Toolkit: DBAN – Data Removal

I often have need to wipe hard drives before recycling them or reusing them. It’s very important to make sure any sensitive data is cleared from the hard drive so it isn’t easily retrievable. For years now, I have depended on Derik’s Boot and Nuke, better known as DBAN. I use it and make a bootable CD and bootable USB key so that I can quickly boot into the easily navigated software and wipe the data off the drive. You can configure multiple passes and a variety of wipe methods. I highly recommend this tool for every IT tech’s toolkit. You can find more information at https://dban.org/

Neither this page or this article are sponsored by any company or person, including DBAN.

Running Scripts On Remote PCs

I often have situations where I want to run some commands on a remote PC in the environment, or even on a series of PCs.  There is a fairly straightforward method to run script remotely by reading a list of computers from a text file and supplying Admin credentials.  It took me a bit to piece these together so I thought I would share.

Let’s say we want to install a number of programs on some existing machines and we don’t have something cool like SCCM available.  I will post the script and then describe what the pieces do.

Install_Script

Shameless Self Promotion and then The Good Stuff

##Top of Script
###################################################################
# Written by Roberto Henriquez http://www.itbuki.com #
###################################################################

# This will prompt for credentials when the script is run. Generally these will be admin credentials that have admin rights on the target machines
$credential = Get-Credential

#This will read the list of target computers from a text file. One computer per line, please.
$YourFile = Get-Content ‘C:\scripts\computer_targets.txt’

# This establishes variables for a file share to run the installs from using the credentials entered
$psdrive = @{
Name = “PSDrive”
PSProvider = “FileSystem”
Root = “\\FILESERVER\FileShare”
Credential = $credential
}

# This runs through each computer list in the text file. One computer per line, please.
foreach ($computer in $YourFile)
{

# This will print the target computer name on the screen
write-host “${computer}”

# This will attempt to start the Windows Remote Management service. This service MUST be running for this to work. If you have WinRM running automatically, you can eliminate this step.
Get-Service -Name WinRM -ComputerName $computer | Set-Service -Status Running

# Here’s the magic sauce. This will run everything inside the brackets like you are sitting at a PowerShell window on the remote computer
Invoke-Command -ComputerName $computer -ScriptBlock {

# This section uninstalls software. You can use this to search for any number of products simply by changing what’s inside the single quotes after Name.
$p = gwmi -Class win32_Product -Filter “Name =’OpenOffice 4.1.5′”
$p.Uninstall()

# This section creates a drive within the remote context to copy files from
New-PSDrive @using:psdrive

# This section installs programs. The Wait switch at the end makes sure that install has finished BEFORE moving on to the next install.
Start-Process -FilePath ‘\\FILESERVER\FileShare\Some Amazing Program\SAP.msi’ -ArgumentList ‘/quiet’,’/qn’,’/norestart’ -Wait
Start-Process “msiexec.exe” -ArgumentList “/i \\FILESERVER\FileShare\DeepBlueSea\DeepBlueSea.2.8.583m.msi /quiet” -Wait

# This is an example of copying a directory and it’s contents to the target system and then running the install from the local location
Copy-Item -Path \\FILESERVER\FileShare\SomeBigProgram -Recurse -Destination c:\temp\ -container
Start-Process c:\temp\SomeBigProgram\install.bat -Wait

# This command runs an MSP file to update an existing installed program
Start-Process “msiexec.exe” -ArgumentList “/update \\FILESERVER\FileShare\BobsProgram\BobsProgram_Patch7.msp /qn” -Wait

# This shows some more switches that sometimes need to be used.
Start-Process -FilePath ‘\\FILESERVER\FileShare\Nonesense Components\BNware\Windows\BNware-Client-4.3.0-24601.exe’ -ArgumentList ‘/s’,’/v’,’/qn REBOOT=ReallySupress’ -Wait

# Very Important to make sure and remove the drive mounting before ending the script. If you do not, rerunning the script will frequently fail till the target machine is rebooted.
Remove-PSDrive psdrive
}
}

FIN

There are several ways to tackle problems, but this is the way I have had much luck with. I hope you find this useful.  Please comment and let me know how this works for you.

Roberto

The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty). No electrons were harmed during this explanation.

Computer Security

Computer security is the most important aspect of responsible computing and often the least executed.  There are a number of parts to security, but I’m going to discuss three areas: Backups, Passwords, and Anti-X.

Backups

This is the single most important area especially in a business environment. Your security preparations are only as strong as your most recent USABLE backup. Why do I emphasize the word usable? Because backups aren’t worth anything if they aren’t successful or if the backup includes the infected files.  It is important to have a backup rotation that gives you a week or two at least to discover a problem and restore a good file. Backups should be tested periodically by restoring a file or two and then opening those files to make sure they are readable. I have spent hours going through customer backup files only to find that they weren’t able to be restored.

Passwords

Use strong passwords! I cannot emphasize this enough. Sports teams, people’s names, animals, words with simple number replacements are all VERY easy to hack with something called a dictionary attack. A dictionary attack uses a file that contains common passwords and basic variations to try and log into someone’s account. Let’s say you love the Bengals (sorry for your delusion) and you say, hey, I’ll be clever and make the ‘e’ a 3 and the ‘a’ an @ sign giving you B3ng@ls. Don’t pat yourself on the back too quickly. This is a very common replacement scheme and one that is covered in nearly every dictionary attack.  I personally use a program called Keeper Security which can be found here. I love this program. I use a relatively complex password for this program and then I allow the program to generate really complex passwords for all my other sites. The nice thing is that I can access this from any computer via the website and I can also access it on my mobile devices via apps for Apple and Android operating systems.  There are browser plug ins for both IE and Chrome that make it easy to use Keeper on the go and save the complex passwords. I highly recommend using something like this for your passwords.

Finally, let’s look at anti-x software. This is used to include the array of anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam, etc. software that is available out there. In today’s world, it is imperative that you have some type of decent anti-x software installed. Microsoft, Symantec, TrendMicro, and McAfee all make high quality anti-x products that are suitable for both the home and business user. These software packages will check your device to make sure it doesn’t have any viruses on it at that moment. You can then enable some type of active monitoring that will check files, email, websites, etc. as you are working to try and prevent infection from occurring in the first place. Make sure the virus signatures are set to update at least once a day. I typically set mine to 11pm and 11am (every 12 hours). This helps make sure I’m as up to date as possible.  If you hear of a new virus variant coming out, please check one of the vendors websites mentioned here to verify if it is a real issue, or just spam email. If it is a real virus that is new (generally these are referred to as ‘zero day’ viruses the day they are publicized) be extra cautions of anything even remotely suspicious that you get until your anti-x vendor provides updated signatures to handle the zero-day virus.

I hope you find these comments useful and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

WebQuests

WebQuests

This week we looked at WebQuests. These are kind of like online treasure hunts where students are given a situation and task to complete using online resources.  I think these are great. Not only does it build content knowledge, it also teaches online searching skills which is critical in today’s society.  The WebQuest I found online that I really liked was a Small Business WebQuest at http://imet.csus.edu/imet1/peaty/webquest/

I think this WQ does an excellent job of laying out the situation and providing an interesting topic to research.  It provides examples of other small businesses and really walks students through the process.  The scoring guidelines are clear and easy to understand.  I think this could be made better by tying in to a segment of the TV show Shark Tank to show how pitching a business and understanding the business can really make a difference in getting funding.

The WebQuest that I created for this class can be found at http://zunal.com/webquest.php?w=253034

This WQ is about creating effective fliers using MS Word. There are several things that I look for the students to get out of this lesson. First off, I want them to understand what goes into making a good flier to catch people’s attention. That’s the obvious one. Next, I want them to learn some MS Word skills that they may not already have, like adjusting margins. Then, one of the most important skills, knowing how to search for information on the web and then finding that credible information. Too often I work with students and adults who have no real idea how to word their search queries to return what they are really looking for. I remember as a child going to the library so the librarian could show us how to use the library to research information. These days, so much of that has been replaced by the internet.

Zunal is a great tool for creating WebQuests. It walks you through the creation process as well as providing a really useful set of tools to embed content and make the WebQuest interface much more interesting for the students.

Online Communication Tools

1. What did I learn that was totally new to me?

This is a tough question given my depth of technology background. I’m not really sure that I learned anything totally new to me. Online communication is critical to todays education systems. Both synchronous (i.e. chat, video conference) as well as asynchronous (i.e. e-mail, blogs, YouTube) are valuable for education. Educators should not lean on only one area, but be sure to utilize both types of communication.

2. How can you use this information to inform your instructional strategies with your own students? 

I really enjoyed learning a bit more about the importance of communication tools for interacting with students. I think it will be important in the future to integrate multiple communication strategies into my instructional design.  I personally tend to shy away from direct communication styles like phone conversations. I prefer email and chat communication. One of the big reasons is that this leaves a record of what was discussed that can be referenced at a later date. I often forget parts of verbal conversations, particularly when I’m on the phone. I think this may be because the phone provides no visual linkage to what’s being said. Without some type of visual linkage, I find it difficult to recall information.  It is strange that someone who spends so much time on computers would have this type of issue, but typing words helps provide the visual link for me that is simply not there on the phone.

Presentation Programs

This weeks lesson was about presentations. I think many people misunderstand the purpose of a digital presentation. It is not meant as a set of on screen notes to be read or copied down. It is meant as a visual tool to help pull your audience into your presentation and to enhance the information. Too often I have sat through presentations where the presenter has read slides to us. This does nearly nothing to enhance the presentation or engage the audience.

I have personally created and used many digital presentations to classes. Even with my experience and knowledge, I find myself falling into this trap. After completing a presentation, It’s good to go back through it with a critical eye and ask yourself what is it adding.

I find myself doing this after nearly every presentation, just like I do after nearly every lesson. Do a quick ‘post mortem’. Ask what went well, what could have gone better, how can I improve. Figure out what students reacted well to and what seemed to leave them cold. You could even conduct a quick survey. I’m always looking for continuous improvement.

We also spent time this week looking at the TED website. I am a fan of TED and have been for quite awhile. There are LOTS of topics and information on this site that I love to contemplate. I think it can be excellent jumping off points for student lessons and projects.

 

Technology Exploration Assignment 11

ComicLife

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.
This is a really interesting way to engage students. This site allows you to take pictures and a story to create a comic book/graphic novel for telling your story.  Seems to be really flexible and usable. Allows author to create their script and then helps walk them through creating the pages to go with the script.
2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.
I think it would be great for students to use something like this to present their findings from a lesson. Love the creativity aspect of something much more engaging than just writing a report.
3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?
Seems to be relatively easy to use. It does cost $29.95 and requires Windows 7 or Windows 8. It seems like a really good tool to me and I would recommend it.

 

iSpeech

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.
This is another text to speech utility. This one seems to do a better job of sounding more natural. You can translate small text quickly or entire documents to speech. These speech files can also be connected with animated avatars. This increases the interest level for students.
2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.
I think this could be used by both educators and students. Educators could use this for enhancing their own presentations and in creating differentiated instruction for students with special needs.
3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?
This seems like a really interesting tool. There is a free version that provides some basic functionality and is pretty easy to use. There are paid versions that provide more features. I was not able to find pricing for these additional features and functionality.

 

Technology Exploration Assignment 12

VoiceThread

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.

2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.

3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?

 

Technology Exploration Assignment 13

Storybird

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.

2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.

3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?

Scribblar


1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.

2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.

3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?

 

Technology Exploration Assignment 14

Kidblog.org

1. Describe what you learned from exploring this resource.  Be thorough in your response.

2. How could you use this resource in a school setting?  It does not matter if it is in your field or level, you need to understand how the resource might be used in educational settings.

3. Would you recommend this resource to other educators? Like/Dislike; Ease of use, fee or not, and so forth.  Why or Why not?