The most valuable IT skill you can learn in 2015: Splunk

Whether you want to move to security or just get a lot of job security and raise potential while staying in infrastructure, probably the best thing you can do for your career is to learn Splunk.

What’s Splunk, you ask? Well, my t-shirt says “Weapon of a security warrior,” but it really does a lot more than that.

I think of it as a centralized logging and alerting system, but really, because it can log and alert and draw graphs, it can replace almost any piece of management infrastructure. I asked, only ten-percent joking, why a Splunk shop needs to run anything else to manage itself.

Stand up Splunk, let it collect your logs and your performance data, and when something goes wrong, you have one place to look for the data you need to figure out what happened.

Fortunately, unlike many enterprise tools, you can run Splunk at home for free. Splunk offers a well-written 200-page book for free in all of the common e-book formats that provides a good introduction and a set of data to play with, and you can download the software itself from Splunk’s front page. You can then pull your logs from all of your desktops, and if you run DD-WRT, you can pull those logs as well, then practice learning what you can from that data beyond what’s in the book.

You will undoubtedly find some things when you start poking around, so even if you’re not able to get going with Splunk in your current role, you’ll end up with the war stories you need to get a Splunk-related role for your next job. Even if all you do is catch HD Moore and Robert Graham scanning you, your interviewer will be interested in hearing how you saw it and managed to figure out it was them.

Replacing a Memopad HD7 screen

It probably was just a matter of time, but one of my sons dropped his Asus Memopad HD 7 and cracked the digitizer assembly. What we usually call the screen actually sits behind the breakable piece of glass, and more often than not, it’s the glass digitizer that breaks. I left it that way for a while, but once the screen cracks, the cracks tend to spread, and eventually the tablet will get to a point where it’s unresponsive.

Replacement digitizers are available on Ebay. Note the exact model number of your tablet (my kids have ME173Xs, so here’s an ME173X screen) because they aren’t all interchangeable. The part costs around $20. It took me about three hours to replace because it was my first one. If I did this every day I could probably do it in 30 minutes, and I’m guessing if I have to do another–ideally I won’t–it will take an hour or so.

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A simple fix for an Asus Memopad 7 that wouldn’t charge

I’ve written enough about the Asus Memopad HD 7 that you can probably surmise I’ve had a few issues with them. Fortunately the fix is usually simple, and in the case of a Memopad that won’t charge even after you did my battery fix, that’s true as well.

It started with my observation that the USB cable fit rather loosely into my sons’ tablets. I cleaned out the mini-USB port with a wooden toothpick, which is a common fix, but it didn’t help–the cable still fit very loosely and the device wouldn’t charge.

Then I tried other cables. I found most of them didn’t work either. If I set something heavy on top, they would charge for a while, but doing that caused the cables to wear out in a matter of weeks. Finally I figured out the tablets are just picky–or at least they are once they get some age to them. The charger for the Moto E, which has a hardwired cable, works fine. So does some other random cable I had that I never used for anything else because it happens to be so short it’s not useful for anything else. I bought some new Monoprice cables, and while they’re fine for data transfer, these Memo Pad 7s don’t like them for charging.

I really hate to say try every USB cable in the house, but… your best first step is to try every USB cable in the house. And if you have to buy a cable, buy something locally, ideally in a store that will try it out with you before purchase. If you don’t have a store with that kind of service near you anymore, then buy a cable and try it out in the parking lot in your car right away before driving home. That way you can exchange the cable right away, or get a refund, if it doesn’t work any better than what you already had.

How I set up Asus parental controls

I’ve mentioned Asus parental controls on its Android tablets such as the Memo Pad 7 HD, but never elaborated on them. Here’s how I set them up and why, so you can make your own decisions about how best to set an Asus tablet up for the child in your life.

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How to open an Asus Memo Pad 7 HD and fix the battery

My son’s Asus Memopad 7 HD would not power up or charge, and my earlier non-invasive solution wouldn’t fix it. Here’s how I opened it up to disconnect and reconnect the battery.

Always try holding the power button and volume down button first because that’s easier (see the link above for details), but if that doesn’t work, proceed to open the case.

While you’re in there, you can also fix an issue that may be causing the power or volume buttons to be hard to press or malfunction entirely. Dropping the tablet a lot makes this happen. If you have young children, you probably understand.

Another malady these tablets can develop is a battery with a question mark when charging. This will sometimes fix that issue as well.

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Listen to this if you think a router makes you invincible

One myth that I hear over and over is that having a router on your Internet connection makes you invisible, and makes you somehow invincible. I even heard someone say recently that if you have a router/firewall, you don’t need to run antivirus software.

Security researcher HD Moore appeared last week on Risky Business and he talked about ways that entire classes of routers can be compromised. Give it a listen. Read more

The Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review: It’s a nice inexpensive tablet

I’ve been messing with an Asus Memopad, the 7-inch version. I think it’s a well-built, good-performing tablet for $149, and when you can get it on sale for less than that–and this is the time of year for that–I think it’s a great tablet for the money.

It’s not a high-end tablet. It has a 1280×800 screen, a quad-core 1.2 GHz Mediatek processor, a middling GPU, and 1 GB of RAM, and importantly, it includes a micro SD slot so you can add up to 32 GB of storage to it. The specs are all reasonable, but not mind-blowing. Most of the complaints I’ve seen about it are that it’s not a Nexus 7, but it’s 2/3 the price of a Nexus 7, too. When you compare it to other tablets in its price range, the worst you can say about it is that it holds its own. Read more

An upgrade. And an upsell.

I bought a new radio for my venerable 2002 Honda Civic this weekend. I want to be able to listen to security podcasts on my commute, which wasn’t practical with my factory radio. So, off to the nearest car audio shop (Custom Sounds) I went. I looked at a couple of $119 decks, then the salesman mentioned an Alpine HD radio deck for $129, and a Sony deck with Bluetooth for $149. Bluetooth didn’t really interest me much, but HD radio seemed worth the extra $10. To me, the secondary HD stations seem more interesting than the primary ones. Then again, I’m the guy who skips right past the hits on U2’s The Joshua Tree and cues up “Red Hill Mining Town.” The stuff I really like generally doesn’t do all that well on mainstream radio.

But my main motivation was to get a radio with a USB port, so I can snarf down a few hours’ worth of podcasts every week to a USB thumb drive, plug it in, and stay in touch with the security world. Total overkill for an Alpine, but like the salesman said, Alpines aren’t crazy expensive anymore like I remember them being in the early 1990s. Read more

B&N just made its Nook tablets much more compelling

This past week, Barnes and Noble put the Google Play store on its Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets. So while they’re still running a forked Android, they’ll run most Android apps without you having to do anything special. That, plus the high-resolution screen, the low price, plus the ability to plug microSD cards into it, plus the ready availability at major retailers makes for a much more compelling tablet.

Sales have been abysmal lately, but I expect this to change that pretty quickly. Now the Nook tablets have three things the Kindle Fires lack: a better screen, greater openness, and expandability. Now they look like a very good general purpose tablet, to my eye.