MODS: Installing BusyBox on Popcorn Hour C-200 (PCH-C200)

Popcorn Hour C-200 network media jukebox (NMJ) gained popularity among enthusiasts due to its inherent capabilities. It can play a wide variety of video formats including the more popular high definition formats H.264 and MPEG4-AVC. It can also play ISO files or a dump of a bluray disc.

It also has a wide variety of connectivity features -- HDMI being one of the many sought after. In networking components, it has gigabit ethernet for your bandwidth requirements. Wireless N connectivity is an optional add-on but if you don't like cable clutter, this is a very good solution.

However, the stock PCH-C200 can be improved further by installing a shell to access the C-200. Those savvy gadgeteers would want to do more customizations and having access to a shell via a command line utility like telnet. The best shell for embedded linux is busybox. And the install is very easy -- just a few clicks away.

The requirement for this to push through is to have the Community Software Installer (or CSI). If you don't have this utility, make sure to download it as the software is very useful in using your NMT/NMJ.

The Community Software Installer is dependent on FTP service running on the NMT. So before proceeding further enable FTP on the NMT.

Launch the CSI and configure the type of NMT/NMJ you have. Under Extra > Settings, select the proper type of hardware. In this example, it is the Popcorn Hour C-200. Key in the ftpuser and password, which are "nmt" and "1234" respectively (without quotes). You should be seeing a similar screenshot to the one below.

Installing Busybox on Popcorn Hour C-200

Under Extra > Advanced > Manage Repositories, make sure the second box is enabled (ticked). This is pointing to the repository: This part of the procedure is just a check to see the correct repository is automatically configured by the procedure above. On my CSI, I didn't have to reconfigure this part. Nevertheless, it would not hurt to check it. Once set, hit Next.

Having set the configuration, were now ready to install busybox on your PCH-C200. Under the Applications tab, right at the second line is BusyBox 1.14.1. Select it and click next. You should be seeing the Upload and install screen like below. Hit Next again.

Installing Busybox on Popcorn Hour C-200

CSI will then install BusyBox on the PCH-C200 and start the services associated with BusyBox. BusyBox service runs and starts with FTP so make sure this service is running before trying to connect to the C-200.

Using putty, try to telnet to the C-200. You should also be able to see a similar window as below.

Installing Busybox on Popcorn Hour C-200

There you go folks, BusyBox on your Popcorn Hour C-200.


TECH: Gmail-to-SMS Service For Free!

Apart from free email service, Gmail added another service that you folks will love. What is this service? It is the Gmail-to-SMS service. Gmail-to-SMS allows you to send SMS to Globe Telecom, Smart Communications, and Sun Cellular subscribers from your GMail account. The GMail-to-SMS service allows Globe, Smart, and Sun subscribers to receive text messages direct to their handsets. What's more? This service is FOR FREE!

According to Myriam Boublil, Head of Communications and Public Affairs for Google Southeast Asia:
SMS in Gmail Chat will bring a new level of flexibility and mobility to Gmail users in the Philippines. With more than 70 million mobile subscribers in the Philippines and the country being the SMS capital of the world, we think this service will allow for seamless integration between mobile and PC communication and make it more convenient for Pinoys to send each other messages.

To use this service, login to your Gmail account. Then type the phone number on the chat bar. Gmail will start to search your contacts as you type. Once you have used this service, an SMS search bar will appear on top of the Chat bar, like the screenshot below.

Gmail-to-SMS Service For Free

The process is similar to sending as instant message -- the only difference being, Gmail users compose a text from the desktop interface not on a handset. Messages sent this way are stored and archived like any other chat or IM messages. Whenever the recipient of the SMS responds to the SMS, the response will appear in the sender’s Gmail interface. It's like chatting but the recipient is mobile. You can pop-out the window too, just like chat.

Gmail-to-SMS Service For Free

For replies, standard network SMS charges apply for any carrier -- Globe, Smart or Sun. However, sending SMS from the Gmail Chat to a phone is FREE. The same service can be availed in similar countries in Asia, not just the Philippines. For a comprehensive list of countries that can utilize this service, checkout the frequently asked question (FAQ) page here.

I tested this out on my mobile number and here is the message as it appears on my handset.

Gmail-to-SMS Service For Free

As of this writing, the limit as to the number of SMS you can send is 50. Not yet sure how the service replenishes the credits. If you have any additional information on this, kindly share it with us.


FUN: Happy Sysadmin Appreciation Day!

Sysads work anonymously. I know since I'm a sysad. Behind every IT infrastructure is a hardworking system administrator (or sysad/sysadmin) or a group of sysads keeping the infrastructure in tip-top shape. These are the people who often get overlooked, never thanked but would still be there when the going gets tough. Without a sysad pimp-my-rig would not be online, and would not even exist.

So as a complement to the funny resignation letter we published before, here is a tribute to all the system administrators out there. It's a thankless job but today is a day out of 365 days a year where we get thanks for the hardwork we do!

Happy Sysadmin Appreciation Day

This year the sysadmin appreciation day falls on the 29th of July 2011. The celebration began 12 years ago. To get a more vivid history, check out the website
A sysadmin unpacked the server for this website from its box, installed an operating system, patched it for security, made sure the power and air conditioning was working in the server room, monitored it for stability, set up the software, and kept backups in case anything went wrong. All to serve this webpage.

A sysadmin installed the routers, laid the cables, configured the networks, set up the firewalls, and watched and guided the traffic for each hop of the network that runs over copper, fiber optic glass, and even the air itself to bring the Internet to your computer. All to make sure the webpage found its way from the server to your computer.

A sysadmin makes sure your network connection is safe, secure, open, and working. A sysadmin makes sure your computer is working in a healthy way on a healthy network. A sysadmin takes backups to guard against disaster both human and otherwise, holds the gates against security threats and crackers, and keeps the printers going no matter how many copies of the tax code someone from Accounting prints out.

A sysadmin worries about spam, viruses, spyware, but also power outages, fires and floods.

When the email server goes down at 2 AM on a Sunday, your sysadmin is paged, wakes up, and goes to work.

A sysadmin is a professional, who plans, worries, hacks, fixes, pushes, advocates, protects and creates good computer networks, to get you your data, to help you do work -- to bring the potential of computing ever closer to reality.

So if you can read this, thank your sysadmin -- and know he or she is only one of dozens or possibly hundreds whose work brings you the email from your aunt on the West Coast, the instant message from your son at college, the free phone call from the friend in Australia, and this webpage.

If you haven't done so, it is high time you thank the anonymous sysadmin (or sysadmins) keeping your infrastructure online. And to all the sysads out there, keep up the good work. Thank you!


HOW-TO: Using Windows Anytime Upgrade

What is Microsoft's secret to the fast widespread adoption of Windows 7? Bundle it to computers sold. Unless you're building your own computer system, chances are you got a computer bundled with Microsoft's latest and greatest desktop operating system, Windows 7. Windows 7 was all that Vista was not. And Microsoft did it well -- marketing, bundling, benchmarketing and all.

However, the Windows 7 version that is bundled in notebooks and netbooks is the Windows 7 Starter edition -- the low-end crippled version. To get a comparison of each flavors of Windows see this article in Wikipedia. How then do you upgrade to a higher version of Windows 7 from the Starter that is stock in the notebook or netbook?

To answer the above question, you can use the "Windows Anytime Upgrade" to do a quick upgrade. This is installed by default your system. Access this program by pressing [WIN] key then type "anytime" on the program search bar. You may also click on the orb and then type "anytime" on the program search bar.

Using Windows Anytime Upgrade

Launch the program then select "Enter an Upgrade Key" (the bottom option), if you already have a key. Or choose the top option to go online and purchase an upgrade key. For this tutorial, we selected to 'Enter an Upgrade Key'.

The next screen will ask for an upgrade key.

Using Windows Anytime Upgrade

The program will then go online and verify the code from above. And the upgrade begins.

Using Windows Anytime Upgrade

The computer will automatically reboot and update Windows while shutting down. As shown in the screenshot above, it will take about 10minutes but in our experience it took about half an hour for the upgrade to complete.

Upon reboot, the Windows Anytime Upgrade will launch and show the new version of Windows. Our upgrade key gave us Windows 7 Home Premium.

Using Windows Anytime Upgrade

There you go. Effortless upgrade of your brand new Windows 7 notebook. The type of upgrade that doesn't need any installation media or USB device. The upgraded computer will have all the updates to the upgraded system already installed.


TECH: Sun CEO Approved Google's Use of Java

When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems years ago, people in the information technology were baffled at Oracle's purchase of a loosing technology company. Some were even criticizing that move. The term "sun-set" was used in referring to the agonizing bleedout and eventual demise of Sun Microsystems. Regardless of anyone's opinion, that deal was sealed and Oracle acquired Sun.

The future for Sun seemed unknown. The opensource community was at the receiving end and was very bitter about this deal. Just recently, it experienced the nasty death of OpenSolaris. So which asset of Sun will be next, MySQL? Sunsolve is no longer accessible and what used to be a very good resource of the Solaris community, the Sun Blueprints website was taken down.

It is just now that the onlookers are witnessing the real intention of Oracle for the acquisition. Google's Android operating system that uses Sun's proprietary software Java in its platform was the intended target. And from there sprang an ongoing legal battle between giants Oracle and Google. From the initial looks of things Oracle had the upperhand.

That edge seems to have met its counterpart in the recently unearthed blog of Sun ex-CEO, Jonathan Schwartz. As in his blog he gave approval for Google et al to use mobile Java in Android.

Thanks to internet and its archived cache. The discovery of the ex-CEO's blog made Oracle seem the evil adversary in this saga of intellectual property battle (source:

Sun CEO Approved Google's Use of Java

(Image originally published on:

To quote the Jonathan Schwartz:
I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of others from Sun in offering my heartfelt congratulations to Google on the announcement of their new Java/Linux platform, Android. Congratulations!

I'd also like Sun to be the first platform software company to commit to a complete developer environment around the platform, as we throw Sun's NetBeans developer platform for mobile devices behind the effort. We've obviously done a ton of work to support developers on all Java based platforms, and were pleased to add Google's Android to the list.

And needless to say, Google and the Open Handset Alliance just strapped another set of rockets to the community's momentum - and to the vision defining opportunity across our (and other) planets.

Today is an incredible day for the open source community, and a massive endorsement of two of the industry's most prolific free software communities, Java and Linux.

Where this battle ends, we really don't know but we are now seeing intellectual property battles springing here and there like never before. This should deter small players out there from venturing into this territory for fear of the legal repercussions.

To quote the founder of Java, James Gosling:
During the integration meetings between Sun and Oracle, where we were being grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google, we could see the Oracle lawyer's eyes sparkle. (source:

I'm no legal counsel nor do I have legal background, but from where I stand, these dirt pitching I'm witnessing is really ugly. In the end, it is the end-user who will suffer. What do you think?


TIP: Test Your Browser's Functionality, Security and More

With the advent of HTML5, websites are presented to the end-user in a different light. What used to be flash dominated content are now CSS3 and javascript dominated. The development of jQuery library and javascript based modules and plug-ins present a different facet of webpage programming. What used to be javascript geeks are now known as javascript ninjas.

The HTML5 standard showed an advanced way of programming and at the same time required a little more from our browsers. Tied with these features are support requirements for different functions. Website gurus and javascript ninjas should ensure that their pages load in the same manner across different browsers. At the same time users with different browsers are able to view the same website without having to open another compatible browser. This cuts both ways.

New browsers present new bugs -- added functionality that may not work as it should. Security should also be taken into consideration with the added functionality. So how do programmers, developers and end-users alike test their browser's functionality and security? The site browserscope seem to have the answer.

Browserscope tests the functionality of today's modern browsers but doesn't leave security behind. This tool is really useful.

So before making a recommendation, we took it out for a spin with the favorite browsers of this generation. If you want to try it out for yourself, launch your favorite browser and point it to this URL:

Google Chrome. This is version 12.0.742.122 of Google Chrome.
Test Your Browser's Functionality, Security and More

Test Your Browser's Functionality, Security and More

Mozilla Firefox. Current production release version 5.0.1.

Test Your Browser's Functionality, Security and More

Test Your Browser's Functionality, Security and More

We didn't really need to do much comparison as browserscope already has a database of browsers with which to compare your browser. But we were curious as to where our browser stands in comparison. From the results, it looks like Google's Chrome browser has the edge in all browsers.



"There’s No Such Thing As A Silly Question" -- does the cliche sound familiar? In this part of pimp-my-rig reloaded, technical questions are answered. Mail them to me and I will post the answers here. If you have a better answer, by all means share it with us.

Q: I was trying to help out a friend who was in a dilemma he had already resolved. While trying to scp to a host, he got the error message "PRNG is not SEEDED". Only the super-user root was able to scp, but he wanted drill down to the root of the problem. After all, who wants to execute scp as root, right?

He was able to successfully scp on other machines as himself, but on this particular machine he was only able to do it as the super-user, root. It is worthy to note here that ssh works, but scp does not.

A: When trying to run scp and you get an error message "PRNG is not SEEDED", you probably have an issue with the /dev/random and/or /dev/urandom devices on your system. These devices are created by default during system installation.

Check that proper permissions are present on random numbers generators. The correct permissions should be "others" must have "read" access to these devices. Below are the permissions on a working system:
# ls -l /dev/random /dev/urandom
crw-r--r-- 1 root system 39, 0 Jun 22 10:48 /dev/random
crw-r--r-- 1 root system 39, 1 Jun 22 10:48 /dev/urandom

To corrent, change them like below:
# chmod o+r /dev/random /dev/urandom 

Now stop and start the SSH daemon again, and retry if scp works.
# stopsrc -s sshd
# startsrc -s sshd

For unknown reasons, there are times when the files /dev/random and /dev/urandom are missing from the system. If this is the case, you will need to create them. Execute the following commands:
# stopsrc -s sshd
# mknod /dev/random c 39 0
# mknod /dev/urandom c 39 1
# randomctl -l
# ls -ald /dev/random /dev/urandom
# startsrc -s sshd

So far problems with s-commands I have encountered are related to the random generator character devices. I have encountered similar problems while trying to blank a forgotten root password and setting a new one on a Solaris machine.

You may further drill down on the cause of the problem by using strace or truss, whichever is applicable on your *nix system.


TIP: Remaining Anonymous -- a Security Protocol

Nowadays, websites don't just give information for free. They ask you to subscribe or register to view content. This is not a bad thing, but it does make you give away your email address. Thus in turn, you give your identity away (sort of). There are sites where you are not going to be that confident in giving away your email address, whether it is your personal address or just a mailbox purposely intended for spam mails.

How about a disposable email address in exchange for their service? Register with a valid email address, verify your account, and forget it! You're still anonymous to them. This is exactly what 10MinuteMail offers. As the name suggests, the email address given to you will be valid for only 10 minutes, then expires. If you want it for a bit longer, you can add another 10 minutes, and another if you require.

Remaining Anonymous Security Protocol

There may be other uses for disposable emails and the site above will keep your anonymity intact.

What about for sites that require you to login to see answers to questions? Sites like Experts Exchange, require a login for you to be able to see solutions to questions and problems facing other users. Since this is a contribution-based site, the 10MinuteMail website does not fit the bill.

Other sites publish partial content or just headers and require you to login to see the rest of the article or feature. You will probably feel cheated (in a way) to register and give out your name and email just for one article.

You can use another site that keeps track of logins. Just use the search feature in case they have a valid and working login for your particular website. The site is

Remaining Anonymous Security Protocol

So there you go folks, sites that keep your anonymity on the web. Although you may not need them now, there may be times you will need them and they will come in very handy. Those sites above have helped me in several situations so far.


INFO: Keep GPS Data Safe and Secure

Your Garmin device can store a lot of information and history. It stores waypoints, tracks, routes, custom POIs, etc.. and most important your home address. So it is better to keep it secure at all times. In cases where the unit is stolen, there should be a layer of protection on the unit itself so as not to give away your identity. Not to worry though, as this feature is built into your Garmin GPS device.

Known as Garmin Lock, this feature works by requiring the user to input a four digit PIN number before the GPS becomes operational. Meaning, the PIN code is required to start-up and use the device. Without the PIN the GPS receiver is just another electronic paperweight. Although this doesn't prevent the GPS from being stolen, it is a security feature that prevents the theif from getting your personal information and other pertinent data from your device.

Garmin Lock has another feature -- the Secure Location. The secure location enables you to access the GPS without entering the PIN (in case you forget it). The secure location is not really a security feature in the real sense of the word. It is a bypass to the security of the Garmin Lock itself. But even with the secure location, the forgotten PIN could not be reset. So make sure never to forget this PIN code when considering on enabling this feature.

With that, how do you enable these features? On the GPS main screen tap the wrench (Tools), like below. Then System (on the leftmost part of the next screen).

Keep GPS Data Safe and Secure

Security should be at the bottom part of the screen, so scroll down once and it will be there. The instructions here are for a Garmin nuvi 255W, but should not differ much on your unit.

Keep GPS Data Safe and Secure

You will then see Garmin Lock and Safe Mode. Those two are Off by default. Turn Garmin Lock on and input the PIN code twice. For Safe Mode, set a Secure Location and it will turn on.

Keep GPS Data Safe and Secure

I hope this helps you protect personal information on your Garmin GPS from theft in the event your GPS unit gets lost or stolen.


TIP: Building a Budget Computer System

These days technology moves so fast that in what seemed like yesterday your electronic gadgets are obsolete. This is true in just about every area of the electronics industry. It is a very expensive hobby to move along with the current technological trend.

You might consider selling old stuff but would hesitate in doing so given their current market value -- just a pittance of what they're previously worth. The same fact is true for computer systems and its components.

I know you would agree that waiting for the current generation of processors to become obsolete before upgrading your system brings the best bang for the buck. Upgrades done this way are cheaper, cost effective and torture tested, not to mention thoroughly reviewed. It's like buying an entertainment system, evaluate and audition them first before making a prudent decision.

It has been a while since we last gave an advise on hardware picks. This buyer's guide has taken into foremost consideration a constrained budget but has the prime target on bang for the buck upgrade worthiness. The platform of choice is the LGA 775. The LGA 775 family still can cut it and good news for us who have waited for a while, the processors are dirt cheap and the platform is very mature.

PROCESSOR. Intel has revamped the E6600 (our budget processor of choice). It is now clocked at 3.06GHz (from the previous Core2Duo 2.4GHz Conroe). Transistor size has gone down from 65nm to 45nm which results to savings in power consumption.

The only downside to it is, the Conroe's 4MB cache was halved to 2MB in Wolfdale. However, according to this website (content published is in German), Wolfdale processors are 10-15% faster than Conroe at the same clock speed. So you can expect the E6600 Wolfdale to be faster than the previous generation E6600.

E6600 Wolfdale

The Intel E6600 Wolfdale is currently priced at around PhP3,100 (US$69). Now that is a very sweet upgrade.

MOTHERBOARD. LGA775 is old. Yes, it is but LGA775 platform is not dead yet. What's sweet about LGA775 is that, there are chipsets for it that use DDR3 to feed the bandwidth hungry processor.

Our choice motherboard for our budget bang for the buck system is the Gigabyte GA-G41M Combo. Outright you can see why we chose this motherboard. It supports both DDR2 and DDR3 memory modules -- up to 8GB DDR2 or 8GB of DDR3 (simultaneous use of both memory types not supported). It comes in a micro ATX form factor.

Gigabyte GA-G41M Combo

This motherboard is designed and built very well. The processor socket is free from tall components and will fit a wide variety of third party heatsinks, if needed. Capacitors put into it are all metal electrolytic types. These type of capacitors are tougher, and ensures that the motherboard will last longer. Overall I would not hesitate to buy this board for a budget set-up.

It has dual-bios, gigabit ethernet, 8 USB2.0 ports and SATA 3GB interface. If planning on upgrading to a powerful graphics card in the future, the GA-G41M features a full 16X PCI-E slot. And add to it high definition audio from the VIA VT1708S codec, among its features.

A market price of PhP2,700 (US$60) is not bad either. A well built motherboard for that price is almost a steal.

MISCELLANEOUS. The recommended memory for this build is 2x2GB DDR3-1600 (brand new sells at PhP2,650). A part of that memory can be allocated to the on-board GMAX4500 graphics of the G41 chipset to keep the budget at minimum. If you already have DDR2 modules from another computer that can be utilized on the GA-G41M, further keeping the budget from ballooning.

On the storage, I would recommend getting a 1TB 7200rpm drive. The cost difference between a 640GB drive and a 1TB drive is very minimal. While gunning for a 2TB drive is too costly for a budget set-up. A 1TB drive is just at the sweet spot. If you already have a spare hard drive, you can use it.

For boot drives, avoid skimping and using "green" drives. Performance will really degrade when using those for the operating system.

So there you go folks, if you're planning to build a computer system (or perhaps an upgrade) with minimal costs but want good solid performance this is my recommended bill.


INFO: Virtual Box 4.1 Just Out

VirtualBox is a general-purpose full Virtual Machine implementation for x86 or AMD64 compatible hardware. Primarily targeted at server and desktop, it is now the only professional-quality virtualization solution that is also OpenSource Software. What's more? It runs on the major operating systems out there -- be it Windows, Linux, OSX or Solaris.

VirtualBox is one of the opensource survivors from when Sun was acquired by Oracle. It is one very useful tool. Oracle's VirtualBox 4.1 includes several new features, but the main one is a new virtual machine cloning facility, which adds a lot more functionality to keep up with a growing sector of VDI competitors.

The other features of this major release are enumerated in the changelog.
  • Support for cloning of VMs (bug #5853, see the manual for more information): full clones can be created through the GUI and VBoxManage, linked clones only through VBoxManage
  • GUI: enhanced wizard for creating new virtual disks
  • GUI: new wizard for copying virtual disks
  • GUI: keep the aspect ratio in scale mode (Windows and OSX hosts only; bug #7822)
  • VMM: raised the memory limit for 64-bit hosts to 1TB
  • Experimental support for PCI passthrough for Linux hosts, see the manual for more information
  • Windows guests: Experimental WDDM graphics driver, supporting Windows Aero (bug #4607) and providing Direct3D support using a cleaner approach (no need to install the guest drivers in Safe Mode anymore)
  • Guest Additions: status of modules and features can now be queried separately by the frontends
  • Networking: new network attachment mode "Generic Driver", which offers an open plugin architecture for arbitrary and separately distributable virtual network implementations
  • Host-only Networking: fixed host crash in kernels prior to 2.6.29
  • New Networking Mode UDP Tunnel: allows to interconnect VMs running on different hosts easily and transparently, see the manual for more information
  • Experimental support for SATA hard disk hotplugging available with VBoxManage
  • Solaris hosts: New Crossbow based bridged networking driver for Solaris 11 build 159 and above

Virtual Box 4.1 Just Out

Download from the usual place.


INFO: Google Plus Profile RSS Feed

Google+ has hit 10M users since it re-opened the invites. And that fact was confirmed by the co-founder CEO Larry Page during Google's earnings report conference held just a few days back. So there should be more than that figure by now and that number is growing by the minute. That adoption rate is quite fast for a social networking channel considering this service is invite only.

While G+ is hitting high it still has a lot of features application developers are looking for. G+ has yet to publish an API for developers to use. And for us end-users, the much awaited RSS feature is not yet there. While waiting for it, third party developers have published RSS modules for G+.

But wait, what is RSS? RSS is a way to check websites for updates or recent changes. It gets updated content from a website and presents it back to the requestor in a generally accepted format in the form of XML.

One RSS for G+ is published by site On the page instructions, it tells you to append your G+ profile ID after the URL.

How do you get your profile ID? Browse this URL The URL will be replaced with an address containing your profile ID. Copy and append that ID to the so it now becomes (where xxxxxxxx is your profile ID).

Here's my G+ profile ID RSS feed: That long list of numbers trailing the appspot URL is my profile ID, yours should look similar. The RSS feed of my profile is below.

Google Plus Profile RSS Feed

From the snapshot above you can see that my G+ profile RSS feed is empty. This is because I haven't shared anything public yet. So what does this mean for you? You can use this tool to check if you have shared something public but is not meant to be shared publicly.

The RSS feed above is checking only the public profile. And it is a testament to the privacy that G+ offers to its users.


INFO: Network Profiler and Analyzer

When it comes to the network (end to end infrastructure), there is little you can do as the end user. But on your end, you can do a little something to be able to provide feedback to our internet service provider (ISP). And as much as possible, you can reduce our dependence on the ISP if that service is found below par.

One very good example to this is your DNS connection. Your ISP doesn't care about latency. So they don't put up much infrastructure to handle DNS requests. Much of the time their servers are busy. Third party DNS servers are better at this. Or as suggested before, put up your own caching DNS server for your local network. That tweak will have a big impact on your network.

Afterall, whether they admit to it or not, ISPs are after profit. And putting up infrastructure for DNS is additional cost without any potential for gains.

Other than DNS, the other parts you can improve on are virtually unknown. But you can test your very own network to see what aspects can be enhanced. Sounds geeky. But it is very easy. Just so you have an idea, here is a website that has a network profiler and analyzer you can try out on your home network --

Here is a screenshot of the profile of a tested network.

Network Profiler and Analyzer

From there you can see that there is an issue on the non-randomized DNS ports. Minor issues include low bandwidth, which the owner has no control over. Internet connection in the Philippines is horrible, not to mention expensive. Your system's clock is also analyzed and is an issue which can be easily ignored.

So go ahead. Capture a profile of your own home network and see the analysis of the netalyzer. Chances are, there could be things you can tweak on your end of the chain. It helps to know.


TWEAK: Make Torrents Download Faster

Back in the days of XP, a limit of 10 half-open connections was implemented on the TCPIP to mitigate the quick infection of worms on a network. This limitation got carried over to all versions of Microsoft Windows. While this was good in stopping worms when it was implemented, it is not that applicable at present. It prevents you from taking advantage of available bandwidth.

I have read and heard about this limitation being gone from Windows 7. But experience tells me otherwise. When I performed this tweak, my torrents downloaded faster than prior to tweaking. I guess that makes an inaccurate measure of results, but if you can confirm it on your system then that makes two of us. First and foremost, what is that tweak?

I have used the Universal TCPIP Patch to patch the tcpip.sys driver on Windows 7 x64 Ultimate SP1.

Like before, I advise you to read and understand the entire procedure first before carrying out the outlined tasks. And that I cannot be held liable for any damage that will produce unwanted and unexpected results.

Just download the patcher from the link above. The downloaded archive will contain both executables for x86 and x64 versions of Windows. For my Windows 7 x64, I ran the 64-bit binary. Out of curiosity, I tried out the 32-bit binary on another 64-bit system and it works just as well. Then, press the down arrow to the right of 10 (becomes 255) and hit apply (like below). A value of 100, is more than enough for home use.

Make Torrents Download Faster

It will then prompt you to restart. So restart whenever you're free to do so.

Make Torrents Download Faster

CAUTION: Upon reboot, your screen will have a watermark toward the lower right, near the system clock saying "Test Mode Windows 7 Build 7600". If this is acceptable to you, proceed with the performing of the procedure above.

If the watermark appears, open an elevated command prompt and run this: "bcdedit.exe -set TESTSIGNING OFF". Do another reboot and it should go away.


INFO: Using Hostsman for Host Redirection

Our previous tip, blocking potentially hazardous websites with hosts file was one of the many methods you can harden your system. You can also install your own caching DNS server and disable ports that are opened by default. These tweaks contribute bit by bit to the overall security of our computer systems. In the tech lingo, it is referred to as hardening.

When we blocked potentially hazardous websites via hosts file, you noticed that browsing was faster too. This is because most web tracking elements that run on the background got blocked too. And since that tweak was enforced, your anonymity on the web has improved and you can now browse with a bit more confidence.

We can improve on that tweak above. There is a tool made exactly to accomplish the purpose of blocking websites via hosts redirection. That tool is hostsman (by

What does hostsman do? In short, it accomplishes the block via a couple of clicks. To see it in action, download hostsman and extract the zip file to a directory of your liking. Make it easy to remember the path where you extract it. Or better yet, after extracting pin hostsman.exe to your taskbar for easy reach.

Launch the software. Click the middle button (icon with globe behind computer) to update hosts.

Using Hostsman for Host Redirection

Use the overwrite option when updating. Or you can use merge, then optimize later. Whichever option you choose, it accomplishes the same purpose. And this highlights the flexibility of hostsman.

Using Hostsman for Host Redirection

What's more? You can disable this blocking in a single mouse click. The first button (green "H" symbol) on hostsman disables the hosts file. Should it block a website you frequent, just disable host blocking with hostsman and when done, just re-enable. When disabled, the green "H" icon is colored red.

Using Hostsman for Host Redirection

Furthermore, hostsman when used this way does not exactly automate the updates. But it could. Set it to automatically start with Windows -- Tools > Options > System > (tick) Automatically start with Windows. Under Update tick Enable Hosts file Auto-Update.

Using Hostsman for Host Redirection

With that you will no longer have to worry about updates to the hosts file. When an update is available, hostsman will notify you of that. Or you can choose not to be bothered at all.


TIP: Browser Plugin Check for Firefox

Adding to our write-ups regarding security, is this feature called plug-in checker. How are these plug-ins related to security? You'll know soon enough.

Plug-ins are embedded in the browser and for us home users, this may be the most used application. And plug-ins, if you're not aware, are also as vulnerable as the browser itself. Flash is the suspected culprit in a recently reported high risk breach. And a vulnerability as simple as that could have led to an even bigger catastrophe, if not averted in time. And, little do we know the same flash plug-in is present in our system.

Firefox is not a perfect browser but this is the browser of my choosing. It is because of its plug-in checker, which is a major reason for my preference. If you are using Firefox, you can access this tool via typing in "about:plugins" on the address bar. On the second line of that plug-ins webpage, you can see "Find updates for installed plug-ins at"

Browser Plugin Check for Firefox

From there you will be taken to Mozilla's plug-in checker website to see which plug-ins need updating. Mind you, even if you have set the automatic updates of your plug-ins in Firefox, 3rd party plug-ins need manual updates. In my system, I need updates to my Adobe Reader plug-in (see below).

Browser Plugin Check for Firefox

This plug-in checker is certainly a very nifty gizmo. I'd love to see other browsers follow suit.

I have previously been puzzled that this plug-in checker doesn't work on my browser. As it turns out, it doesn't like to run when you are behind a proxy. So unconfigure proxy settings for Firefox before running this plug-in checker.


HOW-TO: Shorten Google+ Profile URL

We previously announced the public opening of Google+ invitations. In lieu to that, here is a tip on how to shorten your Google+ profile URLs.

So you got a Google+ profile, now what? The learning curve varies here. G+ is an entirely different approach to social networking. It is a bit intriguing at first. But in order to share your profile to everyone without you (and them) having to resort to complex mnemonics, a website has provided a way to shorten your profile. Go grab one now while a wide variety of shorter nicks are still available.

Launch your favorite browser and head over to: Key-in your favorite nickname on the space provided. Likewise, do the same for your Google+ profile ID.

In order to get your profile ID, open a new tab and browse: This link will be replaced by your profile ID. Copy that and put that in the previous field.

Shorten Google+ Profile URL

Now, you don't have to memorize a ton of stuff just to share your profile. Enjoy!

If you wish to add me to your circles, here's my shortened profile:


TIP: Blocking Potentially Hazardous Websites with Hosts File

Security has taken top ranks in the news lately -- terrorism in a different form. Hackers taking sensitive top secret information, even breaching topnotch security systems put in place. While hackers may not waste time hacking our desktops they could use our systems as zombies to launch or spread their attacks. So it is best to protect yourself from potentially contributing to the hack.

The sad part is that most of the security threats out in the open target Microsoft's Windows Operating System. The very OS that most desktops run with. Since this security threat is serious and our operating systems are very vulnerable, let us "harden" the OS by putting up a few defenses.

One way of putting up a wall is by host redirection. Protect yourself from potentially stumbling to a suspicious site and getting infected by malware or root-kits. How is this possible? Host redirection is a form of naming service inherent on your local system. It is how your machine knows another by name (which internally translates to its IP address). You can use the same to protect yourself from stumbling into potential danger.

A site that has dedicated itself to this purpose is MVPs. They have a well maintained and updated list of malicious sites that you can download and easily slipstream to the Windows hosts file.

Just download it from the link above. The file to download is Once downloaded, extract the files. You will be seeing a list similar to the screenshot below.

How do you install the hosts file when there is no executable? I asked this same question as I have been asked the same by friends I have helped set-up a similar system. You will notice that in the archive just extracted is a batch file (extension: .bat). That is the executable. So all that is needed is to run that batch file.

Note that you will have to run mvps.bat as Administrator to accomplish this. Once successful, the hosts file has been modified with the latest list from MVPs. You just took a necessary step to securing your machine from potentially stumbling to malicious content.


INFO: Google Plus Invites Now Open!

Google has re-enabled invitation for Google+ and since I have been previously invited, I am now part of the new social networking craze of Google. It is nice to see that I have friends who have added me to their circles as well.

Head over to Google+ and find out if you can register. Open your browser and key in this URL:

Google Plus Invites Now Open

Make sure you read the terms of service. I have heard rumors of accounts getting banned due to Google+ misuse.


TIP: Appear Offline in Microsoft Office Communicator

Microsoft Office Communicator (or MOC) has quickly become the social networking tool of choice in the work place. I have even witnessed relationships formed and forged out of MOC. It allows people to interact with a wide variety of tools which includes chat, video and desktop screen sharing.

Once MOC is online it announces your virtual presence by your status -- Online, Busy, Don't Disturb, etc.. There are times, however, that we don't want to be disturbed or just stay online without having to annouce our presence. In Yahoo Messenger (or YM), this is the Invisible status. MOC has this too, but it is not Invisible like YM. For MOC, it is "Appear Offline".

"Appear Offline" is disabled by default. It is not among the list of presence status. But that doesn't mean you can't use it. You can enable this status. Here's how.
[1] Open the registry editor (Start > Run.. > regedit).

[2] Open the branch HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Communicator. On the registry editor, HKLM appears as HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.

[3] Create "EnableAppearOffline" as a DWORD. Then change its value to "1".

[4] Close the registry editor and exit MOC. After signing back in, "Appear Offline" will be among its list of presence status.
You will see a similar screenshot as below.

Appear Offline in Microsoft Office Communicator

You may also set the status via the system tray icon of MOC. Once again, "Appear Offline" shows up there.

Appear Offline in Microsoft Office Communicator

If editing the registry sends shivers down your spine, don't worry. The above can also be accomplished by importing a registry file. Copy and paste the below code to you favorite text editor, save as a .reg file.
;----- start copy here -----
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


;----- end copy here -----

Once done, right-click on the file on Windows Explorer and select Merge. Just like the procedure above, MOC has to be re-started. And upon signing in, "Appear Offline" can be selected as status.


TIP: Create Windows USB Installer using WinToFlash

Whoever predicted the eventual demise of the floppy drive was right. It is seldom used these days that to see one on a computer system characterizes its age. Nowadays, optical drives are used to contain installers. But the trend seems to be going to the direction of flash media in the form of USB flash drives (UFD). This is reasonable as UFD access times are much faster compared to optical drives. The only area where optical media seem to have an advantage is long-term storage and data archives.

While on this subject, we had previously outlined a procedure in installing Windows 7 using a UFD. Another way to transfer the files to the UFD is through WinToFlash. WinToFlash is not limited to creating a USB installer, it can also format, check for errors, and copy WINPE files to the UFD.

So download and install WinToFlash. Its wizard shows you this interface.

There is a catch though, WinToFlash could not format to NTFS. So we have to format the UFD to NTFS first. You can do this the diskpart way or via the unplug policy as outlined in our other articles.

Point the source to the path where Windows 7 installer resides. This can also be the DVD, the ISO, Windows 7 Unified Installer created earlier, or the WINPE source. Do the same for the target UFD or USB hard drive.

On the "Process" tab, untick the "Format drive" option as we need the UFD formatted to NTFS. The option "Check USB drive for errors" will not work for free users. So leaving it ticked or unticked doesn't really matter much.

All that is left is to click "Run". The copy process will begin and a prompt will be given when done.

While we were playing with WinToFlash, we noticed that it works like rsync. Where, if the file is not modified from source and if the same file exists in the target directory, it will no longer be copied (again). This in turn saves you time and energy and write cycles on your UFD. Very efficient indeed!

While the ads are a bit cumbersome, WinToFlash has its uses and is implemented in a clever manner. So go ahead and add it to your arsenal of toolkits. We'd like to have a portable version of this app though.


MODS: Infinite USB Plug Redesign

I was doing a research and comparison of backlit keyboards when I stumbled across this USB design whose concept is quite unique. The designer, Gonglue Jiang, calls it "Infinite USB" (source: Yanko Design).

One of the limitations on notebooks is the lack of USB ports in proportion to the number of devices we would like to hook up. An easy remedy these days is the USB Hub, but YD won’t be YD if we showcased run-of-the-mill solutions! So here’s the Infinite USB -- an alternative plug on devices that kinda acts like a tag team. The design speaks for itself, so no point elaborating, however what we can do is talk about its effectiveness and limitations. For starters I don’t think we may be able to tag too many devices one behind the other. I reckon max 3 or 4 before the tag starts to look awkward, but the color coding on plugs will make it easy to identify which plug belongs to which device.

The concept is made more profound by pictures of the design itself.

Infinite USB Plug Redesign

While the idea is exceptional it has its own limitations. For one, the USB port taps out at around 500mA (maybe higher for USB 3.0) only. So the number of devices will be limited by this specification. That will be to the detriment of the "infinite" moniker.

This makes more sense in plugging quasi-permanent USB devices like mice and keyboards, not removable ones. Imagine chaining just two USB flash drives. In order to unplug the second link on the chain, the first one has to be unplugged first.

The concept is quite good and innovative. It will definitely have its uses. As it seems the manufacturing sector has not caught up on the design as I have yet to see this on USB devices. While it may be out there, it is not being mass produced.

Infinite USB has its limitations and the infinite on the name definitely got my attention and admiration (and criticism).


TWEAK: Squid Cache + TreeWalk DNS = Faster Browsing

Having a local caching proxy server has significantly improved browsing speed; and, the local caching DNS server has improved security at the same time minimized dependence with the ISP. Both of these tweaks have boosted browsing speed. The apparent impacts of both are remarkable for sites frequently visited. This can be taken a step further by making the squid caching proxy take advantage of faster lookups by accessing the local DNS table cached by TreeWalk.

If you can recall, during the installation of TreeWalk, one of the prompts on the later parts was: "You are currently using a PROXY. If the proxy is not a local one disable it if possible, otherwise you may not take full advantage from the local DNS resolver." Good! It detected our squid caching proxy.

Squid Cache + TreeWalk DNS = Faster Browsing

Since we are using a local caching proxy, we can expect to gain the full benefit of having a local caching DNS server -- just the exact end state we want.

Open the squid configuration file on your favorite editor. On the default installation settings, the config file is in C:\squid\etc\squid.conf. Add this line:

Where: is the IP address of the TreeWalk DNS cache. If the DNS cache resides on a different machine, replace the with the corresponding IP address of the host. For some reason, squid doesn't like a host name in this directive. So IP address it is.

Save the configuration changes restart squid via Start > Run > C:\squid\sbin\squid -k reconfigure -n Squid.

To do a quick restart of squid, you might want to add this line to squid.conf:
shutdown_lifetime 2 second

With the above tweak you will notice restart or reconfigure is quicker. And finally, for a big speed boost enable pipelining on squid. Add this line to squid.conf:
pipeline_prefetch on

You will need to reconfigure (or restart) squid after making the tweaks above. Browsing will now be even faster given the benefits of both local caches. As always, don't forget to configure your browser to use the proxy. All this will be in vain if the browser will not take advantage of it.


HOW-TO: Create an Aggregated Link in Solaris

Nowadays, servers ship with multiple network interface cards (NIC). The rationale behind this, is you will use them for high availability implementations or utilize the other NIC as a private lan for backup. If the box is not designed this way, it doesn't usually get deployed in the enterprise.

Previously, we featured a procedure in deploying IPMP or IP Multipathing. Starting with Solaris 10, there is this feature that is much more robust than IPMP. It is called link aggregation; others call it trunking, but they pertain to the same technology. The equivalent in Linux is NIC bonding.

Link aggregation only works on full-duplex, point-to-point links that operate at identical speeds. Make sure that the interfaces in your aggregation conform to this foremost requirement. If you are using a switch in your aggregation topology, make sure that you have configured the ports to be used as an aggregation. Modern switches can support Link Aggregation Control Protocol or LACP. If so, have it configured in either active mode or passive mode.
[1] Assume the Primary Administrator role, or become superuser.

[2] Determine which interfaces are currently installed on your system.
# dladm show-link 
bge0         link: up        speed: 1000  Mbps       duplex: full
bge1         link: up        speed: 1000  Mbps       duplex: full

The command dladm show-dev can also be used here. However, this command will not only show the NIC but also the HBAs (host bus adapters) that are installed on the host. Seasoned veterans know the prefixes of Solaris NIC naming convention so this should not pose an issue.

[3] Determine which interfaces have been plumbed.
# ifconfig -a

[4] Create an aggregation. Syntax is:
# dladm create-aggr -d interface key
  represents the device name of the interface to become part of the aggregation.
  the number that identifies the aggregation. The lowest key number is 1. Zeroes are not allowed as keys.
# dladm create-aggr -d bge0 -d bge1 1

The above command is not limited to two (2) NICs. As many NICs can be used as there are physical NICs on the server. Just separate each NIC with -d to join them in the aggregate creation.

[5] Configure and plumb the newly created aggregation.
# ifconfig aggr[key] plumb IP-address up
# ifconfig aggr1 plumb netmask + broadcast + up

[6] Check the status of the aggregation you just created.
# dladm show-aggr
key: 1 (0x0001) policy: L4      address: 0:3:ba:77:84:e (auto)
       device   address           speed         duplex  link    state
       bge0     0:3:ba:77:84:e    1000  Mbps    full    up      attached
       bge1     0:3:ba:77:84:e    1000  Mbps    full    up      attached
# ifconfig aggr1
aggr1: flags=2008843 mtu 1500 index 5
inet netmask ffffff00 broadcast
ether 0:3:ba:77:84:e
The above configuration is not yet persistent across reboots. To make it persistent, create a file in this manner: /etc/hostname.aggr[key]. In this example, that translates to /etc/hostname.aggr1.

Add the IP address ( to the file /etc/hostname.aggr1. Another option is to add the hostname of the server as the content of /etc/hostname.aggr1, but the IP address has to be added to the hosts file. The approach of adding the IP address is simpler and very straight forward.

Do a reboot to test if the aggregation persists across reboots.

Link Aggregation is very picky on both the hardware, driver, speed, duplex and on the switch port. So in most cases where aggregation doesn't work, IPMP is being deployed. To know more about the advantages and disadvantages of each, check out this comparison betweek Link Aggregation vs IPMP.


HOW-TO: Outlook Hack -- Blank Mail Subject Reminder

How many times have you forgotten to include a subject when you send emails through Outlook? If you ask me, I have done that a lot of times. Including subjects in mails is a good etiquette. It gives the mail a formal setting and bats the message across the recipient even though he/she has not read the mail yet. The subject gives the reader a clue as to what the content is, or whether it is important, or worth reading.

To get a warning when sending an email with a blank subject, just follow the simple steps mentioned below and see the result. Kindly read through the entire procedure first before starting to make modifications with outlook.

Here is the procedure:
[1] Launch Microsoft Outlook.

[2a] Press [Alt]+[F11]. This opens the Visual Basic Editor.
[2b] Tools > Macro > Visual Basic Editor.

Then View > Project Explorer to open the project menu Project-Project1 on the left side-bar. Or Press [CTRL]+[R] if you prefer doing this through hot-keys. On Microsoft Outlook 2007, the project title is Project1 (VbaProject.OTM)

[3] On the Left Pane, one can see "Microsoft Outlook Objects" or "Project1", expand this. Now one can see the "ThisOutLookSession".

[4a] Double-click on "ThisOutLookSession". It will open up a Code Pane on the right hand side.
[4a] Right-click on "ThisOutLookSession" and select "Code Pane".

[5] Copy and Paste the following code in the right pane (Code Pane) and Save it:
Private Sub Application_ItemSend(ByVal Item As Object, Cancel As Boolean) 
 Dim strSubject As String 
 strSubject = Item.Subject 
 If Len(Trim(strSubject)) = 0 Then 
  Prompt$ = "Subject is Empty. Are you sure you want to send the Mail?" 
 If MsgBox(Prompt$, vbYesNo + vbQuestion + vbMsgBoxSetForeground, "Check for Subject") = vbNo Then 
  Cancel = True 
  End If 
 End If 
End Sub
At this point you should be seeing a similar window as below. This is a screenshot of Outlook 2007 SP2. You should be seeing a similar window in another version of Microsoft Outlook.

Outlook Hack - Blank Mail Subject Reminder

[6] Now whenever you try to send a mail without subject, a pop-up is raised to remind you of the blank subject.

Outlook Hack - Blank Mail Subject Reminder

If using Microsoft Outlook 2007, configure security settings so the macro will run via Tools > Macro > Security. Set it to Warnings for all Macros.

The next time Outlook is restarted, select Enable Macros for ThisOutlookSession.

Outlook Hack - Blank Mail Subject Reminder


MODS: Compudesk -- Computer Integrated into a Desk

Let's face it, the downside to desktop computer setups are the cable clutter it brings. Even with a good cable management system things don't change much, once the clean-up schedule comes it's a torture to tidy things up. This is usually the cause of dress downs I get -- the cable clutter of my desktop. It always brings the impression that the necessary clean-up routines and regular upkeep are not performed.

Lately, I came across a very unique idea introduced by a computer enthusiast named Peter Brands, a Dutch computer modding hobbyist. His modding project? A desk that houses his computer system he christened "The L3P DESK". And the end result is a uber unique futuristic modern look that anyone would envy. His idea of the desktop is almost clutter-free and is a really clean look in the real sense of the word.

The descriptions above don't give justice to the set-up, so without further ado.. Pictures of his setup.

Computer Integrated into a Desk

But wait there's more.. Without lights, the acrylic and UV reactive parts come to life.

Computer Integrated into a Desk

Computer Integrated into a Desk

Of all the mods I have seen so far this one takes the cake!

Further details and pictures of his build are here -- build details and build gallery.

(Credits to l3p and


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