Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"ItFixed" it for me!

This may come in handy for some one using Dynamsoft Source Anywhere.
I have a virtual machine running on vmware that hosts our company's source code. There is a program called Source Anywhere that allows our offshore developers to connect over a VPN and access the source code. Over the past few days we have been receiving several strange error messages and other quirkiness accessing the source code.
In an attempt to fix the problem I have restarted the necessary windows related services. This did not seem to have any effect.

Only after a virtual machine reboot did the program start working normally again.
I beleive it was a server memory issue that was causing the problem. This may not be the best way to deal with the source code app but "ItFixed" It for me!.

Monday, December 29, 2008

No 1 - Open Office Suite

Number 1 on "My Top 10 Most Useful Free Programs" is Open Office available from http://www.openoffice.org

I know most people use some version of Microsoft Office to open and create word and xls docs but there is another free alternative. Open Office is "The free and open productivity suite". It has most of the same basic functionality as its MS counterpart. It even has the capability to open and save word and excel documents.

For those on a budget that would like to have standard office document capabilities seriously consider Open Office. I will admit that it may not have every advanced feature that the MS programs have but for the average home or even office user Open Office will be more than adequate.

There is also a portable version that will run from a USB stick. You can find more info on this version at PortableApps.com

Clark Connect Server Compromised

Up to today I have been a big fan of Clark Connect Linux but today I was contacted by our ISP that one of our boxes was compromised and was running a fishing site that was attempting to collect paypal passwords.

The server did not have an easy password so it could not have been guessed. I am disappointed that this happened as I now need to re-evaluate my other Clark Connect Servers for security problems.

If anyone has any info as to any weakness or vulnerability in Clark Connect please let me know.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

How to create a Bootable WinPE 2.0 USB Key

I have to start by saying that I did not create these instructions initially. They came from Windows Connected. However I did add some of my own comments about issues that I found during the process. In the end I ended up with a bootable USB key that boots into WINPE 2.0. The initial interface is just a command prompt, however I added some portable apps that run under winpe. I now have the ability to check any disks for virus, ftp files off to another pc for recovery, as well as a few other utilities.

Below are the steps I followed to get my usb key working.


Windows Preinstallation Environment (PE) 2.0 is a slimed down version of Windows (hence all the MiniNT references) that used to be the exclusive domain of OEM's providers. Microsoft has wisely chosen to offer this to the masses as part of the Windows AIK. USB keys can be found just about anywhere these days for next to nothing. Combine the capabilities of WinPE with the portability of a USB key and you just made a very powerful troubleshooting, imaging, and data recovery tool. Here is a quick step by step on how to do just that:

Step 1. ) Get USB Key ( I am using a 2GB PNY Attache key)

You probably already have a few and if not you can purchase these just about anywhere, so I won't tell you where to get one. You should get a USB 2.0 device of at least 512mb in size, but if you plan on putting a lot into a custom PE install or plan on using it to transfer data too then you are better served getting a larger size (2.0-4.0GB)

Step 2.) Download and Install the Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK) This is almost 1GB in size so it may take a while.

This deployment oriented tool set contains Windows PE 2.0.

Step 3.) Format the USB key

Note: This must be done from Windows Vista (Although this says it requires Windows Vista I have read that someone has gotten this to work on XP)

Start a command prompt and run the following. This set of commands assumes your USB key is detected as disk 1, you should double check that by doing a list of the disks before cleaning it. If you have multiple hard drives you could end up wiping your second drive using this command. You have been warned.

* Diskpart
* select disk 1
* clean
* list part (to see if the partitions are all gone)
* clean ( I had to run this again for some reason even though it said it completed successfully the first time)
* list part (to see if the partitions are all gone)
* create partition primary
* select partition 1
* active
* format fs=fat32
* assign
* exit

Step 4.) Setup Windows PE

* In this step you will create and customize WinPE for your disk. From the machine that you installed the Windows AIK go to the start menu and select "Windows PE Tools Command Prompt" from under the Windows AIK program folder.
* Copype.cmd x86 c:\winpe_x86
o you can create an 64-bit version by changing the architecture from x86 to amd64
* Add customizations to WinPE
o copy any tools you want available to the C:\winpe_x86\iso folder such as imaging tools if you want to use this for capturing images (imagex, wimscript.ini)

Step 5 .) Copy Windows PE to USB Key

Insert the USB key into the machine that you have WinPE on and run the following command to copy the contents to the USB Key

xcopy c:\winpe_x86\iso\*.* /s /e /f e:\

change c: to reflect the drive your files on and e: to be your USB key.


Once the above completed successfully I tested the usb key on a laptop. It successfully booted into winpe with the command line interface.

I then added some portable apps that I downloaded from portableapps.com and portablefreeware.com

I created a new folder called "Utils" and then copied the apps to the usb key.
I am currently using the following apps on the keys.
*7-Zip - file compression util
*ClamWin Portable - antivirus software
*FileZilla Portable - ftp client to get files off to another pc
*Firefox Portable - Firefox web browser
*Folder2Iso - creates an ISO file to burn to a CD
*Toucan Portable - file sync utility
*WinSCP Portable - secure file transfer utility
*Alt Commander - File Explorer similar to windows explorer for browsing file on disks

If anyone wants to add to this please post your comments.

Hope this helps someone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dell Power Edge Problem

This one has got the better of me...
I am working on a Dell Power Edge 2950 that is connected to and external array (Dell Power Vault 210S) The disk and backplane are all supposed to run at U320 speeds but on the Dell Open Manage screen it is only negotiating a speed of 80.

The machine is an oracle database machine and the performance has degraded tremendously and I believe it is related to the disk throughput. A query that used to take 20 mins is now taking 5 hours.

I have updated the firmware and drivers per dell tech support site.

If anyone can think of something I'm missing I would really appreciate the help.