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

  • 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!

 

 

 

 

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.

My experience with KGUARD and the Mars Home NVR Combo Kit

I’ve had a KGUARD Mars Home NVR Kit installed at my house for just over a year now, I bought it from eBuyer and paid a little more than I should have thinking it was a great investment and should last a good few year… it has been okay but unfortunatley the NVR side of it recently gave up the ghost.

The NVR initially started complaining about hard disk errors, randomly rebooted and is now just stuck on the boot up screen. Being familiar with embedded devices it ended up looking pretty bricked but unfortunatley there’s no obvious way to reflash the firmware. After a long email conversation with Danny Wu at KGUARD support, he wished me good luck at trying to reflash the firmware and has ignored me ever since, it would be okay but never actually told me how to get the box into recovery mode despite asking a fair few times… I’ll try fix the NVR at some point and if I have any joy I’ll write another post.

It’s not so bad right, you can still use the cameras?

In the meantime I installed iSpy connect – recommended by my friend Chris at work – on my home computer and thought that if I nipped out to Maplins and bought a slightly over priced TP Link PoE switch I could simply swap cables over and have some sort of CCTV system working in no time… was I wrong! Turns out the cameras aren’t 802.3af compliant so it won’t work without a little adjustment.

I didn’t want to go buy more kit without knowing the cameras would actually work, so I got an extension lead and a 12v 2A adapter trailing out the window at 2am, after a bit of tinkering I managed to get a stream from one of the cameras – annoyingly the cameras have their own static IP addresses which are own a different subnet to my home network and on reboot the settings revert back to default… adding a second IP to my network card sorted that.

The next day I nipped back to Maplins and got some PoE splitters, I popped into B&Q as well and got some IP rated junction boxes to cram everything into. After a bit of creativity the end result is that I can now use the KGUARD cameras but I have to have a slightly ugly looking box alongside them to shelter the PoE splitter, its not too bad but I’ve taken the opportunity to upgrade to some Trendnet TV-IP310PI’s and you can really tell the difference.

IMG_20160605_121000
PoE bodge

At least you won’t need to run new network cables?

Pah – Initially I wasn’t going to run new network cables as I thought the existing KGUARD ones would be good enough, unfortuantley not. When I went to put the new cameras waterproof connector in place I discovered that the existing KGUARD network cables only had 6 cores and just felt incredibly cheap, not wanting to take risks and to make things future proof I ended up spending the best part of a day feeding new cables through roof and under floors.

KGUARD network cable
KGUARD network cable

Where’s the happy ending?

It does come eventually, along the way I’ve ate a “cheddar and ham toasty”, got Chris up a ladder, learnt how to run and terminate my own network cables and recycled the KGUARD cameras to cover blind spots that weren’t covered before – those two both with the help of Chris one Saturday – and learnt that ultimatley you are always better building your own system as once you are past the year warranty neither the retailer nor manufacturer could care less!

I was torn between iSpy or BlueIris for software – I ended up going with iSpy which is opensource but should really be classed as freemium. If you want to do anything useful (playback footage, watch remotely or recieve email alerts) you have to upgrade to a premium version which is a monthly cost – not to worry though, I’m currently working on a VB program which will allow both live and pre-recoded playback of files possible and Chris is working on an alternative mobile ap.

I can’t thank KGUARD enough for this valuable learning experience and I would strongly recommend that if you are thinking about getting a KGUARD system then look elsewhere! If I hadn’t have had such good knowledge of network and computing then I’d have ended up with one very expensive set of paper weights.

A word of warning about Kimsufi and ESXi

Kimsufi are well known for offering cheap dedicated servers and over the years I’ve had no problems until recently.

I purchased a KS-5 for running VMware ESXi on, it was a fairly good spec Xeon with 16GB of ram and 2TB disk space for about £30 a month plus a one time setup fee. It was quickly provisioned which was great, but after logging into my account I found a problem – There was no obvious place to order additional IPv4 addresses which rendered the server completely useless to me. I was prompted to select an operating system, so I did thinking this would make ordering IP addresses possible, but still nothing.

I contacted support immediately and asked if ordering additional IP addresses was possible, and if not to cancel and refund my account. They responded in a nut shell saying its not possible, and that because I’d installed the VMware template that they provided they wouldn’t refund me which was annoying, they also implied that because the service was so cheap I should be grateful and suggested using their sister brand SoYouStart, amusing.

Luckily I paid with PayPal so I opened a dispute and got my money back. It’s not about the money though, its about Kimsufi not making the facts clear and then fobbing you off. I’d usually recommend them, but not anymore.

I’ve since found a better provider, Online.net offering similar spec servers capable of running ESXi with, wait for it, the option to order additional IP addresses! Amazing.

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!

Upgrade Windows Phone 8.0 to 8.1 Before Main Release Using Developer Preview

Recently I lost my smartphone and after lots of searching decided to give up and buy a new phone. As I only really use my phone for checking emails, a little remote desktop access and the odd bit of mobile banking I didn’t need anything overkill and I fancied a change from Android so I went for a Windows based Nokia Lumia 520.

The Lumia 520 can be picked up for £69.00 on O2 pay as you go (as of 01/07/2014, see here) but I paid a little extra and got mine the same day. I was initially blown away by the Windows Phone operating system as it was better than expected and I couldn’t find any flaws. I’d setup my email, installed the mobile banking app and so on which lead me to my final task which was to install the Remote Desktop app. You’d think this would be a straight forward task installing a Microsoft product on something Microsoft powered but no, when heading to the Microsoft Store on the phone the Remote Desktop app wasn’t showing so I searched the Microsoft Store online and it came up saying that it wasn’t compatible with the Windows Phone 8.0 operating system that was currently on the phone.

I had three options, to cry in the corner, wait for the update to be released or to try upgrade the phone manually. After a little research the update was said to be released within the “…first two weeks of July…” but there was no exact date and I just couldn’t wait.

After more research it turns out that you can use a free app called Preview for Developers which allows you to basically get the update there and then instead of having to wait.

Upgrading Windows Phone 8.0 to 8.1

Below you’ll find a guide on how to upgrade the Windows Phone operating system. Please note that any changes you do here are irreversible and this will no doubt void your warranty.

  • First things first we need to create a free account with Microsoft’s App Studio using the link found here as this will give you access to the developer previews service and give you the magical updates – I used my main Microsoft account that’s linked to the phone to keep things simple
  • Once you’ve created the account go to Microsoft Store on the phone, search Preview for Developers and install the app
  • Once the app has installed launch it and you will be asked to accept the terms and conditions and login using the account details created previously
  • Next you’ll see information about what the app does and so on, all we need to do here is tick the box next to Enable Preview for Developers and press done
  • Now that’s enabled head to Settings > phone update and press check now and then follow the on screen instructions – You may need to repeat this process several times as it took me two updates to prepare the phone before the update to Windows 8.1 was offered
  • After a little while you will now be running Windows 8.1! – You can check this by viewing Settings > about > more information under the OS version heading

Notes

  • Make sure your phone is fully charged before attempting any updates as things could seriously go wrong otherwise!
  • As with anything in development stages things may be a little buggy so be aware that you may stumble across the odd glitch every now and again
  • Although not tested I assume the same steps will work for phones other than the Nokia Lumia 520, if you can confirm this I’d be grateful

A Sticky Problem with Glue Records and 1&1 Internet

Recently I had a tidy up with my hosting infrastructure which involved moving a slave DNS server from one IP address to another. The easy part was setting up the server and changing the existing DNS A record to point to the new IP address, the fun started when it came to updating the Glue record held with 1&1.

If you weren’t already aware a Glue record is something set by the domain registrar (1&1 in this case) that points directly to the server where the domains DNS records are kept. This makes it possible  to have domain names with nameservers that are a subdomain of itself, for example nerdkey.co.uk could point to ns1.nerdkey.co.uk and ns2.nerdkey.co.uk.

The last time I’d update Glue records with 1&1 was a good few years ago, but it was a simple case of logging into the control panel, searching for the domain and then heading to the record for subdomain, hitting an edit button and then changing the existing A record IP address for a new one but it wasn’t that easy this time round.

After a little trial and error and a lot of head scratching it seems that since they rolled out their new control panel it just isn’t possible anymore to set or update Glue records – you could see the records don’t get me wrong, just not update them. Not to worry though, their technical support team will be able to update the records, right? WRONG! I emailed them several times, making things as clear as possible whilst at the same time thinking that their support advisers would be savvy enough to understand terms used within the industry they work in, didn’t go too well.

In a nutshell, here is the correspondence between us:

  • [Me] – Outlined the domain, that I wanted Glue records updating and the exact subdomains and IP addresses
  • [Them] – Asked me to confirm if these changes has already been made as my website was working fine (not what I asked?)
  • [Me] – Sent a slightly reworded version of the first, again outlining the essential details and that it hadn’t been updated
  • [Them] – Confirmed that website was working fine again, asked me to clear my cache and reply with any error messages (did they even read the email?)
  • [Me] – Sent a similar email along the lings of the first and second stating that they are the domain registrar and this is something they need to do, again included essential details
  • [Me] – Emailed them to see if any updates available
  • [Them] – Replied asking me to confirm that I wanted the NS2 record updated as well (because the last emails didn’t state that?)
  • [Them] – Responded saying the nameservers may possibly need to be reverted back to them for this to work, but they used a special “tool” instead and said to wait up to 48 hours
  • [Them] – Replied this morning (after the domain was transferred and Glue set correctly with a different provider) saying that everything is now set correctly

Enough was enough, it got to a point where I’d given them over a weeks worth of my time and they’d done little more then send me a few standard responses and ask for confirmation which was already given. My last attempt to gain faith in them involved changing the nameservers back to them to see if it would work and allow me to set the records, it partly did – I managed to set the NS1-4 subdomains to the correct A records then updated the domains nameservers to another provider temporarily straight after to avoid any downtime and left it a few hours. I came back a few hours later and tried to set the nameservers back to ns1-4.koserver.co.uk but got an error message saying the nameservers weren’t registered and found out that the update to the temporary nameservers hadn’t taken affect, slowly grinding my entire hosting network to a halt – great!

I know I hadn’t waited the standard propagation times, but given the past experience and useless support and the fact that everything was slowly grinding to a halt, it was time to transfer. After research I’d narrowed things down to two providers – I wanted to give Name.com a try, but as their system for transferring in .UK’s wasn’t automated I abandoned that plan and went for NameCheap. Within an hour the domain was with them and Glue records were set through the control panel and things are slowly coming back online.

In all my years of website hosting I have never had such a catastrophic outage, aside from looking into a second domain to host nameservers all my domains with 1&1 will be transferred elsewhere.

So in summary, if you know what you’re doing don’t go with 1&1. You’ll be treated like an idiot and just wasting your time throwing emails back and forth with them. They don’t really read your emails and the fact they removed such a critical feature without telling anyone speaks volumes in my opinion, I mean they still have an old support article on how to set Glue records, obviously doesn’t work though. It is a shame, but that’s life.

 

pfSense on SonicWALL SRA 4200

By now if you haven’t already guessed, I like to tinker! Couple that with the fact I have a few saved sellers on eBay that keep me surround with EoL hardware and it quickly becomes a dangerous situation for my wallet.

My latest find is a pair of SonicWALL SRA 4200’s, my ultimate goal is to get pfSense installed and revive these beasts. As it stands the units both work as “Secure Remote Access” servers, they don’t include any licenses for the included OS, so are kinda useless, but normally they’d be dedicated VPN servers for massive companies with millions of employees that need to connect in and from remote locations.

I’ve only been playing with them for a couple of hours so far but I’ve managed to get pfSense installed. There are two issues at the moment which I’ve yet to resolve:

  1. There’s a driver issue with the network cards, so the setup wizard can’t detect any NIC’s and can’t continue
  2. By default it wants to boot off the internal CF card, so I have to manually keep changing it to boot of my USB flash drive – If you remove the CF card completely the unit doesn’t even attempt to boot, it beeps twice then powers off so there’s some sort of security mechanism in place

So how did I get this far?

Well it was fun! I started by trying to get console output to my ancient Dell laptop (which has an ACTUAL serial port,  woah!).

I bought a run of the mill RJ45 to DB9 cable but that didn’t work, so I had to get my soldering iron out and knock something up – See original diagram here or pictures below:

As you can see from above, whilst I did get output it was AFTER P.O.S.T. so in other words, it was output from the SonicWALL operating system and of no use to me.

Next I went to extremes and tried changing on the AMIBIOS chip for a spare I had floating around from the WatchGuards, not a lot happened so it was back to square one.

After that I went on a pin hunt and noticed “VGA” markings and then a set of 15 pins, I didn’t expect it to work but I hooked up a monitor and had output!

 

I couldn’t get into a “classic” BIOS screen, although here’s what I found through trial and error:

  • Mashing F5/F8 takes you to slightly different FreeDOS screens
  • Mashing F11 takes you to a familiar looking boot device menu screen

The unit is running Wind River’s VxWorks operating system, which looks pretty cool, although I had never heard of it until now.

I installed pfSense 2.3.5 (x86) by connecting a CD drive to one of the internal SATA headers, connected a 16GB Sandisk Flash Drive to one of the USB ports and then mashed F11 and selected the disk drive.

What followed was the familiar installation screens of pfSense – Notice how the colours keep changing, it was loose cables or artistic flare, I’ll let you decide!

What’s next?

Well, this was just a bit of fun but when I get chance I’ll look at sorting the network card drivers out and see if I can re-purpose the CF card, worst case I’ll move the USB drive inside the chassis and make the CF card the second boot device.