Archive for the ‘Geekery’ Category.

Cricket Wireless and Google Voice

If you use Cricket Wireless, you may have found, like me, that Cricket Visual Voicemail sucks. Here’s how to change to using Google Voice voicemail.

Step 1: Get free a Google Voice account with a new phone number

Step 2: Set up conditional call forwarding like so:

**004*[your google voice number]#

Step 3: Have someone call you and the call should be answered by your google voice. Rejoice in the non-suckyness!

You can disable this forwarding with #004#

You can read more about conditional call forwarding for GSM phones here

 

 

Why do I say the Cricket Visual Voicemail Android app sucks?

  • I have to push most buttons twice for it to work (sounds crazy? it is!)
  • When I start playing a voicemail, the first 3 seconds play and then it stops. Hitting play (twice) restarts it as long as I’ve waited the magically determined amount of time. It’s crazymaking like having a big piece of lint under one of my keys!
  • It often doesn’t transcribe my messages
  • I’ve had these exact same problems for 3 years and 2 phones

 

Sorry About The Spam

TL;DNR: I was getting 50,000 spam email bounces per day. I enabled SPF, DMARC, and DKIM. I made an email filter at Dreamhost to stop the email forwarding madness from Dreamhost to my Gmail account. Problem solved! (for now)

 

Tens of thousands of people have been getting spam claiming to be from Lee.org. (Update 8-4-18: HUNDREDS of thousands 🙁 ) First, I’m sorry about that! Second, it’s not actually coming from me. Third, I documented below how you too can stop spam from being spoofed from your domain.

I was alerted to this when I got 20,000 email bounces last week from a letter sent in my name. That one started:

From: Mr-Williams <lee@lee dat org>
Subject: Re: Your Outstanding Bill Payment notification
How are you doing today? I am Pleased to inform you that we have made arrangement with bank of America to release your payment sum of $10.3 Million dollars…

I realized that my (geekspeak alert!) SPF record was incomplete. So bad actors were able to pretend to be me and send zillions of spams in my name. I had incorrectly set my SPF record in my DNS to:
TXT v=spf1 include:netblocks.dreamhost.com
but it should have been set to:
TXT v=spf1 include:netblocks.dreamhost.com -all

Without the “-all”, SPF wasn’t working to stop spam in my name!

Here’s what one of the spam email headers looked like:

Authentication-Results: spf=neutral (sender IP is 201.162.82.32 (In Brazil, definitely not from my mail host!!!))
smtp.mailfrom=lee.org; hotmail.com; dkim=none (message not signed)
header.d=none;hotmail.com; dmarc=none action=none header.from=lee.org;
Received-SPF: Neutral (protection.outlook.com: 201.162.82.32 is neither
permitted nor denied by domain of lee.org)

MXToolbox is what keyed me in to what was going wrong. Thanks!

Other good tools are:
http://www.openspf.org/SPF_Record_Syntax
GSuite Toolbox Check MX
mxtoolbox.com
https://mxtoolbox.com/domain/lee.org/
And the whole mxtoolbox site

And thanks to Shehz for the helpful comment!


Update 8-3-18
I also added a DMARC record to my DNS
It’s a TXT record under lee.org that looks like so:
_dmarc TXT v=DMARC1; p=quarantine; ruf=mailto:[myDMARCemailaddress]@lee.org; rua=mailto:[myDMARCemailaddress]@lee.org; sp=n
one; ri=86400

So now email receivers know definitively what to do with spam coming to them from lee.org. And I get a report of when a bounce happens. I initially set p to “none” and got a few correct DMARC reports. Now it’s “quarantine” and in a little while I’ll set it to “reject”.


Update 8-3-18 #2
With DMARC enabled, I’m getting fifteen hundred reports a day telling me that spam “from” lee.org is being blocked. Ugh, sorry world! That tide is stopping now!

I got help with DMARC from these sites:
* https://dmarc.org/
* https://mxtoolbox.com/SuperTool.aspx?action=dmarc%3alee.org&run=toolpage


Update 8-22-18
I averaged 700 DMARC spam reports per day for the last 7 days.

Update 10-19-19 I got rid of the mailto: fields in my DMARC entry. I’m tired of getting kinda-pointless DMARC messages.


Update 10-18-18

Dreamhost shut off my email temporarily twice recently because the quantity of spams being forwarded from my Dreamhost lee.org account to my Gmail account were getting the better of them. Ugh. Here was the suggestion from Toby at Dreamhost:

SPF and DKIM records only help if the receiving server checks them. I would advise not to forward to gmail as this causes server load issues for everyone else on the server if you do run into further problems with this. You can configure your Gmail client to retrieve your email directly from Dreamhost’s server using POP3, and discontinue the use of your forwarder.

You’ll get all the benefits of Google SPAM filter as well, and this will be functionally equivalent to your current configuration. For more information on how to set up the Google side of things, please refer to the following article:

https://help.dreamhost.com/hc/en-us/articles/214870568-How-to-check-your-DreamHost-email-at-Google

Additionally you can setup filtering to filter out these spam message so
they don’t forward nor clog up your email box.

https://help.dreamhost.com/hc/en-us/articles/215030678-Custom-filters-How-to-enable-message-filters-on-an-email-address

I set up POP3 fetching and created some custom filters. I noticed that Gmail fetches about 200 emails per grab and it runs every 5 minutes or so. That means if I’m getting a lot of spam, Gmail won’t be able to keep up with fetching the mail! I just tested this and… OMG I opened the floodgates and started getting 250 email bounced PER MINUTE! It is no freaking wonder why Dreamhost turned off my email forwarding for a while!! Here’s a snapshot of Gmail and Dreamhost failing to keep up with the full force of spam with the spam floodgates wide open.

I deleted my spam folder with 1,500 emails and closed the floodgates by putting some filters in place at Dreamhost. But even 15 minutes later, old spams were still slowly trickling into the spam folder… Looking at the headers, it’s hard to tell if Dreamhost started choking/rate limiting or Gmail was choking/rate limiting.

I turned off POP3 mail fetch and left the mail filters in place. All is well now!

It was as simple as setting Dreamhost Panel | Mail | Message Filters | to “First, delete emails with [bad actor] in the body and then stop.”

Autohotkey Is So Useful

Autohotkey is mind bogglingly useful! Autohotkey is a free, open source Windows program that lets you do simple and complicated scripting with keyboard commands. I’ve been using it since about 2001. I use it a zillion times a day. I couldn’t imagine not having it.

Some things you can do with it:
– Have a second copy-paste clipboard
– Do a “paste” and strip out the formatting
– type often used strings like addresses, phone numbers, and email signatures with just a few strokes.
– make a window on your computer to be always on top of the other windows
– start a favorite program (Chrome, Word, Calc, whatever) with a single keystroke
– Type today’s date with a single keystroke

I’ve set it up to do about 50 commands. If you want to do things on the computer faster and easier, you might want to use it too. Just download Autohotkey and put some of the scripts I have below in your setting file. There’s a bunch of ways to do that, here is a tutorial.

Here is my settings file. Just look at the first line of each script to see what it does.
Continue reading ‘Autohotkey Is So Useful’ »

How to Create the Ultimate USB Key Ring to Solve Any Computer Problem

Here is a super-useful list of programs to help recover friend’s computers
https://www.howtogeek.com/340763/how-to-create-the-ultimate-usb-key-ring-to-solve-any-computer-problem/

Go to HowToGeek.com to view it. The snippet here is for archival purposes… just in case!

 

————————————————–

 

Google Chrome Portable: Because you don’t want to use someone else’s browser, do you? The link above is a modified version of Chrome that launches from any folder, updated with the latest stable release from Google.

Revo Uninstaller: This tool is a fast method for uninstalling applications, like the bloatware that tends to cling around on new machines. It has a few useful extras, like a “Hunter Mode” that can uninstall programs just by pointing at their window—great for that crapware you aren’t sure the name of. Best of all, it can also clean up those annoying leftover directories in places like the main programs folder and the startup menu.

Avira Rescue Systema self-booting drive tool that can clean viruses, malware, and other nasty stuff off of other operating systems. This one will require its own USB drive on your key ring. Make sure to update it periodically with the official freeware tool—instructions for creating your own USB rescue drive are at the link.

CrystalDiskInfo: A tool for checking the health and longevity of hard drives. Handy if you think the storage on a PC is failing.

Speccy: An easy way to quickly see all the technical specifications of a computer, including non-obvious stuff like the number of RAM DIMMs installed and the number of expansion slots used.

Process Explorer: A tool that helps you identify running processes. Handy for identifying running malware and other bad stuff.

AdwCleanerA tool that seeks out and destroys adware—those annoying toolbars and pop-up menus that tend to install themselves when unknowing users download free programs that are bundled with all kinds of mildly malicious advertising. The program is a self-contained executable you can launch from a USB drive.

Peerblock: A tool for creating a quick firewall, selectively blocking incoming and outgoing traffic.

MBRtool: This isn’t a standalone app, but a bootable tool that requires its own flash drive. Once you create it, you can pop the drive into any PC and boot from it to repair the master boot record, one of the most common causes of an OS boot failure.

HWMonitor: An easy way to inspect all kinds of esoteric hardware and settings that aren’t normally visible in Windows, like all of the temperature and fan sensors on the motherboard. Especially handy if you’re tuning a “Gaming” or performance PC.

Wireless Network Watcher: This program can show you all of the devices connected to your local network, including their IP addresses and MAC addresses. Very useful if something is giving you network issues, or you suspect someone’s on the network when they shouldn’t be.

WinDirStat: a disk analyzer and cleaner. Good for quickly finding big and unneeded files to free up space if your friend’s hard drive is getting full. If you prefer a more graphical layout, SpaceSniffer is a good alternative (or addition).

NirSoft password recovery tools: this collection of programs is designed to recover usernames and passwords if no easy recovery option is available, like resetting via email. The various tools work on web browsers, wireless networks, Windows Protected Networks, and even remote desktop tools.

Hiren’s Boot CD: an all-in-one package that includes a ton of tools for repairing and optimizing computers, all squeezed into a self-booting CD file. Don’t let the title fool you, you can run it from a dedicated USB drive as well. (Note: this actually contains a number of the tools we’ve included in this guide, plus a lot more—but having your own versions of the tools on a non-bootable drive makes things a little easier, so we included them in this list anyway.)

ProduKey: another Nirsoft tool. This one helps you find Windows and other registration keys, in case you’re unable to verify someone’s legitimate copy, even from other PCs on the local network. It’s a portable, all-in one application, but using its advanced functions requires a bit of command line use.

ShellExView: for cleaning all of that crap off the Windows right-click menu after you’ve gotten rid of the programs your friends shouldn’t have downloaded.

BlueScreenView: this very useful tool will show you the results and minidump files behind the machines latest blue screen (of death) crashes. Much better than reaching for your phone camera in the five seconds the screen is up.

The Official Windows Recovery Drive: Lastly, don’t forget that you can also create a USB recovery drive from within Windows—and if you frequently find yourself repairing someone’s PC, it might be a good idea to do that once you’ve fixed their problem and gotten the computer into a working state. This will require its own flash drive.

Antivirus and Backups

A friend just asked, “Trying to do better with my computer. Just installed AVG for Mac and ran it. Is this a sufficient solution in terms of protecting from and eliminating malware? I’m all about easy. Thoughts?”

Here is my long winded answer:

I use Windows and all of my antivirus software is between my ears. If a website asks “Do you want to download or install xxxxx?” I think very long and hard about the people behind that request and what they have to lose. For example, Facebook won’t (overtly) screw you, they have too much to lose. But do you know who is behind the GetFreeStuffForFree! browser plugin?

Figuring out the business model of the company you are considering trusting is a good idea. Be very suspicious If the company looks to be giving everything away with nothing in return. They are getting something, or they wouldn’t be doing it.

Yes, AVG is a good idea. I also run the virus software that comes with Windows, Windows Defender.

You definitely should have your computer back up automatically online. Do this for a few reasons:
– your hard drive will fail some day, that is a certainty. Here’s an article I wrote in 2012 making that plea in more detail: https://www.lee.org/blog/2012/03/30/i-love-you-please-make-offsite-backups/
– If (when??) your computer does get hacked by some malware, a backup will save the day!
– If your computer is stolen or destroyed, a backup will save the day!
– Once you set it up, it’s automatic and EASY!

“But I don’t want to put my data online”

I hear that Time Machine is “the” app for local backups on Apple. If you don’t feel comfortable putting your files online, you can still get a lot of protection. I’ve recommended this in the past: Find 2 external drives (they cost <$80 at Staples) and a friend. Use Time Machine to back up your computer to the hard drive. Be sure to encrypt the backup (it's easy, see here: http://www.mactrast.com/2013/07/how-to-public-how-to-encrypt-time-machine-backups-with-os-x/). Give your friend the backup to keep in the back of their junk drawer. In 6 months, make another backup and trade hard drives with your friend. Can strangers break into your encrypted hard drive? If you use a 12 character or longer password (try the title of your 2 favorite songs or something similar), no. I couldn't find specific security information online about Time Machine but encryption with a long password is very secure. Harkening back to my last comment, Apple would have a LOT to lose if their encryption wasn't good. Oh and here's a funny/good password guide: https://xkcd.com/936/

Pin to Start in Windows 10

You can pin a shortcut to the Start menu in Windows 10. Note that you can’t pin a document itself to the start menu, just a shortcut to it.

Here’s how:

To add Pin to Start to the context menu for a file, you will have to modify the Windows Registry. But first, create a system restore point!

Now, to add Pin to Start easily, copy-paste the following in a Notepad and save it as a .reg file:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

; Created by TheWindowsClub [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers\PinToStartScreen] @=”{470C0EBD-5D73-4d58-9CED-E91E22E23282}”

Now click on the .reg file to add its contents to your registry. You will be asked for confirmation, so you may click Yes, to add it.

 

Thanks to http://www.thewindowsclub.com/pin-file-to-start-menu-windows-10  and https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_10-start/pin-to-start-any-file-windows-10-pro/acb769bc-e5d9-4be9-8a76-0aff7cdab6c8?auth=1