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.

Install EPEL Repository on CentOS 7 (x64)

The simple one line command below will enable the EPEL repository on CentOS 7

rpm -Uvh http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/7/x86_64/e/epel-release-7-2.noarch.rpm

Once ran you will see confirmation that it has been installed successfully, that’s it!

Notes

  • You can find out more about the EPEL repository here
  • If you don’t already have a server, I’d strongly recommend starting with DigitalOcean

Icecast PHP Stats

A recent project of mine called Coop Cam uses several live video streams served by an Icecast server at different mount points which works great, but I found there was no real solution to simply display how many viewers were actually watching the live streams.

I put together a basic PHP code that reads the Icecast XML stats file and retrieves the current overall viewers (or listeners as its officially known) of all available mount points.

Code

// get the stats xml file //
$output = file_get_contents('http://admin:[email protected]:8000/admin/stats');

// explode to make the magic happen //   
$listeners = explode('',$output);
$listeners = explode('',$listeners[1]);

// output to the world //
echo "Currently <b>$listeners[0]</b> people are watching the live stream!";

Once you have amended the admin password, server name and port the code above will then connect to your server and read the /admin/stats XML file. From here it will literally pick out the content shown between the <listeners></listeners> tags and that then becomes the $listeners[0] variable, simply place this wherever you want to display the amount of current viewers.

Notes

  • This code may or may not work depending on if your hosting provider allows the file_get_contents function – In my case I use my own dedicated servers and it works without issue, if you have any problems I’m sure I can sort something for you!
  • You can show the amount of sources, file connections and so on by amending the code to reflect the correct tags – A full list of tags can be seen by visiting the youricecastservername.com:8000/admin/stats page
  • You can find a live working example of this script here or actually see it in place here
  • Finally, you can download the script by clicking here

Disable Virtualmin Two-factor Authentication

Virtualmin is constantly being developed and gaining ever useful features, and for a while now has featured two-factor authentication which is great, although what happens if you get locked out of your system? As long as you have SSH or console access then you can follow the steps below to easily get back in.

Disabling two-factor authentication for a single user

  • Get root SSH or console access
  • Edit the file /etc/webmin/miniserv.users, comment out the current line for the user then create a fresh copy above it
  • Remove any mention of “totp” and the long string of characters near the end and save, for example your file should now look like the following:
...
root:x::::::::0:0:::
#root:x::::::::0:0:totp:ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ:
...
  • Restart Webmin and log back in normally

Disabling two-factor authentication entirely

  • Get root SSH or console access
  • Edit the file /etc/webmin/miniserv.conf and find the line “twofactor_provider=totp” and replace with “twofactor_provider=” and save
  • Edit the /etc/webmin/miniserv.users as mentioned above
  • Restart Webmin and log back in normally

Notes

  • I’ve had success with this on Webmin 1.760 running on CentOS 7.0