - What is "mt=8" in iTunes links for the appstore? - Stack Overflow. From that link:

Apple designates a number of different Media Types (mt values):

1 Music
2 Podcasts
3 Audiobooks
4 TV Shows
5 Music Videos
6 Movies
7 iPod Games
8 Mobile Software Applications
9 Ringtones
10 iTunes U
11 E-Books
12 Desktop Apps

So, to answer your question, the "mt=8" in iTunes links simply identifies it as being of type 'Mobile Software Applications'.

and further in those comments:

For the commenter above, in case you haven't figured out, ls=1 means the URL will try and open iTunes and follow the link. If ls=1 is not included it will simply load the web page for that particular media asset.

safari safe browsing data what is it? - Apple Support Communities

Q: what is the safari safe browsing data when you sync you phone after the iOS 5 update??

A: Google Safe Browsing Data Syncs to iOS Devices Via iTunes - The Mac Security Blog

--Claus V.

Claus’s iPhone App List - Updated

Updated September 2013

Here is an updated listing, semi-categorized, of iOS iPhone apps I’m using on my iPhone 5. I’ve had it now for just over six months and I have really jumped on the value and convenience it and the applications have provided me. Don’t know how I lived without a smart-phone for so long.

All links will be to the iTunes App Store page unless otherwise noted. I’ve updated the permanent link on the sidebar under “Claus’s Toolbox”.

I’m only listing Apps that I use (or plan to purchase relatively soon for use). This post is for me to self-reference and primarily be a way to recommend/share Apps with the few family and friends who have iPhone discussions with me.

A mini price-range key:

  • free = free. May or may not be ad-supported. That said, if it is ad-supported or pop-up in-app notifications to upgrade to a paid-version are too annoying or obtrusive, the app is deleted.
  • $ = $.99 to $2.99 range.
  • $$ = $3 to $7.99 range.
  • $$$ = $8 to $9.99 range
  • $$$$ = over $9.99

Note that when posted, some apps may be on a special pricing discount for holiday or promotions. I’ll try to keep an eye on things but it’s only a rough guide.

“Default” apps that come installed/bundled with the iOS don’t get listed.

I have a few great Apps I won’t list for privacy reasons; banking/insurance/shipping/specific shopping/vendors, etc. Just because you don’t see those listed, doesn’t mean I don’t use them.

Finally, just because all these apps fit on and run on my iPhone 5 (64 GB), currently iOS 6.0.2, doesn’t mean they will all fit on your own iPhone.

Finally, I don’t know the impact iOS 7 will have on this list. I generally/guardedly like what I am seeing and hearing on iOS 7 but time will tell. 

Here’s the list.

Core Apps

  • Reeder - free (for now) though I gladly and joyously paid $ for it a few months ago before it became free. Now supports “standalone” RSS feeds rather than one of many supported on-line RSS services. The addition of that feature makes it my #1 Valca-cool app of awesomeness. Power to the People! You are brilliant and you are the master, Mr. Silvio Rizzi! You are a Rock Star for adding that feature! Enough said.
  • Chrome - free
  • Gmail - free
  • Google Maps - free
  • MiniKeePass - free
  • Naturespace - free/in-app $ (and I purchase a LOT of these tracks)
  • Wave Alarm - free (note I sprung for the in-app $ paid version). Wakes me up every day!
  • Wave Timer - free (note I sprung for the in-app $ paid version)
Productivity/Organization Apps Weather Apps
  • Weather Underground - free - (I paid $ for a 1-year in-app removal of ads) “realtime” radar data map display makes this app priceless to me! + it comes with lots of tropical weather (hurricane) tools and links so I may not need to purchase a hurricane-specific app.
  • WeatherMap+ - $ - Super cool forecast data projections. Awesomeness!
  • The Weather Channel® Max - $$
  • NOAA Hi-Def Radar - $ - beautiful image quality but radar data lags from several to +5 min behind current time. I want near real-time radar data please!
Text/Reading Apps Networking/IT/SysAdmin Apps Faith Apps Media & Sports Apps Specialized Utilities Photography/Art Health/Fitness/Education/Fun Hardware Support
These are the primary “hardware” items I use (or will be using) with my iPhone. Note: Price rating system suspended here. Do the research if you are curious.
  • Bluetooth Headset, Jabra WAVE - Got this in lieu of a Jawbone ERA. The reviews were good but the two factors that really sold me on this replacement headset for my battered Jawbone were the ability to connect/pair it to TWO iPhones at once (I now carry two, one from work and one is my personal) so hands-free car-driving is a joy again…and the fit around my ear due to the design means it stays fast and put when I am working and playing…no sag like the Jawbone ear loop does after a while. Highly Valca recommended device. Call quality is quite good (my own experience and feedback from family/friends on the far end).
  • Jawbone JAMBOX Wireless Speaker - Christmas present from Lavie. GSD post: It just has to be bigger on the inside…
  • Lightning Digital AV Adapter - Lightning to HDMI - Apple Store (U.S.) - Hey Mom, seen movie (insert title here) yet? Nope? Want to watch it right now off my iPhone on your HDMI TV? Great! Let’s go!
  • Jawbone (version 2) - (obtained back in 2008) - still running strong, though highly battered. Now retired but still works in a pinch.
Previously Used Apps (free) Upgraded to Purchased Versions or Alternatives
These are apps that I previously had on my iPhone but later upgraded to purchased versions and/or removed to make way for another/different version of the same app function. They are still highly recommended. Still pending purchase/installation - (sooner or later)

Hope you find this helpful.

--Claus V.

Thanks for the upgrades, Xfinity, now keep off my lawn unless you pay to maintain it.

Back in January 2012, I was in the storm of indecision; Thoughts on a Plan to Drop POTS: Pros/Cons

Do we toss our residential  POTS land-line phone service and move to a digital solution or not?

Two months ago I finally got too frustrated and after a great sales marketing presentation by a spectacularly patient and kind Xfinity customer service rep, took the plunge.

We had a Comcast/Xfinity HD cable package (no premium channels), a HD DVR unit lease, standard broadband Internet service, a cable broadband modem lease, and two “still free-for now” digital signal converter boxes. I think that bill for all that was around $175/mo.

Then I had the POTS line service from a different provider (Verizon), which now has crept up to just over $80/mo for just regular phone service. Seriously. No bells-whistles-or value packages. That’s as cheap as I could get it!  No “metro” extended area dialing plan is offered. So to call the in-laws just a 35 minutes drive away is a long distance call. Really? How come they have a “metro” line package from their different phone provider and can call us for no long distance charge? Anyway…

Thanks to her “no-bull” (honest I’ve been watching our new bill like hawk) customer service pitch, I jumped on an Xfinity “triple-play” package bundle and now get all this for $190/mo.

  • Unlimited Nationwide telephone voice-calling with no long-distance charges.
  • HD cable package, including three premium movie channels,
  • Primary HD DVR receiver cost included in the package,
  • Upgraded broadband Internet speed tier.
  • Download movies/TV shows/premium content to view and carry on our iPhones/laptops,
  • I even added another HD receiver (at an add-on cost being counted in that monthly bill amount) for kicks and grins and late-night HD bedroom movie watching as well.

So not only did I save me some serious money (when removing the POTS line cost each month from our budget), I was able to add additional features/services and still come in less than my previous cable/phone bill combined (including all the taxes, surcharges, & fees). And for a sysadmin network geek, the extra bandwidth speed is better than on the biggest pipes we have at work!

Sweet jebus!


Yes..that’s fairly typical now the Valca residence. Win7 wired connection on Gigabit capable Ethernet port/switch over Cat-6 cabling. by1lh5na.ei1

Wi-Fi speeds across our 802.11n home router on laptops and iOS devices are about 1/2 that speed, but still pretty freaking good (IMHO).

Even Lavie jumped on board and has been a firm enthusiast of the switch.

We were a bit nervous about porting the home phone # we have had over to the new digital phone service. We’ve held that number longer than we’ve been married!  So for a month we carried both the POTS service and a temporary new digital phone service # to confirm the quality of the digital line was good. It was. With some trepidation, we went through the # porting service with an Xfinity customer service rep on a Saturday, and the following Saturday it was completed…no extra charges. Yea!

Now I have one more partial billing cycle with our old POTS service provider to cycle through and I think that ends that relationship. Wow.

So it was with some disconcerting feelings I saw this new plan by Xfinity to expand Wi-Fi service to their “roaming” customers:

I think I understand the actual network deployment model though all the “hype” and sensationalism, but I’m still not convinced I like it.  I am (BTW) still paying a $7.00 broadband/phone modem rental fee each month as part of my $190/mo bundled service plan.

I’m sure they can segregate the bandwidth on my “pipe” so it doesn’t impact my download speeds for phone/movie/network content and leave me with increased pingtimes and jitter.

I’m sure they can segregate the network traffic so others cannot snoop on our own private traffic.

I just don’t like the idea, so please keep your “pubic” Xfinity customer hot-spot traffic off my leased router.

Well, unless….

Now here’s an idea, Xfinity.  If you decide to do that, comp me the price of the modem-rental fee I am paying you each month to get the services I am already paying you for to leverage “free” Wi-Fi coverage access for other strangers who are your paying customers. If you want to let them use the hardware I have the privilege of leasing from you so they can get in the broadband carpool lane with me, then at least have the courtesy to pay for their gas.

That would be a closer “win-win” for both of us.

I get to see my bill drop just a bit and you get to extend your roaming Wi-Fi access across our neighborhood for other Xfinity guests.

As of right now, our current Xfinity provided modem does not support Wi-Fi. I know because I didn’t want it (and asked for a modem model without it) as I run and manage our own private Wi-Fi network downstream from their cable broadband modem. That’s not to say I may not have to have another forced “upgrade” down the road, but for now it isn’t an issue.

Think about it Xfinity. Otherwise I might have to invest in my own Xfinity approved (sans-Wi-Fi) DOCSIS Device. Now that I think about it, that was my most recent soap-box rant. See what I did about the previous one and that service provider when I finally dealt with it?

I’m just saying…

--Claus V.

P.S. Hey Xfinity, since we are talking, when can I expect my new cloud-based X2/XI3 DVR unit from you? I doubt I’ll see a price drop on my bill, but I guess if it is at least as 50% more energy efficient than my current Cisco HD DVR monster that makes so much noise when the HDD spins up it scares small children, that might be something…and that Comcast version of Apple’s AirPlay feature sounds pretty handy considering I just bought a pricy Apple Lightning-to-HDMI adapter to watch HD media off my iPhone 5 on my HD TV.

Mozilla Thunderbird Message Composing Tip

I have been a longtime fan of Mozilla Thunderbird as my primary home desktop email client.

I’ve tried a number of alternative ones but just haven’t been convinced they offer me anything that T-Bird isn’t providing.

One side-enjoyment that I have is collecting fun and fascinating links I think my family members might enjoy based on their interests and hobbies.  My RSS feed list is pretty large and expansive and I usually find material for them without trying.

Once every few weeks I’ll sort the saved bookmarks and categorize them in Firefox, then I will copy the lot in the Bookmark Manager and paste them into a new message composition window in Thunderbird.

That works great but there is a single “space” between each of the links.

I like to split each URL link out on it’s own line and sometimes it’s hard to see just where that space is.


I could (temporarily) ramp up the font size formatting of the message content to make it more visible for the editing work, but that seemed silly. Could I just “zoom” the view up instead?

I looked and looked (and even tried some T-bird Add-ons) but they just didn’t work like I wanted, nor could I find a zoom control.

After just a minute of the Googles I found the solution was coded into T-bird for some time, but accessed via key/mouse hot-key combinations rather than a menu/GUI solution:

New in Thunderbird 10 | How to | Keyboard shortcuts - Thunderbird

Keyboard shortcuts

  • The scroll wheel can now be used to zoom and unzoom a message in the message reader and compose window:
    Ctrl + |scroll wheel| Command + Control + |scroll wheel|. In the message reader only, with Ctrl + “0” |Command| + “0”, you can reset the zoom to 100%.

Say what?

Windows users…if you are viewing a message in the reading pane OR composing a message in the new message composition window, press and hold the “CTRL” key while scrolling your mouse wheel up or down, the viewable text size increases or decreases.  This does NOT change the actual font size coding of your message…just how large it is displayed for you you.


To reset the view size back to “100%” normal size -- in the reading pane view only -- press “CTRL” key and “0”.

Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a reset method in the composition window so you will have to “CTRL” + scroll-wheel it back to what looks like your normal size.

On my system with Thunderbird version 17.0.7, it appears the zoom level you set is persistent. Meaning that if you close the zoomed/shrunk composition window, any new composition windows you open will retain that last zoom setting. YMMV.

Good enough for me!


Claus V.

P.S. -- Yes I hear you giggling at me Alvis with my “old-man” eyes…I’m blaming it on my HD 1920 x 1080 15.6-inch spanking-tastic super-fine laptop display. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!