Build Your Own Elmo Live

October 23, 2008

Wouldn’t it be great of someone released a generic, programmable robot that was designed to be covered.

Something like
(which is the real Elmo live with no cover.

You could then take this generic robot along with any suitable sized stuffed toy and swap the stuffing for the robot, resulting in your own live anything.

Then a community of like minded people could create suitable programs including voice quotes and songs recorded from TV which you would upload to the robot via a USB cable along with some animation sequences.

Or give it wifi like the nabaztag, then a parent who is away on a business trip could read a bedtime story to their child through an application on their laptop or iPhone that could also work in both directions via a microphone and camera in the robot.

The company I work for right now sucks, their IT people completely ignore glaring problems – I always thought IT people were naturally fairly proactive but no – something about people in Florida seems to make people very lazy.

From domain user to domain admin – how I did it – just for fun.

I looked in c:\windows\system32\ccm\logs to find out where the SMS server was.
I browsed to the server and looked in the smspkgd$ folder to see if there was anything interesting there.
I found a package named ChangeWKSPassword.vbs – guess what it does… – yep, it’s a plain text vbs script to change the local workstation admin password, including, of course, the password in plain text.
So now I have local admin rights on every PC in the company.
Next I used csvde to export all the user account AD information to get a list of all the domain admins which also, conveniently, contains their PC names.
I connect to the c$ share on one of the domain admin’s machines and add a script to his windows startup folder which adds me to the domain admins group.
I then wait for the next time that user logs off and on.
I’m a domain admin.

OK – I didn’t go quite as far as putting the script on the other admin’s machine but I easily could. The people here strike me as the kind that instead of saying “thanks for finding a huge gaping security hole” would actually say “you’re fired for hacking” – I’m only contracting here, I’ll tell them when I leave.

1. Don’t store any passwords in plain text anywhere.
2. NEVER allow anyone to log on as a domain admin – that’s what runas is for (over 30 of the IT people here log on as domain admins).

Gmail chat blocked at work?

October 17, 2008

Never mind – here’s how to get it working.

Go to
edit the file hosts and add in the line

of course if you don’t have local admin rights then you can’t

I’ll update this if I think of a workaround for this

Dear Steve Jobs

May 24, 2007

Please fix Seth’s problem

Instead of writing lots of useful posts for me to read he’s replying to hundreds of emails. Will it help if I told you I’ve bought 2 iPods?

Committee thinking

May 22, 2007

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees” Gilbert K. Chesterton

The other day I updated my laptop running Windows 2000 with the latest MS patches and after that it wouldn’t boot – blue screen, so I’m left with a few options.

1, Repair from original W2K CD’s (risk that the same thing will happen again)

2. Install fresh W2K – again, risk that the same thing will happen again

3. Upgrade to XP – more resource hungry

4. Install Linux – learning curve, I work in IT and have a very strong Windows background and also a reasonable Unix support background so it’s not completely alien (I ran SUSE for a couple of months years ago too).


I’ve been keeping an eye on Ubuntu and wanted to give it a go to see if it really was user friendly so I went for it.


I used a BartPE (BartPE is one of those excellent IT support tools I use along with others like filemon / regmon / VNC) disk to boot up my dead laptop and copy the entire hard disk to another PC then downloaded Ubuntu 6.10.

The boot time from CD wasn’t great but it got there OK in the end (I was comparing this to a DSL (Damn small Linux) live CD). NOTE: A live CD is one which the OS runs directly from CD so there is no need to install on or even read the internal hard disk.


The Ubuntu 6.10 CD is a live CD by default and when it loads there is a shortcut on the desktop named “Install” which you then run to perform the install. This is not 100% intuitive, in fact I expect most home users would see Ubuntu running and assume it had already installed – not just run from CD.

In Live mode it creates a small ram disk for temp files but mostly runs from CD so it will appear to be quite slow in this mode.

My recommendation would be to have some kind of watermark or other method of alerting users they were running in live mode and that no install had occurred yet.


Is it ready for mainstream? – No

If you are an IT pro or even just very tech savvy you will know that you are quite popular with friends and family when it comes to fixing PC problems.

The fact is that PC’s are not really very well designed for home use – it’s just too easy to break them.

The only reason most people can get away with owning a PC is because they know someone who can fix it for them.

Until most IT people are running and familiar with Linux there is no hope for the average home user.

I was talking to a few of my tech friends who were discussing evil Microsoft and how there are “free” alternatives, so I asked them how much they had spent on Microsoft products in their lives – not one had spent a single penny, they all used downloaded / copied / hacked versions;  Yet they were still complaining.

When you buy a new PC with Windows installed you are paying for it however the real cost is tiny, the cost of a pre-installed OEM version is nothing near the cost of a retail version – maybe 10% of the price at most.

In Episode 60 of CommandN (  they have a link to a book named “Just Say No to Microsoft” which (from the description) seems to concentrate mainly on the OS change, however the book costs $24.95 for the Paperback – probably more than the cost of Windows XP Home OEM !.

When will people learn to think for themselves instead of just jumping on the “I hate Microsoft” bandwagon?.

I use various OS’s, amongst others I have an Itanium 2 machine that triple boots between Windows XP, RedHat Linux and HPUX – for normal users XP is way easier to use than the others. Linux is simply not ready for the mainstream, it is also not as secure and bug free as people suggest, it just doesn’t get attacked as often – security through obscurity is not good security.