Have Air Miles, Will Donate To Charity

I’m sure many of you collect some sort of rewards on a reward program, be it Aeroplan or Air Miles, or some other similar program. Myself, I’m an Air Miles person, and a lot of that has to do with the really good deal that I get for Safeway prescriptions.

But I digest 😉

While casually browsing the rewards catalog online, I was going through the gift cards and subscriptions. I happened to notice a new section for charities. Under there, you have redeem 170 Air Miles to donate $20 to one of three charities: Kids Help Phone, Special Olympics Canada, and the World Wildlife Fund. Unfortunately, Air Miles has yet to add any more charities, but I sincerely hope that they add more than those three. I’ve made a firm decision to redeem a donation for every item I redeem on there.

I’ve never seen this on a rewards site, and I think it’s a great thing to do. Think about how many reward miles you have. When was the last time you redeemed them? Do you think you could spare a few to help a good cause? I hope the answer is yes. Some people don’t donate to charities because they can’t afford it. Now that you can use Air Miles, this should make things a little easier. Alternatively, redeem a gift certificate somewhere you would normally shop, and use the saved money to a charity of your choice. Either way, it’s a free donation.

Just a little food for thought.

Finding the IIS FTP Vulnerability

On September 1st, Microsoft released a security advisory regarding an exploit that was discovered in their IIS FTP service, which you can find here. In short, the vulnerability allowed servers which allowed anonymous write access to be compromised.

Opening up my email, I notice the vulnerability in my inbox, and a message attached asking me to find all the servers in the government which might be vulnerable to this exploit. Now, as you can imagine, it’s not like there’s 50 servers in the government. This isn’t a situation where you go to each server manually and check for the vulnerability. This worked out to be a perfect situation to use nmap.

Nmap, as I had mentioned last post, is a security scanner. It’s powerful: really, REALLY powerful. There’s so many command line switches that they have to use two characters for a lot of them, and they’re case sensitive as well. To top it all off, it also provides scripting support. In layman’s terms, you tell it to jump, and it asks you how high, how many flips it should do, what music should be playing in the background, and what the acrobat’s costumes should look like. You get the picture.

Anyways, the task was put before me to determine which servers were vulnerable, and how many FTP services could simply be turned off. After acquiring a list of IP addresses of assets, I sorted the list, changed each IP to refer to the class C subnet (255.255.255.0 or /24), and remove duplicates. I then came up with a list of IPs which had an FTP service. Some had closed ports, and others were filtered. Some of them were also open. A few quick grep commands and I had narrowed down the list to open Windows boxes. Below, I have the nmap command that I used to find all the servers with FTP running on them. I’d be curious to see if anyone has come up with a similar command that might be useful for this same purpose, and where improvements can be made.

./nmap -T4 -PS21 -p21 -O --max-rtt-timeout 200 --initial-rtt-timeout 150 --min-hostgroup 100 -oG /tmp/WindowsFTP.grep -iL ../WindowsServers24

Upcoming Swing Events

For this Monday’s blog post, I’d like to stray a little from my typical technology discussions and focus on something far from that: dance. Not just any kind of dance, though. I’d like to quickly discuss swing dancing.

This might seem like an odd topic for a geek to discuss. After all, I’m supposed to be glued to my computer, make obtuse references to nerdy shows and movies, and have a natural inability to talk to women. While all of the above may or may not be true (heh), I also found myself two years ago to have an interest in swing dancing, thanks to a friend who convinced me to go to the University of Manitoba Swing Dance Club (UMSwing) open house (thanks Jacklynn!). Although initially I didn’t think I would enjoy it that much, I found myself addicted by the end of that open house, and walked out that night with a full membership. I’m still shocked that I’m even capable of dancing, but regardless, it’s a great way to get some exercise, meet new people, and get out of the house.

Two years later, and I’m on the executive committee for UMSwing as their omnipotent web administrator. I’ve met a lot of great people through the club, and by being on the executive committee, I can hopefully give back to a club which has helped me a lot. One of the events that is happening in just over a week is this semester’s open house, which I will be MCing. The club puts on one open house per semester, usually within the first few weeks. We pride ourselves on being able to teach anybody to dance, regardless of skill level. You don’t need to bring a partner to dance with, and you don’t need experience. We do some demos, teach you basic Jive, and do some social dancing. Oh yeah, and there’s a bunch of prizes that we will give away.

So, if you have nothing to do that night, come out and enjoy yourself.

UMSwing’s classes tend to be geared towards beginner swing dance. If you happen to have swing experience, HepCat Studio is a swing studio that is starting up today at 6:00pm. The first class today is free, and they will teach both beginner and intermediate swing dancing. You can find their website over at http://www.winnipegswing.com.

So, I will continue with random technological rants and whatnot next Friday. Methinks that my next post will probably discuss my upcoming server build and the parts involved. Although I had posted on it a while back, I’ve solidified my decisions for the next server incarnation. It will be awesome. Very, very awesome.

Car Upgrades, Pt. 3

In the last part on my series of upgrades I will be doing to my car, I thought I’d focus a little bit (although not entirely) on the electrical components in my car. As you may remember in the first part, I talked about the sound system I put in my car and the homebrew neon lighting I tried out. In the second part, I mentioned the neon upgrades and the paint job that I was toying around with.

Although I already did accent lighting, I’d like to look at expanding it a little more. I had previously mentioned that I was going to add more neon lighting, but I’m also going to look into lighting up the running boards. Although my car is a red/maroon and my neon lighting is blue, I think I’m going to go with red LEDs along the boards; red and blue accent lighting together should look pretty nice. Since LEDs tend to run at an optimum voltage of 2.5 volts, I can get about 5 in every series, since a car runs on 12 volts. I’d like those to turn on when the doors open. Since they will be wired in with the door light, I can force them to turn on just like if I wanted the door light to turn on. I would also like to replace the door light, glove compartment light, and dashboard lights with LEDs (blue, white, and white respectively).

For exterior lighting, I’d like to also replace those with LED lights. They’re much brighter than conventional bulbs and use less electricity, which in turn improves fuel efficiency. Although I’m not sure about the headlights, I’m sure I can replace all of the other bulbs, and potentially make the enclosures clear, since the bulbs will be colored the proper colors. I’d like to get nice headlights as well, but I don’t know if they’re available for my car. But, if I can find ones that fit, I can take them out when I get a new car, and if they don’t fit I can sell them and get part of my money back since they last forever.

The last thing I’d like to look into is redoing the upholstery. The seats are boring and bland, but the front ones are an irregular shape, which may make finding seat covers difficult. I already found a faux-leather seat cover for the back bench seat which will look nice, and I also picked out black-with-red seat covers for the front seat, pending that they’ll actually fit. If it proves to be difficult, I might end up doing alterations to them with a sewing machine.

And thus completes my plans for my car. Since it didn’t cost me anything and it’s not exactly new, I think it’s a reasonable time to try a few things out and see what works and what doesn’t. That way, when I get a nice car, I can do some customization on it and not be worried about destroying something.

Technical Difficulties

So, I’ve had quite a string of bad luck with technology as of late. One incident involved my personal server at home, and the other involved my website.

I spend quite a bit of time on the bus for getting around, mainly because the places I need to get to the most have pretty good service, and also because the price of gasoline is atrocious. Because I spend so much time on the bus, I want to be able to use my time to accomplish something. Although I sometimes use the time to study, I also have used the time for writing on my blog. Sometimes an event inspires writing, and I’d rather start brainstorming immediately than forget what happened.

A few days ago I happened to be writing about the great weather (sounds boring, I know – more on that later), and I wanted to upload the draft on to the blog. Unfortunately, during that process I lost all of my work. Annoyed, I started to rewrite the post, only for it to happen a second time. Those of you who are sharper than normal may have noticed the lack of a post this past Monday; that’s why.

When I got home that same day, which happened to be a scorcher of a day, my mother suggested I move my server into another room for the summer. Normally I would ignore anything my mother says about computers, but she raised a valid point about cutting down the temperature in my room. With all the gear running in my room, namely a desktop, server, network switch, TV, and home theatre system, my room is hot in the dead of winter. You can imagine how hot it gets in my west-facing room during the summer.

After finding a suitable spot in the adjacent room, I powered up my server and hooked it up to the network. When I tried to access the server after booting up, I couldn’t. A quick look at the network switch told me the network connection wasn’t working. My geek instinct kicked in, and I started trying to figure out the problem. I was worried I had damaged my server while moving it, since I plugged the network cable into my laptop and the network was working fine. I ended up making a foolish mistake with the order in which I hooked everything up. In short, my server does not use the network manager service, so if the network cable is not plugged in upon boot, it won’t connect to the network.

I guess all I can hope for is that my string of bad luck ends. So far, things seem to be going well with both the install of the new iPod Touch 3.0 firmware and Fedora 11 (updates to be posted about both soon!), so let’s hope that things continue on the good streak.

The Schedule

When I started this blog up a short while ago, I was presented with a number of pieces of advice to ensure the so-called “success” of my blog. For a site such as mine, I’m not sure how one might measure success. Monetarily, the site can’t be a success since there is no form of income (aside: I sincerely hope that, one day, I will be able to eat those words and the site may provide me with a source of income). I suppose that, for a non-profit, one-man-show style website, one can only hope to be known well enough to be publically recognised. I don’t expect that to happen, so I’ll settle for being a well-visited blog. I’ll consider my first milestone to be 500 unique visitors in a single day, at which point I will not only be happy, but I will set myself a loftier goal which will seem just as unlikely for me to reach.

But I digress. Advice, right? One of the most logical pieces of advice I received was to have a regular schedule that I would regularly update to. Although I toyed around with the idea of updating three times a week, I came to the conclusion that is probably infeasible in the long run. Unfortunately, I don’t have the intension of updating frequently enough so that my university marks suffer. So, after much deliberation, I have decided that an update schedule of every Monday and Friday is a reasonable goal to uphold.

This is obviously all dependent on whether I feel like I have something to say, though. Although I don’t think it will be much of an issue, there always is the potential of hitting a bit of writer’s block. There always is the possibility, though. Because my classes this semester are not computer science courses, I will find it hard to refer to those courses without straying too far off topic (unless one of my professors makes another bone-headed comment again). The fall won’t present me with much more inspiration: at least, not directly. If everything goes according to plan, I will have an intern job with a firm involved in computer science, one of which, if I get the job, will not legally allow me to discuss what I do.

That being said, my development work, addiction to music, and everyday experiences I’m sure will provide me with ample fodder for you to stuff your brains with. Plus a little feedback here and there from you guys might give me some incentives to post a little more.

Of course, I might be a little more inclined to post three times a week if I hit 1000 visitors a day…

I Caved…

I vowed never again to use WordPress, but here I am.

Why, do you ask? Mostly because I got sick of having a domain just sitting there and not doing anything. When my own software is developed, I will probably swap it out again for my own custom software.

Ok, I’m getting WAY too far ahead of myself here. Who am I, and why do you care? Well, you probably don’t. I’m one more person with an opinion. But I will hopefully discuss some interesting things from time to time, both about life, computing, technology, and anything else that happens to strike my fancy from time to time. Hopefully, I will be able to update regularly. And hopefully I might say something that may get the cogs turning and provoke some thought. I’m sure my blog will most likely be about programming and the like, but will hopefully also discuss my other interests such as music and photography.

Stay tuned, San Diego,

–Brian