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keskiviikko 25. toukokuuta 2011

Windows Powershell, Getting inhaled (part 1)

Powershell had evaded me for quite a long time. Checking the facts now, the scripting technology of Microsoft had been established already in 2006 - I'm not going to waste time and dig for the exact chronology.

Then one day... I saw this remarkable violet weed in the forest. It lured me closer and closer. I took my camera out, made it go into a macro mode, and felt the shutter click. The plant was most intriguing. All those fractal branches...

I somehow didn't like Powershell so much. To be honest, the syntax and most of its output seemed somehow hollow compared to Unix and Linux shell scripts that I'd been used to. But on the other hand I knew Microsoft platform and PCs running on it would be probably a big part of my studies and work, so getting more tools to cut back on the repetitive slack would be a sane thing to do. After all, computer science and practical management of IT should be about creating and doing things the way you want, not the way you're being told by your computers.

Using shell scripting has benefits. Even though it has a learning curve and it's not easy in the beginning, you can't much disagree with the benefits:

  • repeatability of processes
  • speed (versus doing by hand)
  • unrelentless and ever vigilant execution of monitoring
  • effort can be duplicated
  • someone else can do useful things and distribute them to you
Let's get down to work. Powershell is a free software package for Microsoft Windows platform. Meaning, it doesn't come packed automatically with it. This is Microsoft's strategy many times: bare bones usability and everything extra comes via installation. And European Union courts also have something to say in the palette of competitiveness allowed ;-)

Apart from the WWW, one of the best places to learn is Microsoft's technical net, Technet. There you can find tools, articles, Q&A, blogs, and other useful links. Look for the latest version of PowerShell. It's currently running in 2.x version train but may well be increased in the future.  

I had trouble finding a proper download page. This is sometimes a major headache with Microsoft, since it has a kind of matrix of products: main operating system lines (Xp, Vista, 7, ...) crossed with 32- or 64-bit versions, and add up to that the possibility to have localized versions... voila! You sometimes stare at pages after pages of links, and wonder which one of them matches you. However, look and be persistent in your search, you will find it. I won't supply a link here, since based on my experience the page structure of MS Web changes quite often, so you'd just hit a 404 Not Found or some other error with the link.   

In the next part... We'll be looking at Powershell 2.0 installation. Wrapping the guts of our first cmdlet - or, script. Learning a bit of the vocabulary and context of commands. Stay tooned! 

sunnuntai 27. maaliskuuta 2011

What is Metasploit tool for?

Metasploit is a framework, or tool, which contains lot of automated vulnerability scripts. A vulnerability is a known mechanism of an operating system - and one that is not desired. "Vuln"s began to be discussed somewhere around the same time as computers in the 1990s were connected to Internet. Before the Internet era (I mean the time when Internet really was an option for average Joe) it didn't matter so much whether you had vulnerabilities in the operating system, since no-one would be knocking on the door.

Metasploit is quite heavy. At least for one who is used to running individual security tools like netcat, nmap and so, the Metasploit seems gigantic. It reminds a little bit the IOS command language used in Cisco routers. You can ask questions, set values, set modes, and execute scripts. The framework can be used to test actual vulnerabilities in a connected network, or when you have a direct connection to another IP-based host via eg. a router, home switch, or similar. 

lauantai 26. maaliskuuta 2011

Look at the deck - and keep it running clean!


Practical working on computer for extended periods of time actually comes down to having everything settled well in your physical environment. What you need to take care of is
- privacy and lightning constancy (day/night)
- liquids (drinking)
- proper seat
- camera
- aux tools, like USB extenders, cables, converters

Keeping the place efficient, optimal, and tidy is a long-term goal. You'll see that anarchistic and creative work often leaves in its trail a lot of shit. And it's not my favorite pastime to clean the room up. 

World's classics - book night, and a cop of coffee

The lamp is on.

It's really tidy, and I feel comfortable lying relaxed in the bed. I've
got a sidetable with a cup of coffee. In my hands I feel the weight of a paperback
The Count of Monte Cristo.

The story of Edmond Dantès, self-styled Count of Monte Cristo, is told with consummate skill. The
victim of a miscarriage of justice, Dantès is fired by a desire for retribution
and empowered by a stroke of providence. In his campaign of vengeance, he becomes
an anonymous agent of fate.

This looks to be like an adventure. I love good old books. The story is from the 18th or
19th century?

keskiviikko 19. tammikuuta 2011

Sites admin a'la Decker


Today we're talking about the generic environment, where system administrators work. I will also introduce couple of very golden rules - if you wish to keep the systems running trouble-free. The golden rules are "obvious", but oh-so often learned the hard way. Theoretical schools of computer science teach perhaps the least of real admin work - and of course there is a reason. But if you do work in administration, and especially if you are a newbie, it might be really useful to check out a couple of tips right here.

Golden rules:
  • when you enter a site, take a little bit of looking at it. Check airwires.
  • airwires are dangerous (LAN/power cables hanging in air). They will make you
    trip over, and pull heavy stuff on your head, or they can plug out of jacks and disrupt services.
  • when you plan LAN cabling, check that no door closes in a way that can cut the wire! Server cabinets especially, but also other kinds of doors and cutting edges.
  • mis-communicating and being quiet is often bad. Communicate what you're doing, to your peers: colleagues, boss, service providers, etc. It's good to ask. The technology often doesn't fail per se, but our interpretation of it and the way several people handle common projects makes hazardous spots likely.

Typically the site (premises) can be one of following:

- a mixed office environment, where there are network gear, laptops, desktop PC's, (or Macs as well), printers, and peripheral devices

- a server room (aka "engine room") where there's plenty'o toole in what comes to powerful server machines. They're most likely plugged into an internet

- industrial setting -- varying from chemical manufacturing plants to tulip gardening
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perjantai 10. joulukuuta 2010

Asperger's Analogy, a peer to peer 314-step fellowship

Have you always been the curious whiz kid? The one with perfect math scores,
and irritating, mind-boggling capability to do well in Geography, religion,
and three-headed insect biology?

You've read Dawkins' books about quantum genetics both in English, Indonesian and
Chinese? You took the long path to learn all the dialects of Chinese, not just

Perhaps your teeth were awfully protruted as a teenager and this fact was
prone to cause some social seclusion?

You are not alone!!

Consider joining Asperger's Analogy, a fellowship of really strange geeks
in the Internet.

AA is a 314-step program to unwield and rewind your brain power. Our sole
purpose of existence is to continuously question and research infinity,
yet at the same time accept infinity as a figure of 8 lying on its side.

keskiviikko 24. marraskuuta 2010

Deck Below Zero

“The Deck Below Zero”

a sysadmin story

I am both trying to produce a primer for administrators and users of admins; as much as I am also trying to increase my own learning of especially practical, from-the-field usability and UNIX matters. As a matter fact, I also try to lower my intake of McDonald’s -based triglyserides, and start cooking at home, but these aspects probably will not show up in this text.

I have been a computer administrator for my whole life - the computer(s) have just changed. A Commodore Business Machines CBM C=64 was easy one: just remember to take the dust off periodically with a moist cloth. The computer whirred and served throughout 1984- (yes, there’s no ending to it, since it can still be just turned on and it works!)
It had a burned-in ROM operating system, so it was virus free and always looking good. You simply could not get it into one of those famous F-cup states (=f**ked up).

Psychological profile: The Admin

An administrator is the key person in a company. He runs the practical errands regarding computers and other information assets, like mobile phones, network lease, security. In the dark cellar, below what users think as basement or floor zero, the administrator sacrifies blonde virgins and wears horns. For many decades, admins were able to convince users that there’s nothing interesting below “deck 0”.

When an application crashes, when locks are too tight, when the LED-based Christmas candles that CEO ordered hanging do not work, or when the espresso machine stops working in the office, the administrator gets a call. The admin, whether present physically in the same office, or some few thousand miles away virtually, is a very central person for a company’s wellbeing.


Admins are relatively hard to spot. The only features that an in-depth analysis has uncovered is that there’s quite strong bond to wear all-black clothes, have a hair longer than average culturally-set male hair length, and prefer trenchcoats and light armament. Administrators have replaced traditional religions with new-age ones, like VMWare, certain Linux cults, and Jolt. Often there exists a do-all attribute with tools. One administrator was known to try help a user by pouring the Jolt cola over the user.

Energy-drink consumption is said to balance the body electrolytes so that the administrator can
touch the computer all day long without causing disruptive voltage surges to the

Administrators never have neuroses, they only have strict habits. The vocabulary set is curiously enough not a sub-set, but a superset of ordinary language.

Beyond ordinary measures

Admins become soon priest-like. Their robe gets darker, the beard gets longer, and people ask personally very significant questions; sometimes the company is equipped with a sound-proof booth, where the peon (ah.. employee) first squirms, sweats, small-talks, and THEN! Boom! Hits the admin with a question about his twisted family relations or the possibility to cheat in an inheritance scheme.

Schooling in computer architecture, electronics, networks, electrical engineering, management, usability and customer care can prepare an administrator better to face the planning and daily tasks. But this really is preparation; no admin is a natural gem. The work and changing technology, discussions with application users, subcontractors, security people, and consultants all iterate the route into perfection - or complete
insanity, which are very difficult to tell apart.