An Update on my HP dv9700t.

Alright, dad, I know you’re sick of me talking about my laptop, but I just wanted to provide a status update because I’ve gotten a couple of google queries to certain posts I’ve written concerning my laptop. Several things have changed since I wrote posts like this, this and this. In those posts, I wrote about the fingerprint reader royally sucking. I whined about the Windows Mobile Device Center not working with my Palm Treo 750 and I complained about the lack of a TPM-compatible BIOS on my laptop & not having a TPM to begin with! I’ll start with the first biggest change:

  1. I reinstalled Vista Ultimate on my laptop. When I first got the laptop, I didn’t uninstall certain programs correctly like Cyberlink’s Cybercrapware, et cetera. I also installed a bunch of programs that weren’t 64 bit compatible and they ended up making my laptop rather buggy. So, I called up HP and told them to send me my system restore discs because I was unable to make mine from the laptop. They graciously obliged me and it took about a day for everything to be restored to normal. It was rather painless too. My initial Windows Experience Index score was the same as the first time I received the laptop (i.e. a 4.6). I installed the usual suspects: Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007, Adobe Acrobat Professional 8.1.2, et cetera and updated them all. After installing my essential programs, my WEI score popped back to a 5.0. A quick tip for software updates: always make sure you update the programs by running the builtin HP Update (I’m using version 4.000.011.006). A lot of my troubles came from bypassing that easy way to update the programs and I went directly to the  manufacters’ websites where I got the latest, but not  necessarily guaranteed to play  nice with my HP Laptop.
  2. My fingerprint reader by DigitalPersona is now my Best Friend Forever (BFF). lol. You see, they had released an update to make it compatible with Firefox 3.0 and Internet Explorer 7.0 and now I’m totally spoiled. Granted, I’m not a finger-scanning expert like Matt who gets it on one try, but it’s worth not tasking my fingers too much  and not to talk of the increased security i.e. not having to type my username & password for anyone to see.
  3. Vista and Bitlocker Drive Encryption woes: Well, at this point, I’m sort of resigned to the fact that HP technical support staff is deliberately playing dumb on this issue. All they have to confirm to me is that they do not equip their consumer dv9700t with the TPM chip and I’ll be fine. Right now, my system is set up to enable Bitlocker Drive encryption, but I’ll have to be inconvenienced by using a USB key all the time. Anyway, I think I’m better off without Bitlocker for now. I’ll probably be better served by simply securing my laptop  better and perhaps investing in remote control software like RealVNC, etc.
  4. Windows Mobile Device Center is my second BFF now.  I can sync my information via bluetooth and the cable that came with my laptop. I didn’t have to install any updates or anything. I simply followed instructions and everything went smoothly. The first time you want to connect your phone, use the cable provided. Vista just automates everything and really, just follow the on-screen instructions. 🙂
  5. TV Tuner brouhaha: I don’t need no stinkin’ TV tuner! 😀 Okay, it’s theoretically nice, but in reality, it was a bunch of extra cords and baggage that I definitely didn’t like one bit. I’ll just stick to watching my favorite shows on Hulu like The Office, Hell’s Kitchen, Monk, Kitchen Nightmares, etc.
  6. I’ve made up with Microsoft Outlook 2007. I’ve promised to not start clicking on things while it’s still loading and she seems to be alright. She keeps clashing with the “Send to Bluetooth” addin and lately, has had some trouble with the Outlook Connector addin. Still, I’ve kept those two enabled and keeping my digits crossed. 🙂
  7. I have had some major peeves though: cases in point: Firefox and Gizmo. Firefox 3.0 has been rather unstable and slow on my system. I don’t understand it, but I clearly too invested in it because I’d rather keep using it than use Internet Explorer or install a newfangled browser like Google Chrome which caused me some trouble prior to my OS reinstall. *sigh* And as for Gizmo, don’t get me started. I use it a lot to call Nigeria (my homeland) and it is rather buggy on a 64-bit Vista system. I don’t blame them. It just got too much for me to take and I had to request a refund of my Gizmo Call Out minutes. I’ve currently got Skype concurrently installed with Gizmo and I get a better call quality with Skype even though the main reason I used Gizmo was the cheaper callout rates compared to Skype’s. I definitely see myself still using Gizmo for chat, et cetera. However, until they improve the software for Vista 64-bit systems, I’ll have to use a more mature program i.e. Skype.

And that’s about it on updates. More personal stuff to come later. Ciao!

Sshhhhh! Surf using SSH Tunnels. :)

Update: Forget all the crap masquerading as a tutorial that I just wrote. 😀 Please visit this website (“Secure Linux/Unix access with PuTTY and OpenSSH“) which told me everything I needed to know. From learning how to add Putty directly to Windows PATH (which allows me to run Putty.exe directly from the “Run” command), to setting up my authorized_keys file, to configuring Putty & Windows to automagically log me into my SSH server, this tutorial and article does it all!

Okay, the first time I heard of Secure Shell (SSH) tunneling was probably last year when I re-started my blog. What are SSH tunnels? Well, the most common usage for SSH tunnels is to ensure a secure passage way for your packets of information to reach their destination. In this scenario, you would use an SSH tunnel when connecting over an insecure or monitored WiFi connection. This sounds simple enough except that all the “tutorials” I stumbled upon were written by users who were running Linux or Mac. Without too much preamble, I’ll just write up what I did to get connected. As you may or may not know, my web host is Dreamhost. One of the first things I did was check out their DreamHost Wiki which is rather detailed. The easiest and simplest solution that has worked for me is the password authentication set-up. You can automate your SSH tunnel, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet even though there are scores of how-tos. So, first things first, I’m using 2 tools:

  1. Firefox browser with SwitchProxy extension installed
  2. Putty (installed or portable) or any SSH client: I had to scour the web for a 64 bit version of Putty although the x86 or 32 bit version would have worked on my computer.

Some quick pre-requisites for SSH tunneling that I didn’t know before:

  1. you have to have a server that supports it. Luckily for me, DreamHost allows me to make the decision to have or not have SSH. For others, you may have to dig into your control panel or contact your web hosting providers to request SSH access.
  2. you need to have a soft and padded table nearby for the amounts of head-banging that will happen because searching takes a while to find the hidden gems. 🙂

If you are familiar with regular FTP clients like I am, it’s a snap to set up your server’s address with the default port number of 22. In the picture, all I did was create my server address (blahblah.clom) with the port number. Then, I typed in the name of the session “blach” and hit “save” and as you can see, it saved my entry as “blach” under “Saved Sessions”.

Your next task will then be to edit “blach” session. You will do this by clicking on your saved session (in this case, blach) and hit “load”. Then, you click on the SSH entry in the left hand pane which is under “Connection”. This is the screen you should be on:

According to Dreamhost‘s instructions (which I followed), all you need to do here is write the “Source port” number in the allowed section and leave the “Destination” blank. Then, you select “Dynamic” and leave it on “Auto”. I know this is esoteric and really not doing a good job of explaining, but I’m trying to understand this myself.

Anyhow, once you have done this, scroll back up (see the first picture) and click on “Session”. Then, highlight your session (in this case, blach) and hit save to save your changes. This was the easy part. What I didn’t know was that in order to activate the SSH tunnel, you need to first open up the connection by logging into the SSH server you are using. So, you do that by opening up Putty (see the first picture again) and highlighting the session you want to open. Then, you simply click “Open”. It should ask you for a username and password in my case. There are ways to make this automated i.e. via keys, but I haven’t figured out how to get that working. Anyhow, once you are logged in, make sure you change the connection options in your browser of choice and in my case, that’s Firefox. Now, since I only intend on using the SSH tunnel on insecure WiFi networks, I needed an extension that would make it easy for to toggle between Firefox not using the SSH tunnel and using the SSH tunnel and all sites I read recommended SwitchProxy. Configure SwitchProxy as I’ve shown in the picture above and you’re all set to go!

That wasn’t so painful, was it? I kid, but seriously, if you want to know more about this stuff, Google is probably your best, yet worst friend. 🙂 Happy hacking away at your computer!!

Software rant

I love Firefox so when version 3.0 was released, I upgraded instantement. As anyone will tell you, newly released software will contain bugs and Firefox 3.0 is not different. In fact, 5 hrs after its release, a zero day bug (zero day means one that can bring hell & damnation to your computer. 😀 Not really, but this Wikipedia article breaks it down) With this bug, you have to click on a maliciously crafted link or visit a bad site according to the Tipping Point blog so I’ll be super-paranoid till Mozilla releases a fix for this vulnerability. Nevertheless, I am really pleased with Firefox 3.0. The biggest improvement for me is the ability to search through my bookmarks as I manually type in any url into the address bar. I love the pretty green back button and the improved management of bookmarks. There are so many improvements, but I’m just touching on those that actually will improve my browsing experience. Check out the release notes for Firefox 3.0 on Mozilla’s website.

Speaking of software upgrades, Snag It 9.0 is out. For the sum of $20, I can upgrade to this newer version. Sometimes it feels like a never-ending Ferris wheel. When are software makers going to reward users by truly giving discounts? I paid $50 for this wonderful piece of software. However, whenever a new version comes out that’s a major jump i.e. from 7 to 8 or 9 to 10, I have to shell out at least $20 to “upgrade”. Right now, I don’t see any improvements that I care for. I really could have gone with a free screen capture utility, but I bought into the SnagIt hype and I think it has paid for itself several times over. Based on my usage, is it worth me upgrading yet? I will hold off till version 10.0 comes out. To be clear, this will be my first upgrade with the SnagIt software so I’m sure I’ll end up upgrading, but I’m just being grumpy right now. My license for Ad-Aware Pro ran out, but I didn’t even bother to renew it. Heck, I even uninstalled the entire Ad-Aware utility. Right now, all I’ve got running is F Secure 7.11 which seems to do a pretty damn good job. Again, to be fair, the free Ad-Aware 2008 is pretty darn good at catching spyware so if you don’t have a dedicated spyware utility on your computer, give this a try. It served me well, but I’ve ‘outgrown’ it.

Right now, I’m blasting my favorite Tu Face CD “Grass 2 Grace“. He’s awesome and I can’t wait to get a hold of his new stuff. Hopefully, it’ll continue in this vein. FYI, Tu Face is a Nigerian musician. I can’t wait for M to get home to tell him about my exploits on the trail. 😀 I kicked my ass, but I didn’t back down. I’m looking forward to some longer rides with him. I’ve got to tweak my nutritional habits to ensure that I’m not constantly in a catabolic state. My intake is increasing, but I suspect some minor inadvertent weight loss has occurred. Not good!