Being cautious about Heartbleed


If you haven’t heard, Heartbleed, aka CVE-2014-0160, is a vulnerability in OpenSSL – a cryptographic library which is used to secure a bunch of internet services via SSL/TLS. When you see the green https at the left hand side of your browser’s address bar, there’s a good chance that OpenSSL is behind the scenes, silently encrypting your data before sending it to you.

If you’re curious about how Heartbleed works, check out this excellent comic from XKCD.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), some boffins have discovered that OpenSSL has a bad habit of allowing anyone on the Internet to probe the server and retrieve the contents of its memory. This memory could contain anything, but the biggest thing we’re concerned with is our own data, specifically usernames and plain text passwords.

Most companies have patched their OpenSSL by now, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can use the Heartbleed Test to see whether a site you’re interested in has updated.

And what should you do? Change your Passwords. Actually, you should take this opportunity to set them so they’re different on all your services, because having the same password on everything isn’t a good idea.

If you need help keeping track of all your passwords, have a look at KeePass – it’s an app which keeps your passwords in an encrypted file which you can store on a local disk or in the cloud – Dropbox or OneDrive, for example. Once you enter the master password you can retrieve your passwords and use them wherever you need to. There are Windows, Windows store, Mac and Linux versions of the app so you won’t be out in the cold. There’s even a Firefox plugin for it.



The iPad 2 doesn’t seem faster


A lot of people have said that iPad 2 doesn’t seem appreciably faster than iPad 1.

Has anyone stopped to consider that it’s probably because the apps you’re using are still written for a single core device?

The same thing happened to computer users when dual core CPUs were released – sure, you could run more programs concurrently, but since each program only used a single core, until they, and the underlying operating system, were rewritten.

A more direct analogy might be the retina display on iPhone 4 – it took a while for apps to be rewritten to support it natively instead of just doubling their pixels.

I’m willing to bet that iPad 2 will go through a similar process – for the time being things will feel the same, or at least a little snappier (as mail, spotlight et al will use one core while your app uses the other).

As apps are rewritten to support multicore and iOS 5 is released (which will no doubt boast better multicore performance), iPad 2 should feel like it is speeding up.

PS3 Media Server on Ubuntu 10.04


If you’re like me and you like to reduce the clutter in your loungeroom, but still want to be able to watch all your recorded TV shows and backed up DVDs, PS3 media server(PMS) might be something worth looking at. It’s stupidly easy to get up and running on Windows (i.e. as long as you have java installed you can just click and run), but on Linux it needs an extra step or two.

Many thanks to Mjohns930 over at the forum for his post which was the basis for this howto.

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Backing up your computer with Robocopy


Windows 7 has a great tool called “Windows Backup.” It’s great because it creates a system image, then zips up and copies all files specified to another hard disk or network drive. But what makes this kinda useless is the fact that every time you run the backup, it’ll copy everything over to the hard disk or network location.

So while it may be great for the system image, it’s not the sort of thing I like to do for everything else.  For starters, my computer has about 600Gb of stuff on it, and I don’t want to be copying it all over to my server every night.

That’s where Robocopy comes in.

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Screen Brightness on Lenovo T400


If you’re having the problem on a T400 where you can’t change screen brightness, even after installing all the correct drivers, try the following:

Right click on the green battery on your taskbar, go to ‘Switchable Graphics’ and select ‘Energy Saving.’

You should now be able to change your screen brightness both via the function keys, and automatically via your power profiles.


Update: Turns out this is a bug with the original Bios which was shipped with the T400. Jump on to the Lenovo website and download the updated bios to fix it all up.

Installing Windows 7 from a USB thumb drive


Carrying around DVDs is a bit of a pain when you’re installing Windows a bunch. For starters, they’re a slow medium, having to spin up a big circle of polycarbonate before they can have stuff read off them. They’re also quite bulky, and scratch with ease if you’re not fastidious about the safety of your optical media.

But thankfully with the introduction of Windows Vista (and by extension, Windows 7), we have some new options for installing Windows which don’t need disk wallets to be carted around wherever we go.

For this neat way of carrying around your install media, you’ll need a copy of a Windows DVD as well as a USB thumb drive. My copy of Windows 7 Enterprise is 2.23Gb in size, so I’ll be using a 4Gb USB thumb drive.

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This is why it’s worth learning about advertising


A lot of people are asking what Apple’s target market is, and how they’re going to sell this iPad. These people are all stupid. Apple has told us exactly how they’re going to sell it.


Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

Bam! That’s their selling point! Somebody gets paid lots of money to write that sentence, and they earn it all, because that sentence will sell several billion of these things.

Geeks are getting pissed off because this isn’t a real computer/doesn’t run OS X/doesn’t have XYZ/is a glorified iPod touch. This is because geeks know nothing about advertising, which is another way of saying they don’t know how people work. Admen get paid to understand the entire planet and to synthesize it all into a sentence. So when you look at Apple’s advertising, you know that this isn’t just empty speech. Apple has figured out what the entire world wants and it is magic and revolution. That’s how they’re selling it. They figure the only people who won’t want an iPad are people who don’t like magic.

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Virtualbox versus VMWare Workstation


As an IT guy, I need to be using Windows for my day to day desktop environment as there are many vendor specific applications I need to run on a day to day basis which simply aren’t available on unix variants. However, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to run Linux applications when I’m on the road, or needing to quickly build a server to test something out.

At the moment when I want to get in to the sandbox, I’m using VMWare Workstation. I’ve used it for quite a while, and am very comfortable with it. But there are other virtualisation platforms out there, so I thought it was only fair that I have a look at the other options which are available. So today we’ll be comparing VMWare Workstation with Sun Microsystems’ virtualisation client, Virtualbox.

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Linux… On a Memory Key?


Yes, you heard right, Linux fans. But it’s not as simple as all that.

Today I’m going to be playing around with the new version of ACE management server from VMWare. As you probably know, they’re all for running normal operating systems in completely abnormal ways, and ACE lets us do even more abnormal things – like installing a virtual machine which can run entirely from a memory key, while avoiding touching the host operating system at all.

Of course, you don’t necessarily need to use Linux for this. In fact, any operating system which is supported by VMWare can run in this manner. So if you’d rather run Windows or OpenSolaris, go right ahead. The principle is exactly the same.

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X11 forwarding over SSH


Building a Linux server is a fairly simple affair. If you’re anything like me, you had some old hardware lying around which you shoved into a cheap case, stuck a copy of Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora/Whatever on it, and bob’s your uncle.

But once it’s up and running, should you dedicate a monitor/keyboard/mouse to a computer you barely use? Or is there another option?

Thankfully, one thing Linux has in spades is Options.

Today I’m going to deal with X11 forwarding over SSH. As you may know, SSH is one of the primary ways of connecting in to your Linux server, but it’s normally used for terminal commands – something some people aren’t all that comfortable with.

X11 forwarding over SSH allows the display of any programs you’d normally run from within a Gnome or KDE session to be displayed remotely, with only a few steps to make it possible.

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