Tighter security settings on tap for VMware View and PowerCLI

July 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Even though self-signed certificates are not fully trusted, they match the name of the server and have a thumbprint that confirms the identity of the server. VMware admins accept the default self-signed security certificates, reasoning that the service isn’t for end users and it’s on trusted network, so why bother the cost and hassle of creating and managing fully-trusted certificates?

VMware admins know that the vendor’s tools default to using secure protocols such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) on port 443 and elsewhere for communications. Even on vCenter, where port 80 is open, Web communications all redirect to a fully secured 443 SSL connection.

VCenter and the vSphere Client also use security certificates that are auto-generated during the installation, and admins treat these vCenter certificates like they treat certificates for appliances and ILO (HP)/DRAC (Dell) cards.

Fig.1: most VMware admins accept the untrusted SSL certificate, opting to install the auto-generated certificate to prevent the warning in future.

Tighter security in View 5.1

Only for VMware’s virtual desktop product, View, do admins use a fully-trusted and secure certificates. this is because end users use View, and IT wants to avoid end users ask them on whether they can trust the service each time they see the warning pop up.

Here is more information about how users can install and manage the stringent SSL certificates in View’s 4.5 and 5 versions.

VMware View 5.1 introduces an even more stringent approach to SSL certificates than previous versions.

Admins can still use untrusted self-signed certificates. but, if they do, they’ll find areas where this approach brings problems.

First of all, an untrusted connection server and security servers now generate an “alarm” condition in the new “dashboard” view for the product.

Fig.2: here the “red” alarms on the Connection Servers (CS01/CS02) and the Security Server (SS01/SS02) indicate an invalid certificate is in use. you might notice that there are green alarms on the vCenter and View Composer components. These would normally be in red by default. however it is possible “verify” the self-signed auto-generated certificates for these services. That’s not the case for the Security Server or the Connection Server alarms. for those you must have a valid certificate that either matches the servers FQDN or the “External URL” of the View infrastructure.

In addition, the new Windows-based View Client now has options to configure settings that control how it handles invalid certificates. By default, the option is to allow connections to connect if a certificate is invalid, but to warn the end-user of this fact.

Fig.3: By default, the new Windows View Client use “Warn if the connection may be insure” is selected. In this screen grab I selected the more rigorous “Reject the unverifiable connection” option.

The default warning setting is similar to what users are familiar with in common Web browsers such as Internet Explorer.

Fig.4: Users will be familiar with the standard Internet Explorer warnings

If the administrator changes the View Client’s SSL defaults like I have done in Fig.3, then the certificate must match the name of the server to which the user is connecting, or the connection will be refused.

Some third-party VDI brokers with which VMware View competes with already enforce this level of security by default.

In contrast, the View Client still allows the end-user to ignore the warnings and connect directly to untrusted system — leaving them potentially vulnerable to the man-in-the-middle exploits. All of which makes me wonder if VMware will tighten the screws further in its next version of View?

Stringent security spreading to VMware PowerCLI?

View isn’t the only VMware product that encourages the use of fully trusted certificates. VMware PowerCLI also comes with new security controls that stem from its use of SSL to connect to vCenter in order to carry out command-line administration.  

I recently installed VMware PowerCLI (5.0.1) and was taken aback by the message that appeared when I tried to connect to the vCenter server for the first time:

Fig.5:The surprise warning message while installing the latest version of VMware PowerCLI

For me, the most important part of this was the warning text at the bottom in capital letters:

“WARNING:  THE DEFAULT BEHAVIOR UPON INVALID SERVER CERTIFICATE WILL CHANGE IN a FUTURE RELEASE.”

The VMware PowerCLI warning continued: “To ensure scripts are not affected by the change, use Set-PowerCLIConfiguration to set a value for the InvalidCertificateAction option.”

It’s not quite clear what the change in default behaviour might be, but I suspect that in future version of PowerCLI, VMware could refuse connections to an untrusted vCenter server unless the administrator explicit lowers the security with the “Set-PowerCLIConfiguration” cmdlet.

Alternatively, VMware may decide to change the configuration to warn the administrator of insecure connection, and wait for the administrator to deny it, accept it once, or accept it permanently.

If that happens,  a VMware PowerCLI script that works with vCenter non-interactively might stall while it waits for a human operator to agree to the unsecured connections. 

All this sounds rather scary, but if you think about it, the defaults in VMware PowerCLI are merely being aligned with vSphere Client’s. In vSphere Client, non-secure connections are allowed and admins can permanently supress the warning by selecting “ignore”.  

To suppress this warning on VMware PowerCLI run this cmdlet:

Set-PowerCLIConfiguration -InvalidCertificateAction Ignore -Confirm: $false

The way forward?

This change in VMware PowerCLI is effective immediately and VMware is enforcing it as a global setting.

As of right now you don’t need to have a valid certificate for VMware PowerCLI communications, and if VMware changes this, you will likely still be able to set the invalid certificate action and ignore any warnings.

But this raises some questions. is this VMware’s new policy for all its products? If so, what brought about this change? have there been some changes from FIPS that have triggered these sorts of security enhancements? from what I know, there’s no specific project or policy that brought these changes to VMware PowerCLI.

It could be part of VMware’s on-going process of incorporating security best practices into its products based on customer feedback. Like it or hate it, virtualisation admins should not ignore VMware tightening security screws in VMware PowerCLI and View 5.1.

Mike Laverick is a former VMware instructor with 17 years of experience in technologies such as Novell, Windows, Citrix and VMware. since 2003, he has been involved with the VMware community. Laverick is a VMware forum moderator and member of the London VMware User Group. he is also the man behind the virtualisation website and blog RTFM Education, where he publishes free guides and utilities for VMware customers. Laverick received the VMware vExpert award in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Since joining TechTarget as a contributor, Laverick has also found the time to run a weekly podcast called the Chinwag and the Vendorwag. he helped found the Irish and Scottish VMware user groups and now speaks regularly at larger regional events organised by the global VMware user group in North America, EMEA and APAC. Laverick published books on VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3, vSphere4, Site Recovery Manager and View.

This was first published in June 2012

Cheapest International Calls

June 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

HP is the Leader Now

The fastest growing and most profitable market in the world is the one of the mobile technologies. It defines the modern business and there are big players on it which can hardly be moved from their leading positions. However, the statistics are something that can be changed and this is exactly what we see in this case. in the beginning of the year Apple was the company that leaded the statistic for most sold computers but at this time the tablets were also considered computers. Today however, the statistic does not include tablets and Apple’s results fall from 12 million to 400 000.

Today the biggest manufacturer of computers is HP with over 15 million devices. The top 5 is closed by Apple, Dell, Lenovand Acer.

Need A Gaming Computer Cheap? Why They Cost So Much and How to Save

May 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

If you have recently taken a look at gaming computers you may have been a little put off by some of the prices. Many computers specifically designed for gaming like Dell’s Alienware can easily be double what a normal computer costs. With price tags often several thousand dollars many consumers are looking for a more cost effective option. Experts are weighing in on the matter and the good news is there is two main aspects that many aren’t aware of. Once you have a good understanding of these facts it can certainly help you to save a great deal of money.

The first thing we will discuss in this article is why gaming computers tend to cost so much. Gaming computers tend to cost so much due to the fact that they are designed for maximum speed. With speed comes with dollar signs. Speed can literally make all the difference in the world when even a slight hesitation can mean the difference between winning and losing. The types of hardware that these towers contain are typically top of the line and command larger prices than other run of the mill computers.

The processors that are being used as of late for your average gaming system are typically Intel’s latest chips. These processors often are four times as powerful as some other chips that average systems are using. The main reason being that these computers need to crunch large amounts of information quickly. Gaming computers are subjected to an abnormally high workload hence they need to have handpicked quality hardware to function properly. Otherwise systems tend to freeze or lockup making the user experience very frustrating.

Another difference that these systems have is their video cards. Video cards or graphics cards often are the major difference in a run of the mill gaming system and a high end gaming system. Video cards really are the meat and potatoes of the gaming experience. With huge breakthroughs in video graphics these days it’s no surprise that kids and adults alike have become fanatical about gaming. Of course the better the video card the more expensive the system.

The final major difference is the computer case. Gaming computer rigs often have cases with extra ventilation hence why many look so radically different. With the extraordinary amount of processing going on during an average game a tremendous amount of heat is generated. often most systems now have liquid cooling systems to help keep systems in optimal temperature ranges on top of having several fans which again adds to overall cost.

If you’re among those looking to get a better deal on your purchase you may consider purchasing a refurbished gaming system. Many top experts are now swearing they will never again buy new. Nearly all major manufacturers are now offering the same warranties with their refurb devices as their new computers. this really takes all the risk out of the equation for consumers and offers an viable way to save some money as the systems are usually discounted accordingly.

Dell, Canonical Deliver OpenStack Cloud Abroad

April 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

With an eye toward easing the deployment of private clouds, Dell said this week at the WorldHostingDays conference in Germany that it had partnered with Ubuntu Linux maker Canonical to deliver its Cloud Solution product in Britain, Germany and China.

The product, based on OpenStack-based software and mated with Dell’s servers, services, and its open-source deployment framework, Crowbar, has been available in the U.S. since last year. this is the offering’s first overseas trip.

Canonical’s Martin Stadtler writes at the company’s blog: “We know that when you’re building private clouds, you want access to a full feature set and the confidence that vendor support provides. with Dell’s OpenStack-Powered Cloud Solution, users of Ubuntu Server 12.04 Long Term Support (LTS) will be able to take advantage of the cost savings and flexibility of the open-source cloud, without the risk.”

“We have more than two years’ experience of bringing up, deploying and testing OpenStack clouds, in fact, most major public Openstack clouds are built on Ubuntu — for the simple reason that Ubuntu and OpenStack were built to work together,” Stadtler writes.

Built with the latest Linux and OpenStack versions, Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS is also undergoing “rigorous” integration and quality testing by OpenStack. “So a Dell OpenStack Cloud customer can deploy the best open source technologies with confidence,” he wrote.

The push toward private clouds seems strong. Even the public cloud giant Amazon said today it had partnered with Eucalyptus Systems to allow integration of its Amazon Web Services offerings with a the company’s private Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) product.

What does Ubuntu and OpenStack look like to businesses in the cloud? is it turnkey and appliance-worthy?

Dell’s Andy Cash told Britain’s CloudPro there was still some overhead. “OpenStack is still a technology stack, not an appliance. Companies will need open source skills to take this on. You could use it to stand up a cloud with as few as 20 servers, but it is dependent on a certain level of skill. We would expect to be part of a customer project, but we are not intending to run this for people,” Cash said.

Is the shift a natural maturation of the cloud, with some services coming back down to earth? but perhaps the bigger deal here is for Ubuntu in the cloud and open source. will it deliver what businesses expect?

What is the Best PC For Computer Gaming?

February 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Dell, HP, Alienware, Compaq, Gateway, Falcon Northwest, iBuy Power, and so many more computer manufacturers tout their computers as top of the line. how do you know what is the best PC for computer Gaming? If you make your decision based on the CPU and memory like so many people do you are going to be sorely disappointed. There are many more components that are as important if not more so than the CPU. To get you started here are 3 of the most important components you should evaluate when purchasing a Gaming Computer.

1. the video card

The video card is probably the most important component of a gaming computer. many lower priced off-the-shelf systems use integrated video cards. What this means is that the graphics are handled by a chip that is integrated into the motherboard. You may wonder what the difference is. To try to use an integrated graphics solution for a gaming computer is like putting a little 4 cylinder engine in a Corvette. It might look great but the performance is going to be extremely disappointing.

You don’t need the absolute top of the line video card, but you certainly want to get a card that will perform well. Currently the ATI Radeon HD 5850 is a great choice. It isn’t overly expensive but it will give you great performance. other video cards with similar performance are the Nvidia GTX 280, GTX 285, and the GTX 470. There are many other options at verying price ranges so do a little research. If someone tries to present a computer with an integrated or on-board graphics solution you are getting ripped off. Shop somewhere else.

2. the CPU

As mentioned, don’t make your decision based solely on the CPU. with that being said it is very important that we get a PC with a CPU that will not bottleneck our video card. we don’t want a budget processor. Look for a Core i5 or Core i7 processor if you are buying an Intel based machine. For AMD platforms look for a Phenom II X3 or X4 processor.

3. Power Supply

If you have a dinky power supply you won’t have enough juice to run your components. Symptoms of an inadequate power supply include your computer randomly shutting down and lag during game play. Issues stemming from power supplies are often misdiagnosed as other problems. Make sure your computer has a large enough power supply. You can find power supply calculators online. Enter your components and it will calculate how much power you need. keep in mind that not all power supplies are created equal. Make sure you purchase from a quality manufacturer such as Antec, Corsair, Silverstone, etc.

If you really want to be sure you get the most computer for your money you may want to consider building your own gaming computer. It’s actually not very difficult and it allows you to select all of your own components. one of the problems with off the shelf computers is that you have no way of knowing what they use for some of the components. when you build a gaming computer you choose all of your own hardware. It will allow you to get a higher performing computer for the same price if not less than the name brand computers.

Alienware launches game console-like X51 gaming PC – Neowin.net

February 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

I wouldn't quite say that. A company I do consulting work for used to have Dell exclusively, but after damn near every one of them had problems, they moved to HP. They had everything from motherboard problems, to power supplies burning out. not to mention one model had a recall that they were never informed of. Personally, I hear more bad stories about Dells than good stories.

Not going to outright say Dell is garbage, but that is part of the reason why they are a low-ranked PC brand.

Regarding Alienware, yeah they are owned by Dell, but it's not like Dell has a huge influence on the product.

I'm not sure what Dell's involvement with Allienware is, but it would be enough to keep me from getting one (Which is a shame, because Dell does make very nice "looking" hardware).

We used to purchase Dell's exclusively for home and work. That was until they all died not long after purchase. My laptop that I'm on now as a matter of fact, had to be sent in to Dell for repair 4 TIMES within the first 6 months. with each repair a bigger headache than the last. This will be my last Dell. I have moved everyone else in the office over to Toshiba's and Asus computers, and have not had a single problem at all. and, as an added bonus, neither of those brands run red hot like my XPS does (That miracle of engineering that it is)…

Dell USED to build very good computers. I bought Dell's for years. That hasn't been the case unfortunately for quite some time, and as a result I have moved on to PC vendors that care about quality a bit.

Change your computer’s OEM information with OEM Configurator

December 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Want to truly personalize your computer? Then you need to edit the OEM information of your computer. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer — companies like Dell, HP, Gateway, Acer, Asus, Samsung, etc.) information is the stuff shown when you open System from Control Panel — things like Manufacturer, Model, etc. Editing such OEM information can be done via registry tweaks; or you can use OEM Configurator.

What Is OEM Configurator And what Does It do?

OEM Configurator is a freeware, portable tool that allows users to edit their computers’ OEM information:

OEM Configurator allows users to edit six pieces of OEM information: Manufacturer, Model, Support Hours, Support Phone, Support Website, and OEM Logo. you can set any of these six values to whatever you want (image must be a bitmap file). For example:

As you can see, dotTech is now the OEM of my laptop, hehe.

In addition to OEM information, OEM Configurator allows users to edit the Owner, Organization, Computer name, Processor name, Computer Description, and Product ID of a computer:

Using OEM Configurator

Using OEM Configurator is as simple as can be. Simply run the program, edit the information you want to edit and hit the Save OEM Informations/Save New Information to apply your changes.

Take note the Preview… button on the OEM information screen does not actually show you a live preview — it only brings up the System window. In other words, using the Preview button won’t let you preview changes prior to applying them.

OEM Configurator Limitations

Do note aside from the Product ID, OEM Configurator does not have the ability to restore computer defaults for any information you change. For the most part changing OEM information won’t do any harm to your computer so not being able to restore computer defaults isn’t a big deal. however, changing Product ID is generally not a good idea; plus if you plan on selling your computer in the future you may freak out potential customers. So not having the ability to restore computer defaults can be devastating if you ever need to have the defaults back.

If you plan on using OEM Configurator to change things, I highly suggest you copy + paste your current information into a Notepad file (keep the file save) from which you can restore defaults at a later date, if you have the wish or desire to do so.

Conclusion

OEM Configurator is not exactly a groundbreakingly useful program, but it is still something fun to have — especially if you want to prank someone. you can grab OEM Configurator from the links below:

Supported OS: Windows XP/Vista/Win7/Win8

.NET Framework 4 is required

Download size: 352 KB

Malware scan: Virustotal scan results (0/43)

OEM Configurator homepage [direct download]

Best Laptop Computers for College Students

December 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

1. Overview

Before we look at the laptops most suitable for college students, we should understand what makes a good student laptop. Typically, a student would want a laptop that’s lightweight and comfortable enough to lug to and from their various classes. In addition, the laptop has to have great battery life and performance. and price is sometimes a concern, so the above features need to be packed into an affordable package.

After considering the types of laptops suitable for college students, I’ve decided to split them into three categories: budget, thin and light and ultraportable. so let’s take a look at them now .

2. Budget Laptops

For a college student who is short on cash, a budget laptop is a good buy. some of the best budget laptops include those from Dell, Toshiba and HP. I personally find the Toshiba Satellite A215-S4747 to be a great budget laptop. you get an AMD based dual core CPU, which perfroms very well with most applications. you also get a huge 200GB hard drive and a large number of peripheral ports.

There’s also a nice Sony VGN-NR160E/S model that is (surprisingly) within the budget category. Out of the box, this machine gives you the Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 processor, 1 GB of RAM and a large 160GB hard drive – that’s a lot of computing power at budget price.

3. thin and Light Laptops

If you prefer a more powerful laptop and don’t mind a little bit of weight, then try going for a thin and light laptop. some of the models I can think of include those from Lenovo, HP and Sony.

The Sony VAIO VGN-FZ280E is a pretty good choice for a thin and light notebook. This system comes with a Bluray compatible writer that can also burn CDs and DVDs. you also get an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz CPU, 2GB RAM and a very large 250GB hard drive.

Another model I’d consider is the HP Pavilion dv6675us. you will get an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz CPU, 4GB RAM and 250GB of hard drive space. the 4GB of RAM is a great feature which will come in handy if you’re a student of finance or science and need to run intensive computational applications.

4. Ultraportable Laptops

If the size and weight of the laptop is of high importance to you, then go for an ultraportable laptop. These laptops give very good computing performance in a very small, compact package.

In this category, I think the Lenovo ThinkPad X61 is a great choice for students. it is slightly pricey (but not outrageously so) but it is one of the best performing laptops around. it weighs only about 3 pounds and is hence an extremely portable piece of hardware. you also get an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz CPU, 2GB RAM and an ample 100GB hard drive. you don’t get a built-in DVD writer though – that unit is external to the laptop.

Another good choice is the Toshiba Portege R500-S5001X. it weights 2.4 pounds and is less than an inch thick. This is one of the thinnest and lightest notebooks you will find in the market. It’s also very reasonably priced.

Conclusion

Well I hope this article has shown you the various types of laptops which are suitable for college students. regardless of your needs and budget, make sure that you do proper research before shelling out any cash. until next time, best of luck and happy shopping

Custom Gaming PCs – Where to Find Affordable Computer Builds

November 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

Gaming computers are usually much more powerful than regular home use PCs. They are made for handling high graphical requirements and video needs, and tend to be more expensive as the components are higher end and cost more. however, it is possible to have a custom gaming PC put together for you at an affordable price. It’s a good idea to do thorough research before choosing a company to build your computer.

Some of the most well known PC retailers include Dell, HP, and Gateway. all of these companies offer well built computers at typically affordable prices, especially if you can snag a deal. They also offer customization options, but rarely to the degree that gaming computer specialists will have. if you plan to use your computer for more than just gaming (video editing, photo viewing/editing, basic computing tasks, internet use, etc.), a generic PC from any of these retailers is a good bet. You can also find pre-built PCs at Best Buy, Fry’s, and pretty much any electronics store, online or locally.

However, if you want a custom built gaming PC tailored specifically to your gaming needs, it’s best if you can choose specific components. Companies like iBUYPOWER and Velocity Micro offer more customization options. Depending on whether you’re an FPS gamer or an MMO enthusiast, your computer requirements will probably vary. For example, if you don’t need intense graphic power for games like Crysis, you can get by with a cheaper video card. Onboard (also known as integrated) graphics cards are not a good idea for gamers, though. This is because most games require at least a 512MB nVIDIA or ATI graphics card. plan to invest in a good video card.

In terms of budget, a good PC can run anywhere from $600-5000. if you are on a budget, getting a custom PC can be even better, as you can choose cheaper components as opposed to the ones already installed on a pre-built computer. some retailers offer free shipping and no tax, like Amazon.com, but at the sacrifice of customization. if you don’t mind having your gaming PC already built, that’s a good place to start.

Whatever company you choose to get your computer from, make sure you do your research ahead of time and know what specific components you need to get the most out of your gaming experience. This way you can make an educated decision that will make the least impact on your wallet.

MONEY® Money News » AtCheap.com Announces a Huge Sale On Laptop Computers Including HP, Lenovo, Sony, Toshiba, Dell, Samsung and Others

September 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

New York, NY (PRWEB) September 11, 2011

Comparison shopping website AtCheap.com has announced a huge sale on all kinds of laptops and notebooks. this sale covers all the popular models of Sony, IBM Lenovo, HP, Compaq, Dell, Toshiba, Samsung and Acer. all the laptops carry a discount of 10% to 50% off.

Giving more information about the sale, a company spokesman said, that with this offer the consumers are guaranteed to get the cheapest price for any laptop they want to buy. he said that AtCheap.com already offers very low prices to its customers, but with this extra discount the prices have gone down further. he also said that anybody looking to buy a new laptop can go to AtCheap.com and simply type in the name of the laptop they want to buy in the search box, or they can browse the huge collection of cheap laptops that AtCheap.com presently offers.

According to the company spokesman, this offer will be on for one week, but depending upon the popularity and demand, it can be extended to another week. he also said that the company is planning to bring similar offers for other types of consumer merchandise as well.

AtCheap.com is a comparison shopping website that was launched earlier this year. Customers can compares prices millions of products among hundreds of thousands of stores to find the cheapest prices for whatever they are looking to buy.

Read the full story at prweb.com/releases/2011/9/prweb8787108.htm

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