Another Use for a Hanger

In programing there is the concept of code re-use, which is re-using the same code for something else. This applies in the real world too. I found a new use for a clothes hanger. It holds my various Ethernet cables so I can tell how long they are. I guess it’s not a new use; I’m still hanging something on it, but it works.Network Cable hanger

Solid State Drive Do’s and Don’ts

I was just looking at the new Asus Eee PC and realized that it has a solid state hard drive in it like an Apple iPod nano . Then I saw a Hak5 episode that talked about data recovery on a solid state drives and how it differs from primarily used mechanical hard drives with spinning platters and heads that are in most computers today. The solid state drives, or SSDs, use electronic gates or switches to store the bits that make up the data. Each time the data changes the switch gets turned on or off; a binary 0 or 1. Over time they will actually “burnout” the electronic switches if they are over used, rendering part of the sold state drive useless. I use SpinRite for data recovery and maintenance on my hard drives and it works great for detecting bad sectors and moving the data to good sectors. So I wondered if the program worked it’s data recovery magic on SSDs too. I emailed GRC, the company that makes Spinrite owned by Steve Gibbson, and asked that very question. This is the response I got:

SpinRite was never designed for solid state media. So, we would not recommend running SpinRite on any solid state or flash drives.

SpinRite will be of *no* help or benefit with non-magnetic drives. In fact, since the total number of writes to Solid State Drives is somewhat limited, you should neither run SpinRite *nor* defrag these drives. You *MUST* also not run a swap file on these drives since that will tend to burn them out quickly.

Thank you for your cooperation, time and patience.

Sincerely,

Gibson Research
Technical Support

Defraging your hard drive, which is completely irrelevant and damaging on solid state drives, used to be a way to speed up slowing hard drives. We will just have to see what researchers come up with to deal with the reliability, performance, and recoverability of SSDs in the future.

Remote Assistance / Remote Control revisited

Back in March I wrote about single click remote control but I found another quick and dirty way  to provide remote assistance. Hamachi! No, not tuna. Hamachi is a VPN solution that does not require you to setup any sever or open any ports and best of all, the standard edition is free. You download the software and install it on the computer you want to remote control, then download and install it on the computer you are controlling  from. The installation is easy and the program walks you through the configuration.

Now here is the interesting stuff. It works by creating another network connector that gets a static IP from the Hamachi network. Each new installtion gets it’s own unique IP address whick allows your computer to communicate with other computers on the Hamachi network. Ok, I thought to myself, “This must be hacker paradise!”. But in order to connect to another computer you must create a unique “network” name and password so only those that know your network name and password combination can connect. It’s sort of a VPN inside of a VPN. You would think that this would have high overhead and perform poorly, but it uses UDP peer-to-peer packets to communicate so there is less overhead than a traditional VPN. Also it allows for NAT traversal so you don’t have to open ports most firewalls ( some firewall rules are very stringent).  A paid version is also available that provides some additional features but using Hamachi and Windows remote desktop or VNC you can connect to any computer easily.

https://secure.logmein.com/products/hamachi/vpn.asp

Hamachi

How To Setup Single Click Remote Control Support

If you’ve ever had to help friends or relatives with computer problems over the phone this will help you get them out of you hair faster. Ultra VNC SC lets you control a users desktop without having the user do anything except double click a file. Here’s how:

To set up remote support you need to do a few things

  1. Get a dynamic dns name.
  2. Set up your firewall
  3. Configure the program

Get a dynamic DNS Name

  1. Now to get to your computer you can use the IP the ISP has assigned you. Problem: Your ISP will more than likely use DHCP to assign you an IP so at any given time you may not know your current IP. Solution: Dynamic DNS! Go to http://dyndns.org or http://tzo.com or http://deerfield.com or any other dynamic DNS site. In this example, I use DynDNS.org.
  2. Sign up for an account (free) and create a host name that you will use to reference you computer. Ex. homepc.homeip.net (one of the several subnets available).Create a new host entry under Host Services. The site will automatically detect the IP that you are currently accessing the site from so sign in from the place you want to connect to. I.e. your house.

DynDNS

This will maintain your current IP info as a global internet address. When every your IP changes you will need to login into DynDNS and update the IP registed. Newer routers have a Dynamic DNS feature which will let you automatically update DynDNS whenever your IP changes. The other option is to use a DNS Update client that automatically updates your register IP from your PC. These clients are available on the DynDNS site.

linksys_dyndns.JPG

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ASP – Access to path * is denied

I was trying to write to a file in ASP.Net and was getting the following error:

aspdenied.JPG

Access to the path “D:\WEB\******\dump.csv” is denied.
Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.UnauthorizedAccessException: Access to the path “D:\WEB\******\dump.csv” is denied.

ASP.NET is not authorized to access the requested resource. Consider granting access rights to the resource to the ASP.NET request identity. ASP.NET has a base process identity (typically {MACHINE}\ASPNET on IIS 5 or Network Service on IIS 6) that is used if the application is not impersonating. If the application is impersonating via <identity impersonate=”true”/>, the identity will be the anonymous user (typically IUSR_MACHINENAME) or the authenticated request user.

To grant ASP.NET write access to a file, right-click the file in Explorer, choose “Properties” and select the Security tab. Click “Add” to add the appropriate user or group. Highlight the ASP.NET account, and check the boxes for the desired access.

I thought this would be an easy fix. I added the permissions that the error specified but that did not fix the problem. In addition to the {MACHINE}\ASPNET account you also need to give permission to the NETWORK SERVICE account to the file/directory. Hope this helps you too 😉

Blackberry Admin “Send As” Permission

After installing blackberry Small Business Edition Server to our environment, and following all the blackberry documentation for installing blackberry server we still had issues. The issue was some users were able to receive messages but were not able to send from their blackberry. As t turns out it is a bug in Microsoft 2003 SP1 and Windows 2000 SP 4. The security changes in these service packs do to allow you to inherit permissions for certain built in groups such as Administrators, Domain Administrators, and Enterprise Administrators. After about an hour, the required Send As permission for the Balckberry Admin user was revoked or disappeared from the user in theses groups. This Microsoft Article explains why and how to change the behavior. Our work around was simpler than the Microsoft suggested one.

Solution:

Note If you use Active Directory Users and Computers, make sure that Advanced Features is selected on the View menu or you will not see the “Security” tab in properties.
1. In AD Users and Computers, Create a new Organizational Unit called Blackberry Users
2. Right click on the Blackberry Users group and Click Properties
3. Click the Advanced button.
4. Uncheck

  1. If the BlackBerry Enterprise Server administration account that requires the Send As permission is not listed, click Add and select the BlackBerry Enterprise Server administration account name.
  2. Click OK.
  3. Double-click the BlackBerry Enterprise Server administration account name.
  4. In the Applies Onto list, select User Objects.
  5. Select the Send As check box.
  6. Click Apply, and then click OK.
  7. Close the Properties window, and then close Active Directory Users and Computers.

Peer to Peer is Good for the Economy

File Sharing, using bit torrent or Limewire for example, has been given a bad name and is associated with hacking and criminal intention. But file sharing isn’t all that bad. In fact it might help the economy.

According to a press article, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said “Music is about discovery. You should be able to have a conversation about the music you like. Tell somebody you disagree with what they like. Find things serendipitously.” The Microsoft Zune player encourages music sharing by having the ability to discover music with other Zune players. But, isn’t that what we are doing on a global scale? This type of discovery increases artist’s fan base. True fans are not satisfied with just listening to their favorite artist’s music. They want to own the original album art, go to live concerts, and buy merchandise; all which compensate the artist. So by increasing fan base you increase artist revenue.

What about software? With each generation we become more savvy and fluent with computer technology. It should be no surprise that file sharing nourishes this ability. Budding artists which cant afford Photoshop or Flash, get a copy from a friend so they can become familiar with the program and increase their abilities. The exposure the new generation has to programs like Excel and Adobe Premier creates a talented workforce before they even enter the job market, thus reducing the learning curve and increasing efficiencies. This also increases the software company’s user base, which in turn increases the software’s popularity and the software’s dominance in the market. Again leading to more sales and revenue

As the younger generation “grows up” and becomes a responsible member of society, they will tend to legally purchase software and music. Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, has publicly addresses on his show, Diggnation, that his company is legitimately purchasing software and that he himself is legitimately purchasing music. Many people like Kevin have exhibited this behavior. Perhaps this behavior out of guilt from prior immoral activities or perhaps since they have more to lose if any authority was to come after them? Either way, the music and software industries are winning more than losing.

These companies don’t actually lose any money from making a copy of a file. It’s not like you stole a computer out of their inventory that they can never get back again. What the companies usually complain about is the opportunity cost or the money they could have made if the software or music was purchased. What the companies don’t realize is if people are sharing their music or software it’s probable because it’s popular or good and they should just focus on making it better and people will buy more.

Free Accounting Software for Cheapskates

The ability to create invoices, track expenses, pay employees, and so forth is essential for many businesses. The right financial software can be an extreme help, especially if you are doing it all yourself. For a small business or self employed individuals, financial software can be expensive. Well open source saves the day again with GNU Cash.

GNU Cash Title

If you are familiar with other accounting software like Quickbooks, GNU Cash has a short learning curve. There is a tutorial and accounting concepts help if you are not familiar with accounting software. GNU Cash will automatically set up many common accounts or categories for you cash to flow in and out. It has many of the features that expensive software like Quickbooks has such as invoices, reporting, and account reconciliation.
GNU Cash AccountsGNU Cash Expense reportGNU Cash InvoiceGNU Cash Save

Some features that I was surprised to see in this free accounting software was the ability to import Quicken and Quickbook files, automatic saves and online banking integration. It is safe to say that this free software is an open source gem that can be used by many small businesses.

However, if you are new to accounting software, you may want something more mainstream since you are more likely to find support. Intuit, the makers of Quickbooks have a FREE version of Quickbooks called Quickbooks Simple Start. It is a scaled down version of Quickbooks Pro but it has many of the features you would need for a new or small business. If this sounds to good to some of you that are already using Quickbooks, the catch with the free version is it will not allow you to open Quickbook files created in other versions of Quickbooks.

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