Monday, December 29, 2008

Trust no one

And stop using Windows software.

Here is a very embarrassing case. Not sure how the virus got there in the first place, but this is quite a clever attack vector, as possibly millions of unsuspecting users are infected.
Of course this is not the first time such thing happens, so you'd expect them to learn by now.

Still, it's nothing compared to Sony's "benign" rootkit, though it's more funny.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


What do you think about this?
You can further read about this here.
Personally, I don't like this idea, and I don't think it has a future. On the other hand, I'm no UI expert.

BTW, I found this out while reading this question in StackOverflow.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

No audio when using Windows Media Player for streaming

Guess most of my readers would be familiar with this situation - every once in a while you are called to give tech support to your parent, because something isn't working with their computer.

Two weeks ago the graphics card in their computer, based on GeForce 6600, passed away to a better world, so I got them a new one. Ever since, every problem they have is immediately connected to the graphics card, no matter it has nothing to do with graphics.

The latest problem was quite a challenge - there was no audio when streaming (audio and video) from web sites. The problem didn't reproduce in different accounts, or when using VLC instead of Windows Media Player. Since nothing special was found in the Media Player settings, I had a feeling the answer would be in the registry. Here is the solution. Three things surprised me in this solution:
  1. How comes it affected only one account? The registry key is not user specific.
  2. What had changed? The value of this key was the original value which is the default. So this means there's another reason of this problem, but it's nowhere to be found.
  3. How did the guy that found the solution did that? Changing such an obscure registry key.
Well, the problem is solved now, and I convinced my parents it has nothing to do with the new graphics card. This is definitely the hardest type of tech-support, as you must be nice and must give full details. Also, you personally care about the users.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Windows Scheduling tip

In some occasions, one might need to schedule a script or an executable in Windows using the SYSTEM (Local System account) privileges. I've shown before a technique to create a new schedule task for opening a cmd with SYSTEM privileges. But this time I want to show something which is way more flexible, and would suit real world examples (and not just opening a cmd).

Review the following command:
schtasks /create /tn task_name /tr c:\script_path\script_name.cmd /sc daily /st 08:00:00 /ru "System"

What does it do? It creates a new scheduled task, called "task_name", which runs a script (full path is a must) and would run daily at 08:00AM with SYSTEM privileges. Slick, right?

I recommend reviewing the schtasks manual for further information.

Happy scheduling.

Why not every law is treated as such

I think it is a well known fact that people (especially in my country) choose which laws to obey. The other laws aren't mandatory, but only nice-to-obey. It can be seen when driving in our roads: Laws which involve life-saving, such as red-light, are always obeyed (even at 3:00AM), while no triple-parking in the middle of the day aren't.
Few hours ago I sat in a pub which I used to like, which like any other pub here, is considered a public place, and thus "no smoking" law applies. Breaking this law means that both the smoker and the owner of the pub would pay a fine. Probably since it's only money, and since no one would force this law, nobody cared. Most of the people around us smoked without interference. Actually, we were the minority of non-smokers.
I really hate the smell of smoke that sticks to your cloths and the fact it sometimes stings in the eyes, so now I like this place less than before (in case you wonder - Dublin pub in Herzlia). I guess I won't go there in the near future.

In a totally different topic - I happen to have a private flight lesson pre-paid which I have no intention to use. If any of my readers in Israel care to have a flight lesson (it is allowed to bring a spouse on board), I'm willing to sell it for half of it's original price. Leave a reply if you're interested, and we'll find a way to get in touch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Change is not always welcome or needed

Reading Doron's post today reminded me it's a good time to write a closure to my experience as told here and here. Since I both agree and disagree with Doron, I'll write the closure with references to his post.

Being a Linux veteran teaches me it's really not important which modern Linux distro to use. I should be above that. I reached to exactly the same conclusion as Doron yesterday, after I gave up of trying Fedora 10. So I started downloading the latest Ubuntu 8.10 64bit (I prefer to upgrade offline, and I might use it on several machines) alternative CD. Using Ubuntu again reminds me that I actually like it. It's snappy, looks good (espacially with my modifications) and simply works.

Compiling Fedora's and openSUSE's kernels reminded me this is quite useless (or not needed) these days, although it can be done quite easily. Never saw any recommendation for not doing this, only warnings to do this for the right reasons.

So having the latest or Firefox beta (or anything else to make the system less stable) is no excuse to switch a distro, as the distro is merely a base for further modifications and customizations. Choosing the distro to start with is important, but once there, it is needless to switch from one to another.

Having said that, I still hold the opinion that I would not self-customize the Debian used in our production servers. The price of breaking the compatibility is simply too great. In this field, Linux is just like the other server software - you don't modify it frequently or without a good reason (otherwise, the QA folks would have to work lots of extras).

But in my own computer/workstation... welcome back Ubuntu. And thanks to Adir which told me that the upgrade to 8.10 went smoothly on his laptop, and that not only it performs snappier, but the system is more stable.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tabbed command prompt in Windows

No matter which OS you use (that even goes to my short experience with OS X), if you're a developer/admin/professional you're gonna spent a lot of time with a command prompt. This means there might be quite a lot command prompt windows opened. This is the case with me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Having said that, I'm quite used to gnome-termianl's and konsole's multi-tabbed command prompt interface, which is just as revolutionary as tabbed web-browser interface. Once used it, you'll never be able to go back.

For the past few months, most of my work is done on a Windows workstation, which I use to develop in multiple programming languages, research web-oriented security stuff and manage several Linux servers. Last week, while doing all of those at the same time, I got tired of the mess, and looked for a better way to manage my command prompts. Here is the result. Apparently this is not very new, so I was surprised I haven't heard about it before. Console 2.0 is a real bless, and is exactly what I was looking for, no more, no less.
Now, I have shortcuts for opening new tabs of several kinds:
  • Standard CMD.
  • Cygwin bash shell.
  • Visual Studio 2005 command prompt.
  • PowerShell (thought giving it a shot. For now I still think it sucks)
  • Pre-configued command line SSH connections (ssh -l username host) for several servers. This is way more handy than the other Putty wrappers.
Now the taskbar is less cluttered, and I have quick shortcuts to every type of command prompt I need. It really does improve productivity.

Monday, December 8, 2008

iPhone Linux

Check out this video. Can read further info here.
Wish there was something similar for S60 devices. I would totally install it on my E65.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Second impressions from openSUSE

As I wrote before, I decided it's a good time to give other Linux distros a shot. Since the laptop which I first installed openSUSE on died (damn WiFi freezes on the BIOS POST), and my g/f is currently using my workstation's Ubuntu installation, I decided it'll be best to start using openSUSE on VirtualBox, and if I like it, dedicate the physical partition.

Once again, the installation went without a hitch. All works fine right after the first boot, no special drivers required. As this is the latest VirtualBox (2.0.6), the version on the tools (or additions) for it didn't work as expected, so compiling from source is required.
First problem. After reading tons of forums, debugging and such - still nothing. Never mind.

While doing that, I noticed Alt+Tab worked only half of the time. First time I see such a thing, but a quick search on the net shows it's a known issue, and that upgrading to KDE 4.1 would do the trick. OK.

So now I'm upgrading the distro (zypper dist-upgrade or via YaST). On the laptop, I remember this used to hang every once in a while, until I press "retry". It seems this happens in the VM as well. Guess I have to change the default mirrors or something. But I just lost the will to do so.

At least YaST left a very good impression.

Fedora's torrent is now downloading, so it'll be my next "experiment". I'm really looking forward to try it.