Crude backup utility

This is not meant to replace proper backup software for either home or business use but as a last resort it might come in useful:
 
  • Click "Start", the choose "Run" and- in the box that appears- type cmd.exe; a little black box should appear on screen; type in the following command to this box:
  • xcopy *.* X:\ /E /V /C /Y /Z > e:\filestore.log
 
In this example, *.* means that xcopy will copy everything in the current folder (all files and folder- but this still needs /E below)); X:\ is a mapped network drive (i.e. not on the computer being used) where the files are being copied to; /E copies all files and subfolders, even if the folders are empty; /V checks that the files are copied correctly; /C carries on copying even if something goes wrong with a file (otherwise you could leave the PC thinking it’s copying, but in fact there’s a problem with just the first file and it stops); /Y means that if xcopy finds that the same filename in the folder you’re copying to (in this case X:\) it will automatically replace the file that exists with the one it’s copying (be careful- this might not be what you want to do); /Z makes sure that files copied over a network copy properly if the xcopy command is restarted); e:\ is a local drive (inside the computer being used); the >symbol means that insteda filestore.log is an arbitary name for a text file
 
xcopy is a command built into Windows XP/ 2000/ Vista.

PC security software

After a tip off from Davey Winder (PC Pro magazine, UK- web site http://www.pcpro.co.uk) in the March edition, the following site has some great free security software:
 
 
I’ve only used the firewall so far; it’s not quite as easy to understand as ZoneAlarm (but then very little is) but it’s free and seems pretty secure- possibly more so than ZoneAlarm (I’m not really qualified to do a detailed comparison of firewalls !). However Comodo also do free anti virus and malware… It’s worth a look.
 

Secure data transportation

If you need to transfer data via CD securely, one system that might appeal is as follows (you’ll need to download two pieces of software, one from http://www.truecrypt.org/downloads.php, the other from http://www.dekabyte.com/filesplitter/)
 
  • Firstly download and install both pieces of software; File Splitter is fairly simple to use but TrueCrypt can be tricky- see http://www.truecrypt.org/docs/?s=tutorial to get an overview (note that the developers recommend at least a 20 character password !).
  • The idea behind this is that you use file splitter to break a file into an even number of files (with an additional file to put the pieces back again).
  • Dump all the odd-numbered file segments + the re-piecing program into one TrueCrypt file; all the even-numbered segments onto another TrueCrypt file (you could even “zip” them up + password protect this file- or create TrueCrypt files within TrueCrypt files…)
  • Ensure both TrueCrypt files have very different passwords, otherwise this will reduce the security of the system.
  • Dismount both TrueCrypt files, put each file on a different CD + then- if using a third party courier- arrange for the CDs to be transported on different days (preferably through a trusted courier that offers parcel tracking).

The end result of this is that you have two (or more) CDs being shipped independently of each other (reducing the chance of them being stolen by the same person) both containing a heavily encrypted file; even further, each CD contains only half the data being transported and this data isn’t even contiguous, so should be less useful (hopefully undecipherable) even if one of the CDs is stolen.

It’s not perfect (nothing is) but should make any highly confidential data a bit safer.

Vista Enterprise Activation

I’ve had a problem with my Vista Enterprise VMware PC activating; it failed to activate for 30 days so today I couldn’t log on except to buy a new key. After digging around for solutions I found this link:
 
 
But it still didn’t really solve the problem (it was targeted at Vista/ Longhorn Beta 2 not the realease version). So I found this work-around (providign you can get on as an admin account):
 
  • Log on as an admin user
  • Choose the option to buy a new key- this opens Internet Explorer
  • In the address bar of IE, type C:\- wait for the windows to open
  • Navigate to cmd.exe (%systemroot%\system32)
  • Open compmgmt.msc through this command windows
  • Enable, and reset the password for, the local administrator user
  • close computer management
  • run cmd as the local admin: runas /user:administrator cmd.exe
  • at the command line, type:
  • netsh
  • followed by
  • winhttp
  • then type
  • set proxy *.*.*.*:??? (this should be the ip address + port of your proxy server)
  • switch (alt-tab) to the Vista activation screen, then try to “Activate over the internet now” (or similar)- this should now work as the activation program can now use the WinHTTP proxy (it doesn’t use Internet Explorer’s proxy by default) + you should receive an “activation successul” screen.
  • Disable the local admin user, restart your PC and it should be fine.

The same fix can also be used for Windows Live Messenger, which (for some reason) also uses the WinHTTP proxy and so can fail to install properly if there’s a proxy server between the PC and the Internet (of course it doesn’t tell you that it needs WinHTTP to be given a proxy server, it just fails)

Virtualisation

I’ve been running my primary work PC as a VMWare machine for some time now and it’s definitely the way to go- it just blue-screened for some reason, but didn’t matter because the host stayed up just fine. It helps that the host can stay clean- I leave my host OS clean, so it’s a lot more stable as it doesn’t get junked up with “test” installations of progams.