Trouble browsing the web?

I recently helped out a guildie with a strange problem.  He couldn’t browse the web using Internet Explorer, nor play WoW, but he could log into Vent just fine.  My first thought was that he got a virus that prevented browsing and started giving him suggestions on how to clean his system and recommending borrowing a friend’s computer to facilitate it.  While giving out this advice, it struck me to try one more thing before writing this off as a malicious virus (which is usually the case when something like this occurs, sadly).

I quickly opened a CLI box and did a quick ping on to find out it’s IP address.  I then relayed that address over Vent and had him type it into the browser address box.  Up came Google for him!  What did this tell me?  It told me that his computer was NOT infected with a virus (thankfully!) and that his ISP’s Domain Name Servers (DNS) went offline which meant he was trying to browse the internet blind (meaning he could only use IPs and not their friendly names).   Luckily, there are public DNS that can be used, but the process to tell your computer to use them is anything but easy.  I figured it would be a good idea to put a few resources together to help others out in such a situation, if not directly, at least a friend can help them out by having this information at hand.  I walked him through setting up his computer to use Google’s public DNS and afterwards he was able to surf the web and play WoW as if nothing was wrong.  Woot!

Google runs a public DNS on:

OpenDNS also runs public DNS and seems a bit more responsive:

Now for the hard part… instructions on how to tell your network connection to use these public servers rather than whatever your ISP gave you.  Thankfully, OpenDNS has some very good instructions with images to help you with each OS.

Configure MS Win7

Configure MS Vista

Configure Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard)

Configure Max OS X 10.4 (Tiger)

Other OS instructions can be found here.

Props go out to OpenDNS for both supplying public servers and some very handy instructions for setting up your system to use them.

Safer Browsing

One of the problems with using the Internet is the vast amount of security issues encountered that can lead to getting your PC infected with all kinds of nastiness.  Some so bad that you need to wipe the PC clean and start over from scratch.

Some people tend to get infected a lot, while others rarely ever get an infection.  What’s the difference between them?  I think it’s a combination of the tools used as well as the habits employed.  I have rarely gotten infected and I would like to share some of my tools and habits so that others may benefit.

The tools I use to keep my system safe are actually a pretty light on the Anti-Virus side of things.  My main system runs MS Vista Home Ultimate (I hate it, will change eventually, but I’m stuck with it for now) and I keep it’s built in firewall up at all times.  I do not run the Security Manager, however.  I use Clamwin as my anti-virus software for two very important reasons.

  1. it does not constantly run in the background which would slow everything down
  2. it is free for personal and business use.

What this means is that I do not actually have an Anti-Virus constantly running on my system trying to protect me from harm.  I find this shows just how effective those products are while at the same time highlights the effectiveness of my browser tools and habits.

My browser of choice is Firefox with three extensions that I consider vital to safe browsing.

  1. Flashblock – blocks Flash from automatically playing on page load
  2. NoScript – blocks scripts from automatically running on page load
  3. Blitzbleiter (recently added) – blocks Flash from running if not 100% Flash compliant

When I visit a website I do not trust, I get a lot of content blocked automatically.  This may result in some ugly pages if they rely heavily on Flash content and/or scripting.  The nice part about NoScript is that you get to choose exactly which domain you will allow to run for any particular page.  For example, on Twilight’s own site, you get the choice of allowing,, and to run their scripts.  You can choose to only allow so that menus will work while denying anything else to run since you may not trust it.  This is quite handy, for example, in forbidding the ad network from running scripts while allowing the site using the ad service to function.

How do I know whom to trust?  That is a very good question.  Experience and searching for site reviews are useful tools.  Doesn’t this kind of distrust slow you down?  Yes, and no.  While individual site browsing is hampered a bit, I find that avoiding a system reinstall is worth it in the long run.

By the way, if you want a direct link to download the most recent Adobe Flash installer without the ‘download manager’ crapware which also tries to install ‘free <insert-latest-CrapWare-I-don’t-want>’, here you go:

Hoping for a safer browsing future for everyone!  Take care!

Wacky Industry Jargon

I have been in the job market for a while now and I have talked with numerous recruiters and HR personnel.  Many times their accent to too thick to understand or they pronounce acronyms incorrectly, but I ran into one recruiter email today which made me laugh heartily for a few minutes.

Excellent problem-solving and coding skills

Good understanding of POOP (Principles of Object Oriented Programming) and coding best-practices, e.g. unit testing, reusability, refactoring, etc.

Experience with database development and design, both with RDBMSes and NoSQL solutions

Familiarity with web application architecture and deployment

I didn’t realize that some of what I learned in college was literally “crap”.

Bootable USB Flash Drive

I recently had the need to install an OS onto a netbook that doesn’t have a CD drive.  How does one get a bootable USB flash drive?  I have a laptop with a DVD drive so that I can take a CD and copy it to a USB flash drive, but just copying the contents won’t make it bootable so that you can install an OS. I spent a few days researching the subject and after numerous trials, I found two solutions worthy of mention.

For Linux ISOs, I found UNetbootin to be extremely easy to use and works quite well.   I would use this solution even if a CD drive was available since this means I would not have to burn a CD/DVD and could just (re)use one of the many flash drives I have lying around ($12, 4GB drives ftw).

For Windows, specifically WinXP although it also works with Vista and a few others, I highly recommend USB_MultiBoot_10.  It was the only series of programs that would reliably copy a CD onto a USB flash drive and make it bootable.  It was more complex than using UNetbootin, but I suppose that cannot be helped.  At least it worked!  This would even allow you to set up things for unattended installs which is very handy!