Deep Freeze

If you run a business and your staff keep accidentally getting their computers infected then we’ve found some software for you. This would also be suitable if you have a PC in a public area.

Basically you start with a clean PC and apply the deep freeze software which stops changes from being made to the computer permanently. If something goes wrong you just reboot the PC and the original state comes back.

Pandora blocked in UK – VPN work around

If you own a Sonos system outside the US and access Pandora then you’ll have been disappointed when Pandora restricted non-US ip addresses from accessing the service with a ‘deeply sorry’ message.

A US customer of ours who visits the UK regularly approached us to see if we could provide access whilst abroad.

The solution that we came up with is remarkably simple.

It comprises of a Draytek 2820 dsl router/firewall and a PPTP VPN account with one of various providers. In this case we used Witopia who offer a PPTP VPN service which terminates in the US.

An overview of how this works is as follows:

The Draytek 2820 is the default gateway for the internal network and provides regular internet access. The Sonos zoneplayers are on the internal network along with the other computers.

The draytek is configured with lan to lan pptp vpn to Witopia and has the ip ranges of Pandora configure. Any network traffic from the internal network requesting services from Pandora will get routed across the VPN and appear as though it is coming from the US. All other internet traffic is routed normally through the ISP.

1. Buy a Draytek router from Dabs the Vigor 2820 is the best model to go for as it has two wan ports, 1 for dsl connections and 1 for ethernet connections. This will cover you if you have either a cable connection (e.g. Virgin Media) or a dsl connection (e.g. BT or Sky)

2. You’ll need to setup the PPTP VPN account from Witopia. This will provide you with a username and password. is the hostname we will need as well.

3. Set up the Lan to Lan VPN

Ignore all the Dial-in stuff.
Make sure the ‘For NAT operation, treat remote sub-net as’ is set to Public IP.
Under the More button:

These work fine as of 20th June 2012 after the latest Sonos update.
Check under VPN connection management that the vpn is connected otherwise dial it manually (might takes 10 secs to connect).
Then try to access Pandora using a controller and hopefully you’ll see the Tx Pkts and Rx Pkts go up and music playing as well..

When SSDs fail…..

An internal server started blue screening yesterday. Well, specifically, it black screened, meaning that the server had a black screen with a flashing cursor. A hard reboot resolved the issue but an hour later the same thing occured.

How do you troubleshoot such an issue?

Well firstly with a bluescreen you get a memory dump (unless you’ve turned it off) and this can be analysed using the dumpcheck windbg tool. If this isn’t installed then you need to grab it from the technet page and also install the symbols.

In this case, as the SSD is sata then we check the SMART for errors which there was none. However, googling around found an article:: “Corrects a condition where an incorrect response to a SMART counter will cause the m4 drive to become unresponsive after 5184 hours of Power-on time. The drive will recover after a power cycle, however, this failure will repeat once per hour after reaching this point. The condition will allow the end user to successfully update firmware, and poses no risk to user or system data stored on the drive

WOW. We updated the firmware on the SSD and hey presto all working again.