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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Netvibes - The coolest Web Startpage Ever

Ever since Google launched its personalize homepage service, iGoogle, I was a loyal user. As of today, no more. I had researched other startpage services in the past, but had never seriously considered switching. And iGoogle was just so familiar that I never realized its limitations.

After reading up on the Wikipedia entry for Netvibes, as well as perusing a CNET review, I decided to take the plunge. Creating an account was easy, requiring just an email and password - no confirmation email required. I was presented with a fairly sparse page, but one of Netvibe's cool features is its page wizard which automatically sets up a few recommended feeds and widgets depending on the interests you select. iGoogle definitely lacks this.

Of course, the personalizable startpage is exactly that - customizable. I found that Netvibes has a huge library of widgets, much larger than that of iGoogle. The OPML import/export functions were invaluable as I decided to import all my FeedDemon subscriptions. Another iGoogle oversight.

Some of my favorite Netvibes widgets are Gmail and Facebook. The Gmail widget is awesome in that you can make as many as you need to check on multiple accounts. Try that with iGoogle! The Facebook widget lets you check on your own and friends' statuses.

Netvibes also has support for themes, wallpapers, and custom colors. It doesn't look like their theme library is as large as iGoogle's, but as a practical person I found a nice silver theme that looks great with the text.

I was quite satisfied after dragging-and-dropping everything into a good position. I noticed that Netvibes shows the number of unread items in each feed's title. Again, another thing that iGoogle lacks. Very cool indeed.

My old iGoogle page:


My new Netvibes page:


If you are looking to spice up your homepage, I highly suggest giving Netvibes a try.

Friday, May 30, 2008

FeedDemon Thinstall Now Available

For you all newsfreaks out there, I have built a Thinstall portable version of the popular FeedDemon newsreader program. Weighing in at just over 5MB, this should be a nice addition to any USB drive. Check it out over at my SkyDrive Portable Apps folder!

Download Link

Monday, May 26, 2008

Firefox 3 RC1 Thinstall Portable Available

I've made available a Thinstall portable app package for Firefox 3.0 RC1. As with my Firefox 2 release, this one also includes a pre-installed Flash as well as optimizations and tweaks suitable for portable use. Enjoy...

Download here.

New Laptop!

Got a new laptop today, an Acer Extensa 5620. The specs:
  • Intel Centrino (Santa Rosa)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T5550 @ 1.83 GHz
  • 3GB (2+1) DDR2-667 RAM
  • 160GB SATA HDD
  • GMA X3100
  • Broadcom 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
  • Intel 3945 abg wireless
  • DVDRW DL burner
  • 15.4" glossy widescreen
  • webcam
  • Windows Vista Home Premium SP1

As I hate Vista with a passion, the first thing I did was to put a fresh copy of Fedora 9 Linux and Windows XP Pro SP3 on it instead. I'm sure the gigabit ethernet will come in handy someday...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New: Portable Apps by Whitehat!

I've opened up a new project - My own Portable Applications (permanently linked under "My Projects" in the sidebar). The goal is to provide USB-ready, run-anywhere packages for common applications. This might sound awfully similar to PortableApps; while my goal is similar, I aim to provide closed-source proprietary apps as well as purely open-source ones. In fact, I will be creating some unique spins using Thinstall to pack even large, complex apps.

Currently, only one app is available - Mozilla Firefox I was getting a little irked by the slowness of the PortableApps version of Firefox, so I decided to create a Thinstall version to see if it would be faster. And I'm happy to say it is. After the first-time load, it seems much snappier. My custom build also has the latest Flash Player (9.0.124) pre-installed for added convenience. For more information, look at the readme inside the download.

All downloads will be provided in self-extracting EXE format. Over time I plan to add several more apps, including Firefox 3 and Google Earth. If you have any good ideas for portable software, drop me a line (must be freeware or shareware).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

DD-WRT v24 router firmware released!

DD-WRT Website

An all-new version of DD-WRT, a popular and powerful Linux-based router firmware package supporting many devices, is now available. Grab v24 at the link above.

According to the author, new features include support for Atheros SOC chips, Ubiquiti-brand routers, virtual SSIDs and virtual DHCP, enhanced PPTP-via-WAN, improved QoS, and much more.

I'm more of a Tomato person myself, but for those of you with brand-new routers (such as the new Linksys N models), DD-WRT is well worth a try.

PWNED: Whitehat pwns a Blackhat

Today in my AP Psych class, a group was giving a Powerpoint presentation...or trying to, at least. The teacher's computer was running REALLY slowly - clicks took several seconds to get a response, and PowerPoint didn't run smoothly at all.

Well, the usual cause is some defunct program that is hogging memory. I opened up Task Manager, not sure what to expect. Under the Processes tab there were several odd programs running - RAR.EXE, BLAT.EXE, SBS.EXE, stunnel, etc. After several seconds I realized that I was looking at a live USB Switchblade/Hacksaw. In principle, this is similar to my ZBLADE2 project (though obviously not as elegant). Rebooting into safe mode and running msconfig, I found that there was a rogue entry named "SBS" in startup, pointing to a folder C:\WINDOWS\$NtUninstall931337$. This was set up to disguise the Hacksaw inside a bogus Windows Update folder.

Navigating to this folder, I found a gold mine of stuff. This was a classic Hacksaw setup - an SBS.EXE to dump the victim's files, RAR to archive them, stunnel to set up a secure Gmail connection, and blat to email the huge honkin' RAR file via SMTP. Of course, none of this would work without something to tie it all together - this was where send.bat came in, in typical script-kiddy fashion. Inside send.bat was the code to run everything, but even more importantly, the attacker's Gmail username and password.

Now, any person with half an ounce of common sense would probably not attempt to run such an operation on a teacher's computer, let alone do it at all. In any case a newly created fake email account would be the way to go. Unfortunately for this person, the Hacksaw-linked account was a perfectly real account, complete with names. This was the point where the wannabe h4xx0r got pwned. After IT was notified, I made sure all the incriminating evidence was laid out on the screen nice and big for everyone to see.

Ironically, the whole Hacksaw setup never worked because of the simple fact that the school blocks SMTP port 465. Were it not for the very idiotic decision to use a real email account, the investigative process would have been much more difficult. And boy, are people now investigating: after school I saw the principal, who along with a couple of IT guys, were crawling over the infected computer. The perp will remain unnamed for now.

Obviously, this noob h4xx0r botched up this n00bish op quite badly, and it looks he will get pwned a second time by the school administration.

Lesson of the day: Don't learn to hack, hack to learn.

Whitehat > Blackhat!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Whitehat's List of Top Windows Apps, May 2008

There are so many excellent programs for the Windows platform worthy of coverage. Continuing from last month, we have a roundup of apps in several other categories:

BitTorrent client: ĀµTorrent

There are a myriad of torrent apps out there, for an equally large myriad of OSes, but uTorrent hands-down takes the cake for Best BitTorrent client. Hardcore torrenters like me can't stop raving about its efficiency and modest memory usage. The fact that so many options can be packed in such a tiny program (214 KB!) never ceases to amaze me. Protocol encryption, UPnP, scheduling, IP filtering, you name it - uTorrent packs it all inside its tiny frame. The simple, uncluttered interface is a relief from the bulk of heavier clients like Azureus.

Media player: Media Player Classic (MPC) (patched build)

Don't let its retro Windows 98-era GUI turn you off. Underneath those gray, utilitarian buttons lies a fully modern and capable media player, capable of handling just about any audio/video format you throw at it (with a little help from ffdshow or a codec pack, of course). MPC comes as a small EXE and is capable of saving its settings to an INI file, making it USB/portable-friendly. MPC is also included with the K-Lite Codec Pack. Also check out MPC Homecinema, a forked build that includes even niftier features such as built-in decoders.

PDF Reader: Foxit Reader

Adobe might have originated the PDF format, but quite ironically, they SUCK at making a reader to go with it. That's where Foxit steps in. This third-party company's free Reader is leaps ahead of Adobe when it comes to size, speed, and efficiency (the program is distributed as a single EXE). Unless you're handling intricately formatted PDFs with forms and whatnot, Foxit Reader will do the job much faster.

CD/DVD Burner: ImgBurn

There are literally dozens (hundreds?) of CD and DVD burning tools, ranging from heavy do-it-all apps like Nero to smaller me-too programs like UltraISO, MagicISO, and PowerISO. However, ImgBurn is free, and it takes care of many common basic tasks such as burning files to a CD, making an image of a disc, and disc-to-disc copying. According to the other, it supports Blu-ray and HD-DVD as well.

File archiver: WinRAR

Although WinRAR is shareware and there are many other similar programs available, WinRAR cannot be beat for its combination of file format support and reliability. It supports many advanced features such as recovery records, Unicode, and AES encryption. Unlike many other archiving apps, WinRAR's self-extractor (SFX) creator is both easy to use and highly customizable. As RAR is a proprietary format, WinRAR stands as the only program capable of creating RAR files.

Stay tuned for more app roundups!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mozilla Firefox 3 RC1 Now Available!

Mozilla Firefox 3 Release Candidate Release Notes

For all you adventurous types out there, Firefox 3 Release Candidate 1 is now out. Needless to say, the next-gen release is in its final stages. As of this post PortableApps does not have a portable build of this latest spin yet, so you can grab a copy from the Mozilla website. Be warned, though, that by default it will use your Firefox 2 profile. If you want to stay really safe a profile backup would be in order.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Video: Hillary's Downfall

YouTube - Hillary's Downfall

Man, oh absolutely beautiful dub job.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Anti-Drug Dog Parody

Anti-Drug Dog - CollegeHumor video


Fedora 9 Linux Officially Released!

Fedora Project

The Fedora Project has officially released their latest distro, Fedora 9. Features include:
  • 2.6.25 kernel
  • Gnome 2.22
  • KDE 4.0.3 (yes, KDE4!!!)
  • Xfce 4.4.2
  • Firefox 3 beta 5
  • LiveCD and persistent LiveUSB support
  • next-gen EXT4 FS support
  • TeXLive now replaces the deprecated TeTeX
  • improved yum performance (as always...)
  • new NetworkManager 0.7 that supports 3G cellular devices
  • automatic kernel crash reporting
And much, much, more, to be sure. I will be downloading F9 soon and will do a detailed review then.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Howto: Quick Thinstall Tutorial with Firefox

Thinstall is a great tool for creating lean and mean portable USB-ready apps out of huge monsters such as Office 2007 and Photoshop. It can turn even the biggest install into something that can fit on and run directly from limited storage media such as USB.
Creating a portable app is quite simple - just use the included Setup Capture tool to intuitively create a before-and-after snapshot. As my Firefox video example below demonstrates, it's so easy, even a caveman can do it!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

AP Tests: What to do When You Have Extra Time

Checked all your answers, done with the entire test but still have extra time? Consider the following (I WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR LOWER SCORES):

  1. Write "THIS IS SPARTA!!!" in the middle of an essay. Then cross it out just enough so it's still visible.
  2. Draw random stuff...people, places, things.
  3. Calc: make a noose complete with hanging person out of an integral
  4. Tape money inside your booklet and write, "Got change for a 5?"
  5. US History: write crazy revisionist stuff. Claim that Mormons view ejaculation as a sin or something (no offense intended, Mormons!)
  6. If you're taking AP Spanish, write "Hay una fiesta en mis pantalones" (There is a party in my pants)
  7. Write a letter to the College Board and complain about the wasted, extra time. Then tell them to shorten the exam for next year.
  8. Put "r u ready fur me, Harvard?!" at the end of your essay
  9. write curses in a foreign language
  10. diss Scientology (I know someone who got a 5 for doing this on English Language!)
  11. draw crude stick figures making out
  12. sketch male/female genitalia (not recommended)
  13. quote soundbites from [insert favorite popular TV show here]
  14. write "I'm the juggernaut, BITCH!"
  15. For AP Computer Sci: draw pictures in ASCII
  16. For all foreign language tests: make animal noises for the oral
  17. Bio: write "I wish I could be helicase so I could unzip your jeans"
  18. diss the College Board
  19. trace your hand
  20. draw a lolcat

Thursday, May 8, 2008

uTorrent IPFilter Updater

For all you hardcore uTorrenters out there, here's a little goodie I made for you - the uTorrent Filter Updater. Sounds fancy, but in reality it's nothing more than a batch file, gunzip, and wget cobbled together by a nice, shiny, noob-friendly WinRAR self-extractor.

As you may or may not know, uTorrent can do IPFiltering using data in an ipfilter.dat file. This potentially means getting the MPAA/RIAA off your back when you are in the middle of...unsavory activities. The updater uses the weekly-updated list from BISS/Bluetack. I was really getting tired of manually visiting the site and downloading, so why not do it the lazy/nerdy way and automate the damn process?

Once you've downloaded it just extract to the location of your choice, navigate to the new folder and run update.cmd (yeah, I know it's a shitty batch script but it definitely gets the job done). Any old ipfilter.dat file you have will be automagically replaced.

Screenshot of the Updater in action:


For download links and more info, check out

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hands-On Tech: University of Michigan CAEN

I had the opportunity today to stop by the CAEN library at the University of Michigan. Boy, is the technology impressive. The whole place seems wired. Students abound with laptops and are pampered with Wi-Fi and widescreen monitor hookups, and for those without their own computers, the desktop machines are the awesomest I've seen for a public lab.
We're talking the Dell Optiplex 745, armed with Core 2 Duo E6400 processors, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, GigE, Radeon X1300 Pros...the works. The IT dudes are obviously smart people (they know to run XP instead of Vista, after all!) The software loadout consists of some heavy stuff - Matlab, literally DOZENS of CAD/MCAD applications such as Autodesk, and Carsim, as well as stat software including S-PLUS 7.0 and R.
There is also an amazing selection of multmedia apps like Maya, Photoshop CS3, Premiere Pro, 3dsmax 9, Dreamweaver, Flash, etc. For us Linux geeks out there, there's Cygwin. Firefox lovers are covered with version 2. All in all, a very impressive loadout - just think of how much the licensing for all these apps must cost!

The whole place has a nice modern feel which is obviously well supported by all this technology. My geekiness feels challenged now :(

This is definitely a serious, high-powered place for students of similar quality. I am quite impressed.

Monday, May 5, 2008

10 Insulting Words You Should Know

Neatorama | Blog Archive | 10 Insulting Words You Should Know

Enjoy this 10-word crash course in wit...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Blu-Ray Definitely coming for XBOX 360

XBOX 360 Finally Getting Blu-ray - Tom's Hardware

Well, it looks like the rumors are now confirmed:

"After months of rumors and denials, the XBOX 360 with a Blu-ray disc drive is due to be manufactured soon and shipped in Q3 of 2008. Pegatron Technology, an OEM subsidiary of Asustek Computer, is reported to have received the winning order from Microsoft for a Blu-ray equipped XBOX 360."

Now with the HD-DVD/Blu-ray format war concluded, things are going to start shaping up for a console war: PS3 v. the 360. With the new next-gen format supported on both systems, the 360 will start facing competition as developer and consumer interest in the PS3 rises. But then, this development might only cement Microsoft's lead over the 360...only time will tell.