Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween!

A bit of humor as the weather forecast for trick-o-treating doesn't look up to much.


From someecards.

- Chris

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Windows 7 RC & TrueCrypt 6.3

Update to my Windows 7 and Truecrypt 6.2a post.

Truecrypt 6.3 is now available.

One slight problem when trying to upgrade:

Ho Hum.... This will be because I'm still running the Windows 7 Release Candidate (Build 7100)

Install TrueCrypt 6.3 in compatibility mode as follows:

  • Right click the installer, select properties, choose the compatibility tab and select Windows Vista (Service Pack 2):  

  • Install as normal (as per the excellent InformIT article).
  • To avoid a repeat of the above annoying message every time you restart, before rebooting after the install, open C:\Program Files\TrueCrypt and repeat the above compatibility tweak for all the executables located in this folder (TrueCrypt Format.exe, TrueCrypt Setup.exe, TrueCrypt.exe).
  • Reboot.

Job done:

On a side note, the "Evil Maid"attack detailed on theinvisiblethings blog looks interesting.

I wonder if the same software exists for other full disk encryption software...

- Chris

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The best Astrobash of all (known) worlds

Astrobash 2009

Astrobash 2009
Stuck for something to do this weekend?  Try Astrobash!

Ashford Astronomical Society presents Astrobash. A full afternoon and evening of space, science and fun! It’s Kent’s opportunity to look up into the heavens, and it’s open to all ages!

Ashford Astronomical Society is hosting a celebration of Astronomy giving the public a chance to have a look through telescopes at the wonder of the night sky - with friendly guides on hand to explain it all!

During the day they plan to use a specially modified 'Solar Telescope' to image the sun on a large projector screen, and they will also be attempting to link up to an earth orbiting satellite and gain a live weather forecast!

For younger visitors there is a bouncy castle, a chance to make and fly your own rocket, create your own planet, try your hand at controlling a lunar lander and even meet a Dalek!

Astrobash 2009 will run from 2pm until 9pm on October 24th, and will be held at:

Woodchurch Community Centre
Lower Road
TN26 3SQ
Click here for a Google map

Click here for Ashford Astronomical Society website

Click here for an A4 Astrobash poster (pdf)

Entry: Adults - £4, Child (5-16) - £2, Under 5’s Free
Family Ticket (2 Adults, 3 Children) - £10
There is free parking on-site.

I'll be there!

- Chris

If you need a laugh, try this

Very very funny.  A must see:

Click here for
Some say the site makes fun of misfits.  And they are right.

I'm just enjoying these photos of human beings in all their diverse splendour.

oh and the captions are funny too....

Here's a CNN piece about the site.

My favourite:


- Chris

Monday, 19 October 2009

Cisco Discovery Protocol For Windows

Where do these go? (photo: fangleman)
UPDATE: Checkout and download my CDP client for Windows over on github

 Lets face it.  We have all been there; "where does this network cable / uplink / port go?"

Until now, it has been a matter of looking up cable numbers in databases, fiddling about in the back of server and network racks or worst case - sending the smallest guy down to play hunchback in the windy air conditioned gloom under the floor.

There must be a better way to tell where a network cable goes to without having to go to all that trouble every time...

Well there is.  It's called Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP).  From Wikipedia:

The Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) is a proprietary Data Link Layer network protocol developed by Cisco Systems that is implemented in most Cisco networking equipment and is used to share information about other directly connected Cisco equipment, such as the operating system version and IP address.

In other words, CDP packets will give you a lot of valuable information if you can capture them. They will give you all the details of the Cisco switch your on and the port on that switch you're connected to.  Of course as CDP is proprietary, you typically won't find it anywhere else other than on Cisco networking kit.

However, VMware knew all about this "trace the cable game" when they where putting together ESX and ESXi v3.5.  VMware's solution was to build in support for CDP on all physical network interfaces of the ESX Hypervisor:
VMware CDP in action

Well, this was a revelation!  For the first time us server techies can check up on the networks techies.  Not only could we tell instantly where a network cable was plugged in, we could tell them if it was in the wrong place too! [bwah ha haaa - rubs hands in a maniacal way!]

Of course this is OK for VMware Hypervisors and Linux based servers / desktops but what about Windows servers / desktops?

Capturing CDP is tough in Windows: CDPR will do it, as will Wireshark, but both require WinPcap to be installed.  This isn't really practical as potentially I want to find CDP data without installing any additional software or rebooting the host (WinPcap requires a reboot).

The Solution - TCPDump
I've found a version of TCPDump for Windows that was built on the WinPCap SDK; this means this little 500k utility can capture CDP packets on a machine without any additional tools.  What's more, as it's shipped as single command line .exe file, it's portable meaning it can be run from a USB stick, a batchfile, etc. 

You can get this updated version of TCPDump from micoOLAP

Using TCPDump
Quite simple, but don't be put off by the plethora of switches.

Firstly you need to find the interface number of the network adaptor you are trying to find CDP data for.  Use this command:

tcpdump -D

This will provide you information similar to this:
TCPDump Listing Interfaces

I'm interested in capturing data from my HP NC7782 Gigabit Adaptor; interface 2.

So lets run the command and capture some CDP data!  Here is the command:

tcpdump -i 2 -nn -v -s 1500 -c 1 ether[20:2] == 0x2000

Breaking this down:
  • -i 2 = interface 2
  • -nn = not resolving dns or port numbers
  • -v = verbose mode
  • -s 1500 = snagging up to 1500 bytes of the CDP packet
  • -c 1 = capture one packet before exiting 
  • ether[20:2] == 0x2000 = checking bytes 20 and 21 from the start of the ethernet header for a value of 2000 (hex)
Phew! I feel a batch file coming on, because I'm never going to remember all of that!

Here is what output looks like:
CDP Data in Windows!


Oh and by the way, tell the apprentice he can come out from under the computer room floor now, we know where these cables go.

*** UPDATE: 4 May 2010 ***
Here is the batch file I use to list adaptors, prompt for adaptor number and then run tcpdump on that adaptor:
@echo off
tcpdump -D
Set /P adaptor=Please Enter Adaptor Number to Listen on:
tcpdump -i %adaptor% -nn -v -s 1500 -c 1 ether[20:2] == 0x2000

- Chris

New Look!

Well I've been umm-ing and arr-ing about a new blog layout for a while now.

So after a bit of searching and some minor tweaking of the new template, here we are!

The old template and look was getting, well, old.  Hope you like the new look and layout....

I do!

- Chris

Friday, 16 October 2009

Who Else Wants To Make Music?

You've never tried?
You don't know where to start?
You can't read music?
You don't know your semi-breve from your semi-tone?

No problem!  If you can use a mouse, you can start making music like a pro, and there's not a crotchet in sight!

Let me introduce you to iNudge, the hideously addictive online music making machine. 

OK it's not quite composing for the London Philharmonic, but I guarantee you'll be addicted anyway.

Oh and my first attempt? Well if you must:

I agree, I'm sure you can do better. Just don't stay up all night!

- Chris

Thursday, 15 October 2009

STOP 0x05001146

No I don't know what STOP 0x05001146 BSOD stop code stands for either.

Seen on a HP DL580 G2 when booting from either Windows 2003 or Windows 7 based WinPE CD's.

Makes a top googlewhack though!

If you're here via Google be sure to say hello and where you're from.

- Chris

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Dr Who: Official New Series Logo

The eleventh logo for the eleventh Doctor:

Looks better than the flying discotheque sign....!

Also found this. The show is due to air 2010 on Disney XD in the UK:

I'm sorry but that doesn't look any good at all.

As we all know, K-9 is SUPPOSED to look like this...

Proper K-9
...not just sound like it!

You faithfully stick with the same design for some 30+ years, licence the concept to Disney for a spin off and hey presto K-9 isn't K-9 any more.

£*%$!ng Disney.

- Chris

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Word Clock

A free, small, simple and functional piece of software I love.

Word Clock is a typographic screen-saver for Windows and Mac OS X. It displays a fixed list of all numbers and words sufficient to express any possible date and time as a sentence. Word Clock displays time by highlighting appropriate words as each second passes.

There are two display modes; linear block of text and rotary which has a nice relationship with traditional analogue clocks.

Here is a video of the screen-saver clock running, showing both rotary and linear modes:

Word Clock is written by Simon Heys.

Head over to Simon's site and grab yourself a copy now.

- Chris

Monday, 12 October 2009

Windows 7 & TrueCrypt 6.2a

I like Windows 7.  I also like TruCrypt full disk encryption on my personal laptop. It may potentially be the last line of defence should my personal laptop fall in the the wrong hands. However getting Windows 7 and TrueCrypt to play together is a bit of a pain.

Unknown to almost all users, the Windows 7 installation routine creates a small 100Mb 'hidden' primary partition alongside it's traditional "C:\" partition.  The 100Mb partition holds the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE), system files and bootable files that are essential to boot and repair Windows 7 in the event of a need to recover the OS.

What's interesting is that once the partition has been unknowingly created, it is almost impossible to remove it.  Long-story-short this is because the 100MB partition does not use the standard sector zoning format.

Of course, TrueCrypt 6.2a does not understand this and simply refuses to install.

Why not just use Windows 7 BitLocker?  I hear you say...
Simple.  My laptop does not have a TPM chip which means I would have to use a USB key to boot my laptop.  So every time I switch on my laptop I have to find and plug in a USB key?!!!  What a pain in the ar$£!  What's wrong with an fashioned boot prompt and a complex password?!? 

Anyway, luckily enough there is a simple way to stop the creation of the 100Mb partition all together, thus allowing TrueCrypt to install and run without issue.  Unfortunately you need to backup your data and start a fresh Windows 7 install:
  • Boot from  Windows 7 installation DVD
  • Once setup loads, press Shift and F10 at the first setup screen (language, keyboard and locale selection).  This will open a Command Prompt window.
  • Enter diskpart 
  • Enter the following commands one by one.  (comments in brackets)
  • list disk (to show the ID number of the hard disk to partition, normally Disk 0)
  • select disk 0 (change 0 to another number if applicable)
  • clean (delete any existing disk partitioning and data)
  • create partition primary size=80000 (create a partition with 80 GB space.  To use entire disk as one partition, omit the “size=value” parameter)
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=ntfs quick
  • exit
  • Type exit at command prompt to close Command Prompt window.
  • Continue Windows 7 installation as usual. 
  • At the disk partitioning dialogue, highlight and select the newly created partition
  • Once the install completes, run Computer Management: compmgmt.msc 
  • Double check that your disk partitioning is as expected (i.e. no hidden disk partitions)
Then it's just a case of installing TrueCrypt as usual.

 TrueCrypt 6.2a installed and running on Windows 7

If you are not sure how to or just curious how TrueCrypt is configured to do full disk encryption, then check out this excellent InformIT article.

- Chris

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Minimalist Fading Google Homepage

I know what your thinking, Google's home page is pretty minimalist already. How can it cut down down any further?

Have a look at this:

Looks pretty minimal to me. How about also a fading effect as shown here:

Here's how:

  •  Reload and enjoy
When Google first loads, you will see only the single logo, text input and two buttons as per my screenshot above.  Move your mouse around the page, and the familiar text fades in underneath the search and up top.


- Chris

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

VMware ESXi SSH & SCP Access

Understandably, the free hypervisors (or Virtual Infrastructure Nodes - VINs - as we used to call them back in the old days) ESX 3i and 4i from VMWare have some limitations over their paid for brethren.

One of them is that access via SSH to the server is not available.  SCP is also not possible 'out of the box'.

This means that remote console or file transfer to the base Linux install via Secure FTP are not possible.

However, SSH and SCP can be enabled with this little hack / trick / workaround:
  1. At the console of the ESXi, hit ALT+F1 to view the console window
  2. Enter the word unsupported and press ENTER (nothing will show on the screen)
  3. A support warning will show if you typed in correctly.
  4. Enter root login password
  5. At the ~# prompt type vi /etc/inetd.conf to edit the configuration file
  6. Find the line #SSH and remove the # by placing the cursor on the sign, press ESC and press x
  7. Be sure that complete line moves to the left, so that there's no space before SSH
  8. Save the file by pressing ESC and :wq!
  9. Back at the ~# type ps aux |grep inetd make a note of the PID for inetd
  10. kill -HUP PID to restart the inetd process
  11. Now test if SSH is working with PuTTY (Can be downloaded here).
  12. If SSH is still not working, try rebooting the ESXi server
Use WinSCP for SCP.

Obviously this is not officially supported by VMware, although the functionality enabled by the above is used for troubleshooting by VMware support.

Funny what you miss when it's taken away...!

- Chris

Friday, 2 October 2009

Advert Free Radio

Continuing on in the "I don't like being advertised AT" series [previous posts here and here]. Quick recap for those catching up; As you may have guessed, I really don't like being advertised at.  Yes thats right, AT.

So, now lets turn attention to Radio.

Event though Radio is the oldest form of broadcast media, it seems in recent years to have become the worst affected of all broadcast media when it comes to advertising annoyance.  Is it advertising one-up-man-ship or some obscure advantage to have the most annoying advert there is?  Having listened to some of this tripe, I think I know the answer and I think you do too.

Additional annoyance comes in the form of one particular commercial radio broadcast conglomerate that seems to have been swallowing up / re-branding all of their stations recently.  This particular RDS enabled broadcast group like to transmit the same programming across their stations, but different adverts.  The idea of RDS - AF (Alternative  Frequency) is that it "allows a receiver to re-tune to a different frequency providing the same station when the first signal becomes too weak".

This was obviously lost on the oblivious advertising execs of this particular broadcasting group.  Why transmit the same adverts at the same time on all transmitters when you can divide up each transmitter individually and sell that airtime individually?  Effectively multiplying your advertising income by  the number of individual transmitters you have.

Sure the commercial (no pun - honest) aspect aspect of this is clear.  However how about the poor traveller?  Remember around 95% of all RDS enabled radios are in cars / vans / lorries / etc.  Certainly around here, the transmitting areas somewhat overlap.  So depending on where you are you may get anything up to 20 seconds of one transmitter and then one or two minutes of the other transmitter before switching back to the first.

The upshot is as the travelling listener merrily listening to the music (which seems to have been selected purely on the basis of which recording artiste's tour the conglomerate is currently sponsoring), not noticing the RDS-AF swaps.  Come advert time, the listener then gets confronted with a hotch-potch of half an advert here and half an advert there, bit of an advert here, bit of an advert there, or if they are truly lucky they may get the same advert twice, one right after the other.

Let me assure you this is even more annoying than the annoying adverts in the first place!  Anyone travelling on Romney Marsh whilst tuned into this conglomerate will know what I mean.

So.  As is common, vote with your feet time.  Lets look at the alternatives.

Well, since we are on the subject of travelling, how can you get away from radio adverts on the road.  Hmm tough.  Just one provider (including DAB): BBC Radio.

As is usual, the internet is where the real choice is at.  Follows is a very quick list of sites providing commercial free radio stations or (as more commonly referred to) audio streams:

Radio Genre
Number Streams
BBC Radio
Underground / Alternative
Radio Paradise
eye 97
70s, 80s, 90s, Today
Chilled Dance
Lost 80s
All Worship
Christian Worship
Lounge + Downtempo
Electronic / House

To listen to these the streams (other than BBC via their iPlayer) I recommend VLC Media Player. This freeware media player will play pretty much anything you throw at it.  No problems with codecs etc, it's all built in.  Excellent.

TIP: The easiest way is to listen is to choose any of the above stations, find the listen now link, choose the Quicktime or iTunes link (the link should end in ".pls") and open with VLC.  Job done!

What's even better, nowadays you don't even need a computer to listen to internet radio.  See here for receiver details and reviews.

How about down the gym (shudder) or totally mobile?  No problem.  SomaFM is working to provide as many customised streams for as many mobile devices as possible.  See here.  You never know, your phone may already capable of receiving SomaFM!

So how do these stations exist?  Listener support.  If you like a station, please consider donating. 

My personal favourite?  SomaFM Groove Salad A nicely chilled plate of ambient beats and grooves.

- Chris

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