Brandt Krueger

TECHNICAL PRODUCER, EDUCATOR, SPEAKER, AND CONSULTANT FOR THE MEETING AND EVENTS INDUSTRY. GEEK DAD, HUSBAND

Consultant, Meeting and Event Technology
Owner, Event Technology Consulting
Instructor, Event Leadership Institute
Cohost, #EventIcons - Where the icons of the event industry meet

Filtering by Category: Windows

WiFi Security Alert- "WiFi Protected Setup" Security Flaw

The Dlink DIR 601 Wireless Router: One of the millions of routers with WiFi Protected Setup This is a legitimate and serious security alert regarding WiFi access.  Apartment-dwellers, businesses in strip malls, hotels, and convention centers all should be advised.  Basically if your WiFi signal reaches to a point where someone could park for a while (less than 24 hours), you are likely vulnerable to having someone hack into your WiFi network, even if it is secured.  This could be, for example, an apartment next door, a lounge in your building, a nearby parking lot, or a car parked on the street if your signal reaches that far.

As usual, making things simple makes them less secure. There is a convenient "feature" of almost all WiFi access points built in the last few years that allows you to connect a device to your network (such as a Windows 7 computer, a cell phone, a printer, etc.) by pressing a button or clicking a dialog box and then entering a short 8 digit pin stamped on a label on the WiFi device.  This is known as "WiFi Protected Setup".

It turns out that the pin can be cracked and give a hacker access to your network in less than 24 hours (sometimes only a couple of hours) of brute force attacking because of a really stupid way that the password is sent/received between the two devices.  Once unencrypted access to your network is gained, the attacker can (at best) use your internet connection and (at worst) sit quietly and watch all of your internet traffic.

If you're comfortable configuring your wireless router, poke around in the settings and look for something called "WiFi protected setup".

THIS IS ENABLED BY DEFAULT.  If you uncheck this "feature" you should be protected from this type of attack until your manufacturer can push out an update.  Check your WiFi router's manufacturer's website frequently over the next couple months to look for an update for your device.

If you want to learn about this in great detail, I highly recommend this podcast, Security Now! with Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte:

http://twit.tv/show/security-now/335

For more general info, just search for "wifi protected setup flaw" on your search engine of choice.

Please feel free to pass this on to anyone you may know with WiFi access points in their home or office.

PowerPoint not working? Microsoft update might be the problem...

I was onsite last week loading a client's PowerPoint on to one of our show laptops, when I was suddenly confronted by a new and frightening error message I had never seen before. It went a little something like this: "PowerPoint was unable to display some of the text, images, or objects as slides in the file (name) because they have become corrupt. Affected slides have been replaced by blank slides in the presentation and it is not possible to recover lost information. To ensure that the file can be opened in previous versions of PowerPoint, use the Save As command and save the file with the same name or a new name."

Naturally, we were a little concerned. When clicking through the error, the presentation opened, but was missing almost all of the graphics and all the colors were wrong. We opened it on the client's laptop, and it worked fine. We re-copied it onto a flash drive and loaded it again on ours with the same scary error message. We loaded it on to a secondary show laptop, and again, the message.  The presentation loaded fine on the client's laptop, and on another personal (non-company) laptop.

I did a little research, and discovered that the day before Microsoft had pushed a PowerPoint "security update", and reports were starting to trickle in of the mysterious error.  The update is called "Microsoft Windows Security Update for Powerpoint (KB2464588)", and the problem can be reversed by uninstalling the update.

There is also a Hotfix that supposedly fixes the problem: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2543241

**IMPORTANT NOTE: If you do as the warning message says and "Save As", the new file will be permanently missing the "corrupt" images.  If you do not save, the original PPT will load just fine once the update has been removed/repaired.

On Why Apple Better Watch Its Ass.

I want an iPad 2.  I don't need an iPad 2, but I want one.  I'm not even sure I can tell you why, other than I was kinda sorta thinking about maybe getting a tablet this year.  Then I watched the keynote announcement of iPad 2, and if it wasn't for the March 11th launch date, all you would have seen in my office was a swiveling chair and some cartoon *PIONG* lines indicating my rapid departure for Best Buy.  Maybe a couple of dollar bills floating gently to the floor for comedic effect. And I don't think I'm alone.  To say that Apple has hit it out of the park with iOS is an understatement.  According to the iPad 2 keynote, Apple has sold 100 million iPhones and 15 million iPads, which I'd like to remind you came out LAST YEAR.  Whatever the "secret sauce" is to the iOS ecosystem, Apple's definitely got a hit on their hands- which is precisely why they need to start watching their ass.

Why?  History, baby.  History.  Not that long ago, in our own very galaxy, another come-from-behind player had emerged victorious and was dominating the market.  Windows, in relatively short order, had become THE operating system for mainstream Earth.  And shortly thereafter, things started to get ugly.  Licensing disputes, and claims of anti-trust violations started to circle.  Independent browser companies felt that packaging Internet Explorer with Windows unfairly pushed them out of the market.  And it's difficult to say they were wrong- Does anybody remember that you used to have to pay for the higher end Internet browsers?  It was over a decade and hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars in fines and legal bills later before the dust started to clear.

So what's this have to do with Apple?  Simple.  They're teetering on the edge.  Steve Jobs proudly proclaimed that the iPad had outsold in one year all the other tablets ever sold, so it's safe to say they're the dominant player in that market.  I love Android, but I just don't see the Android tablets as being anything but second fiddle to the iPad 2 anytime soon.  As for the iPhone, depending on what report you read, approximately 50% of all smart phones are iPhones.  That's pretty damn good too.  Finally, how many people to you know that have an MP3 player other than an iPod?  Not bloody many.

"Big deal," you say.  "So what if they're successful?"  It's not their success that the problem.  It's the scrutiny that comes with success, and Apple's begun to throw their weight around a lot lately.  Already we are hearing grumblings from developers and partners regarding Apple's cut of the proceeds when it comes to subscription services.  Apple forces subscriptions to sell for the same price outside the App Store as they do inside.  Combine that with their strict application regulations, and you start to see some cause for concern in the ability for the "little guys" to compete fairly in the market.

The strongest possibility for a source of an unexpected ass-munching comes from something that most people have seen as merely an inconvenience: the fact that all roads travel through iTunes.  Apple needs to change this.  Fast.

If you look at the Microsoft troubles, they didn't come, for the most part, from other operating system developers- they came from the browser developers (which is why the European Union now requires a browser "selection" screen on all Windows installs to level the playing field- Sleipnir, anyone?).  If an attack is to come on Apple, it will come from the media sales and playback front.  Apple requires you to install iTunes to set up your iPod, iPhone, or iPad on both Mac OSX and Windows.  Having device software is nothing new, but why does all of this have to go through, what is, for all practical purposes, a media player?  The answer is both obvious and dangerous- it drives traffic to the iTunes store.

For most consumers, the path of least resistance is the way they go, so why would the averege consumer even consider using anything else like Winamp, or Windows Media Player when iTunes is right there?  And why would they consider using another MP3 or video store like Amazon or Emusic when iTunes is right there?  Hell, iTunes even opens when you plug your device in!

Why is this any diferent than the Microsoft anti trust suits?  Apple is using its dominance in a hardware market to push itself in a software market and a media sales market, and if they don't watch themselves, the next bite out of the apple logo isn't going to come from Microsoft or Android, it's going to come from the US Justice Department or the European Union.  Fortunately, though it's an easy fix and it's not too late.  All they need to do is offer a software utility that handles most of iOS to Desktop/Laptop functionality ("iManage" anyone?).  They can keep all the iTunes integration they want- it's their software, so it should be convenient to use, but there needs to be a separate utility that is the first point of contact for the consumer in order to make their new purchase functional.  They can "recommend" iTunes,  but it can't be the only way to get your media onto your device, and they have to make it easy for other stores like Amazon, and other media players like Window Media to send and retrieve media files from the devices.

I think if Apple makes those two concessions, it will go a long, long way towards keeping the anti-trust investigations at bay.   What do you think?

***Update 6/21/11
I'm curious to know what IOS 5 holds, and how the wireless sync will work.  It feels like they might be moving away from iTunes a little, so let's see what we see...

Inserting Special Characters- The Mac Equivalent of CharMap

*** UPDATE *** This functionality has been hit or miss removed in Lion. Sometimes it works, sometimes it actually opens the .app (literally) as though you had selected "Show Package Contents" from the context menu, and you find yourself staring into the soul of CharacterPalette.app instead of launching the app itself. You now get a "Item “charmap” is used by Mac OS X and can’t be opened" message box.

There's some good news, though.  It appears that as part of OSX Lion they've force-added "Special Characters..." to the Edit menu of every program.  At least all the programs I've used and remembered to check.  If that's not fast enough for you, any myriad of programs can create shortcuts to menu items, including the built in "Keyboard Shortcuts" portion of the Preferences.  Just remember to spell it out exactly, including the elipses- Special Characters...

*****

It's been many a year now since I started working almost exclusively with a Mac at the office, and there's very few things left that I haven't found equal or better ways of doing things compared to Windows.  There are still a few things lingering, though.

For example, I've yet to find a file/folder comparison application that even remotely stands up to Beyond Compare (I'm looking at you, ScooterSoft... let's get this done!).  Additionally, I've often found accessing the "Special Characters" of fonts to be quite tedious.  By special characters, I mean things like €,∞, ©, and ü that I don't use on a regular basis and aren't on my keyboard.  Most applications have shortcuts to the "Characters Palette" , the Mac equivalent of "Character Map" on Windows, but it's never in the same place or under the same menu.

The OSX Character Palette

On Windows, this is the same way, but years ago I learned that I could very quickly navigate to the Character Map by hitting Win-R and typing "charmap".  Until now, I hadn't found an easy shortcut on the Mac.  It requires just a little bit of setup, but then it's just as fast as its Windows counterpart:

1. Open a Finder window and navigate to Macintosh HD/System/Library/Input Methods/

2. Drag CharacterPalette.app to your Home folder (or wherever you'd like), but hold down the Option and Command buttons while you do.  This will create an "alias" (like a Windows shortcut) of that file.

3. Done!

4. (Optional) Rename the alias to something handy.  Because of my long-standing Windows habits, I named mine "charmap" :)

Unlike the CharacterPalette.app file, which is a system file, the alias will be "seen" by the Finder , or by Spotlight.  Now all you have to do to quick-access the palette is to hit Cmd-Space and start typing "characterpalette" and Spotlight will suggest it most likely before you've finished typing the full word.  Or, like me, you can type your renamed alias.  All I have to do is hit Cmd-Space and type "charmap", just like on Windows.

Hope this helps some folks out.  Leave comments if it does!