Add a NAS drive to your Livedrive account for free

I used to be a customer of popular cloud backup service Livedrive. The upload and download speeds were nothing to shout about and one annoyance was having to pay extra to add a NAS drive to your account, but there is a workaround!

How so?

All you need to do is add a symbolic link to your NAS drive from your computer. Think of a symbolic link as a fancy shortcut, the only difference being it masks the destination instead of taking you straight there – you’ll see what I mean when you read on.

Imagine you have a Windows computer with your NAS drive with the root of the drive already mapped to Z:, you have a folder on your NAS called MyFiles and would be able to browse to Z:\MyFiles to see whatever is stored there. Next imagine we have a folder called C:\Backup which is already uploading to your Livedrive account, using  the following command we will make C:\Backup\MyFiles lead to your NAS and in turn be included with your Livedrive backup.

mklink /d "C:\Backup\MyFiles" "Z:\MyFiles"

For me, this worked absolutely fine and I had a couple of TB uploaded without ever being caught out. I’ve since jumped ship to Amazon Drive, whilst it is more expensive per year I’ve got it running from multiple computers and the upload and download speed always tops out my connection, so I can’t complain!

Notes

  • Use the above guide at your own risk – I won’t be held liable if anything happens to your Livedrive account, files or anything else because of this!
  • This doesn’t work with Dropbox or Google Drive  – sorry
  • You only need to run the command once, after that the link will be remembered
  • To remove the link just delete it as you would any other  file or folder

Find Out Who Registered A Domain Name

The Internet is an amazing place where we can expand our knowledge – or – just look pictures of animals with funny captions, but have you ever wondered to yourself who owns that domain, who took the time to build that amazing website, see if a business is legit or maybe you just want to learn a new nerdy skill?

A domain name can be registered by anyone so long as its available and not registered to anyone else, and can be bought at anytime through hundreds, thousands or maybe millions of companies known as domain registrars. The job of a domain registrar is to take money and convert it into domain registrations as they are essentially the middle men between the domain registries (the top dogs of the domain world, the owners of the bit after the dot) and ourselves.

When a domain is registered, regardless of the registrar used, contact details will always need to be provided. These details form what’s known as the legal registrant and can be either a company or an individual who will legally own the name for however long it has been registered for.

That’s great but what next? Well here comes the juicy bit! All that information is kept in a global database known as the WHOIS database (pronounced “who is”) which is free to browse and will give an insight into any domain registration.

Querying WHOIS

The following guide will show you step by step how to query the WHOIS database for free with no special software required. To keep things simple I will be using a website that I created which has a built in WHOIS tool.

  • First things first we need to head to the WHOIS tool, click onto the following link or type it into your address bar directly: http://www.nerdtools.co.uk/whois/
  • Once the website loads you’ll see a box where it asks you to enter a domain name, enter the domain which you would like to query and press Enter or the “Let’s do this! >” button
    whois-query-1
  • After a few seconds you’ll be redirected to a new page that shows the domain details in a similar format to one shown below:
    whois-query-2
  • As  you can see from the screenshot above a lot of information is returned, so much that it doesn’t all fit on screen without scrolling but once you read through you will easily see who owns the domain, when it was registered, when it expires and other useful information

Notes

  • In the example above you can see no “Registrant’s address” is returned, this is because its a .UK domain and Nominet (the registry behind all .UK domains) allow the address to be hidden for any non-trading individuals, but with domains such as .COM, .NET, .ORG the information will always be available
  • Depending on the domain name things may look a little different to the one in the example
  • Any changes to a domains details can take up to 24 hours to show so things may not always be accurate
  • There are strict terms that need to be followed when it comes to using the information returned from a lookup and these can be found usually be found at the bottom – It’s not shown in the screenshot as it was so big, to see them click here and scroll down
  • Sometimes registrars offer a privacy package that will hide the registrants contact information and replace it with the registrars instead, if you see a domain like this that’s trading as a business stay well away as it could be up to no good!

Windows 10 Automatic Login at Boot or Switch of User

There may come a time in your nerdy life where you want your computer to automatically log in at boot or whenever anybody signs out, this can be especially useful if you are running software that needs a user to be constantly logged in.

For example, I run CCTV software on my computer via a user called Console, the software displays live camera feeds on a second screen at my desk, the same signal is fed via a splitter through network cables eventually reaching various screens dotted around my house.

The setup requires my Console user to be constantly logged in, be it when the system boots or after I have finished checking my emails or being nerdy.

It is fairly straight forward to get going, in my case on Windows 10 Pro I ran the built-in netplwiz(.exe) utility and added one string value to the registry.

Part 1: Configuring automatic login at boot

  1. Run netplwiz(.exe) and uncheck the box saying Users must enter a username and password to use this computer.
  2. Press OK then enter the username and password you want the computer to automatically login as and press OK again

That’s the first part completed, so now whenever you boot your computer it will automatically sign in as the user account you have set.

Part 2: Configure automatic login when signing out/switching user

The next part involves adding a regsitry key with a string value, once this was done I found it worked straight away without having to reboot my machine.

  1. Open regedit(.exe) and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon

    Right click on Winlogon and select New > String Value

  2. For the value name enter ForceAutoLogon, double click the line you just added and enter the  value date to 1

That’s it! Now when you sign out it will automatically sign back in to the user account set in first step.

Notes

  • If you want to log in as a different user, hold the shift key whilst locking your account, you’ll then see the normal Windows login screen
  • You can do step 1 via the registry if you want, but why over complicate things!

Webmin 1.610 on CentOS 5.8 (x86)

The following commands can be used to install Webmin 1.610 on CentOS 5.8. Make sure you’re logged in as root and then follow the steps below.

Select a temporary directory to save the download to. We will only use the downloaded file once so it’s pointless keeping it.. free up space and put it in /tmp!

cd /tmp

Begin the download of Webmin using wget:

wget http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/webadmin/webmin-1.610-1.noarch.rpm

Install Webmin by unpacking the archive:

rpm -Uvh webmin-1.610-1.noarch.rpm

Done! You can now login to your fresh installation of Webmin by heading to http://hostname-or-ipaddress:10000 using the root username and password.

Notes

  • You can download the file used in the example above by clicking here
  • If you don’t have a server to try this on I’d recommend DigitalOcean hands down – virtual servers start from $5 a month

WordPress & Spam: Key’s Solution

Recently I began to see an increase in malicious login attempts to my servers from bots (ie. automated attempts to login via FTP, POP/IMAP, SSH and so on) which gave me an idea for a new side-project on NerdTools known as the Bad Bots Intrusion & Spam Detection database.

After a few hours of developing a database was generating before my eyes of all the bad bots and their failed attempts, which then got me thinking, aside from using the database with a firewall can this be intergrated with WordPress to stop spam before its even posted?

A few more hours developing and I have now created two plugins which are listed in the WordPress extension directory. One is called NerdTools Bad Bots Spam Reporter which cleverly and annonymously reports the IP address of an author whenever a comment is classed as spam, and the other is called NerdTools Bad Bots Spam Defender which again annonymously screens every authors IP address against the database and if a match is found it won’t allow the comment to be saved.

Going a little deeper into the reporting plugin; when a comment is classed as spam the authors IP address is reported to the database but it won’t be entered straight away, our system will wait and see if any patterns form, if so it will then be entered and further comments will not be allowed.

It may seem madness having two seperate plugins to work as one but I didn’t want to force people into reporting comments if they don’t want to and vice versa with the defending plugin.

In terms of infrastructure the database is hosted on a high performance SSD server which has memcache enabled. Future plans include clustered servers for even greater performance.

Not bad for a few hours work!

 

 

 

 

Server Security Tips

Whenever I deploy a new server I always ensure that any flaws which I’ve picked up from my few years of server experience are fixed, leaving the new server as secure as can be and ready for use.

Below are a few tips for keeping your server as secure as can be:

  • Have a secure root password – Use something random and at least 8 characters long
  • Use non-default ports – Change the default port for services commonly targeted by bots or attackers such as SSH
  • Check your logs – Look for authentication failures and put the related IPs in a block or reject rule using iptables
  • Process users – Make sure processes have their own users and aren’t ran as root

More tips will be added once I remember them!

Review of Oak Tree Dental Practice in Stourbridge

I became a patient at Oak Tree Dental Practice after my current dental practice at the time was going through some major changes and didn’t seem to be offering a good enough service. As part of a management change I was given a checkup and told I would need 6 fillings (3 existing and 3 new that needed redoing) but I couldn’t get an appointment for months, meanwhile I was still paying a monthly Denplan fee and worrying that I would eventually have no teeth and no one seemed to be taking it seriously.

I took the plunge and went to see Mr Jonathan Edward Swinscoe for a “free” checkup. I ended up paying £35 for the apparently free checkup, but he comforted me and said he could get all the fillings done in one go. I transferred my Denplan contract to him which cost £15 and the plan was to wait until the next month when the transfer was complete so the work would be done at no extra cost.

The time came for my appointment and I have to be honest I was dreading it. I had a while to think back about what Jonathan said and it just felt too good to be true, but it was too late to back out now. It didn’t help that the receptionists were too busy gosipping and dancing away to the radio, they seemed frustrated that the whole waiting room wasn’t joining in with them.

The time came where Jonathan called me in, he sat me down on a damp dentist chair that had just been cleaned and then injected, no questions about what medication I was on, no explanation of what is going to happen or anything like that, literally pain killer was injected and I was sent back out to the waiting room. He didn’t seem in a talkative mood thinking back now.

After he saw another client I was taken back into the room to the yet again damp dentist chair. The nurse was out of the room but Jonathan started drilling out my teeth by himself. He had the drill in one hand and suction tube in the other and choked me several times as he wasn’t removing the water quick enough but luckily the nurse came back and took over.

It is worth mentioning at this point that he didn’t have any gloves on and he didn’t give me any protective eyeware meaning my £200 glasses were almost destroyed.

I thought things couldn’t get any worse but at this point but then he started being incredably rough, to the point where I had to keep stopping him because of the pain and was physically shaking. Each time he stopped he would start again straight away and it soon became obvious that he was rushing drilling out the teeth out to get them all done in time, I was really worried that he would drill to far and hit a nerve but luckily that didn’t happen!

After the drilling had finished he stopped and made a sexist comment infront of his female nurse and myself, he said “Not only women have bad days you know!” so now it felt like he was having a bad day and taking it out on me? Great!

He then started putting the fillings in place, again he was rough, applying a fair amount of pressure jolting my neck around for each filling. He put his palm flat on my head which wasn’t very comfortable but at this point I just wanted to get out of there. He just didn’t seem to care, but then again he was having a bad day, so that’s okay then?

After all the fillings were done he literally scooted off to his computer and ignored me, he didn’t explain any care instructions, what had been done or anything, I literally got blanked which was rude. The nurse then asked me to move off the chair so she could wipe it down and then whisked me (still shaking) to a small table in the corridor and offered to sign me up for Denplan. I explained with a numb mouth that I had already transferred to him and then went out the reception where I was told I would need to pay and again had to explain.

I finally got to the safety of my car still shaking and it is safe to say I will never ever be setting foot back in that practice ever again and I will never ever recommend it to anyone.

To add insult to injury I have been left with really sensitive teeth and can no longer drink really hot or really cold drinks. I have also had to have the fillings adjusted by another dentist as they were poorly fitted causing “the battery effect”.

To be clear, this review is about Review of Oak Tree Dental Practice 78 Bridgnorth Road, Wollaston , Stourbridge, DY8 3PA and is not to be confused with practices of a similar name.

Unstick a LinkStation Disk Backup

Imagine this… you have two decent network attach storage boxes which regularly backup one to the other using a built in Disk Backup tool –  Brilliant huh, sounds almost like a nerdy dream! Now imagine part way through a backup you get a power cut or you just trip over the power cable ripping the plug out the wall… not to worry, things will pick up where they left off… unless those decent boxes are Buffalo LinkStations!

I first discovered this flaw a few weeks back when one of my nightly backups seemed to be taking longer than usual. I gave the box about a day or so to try and fix itself but it still kept saying that the disk backup was in progress and in the admin interface and I was unable to cancel or remove the backup, so it was pretty much stuck as you can see below:

stuck-backup

I headed to the official Buffalo support website which seemed to have a fix for this common problem – See for yourself below:

buffalo-stuck-disk-backup
Okay so you have to restore the box to factory defaults… no thanks! I can only assume that because the HS-DHGL is one of their older discontinued products they just can’t be bothered to make a firmware update as it’s not worth their time or effort, but the other option is to use SSH to edit a file which will force the backup to complete.

Getting Unstuck

The following guide will assume you have already enabled SSH and are logged in ready to go, if you haven’t yet enabled SSH see this post here.

  • First of all we need to locate the backup configuration file and this depends on the job number specified on the admin interface, in my case it was number 1 so we need to type in the following command to open the file in a text editor:
    • "vi /etc/melco/backup1"
  • You will now see the configuration file open, hit I (for indigo) on your keyboard to allow inserting of new text and change the line status=running to status=done
  • Hit the Escape key and then type :wq to save your changes and quit
  • Head back to the admin interface to the Disk Backup section and you’ll now see the backup showing as complete as seen below:
    job-complete
  • That’s it – The backup is unstuck, and we haven’t had to restore anything to factory defaults!

Notes

  • This has been tried and tested on the following models/firmware: HS-DHGL/v2.1
  • Finally, if you could let me know if you encounter any problems or can confirm if this works for other models I’d be grateful

Encrypted AES VPN tunnel between pfSense 2.3 and Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite

I recently retired my Draytek 2830 following a serious security flaw I discovered (that’s another post, stay tuned!) and took the plunge with a rather impressive looking Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite.

The other option was a rack mountable TP-Link TL-ER6020 although the maximum NAT throughput was only 180Mbps and it only had 128MB  DDR2 memory and no clear CPU specs, also the web interface looked tired and very restricted. Pound for pound the EdgeRouter was cheaper and has a better spec of anywhere up to and over 600Mbps, 512MB DDR2 memory and Dual‑Core 500 MHz, although it wasn’t rack mountable it was a no brainer with its modern web interface, also did I mention it can process 1 million packets per second?

The EdgeRouter also appeals to my inner nerd  (you can no doubt tell) as you can program it via web interface, command line or console connection and you can remove features you don’t need to boost performance. For example, it may only have 3 gigabit ports, but you can do whatever you like with them! In my case I have it configured as 1 WAN port and the other 2 ports are linked to two seperate LAN’s. I will write a full review when I get chance, but for now just take my word that it is the best router I have ever owned.

Anyway, to business!

Home Network

As before with the Draytek guide my home network is still double NAT’d but there isn’t a speed issue anymore. I do plan to eventually run everything via the EdgeRouter but first I need to install a few additional access points (I’m thinking a couple of airGateway-LR’s hidden in roof spaces will do, powered by PoE obviously!).

In the example below the home network subnet will be 192.168.100.x
and WAN address will be 1.2.3.4

Remote Network

The remote network is the same as before too – a pfSense machine sits at x.1 and deals with traffic to the local network.

In the example below the remote subnet will be 192.168.150.x and WAN address will be 5.6.7.8

Important

  • Each local area network must be on a seperate subnet, otherwise things can quickly get messy and conflict!
  • Make sure you use a secure pre-shared key, anything above 32 characters will do nicely and under no circumstances use the example key!
  • The example details below are fake, replace them with your own details if you want this to work

Configuring pfSense

The guide below lists only the parts you need to change, if the option isn’t listed then leave it as is. Anything to do with double NATing is in red, ignore this if your router is WAN facing.

Fairly straight forward, go to VPN > IPSec > Click Add P1

  • Enter the Remote Gateway as the WAN IP address of the EdgeRouter (or the Superhub in my case) 1.2.3.4
  • Enter a brieft description in the Description box – VPN to pfSense LAN
  • Select Peer identifer as KeyID tag then enter the WAN address of EdgeRouter (192.168.100.1) else leave as Peer IP address
  • Enter your pre-shared key in the Pre-Shared Key box – testing123
  • Set the DH Group to 14
  • Press Save

That’s your Phase 1 entry configured, now for Phase 2:

Go to VPN > IPSec > Click on Show Phase 2 Entries for Home

  • Enter Remote Network as the home network subnet – 192.168.100.0/24
  • Put a brief description in the Description box – Home
  • Set PSF Key Group to 14
  • Press Save and then hit Apply Changes

Finally, we need to create a firewall rule to allow traffic to pass over the VPN:

  • Go to Firewall > Rules > IPSec and click Add
  • Change Protocol to any
  • Enter a brief description in the Description box – Allow VPN Traffic
  • Press Save any hit Apply Changes

Configuring the EdgeRouter

First of all make sure you are running the latest firmware otherwise options may be missing and this may not go smoothly! Currently (March 2017) I’m running EdgeRouter Lite v1.9.1.

Configuring the EdgeRouter is pretty straight forward, you don’t need to do anything via command line or console (unless you really want to, knock yourself out!) – Go to VPN > IPSec Site-to-Site

  • First tick the box Show advanced options to show the encryption options
  • Under Global Options leave Automatically open firewall and exclude from NAT unless you want greater control over who can connect in
  • Under Site-to-site peers enter the Peer as the home WAN address – 5.6.7.8
  • Put a brief description in the Description box – Remote
  • In local IP enter any
  • For Encryption set AES-256
  • In Pre-shared secret enter the key set previously – testing123
  • Enter the Local subnet as 192.168.100.0/24
  • Enter the Remote subnet as 192.168.150.0/24

All being well you should end up with something like below:

Once everything is saved, head over to the pfSense IPSec Status page and hit connect if it hasn’t already established and  there you have it!

At this point you may be asking why did you uncheck the option to Automatically open firewall…, this is because I like to have greater control over what IP addresses are allowed access to my network.

To substitute this option I created a rule in the NAT section translating UDP port 4500 to the routers local IP address (192.168.100.1). In turn I set the Src Address Group of this rule to a list of predefined IP addresses, thus only allowing access to my networks and blocking the rest of the world.