Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

Anonymous Surfing

October 8, 2010

This is a review of a company called SuperVPN
located at

Privacy. It’s something we all want, assume we have, and are losing more and more with each passing day.

People think If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Tell that to an average person of modest means who finds themselves innocent but having to fight a huge bureaucracy with unlimited resources because someone screwed up an IP address or configured something wrong in the software!

There are people who desire privacy because they are doing something wrong, but that is not the majority. Living in the USA, we forget sometimes that many people live in repressive countries that censor what their people can view or say and may arrest them if they find them violating their rules.

The music companies are notorious for going after massive numbers of people accusing them of downloading illegal content and demanding thousands of dollars in damages to settle out of court or face fighting a battle stacked against them with a group that has unlimited resources and isn’t fazed by the fact that you may not own a computer at all, or were on vacation during the time the activity took place.

Mistakes are made and once you’re caught up in the system, you’re guilty until they can’t find anymore ways to suppress your innocence.

Better to avoid risking that situation than hoping some powerful group will come to your defense on a pro bono basis.

When you connect to the Internet, your Internet provider assigns you a unique address called an IP address which is attached to any request you make. This is why what you do can be monitored by various groups.

Internet providers are assigned a group of IP addresses only they are allowed to use. When the group sees your IP address, they can lookup which block of IP addresses it falls within. They send the provider a letter asking which customer was assigned that IP address on that date and time. Providers keep files called logs for various lengths of time with that information, so they look it up and send your contact information to that group. They can either suspend your account or even sue you for wildly exaggerated damages.

Regardless of your reasons for wanting privacy, one solution is provided by a company called SuperVPN.

In a nutshell, they give you a virtual “tunnel” between your computer and theirs. Before anything leaves your computer, it is scrambled to the point where it would take very powerful computers a lot of time to break the code. Unless you’re a suspected terrorist or major criminal, it’s unlikely any group is going to assign the resources to see what you’re doing.

The scrambled information is sent from your computer to theirs where it’s unscrambled so it can be sent to the proper computer. Before they do that, they assign you their own IP address and attach it to the request rather than your real one. When the other computer receives the request, it sends it back to SuperVPN who rescrambles it, reassigns your original IP address and sends it back to you where it is unscrambled and displayed or downloaded onto your computer. They also keep no logs of which IP addresses they assign to which customer, so if a group does happen to decide they didn’t like what you downloaded, they hit a dead-end and you never hear from them.

They have plans that start at only 4.00 per month, so you can probably find a plan that will fit your budget.

I am not condoning or suggesting that you use their service for anything that is illegal, and they wish the same. It’s just that they and I don’t want to automatically assume that you’re doing something wrong with no proof.

Check them out, and I wish you safer surfing!


Windows XP BSOD after updating

February 12, 2010

Well, Microsoft is at it again! Nothing is more frustrating than when you apply updates, or Microsoft does it for you in most cases, so that your system will be more safe or run better and then find that it breaks your system!

This is what happened this week with the latest round of patches on Patch Tuesday.

Here is what happens. You see the little message from Microsoft in your system tray that tells you there are updates available to install. You blithely tell it to do so and off it goes. Everything seems to have gone just fine, and you are told you need to reboot your system to finish the updating process. Even though you’re busy and facing deadlines, you figure you might as well get it out of the way. Don’t want any hackers getting into your system! Windows shuts down and starts to reboot.

Suddenly, one of two things happens. Many machines will stall and come up with the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) and tell you that Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your system. Some systems are configured to automatically reboot when a BSOD is encountered. This is even more frustrating because your system will go into an endless loop of rebooting.

The infuriating thing about this situation is you can’t even boot into Safe Mode to try and fix anything. Your system is completely unbootable.

Well, the problem seems to be with the MS10-015 patch. Ironically enough, this was supposed to patch a vulnerability in all 32-bit versions of Windows that has been out there for 17 years!!!! You can read about the patch and what it was supposed to fix here: Microsoft’s Fatal Patch

If you have a computer with a DVD or CD drive, you may be able to extricate yourself from this disaster without reinstalling Windows. If you have one of the new Netbooks that have no optical drive, you may be out of luck unless you can find someone who can make a bootable USB drive for you.

Here is what you need to do:

1. Insert your Windows XP CD into the drive and reboot your computer.
2. When it says press any key to boot from the CD, press the any key! 🙂
3. Wait for the CD to boot to the screen where it gives you the option of running the Recovery Console.
4. Press R to go into Recovery Mode

Your screen will turn black and you will be asked which Windows you want to log into. Usually pressing the number 1 and then the Enter key will be ok.

5. If you have a password on the account, you will be asked to enter it here. If you don’t know what it is, you’re screwed unless you have a bootable CD that lets you remove the passwords on Windows accounts.
6. When the command prompt appears, you need to enter the following commands:

CHDIR $NtUninstallKB977165$\spuininst
BATCH spuninst.txt

After you enter each line, press the Enter key before entering the next one.

When you press Enter after BATCH spuninst.txt, you should see some text come onto the screen before you’re allowed to enter the next command.

Now, type in EXIT and your system will reboot.

Hopefully, your system will now boot into Windows as it’s supposed to. The problem is, this update will be offered to you again and if you accept it, you’ll end up with the same problem again, so DO NOT accept this update! Hopefully, Microsoft will come up with a fix to their fix, but it will be too late to help anyone afflicted with the problem now.

Windows 7 losing Internet connection all the time!

February 5, 2010

We’ve all had times when we’re surfing along, quite happily, on the Internet and suddenly everything grinds to a halt. We look in the system tray and the network connection icon is sitting there with the little yellow exclamation mark glaring at us.

Most of the time, when this happened to me, I could just right click on the icon, select Troubleshoot problem and sit back while everything got reset and I was back online.

The problem was that it was happening 10 to 15 times a day.

I finally broke down and called Cox technical support as it seemed as if everything on my end was ok. They sent a technician out and checked all the wiring leading up to my office. I’m sure they did it so quickly because I’m such an influential member of the computer media. Hah! 🙂

According to them, there was nothing wrong with any of the signal levels or wiring. Rats!

I replaced the modem I’d had for the last five years or so, and while I could detect a little faster experience, the disconnects continued to happen.

So, I started doing more in-depth research. The system was running Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit. It is a Shuttle XPC system I built years ago that is still extremely fast for what I use it for using an AMD 64 X2 6000+ CPU with 4GB of DDR2-SDRAM.

The motherboard uses an nVidia chipset, nForce 250, so it’s a little long in the tooth but working fine. nVidia doesn’t offer any Windows 7 drivers for this version of the chipset and appears to have no plans to, either.

I finally solved the problem by turning of Receive Side Scaling on my network adapter.

Right-click on Computer
Select Manage
When the dialog window comes up, select Device Manager.
In Device Manager, select Network Adapters
Right Click on the built in Network Adapter
Select Properties
Click the Advanced tab
Scroll down the list of Advanced properties
Click on Receive Side Scaling
In the drop down list on the right, change it from Enabled to Disabled
Click the OK button and close Device Manager

Immediately, my problems disappeared and I’ve had no problems with losing connectivity since. I’m talking about dropping from losing my connection 10 to 15 times per day to having no drops for three days!

What is Receive Side Scaling anyway, and why didn’t my XP system exhibit this problem?

Receive-Side Scaling is a technology which allows a Windows Vista and later Microsoft Operating Systems to utilize multiple processors to handle the network stack. Technically it allows large file transmissions to be processed in a parallel manner. Packets are balanced between your processors (or cores) through the use of software and hardware hash codes for each connection.

In multi-core and multi-processor systems not having Receive-Side Scaling might mean one processor would be utilizing 100% CPU, while the other would be virtually doing nothing. In the case of a File Server you might want both processors to be used and the load to be balanced.

The problem with Receive-Side Scaling is it’s susceptible to packets that were changed before they were received. The hashes don’t match in that case and the connection is dropped. Microsoft acknowledges this is a problem when NAT, ICS, ISA Server or other firewall products are used. If your anti-virus software includes a firewall (and most do) this might present a problem.

The easiest fix at this time is to just disable it as most of us don’t have a high intensity environment where we are going to see much difference. Besides, while it does seem as if I’ve lost a little performance, a little slower all the time is still better than a little faster unreliably!