Who’s teaching who

Okay, the court is still out in terms of DragonDictate friend or foe. I’m not sure if I’m learning how to speak so that Dragon can understand me or it’s learning how to understand me as I normally speak. When it works it’s amazing, when it does not it’s a whole new level of frustration. It’s a bit like golf, you’re one great drive out of 18 and for the next season you keep recalling that perfect drive you just can’t quite get it. That doesn’t stop you from trying, it just keeps you trying.

I’m convinced, that there are some applications are the just work perfectly with Dragon and others may be by virtue of how they were created just don’t work that well. The kiss of death is when you have the audacity to touch the keyboard mid-dictation. This is when frustration will set in. First you will attempt to corrected through voice commands and it is at this point that will take a document that was mostly correct and insert a pile of incomprehensible text. Eventually you will give up and resort to the keyboard at which point it will no longer know where it is. If you have to resort the keyboard it’s all over it a mulligan.

I have not given up yet simply because I’m too stubborn, plus I’m still convinced that if I can get it to work most of the time it will be quicker to dictate then to type.

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Dragon Dictate friend or foe

It has probably been 3 or 4 years since I tried Dragon Dictate. Given that they offer 30 day money back guarantee and my previous experience was okay I figured it was time to try again. I spend all day typing seems. That’s probably true of most people today. I can’t help think that there is nothing cooler than being able to dictate to your computer and have it do the typing. Of course nothing is perfect. But as I’ve heard a comedian Louis CK say; “everything is amazing, but no one is happy”.

Okay so I’m putting in the time to learn how to speak to my computer. And that isn’t a sign of a nerd, I don’t know what is. Sometimes people and technology have to meet in the middle.

So far I can’t decide if it’s saving me time or taking more time. But I feel that if I give it time and work with it, it will save me time in the end. So far I have found it forces me to think in advance what I’m going to say whereas had been typing I would’ve just kept revising. So perhaps in the end will help not only my writing but my speaking. After all I’ve been told more than once that I mumble. What’s interesting is Dragon Dictate concurs with that assessment, and is happy choose to spew out pure mumble.

I’m going to attempt to work with it for the next 30 days, while let’s make that 20 so that I have a chance to decide whether or not I’m going to return it. Given this is evening to, the court is still out.

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Application Dependency Mapping – The Crude Approach

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A topic that is not often talked about, maybe because it’s discounted as unnecessary is application dependency mapping. We only have to go back a few years to located the point at which things started to get more complicated than we really thought. More and more software is being written to automatically detect existing software/applications/services and make use of those services. This is the point and click era, where it’s assumed if the information has been entered anywhere else it should auto-magically exist in a fully reference way everywhere else in the enterprise. This creates some very interesting dilemmas when it comes to two key elements of managing an enterprise infrastructure, specifically change control and disaster recovery. Specifically evaluating the impact of a change, what will be affected or could be affected and disaster recovery in a corresponding fashion.

I routinely run into environments composed of hundreds of servers. The thought that anecdotally the inter-dependancies are know is almost laughable but surprising thought to be true. Now I’ll grant if there is traffic between to disparate VLANs and there is any security at all, the interdependencies between VLANs is if not know at least documented in a crude fashion as a result of the Access Control Lists (ACLs) and or explicit NAT/PAT mappings between the VLAN’s. This can though still be obscured by effective names space (DNS) mapping of those services which is increasingly more common in an enterprise. There are some great tool suites that create these dependency maps, however these tools are not free by any measure. There are however crude ways to get at this information using tools generically available or freely available.

Now I’m not implying that this is the most effective way to develop a dependancy map, but in a pinch or to achieve a 80/20 rule of accuracy the following crude approach has sufficed. For linux/unix there are not tools required. If a windows only environment you’ll need to obtain a compiled version of tcpdump. Every admin should of course be armed with tcpdump given it’s the TCP/IP utility knife of choice. One such tool (tcpdump) can be obtained at: http://www.microolap.com/products/network/tcpdump/download/. The other useful unix/linux equivalents for windows can be found at: http://unxutils.sourceforge.net/ .

In linux/unix;

sudo tcpdump -i {interface of choice}

e.g.: sudo tcpdump -i en1 | grep ‘who-has’

In windows you won’t need sued, since there is no concept of security regarding privilege access to the network interfaces.

The output will be similar to the following;
10:50:00.408525 ARP, Request who-has 192.168.1.103 tell 192.168.1.103 length 50
10:50:03.153795 ARP, Request who-has 192.168.1.106 tell 192.168.1.1 length 28
10:51:01.336871 ARP, Request who-has 192.168.1.103 tell 192.168.1.103 length 50
10:51:17.723448 ARP, Request who-has 192.168.1.106 tell 192.168.1.1 length 28

Import this file into excel using both command and spaces a delimiters and you will have a tidy file that looks like the following;

50:00.4
ARP
Request
who-has
192.168.1.103
tell
192.168.1.103
length
50

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50:03.2
ARP
Request
who-has
192.168.1.106
tell
192.168.1.1
length
28
51:01.3
ARP
Request
who-has
192.168.1.103
tell
192.168.1.103
length
50
51:17.7
ARP
Request
who-has
192.168.1.106
tell
192.168.1.1
length
28
52:02.4
ARP
Request
who-has
192.168.1.103
tell
192.168.1.103
length
50
52:17.7
ARP
Request
who-has
192.168.1.106
tell
192.168.1.1
length
28
53:03.1

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ARP
Request
who-has
192.168.1.103
tell
192.168.1.103
length
50
Using a pivot table will create a nice map of the traffic between hosts and crude measure of how interactive they are between each other. Of course you’ll have to dig into what is going on between hosts.

Count of 192.168.1.1032
Column Labels

Row Labels
192.168.1.1
192.168.1.100
192.168.1.103
192.168.1.106
192.168.1.107
192.168.1.110
169.254.255.255

8
4
192.168.1.1

1
2
3
192.168.1.100
1
15

192.168.1.103

16

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pdanet_keygenrar 192.168.1.106
18

192.168.1.107

3
192.168.1.110

2
In this particular case, the default gateway is 192.168.1.1 and I can see quite quickly that only two hosts are really using the default gateway. Now the question is whom are they talking to? This can be derived from those hosts themselves once again using in this case tools that exist within the native OS, namely netstat. The challenge is of course netstat is a point in time tool. However, given we are trying to map application dependancies I find this tends to be accurate enough. It’s certainly not accurate enough as a forensic tool but in this case accurate enough.

using your approach of choice execute near continuously for a period of time netstat specifying your primary network port(s). This will give you output of the following flavour depending on the OS.

Active Internet connections

Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address Foreign Address (state)

tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.106.50594 yyz06s06-in-f6.1.http CLOSE_WAIT
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.106.64711 17.172.34.30.imaps ESTABLISHED
tcp4 37 0 192.168.1.106.64633 v-client-1b.sjc..https CLOSE_WAIT
tcp4 37 0 192.168.1.106.64632 ec2-184-72-255-2.https CLOSE_WAIT
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.106.64628 st11p01st-courie.https ESTABLISHED
tcp4 37 0 192.168.1.106.64592 a184-28-200-224..https CLOSE_WAIT
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.106.64586 17.172.34.34.imaps ESTABLISHED

This is in essence showing you who this host is talking to in any active way. If it’s generally involved in an inter-application data flow you can be assured it’s dependant data/service sources are going to be listed unless they are extremely infrequently called. If you execute the command repeatedly over a period of time you’ll pretty much capture any recurring connections. Now this will generate a tonne of repeating information for which we are only interested in the unique conversations.

Using awk / gawk depending on the OS and the utility sources above create the awk command file uniq.awk;

/^tcp/ || /^udp/ {

if ( $5 !~ /localhost/ )

if (!($5 in unique)) {

print $5;

unique[$5] = 1;

}

}

if you captured netstat into a simple text file such as;

netstat >> ~/netstat.out.txt (linux)

netstat >> ./netstatout.txt (windows)

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awk -f uniqu.awk netstat.out.txt is going to give you the servers being utilized by this host over the period of time you were capturing the data….

e.g. in a more interactive way;

BLACKHOLE:~ rmcilmoyle$ netstat | awk -f uniq.awk

yyz06s06-in-f6.1.http

17.172.34.30.imaps

v-client-1b.sjc..https

ec2-184-72-255-2.https

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st11p01st-courie.https

a184-28-200-224..https

17.172.34.34.imaps

17.172.34.29.imaps

qy-in-f109.1e100.imaps

lpp01m01-in-f109.imaps

Using these two crude tools I can develop a dependency map for the LAN or LAN segment by host without having to purchase a host of expensive tools. Generally speaking map from the most restricted hosts first, such as a database server and you will quickly derive who’s using it and there will be little need to map individual all the hosts on a LAN segment to establish a fairly reliable inter-dependency map.

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Memory Upgrade, Best $50

Sitting around and trying to figure out what to do on what appears to be a cold fall day I happened to be browsing the web, go figure. When I discovered for a mere $50 I could upgrade my MacBook Pro to 8Gb. Why not? Now when I both this laptop in late 2009, I just couldn’t make head nor tails of spending the hundreds of dollars necessary to get 8Gb of Ram. Even today of the Apple store it will set you back a solid $400.00, but here I am enjoying blazing speed now that I have no page swaps and wonder what the heck $350 at apple would have got me?

I figured no page swaps would be nice but it can’t make that much difference. Wrong again it’s my lion cub just grew a pair of wings. Better than a can of red bull, it will give you wings.

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IOS 5

I’m sure it’s no surprise that I would upgrade as soon as it came available. It’s just one of those things, anything new that your passionate about takes precedence even if it does not make sense. The allure of some 200 new features was just too much. Of course now that I have upgraded I’m having trouble finding 200 updates. Some must surely be hidden or so subtle I wonder why they were considered for inclusion in the counting.

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If there was one thing that is cool its iCloud. I was finally able to clear and delete calendars that just would not go away. Yeah! So 199 features to find. It’s an early Easter egg hunt and I have an empty basket.

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Cloud Security

Just so that no one gets the idea that somehow I’m more qualified than the average IT guy regarding security and/compliance I’m not. That does not mean I’m not outraged by the marketing spam in the wild regarding cloud security. Security as always is in the eyes of the beholder as everyone knows there are only two kinds of sites. Those that know they’ve been hacked or are being hacked and those that don’t yet know they’ve been hacked. It’s really that simple. If someone truly wants in they will get in.
So there are really only two goals; do what anyone would deem reasonable and put in place systems that can quickly alert you when you do get hacked or are being attacked and don’t ignore those.

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Lion in a Phoenix Feathers

Finally had to admit that my trusty upgraded Lion install was not all that it could be. Ok, so maybe, just maybe when Apple built their upgrade scripts they did not expect to upgrade a machine that has had quite so many odd and neat utilities installed and uninstalled and installed again. Ok, I’m a software junkie I admit it.

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There is nothing quite so nerve racking than contemplating wiping, intentionally, your hard disk and starting over again. If it just sort of happens you accept that you might loose some data. When you plan to do it to yourself you find yourself, ok I did wondering if three complete backups using three different methods on three different storage mediums stored in two different locations was ‘safe’. Now the odd thing about Lion is all of these backups can’t be checked by anything but another Lion Mac as being the scardy-cat nerd that I am I encrypt them all using Lion’s built in encryption. Duh… Faith it is then…

I have to report that my new Lion cub is doing well. I’ve turned over a new leaf and promised myself to not install all the utilities that I had before. I’m going to keep this cub on a strict diet. I can’t believe how much fast my Mac Pro is.

Moral of the story, really just re-install once a year. Get over it you’ll be glad you did. Course next time I think I’ll do four backups using for different methods and two different encryption methods stored at four different locations. You never know, right in the middle there could have been a fire at one location, a flood at another and who knows one of the encryption methods could have been corrupt.

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Nearly Gave up on Lion

If there is one thing you almost take for granted while using a Mac is that you’ll never have to re-install the OS. Of course there are always good reasons for doing so, mostly self inflicted, but none the less there are always reasons. Simple day to day use should not be one of them.

Over the last couple weeks my trusty Mac Book Pro was really starting to act up to the point where a reboot, not only daily, but multiple times a day was becoming necessary. Now to my knowledge I had not installed anything new other than updates. Ok, with the exclusion of Lion. I scoured the internet in search of clues and found numerous people with the same complaint and everything pointed to a re-install. Not just a re-install but a gut wrenching double install as Lion is an upgrade of Snow Leopard, or don’t you know. Even though I religiously, if nerdism is a religion unto itself, backup my laptop multiple ways. But the scourge of self-doubt forced me to create not one, not two, but three different types of backups. With tens of thousands of documents authored over the years and a bevy of utilities I can’t even begin to imagine the source of nor the license keys, I needed to be protected.

With a double strength batch of java in hand along with the first of many DVD’s… I chickened out and thought hold on there must be a simpler way. One more pass of the internet, perhaps there is a needle in there I’ve missed. I couple obscure forum entries pointed to clearing all forms of cache files as well as eliminating any PowerPC (non-compatible) applications that may be lingering. So… I backed up the ~/Library/cache directory (two different ways) and purged all the files within. sifted through the applications directory and actually attempted to run each app not only to recall what the heck it was but also to confirm it would still run. Several culprits were discovered and deleted. An extremely long reboot; gosh know’s what the heck it was doing but when it finally booted up my trusty Mac Book was back to it’s old self.

Now I have to confess I don’t know which of the multitude of desperate measures taken actually made the difference but I’m glad to report; “It’s alive”. Actually I’m pretty sure simply clearing the cache was the key measure and certainly it was likely that there was at least one incompatible utility attempting to run that was causing significant grief. One final measure I took was to disable the ‘last accessed’ flag. It’s rather useless honestly and causes a tonne of disk activity which was likely confusing for Time Machine given it’s new personality. Who know’s if you find your self on the edge of the cliff; other than realizing if you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space in this world, a rebuild is almost never actually necessary on a Mac.

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On Being a Widget

If you really want to get the sense that your a corporate widget attend a major tech conference. You’ll be surrounded by a vast number of people that do exactly the same thing you do highlighting just how important it is to find a job where you don’t feel like a replaceable widget when you really are..
VMworld 2011 is just such a show. A herd of lemmings (nerds) all walking about wonder eyed and excited once again about the very thing that was feeling mundane only a couple days before.
I’m enjoying my lemming experience I just hope there are no cliffs about…..

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OSX Lion

I know there are likely a million reviews of OSX Lion and I absolutely had to have it because of all the marketing hype that has had me wake and check literally every day with baited breath like a 9 year old at Christmas. Well, heres the thing. First impression of the 30 dollar spend, love it. What’s the best feature? It seems a whole lot faster, nuff said.

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