Wednesday, November 27, 2013

dotNET Framework Redistributables

I have recently updated my original dotNET Framework Redistributables blog post from 2008 with links to the 4.5.1 files (RTM 2013-11-17) - so if you're looking for download links to the full/offline installers, please head on over to this blog post.


The Outspoken Wookie

Friday, November 22, 2013


Malware, in its many forms, is the bane of modern, technological life. Were it not for malware, people could actually enjoy using computers!

Malware is subdivided into spyware, trojans, viruses, rootkits, adware and other sub-categories based on how it acts. CryptoLocker is a Trojan – named after the Trojan Rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (ok, so it is actually named after the Trojan Horse from Greek mythology) – it is a malicious program that gains access to a computer system after appearing to be a legitimate product (or website) and then drops/delivers its malicious payload. In the case of CryptoLocker, the payload is an extremely well implemented encryption of many types of user data files.

CryptoLocker was released to the public in late 2013 and has so far managed to encrypt the data files of a great many people. Security technology company Bitdefender Labs has revealed that more than 12,000 victims have been claimed in less than a week. That's not insignificant. The cost of the decryption key (well, the private key of the public/private key pair used to encrypt your files) was originally set to US$100 or 300 Euro (or equivalent) and then changed to 2 Bitcoins or the equivalent in MoneyPak payment as many banks and payment processing facilities around the world started blocking payments for Cryptolocker. As the "value" of a Bitcoin has skyrocketed recently, it seems that the authors of CryptoLocker have taken this into consideration and now only charge 0.5 BTC for the decryption key.

Also, originally, once the 72 hour window for payment of the extortion fee had expired, your private key was said to be deleted – therefore rendering your data unrecoverable. The kind folks who wrote CryptoLocker realised that by doing this, considering most people have no idea what Bitcoins nor MoneyPak are, they were leaving a lot of money on the table and have now allowed people who cannot pay the approximately US$300 sum within 72 hours to make a late payment using their CryptoLocker Decryption Service to retrieve their key of around US$1500. Yes, that's 500% of the original cost.

So, assuming you have not yet been hit by this malicious ransomware, what are your best options for avoiding it? The list below offers some pointers for general security recommendations. Feel free to contact us for more information and possibly a site survey to determine your security weaknesses:

  1. Your regular user account should not have "Administrator" privileges.
  2. You should be running an appropriately licensed current operating system. If this is Windows, I'd not not consider XP to be current – and with the impending demise of extended support on Windows XP SP3 and Vista as of 8 April, 2014, anyone running it after this date is *ASKING* for trouble. I've never considered Vista to be a valid operating system choice.
  3. Ensure you have all operating system updates (critical and security, at least) installed.
  4. Ensure you have all 3rd party application updates installed – especially for any Adobe, Java and Apple software.
  5. You should only be running the latest web browser versions. Make sure these are kept up to date as this is crucial.
  6. You must be running a current, updated, effective anti-virus/anti-malware product.
  7. Ensure your passphrase is secure. Don't use your name, your partner's name, your kids names, your pets names or your address in any variation at all. Also, have a look at this link, this link and this link and ensure your passphrase is not in the lists.
  8. Yes, that's right – I said passphrase. So those of you paying attention would realise that "passphrase" is not "password" and that (almost) any passphrase will not be in those lists. Simple passphrases derived from simple words such as "Who let the dogs out" or "The cat sat on the mat" are not going to be all that different from simple passwords when it comes to brute force attacks. However, passphrases such as "Friday 2.00pm janitorial;" or "marryGold truthbe foretolD" are pretty easy to remember and type (important) yet are extremely unlikely to be found easily using a brute force attack.
  9. Don't tell anyone else (except, maybe, your manager) your password.
  10. Don't browse to dodgy websites.
  11. Don't open attachments from someone you don't know.
  12. Don't open attachments if you didn't expect to receive them from someone you do know.
  13. Don't be triskaidekaphobic.
  14. Don't pay attention to people sending you emails claiming there's a something out there that will do something bad to you unless you do something else. Especially if this involves money. Get familiar with Snopes.
  15. Backups. Make sure you have valid backups in a location that is not continually online and addressable via a regular drive letter or through the regular Windows Explorer interface.
  16. Make sure you have more than one backup and in more than one location. This is where online backups (cloud backups) can be handy - in addition to proper backups on things such as USB keys and USB hard disks.
  17. Encryption - the type you have the password/key for.  If your data is sensitive, it *MUST* be encrypted when it is backed up.
  18. Have a look at Hitman Pro Alert with CryptoGuard.
  19. Have a look at CryptoPrevent *especially* if you are running a Home version of Windows.
  20. Have a look at the CryptoLocker Prevention Kit *especially* if you are on a Domain or running a Pro version of Windows.
  21. Think. The best protection against malicious things on and off the Internet is that spongy thing holding your ears apart. Really. Just think.

The Outspoken Wookie

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bootable Windows Server 2012 ISO

Back in the Windows F^HVista/7 and Server 2008/2008R2 days, it was possible to install an operating system instance without needing to input a key during the installation process.  You could use various methods to make a bootable OS Install USB key then simply remove the \sources\ei.cfg file and you'd be able to choose between all the versions of the OS inside the boot.wim file - this was very handy!

Microsoft has made a change since Windows Server 2012/Windows 8 whereby they don't allow you to install Windows without the use of a Product Key.  There is no ei.cfg file in the \sources folder and you are forced to input a Product Key during installation.

Well, there's a simple way to work around this to not only create a bootable USB Key that doesn't need a Product Key during install (and lets you choose among the multiple OS variants in the boot.wim file), but also to re-create a bootable ISO image so that you can then mount this as an installation media source in Hyper-V!

The steps to achieve these goals are:
  • First, you'll need to download a Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2 ISO image or use the VL ISO image you already have there.  Then you'll need to either extract this image to a folder, or better still, just run the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool as detailed in this post and make yourself a bootable USB key that allows for quite quick OS installs.
  • Now, you'll need to copy the following into a new file called ei.cfg in the \sources folder of the USB key:
  • If you only need the bootable USB key, you can stop here, however if you now wish to recreate the ISO image file so that you can then use this modified image in a Hyper-V environment...
  • Download and install the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for Windows 8 (yes, all 3GB of it!) to give you access to both the Deployment and Imaging Tools, which you will need to install (the other components of the WDK are optional)
  • Now, to create an ISO image that will work with BIOS-based systems, assuming the USB Key we just made is available at U: and you're creating the ISO image on D:
    • Run the Deployment and Imaging Tools Environment (Command Prompt) as Administrator, change to the "amd64\oscdimg" folder and then type the following:
    • oscdimg.exe –l<disc_label> -m -u2 –b<path_of_bootable_img_file> <path_of_installation_source> <path_where_ISO_is_to_be_created>
    • Please see this link for an explanation of the oscdimg.exe command-line options
    • Example:
      oscdimg.exe -l2K12R2BIOS -m -u2 -b"U:\boot\" "U:\" "D:\2K12R2-BIOS.iso"
  • If you wish to create an ISO image that will work on both BIOS-based and UEFI-based systems such as a Hyper-V 2012 R2 Gen 2 guest instance, assuming the USB Key we just made is available at U: and you're creating the ISO image on D: (this uses a modified version of the instructions found here):
    • Run the Deployment and Imaging Tools Environment (Command Prompt) as Administrator, change to the "..\Windows Preinstallation Environment" folder
    • Type copype.cmd amd64 winpe_x64 This command creates the directory structure and copies the required files.
    • Now, copy winpe_x64/fwfiles/efisys.bin U:\boot to keep a copy on the USB key
    • Change back to the "..\Deployment Tools\amd64\oscdimg" folder, then type oscdimg -m -o -u2 -udfver102 -bootdata:2#p0,e,b"U:\boot\"#pEF,e,b"U:\boot\efisys.bin" "U:\" "D:\2K12R2-UEFI.iso"
    • Update: I have thought this through a little more and found an even easier way to achieve this. :)
    • Run the Deployment and Imaging Tools Environment (Command Prompt) as Administrator, change to the "amd64\oscdimg" folder and then type the following:
    • oscdimg -l2K12R2UEFI -m -o -u2 -udfver102 -bootdata:2#p0,e,b"U:\boot\"#pEF,e,b"U:\efi\microsoft\boot\efisys.bin" "U:\" "D:\2K12R2-UEFI.iso"
    • Please see the original post (here) for more information on the command-line options used.
  • Now, you can burn this ISO image to a DVD or simply use it as the source for a Hyper-V guest and because it contains both the BIOS and UEFI boot data, it can be used to install either a Gen 1 (BIOS) or Gen 2 (UEFI) Hyper-V Guest. :)
* I have updated this post at:



The Outspoken Wookie

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Sincerest Thanks

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who voted not only for me, but for any Secular Party candidate at the September 7th, 2013 Federal election.  In addition to that, I would also like to thank those who voted for other sensible, secular-oriented parties such as (but not limited to) the Pirate Party of Australia.

We all need to work hard to ensure we have rational, sensible, secular politicians in the Australian Government at all levels, especially in the Senates around Australia which are the Houses of Review - the final chance to reject the discriminatory or unfair sections of Bills attempting to be passed by whichever party holds Government at the time.

So, again, thanks.  We're starting to work towards the upcoming elections now and still need your support.  Please spread the word to your family, friends, workmates and general community that a secular government is a truly fair government for all people of all religious and other persuasions.


The Outspoken Wookie

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Australian Federal Election - Preferences

I have previously posted some information about how the Preferences work in the upcoming Sep 7th Federal Election (see this link), however there's also a more humorous and maybe more memorable version of this available at

Yes, I'd obviously prefer you to give me your Qld Senate Preference (or Vote 1 Secular Party of Australia above the line, and see our Preferences here) as I'd like to represent the critical thinking people of Queensland in Federal Parliament.


The Outspoken Wookie

Friday, August 16, 2013

Interview With A Wookie (And Others)

Last Saturday, Anne Reid (Secular Party of Australia Candidate for the Federal Seat of Griffith, Qld), Michael Sweedman (Secular Party of Australia Candidate for the Federal Seat of Ryan, Qld) and I (Hilton Travis, Secular Party of Australia Lead Senate Candidate, Queensland) were interviewed by Jake Farr-Wharton for The Imaginary Friends Show (dot com) Podcast.  Here's the result for your political listening pleasure:

In addition to this, I was also interviewed by Ross Balch for his Skeptically Challenged vodcast and the result can be found here:

If you are looking for a political party who will support secular values and a separation of church and State whereby all Australians are treated fairly and equally, who will support sensible economic policy, who will support implementing the Gonski Review findings for Australian education, who believes that the health care sector should prioritise patient rights over the organisation's or practitioner's religious beliefs, who wants to ensure refugees and asylum seekers are processed as quickly and safely as possible and who will support marriage equality and other forms of anti-discrimination, then please feel free to have a look at The Secular Party of Australia and if you feel so inclined, please join the Party.  There's a donation button on the main page if you want to donate to the party in general or to any particular State (CND-QLD) or Candidate (eg, CND-QLD-Hilton) by adding this information in the description fields.

If you think that the Secular Party of Australia deserves a chance to represent your views and ensure that a more fair Australia exists for all citizens, please Vote 1 Secular Party of Australia at the Sep 7th Federal Election.


The Outspoken Wookie

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rational, Reason-Based Government

I'm not shy stating my position - I think anyone who knows me or even knows of me knows that this is the case.  This is part of the reason I was asked to become the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community Partner Area Lead (SBSC PAL) in 2008 - there were people in Microsoft who realised that not only were they not targeting the SMB IT community well, but that the SMB IT community was not really being listened to by Microsoft.  So, Microsoft Australia asked me to take on the role, and as I said when I accepted the position, the only reason I would take it on was if there was a chance, no matter how slight, that I would be able to help steer Microsoft in a more viable direction regarding their SMB partners - to help both Microsoft and, most importantly, their Partners.

Well, we all know that Microsoft was, at that time, well down the path of trying to bury their SMB community.  What has happened since is that Microsoft has continued trying to isolate itself from one of the largest segments of business on the planet - SMB - and the SMB IT community has grown up beyond where it was to become a much stronger community, hence the establishment of organizations such as SMBiT Professionals here in Australia.  I am proud to have played a small part in the establishment of this organization and hope to see it continue to grow to help its members, members' clients and the IT community as a whole.

Now, with that out of the way, can I get started into the politics?  Well, there's a similar reason I'm getting involved - I want to make the world a better place than it is now.

There is simply too much influence over Government, health, education, tax, welfare and the bedroom in Australia by religious organizations.  The special privilege these organizations enjoy is something that needs to be either properly justified or removed.  I have long been outspoken against human rights violations, discrimination and unfairness in Australia and around the world - as can be seen by a number of posts here in my blog, as well as elsewhere.  I have decided that it is time for me to pony up and take a stand against inequality and as a part of that, I am standing for the Senate at the upcoming Federal Election for the Secular Party of Australia because of their stance against human rights violations and platform based around secular values which results in equality for all Australians.

I strongly believe in the separation of church and State – outside one’s personal choices, religious beliefs should play no part in politics, education, healthcare nor the bedroom. If anyone wants to argue that their religious beliefs have merit in any of these areas then it is only reasonable to ask them to provide credible, verifiable evidence that their deity/deities exist. Once that evidence is provided and verified, we can legitimately argue the merits of their religious views on a subject. Until then, anyone is entitled to their own personal beliefs – as per Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( – and the peaceful expression of those beliefs, however no one has the right to use their personal beliefs to restrict nor remove the rights of someone else.

As I see it, LGBT rights are just one aspect of human rights. Women’s rights are another aspect of human rights. What we need to remember first and foremost when looking at the rights of any people being discriminated against is that equality should apply equally to everyone - as per Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( Discrimination is not acceptable in today’s world and I will do everything I can to ensure discrimination is not made acceptable in Australia.

Unfortunately as it currently stands, religious organizations have special exemption from the laws and conditions that apply to other organizations.  They pay no rates, no income nor company tax and have no need to report their financials as other non-profit organizations must.  There are special exemptions to anti-discrimination laws that allow a religious body to fire for no valid reason, a woman who falls pregnant unless she is married.  That's right, it is perfectly legal in Australia to have sex outside a marriage and it is perfectly legal to fall pregnant outside a marriage, however we are giving the church special rights to discriminate against people in this situation (and many others).  If the church wants to be able to have special exemption from discrimination laws, why are we, the taxpayers, funding it through many different levels of tax relief/exemption?  This is simply unfair to all Australians as far as a level playing field goes.

Do I have an issue with anyone having a personal religious belief?  Not in the slightest, and I will fight for anyone's right to have a personal religious belief - just because I have seen no credible evidence for any supernatural beings doesn't mean I want to legislate that people can't believe - that would be plain silly, not to mention against the UNDHR.  What I want to see is religion - all religion, no matter which specific flavor - treated fairly and all Australians treated fairly by religious organizations.

What I also want to see is Australians complying with their obligations under internationals laws and treaties with respect to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.  Refugees and asylum seekers - what do these terms even mean?  Well, according to the UNHCR - the United Nations Refugee Agency - a "refugee" is "someone who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country" and an "asylum seeker" is "someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated".  Right now, the way we are treating asylum seekers arriving or attempting to arrive in boats (particularly in boats) is appalling.  The Government's current plan to redirect asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea for settlement and not allow them into Australia is tantamount to us jailing some legitimate refugees - especially LGBT refugees.  Have a read of this article and this article for more information on how LGBT people (including refugees) are treated in Papua New Guinea.

I completely agree with the UNHCR when they state:
National asylum systems are there to decide which asylum-seekers actually qualify for international protection. Those judged through proper procedures not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their home countries.
The efficiency of the asylum system is key. If the asylum system is both fast and fair, then people who know they are not refugees have little incentive to make a claim in the first place, thereby benefitting (sic) both the host country and the refugees for whom the system is intended.

Australia needs to have a serious look at how we are handling both refugees and, in particular, asylum seekers.  We are not handling this anywhere near what I would call "well".  For an interesting discussion with Julian Burnside QC that includes a good look at how we can better handle refugees and asylum seekers, have a look at ABC's "Adam Hills Tonight: S03E12 from 37:12 to 43:35.

As a country, we need to take a look at how we treat refugees and asylum seekers, how we treat women and LGBT folk, how we treat our own citizens and how we treat foreign nationals, not just how we appear to the world, but how we treat the world.

And Education.  Where do I start...  We need to ensure our children receive a good education, grounded in reality.  We need to teach our children how to think, not what to think.  We need to encourage critical thinking at school - the ability to take something you've been told and understand how to pull it apart and look at the core components to determine if what you've been told is actually correct or not.  We do not want to create automatons.  I have also blogged some thoughts on Public Education In Australia before.

On a lighter note, one of the beautiful things about science is that it knows that it is often wrong - the pursuit of truth is exactly that, a journey.  A great example of this is "The Galaxy Song" written by Eric Idle for Monty Python.  At the time the song was originally written, around 1983, the song was "correct" given the knowledge of the time.  As science tends to do, new discoveries have caused some of that knowledge to become outdated and now "The Galaxy Song" is not an accurate representation of what we know of the universe at present.  So, to correct this issue, Eric Idle and Brian Cox have rewritten "The Galaxy Song" to be correct as to our current understanding of the universe which, as is the case with science, will likely change again in the future as we learn even more.  So, to end this post, here's the updated version of "The Galaxy Song".  Enjoy! :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Hilton Travis - Lead Queensland Senate Candidate - Secular Party of Australia

Just in case you've not yet found out, I am the lead Senate Candidate for Queensland for the Secular Party of Australia.  Yes, I figured it was time to put my money where my mouth was and make a stand, giving people the opportunity to let me represent secular, humanist, equal opportunity rights in the Australian Federal Parliament.

So, feel free to head on over to my Facebook Page to see what I'm up to, the Secular Party of Australia site to see hat we stand for, and if you feel so inclined, a donation to the party with "CND-QLD-Hilton" or a generic donation to the Party would be greatly appreciated.

Now, some quick points on our electoral system - preferential voting.
  • If you are completely happy with a major party (Greens, Labor, Liberals), then Vote 1 your major party of choice.
  • If you are not completely happy with the major parties, then Vote 1 the minor party who best represents what you consider will be the best path forward for Australia, Vote 2 the next party who best represents your views and all the way down to the party who least represents your views
  • By voting 1 minor, and then 2 (or lower) a major party, this ensures your vote gets the most value for a number of reasons, namely
    • You give your minor party of choice a chance to actually represent your views in Australian Government
    • You serve the major parties notice that you are not overly happy with their policies and/or directions and/or performance to date
    • You give the minor party of your choice a chance to gain some electoral funding - once a Candidate receives 4% of the primary votes (in the Senate, the group needs to receive 4% of primary votes), they/the Party will receive $2.48800 per first preference vote.  For a minor party, this is a significant boost as they are generally at least heavily funded out of the pockets of the Candidates themselves.
  • Only 5% of Australians vote below the line in the Senate.  By voting above the line, you give that party the ability to distribute preferences as they see fit.  So, Voting 1 Secular Party in the Senate will enable the Secular Party to distribute preferences - our preferences will be detailed on our website as soon as possible after being notified of all Candidates running in the Federal Election.
  • Voting 1 for a minor party is not a wasted vote - it enables your vote to same numerous things


The Outspoken Wookie

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pip Marlow Confirms: Microsoft Are Bastards

OK, so it has been quite a while since I blogged - I should change that.  I've been spending more time updating Facebook instead and that has lead to a dearth of updates in here.  So here's the first in a while.

Pip Marlow has confirmed that Microsoft has been lying to their Partners (sic) in Australia for years when they have been telling us that their over-inflated pricing was out of their hands as it was set by Microsoft US: During a March IT price inquiry hearing, Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow admitted the local arm of the global software giant set Australian prices based on what the market could bear.
The revelation earned Marlow and the company the wrath of the parliamentary committee for 'charging what it could get away with'.

You lying, cheating bastards - and that includes you, too Pip.


The Outspoken Wookie

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Public Education In Australia

It seems that lately, the public education system in Australia is being treated like an altar boy in a catholic church.  Across the States and Territories and also Federally, it seems that public education is something the governments want to get off their books.  They are treating public education as if it is a blight on our country, on their ability to balance their books and as if it something best handled by the churches and corporations.

This is a very, very disturbing trend.

Late last year we held a Humanist Society of Queensland conference on the infiltration of the public education system in Queensland by religious agendas and some of the information delivered at this conference was quite disturbing.  What we've seen recently from our governments at all levels does nothing to help quash these feelings of unease.

In September, 2012, John-Paul Langbroek, the Queensland Education Minister, announced Queensland's first independent State Schools: In January 2013 the Qld Government actually announced this officially:  The concern here is that these "State Schools" will be taken over by religious agendas or corporate agendas - both of which are quite distasteful.  We need to ensure our public school system is free from the taints of both religion and corporate influence.

Two recent articles, the first published in The Hoopla ( by Wendy Harmer and the second in the ABC's "The Drum" ( by Jane Caro - both well known promoters of public sanity and secularism - bring this issue of the treatment of our public school system into the light.  We need to make sure we get behind this issue as public education - secular public education - should never be the lowest common denominator and should never be what's left at the bottom of the barrel for those families without the financial resources to afford a "quality private education" for their children.

These two articles follow on from former High Court Judge Michael Kirby's article in the Sydney Morning Herald in December 2012 ( asking people to take a serious look at the benefits of a functional and effective public education system here in Australia.

One thing we, as a public who cares about the future of public education in this country, can do is to attend local Parents and Citizens' Associations meetings.  You don't need to be a parent of a child in that school to attend a P&C meeting - you don't even need to be a parent of a child to be included under the "Citizens" part of that banner.  What you need to be is a parent and/or citizen who is concerned about the direction that public education is taking in this country and who is willing to stand up and be counted when necessary.

The Secular Party of Australia supports a properly funded, well respected public education system and strongly encourages our Government to implement the Gonski Review recommendations with a few amendments that can be found here.

If you value the secular education of Australian children, please be sure to read the articles referenced earlier, investigate what's happening at your local public school(s), take an active role by joining a local P&C meeting and make sure your vote in future elections helps to tell our Governments how important this issue is to you - not to mention to the future of Australia.

Edit: I forgot to mention the great article that Chrys Stevenson wrote for ABC's Religion and Ethics on the Humanist Society of Queensland's Separation Of Church And State Schools conference held in 2012.


The Outspoken Wookie

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Toowoomba Critical Thinkers Jan 2013

I'll be up in Toowoomba on the night of the 16th January and as there's been some interest in holding another meeting, well, we may as well do it then - sorry for the short notice, I've been rather busy this past week or two...

So, if you know anyone in or around Toowoomba who may be interested in meeting some folks capable of critical thinking, rationalism and skepticical thought, feel free to invite them along. I'll be the wookie-looking guy in the front bar with a black "Quark IT" shirt on (as I'm up there for work on Tues/Wed/Thurs that week).


The Outspoken Wookie