Passwords in password “safes” can still be stolen

Original article:

You can see that centralizing your information in one location that you don’t control (like pen and paper) can have negative side effects. Using a password manager on your computer or network can be safer than an online service because your attack surface area is much smaller (i.e. your computer vs. a public website). On the other hand, using one password for everything is even less secure even without a password manager.

Think about what you’re doing for your passwords.

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How to restart Windows 8 from an Remote Desktop Connection (RDP)

When you use Remote Desktop Connection (RDP) to connect to a computer running Windows 8 you lose the shutdown/restart option to prevent people from accidentally shutting down their computer when they’re not sitting in front of it in case they need it powered back on. You only get the option which allows you to “Disconnect”.

Go to the desktop and press Alt+F4.

You will then be presented with options to:
Sign Out

Choose Restart and then it should restart, give it 5 minutes and you should be able to reconnect.

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LogMeIn Free being discontinued

LogMeIn has announced that they are discontinuing their Free service.  We often set this up for home users that need access to their office computers.  This is what you’ll see if you log into your free account right now:

Dashboard message

Source from LogMeIn: LogMeIn Blog

The first alternative that we set up for people is Teamviewer. This product is free for personal use but you have to buy it for commercial use and the remote access component is also pretty solid when comparing it to the LogMeIn product.

For businesses that need to provide remote access to their systems and data the best solution is to set up a dedicated Terminal Server (Remote Desktop Server) that resides within your office or with your business systems. It provides secure access to your systems without requiring different logins from another provider such as LogMeIn and you remain in control of your data. We can help you evaluate if this is a better solution for your employees and recommend a desktop solution if that’s still the best option.

Contact Us if you want to inquire about Windows Server RDS solution for your business and we can help you simply evaluate that option.

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Recover data from failing hard drives with ddrescue

In some cases when a hard drive starts to fail you can still access most of the hard drive and browse files, etc.  The computer might start up and you might experience system instability or it might start locking up repeatedly.  If any of those symptoms start showing up you should copy your files off of the computer and onto other media and then replace the hard drive.

We had an instance recently on a Windows 7 Pro workstation where a drive started to fail on us but the problem was that there was a 16GB Outlook PST for someone’s archives on it that we needed to salvage.  This was the only file we couldn’t copy off of it.  We decided that we would need to copy as much of the file as we could and then repair it with ScanPST or something similar.  We used DDRESCUE with a Slax 7 Boot USB image to image the failing hard drive (or what could still be read of it) over to another hard drive and at that point we were able to run ScanPST from connecting that drive to another Windows computer.

1. First, you’ll either need to download the Slax 7 .iso and burn to CD or use the instructions to create a bootable USB device.  We used the USB option.  Here’s the download link:

2. Connect another blank hard drive along with the failing hard drive to a host computer.  This is where the copy process will happen so it needs to be left along for a while while this processes.  This doesn’t necessarily have to be the same computer from where you pulled the failing drive.

3. Boot the computer you’re using as the host for the recovery into the Slax operating system from the CD/USB drive.

4. Open up a terminal window.  These are the commands with a screenshot below: (comments are in parentheses on the right and are not part of the command)

  • su (enter admin mode)
  • fdisk – l (that’s a lowercase L and is used to determine which drive is which.  In my example you can see the 1.5TB drive as not having any partitions on it in contrast to the 1.0TB drive).
  • hdparm -I /dev/sda (this will show you the serial numbers of the drive at /dev/sda so you can verify for sure which drive is your target. This is especially critical if both drives are the same size)
  • ddrescue -r 1 /dev/sda /dev/sdb –force (this will copy as much of the drive as possible from my 1.0TB drive to my 1.5TB drive, retrying errors that it finds only 1 time)

5. Pull the drive out and attach it as a secondary drive to another Windows system and try to pull as many files off of it as possible.

ddrescue drive copy commands

ddrescue drive copy commands

In our case, we were then able to run ScanPST on the 16GB file and recover most of the email that was included in the file and it no longer crashes the computer when working with that email archive.

Hope that helps someone somewhere with this idea.


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Sharepoint Config database on SBS 2008 very large

You may notice that these databases become larger than expected on the C:\ drive of a default SBS 2008 installation.  You will have to shrink them to regain the space that the log (.ldf) files are consuming.

Databases that might be affected:


Folder location of these databases that you will see grow in size:

1. Open SQL Management Studio and connect to database instance –  Location:  Start > All Programs > Microsoft SQL Server 2005 > SQL Server Management Studio Express

Server name will be:  “\\.\pipe\mssql$microsoft##ssee\sql\query”    Click Connect.

NOTE: You may receive a login error even if you are logged in as a domain admin.  If that’s the case, close SQL Management Studio and reopen it by right-clicking and running as Administrator.

2. Right click on the database that we need to reclaim space from and click New query. 

3. The query window will appear on the right. Enter the following text:

ALTER DATABASE “SharePoint_Config_type-actual-values-here” SET RECOVERY SIMPLE;

4. Then click the Execute! button

5. Right click the same database > Tasks > Shrink > Files, Change File type to Log, then Click OK.

6. Set the databases back to Full Recovery mode, run this on the same database:


 Repeat steps 2 through 6 for each database that is consuming a large amount of space and then you should see a major difference in space being used.

Posted in Microsoft, SQL Server, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Links not working in Outlook

This seems to be a very common occurrence with many of our customers:

When clicking on a hyperlink in an e-mail, I get this Message : “This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator.”

If you use Outlook 2013 you will get a message like this one:

Your organization’s policies are preventing us from completing this action for you. For more info, please contact your help desk

Follow these steps below for a quick fix.

If you’re using Windows XP:

  1. Close Outlook
  2. Open Internet Explorer.
  3. On the Tools menu, click Internet Options.
  4. Click the Advanced tab, and then click the Reset button.
  5. Under Internet programs, verify that the correct e-mail program is selected.
  6. Click to select the Internet Explorer should check to see whether it is the default browser check box.
  7. Click Apply, and then click OK.

If you receive a message when Internet Explorer starts telling you that IE is not currently your default browser, click Yes to make it your default.

If you’re using Windows 7 or Vista:

  1. Close Outlook
  2. Open Internet Explorer.
  3. On the Tools menu, click Internet Options.
  4. Click the Advanced tab, and then click the Reset button.
  5. On the Programs tab, under Internet programs, click Set Programs, then “Set your Default Programs”, select your e-mail program and click “Set this program as Default”. Repeat for Internet Explorer.
  6. Click OK and close the dialogs.

You need to set Internet Explorer as default and verify the problem is fixed. If you prefer a different browser, you can set it as default later.

If the above doesn’t help you, we will attempt to manually adjust the registry entries to make the necessary changes.

  1. Start, click Run, type Regedit in the Open box, and then click OK.
  2. Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\.html
  3. Right click the value for the .html key and select Modify…
  4. Change the value from “ChromeHTML” to “htmlfile” (or from FireFoxHTML to htmlfile)
  5. Repeat for .htm, shtml, .xht, .xhtml, .xhtm keys

After making these changes, you will need to restart your computer.


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Remote Desktop Connection Basics

A quick overview for using Remote Desktop Connection.

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Microsoft Office Live Small Business Discontinued

Here’s the email as of today:

Office Live Small Business

Office Live Small Business

We want to sincerely thank you for being an Office Live Small Business customer. The service is now discontinued. If you had a domain (also known as a custom web address) hosted on Office Live, your website has been redirected to a “no longer available” page. If you want to continue using this domain, follow the directions that were emailed by Melbourne IT, the Office Live domain registrar. You’ll need to find an alternative web hosting provider, and update the domain record.
If your website has been deleted and you need access to your Office Live Small Business website and email data, read our frequently asked questions to understand your options or contact support immediately.

We invite you to join the thousands of professionals like you who have made the move to Microsoft® Office 365 for professionals and small businesses.

Learn more at


Office Live Small Business Team

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The downside of cloud computing: 4 reasons to think twice

You’ve probably seen tons of articles, editorials, and marketing anecdotes about how great the cloud is; how it can save you tons of money, empower you to do incredible things, free your staff up to do all kinds of important projects, and more. There’s a great deal that is true and accurate in all of those assertions to be sure, even if most of the writing is intended to convince you to buy into the hype. I’m a fan of cloud computing, having bought into it while at two separate companies and working in it now for a cloud services provider.

However, both as a customer twice over and as a consultant helping others move to the cloud, I have seen the other side of the rainbow; I’ve seen where the rain falls and where the reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype, and where you as a customer might be surprised or disappointed.

So for those of you getting ready to make the jump to the cloud, here’s a look at the downside. This is the list of things that don’t make it into the cloud marketer’s PowerPoint deck but that you need to know about if you’re going to buy into the cloud with your eyes wide open:

1. You are no longer in control
This is the hardest thing for most customers to understand. When you move services to the cloud, you are no longer directly in control. It’s a major shift in realities that most IT folks have trouble adapting to; you cannot just log onto a server and see what’s going on. You have to open a ticket just like you were an end user. The business will have even more trouble adjusting to this new reality. When all the services were in house, users could call in a marker, raise a sev A ticket, or even just barge into your cube and yell until you dropped everything and fixed the problem, whatever it was. Now, no matter how much they might yell, or what favours they promise, when something is wrong, you’re all at the mercy of someone else. SLAs will ensure you get acceptable service levels, but consider well the shift that comes from giving up control and relying on someone else.

2. You are not the most important part of anything
Related to the above, consider what happens when the CEO has a problem with an on-premises system. Suddenly everything else is secondary; your boss will roll up his or her sleeves to pitch in, and things can get done. With cloud services, the CEO of your company is no different from the receptionist of another company; they’re both simply users of the service, and both get equal attention. The cloud is the great equalizer — and not in a good way.

3. You can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black
Cloud services typically use the latest and greatest versions of whatever software goes into offering the service. That’s one of the big appeals; you stay evergreen. However, just because they’re running on the 2012 version of X, don’t expect to get every little feature and customisation that X version 2012 offers if you install it on-premises; cloud service providers tend to offer the vanilla, cookie cutter version and only enable the most popular features. If you want obscure feature 57, make sure the cloud service offers that before you sign up.

4. You still need on-premises hardware, and an in-house IT staff
Sure, cloud services mean you may have fewer servers to deal with, and there’s less for your IT staff to do in support of the service, but that absolutely does not mean you can do away with all of your servers and lay off your staff. That’s good news for the IT team but often comes as a shock to the business decision makers who thought the cloud meant they could outsource IT and shut down those costly datacenters. I’ve worked on projects where the customer had to add more servers than they were shutting down to support their side of things, and this came as a huge surprise to them, because they didn’t read the documentation they were provided before the project began.

When you’re considering a cloud service, make sure you read all the fine print, and walk through specific scenarios with the provider before you sign. Ask about service limits and what features you won’t get when compared to doing it yourself. I bet 99 times out of 100 you’ll find any limitations to be acceptable, but you’ll also need to socialize those throughout the business to avoid any surprises down the road.

This is a post from Casper Manes with IT Channel Insight from

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Windows Server 2008 Backup to 3TB Western Digital USB Drives fail

Larger drives can cause Windows Server 2008/Vista/Windows 7 backups to fail because of the 4k Logical Sector Sizes found on certain drives such as the WD 3TB drives.

Here is an overview of the error when trying to use Windows Backup either via the GUI or through scripting backup jobs via wbadmin(which is what I was setting these drives up to do): Western Digital URL: “Error: 0x8078002A occurs when backing up to a 2.5 or 3.0 TB drive in Windows 7 Backup and Restore”

You might also see this when trying to execute the job through wbadmin.exe which can be a little less than helpful:

C:\Windows\system32>wbadmin start backup -backupTarget:Z: -include:G: -quiet
wbadmin 1.0 – Backup command-line tool
(C) Copyright 2004 Microsoft Corp.

Retrieving volume information…

This would backup volume DATA3(G:) to Z:.

Backup to Z: is starting.

Creating the shadow copy of volumes requested for backup.
Creating the shadow copy of volumes requested for backup.
Creating the shadow copy of volumes requested for backup.
Creating the shadow copy of volumes requested for backup.
Running backup of volume DATA3(G:), copied (0%).

Backup stopped before completing.

Summary of backup:
Backup stopped before completing.
One of the backup files could not be created.


You can see if your drive is causing this problem by running this command:

C:\Windows\system32>fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo Z:
NTFS Volume Serial Number : 0xee04cb9204cb5be9
Version : 3.1
Number Sectors : 0x000000002ba9f2ff
Total Clusters : 0x000000002ba9f2ff
Free Clusters : 0x0000000011a8a705
Total Reserved : 0x0000000000000000
Bytes Per Sector : 4096 <---------- This is where it will say 512 instead of 4096 after we format it Bytes Per Cluster : 4096 Bytes Per FileRecord Segment : 4096 Clusters Per FileRecord Segment : 1 Mft Valid Data Length : 0x000000003b080000 Mft Start Lcn : 0x00000000000c0000 Mft2 Start Lcn : 0x0000000015d4f97f Mft Zone Start : 0x0000000014f6ca80 Mft Zone End : 0x0000000014f792a0 RM Identifier: 0BD081C7-0A5F-11E1-A8DE-782BCB29E7A3

To fix this so Windows Backup can use these types of drives, you can download the Western Digital Quick Format utility from this page: —– or you can use this direct download link.

Run the WD Quick Format utility and format the drive using the “Factory Default” or “Universal” option, not the Windows XP Compatible option. After that is complete, it will rename the drive to the next letter in line and then you can rename it under Computer Management to get it to the drive letter that you want. Verify that the settings for the drives have changed:

C:\Windows\system32>fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo Y:
NTFS Volume Serial Number : 0x2494409b944070fa
Version : 3.1
Number Sectors : 0x000000015d4b97de
Total Clusters : 0x000000002ba972fb
Free Clusters : 0x000000001be09c36
Total Reserved : 0x0000000000000000
Bytes Per Sector : 512 <------------ These settings are what you're looking for Bytes Per Cluster : 4096 Bytes Per FileRecord Segment : 1024 Clusters Per FileRecord Segment : 0 Mft Valid Data Length : 0x0000000000010000 Mft Start Lcn : 0x00000000000c0000 Mft2 Start Lcn : 0x0000000015d4b97d Mft Zone Start : 0x00000000000c0000 Mft Zone End : 0x00000000000cc820 RM Identifier: 0BD0818E-0A5F-11E1-A8DE-782BCB29E7A3


After this if you are still having issues, it’s probably not because of this.

Posted in Backup and Recovery, Microsoft, Uncategorized, Windows Server | Tagged | 3 Comments