Showing posts with label windows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label windows. Show all posts

07 June 2013

441. Links to two good articles on windows, piracy and linux.

I don't like the idea of simply posting links to other blogs, but in this case I'll make an exception due to the quality of the articles.

These two articles from 2008 discuss the lack of adoption of linux based on the notion that windows is de facto free (gratis) to most people:

I find them well-written and well-reasoned.

And they address the basis of one of the more disparaging (although to some extent true) remarks by people who don't see what the fuss over linux is all about: That we can't get people to use Linux even by giving it away for free.

Anyway.From a more personal POV:

* Having lived in China I definitely agree with the idea that piracy of windows is one biggest problems when it comes to the adoption of free software in the developing world. Not only windows of course -- I could even buy SPSS, Origin and Matlab in my local computer software street stall or my local DVD store (all pirated, of course).

* Having lived in the developing world I also agree that Windows is free in the sense that you can hardly buy a computer without getting a copy of a recent windows version included (whether you want it or not).

* Working at a university -- and having worked at five in total -- I also agree that it's easy enough to get free access to most pieces of proprietary software and since the distinction between Home and Work is a bit fluid in academia, for all intents and purposes I have free access to Office, Windows, Photoshop, SPSS etc.

* And finally, having bought my first computer in as a teenager in 1993 (a 1.8 MHz 386SX, 2 Mb RAM, 28 Mb HDD -- second hand) I also grew up swapping floppies with windows (3.11 FTW!), DOS (the box had 5.0, but got DOS 6 from a class mate), and various pieces of free/shareware that we ordered via mailorder...(or bbs -- but anything over 100 kb took forever). I don't think teens of today look at things much differently from how we did back then.

21 May 2013

427. Very Briefly: encfs on windows (XP, Vista)

I'm using encfs to encrypt files in dropbox -- and it turns out that I'm not the only one. In fact, I'm a late-comer to this apparently.

I've just installed Windows on physical hardware for the first time in a couple of years -- I figured I should learn more about this experimental, unstable OS that a lot of people have been talking about. I hear that it's not even based on linux, and that their leader isn't Torvalds (it's some guy called Gates, apparently). It looks pretty slick actually, but their software management model leaves a lot to desired (you have to use your browser to download software and there's no way of keeping track of security updates for anything other than the core OS). I also haven't figure out how to switch to any of the other virtual desktops/workspaces.

Whatever. The FOSS connection lies in the use of Dokan and encfs4win.

Anyway, to get encfs up and running on Windows, go to and install

Then go to and download

I dragged the entire encfs4win folder to Program Files. Start encfsw. A notification icon (shaped like a key) should show up in the task tray. Left-click on it, select Preferences and set to Launch at Startup.

To mount an existing encrypted directory, or to create a new one, left-click, select Open/Create and follow the instructions. Simple.

20 May 2013

426 Multibooting Windows XP, Vista and Debian

This post will most likely not be particularly interesting to anyone. It's basically just a collection of notes of me putting XP, Vista and Debian on the same box. Turns out that it's actually pretty straightforward -- the lack of drama in this post is what makes it a bit dull. Maybe the chief value of this post is to reassure anyone wanting to do the same of its feasibility.


I've decided to revive an old Dell C521 from 2007 (I accidentally blew the PSU when moving to Oz from the US, I've upgraded the graphics card, and put a 1 Tb hdd in it) and since I don't have any windows machines and it isn't useful for anything high-powered (dual core Athlon), I figure I might as well use it for a bit of experimentation.

This isn't going to be a detailed step-by-step how-to guide -- it's more of an overview of how to set up triplebooting with vista in case I need to help someone at a later point (parents/parents-in-law, I'm looking at you).

I have no real desire to use windows, but I could see the usefulness of having a windows box around. Partly because I'd like to do my bit to help Windows users move towards using FOSS instead of the usual commercial fare (familiarity with the software ecosystem on linux will presumably help adoption). Partly because I haven't played Halo 2 for years...

I'm bracing myself for experiencing the pain of vista again...XP I can just about tolerate -- it's a decade old, so I can accept that it has some limitations.

Anyway, triple-booting Vista, XP and Debian seems ambitious enough for a blog post, given what a pain Vista (and 7) are in terms of playing nicely with other OS:s.

Looking at this post:
When dual-booting, you always install the old OS first, then the new.

Sounds about right...Debian last then ;)

Note that the hard disk was unpartitioned at the beginning. The screen was connected via a KVM switch to the NS210 graphics card (via the VGA port). The on-board ethernet port was connected to a router set up with dhcp.

The remaining original hardware is as follows:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2.0 GHz
2048 Mb DDR2 RAM
Broadcom 440x 10/100

The added bits are:
Realtek RTL8169/8110 Family PCI Gigabit ethernet
MSI NF210 (Geforce 210)
Western Digital Green 1 Tb 3.5"

Installing XP (32 bit):
First I had to burn a CD from an iso from my university. I don't have any cd writer on my desktop, but happen to have one on one of my nodes (an old work computer). So I copied the iso via nfs, and then burned it with
sudo burn -I -n WinXP\ Pro\ US\ with\ SP1\ \&\ MS03-39.iso

There isn't much to say about installing XP, other than me making a partition at the beginning of the disk with 50,000 Mb space. I made the paritition using the windows installation program (as part of the install), chose quick format (ntfs).

The reboot step during XP installs gets me every time and I always hit a key to boot from CD automatically. Don't do that.

I only installed XP. I didn't bother chasing down drivers etc. Those who complain about hardware support in linux don't realise what it's like setting up windows on a computer using a vanilla installation disk....

XP didn't have working internet (didn't recognize either network card) and the video resolution was 640x480. Once the network had been sorted out (R149798; downloaded in Vista and moved to the XP partition)I downloaded SP3, after which I could install the nvidia drivers. Luckily, most of the remaining drivers could be downloaded from Dell (nVidia_SMBus_A02_R132919, R132395, R133065)).

Setting up multiple ethernet cards The challenge was the routing, which required a registry change and reboot. And I never knew XP had 'shutdown -r'. It's like a whole new OS to me now.

Installing Vista (32 bit):
Once XP was installed I popped in the Dell DVD (yes, once upon a time you actually got the installation CDs with your computer...) and rebooted.

Select install, and choose custom. Click on the unallocated space, select Drive Options (advanced), then click on New. I set the size to 100,000 Mb (visa is a space hog, but I don't really plan on actually using it so...). Click Apply. A new partition (Disk 0 Partition 2; Primary) should appear. Note that because windows set everything to primary and because GPT only can handle four primary partitions, you become somewhat limited in the number of OSs you can install (there are reasonably simple ways around it though). Click Next and let Vista have a go at your HDD.

The vista installation wasn't too bad, and there was decent hardware support on boot. Note that this was installed using the Vista DVD that came with the Dell I just installed it on i.e. the drivers were presumably included on the DVD.

Both network cards were detected (ipconfig) and I had a working internet connection (ping The default resolution was 800x600 pixels (display settings), but it was easily changed to 1024x768.

The device manager had an exclamation point next to Standard VGA Graphics Adapter under Display Adapters. The 'Windows Experience Index' was 1.0  due to poor Graphics and Gaming Graphics.

My post install steps consisted of installing Google Chrome, then allowing windows to install updates (451 Mb). Among those updates was GF210 support. Simply downloading 451 Mb took an hour (!) even though I'm on a university connection (i.e. fast -- typically +3M/s). Installing the updates took another hour after that. And that wasn't the end of it.

The nvidia was recognised after the reboot, and I now had a 4.1 "experience rating", and I could set the resolution to 1280x960.

I had another revelation (I've been gone from Windows for a while): I plugged in an Airlink101 USB wlan dongle (rtl8187b), and downloaded the driver from CNET. The installer tried to install two pieces of software without clearly advertising that it was doing so (top arcade something, and 7 wonders something else), then wanted to throw in zonealarm and change my home page. I seem to remember cnet being one of the reasonably trustworthy sites? I don't remember it bundling junk/spy-ware. Huh. Anyway, turns out the drivers got installed via windows update anyway.

Anyway, sorting out the updates was a PITA since a number of them kept failing. Download was slow (microsoft's servers pretty awful -- maybe they should switch to linux or bsd?) and installation takes forever. In the end I had to download SP1 and SP2 manually from the 'service pack center' and install them.

And LINUX is the one they call difficult? Good riddance.

Installing Debian:
While jigdo has worked well for me in the past, I was lazy and simply downloaded an iso. Because of university restrictions I could not use bit torrent.

sudo burn -I -n debian-7.0.0-amd64-CD-1.iso

I popped the CD in the drive, and booted. Manual partition: 100 Gb for / (primary), 200 Gb for /home (logical) and 2 Gb for swap (logical). I used a local network mirror to install.

I installed the GRUB boot-loader to the MBR

Note that only Vista shows up in grub -- if you select Vista in GRUB, you get the Vista boot manager ('loader'), and can select 'Earlier versions of Windows' i.e. XP.

On booting into Debian the full GNOME 3 experience was available i.e. the nouveau driver for GeForce 210 is apparently good enough that we don't need to install the nvidia drivers. glxgears looks really pretty too, with over 700 FPS. Sweet!

Anyway, that's it.

I expected it to be a bit trickier, but even Vista behaved itself and didn't throw a fit on debian being installed.

28 March 2013

373. Cracking Windows passwords if you are a Linux user

Cracking windows passwords is no more difficult than any other set of passwords that need to be cracked via brute force/rainbow table lookup -- it's all about getting your hands on the right files to begin with.

Note that Vista and Windows 7 are the same in terms of how the passwords are stored. XP is different. You'll need to appropriate hash tables when cracking using Ophcrack-- you can't use XP hashes to crack Vista/7 and vice versa.

I actually have a fairly legit reason for this, other than pure curiosity: the professors and lecturers who have Win 7 at this Uni aren't given administrator access, so that they need to make an appointment with IT staff everytime they want to install or upgrade something. In my opinion, that's taking things way, way too far, especially in light of OSX user and Linux users don't face the same restrictions (I requested my computer to be delivered blank, so not even the IT staff can gain access without physically accessing my hdd).

I've also twice been in situations where a lab computer was set up by a PhD student who had since left, but without telling anyone the BIOS password in one case (remove CMOS battery, drain the power by shorting) and NT 4 password in another case (boot using linux, replace the screensaver file with cmd, boot, then wait and you've got admin access). Adding a few more techniques to your arsenal makes you a more well rounded human being. Plus you might gain a bit more respect from the students. Maybe.

Windows files that you need

You'll need to copy two files from your Windows harddrive (most likely o C:\). Since you can't access those files from within windows, the easiest way to do that is to make a bootable USB with linux on it, boot, then mount the windows partition and copy the files. It does require that you know how to mount devices from the command line in linux (hint: read up on mount) but it's really quite easy.

See here for how to make a linux usb install:

On Windows Vista and Windows 7 you need to copy

On Windows XP you need to copy

Generating input
First set up your linux system and install bkhive and samdump2. On Arch you can get these from the AUR (here and here), and on Debian you can install it from the repos by doing
sudo apt-get install bkhive samdump2

Once you have bkhive and samdump, do
bkhive system sys.out
samdump2 SAM sys.out > crack.list

I prefer John the Ripper, but ophcrack is in the repos.

Ophcrack is one alternative for which you can download rainbow tables, while John the Ripper can do it via password lists and brute force. You can get Ophcrack from the Debian repos as well as AUR in ARch.

To crack with Ophcrack you'll need tables -- you can get them from here:

Start with Xp Free Small or Vista Free, depending on whether you're going after XP or Vista/Windows 7 passwords. If your passwords still won't break, you can always get a bigger table. Put your tables in e.g. /tmp/crack/xp and /tmp/crack/vista

Do (for xp -- point towards /tmp/crack/vista for vista/windows 7)
ophcrack -n 6 -g -t /tmp/crack/xp -f crack.list

where -n 6 means to use 6 threads (use as many as you have cores). You can also launch ophcrack with a graphical user interface by simply typing ophcrack.

John the Ripper
On Arch you can get John the Ripper via the standard repos, and on Debian you can easily compile it.

You should get a good password list to guide your cracking -- rockyou is probably one of the best:
bunzip2 rockyoutxt.bz2

To crack XP passwords, run
john --wordlist=rockyoutxt --format=lm crack.list

To crack Vista or Windows 7 passwords, run
 john --wordlist=rockyoutxt --format=nt crack.list

If you have compiled john the ripper with mpi support, just launch it along the lines of
mpirun -n 6 john --wordlist=rockyoutxt --format=nt crack.list

There's no guarantee that you'll successfully crack all passwords -- it simply depends on 1) how common the passwords are or 2) whether they are short enough to brute force. I've used the methods above to crack passwords on a couple of machines (even virtual ones).

If you're really lazy and want a fully automated cracking experience, just use the ophcrack live cd. The downside is that you'll be occupying the machine which holds the windows installation until you're done cracking. With the method here you can crack at your leisure on your own windows machine.