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The Actuator - January 11th

Level 17

Had a great trip to Austin last week for the filming of the 50th episode of SolarWinds Lab. It's always great to see my team amd everyone else in the office. Being able to collaborate on ideas in person is a nice change of pace for remote workers such as myself. The only downside to last week was the fact that Austin was cold! Hey Texas, I visit you to get away from the cold, not to be reminded of it! Let's hope for warmer weather next week.

Anyway, here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting. Enjoy!

Rumors of Cmd’s death have been greatly exaggerated

I think it is great to see Microsoft, and companies in general, finally take a stand to respond to such tactics. There is a lot of noise on the internet and in order to stand out, people will resort to "turning lies into page views" as a career choice. It's about time we all learn to recognize the trolls for what they are.

FTC filed a lawsuit against D-Link over failure to secure its IoT devices

Finally, we see someone take action against the manufacturers of insecure devices. Here's hoping we see similar actions taken against applications that are built insecure, too.

Bank robber reveals identity – by using his debit card during crime

I know, I know... if he was smart, he wouldn't be robbing a bank. But this is a special kind of dumb, IMO.

Copycat Hackers Are Holding More Than 1,000 Databases for Ransom

Because I thought it was time to remind you of two things: (1) don't pay the ransom and (2) don't use default security options for an internet-facing database.

The Real Name Fallacy

Interesting study here, revealing that people are just as apt to be jerks online even when using their real names. Oh, yes, this makes sense. See above about the folks that aren't afraid to lie and use FUD in exchange for page views.

MIT Researchers: 2016 Didn’t Have More Famous Deaths Than Usual

Around mid-December, I was curious about this exact thing: are there more celebrity deaths than previous years, or are more just being reported? Similar to shark attacks being perceived as "on the rise" when it was just the reporting of them that had risen.

The center of North America is a town called Center, and it's totally a coincidence. Really.

Funny how sometimes things just work out like this, intended or not.

The view from my office for much of the next few weeks:


Level 20

Woohoo Nice office!  Maybe you'll start getting upgrades to first class!


the Windows CLI being more of a shell environment is better than it was.  While you don't have many native choices other than powershell or a variant of the original command prompt, maybe someday there will be a c shell or Korn shell equivalent.

D-link...well I think they earned that one. 

The debit card robber, well you can't fix stupid....

That's what travelhacking is for You can upgrade yourself to first class for basically $0, it's how I travel most of the time (also for $0).

The FTC action is interesting to me because Bruce Schneier ( was talking about how the only option for insecure software due to manufacture negligence may be holding the mfr's feet to the fire.

CMD is NOT dead:

                The paragraph that states that “[PowerShell] replaces Command Prompt (aka, “cmd.exe”) in the WIN + X menu, in File Explorer’s File menu", does not say “[PowerShell] replaces Command Prompt“.  Folks are just inferring there's an association and intent--and they are incorrect.

D-Link's irresponsible actions

                D-Link did what was easy, not what was right (a.k.a.: "secure").  And everyone pays for it in lost information, identity theft, wasted bandwidth, etc.  It's what companies do when there's no good
ethics, when there's no oversight of their work, when they believe they're working in a vacuum, and when short-term profit is made the most important goal.

The Criminal Mind (or lack thereof)

                Sometimes I think criminals don't want to be free--they can't handle the stress and expectation to live and work hard in honest fashion, and they may not be able to get appreciated jobs due to their criminal record.  Therefore, it seems, they might be committing simple crimes with the expectation of being sent back to prison, where they know how to survive.

Or they could be less intelligent than the majority of us.

It might be they believe they're SMARTER than the rest of us, because while they're in prison, we're paying for their room & board & training & clothing & medical bills . . .

Bad folks being bad--because it's easy

                OK, who doesn't know they're supposed to secure their databases and Internet connections?  Worse, who doesn't know to verify a claim that your database is being held ransom--BEFORE paying the ransom?

Naming people to expose Internet jerks

                This article appears to suggest that exposing real-names of Internet users would not reduce cyber-bullying, trolling, or worse.  And that exposing everyone's names would result in more bullying and anti-social behavior.  I can see some justification there--if everyone knew who Deep Throat was in the Watergate days, maybe whistle-blower Mark Felt would not have released information about some of the worst violations of presidential power every--out of fear of reprisal.  He was protected by his anonymity.

                And the 90-pound-weakling in school would have their life made even more miserable when bullies learn that person's online identities and bully them more there.

                For me, I hope to maintain a positive reputation, and keep it associated with my name.  And if/when I comment on something I suspect is a tender topic, I tend to rethink it and not comment. 

Or . . . not expose my real name, in hopes that I might get others to start thinking about the bad topic, and not about me.

                You might be able to draw a parallel between bad highway drivers and bad Internet folks.  Being in a car is relatively anonymous, and poor behavior on the roads is possibly tolerated more than it would be in the grocery store line due to that anonymity--there's no face & name to the bad driver.  If you were at the grocery store, and actually knew the person cutting in front of you in line, you'd call them out, or spread the word about their reputation that they'd have to deal with.  That's less simple if you don't know their name, but only know their face.

                On the highway, they're just another vehicle, but with the ability to vent road rage on anyone operating a vehicle lawfully.  And their vehicle becomes a potential weapon. 

                It's ugly.
Don't be bad to anyone, anytime, because that's what's right.  Don't even worry that what goes around comes around.  Just don't be a bad example for others (especially for your children) to see and follow, because that prevents the improvement of humanity.

How 2016 was no different in famous deaths than other years

                Not a lot of strong content in this one; just some links to others' work.  Let's leave it and say that some of the high-visibility people who died had impact on lots of other people.  And that movies, TV, magazines, and the Internet all brought those peoples' lives closer into our own over time.  If we compared how many people were impacted, and the way they were impacted, when Einstein died, to how many people enjoyed the work of Gary Marshall and were impacted when they associated his death with their favorite TV shows of the '70's and '80's--what would we learn?

The "Center" of it all

                Let's not waste bits or milliseconds on this.  We learned it wasn't the Earth that was the center of the Universe, nor the Sun, and that the center of North America doesn't matter for much of anything.  Being there only means you're surrounded by land and people.

Level 20

With the new Windows 10 update a full complete bash shell and ubuntu is being added to Windows:

​How to get started with Ubuntu and Bash on Windows 10 | ZDNet

Some fun power added there.

Also, Cmd != MS-DOS!

ha ha ha

Naming people to expose Internet jerks

There have been a number of articles, this being the most recent that confirms that requiring real name actually increases trolling and reduces quality. Here's one from August: Study: Trolls Are Even Worse When Using Real Names | Techdirt . It also poses A *real* risk, because if someone else is crazy they can find you. Just like your deep throat reference, that's been shown even in 2011 here: What's In A Name: The Importance Of Pseudonymity & The Dangers Of Requiring 'Real Names' | Techdirt  (reminder: this issue isn't new).

This also adds up to why facebook tends to be quite awful for most social interaction in addition to moving the goalposts so far from the original social media platform concept.

Level 12

True. Most of the IT people I work with around here call it the dos prompt. We all know its not dos, but for some reason we just call it that. We know to type cmd, not ms-dos when we want to launch it. Just seems to be easier or ingrained to call it the dos prompt. Potato Potato.

Viva la CMD!!!

  I was on a site tracking celebrity deaths. While 2016 didn't have the most deaths it did have a high number of influential and relevant deaths. That made 2016 special.

Level 10

CopyCat hackers... I know it's easy to say and probably hard to do if you're stuck in such a sucky situation, but STOP PAYING THE HACKERS MONEY!

Even for ransomware situations like cryptolocker, there is never any guarantee that you will be provided with the correct key.... then even worse..they might GET YOU AGAIN!

I've had experience trying to help users get back their information. Most of the time, if asked when their last backup was... I got told they never do back ups. -_-

back ups back ups backups, I don't think I can ever repeat that enough times. Should be second nature in my opinion.

ah, back to the dr-dos days:P

We recommend users never store anything locally on their PC; instead they are told to save to a network share, which is backed up frequently, and restores of which are also tested regularly.

Until we actually take away the ability to save to a local hard drive via GPO, the "non-recommended practice" of only saving locally will continue.

For home use, some advocate saving to the cloud while others state categorically that the cloud is not to be trusted since it is not within one's own control.  An alternative is to store to an external hard drive backup solution, USB, or CD/DVD.

Level 14

I work with a guy who spends his evenings looking for unsecured databases.  He then contacts the owner with the findings and how to fix them.  His responses have been as follows:


Problem fixed

Problem fixed and a thank you note

Problem fixed, thank you note, and contract offer.

It still amazes me how many organizations who choose to ignore.  Many of these were universities and state\local governments.

Level 21

For anybody that is paying attention I don't know how anybody would think that CMD is going away.  If anything PowerShell is more prominent than ever, especially if you are working with Hyper-V or Azure.

Level 13

Boy if CMD retires then I am out the door as well.  Been around too long to not keep using it.

Level 14

CMD or Powershell, makes no difference to me.  As long as I can script, it doesn't matter where I do it.


Regarding relative quantity of deaths of famous people, a poem I heard as a kid comes to mind:

The troubled world is sighing now

and death is at the door.

And many folks are dying now

who've never died before.

Funny thing about being important/ famous and your death.  All it takes is a Kardashian or Anna Nicole Smith or a famous actor or athlete to die around the same time, and everyone forgets.  Case in point, Mother Teresa died September 5, 1997 and Princess Diana died August 31, 1997.  The media would not let go of the Princess Di stuff.  Mother Theresa didn't do what she did to be famous, but still seems quite the commentary on society.  I say this as someone who is not particularly religious.

As I think about this, perhaps another case of the media flailing around trying to define what is actually news.  Guess not much has changed.

The World Is Too Much with Us - Wikipedia

Level 13

we use cmd all the time...i couldn't imagine a world without it.


At a more local level, my neighbor's husband died of a bee sting on my son's birthday.  So now every year on my son's birthday, I can't help thinking of the neighbor and his widow and their kid.

I suppose as one ages it's easier to notice the deaths that were already happening.

Will try to stop being morbid today.  To my credit, just giving feedback on one of the topics thrown out.

I hope MIT didn't devote too many resources to their study.  I know they are smart over there, but doesn't seem like a smart use of time/ money.

Level 15

congratulations,   good  article.

Better than playing video games.


Level 13

i wonder if the lawsuit will be successful...that would mean significant changes for companies manufacturing IoT devices.

Here's hoping!

About the Author
Thomas LaRock is a Head Geek at SolarWinds and a Microsoft® Certified Master, SQL Server® MVP, VMware® vExpert, and a Microsoft Certified Trainer. He has over 20 years experience in the IT industry in roles including programmer, developer, analyst, and database administrator.