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Minneapolis IT Services, Networking and Managed Services Blog

nsa-daten

     Our government spying on us inside our own country is indeed worrisome. So much that eight major tech companies are pushing back for reform on how the government monitors its citizens. These companies are Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo and AOL (Yes it’s still alive). To summarize the intent of these companies in pressing for reform, they want the monitoring to be more specific. Not broad like it is now. For details about this open letter they drafted about how to get your internet privacy back, read here .

     The trouble with doing the NSA’s job is they don’t always know specifically where to look for the bad guys online in this current information age. There’s millions of people online, all talking and chatting about everything under the sun. How do they know who is a threat and who is not? They can’t… it’s impossible to hire enough people to monitor the entire internet day and night. So their solution is to justify (basically) making a copy of EVERYTHING and then sifting through it later with computers. So then when another idiot tries to wreck another plane flight, fails, and gets his iPhone siezed… it doesn’t matter that the contacts and call history are all deleted. The NSA just plugs in his number to their huge database of all phone calls made in the US for the last 6 months (copied from his cellular provider’s billing records) and voila, they have some solid evidence to move on and try to hunt further up the food chain.

     If you’ve been doing some Christmas shopping online and then visited your favorite social website, pay attention to the ads that show there on the social site. They are going to be the same products or related products to what you were just shopping for. Wouldn’t it be nice to get your internet privacy back? This happens because of something called tracking cookies. Tracking cookies are very small text files that your browser usually keeps to set preferences on different websites you visit. Some remember your username and type it in to the page for you as soon as you get there. Others change font sizes so those with poor eyesight don’t have to redo the settings for large fonts. Advertisers can enter information in these cookies to keep track of what stuff you’ve been shopping for online and then social media sites take that information and use it to serve up “relevant advertisements”. You can get more information about how the NSA uses them at the Electronic Frontier Foundation website.

     What can I do? There are some simple basic measures you can take to stop a lot of the spying and advertising going on and in turn get your internet privacy back (most of it anyways). First, use a good browser like Chrome or Firefox. Second, install a few plugins or addons like HTTPS Everywhere, and then install a script blocker like NoScript. Set aside some time to use these new additions and thoroughly read the tutorials. These are “whitelist” apps. They learn what websites to trust from your input, and they block everything else. So… if you play around with them a while you will be able to figure out what websites are serving up advertisements, sending cookies, etc etc.. and you will be able to do a pretty good job of blocking the unwanted stuff by teaching these apps who you want to trust and who you don’t want to trust.

For your cell phone, there are a few secure messaging apps like Wickr, Redphone and Textsecure . These, along with a good antivirus software would give me enough peace of mind to say not just any beginner hacker can get in to my phone. These tips summarize a few ways you can get your internet privacy back. Thank you for reading. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggest the apps you use to take back  your privacy.

Disclaimer: do not touch the board and or chips on the board, they are HOT and can burn your skin.  Broadview Technology Solutions LLC is not responsible for personal injury or liable for property damage related to this procedure and or alteration of your Raspberry Pi. This material is provided for educational purposes only.

If you’ve ever used  your raspberry pi for any length of time and put your hand on the case or maybe even been brave enough to touch the board,  found out warms up pretty good. So here’s a very brief writeup on how to install raspberry pi heatsinks. We begin with a thermal image of a raspberry pi while it is powered on.

raspberry pi thermal image

Raspberry Pi thermal image

The image above is courtesy of modmypi.com gives you a pretty good idea where you should install raspberry pi heatsinks. The lower left corner red area appears to be a component of power regulation since it’s located near the power input and has a capacitor there as well.  The red area in the center of the board is the CPU ( Broadcom BCM 2835 @ 700MHz ), and the reddish area on the right centered vertically is the LAN controller.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. We ordered a raspberry pi heatsinks set from Ebay for about $4 USD. It took about 3 weeks to get here, so you can imagine where it came from. The heatsinks came with two sided thermal tape applied to them. We are using a Raspberry Pi model B. Here is a shot of the Pi with the heatsinks before we installed them.

raspberry-pi-heatsinks-1

The Raspberry Pi heatsinks before installation

The installation was very simple, but I wish I would have had a large tweezers to hold the heatsinks straight while installing as your fingers get in the way of the USB, LAN and audio ports when you try to install the heatsink on the LAN controller. The CPU is readily accessible to install raspberry pi heatsinks, just peel off the double sided tape and stick it on. The power regulating component in the lower left of the thermal image is right next to a cylindrical component called a capacitor. It’s on the other side of the cylinder from the power port where you plug in the power. With the kit we got, the aluminum heatsink (the smallest, silver colored heatsink) was a little bit large for the components, but if you’re very careful about placement, you can avoid touching the capacitor and the small yellow component on the board nearest the board marking “C11″.

Here is a shot of the end game… how to install raspberry pi heatsinks…

install raspberry pi heatsinks

Done with the installation of raspberry pi heatsinks.

That’s it. Thanks for taking time to read How to install Raspberry Pi heatsinks and we wish you luck with your own installation. Please post or email with any questions or comments.  Have a wonderful day!

Did your PERC card die? Is it time to replace the battery in your Dell PowerEdge 1750 server? If so, here’s the lowdown on how to get it done.

Disclaimer: Anyone attempting to perform this hardware installation or swap should have a current FULL BACKUP of all data before performing the steps!!! The author assumes no liability for any loss incurred by following the provided instructions.

So now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get started with how to install a PERC 4i Card.

Shut down and power off the server, then unplug the power cords from the server and open the case. The red shaded area represents the space in which the PERC 4i card will be installed.

PowerEdge 1750 inside

PowerEdge 1750 inside

Obviously to install a PERC 4i card you need to have it handy, so discharge any static electricity from yourself and put on a static discharge bracelet. Open your PERC 4i card and place it within reach of the server.

Dell PERC 4i board and battery

Dell PERC 4i board and battery

If you are standing near the front panel of the server with the case fully opened you will see near the rear left a set of 4 white plastic standoffs with clips. They will match up with the holes in the corner of your PERC 4i card.

Gently position the PERC 4i card under the PCI slot edge first, then ensure all standoff posts are aligned to the holes on the PERC 4i card. When they are, press down on the right front and right rear corners with equal pressure until you hear the retainer clips snap to hold the card down. Then press the left side front and rear corners down also with equal pressure.

PowerEdge 1750 with PERC 4i Installed

PowerEdge 1750 with PERC 4i Installed

Next if you have the optional battery backup for the write cache, look towards the front of the server (closest to you) just behind the backplane. There are two sets of the white plastic standoffs, one for a DRAC and then two outside the 4 standoffs for the DRAC. The furthest right and the furthest left standoffs are the ones to use. Please don’t forget to connect the battery to the mainboard. There is a screenprinted label on the mainboard which says “RAID BAT”, the connector is near the rear left corner of a QLogic chip on our mainboard. The connector is keyed so it should only fit on one direction.

After lining up the holes in the battery holder with the white plastic standoffs, press evenly  on both ends of the RAID battery holder (the black plastic half moon shape) to attach it to the motherboard. After the battery backup is installed, it should look like this (note red shaded area in photo).

 

Poweredge write cache battery installed

Poweredge write cache battery installed

After you verify that the battery is connected to the board you are ready to power up your server. Close the case, reconnect your power cable and power on your server.  You should see confirmation during the boot process that the PERC 4i card is installed and the battery backup is working.

Free Public DNS servers are a great gift to the internet community and home users should make use of them whenever they can. For those of you who don’t know what DNS servers do, they help you surf the web more easily. If you want to get to Walmart.com, you type in “walmart.com” to your web browser and voila- you’re at walmart.com a second later. Behind the scenes what just happened (measured in milliseconds) is your computer sent a message to a Domain Name System server and said “what IP address is walmart.com?”, the DNS server replied “161.170.244.20” so then your PC opens a connection with the IP address 161.170.244.20 to get walmart’s main web page along with all the pictures and text to tell you about their prices and product offerings.

So why does it matter which DNS server you use? Because most free public DNS servers out there don’t think about where they’re sending you to before they give the answer with the IP address. Say you’ve been surfing the web and accidentally caught a virus which installs some malware that wants to turn your computer in to a remote controlled zombie! (see: Illegal BotNet) The malware will try to reach out on the internet to some weird URL like commander.afeawlkjfe.org to receive further instructions about downloading *more* malware programs to further secure the commander’s control over your computer (imagine a burglar breaking in to your house, drinking your beer, eating  your sandwiches then leaving a side and a back window open in hopes that you won’t notice so he can come back later).  Or it may reach out for a small spam generator so it can force your computer to send nasty spam emails to email lists. Or generate bogus traffic to jam up walmart’s website (see: DDoS)!!

How do free public DNS servers help? When you set up your computer’s network connection settings, you can specify  which DNS servers your computer makes requests to. I won’t get in to a lot of detail, but if you choose a DNS server that is aware of those bad URLs (like the commander.afeawlkjfe.org) it will give the wrong IP address on purpose to your computer. So the malware that made its home in your PC can’t call the commander for instructions on what to do next. So unless it has a built in set of instructions, it can’t do much more harm to your PC or the other systems on your network.

Sign me up! How to add the free public DNS servers addresses varies from version to version of Windows or Mac systems. Usually these days you have a modem with a wireless router that will give your computer the DNS addresses as soon as your PC gets on your home network. So to do it the right way, you should set the free public DNS servers at your modem or router. If done that way, every computer in your house will get those DNS servers that you specify.  Below I’ve compiled a list of free public DNS servers that will serve different purposes. Some block malware and viruses, while others are even more protective and even block content inappropriate for minors.

Free Public DNS Servers (no thorough blocking)
Google  8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4
Level3  4.2.2.1 4.2.2.2 4.2.2.3 4.2.2.4 4.2.2.5 and 4.2.2.6

Free Public DNS Servers (Some Malware and Virus Protection)
OpenDNS 208.67.220.220 208.67.222.222
Norton Internet Security  198.153.192.40 198.153.194.40

Free Public DNS Servers (Malware, Virus and Some Adult Content Filtered)
Norton Internet Security  198.153.192.50 198.153.194.50

Free Public DNS Servers (Malware, Virus and Most Adult or Objectionable Content Filtering)
Norton Internet Security 198.153.192.60 198.153.194.60

Free Public DNS Servers (For the Privacy Conscious- They promise to delete all web requests within 24 hours)
OpenNIC  202.83.95.227 216.87.84.211 64.0.55.201 184.154.13.11

What do  you do if you have large files that are not irreplacable, but you just want to make sure that you can recover them in the case of a HDD crash, power outage or brownout? Back it up locally! Mind you this is NOT a replacement for encrypted online backup. In the case of a manmade or natural disaster you WILL lose your files if you do not have an offsite backup. DO NOT use this in place of an offsite backup for any important files you need for your business!!

Now that the warning’s out of the way, I’d like to share how I set up a very simple Linux bash script for my DIY Small Business PC Backup. My Ubuntu box is running on old hardware, its an old AMD K6 CPU with a gig of memory and some PATA drives I threw in it, so I can’t really reliably tell when they will decide to push daisies. I purchased an external HDD from MicroCenter and plugged the external 2.5″ HDD in to my Ubuntu samba server. Thank you to the wonderful coders at Ubuntu because it automatically mounts the drive to /media/mybook . Next I needed to write a simple bash script to compress and copy the folder I needed backed up to this external drive, and then email me that the process completed. The data is a folder that does not change often (it’s ISOs of OS discs that I use for reinstalls on customer systems if their HDD fails and they have only the CoA). 32GB of them to be precise. So, off to writing that bash script for my free DIY small business computer backup. You can use vi or your favorite linux file editor and enter the following… I will use /home/user as the source directory and /media/mybook as the target.

#!/bin/bash
### backup /home/user to /media/mybook/userbackup.tar.2bz
tar -cjf /media/mybook/userbackup.tar.bz2 /home/user

###  write email text to a temporary text file
echo “To: myemail@myhost.com” > backup.mail
echo “From:myemail@myhost.com” >> backup.mail
echo “Subject: My backup complete” >> backup.mail
echo “” >> backup.mail
echo “Scheduled folder backup completed at Home office” >> backup.mail

### send email from text file
msmtp -t < backup.mail

This DIY small business pc backup script compresses 32GB of ISOs to about 30GB. So that’s about a 6% disk usage savings- not bad! Now I needed to automate my DIY small business computer backup so my computer does it instead of me having to remember to do it! Enter crontab! Crontab is like a scheduler for your system that runs all your scripts on your schedule. In this case my files do not change often so I’d like to back them up weekly.  To edit your user’s crontab file you just log in as the user you want to have run this script and enter the command “crontab -e”. That will open your editor. Inside you must update when you want the script to run and enter the path to the script. Here is an example below…

# m   h   dom  mon  dow   command
0    6     *        *          1       /myfolder/backup-script.sh

To understand the abbreviations / settings I have spaced them apart a little farther than they are in the actual file. The abbreviations stand for (from left to right) Minute, Hour, Day of Month, Month, Day of Week and Command. Since I would like my script to run every Monday at 6:00AM I entered  0 6 * * 1 and then gave the path to the script /myfolder/backup-script.sh . Now each monday morning when the backup completes, I receive an email stating that my DIY small business PC backup is done. I don’t need to worry about logging in and checking up on it in the system logs, verifying that the files are actually present in the external drive, or any silly thing like that.  It’s just automated and I don’t need to think about it just check the email and delete it. I chose to not clean up after the process because then if I don’t notice the absence of the email in my inbox for a few weeks, I can view the timestamp on that backup.mail file and see when the last time the script ran.

Just checking in again, our team statistics for folding at home ranks us at 18,293 of 217,704 teams. That’s an increase of 1,957 places! Please donate your spare CPU cycles today! Join team 150964 to help cure cancer. Thank you to all who have helped make progress towards a cure for cancers, alzheimers, huntingtons and parkinsons!

Just checking in, our team statistics for folding at home ranks us at 20,250 of 217,211 teams. That’s an increase of 3,690 places! Please donate your spare CPU cycles today! Join team 150964 to help cure cancer. Thank you to all who have helped!

Pointers in Searching for the Right Managed IT Network Services Provider

The present world has become a realm of things which are mostly run by information technology. With the incessant innovations and inventions, it seems that there is simply no stopping technology from dominating most of the aspects of the lives of individuals. Today, finding the right provider of managed IT network services has become of great importance, and it is for a good reason.

Through managed network services, a provider will be able to remotely monitor all your systems, and it will be like you have full-time professional and skilled IT staff working right inside your office. From email to printers to maintaining the network and even storage backup, managed IT network services will ensure that all computer systems are operational and with utmost protection. However, searching for the right provider of such providers is far from being easy. To help you out, here are several pointers you might want to keep in mind when looking for the correct virtual team that will make sure that your business or organization will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

24/7 Monitoring

Monitoring done proactively can gather essential information regarding your network, alerting the provider of any pre-failure indicators which can help in prevention of problems before these can take place. Usually, providers have the capacity of fixing issues before their discovery so that everything will be in full operation before your personnel arrives the following morning.

Proactive Support

See to it that your chosen provider of IT network services also offers a proactive support. Take note that they never profit from the problems of your network. Instead, they are compensated for the uptime, or their ability of ensuring that your network will be up and running. They will only make money when you succeed, not when your network experiences a failure.

Security Management

See to it that patch management and firewall monitoring are also included in the services of your chosen provider. Applications and networks with the latest patches are not that susceptible to hackers and viruses.

Remote Management

About 90% of problems with the network can be fixed remotely. You no longer need to pay your managed IT network services provider for any unnecessary office trips and wait for hours and hours before getting a response.

Customer References and Reputation

Are their previous customers satisfied with their services? What can their present customer say about their work? How many customers are they managing that have the same business as yours?

Profundity of Knowledge

Most managed services providers have a group of multi-disciplined engineers who are always available to give your network’s needed support. Go through the competencies and certifications of every provider and see to it that they are really qualified in managing the technologies you are depending on for running your business.

Pricing and Contracts

Providers should offer you with multiple services for you to pick from as well as flexible pricing. Carefully review their proposed levels of services and try to understand the things covered by their base contract as well as those which need to be considered outside its terms.
Looking for the best managed IT network services provider need not be that hard when you keep these pointers in mind.

Just checking in, our team statistics for folding@home ranks us at 23,940 of 217,211 teams. Please donate your spare CPU cycles today! Join team 150964 to help cure cancer. Thank you!

Monitor Windows 7 Event Logs

Monitoring Windows Event Logs is important. Most people just don’t do it because they don’t understand how or why to do it.

 

Why to Monitor Windows 7 Event Logs.

Even if your Windows 7 system boots and runs with no error messages that pop up at you, usually errors are there. They’re all sorts of weird errors about DHCP, other network issues, hardware driver minutiae or odd temporary memory errors. If you ignore these, usually the problem gets worse and worse, eventually causing your system to crash or lock up. It’s important to stay on top of the errors and be mindful of their meaning. Many of these errors are resolved by simply updating your operating system or updating drivers.

 

How to Monitor Windows 7 Event Logs.

 1. The manual way:

Click Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Event Viewer
Expand the Windows Logs section on the left. Then highlight System. Filter the logs to only show Critical and Error entries. Now, open your favorite search engine and search away! Yes, it’s time consuming and boring, but it’s also important to maintaining a smooth running system.

2. The Automatic Way:

The easiest free solution we’ve found yet is MyEventViewer. It can be downloaded from the author’s website at Nirsoft.net . It’s an application that will bring all the logs specified in to one window. Can it get much easier than that? Probably not. You can sort, filter and save the data automatically. You can even get event logs from other computers on your network!

This is a great utility to monitor your Windows 7 Event Logs mainly because it’s simple to use and it’s not bloated with stuff you don’t need. “Just the facts”. This is a great way to start troubleshooting your system before the infamous blue screen of death happens.