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Yes, we need to run vulnerability scans inside the firewall

I got an innocent question last week. We’d been scanning an AIX server with Nexpose, a vulnerability scanner made by Rapid7, and ran into some issues. The system owner then asked a question: The server is behind a firewall and has no direct connection to the Internet and no data itself, it’s just a front-end to two other servers. Is there any reason to scan a server like that?

In my sysadmin days, I asked a similar question. Nobody could give me an answer that was any better than “because reasons.” So I’ll answer the question and give the reasons.

Read More »Yes, we need to run vulnerability scans inside the firewall

Don’t like paying for software? There’s an answer but old software isn’t it.

Corporations are in business to make money. That’s the premise of the classic business book The Goal, and the point of The Goal is that a lot of companies forget that.

That also means they’re not exactly happy to spend money unless there’s an obvious reason why spending that money is going to help them make more money. So that’s why you see 30-year-old minicomputers in data centers. That old system is still making the company money and with no clear financial benefit to replacing it, most businesses are perfectly happy to run the machine until the minute before it will no longer power up anymore.

That’s what makes quitting Windows XP so difficult for businesses. At this point, Windows XP and that 30-year-old minicomputer are both about as sexy as a Plymouth Volare station wagon. But they get the job done, and they’re much better than what they replaced, so the business leaders are content to just keep right on using what’s already paid for.Read More »Don’t like paying for software? There’s an answer but old software isn’t it.

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

“Mario” from “Microsoft” calls the wrong guy

“Mario from Microsoft” called me last night. I’ve never heard a Mario with that kind of accent, and, I thought he worked for Nintendo. I’ll bet he gets that a lot.

“Microsoft has no reason to be calling me,” I said to “Mario.”

“Oh, we’re a Microsoft certified partner,” he said.

“That’s nice,” I said. “I’m certified too. What’s going on?”

“You are having computer issues,” he said.Read More »“Mario” from “Microsoft” calls the wrong guy

An old Windows myth looks to (finally) become reality in Windows 8

For the better part of my adult life, I’ve been dealing with the myth that if there were certain settings that could speed up Windows, Microsoft would make those settings the default for the operating system. The pundits who perpetuate this myth have their reasons for doing so, but that didn’t make them true.

Now, the difference is harder to notice today than it was when I started my career. There are things I can do to make Windows 7 run better on my 4-core, 3.1 GHz AMD64 box with 8 GB of RAM and a 100 GB SSD. But I won’t notice the cumulative effects of a few 5% improvements on that box. Not the way I did on 50 MHz 80486-based PCs in 1997.

Microsoft’s philosophy for 22 years, from Windows 1.0 in 1985 to Windows Vista in 2007, was to write the software, and if it takes a few years for the hardware to catch up with it, so be it. Windows 7 changed that–for the first time, the actual requirements for running a new version of Windows went down–and, with Windows 8, it looks like CPU requirements will hold steady, and memory usage will actually go down.

Read More »An old Windows myth looks to (finally) become reality in Windows 8

Anyone up for a $239 SSD?

The cost of a decent SSD skipped the $299 mark and zoomed all the way down below $249.

Super Talent’s MasterDrive MX is available in several capacities, but the most interesting one to people who want performance on the cheap is the 30 GB model, which Newegg is selling for $239.While $239 for 30 gigs of storage isn’t very interesting when an 80 GB drive using conventional technology sells for less than 50 bucks, SSDs have never been about the lowest cost per gig. But $239 for an SSD that gives enough capacity to be reasonably useful and reasonable speed is big news, considering many SSDs of similar capacity still cost closer to $500.

There’s a reasonably full review of the MasterDrive MX available at TweakTown. TweakTown reviewed the 60 GB model, which costs closer to $500.

But here’s the short of it. This inexpensive Super Talent drive costs $239 for the 30 GB model, gives consistent read performance of around 100 megabytes per second, gives slower write performance a shade under 40 megabytes per second, and seek times of 0.5 ms.

The read performance is very good. The write performance is less impressive, but for many uses is also a lot less important. The seek time isn’t as good as current high-end SSDs, which weigh in at around 0.2 ms, but 0.5 ms is still far better than a conventional hard drive. A modern high-end 15K SCSI drive offers seek times ranging from 3.3 to 4 ms.

I can see drives like the MasterDrive MX being a huge boon for productivity-oriented desktop and laptop computers. While its 30 GB capacity is small, it’s more than large enough to hold Windows XP, an office suite, and some other productivity software while leaving plenty of room for data files. The resulting system will run cooler and use less power (the Tom’s Hardware test claiming that SSDs don’t decrease power usage has pretty well been discredited because the benchmarks they were using caused the CPU to work a lot harder), which will cut electric bills. Plus the system will be a lot quieter, which is nice in business environments. The system will boot quickly and load applications lightning fast.

How fast? Some of the reviews on Newegg are saying Vista boots in 34 seconds (XP should be similar, and possibly a little faster) and Photoshop CS3, a notoriously slow loader, loads in 5 seconds.

Of course it would be nice to see write speeds higher than 40 megabytes per second, but I still remember when conventional hard drives finally got to the point of delivering read speeds greater than 33 megabytes per second and I’d like to think it wasn’t that long ago. The people who will notice the difference the most are those who are creating and editing large media files, and those are precisely the people who aren’t likely to be using a 30 GB drive because 30 gigs isn’t very much space for those uses.

So what’s the downside?

The thing that keeps me from buying one of these today is the number of reviews on Newegg reporting problems. I always take those reviews with a grain of salt, but nearly half the reviews report the same strange failures: Usually the drive works fine, but then after a number of days it starts reporting itself as a 4 GB drive and stops operating. If one person out of 20 reports the problem, I’m willing to blame that on a weird incompatibility, user error, or something else. But when half the respondents report nearly identical symptoms, there’s probably something to it. So I’m hesitant to be an early adopter of this drive, as much as I’d love to get one.

It’s probably a good time to wait anyway. OCZ just announced a new drive, which they’re calling Core. Directron is taking preorders on them, estimating they’ll be in stock next week. OCZ’s 32 GB model is selling for $220 and promising slightly faster read speeds, but more importantly, write speeds along the lines of 80 MB per second. If Directron has them next week, then I’m sure Newegg will have them too, and it’ll probably only be a few weeks before those reviews start pouring in too.

As much as I hate to wait, I still didn’t anticipate prices falling this far until December. This development makes it look like I may buy one sometime in August. Color me happy.