Router Adware Malicious Hack causes Appimart Codec Nightmare

Recently my Chrome and Internet Explorer applications have been making unprompted requests to update the codecs (related to a website called appimart) and my tablet based internet monitoring tool was blocking additional request for information. I use several adware detection tools and very aggressive anti-virus and firewall protection.

It was stumping me where this problem could be originating from within my tablet PC.  I even went to two extremes with first restoring my PC to an earlier date and then when that failed refreshing the entire tablet to factory specifications.  Nothing worked!

Then it occured to me that I was only having the problem with one of my wireless routers — Linksys e2500.  I discovered that the DNS servers for the connection to the ISP (Time Warner Cable) had been changed and that the internal DHCP DNS was changed also.  So I released and renewed the Time Warner connection and then changed the DNS settings on the DHCP.  Rebooted the router.  The settings remained correct.

Problem resolved.

This looks to be a Linksys issue.  As it turns out I have been planning to upgrade to a SonicWall for the past couple of months.  Looks like I have a reason to do that now.

Private Email Services Division Re-Launches Service

PORTLAND, ME – MAY 1, 2014 – Madison Connections officially announced the re-launch of its popular electronic mail services.  The re-launch includes several new trademarks, service marks and are protected by pending patents.  The electronic email service will operate under the Private Email Services division of the corporation.  The initial electronic mail portals are aimed at consumer markets using the brands of SecureMail.XXX™, Forgetnic™ and MILfamily™.  Additional trademarks that the company will develop for brand recognition and distinction include: auto-destructing electronic message™, auto-destructing electronic messaging™, Disguised Notifications™, Ditty Domains™, We Can Keep A Secret™ and Like You Never Sent It™.

The services are all pay services with charges ranging from $72 to $96 per year.  The fee currently includes two accounts for the price of one which should make it easier to begin messaging.  In addition, the company provides service extensions to customers that refer friends.  One of the planned promotions will offer one free year of service when 5 referrals are completed.  Special rates are available for member of the military, veterans and their families.

Marketing information for the Forgetnic service can be found at  Additional information can be found in the corporate blog at

The service is currently in alpha testing and will begin beta testing Summer 2014.  Official product launch is scheduled for September 2014.

The Value of Disaster Recovery

This weekend my network media server died.  Being a tech guy, computer failures are to be expected.  Even though total loss of new gear is possible, usually failures seem to happen most with older equipment.  This media server is about a year old and the hard drive warranty is good until December 2012.  However as good as the warranty is, nothing is going to bring the data back from that crashed hard drive. (Yes, I froze the drive and tried any number of recovery efforts.  It is toast.) 

As it happens, one of my medical clients asked me to help them with their disaster recovery and back up system a few months back.  I needed to find a system which supported HIPAA compliance and was reliable.  I stumbled upon KL Security which sells the IOSafe.  Their sales rep was very helpful and suggested to buy a NetGear Ready NAS 4000 NV+ (network attached storage.)  The IOSafe plugs into the NAS and provides a redundant, single disk backup which is waterproof at 10 feet depth for a week and fireproof at 1500 degrees for at least a half-hour.  The NAS runs as a RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks) in a proprietary format similar to RAID5.

I set up a prototype system at my offices first to make sure it would be a good fit for the customer.  So about $900 later, the system arrived.  It was easy to set up… Pop in the hard drives and let the NAS do the rest.  After install I set the time and network information.  The NAS comes with on-board back up software which was easy to use.  And the IOSafe plugs into the NAS via a USB cable. I needed to format the NAS to FAT32 which required a third party software to exceed Windows rules (see Ridgecrop Consultants Ltd Fat32Format.)

NetGear ReadyNAS 4000 NV+

So I programmed my back up on a nightly basis.  Fortunately I set up the software to fully back up the data on all network attached devices including the media server.  Normally I back up my data off site with Mozy.  But Mozy does not allow you to back up network attached devices, nor would I want to because we are talking about 500GB of storage which is impossible to back up remotely (at least as of this writing.)  The NAS box started throwing me error emails about the media server while I was on the road, upon return, I found the hard drive had failed.

After replacing the hard drive, I used Microsoft SyncToy v2 to copy the backed up data from the NAS to the new hard drive… Over the gigabit network the restore time was very quick, and inside of the afternoon,  my entire media server was fully restored.

It’s the first time in 20+ years of computer/technology that I’ve ever experienced a full drive failure.  The disaster recovery backup saved my weekend.

Network Tool Upgrade

Today, my old RJ45 Cat5 crimp tool died after too many crimp attempts finally caused its mechanism to give out.  So I drove to my local electronic parts distributor to find a replacement.  From past experiences of easily breaking the plastic tools with my vise-like grip, I knew that I wanted a metal construction with a ratchet.  The counter representative suggested I try the Platinum Tools EZ-RJPRO HD Crimp Tool (P/N 100054); and use the EZ-RJ45 pass through plug connectors (P/N 1000010B.)

I learned my networking skills thanks to Anixter back in 1995.  Back then, Cat5 was state-of-the-art and so companies were aggressively training network engineers on the skill-sets needed to sell network hardware and cable systems.  Crimp tools were basic having a lineage that stretched back to Cat3 telephone cables…and they were expensive because the production was limited…and there were wiring standard competitions (A vs B.) My first crimp tool and scissors came courtesy of Anixter.

Several times since 1995 I’ve replaced my crimp tool.  None of the tools had the positive qualities I look for in my tools.  These replacements didn’t strip the wires well, they broke because of bad plastic, and on the metal tools the tolerances were so bad that after a little bit of use the crimp tool would lose alignment.  In addition the process of properly cutting and inserting the wires to meet Cat5 tolerances to meet strain and crimp requirements was cumbersome.

Platinum Tools Heavy Duty Crimp Tool

As it happens, an inventive mind was at work.  And in 1997 and 1998 several patents were filed by Robert Sullivan.  These patents became the first version of Platinum Tools’ RJ45 crimp tool.  By the way, this tool still is sold and has a suggested MSRP of $59.95.  Keeping with traditions of innovation the third generation of the crimp tool was released to market in 2009.  A call to the company revealed that this third generation tool is selling so fast that they are back-ordered.

The company has posted a video on the internet:

Platinum Tools Demo on EZ-RJPRO HD Crimp Tool Use

So how does it work?  I didn’t have access to the video when I first used the tool.  It was very intuitive to use in part because the company has taken the time to laser etch the pin numbers and the Cat5 wiring specifications on the handles.  The pass through plug connectors are amazing!

With the older tools I would try to smooth and line up the wires and then cut them as straight as possible for an insert in the connector.  This is a time consuming process because you want to keep the twist in the wires into the connector and because improperly seating a single wire strand leads to a bad crimp.  Bad crimps mean having to repeat the process.  And this means more labor and more parts.

This ‘new to me’ pass through connector makes it easy, I could run a single or pairs of the wire into it; this means that it is easy to get the pin placements correct…that was a bonus.  More importantly it prevents a bad crimp which is both a time and a money saver.

And the crimp tool makes it easy to insert and seat the connector prior to the crimp.  With the standard diagram on the front side I could easily compare the wire colors to provide a second quality check that the connector was wired properly.  The crimp tool’s sturdy metal construction with ratchet action assures proper setting of the crimp.  And the cut off blade cleanly sheared off all 8 wires.

The tool is also capable of crimping shielded cables.  The current crimp rating is for 1 gigahertz (GHz)…and there is a rumor that a 10 GHz tool is on the way.

This is one crimp tool that will be staying in my tool box!

Here are some spots to buy the tool and components:

Our webstore,, sells the Platinum Tools EZ-RJPRO HD Crimp Tool P/N 100054 for MSRP of $85.00  We also sell the EZ-RJ45 Cat6+ connectors.

If you want to save some money, try ordering the tool from H R Distributors ( by calling (207) 773-2552.  They sell the crimp tool for $72.54 (item # PLT 100054.)

SlideIT for Android

For years we’ve all struggled with the qwerty keyboards…after all the keyboard is a hold out from the analog typewriter days. Recently I’ve tried SlideIT for Android. This virtual keyboard tool makes it possible to help portable devices overcome the limits of screen sensitivity, processor issues and the cumbersome QWERTY typing process. Check out this video:
SlideIT Demo Video

Competing in the US Chamber’s I AM FREE ENTERPRISE Contest

American Special Projects and its team members have entered the US Chamber of Commerce’s I Am Free Enterprise video contest. We learned of the contest on Wednesday April 7, 2010; shot the video on Thursday; and edited/submitted it on Friday before the 6 p.m. deadline. Our ability to meet this tight timeline for a video of up to 3 minutes in length was possible because of our (pending release) low cost video production template.

We’re looking for you help to help promote our video to the to 25 clicks. This will help our team get judged in the Round 1 of the contest which wraps up by April 16, 2010. Finalists then move onto Round 2. The grand prize is $50,000; with second and third place prizes of $30,000 and $20,000 respectively.

There are a number of good videos in the contest. Although I am biased towards American Special Projects’ “American Free Enterprise” video.

Please help by clicking.

American Free Enterprise

Menthol Smokers Are More Likely to Quit Smoking

American Special Projects reports data on cigarette reduction and cessation study. To be published study, performed for a client, indicates that menthol flavor may aid in reduction and cessation programs for cigarette smokers.

The study results mirror and expand on scientific research from earlier in 2009 indicating higher addiction rates for menthol smokers.

Update on 12/25/08 post Best (and sometimes free) Tools for the Mobile Professional

On 12/25/2008 I wrote about my initial evaluations of GooSync.  This will serve as a follow up and revision on those comments.

For the past couple of months I’ve been struggling using the GooSync contact-sync.  It’s been buggy, suffered through server downtime and other quirks.  I finally resolved to update my contacts only when it was really necessary…and then only over a WiFi network.  Happily the GooSync calendar-sync has been flawless.

As of yesterday 2/9/2008 I ceased using GooSync to move over to Google’s new Google Sync.  Not that this transition was not without problems; these were resolved by backing up my contacts/calendar and then wiping the Windows Mobile v 6 Pocket PC to factory specifications.  Google’s done good with this release — you can now merge multiple contacts into one, online corrections quickly mirror to the handheld and the sync (at least for me) is working beautifully over GPRS/GSM.

Thoughts on and following the Consumer Electronic Show

In early January I flew to Las Vegas for the International Consumer Electronics Show.  Despite the tough economic times and rumors that attendance was down, the show floor was a bustling place.  Overall there was a lot of excitement around big tickets items such as sub-inch thick televisions, netbooks and 3D television.  I’d say the top four areas where I saw significant traffic focused on booths which featured:

·  wii gaming accessories (chairs, 3D monitors, interface devices, killer audio systems with rumblers)

·  car audio and gadgets (tons of products on location based services)

·  TV’s with a strong focus on the new 1/3″ to 1″ thickness and 3D (bad news on 3D, it still requires glasses)

·  netbooks (sony just released a small screen with a conventional laptop keyboard)

From a consulting and business perspective, I think the netbooks bear the most watching.  These netbooks won’t be mistaken for a gaming notebook nor will you be crunching any Microsoft Excel spreadsheets on them.  However, if you’re signed up with Google Documents or Zoho, then the netbook will work just fine for you.  This baby cousin of the notebook computer will offer you a rapid boot and easy to use platform.  Trying to hop into the netbook game with a software solution is Phoenix Technologies via their Hyperspace software.  I’ve heard they manufacture the majority of the motherboard used in computers.  I saw the demo of Hyperspace in their booth.  It was impressive and they gave me a disk to take home with me.  Sadly, three laptops later I have yet to find one which can install the software.  So if you need a fast booting, lightweight machine then stick with the netbooks.  If you are looking for a manufacturer, try Sony for a big name.  At the International Pavilion on the other side of the show, there were dozens of Chinese companies with knockoffs selling for half-price.  You might even be able to buy a generic netbook at your local street vendor or pharmacy in the near future.

Several other technologies should be watched for potential business opportunities.  These include the Digital Living Network Alliance’s DLNA standard. 

…A few years back I went to a technology presentation for the then developing Bluetooth wireless standard.  The industry representative promised that Bluetooth would someday connect all of the electronics you owned.  A couple of years later the ultra-wideband working group promised the same trick with wireless USB 2.0….Well, Bluetooth and ultra-wideband didn’t happen as planned…maybe because they required totally custom and new hardware?

Skip ahead several years to this year’s CES show where I dropped by the DLNA booth, saw the presentation and then witnessed the demonstration.  DLNA is going to do for the audio/visual/data world amazing and magical transformations.  DLNA is way cool and it works in other places too — such as your living room, your car or the office.  This DLNA standard already has accomplished a tremendous amount in a short time; should it complete even half of its roadmap of milestones it will become a formidable standard.

Here’s what I saw: the DLNA rep using their Nokia N95 phone as a ‘controller’ directed a video from the ‘server’ to be played on a television ‘client’.  The video streamed flawlessly and the onscreen display was easy to follow.  What is cool to me was that the N95 was running on WiFi, the server was connected to a LAN, and the client a ZyXel DMA1100P was receiving the data over a powerline interface…3 different media layers all sharing data seamlessly and in real time.  I was so enthusiastic about this standard I’ve set it up in my home office/lab. 

What I’ve built has a little bit more power than what I saw at the show.  (Maybe it’s the Tim “Toolman” Allen part of me… grunt grunt grunt, more power)

I’ve be experimenting with the VortexBox from which is shareware (to be honest I sent a small donation), so if you don’t like it then it is free.  Vortex allowed me to resurrect an old Dell Pentium 4 machine with 256MB of RAM from the scrap pile…making me a little bit green.  In about 20 minutes the P4 was a VortexBox.  Now let me tell you why this is so cool…the programmers at Vortex have put a SqueezeCenter interface on this little package which by the way also includes DLNA, UPnP, SMB, and a whole host of standards/interfaces.  The Vortex has now become my network area storage (NAS) via SMB, media library for iTunes, SqueezeCenter for my Logitech Squeezebox and SlimDevices SoftSqueeze, video/picture resource for my XBMC devices and soon to come my DLNA server for my televisions.  Initially I was leaning towards a Microsoft Media Center install — which requires licensing and a more expensive box; but the VortexBox did the trick.  Total cost for the Vortex $55 because I put in a 160GB hard drive.

The SoftSqueeze software is also a free software package.  It’s made by SlimDevices which is now owned by Logitech; who by way of acquisition now owns the SqueezeBox.  I’m guessing it is a loss leader to convince the American consumer to buy the SqueezeBox.  It worked for me.  I recently headed down to the soon to be defunct Circuit City and bought a SqueezeBox Boom for $239 (which is $100 better than at and $60 better than Logitech/SlimDevices online stores.)  The SqueezeBox Boom was easy to install as it supports a WiFi connection with WEP.  In about 5 minutes or less I was streaming digital radio from the Internet and able to access of the music on my VortexBox.  The Squeeze product line can connect to pay services such as Sirius, Rhapsody, etc.  So this product can run independent of the rest of my system.

The final piece of my network is yet to happen…which is to integrate the DLNA video stream.  For this I picked up the ZyXEL NBG318S kit which includes a powerline adaptor for $199.  I won’t need the kit as the ZyXEL DMA1100P has a built in powerline adaptor; I picked it up to have an extra network jack available if needed.  The DMA1100P will run you about $269.  The ZyXEL is sitting behind a Linksys WRT54G wireless AP/router; so it was a little finicky to install.  The trick I found to installing it was to set it up in the same subnet as my Linksys and then to go into the advanced setting screens and turn on the IGMP, any IP setup and all between LAN/WAN options.  The information I read on the web said static routes don’t always work with Linksys; and my experience with SOHO devices has taught me to use what works.  The DMA1100P is still in transit to me, so early in February I’ll be blogging about how easy it was to set up and use (hopefully.)  I have been using the powerline adaptor to access both the internet and the VortexBox.  It couldn’t be easier.

So far my out of pocket costs for this experiment has been:

$55 hard drive (optional)
$50 donation for shareware (optional but suggested)
$239 SqueezeBox Boom (optional)
$199 NBG318S
$269 DMA1100P

$812 total

Now I could have done without the SqueezeBox Boom.  But now that I have bought it at a discount and used it…I just can’t get that quality of sound out of my laptop.  If you can add this item, I’d strongly suggest it.

You could forgo the DMA1100P if you own a Samsung LCD HDTV.  Today a few manufacturers, such as Samsung and Sony, are beginning to bundle DLNA in their sets.  The DMA1100P will enable you to breathe new life into your older TV’s which soon will need cable or satellite feeds to receive signals without an adaptor.  My wish lists for DLNA is the ability to grab live, recorded and on-demand signals from my VortexBox or maybe another device.

Thanks for reading.  As usual, we’re available to help with your technology needs.

Helpful Links:

Netbook Article on FoxNews,2933,483564,00.html?sPage=fnc/scitech/personaltechnology

Digital Living Network Alliance

Slim Devices



 Samsung’s Committment to DLNA

Sony’s Overview of DLNA


Links to Buy Products

ZyXEL NBG-318S 200 Mbps Powerline HomePlug AV 802.11g Wireless Router