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Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem

I learned the hard way a few weeks ago how net neutrality can be equated with socialism, an argument that puzzles people who work on computer networks for a living and see networking as a big flow of electrons. I think it’s very important that we understand how this happens.

Here’s the tactic: Find a socialist who supports net neutrality. Anoint him the leader of the movement. Bingo, anyone who supports net neutrality follows him, and therefore is a communist.

Political lobbyist and Fox News contributor Phil Kerpen told me Robert W. McChesney was the leader of the net neutrality movement, and he sent me a quote in the form of a meme longer than the Third Epistle of St. John. Yet in a Google search for the key words from that quote, “net neutrality bring down media power structure,” I can’t find him. So then I tried Bing, where I found him quoted on a web site called sodahead.com, but I couldn’t find the primary source.

For the leader of a movement the size of net neutrality, he sure keeps a low profile. Google and Netflix are two multi-billion-dollar companies that support net neutrality. I’m sure it’s news to them that they’re taking orders from Robert W. McChesney.Read More »Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem

Upgrading an HP Mini 110 to Linux Mint 17

Over the Labor Day weekend I decided to upgrade my HP Mini 110 netbook to Linux Mint 17. The Mini 110 can handle Windows 7, but Linux Mint doesn’t cost any money and I figure a Linux box is more useful to me than yet another Windows box. There are some things I do that are easier to accomplish in Linux than in Windows. Plus, I’m curious how my two young sons will react to Linux.

Linux Mint, if you’re not familiar with it, is a Ubuntu derivative that includes a lot of consumer-friendly features, like including drivers and codecs and other common software that aren’t completely open source. It’s not a Linux distribution for the Free Software purist, but having options is one of the nice things about Linux in 2014.

Linux Mint includes a lot of useful software, so once you get it installed, you’re up and running with a useful computer with minimal effort.

Read More »Upgrading an HP Mini 110 to Linux Mint 17

Don’t fall for the netstat scam

A longtime friend’s aunt almost got taken by a fake tech support scammer. He told me about it, and in the process, this was also the first I’d heard of the netstat scam.

She saved herself by saying she’d have to check things out with her nephew first. That’s a good trick. Fortunately for her, the scammer didn’t try to delete anything, though he did immediately change from being very pleasant to being very rude. That matches my recent experience with these low-life crooks precisely.

She was vulnerable because the flawed MS14-045 gave her trouble and she had a case open with HP. So when this crook called, she thought at first that HP or Microsoft were following up with her about that.

The scammer’s best trick was to get her to open a command prompt and type netstat.Read More »Don’t fall for the netstat scam

WMIC invalid global switch – solved

I use WMIC a lot to gather data in my job. Querying computers that have dashes (a.k.a. the minus sign, the “-” character) in the names cause an error message that says “invalid global switch.” Microsoft operating systems use the dash as a reserved character to indicate command options. Here’s how to get rid of the WMIC invalid global switch problem.

Read More »WMIC invalid global switch – solved

Windows Vista’s market share is growing. After seeing 8.1, I know why

I installed Windows Vista last week. I need a legal copy of a supported version of Windows to use to VPN in to work and run the corporate Citrix client. Vista fit the bill. It’s better than 8.1, and it’s supported until April 2017. I always hated Vista, but 8 and 8.1 made me realize it could have been a lot worse, and on recent hardware Vista does OK. It still prompts you for admin rights too much and too slowly and makes you work too hard to click yes, but at least you can find stuff.Read More »Windows Vista’s market share is growing. After seeing 8.1, I know why

What I did for Mother’s Day

Last month, Rapid7’s Trey Ford appealed to security professionals:

You have an opportunity to be an ambassador. When you see XP out there, have an adult conversation, educate in terms that others will appreciate. Your actions and words reflect on the entire community.

As the family CIO/CSO – look for the smart investment. There are options that will make your life easier. A small investment is a lot easier to stomach than compromised shopping/banking/credit card credentials (or identity theft.)

Read More »What I did for Mother’s Day

Macs aren’t the only computers that last forever

In the midst of Microsoft reminding everyone that Windows XP’s doomsday is less than a month away, Apple quietly announced that Mac OS 10.6’s doomsday was sometime last year, and no more security updates would be forthcoming for Snow Leopard.

That led to this piece about why anyone would still want to run Snow Leopard. Well, there are reasons for it–and for that matter, there are reasons why they would want/need to step back to 10.5 (Leopard). I don’t disagree with that part at all, but I do disagree with the point at the end, where he says that if you want a computer that lasts a long time, you have to buy a Mac.

Let me remind you that Microsoft is sending out reminders to people that it’s time to migrate off an operating system that hasn’t been generally available on new consumer PCs since 2007.Read More »Macs aren’t the only computers that last forever

The world’s fastest budget PC

So, a relative’s PC was getting a bit aged, and runs Windows XP, barely, so I talked them into an upgrade. I noticed that Micro Center had HP/Compaq DC5700s for $99. They were standard issue office PCs a few years ago, and there are a lot of them in the refurb channel. We went and got one over the weekend.

“What are you going to do with that?” the sales rep asked. “We only use them as cash registers.”

“Word processing,” I said.

“You sure you want to run Windows 7 on an 8-year-old PC?”

“I wrote the book on running Windows on older PCs. Literally. It’ll be fine.”

I hate calling rank like that, but sometimes it’s what you have to do.

And really, for $99, it’s awfully good. Web browsing is plenty fast, Libre Office runs fine on it, and think about it. Windows 7 retails for $100-$109. So it’s like getting the hardware for free. Or Windows for free, however you want to look at it.

Read More »The world’s fastest budget PC

More about Pfsense, the alternative to the crappy consumer router

I spent some time over the weekend playing with Pfsense, and I can’t say much about it other than it does what it says. I didn’t throw a ton of hardware at it–the best motherboard I have laying around is a late P4-era Celeron board, and the best network card I could find was, believe it or not, an ancient Netgear 10/100 card with the late, lamented DEC Tulip chipset on it. Great card for its time, but, yeah, nice 100-megabit throughput, hipster.

If you actually configure your routers rather than just plugging them in, you can do this. Plug in a couple of network cards, plug in a hard drive that you don’t mind getting overwritten, download Pfsense, write the image file to a USB stick, boot off the USB stick, and follow the prompts. Then, to add wireless, plug in a well-supported card like a TP-Link and follow the howto. Read More »More about Pfsense, the alternative to the crappy consumer router

The Post-Dispatch may be giving the wrong idea about the dollar value of vintage computers

Articles like Top 10 collectibles for value, from the Post-Dispatch this week, frequently make me nervous, mostly because of statements like this one:

[D]id you know that computer parts can bring home cash, too?

Statements like that tend to get people’s hopes up way too high. I find the timing interesting though, seeing as a TRS-80 Model 1 sold at a St. Louis estate sale this past weekend. The estate seller’s reaction? “Normally you can’t give that stuff away.”

Read More »The Post-Dispatch may be giving the wrong idea about the dollar value of vintage computers