Windows 8 is here

So Windows 8 has been released. What difference will it make to us all?

The answer is - quite a lot!

Microsoft have taken the tiles from their Windows Phone interface and brought them to the mainstream PC platform. There is no choice from their perspective, we have to go with it.

Windows8

For users, it is a major change. You no longer see the dektop with your Start menu in the corner; they are 2 separate pages or screens. You either see the desktop or the Start Screen - quite a shock at first.

On top of this, many of the settings we are all used to have been hidden under something called the 'Charms'. These are icons on the right of the screen in all applications where the settings are held.

To be honest, it really feels as though it is designed for touch screens rather than traditional PCs, but let us see how things go in the coming months.

Password Warnings

The 25 most hackable passwords have been identified by SplashData as the following:

  • password
  • 123456
  • 12345678
  • qwerty
  • abc123
  • monkey
  • 1234567
  • letmein
  • trustno1
  • dragon
  • baseball
  • 111111
  • iloveyou
  • master
  • sunshine
  • ashley
  • bailey
  • passw0rd
  • shadow
  • 123123
  • 654321
  • superman
  • qazwsx
  • michael
  • football

 

So if you have any of these passwords it would be highly advisable to change them! For help in finding a safe and secure password, log in to

http://howsecureismypassword.net

This simple online tool will assess the strength of your password, give you an indication of how long it could take for the password to be hacked, and also make suggestions on how to strengthen it even more to make it more secure.

Windows 7 display corruption for old application

We have recently found an old application which has been working fine on Windows XP but on Windows 7 the dropdown menus appear truncated.

Windows 7 has many options for making old applications work in the compatibility settings which affect the way the application runs with regard to network, folder and computer access. But does actually affect the display used, as it is controlled separately in Windows 7.

The answer is to change the display settings for Windows itself so it uses a theme which is better at backward compatibility. Just right click on the desktop and select Personalize (yes the American spelling!) and select the 'Windows Classic' theme. Unfortunately this removes some of the fancy display features in Windows 7 but at least your application will display properly.

Word Table of Contents from Headings

We often find people struggling with the creation of a Contents list in Microsoft Word. This is actually a very simple task, but it does require an understanding of formatting.

Word uses a concept of 'Styles' in a document, included in which are the predefined settings for Headings. This web page you are reading has these styles too; that is how the page is broken into sections. The underlined green heading in each section is 'Heading 2'.

In Word it is important to use these heading styles for the section headings in the document. All too often users will insert the text for a heading and just mark it as bold/underlined thinking this makes it a heading. It doesn't, it just marks the text. Word requires Headings to create a Table of Contents from.

There can be multiple heading levels in a document. You may have section headings and sub-section headings. You will no doubt have seen contents lists which show items at various levels; these are linked to this type of heading. Here is an example:

Where To Start....................1
  Introduction....................1
  Starter Details.................2
  More Information................3
Getting The Right Data............4
Summary...........................6

 

If a document uses Heading 1 and Heading 2 for these sections then the built-in command to Generate Table of Contents which is available from the menu (or ribbon in 2007/2010 versions) will create one which looks like that above.

Here are some of the benefits of using this method:

  1. As you edit the document the page numbers in the contents update automatically
  2. Adding new sections (with headings) will add them to the contents
  3. If you PDF the document, the Contents list can be used to navigate the document.

This is all too good to miss!

 

Draytek LAN to LAN VPN

We haev used Draytek routers for several years now. They are a very popular router for business use and have many of the features offered by the well known corporate brands such as Cisco and SonicWall. For businesses with more than one location, they offer a very good site to site VPN capability. This allows the networks at both locations to operate together using a secure connection. We always use the IPSec connection type.

IPSec is sometimes configured using security certificates, but on the Draytek it can be done using a Shared Key which is just a word or series of alpha-numeric characters which are entered on both routers.

Ideally the broadband connection at both locations should have a static IP address. However, it is only essential for one. For this example we will assume they both have a fixed external address as follows (the internal network address range is also shown in brackets):

SITE-A: 213.213.213.213 (192.168.10.0)
SITE-B: 180.180.180.180 (192.168.33.0)

The LAN to LAN VPN is created to allow all devices on each network to be able to connect to all devices on the other network using the new secure tunnel.

Here is a step by step guide:

  1. On the Draytek at SITE-A create a new LAN to LAN profile by selecting the next available index
  2. Name the profile and tick 'enable this profile'
  3. Set 'Call Direction' to Both
  4. On section 2. Dial out settings select 'IPSec Tunnel'
  5. In the Server IP/Host Name box enter the remote IP (180.180.180.180)
  6. Click the IKE Pre-Shared Key button
  7. A form appears where you enter the pass phrase exactly the same twice.(Remember this as you will need it for the second router)
  8. In the IPSec security method, select High(ESP) 3DES with Authentication
  9. On section 3. Dial-In Settings select ONLY IPSec Tunnel
  10. Tick 'Specify Remote VPN Gateway and enter the IP address (180.180.180.180)
  11. Tick the box for Pre-Shared key and then click the IKE Pre-Shared Key
  12. A form appears where you enter the pass phrase exactly the same as you entered in step 7. 
  13. Under IPSec Security Method, remove the tick from Medium and ensure DES 3DES and AES are ticked.
  14. In section 4. TCP/IP Network Settings, enter the Remote Network IP and mask (192.168.33.0 / 255.255.255.0)
  15. Leave the local details as 0.0.0.0 as this is automatic.
  16. Click OK to save

For SITE-B, the setup is exactly the same, but of course with the address information for SITE-A in the connection details.

After configuring both of them, the link will show under Connection Management and will display in GREEN text to show that it is an IPSec encrypted VPN.

If the link is not active immediately, try to connect across the link using ping and this should trigger the connection immediately.

VBscript Create Folder

Here is a simple bit of VBscript code whidch we use a lot.

Imagine you have a script which needs to create a folder on the PC it is executing on if that folder doesn't already exist.

Here is a simple function that when called will check for the folder's existance, and if not found, will create it. There is no fancy error checking but will work fine if all permissions are OK.

Private Sub CheckFolder(ByVal f_Spec)
Dim fs As Scripting.FileSystemObject
Set fs = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
  If fs.FolderExists(f_Spec) Then
    Set fs = Nothing
    Exit Sub
  Else
    fs.CreateFolder f_Spec
    Set fs = Nothing
  End If
End Sub



Using the script is just a case of calling it like this

CheckFolder "C:\Docs\TestFolder"

 

If it doesn't exist already, it will be created.

Find live IP addresses on your network

Sometimes it can be the simplest of things which are the hardest to do. An example is finding details of IP address allocation and usage on the network.

The built-in ARP command will tell you the IP addresses which have recently been accessed on the network.

C:>arp -a
Interface: 192.168.3.30 --- 0xb
Internet Address Physical Address Type 192.168.3.1 64-31-50-d2-ae-04 dynamic 192.168.3.3 00-13-72-1b-2a-de dynamic 192.168.3.22 00-1a-a0-25-87-42 dynamic 192.168.3.27 00-1f-29-34-8e-94 dynamic

 

However, this won't show you devices which are on, but not currently communicating with your PC. For this, you need to scan the network.

This command will ping all addresses in your class C network from .1 to .254 and display the result of the ping if the address responds:

C:\>for /L %a in (1,1,254) do @ping -n 1 192.168.3.%a|find "TTL"
Reply from 192.168.3.1: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.3.3: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.3.4: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.3.9: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=64
Reply from 192.168.3.17: bytes=32 time=2ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.3.22: bytes=32 time=2ms TTL=12
Reply from 192.168.3.27: bytes=32 time=2ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.3.41: bytes=32 time=1ms TTL=128

 

As you can see, this has picked up some addresses which we didn't see in the ARP list.

The command is actually sending a single ping to each address in the range but only displaying those which respond as being 'alive'.

Temporarily stop Exchange 2003 database dismount when over 75GB

We recently carried out a migration to SBS 2011 for a client whose Exchange 2003 database had reached the 75GB limit, which was in part caused by a number of very large mailboxes - in excess of 15GB.

An Exchange mailbox database will dismount every morning at 5:00 when the 75GB limit has been reached. As a temporary fix, before the the migration to a new server, we created a scheduled task to run every day at 05:30 that  re-mounted the database.

To minimise downtime for the customer we started the migration of the mailboxes overnight, starting at 17:30 but we ran into a problem whereby some of the larger mailboxes would not copy over before the next database dismount at 5:00.

To get around this issue, we used the following registry modfication which changes the time Exchange 2003 checks the size of the database. When the database is checked for the first time following the registry modification, if found to be over 75GB, it will only give a warning rather than dismount the database. Therefore, if the value in the registry is set to one hour behind the current time, it will be almost 48 hours before the next dismount. This should be plenty of time to get the mailboxes migrated, but if not, the value can simply be modified again!

To change the time, create a DWORD registry key called "Database Size Check Start Time in Hours From Midnight" in the following location:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSExchangeIS\<Servername>\Private-GUID

Then, specify a decimal value of 1-24 in the value datafield, where 1 is equal to 01:00 or 1 AM and so on. A dismount and remount of the database is required for this change to be active.

The same trick can be applied to the public folder database by adding the same key in the following location:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSExchangeIS\<Servername>\Public-GUID

Slow backup on SBS2011

You may find backing up Small Business Server 2011 very slow when using Symantec Backup Exec 2010 - this issue has now been resolved in Backup Exec 2010 R3

Please note that although this update is free if you are running Backup Exec 2010, it is unavailable via live update as it is a version upgrade, so you will need to download the new version from the Symantec website :)

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