WiFi Channel-checking using iOS

Bahasa Indonesia: Fasilitas WIFI Pusdiklat Dep...

Apple have long since withdrawn any app which provides WiFi analysis – presumably making the Store less tolerant of tools which promote hacking of access points in any form. There is no longer any software to check channel usage and power levels for open SSIDs. Yet, the mobility of iPads and iPhones make them great tools for checking coverage and finding black-spots.  Tools do exist for scanning available access points – obviously already in basic iOS Settings – and inventorying devices connected to a network subnet; but nothing to check which 2.4GHz channels are in use (or at least, not without ‘jail-breaking’ the iOS device).


The case in point – Sky Hub

Sky provide broadband services in the UK, supplying their own combined DSL and Fibre modem with a limited (802.11n) wifi access point, the Sky Hub. The forums are awash with complaints about the lack of range of these devices and Sky themselves use this as an opportunity to market a WiFi extender – acknowledging the poor power of the Hub whilst exploiting it commercially. That said, my customer had reception in one room only – such a tiny range suggested a different issue. It seemed likely that there was a channel clash with numerous neighbouring BT and generic home access points.  But how to check ? Between us, we only had i-devices which need apps. A quick search yielded no apps which would provide the WiFi details needed. Turns out that the Apple Airport Utility will help – even if you are not using an Airport-based WiFi system.

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Ubuntu Forums Breached

English: Screen Shot of Installing Ubuntu Server

English: Screen Shot of Installing Ubuntu Server (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Those nice folks at Canonical have been hit by some hacking bastard and are reporting that the entire user dataset for the Ubuntu Forums has been snaffled. Worth making sure any IDs you use on their site which are also used / referred to elsewhere are changed ASAP – new passwords at least. Subject to confirmation, I believe the site was running using vBulletin as the underlying software. According to The Register, the hacker has been identified as twitter user @Sputn1k_. What a total tosser !

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Microsoft Activation : All’s well

Windows 7 build 7600

Windows 7 build 7600 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ever first in line to slag off those chaps in Redmond, I was seething when a dodgy motherboard forced me to re-install Windows 7 and provided the unhelpful status update that my copy of Windows was not authentic. True to form, the Microsoft online help text – I was searching for a way to purchase a new product key to get round said failure-to-activate – kept pushing me towards Windows 8. Bloody annoyed then as I assumed I would be stymied by no further sales of Win7 access. I stepped slowly through the online activation process to be referred to a Microsoft Support phone number. OK – so it was freephone; what did I have to lose by calling ? Imagine my pleasant surprise when, having gone through a validation process with their non-English-as-a-first-language call centre, I was rewarded with a pukka installation ID which duly got my copy of Win7 legalised and online. Limited pain; a helpful and efficient call centre agent; no language difficulties; a working and legal copy of my OS. Nicely done, Microsoft. Now, if only I can get them to see the strategic error of their ways (licensing quicksand, short-termism, derivative product development, knee-jerk technologising ….) then it might just be worth buying the odd bundle of MSFT shares ………


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Java installs on Debian/Lenny

Debian OpenLogo
Image via Wikipedia

Until Debian 5.0, installing full Sun Java JRE or JDK onto Debian was a little bit of a pain, usually requiring some fakeroot fiddling-about and .DEB package creation. Happily now the full Java5 and Java6 packages are available as part of the non-free APT repositories at debian.org under sun-java5-xxx or sun-java6-xxx.

Make sure you have contrib and non-free added to your APT source.list file entries for both deb and deb-src. Default Lenny netinstalls usually only have the main branch. Simply add the words “contrib” and “non-free” at the end of each line starting “deb” or “deb-src” in the /etc/apt/sources.list file; then….

run apt-get update
run apt-get install sun-java5-jre
to install the JRE, for example.

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Windows 7 Beta ‘imminent’

Image representing Windows as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

With the CES show in full swing, so follows the hype campaign surrounding the next release of Windows, dubbed Windows 7 but probably not the official moniker. The main Microsoft website is sluggish and this may be as a result of the announcement that the Beta version is available for download. Search though I did, I failed to find it but it may be worth checking out the Microsoft blurb at the main Windows 7 preview site.

As I have commented before, Windows 7 is a much-needed revamp of the desktop operating system. Vista was so universally panned that Microsoft has its work cut out to wow us with something that is easy to use and introduces some genuinely new functionality. I am not hopeful although I did clock a video in an article from PC Pro that had a Microsoft girlie demonstrating the new touch capabilities – if these stand up to operational testing then my Toshiba tablet could be greatly enhanced by the new OS. I am trying to keep an open mind ! Honest.

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New Internet Explorer 0-day exploit

Windows Internet Explorer
Image via Wikipedia

Reports are coming out of a new security flaw in Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 which is, as yet, unresolved by the geeks in Seattle. In typical Microsoft style, their Security Advisory says that this “only” affects “supported editions of Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Vista, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, and Windows Server 2008.” They go on to say it may affect older and newer versions of Internet Explorer too so be warned. Of course, what they won’t say is that the safest solution for now is to switch to another browser package, such as Firefox.

Microsoft go onto say that “Our investigation of these attacks so far has verified that they are not successful against customers who have applied the workarounds listed in this advisory.” I have read this article and I cannot find ANY specific “workarounds’ described in the advisory which apply to end users. Are Microsoft serious ? Why do they persist in pushing politically-awkward, misdirecting legalese on an unsuspecting public ?

The flaw allows certain scripts or software on malicious websites to obtain information from the PC which is successfully attacked. There is a list of websites which may include code – either by design or unwittingly to the website owners – which may exploit this flaw. You can find it here on the shadowserver.org site. IT Administrators can safely put this list into any blocking rules on a proxy server / firewall, and home users can also paste te list into their ADSL modem/router if it has this web-site blocking functionality.

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Quick reaction to WordPress 2.7

Image representing WordPress as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase, source unknown

So the ‘Coltrane” release is with us. Using WPAU, upgrading was a snap. The new clean admin interface is very good. Its much easier to navigate and despite having more information presented, it actually feels less cluttered. No obvious performance or other technical issues spotted yet. I went through all my plug-ins to check compatibility and so far no problems. I would recommend upgrading to the new version – and using WordPress Automatic Upgrade plug-in to do it. All done within 5 minutes including the database restructuring (again, automatic).

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WordPress : WPAU makes it as easy as 2 6 3

Image by dmeemai via Flickr

From my earlier articles on upgrading WordPress to 2.6.1, the WPAU (WordPress Automatic Upgrade) has really come into its own since that version. Ignore what is says on the plugin page – it IS compatible with 2.6.3 as my upgrade from 2.6.2 showed. It was a snap. The plugin takes you through each step – including file and DB backups – with complete control to the user; you only proceed if you wish to.

One quirk was during the last stage but one – WPAU asks you to click on a link to check if your DB needs upgrading. Clearing the DB result page takes you to your blog which, if you have not completed the remaining stages of WPAU, will bring up errors as the plugins have not yet been activated. So don;t panic when you get a pageful of “Unknown function” errors. Simply comlete the WPAU process to re-enable the plugins (its the last step).

Recommended ! Makes WP upgrades an absolute breeze and accomplished in 2-3 minutes if you exclude the download time for the backups :-). I wonder whether this will work for the new 2.7 variant when it is launched ??? Hope so.

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Upgrading WordPress to 2.6.1 – The Sequel (and conclusion)

MySQL WorkbenchImage via Wikipedia Notes from my fun and games with WordPress on Debian/etch ……

OK – so from my earlier post, I was having trouble upgrading WordPress on my main server. Having tried to blag my way through using the WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin – and failed – I turned to the docs on the WordPress site.
Deep breath and go slowly. Most importantly, I backed up the existing WordPress main directory. I just copied it over on the same server as follows :

> cd /usr/share
> mkdir wordpressold
> cp -r wordpress/ wordpressold

This copies the entire wordpress directory structure into the wordpressold directory (i.e. the copy is at /usr/share/wordpressold/wordpress/). You can check the copy is the same as the old one by running diff (I imagine) or, as I did, by comparing the disk usage of both directories:

> du -h wordpress/


> du -h wordpressold/

Both came out as 11M (the -h tag tells du to give you ‘human-readable’ output – bits and bytes !) so I assumed all was well. I also backed up the MySQL instance using the MySQL GUI Tools (MySQL Administrator). Its a breeze so I highly recommend them – get them from the MySQL site.

I then took a breath and deleted the original wordpress directory:

> rm -dR wordpress/

Gone. Now to upload the entire wordpress/ directory from my Mac using SFTP within Cyberduck. Done in 5 minutes. I was a bit worried when the size was reported as only 4.3MB but I assumed all was well. I copied the original config over from the wordpressold/wordpress/wp-config.php file to the new directory. [Note: as a Debian user, the WordPress config is actually stored in /etc/wordpress and referenced by the wp-config.php file. Its important to keep this file – wp-config.php – somewhere so it can be copied back. Its a relatively neat way to remove the actual configuration – database credentials etc. – from the main wordpress directory and keep them in the /etc/ location].

> cp /usr/share/wordpressold/wordpress/wp-config.php /usr/share/wordpress/

I then pointed to the site, got a brand new themed login form. I logged in and was automatically directed to the Upgrade process. Completed in seconds and all was well.

Phew !

Now off to see if the plugins work on the new version.

Upgrading WordPress to 2.6.1

Image representing WordPress as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase, source unknown A bit of a trial to achieve this upgrade and I am still not sure it has actually been done. I used Cyberduck to upload the WordPress 2.6.1 directry structure from my Mac to the site (having been very good and backed up the DB and directory previously). When I accessed upgrade.php, I got a message saying all was well. However, my pages still show the charming “2.0.12-alpha” version label provided by the default apt-get install from Debian. When I tried the various themes and plugins which were causing problems under the old version, I got the same series of errors (missing php files or statements referenced by obscure includes) so I assume I have an incomplete installation. Will post more when I have dug a little deeper.

For those upgrading or installing WordPress themselves then the online documentation seems pretty good. The WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin did not work for me but may for you and this would indeed be a handy tool.  So it was back to manual downloads of the directory and the pretty good MySQL GUI tools to do the DB backup. I then copied over the new release to the web root directory. All seems to be working but getting the old version label still. Could be caching, I suppose ……

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