Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Windows Product Key Update Tool

If you've been reading this blog for long, you know what a sucker I am for ThinkPads. I buy them off lease from RetroBox. If you watch them closely (think every day), you can really find some good deals.

They come from RetroBox wiped clean; no OS. That always gets me to scrambling even though they all have a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) for Windows XP Pro on the bottom with a key. You'd need the IBM OEM XP Pro recovery CDs to use this key. Or so I thought.

Tonight I found the way to activate using this key. I have a consumer media for Windows XP Pro with a key. Use this and do a normal install even including entering this key. Don't sweat it if it has already been activated.

Then after the install is complete and before activating, go to Microsoft and download the Windows Product Key Update Tool. Run it and follow the instructions using the key on the COA on the bottom of the ThinkPad. One reboot later, you're done. It's even authenticated!

I don't see why this wouldn't work on any PC with an OEM COA. Let me know your experience.

I found this technique here on My Digital Life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Allway Sync

Remember when I talked about using FolderShare to help my wife work back and forth between home and her office?

Her work system administrators have gotten increasingly thorough. In the end, they've blocked FolderShare. I completely understand why they're doing that.


If I was ever going to see my wife, I had to restore her ability to work from home. I talked around at work and found robocopy and SyncToy. robocopy comes in the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools. It's a command line utility but there's a GUI to "help." While it's very capable, it's pretty awkward.

Then there's SyncToy v2.0 Beta. It's bigger than a breadbox. For example, it requires the .NET Framework v2.0.

I kept looking.

Somewhere I came across Allway Sync. It's free but limited to "synchronize no more than 20,000 files per 30-day period." I can live with that. They have a portable install made especially for installation on USB drives.

I found her a 512MB USB drive and copied her work My Documents to it. Then installed Allway Sync and created an automatic synchronization job.

On her PC at work, I created an icon on her desktop that will launch Allway Sync and run that synchronization job. And I got her a USB extension cord so she had a place to plug her USB drive in right on her desktop.

When she gets to work, she plugs in the USB drive and clicks the icon. It syncs automatically. She removes the USB drive and works normally throughout the day. When she is ready to leave, she repeats the process. Now the USB drive has a copy of her work My Documents.

At home, she plugs the USB drive into her ThinkPad and works from there. An unexpected benefit is that since she keeps the USB drive on her key chain, she can actually work on any PC by just plugging in the USB drive.

Still not as nice as FolderShare but works good enough within the restrictions of her work.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

OpenDNS and the DNS Security Flaw

I found another reason to run OpenDNS. Brian Krebs of the Washington Post recently posted about a newly revealed security problem in the design of DNS.

Brian linked to Dan Kaminsky's blog. Dan has a gadget on his page that will check YOUR DNS server. You know me. Like the bank robber in "Dirty Harry," "I gots to know."

Here's what the test reported for OpenDNS:

Then I went to another PC that is using BellSouth's DNS servers:

You be the judge.