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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Useful Software: BlueScreenView - analyzes crash dumps and informs you

BlueScreenView is an application that analyzes Blue Screen crash dump files and tells you information about the crash. It's very useful since it can tell you the driver or module that possibly caused the crash. This can save a lot of time since you dont have to scour the internet for the answer to your crash.

BlueScreenView

BlueScreenView is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 (as long as Windows is configured to save minidump files during BSOD crashes). It's also compatible with 32-bit and x64 systems. BlueScreenView is freeware and you can download it at http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/blue_screen_view.html

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Useful Software: HLSW for Server Admins - Manage Your Game Server

HLSW or Half-Life ServerWatch is an awesome administration tool to manage your game server. It's primarily a tool for admins, but regular players can use it too (as a server browser). With HLSW you can chat to players on your server without ever entering the server! You can execute RCON commands, change the map, etc.

HLSW

HLSW supports many games aside from Half-Life 1 and Half Life 2. Some of the more popular ones are; Battlefield 2, Call of Duty (all games), Crysis, Neverwinter Nights and more. You can see the complete list at http://hlsw.org/hlsw/supported_games/ HLSW is freeware and compatible with Windows 2000 SP4, XP and Vista. You can download it at http://www.hlsw.org Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HLSW

Monday, October 01, 2012

Useful Software: TeraCopy

TeraCopy is an application that makes copying files faster. It includes features such as: pause and resume file transfers, error recovery (retrying several times), shell integration and more.

TeraCopy has 2 versions, a free one and a Pro one. It is compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 (x32 and x64 versions) You can download it at http://www.codesector.com/teracopy.php

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Useful Software: Secure Password Manager: Any Password

The biggest threat to online security and computer security are easy to guess passwords. Most people choose easy to guess passwords and this is very bad. That plus the prevalence of social networking sites makes it very easy for hackers to guess your password. Aside from guessing, they can use brute-force dictionary attacks that can break passwords in a matter of minutes or hours. You can stop this from happening by choose a complex alpha-numeric password. Remembering an alpha-numeric password is difficult and sometimes next to impossible. An example of this is a password like 2Gkb4S2q. An even better password is one that uses characters like question marks and exclamation points in addition to letters and numbers (eg. &%sZ+VLl). This is where Any Password comes into play. Any Password is a password manager. You can store passwords as well as other sensitive information in its database. The database itself can be passworded and its encrypted to prevent outside snooping. It also includes a random password generator.

Any Password is compatible with Microsoft Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP http://www.anypassword.com/free/index.html To use it on Vista, you will need to purchase the Pro version. http://www.anypassword.com/pro/index.html

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

GoldSRC/SRCDS RCON Security

Every GoldSRC and SRCDS server needs an RCON password. RCON passwords allow you to remotely control your server from the console or a 3rd party tool like HLSW. Lately there have been more hackers who try to brute force guess your password. If they do guess your password, they can take complete control of your server like ban/unban players, change the hostname and change cvars. There are a few things you can do to keep this from happening. The first thing is to pick a password that is not based on a dictionary word. It's best if your password is over 12 characters long and has a mixture of letter, numbers and symbols. The symbols are key to make it extremely hard to crack. A good example password would be something like: ^#&[email protected]*RsG0. Another thing you can do to stop or at least slow the hackers is to enable rcon protection cvars. Use the following code in your "server.cfg" file (works in GoldSRC and SRCDS):
sv_rcon_banpenalty 60 sv_rcon_maxfailures 10 sv_rcon_minfailures 5 sv_rcon_minfailuretime 45
The code does the following: sv_rcon_banpenalty : Number of minutes to ban users who fail rcon authentication sv_rcon_maxfailures : Max number of times a user can fail rcon authentication before being banned sv_rcon_minfailures : Number of times a user can fail rcon authentication in sv_rcon_minfailuretime before being banned sv_rcon_minfailuretime : Number of seconds to track failed rcon authentications This should slow down the hackers. It won't stop them completely though.
Monday, September 24, 2012

Useful Software: Desktop Restore

Desktop Restore is a handy little tool that lets you save the positions of icons on your desktop.  It's especially useful if you have multiple monitors and you have icons on those monitors. Saving and restoring is done by right clicking the desktop and selecting your desired action from the context menu.  You can even create multiple saves and restore different layouts.

You can download it at http://www.midiox.com/desktoprestore.htm Desktop Restore is freeware and the latest version is officially compatible with Windows XP, 2000 and Vista.  I have personally tested the latest version on two Windows 2003 Server computers and have encountered no problems.  There are other versions that are compatible with 64Bit windows and Windows 98/ME.
Sunday, September 23, 2012

Useful Software: Process Explorer

Process Explorer is an awesome task manager replacement.   With it you can view all applications running on your computer (even ones Windows TaskMan hides), get more information about your application (working memory, peak working memory, etc.) and more!  You can even see which applications are sub-processes of a parent application. It's great to use on servers because you get much more control over processes and you can see more.  There is one major problem though, if you play games on your computer, and the game uses SecuRom disc protection, the game will not run when Process Explorer is running.  You will have to disable Process Explorer  from replacing the Task Manager and restart your computer.  The reason this is, is because Process Explorer includes a Debugger and SecuRom detects it as a hack tool.  Aside from that, its safe to use.  The original programmer was hired by Microsoft a few years ago and the download site is on the Microsoft website.

Process Explorer

You can download it at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653.aspx. Wikipedia Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_Explorer. Process Explorer is Freeware and works on Windows XP and Higher and Windows 2003 Server and Higher.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Useful Software: Moo0 SystemMonitor

Moo0 SystemMonitor is an application that displays various system statistics right on your desktop.  It has a large variety of sensors like CPU usage per core, free memory, hard drive temperature,  incoming and outgoing bandwidth and much much more. It doesn't use too many system resources (ive noticed on 2 server systems and 1 client system that it uses around 20MB of memory and between 0.20% to 1.3% CPU).  It's an especially useful application to use on a server since you can monitor everything going on in one central location. You can change skins, increase/decrease the font size, change transparency, dock it, auto hide it, change the layout and more.

 Moo0 SystemMonitor

You can download Moo0 SystemMonitor from http://www.moo0.com/software/SystemMonitor/ Moo0 SystemMonitor is freeware and is compatible with Windows XP/2003/Vista

Friday, August 10, 2012

Interactive Services Detection - Accessing Session 0 on demand via the command line

Note that the FireDaemon Pro installer enables the UI0Detect service plus allows you to switch to the Session 0 desktop via the FireDaemon GUI or CLI.

Also check out the FireDaemon Session 0 Viewer. It supersedes the method of switching to and remaining on Session 0 as outlined below.

Windows Vista introduced us to the concept of Session 0 Isolation. This was in response to the need to isolate highly privileged service applications from malicious applications running in user space. These malicious applications would attempt to inject arbitrary code via into the service application via the application's message loop. These attacks are classified as shatter attacks. The net effect of this is that interactive Windows services are only available on Session o (or the Console session). When you log on to your Vista, 2008 or Windows 7 machine you now no longer login to Session 0 but into Session 1. Session 0 Isolation becomes problematic when attempting to run applications under FireDaemon as the interactive component (ie. the application's "visible" GUI) is no longer visible on the currently logged on session. Luckily Microsoft supplies the Interactive Services Detection Service on Windows Vista, 2008 and 7 to allow you access to Session 0 so you can interact with any interactive services (including FireDaemon ones) running on that session. Enabling the Interactive Service Detection Service (UI0Detect - that's UI "zero" Detect) is completed fastest at the command line. You will need to be an administrator to do this. Open an elevated command prompt and type:

sc config ui0detect start= auto

followed by

sc start ui0detect

Interactive Services Detection

Once that is done you will notice the Interactive Services Detection popup in the Task Bar:

 

This dialog can be annoying and is easily dismissed by clicking on Ask me later. The problem then arises on how to switch to the Session 0 desktop when the Interactive Services Detection popup is not present? There are two undocumented system calls available which allow you to switch to and from Session 0: WinStationSwitchToServicesSession and WinStationRevertFromServicesSession. These two system calls only work if the Interactive Services Detection service is running. To switch to Session 0 enter the following at a command prompt:

 rundll32 winsta.dll,WinStationSwitchToServicesSession

Windows will switch desktop and you will find yourself on Session 0. You can then revert back to your logged in session by clicking on Return now or entering the following at a command prompt:

rundll32 winsta.dll,WinStationRevertFromServicesSession


Friday, July 13, 2012

How do I increase my game performance

Games often require you to have a fast computer.  Especially newer games. If you encounter 25 FPS or lower in your games, then something is slowing it and affecting your game performance. You should (if possible) be running a minimum of 30FPS at all times or else it will be difficult to play the game smoothly. The following steps will help you to increase your game performance: 1) Check your process list before starting your game.  Often anti-virus software and other applications that read or write to the hard drive will slow down your game performance.  Especially applications that defrag it, they really slow it down. 2) Defragging. Not only does it increase the life span of your hard drive, but it also makes games run faster.  Why?  It because it puts all the files that the game needs to run in one continuous space instead of spread out all over the hard drive.  You should defrag at least once a month, but better yet is daily (preferably during off hours like at night). The defragger built into windows cannot be scheduled so you'll either have to remember to run it periodically or use My Defrag.  It's a freeware defrag tool that can be scheduled. 3) If you did the two things above and your games are still performing poorly.  There's a few things you can do in-game to improve your game performance:

  • Screen Resolution: extremely high screen resolutions will really hurt game performance. : try reducing it to 1024x768.
  • Shadows: sure they add realism but they really put alot of strain on your video card.  Try putting them at low or even off.
  • Aniscopic Filtering: this makes objects ahead of you more clear.  It's a real game performance hog though so you should leave it disabled.
  • Anti Aliasing: this makes the edges of objects slightly blurry.  It also puts a lot of strain on your video card and unless you're really paying attention, you wont notice it most of the time so just leave it disabled for that extra performance boost.
  • Texture Quality: the last thing you can try is reducing texture quality.  Higher textures take up more video card memory.

If you tried all these things and your game is still performing badly than your only course of action is to upgrade your computer to increase your game performance. First look at your video card.  How much memory does it have?  If its less than 256MB, you really should upgrade it as most games today require at least 512MB to run smoothly with higher settings.  Also look at how much ram you have.  You should have at least 2GB on 32-bit windows.  Don't get higher than that on a 32-bit operating system because 32-bit windows is unable to enable more than 2.2 GB.  The best thing you can do is get 4GB but only on 64-bit windows (all the memory will be usable). If you want to run your game server as a Windows Service you can do so with FireDaemon Pro and Manage via the web/iPhone/iPad with Fusion. If you have any other tips on game performance, feel free to share them in the comments below.

 


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