Friday, October 30, 2009

USB boot, with puppy OS

It is sometimes very helpful (and much easier than using a CD) to be able to boot into a lightweight OS from a USB stick - providing the BIOS in the system you target supports the 'Boot from USB' functionality. Thankfully all systems at work and home do, in fact most if not all modern (read last 5 years) systems shoudl have this capability.

This is very helpful (and sometimes necessary) for those situations where you need to bypass the main OS on a system:
  • System hard drive failure - you need to be try and recover your files
  • You just want a quick 'netbook' system with no HDD
  • Locked out with no administrator password, and need to reset user accounts etc
  • Take an image of a HDD, or indeed write an image
  • Unnattended installations

I have recently found a nice simple method to prepare a USB stick for this purpose - making it bootable and using a pretty slick lightweight OS (Puppy Linux) which is in many ways preferable to my usual BartPE windows line of attack. It has most features you need, like basic office apps, network support, browser, USB support, file manager, nice layout and look and feel...

To set up the .iso image (or any .iso for that matter!) on a USB stick and make it bootable, I found a great little application which will do just that. It's called 'UNetbootin' - Universal Netboot Installer.

Simple to use, and works a treat.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Windows 7

After playing with the Beta and RC of Windows 7 in virtual machines, I found that there is a fully loaded Enterprise version which is fully functional for 90 days (and potentially more with up to 3 activation period resets - see later) available for free download.

Suffice to say I have now installed on our main home PC as it needed a reinstall of the OS and I thought why not??? I have to say both me and my wife are impressed with this new OS. There was a little teething trouble getting it installed which was for some reason due to it not being able to discern the system partition when trying to install the OS.
It showed up my 4 hard drives, and correctly showed the basic and dynamic volumes. But it threw an error every time I tried to load it on the system drive. I did a bit of googling with the particular error and found it a fairly common issue, and to do with the system partition not being able to be determined.
The workaround was to temporarily disconnect all other drives (3 SATA and 1 IDE) and then the install went swimmingly, both smooth and fast, much more pleasant experience than the XP install ( which it's got to be said, wan't at all bad in the 1st place!)
Once loaded up, I reconnected my drives and all was fine, Windows 7 detected all the drives and volumes (including my spanned volume from Win XP - my main Doxx volume spanned over 3 drives) although there was a 'missing' entry for a drive, which I think was a ghost of the system volume which obviously was present. I removed this and all was well - perhaps this confusion is from having dynamic volumes and contributed to the install baulking when I 1st tried to write to the system drive prior to the disconnections... anyhow...

Here is my main summary points thus far - nothing majorly technical as yet as this is a home PC, but still points of interest are:

• Speed - refreshingly fast boot up/shutdown times, and general speed of OS is FAST, on a fairly basic spec: 1.8Ghz Athlon 64 2800, 2 Gig DDR 400Mhz RAM, Nvidia GeForce FX5200 gfx.
• Sleep - whilst XP took ages to go into sleep mode, and even longer to come out, and would only come out by pressing the power button on the PC, 7 is again very quick, and comes out of sleep with a touch of the keyboard. That was a nice suprise!
• General look and feel and navigation in Windows 7 is great. No where near a cumbersome or overly protective as Vista, and much smoother operation. The new Aero features are cool and helpful - we have 'Peek', 'Shake', 'Snap' and 'Flip'.
• The system protection features are simple to use, a quick and far less annoying than Vista system prompt for an admin password to change anything that normally doens't need accessing is actually a good feature and easy to use. (This is the 1st PC I am using with a standard account rather than running with an admin account as I did in XP)
• Wallpapers, lovely images, wallpaper cycling, windows transparency, themes, colors... all fresh and new and crisp in Windows 7.
• System Tray - simple, clean and elegant, another improvement - all icons are now monochrome which is a better look and handled better.
• Wireless is much quick to connect and stable. The drivers were loaded automatically, which brings me to...
• Driver support - I did not have to visit any of my hardware's vendor's sites to get drivers for my hardware - all drivers were installed automatically through the install process, and after that whilst temporarily connected to the net via a LAN cable, through windows update - all drivers working well if not better than on XP!

I am sure I will think of further benefits, but this is a start!!! The overall feature set is much more rich than XP - things like parental control built in, Bitlocker encryption, and much more.

Yes, we are liking it.

I will have to update this post in a more technical way with regard to networking / domain / security soon, but I am hopefully and expectant that this new platform is actually a good job done by MS!

Okay, an update - a few weeks on and no system crashes, boot speed still very quick - even with the Kaspersky AV running. Shutdown also very quick as is the sleep function. Still liking it. Might even buy it ;)

Friday, September 4, 2009


Upon having aquired a blackberry recently, I had to familiarise myself with the way it works (what the dang is it?), connects and specifically; syncs to Outlook.
This meant getting to grips with Desktop manager, the bluetooth issues, IT policy issues and of course themes!

I found out that first I needed to remove all IT policies. A lot of searching on google showed me that I had to download a 'policy.bin' file and do a little registry hacking to get this profile to be loaded via the desktop manager. See here
This cleared the IT Policy and gave me back control of what was obviously a blackberry connected to a BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) in it's prior life, which had restricted many options.
Now, as it blatantly wasn't connecting to the DM software (although it was paring with Windows no problem) I needed to somehow reset the services in the bluetooth options as there was no 'Desktop Connectivity' showing - not in the properties in Windows for the bluetooth device, nor in the bluetooth options on the BB. However resetting the IT Policy didnt do this!
So then after a lot more googling, I find that you can reset to factory defaults using a Java app - 'Jl_Cmder' (see here ), which i did. This gave me a completely free'ed up Blackberry, although not unlocked in terms of network, it was clean in erevery other way...(no little red padlocks!)
Then I just had to make sure that i wasn't using third party bluetooth stack as desktop manager only works with the native XP bluetooth drivers. This is the easy part. (Uninstall the bluetooth stack in Add/Remove programs in XP, and XP will automatically install the native drivers)

This done, I was synching over bluetooth no probs, and it had only take about a week of googling! lol.

Then I find you can download nice themes (not to mention ringtones, apps etc...) which are .alx & .cod files, and upload these via DM. Works fine.

Sufficient to say I am pretty happy now.

I also found a nice tip that by setting various categories on the contacts within different contacts folders from outlook (eg business / personal) you can then on the BB set the 'Filter' option (a quick 2 clicks in the phone book options) to display only these sets of contacts as you require.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

hmm, not put anything up here 4 a while...

Ok, a few things that I have done since last blogged:

• Migrated a few machines / laptops from Vista to XP.
• Found out the hard way NOT to use Vist 'Easy' transfer as XP cant import the files. Lol.
• Using Drive Image XML (freeware) now for imaging - it creates bootable image discs too. Looks good. Using the plugin for BartPE in my Bart boot disc...
• Looking for a good free duplicate file finder - the Molesoft one is great as it shows you image preview of duplicates it finds to help you decide on deleting them.
• Playing with Server 2008 and Windows 7 beta, which both look good.

• I'm hoping to start MCSE track from MCSA, and also CCNA/CCNP with a view to becoming an ethical hacker in the next 2-3 years ;)

• Want to get an apple mac mini to play with. (but avez non $)

• Oh yeah, fixed a few more residential pcs....


Saturday, March 14, 2009


Finally got my MCSA Certification - 18 or so months from when I started - which I am quite pleased with.

Friday, March 6, 2009

slipstreaming win2k3 installation-saving time on the hotfixes

Just decided to sort out slipstreaming SP2 and all hotfixes to my Win 2k3 installation files/discs, as haven't got around to doing it as yet.

Using nLite is a nice way to do it - google nLite and grab the latest version. This takes care of all the manual editing files and replacing files etc. you have to do otherwise. (Have't got it to integrate .Net framework 3.5 though - yet!)

Anyhow, to identify all relevant hotfixes required I installed the Win2k3 which I have already slipstreamed the SP2 to, and ran MBSA to check for security updates.
This provides a nice little report with download links to all the hotfixes not yet installed. You click through the download list and save the hotfixes/updates to a folder.

Thing is, they have like 'long' names, so here is a little script to quickly rename all hotfixes in a folder (change strPath to the relevant folder path) and it also creates a nice little QChain batch file to silently install the hotfixes with no restarts. (Need to restart manually when all done)

strPath = "D:\Documents and Settings\Administrator.SERVER\My Documents\MBSA\Updates\Rename"
set fso = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
set oFolder = fso.GetFolder(strPath)
set oQ = fso.OpenTextFile (strPath & "\qChain.cmd",2,True)
for each oFile in oFolder.Files
strf1 = oFile.Name
i = instr(oFile.Name,"kb")
If i >= 1 then
strF2 = mid(strF1,i,8)
strF2 = strF2 & ".exe"
fso.moveFile strF1, strF2
strF3 = strF2 & " /q /z "
End If

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Win 2k3 Routing...

I wanted to do some simple routing from subnet A to subnet B. For some reason I got real confused to why it wasn't working... until I realised I have 'foolishly' missed the obvious and set up the incorrect default gateway on subnet A.

This was because I was setting this subnet up on a network where I already had a default gateway to my router to the internet... let me explain.

I had a gateway router out to the net -
So i had subnet A, then I thought I would use a win2k3 box to practise a bit of RRAS routing. So I set up my Windows Home Server testbox on to IP, and then set up my router box with IPs and
I set up the WinHomeserver as follows:

Subnet mask
Default gateway

(the router box has DNS installed on it - really a caching DNS server, as it forwards all unresolved requests to

I then set the router box IPs as follows



OK, so then I tried to PING ips from the winhomeserver box. After sufficient firewall admendments, I could ping the box itself, and both IPs (202 and 192) on the RRAS box. But I couldnt PING the router....

It was because I was thinking about it all wrong. What i needed here was a NAT box so allow requests from subnet B to subnet a. as soon as i configured the NAT on the RRAS box everything was fine. But why wasnt the LAN only routing working?

It was because i was thinking about it wrong. The RRAS box IPs didnt need default gateways for what i was doing, but what should be set up was this:

Subnet B, have default gateway of (The RRAS box)
Subnet A, ahve the default gateway of (The RRAS box) - this is what i didnt have, as I didnt want the rest of the network to route back to subnet B, but to go out on the net through my main router.

SO, i guess the thrust of this rambling post is that I should have drawn out what i was trying to do before I went setting things up the way I did.

Such fun ;)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Firewall Basics

If you are going to use a server behind a firewall - like Windows Firewall - as a DHCP and DNS server, these are the default ports to open and things to bear in mind... suffice to say mine is now working :)

DNS server
UDP port 53 and TCP port 53.

DHCP server
UDP ports 67 and 2535.

Note that when you create a Firewall exception for the DHCP protocol on a DHCP server, you must set the scope for the exception to Any computer including those on the Internet. If you leave it set to My network (subnet) only, all inbound DHCP Discover packets from client computers are dropped because the IP address of the packet is, which is not recognized by the computer as being part of the local subnet. This causes the DHCP process to fail and clients do not receive IP addresses.

Now you know!!