Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turning off the Lightspeed LsSaAlerter in OSX

We were having an issue with LsSaAlerter application which is part of the Lightspeed systems Security Agent for OSX.  the LsSaAlter application is responsible for the menu bar icon that shows you the status of the security agent and what it is currently doing.  There is also a shortcut to get to the Lightspeed Preferences Pane by clicking on the menu icon.

There does not appear to be any current way via filtering policies to disable that menu and even if you MANUALLY go into the com.lightspeedsystems.securityagent.plist and set the "Enable Manger" key to false, it resets on next logout/login.

So, to manually force that option we look to Apple's MCX system that we use to manage our laptops via group policy.  Using the Workgroup Manager application, we select the computer group and click on PREFERENCES, then click on the DETAILS tab.  Click the little + symbol at the bottom and find the Lightspeed preference file and load it in making sure you are loading it into the ALWAYS category.  The preference file is found at

/Library/Preferences/com.lightspeedsystems.securityagent.preferences.plist

Once loaded, click on the EDIT symbol (little pencil) next to the + and - buttons, and expand the ALWAYS selection.  Click on each entry and hit DELETE to remove it.  The only entry you wish to remain is "Enable Manager" which should be set to boolean and false.  This allows the other items to still be controlled by the filtering policy.

Now, next time your clients in that computer list refresh their preferences, the menu item will no longer be present.

BTW, this is a good way to force preferences for many third party programs that support PLIST preference files.  Of course, it is good to test, and you may have to use OFTEN or ALWAYS.  Always means that the preference can NOT be changed...OFTEN means it sets the preference on login, and can be changed, but on next login the preferences will be reset to what you want them.

Upgrading from iPhone 2G to 3G.

My wife has an iPhone 2G that we had the Pick Your Plan with unlimited data from AT&T.  She has been wanting to upgrade, but I have not been in love with being locked into a 2 year contract.  She purchased an iPhone 3G from Ebay, and it arrived today.

After reading many MANY conflicting reports on what AT&T supports, workarounds etc etc we did the following...

Fully sync and backup the original iPhone 2G which is fully updated with the latest OS and service provider updates.  We then attached the iPhone 3G to the computer, and when it shows up in iTunes, we right click on the name on the left hand pane of iTunes, and select "Restore from Backup" then choose the backup from your original phone.

Once restored, we did a full sync just to make sure it was all good.  We then shut off the original phone and  removed the SIM card, then turned off the new iPhone 3G and placed the SIM inside.  The phone started right up and worked right away with NO tweaking.  The only thing we needed to do was re-enter any passwords (WI-FI, email passwords etc) and all was well.

So, for the time being.....VIOLA...upgrade from 2G to 3G keeping all SMS messages and configurations.

BTW, this may only have been possible as we had the Pick Your Plan with unlimited data all along with our original iPhone.  It is my understanding that you can no longer purchase the unlimited data for your Pick Your Plan unless on an original iPhone or iPhone 2G.  So, if you can get your hands on an original iPhone and activate it or Pick Your Plan with unlimited Data, you may stand a chance....good luck.  BTW, as I said, there has been many many conflicting reports so you should contact AT&T for the official info.

Next, my daughter has another AT&T phone with Pick Your Plan and Unlimited Data.  We will see about transplanting that SIM into the iPhone 2G and see what happens.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Free Windows Protection Options

It's a known fact that if you are running Windows you should have a working anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed and up to date.  If you purchased your computer 2 years ago, odds are that your anti-virus free subscription to updates is expired.  This means that at some point your anti-virus stopped receiving updates and any virus that is discovered after that point is not known about and therefor you are not protected against.

The other problem is that most of these "catch all" programs eat up processing power from your computer.  So, after trying different solutions, I discovered the following combination that I use. Also, toss in a little common sense.

First, the anti-virus.  AVG makes a great product called AVG Free, now at version 9.0 and available here.  This software is very easy on your system, has daily updates and scanning and best of all...it's FREE.  In addition, another good antivirus choice would be Avast, available here, and now Microsoft has a suite of utilities called Security Essentials available here.

Second, the anti-spyware.  Microsoft not only makes Windows, but they also make a free anti-spyware solution that comes pre-installed on Windows 7, but you can get it here if you have Windows XP or Windows Vista.

If you use these programs, keep them up to date and use some common sense while browsing the internet and installing software, you should be OK.  Just one word of warning, you should choose only one antivirus and anti-spyware program to run at a time.  If you wish to try a different program, uninstall the previous program you have installed.

One last program I use is MRU Blaster which can be had here.  It isn't known if it works on Windows 7, but  it works for all other versions of Windows.  It's primary function is to keep your "Most Recently Used" lists clean..and if you run and configure the software you will see what I mean.  It runs every 15 minutes to cleanse these lists but has 2 additional plug-ins not enabled by default.  First it can clean cookies.  A cookie is a little piece of code that stores things about websites you visit and for the most part are harmless.  Some cookies store your name/password for websites when you tick that little checkbox that states "remember me".  If the cookie is deleted then you must re-enter your name/password when you next visit the site.  This plug-in gives you the ability to keep selected cookies from being deleted and you can usually tell the ones you want to keep by looking at their full name.  If you see a cookie for "yahoo.com" and you know you visit yahoo.com on a regular basis and do not wish to have to re-type your name/password each time, make sure you add this cookie to the exceptions list so it isn't erased.

The second plug-in is more important.  Your computer keeps a temporary directory where it stores all the lovely things that make up web pages, such as graphics and misc. files.  Viruses also live out of this area.  This plug in will clean that directory every time the program does it's thing and can be configured to also do a secure deletion .


Home filtering for OSX

Well, there are many ways to filter your internet connection.  You could setup your own proxy/filter (like Dan's Guardian) solution at home, but I think many parents will not bother (or just plain don't know how) to do it.  The other thing, if you have an unsecured wireless network around (you know...form those pesky neighbors) then your little one can just jump on that network and avoid it.

Some home routers support firewall/filtering rules, but you have to get into the router to set it up and still, the problem you have is if you have unsecured wireless networks around.

Lastly, you can install filtering software on the computer.  This is an option only if you make sure your child is not an admin on the machine.  A problem especially in the Windows world.  But either way, with the child being an Admin, anything can be installed or uninstalled which is a BIIIG problem since kids have a habit of clicking all over the place whenever any type of advertisement or fake warning (you know the type...."Your computer is not running 100%, click here to make it faster") pops up while web browsing....Not to mention the virus threat of transferring files all over the place using IM.  So...what to do?  Sure there are lots of Windows solutions out there...but what about OSX?  Here is one solution that works for both!

Lightspeed Guide is a product of Lightspeed Systems which make a filtering and anti-virus product for Window/OSX/Linux.  They also have a home filtering option for school districts that opt to send laptops home with kids and require to maintain logging and filtering called the LightSpeed Guide.

They offer a free LightSpeed Guide as well which you can get from here.  You log in to their site and create accounts for your children, then you can go and modify the filtering policy using one or more of their over 100 categories, or just choose a preset policy.



You can also force Safe Search on for Google and Micorosft Bing, but beware that this option is not the moderate safe search (regular searching but not able to disable it) but rather the strict safe search, which may be too strict for useful reports for Middle School aged students and above.  You also have the ability to tell the client to block all surfing if the LightSpeed Guide servers are not available.  This could happen for many reasons, but it is a safety measure incase there are any shenanigans happening at the home router attempting to bypass the security.

The Windows version also has a removal password, so even if you are an admin, you can not remove the software without knowing that password.

Last thing, you can do reports, as well as have reports emailed to you on a regular basis.  BUT PLEASE, do not try and thing that any type of filtering product is 100% foolproof.  The best filtering policy is to be open and talk to your children, and just be a parent.  Stay on top of what your children are doing, don't let them lock themselves in their room with a computer and have honest and open talks with them about the dangers that lurk out there (not just the internet).

Lastly...BE A PARENT.  If you know the internet is being abused take the computer away!  Know the capabilities of your home router and see if you can put time  restricting in place for your child's computing devices (don't forget about the iPhone, iPod Touch, Wii or anything else that can be put on your home network).  And if you know your neighbor has an unsecured network, tell them about it too.  they should know the security risk that they are presenting themselves with before something bad happens.  As a prime example, we initially attempted to recover a stolen laptop that reported back to us it's internet address and DNS name.  The police went to the house and were befuddled to find out the people we knew had the laptop was not the family that lived there...well, we eventually found out that they were the neighboring house and were borrowing the unsecured WI-FI.

Just for a point of reference, if you have Verizon FIOS, their included router has the following parental controls...

The box on the left will be populated with the names of the computers on your home network....








Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cross Platform Utilities

Just some items that might help OSX people with working with Windows implementations....

CORD  the open source RDP client which works really well.




VNC clients/server.  I have successfully used TIGHTVNC server and client on Windows.  If you are on an OSX 10.5.x or later workstation VNC is built in by using the GO, CONNECT TO SERVER from the finder, enter vnc://mymachine.domain.com or vnc://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx (put the IP address of the remote machine in place of xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx) and supply your VNC password is needed.  If you are connecting to another OSX machine using this procedure, use the account information you have set-up on the remote client for ARD use (name/password).  Other VNC clients on OSX are Chicken of the VNC, and Jolly's Fast VNC which is part of a more comprehensive OSX utility called ScreenRecycler.

There are some great utilities that deal with cross platform audio/video conversion.  Find my blog entry that talks about these HERE.

If you need to run Windows on OSX you can try virtualization products like VMware, or Parallels or a free product called VirtualBox.  You could also try using Apple's Dual Boot system called BootCamp which allows you to easily use the BootCamp Utility to partition your HD (non destructive) Burn a Driver CD and boot onto Windows Install Media to install Windows just like any other Windows compatible PC...because, well...it IS a Windows compatible PC as far as the hardware under the hood.  Dont forget to put your OSX install CD in after you install Windows, to install the Apple Windows Drivers (just rolls off the mouth don't it)....then use Apple Software update to make sure you have the latest versions.

BTW, do you need to backup your Windows partition, to restore later?  Look no further than WINCLONE.  It allows you to compress, backup and restore the Windows partition to larger HD partitions...you could also use SYSPREP to prepare the Windows partition for installation to other OSX hardware platforms.  It is my understanding, that OSX 10.6 Bootcamp drivers also install a HFS+ driver to allow you to access your OSX HD partition....not sure how I feel about that 8-).  Also, look at rEFIt or BootPicker to assist in the booting process...of course you could always just hold down the OPTION key while booting up your OSX machine to use the built in bootpicker, for simple selection of the partition you wish to boot from (including External HD, CD, DVD, Windows, OSX etc).

If you only need the occasional program, you can try CrossOver, which is the commercial version of the WINE project which allows you to install and run some Windows programs in Linux (and now OSX) without the need to actually install Windows.  It works well for the programs it supports.  I have personally run the Office Suite under CrossOver...and yes...it works.  Here is a shot of IE7 (with flash support (yes YOUTUBE works just fine)) running in CrossOver Professional 8 on my MacBook Pro.




If you need to WRITE to a NTFS formatted HD, you can try MacFuse and its NTFS 3G module.  Of course, OSX has the ability to READ NTFS just fine without any additional software.

I am sure there are MANY more tidbits but these are the items that help me the most in doing my job.

   -Mike