Microsoft Windows

Lost Windows 7 password

Posted by admin on July 15, 2010  /   Posted in Microsoft Windows

Ever feel the anguish of having something your need or want so close yet you can’t get to it?

Today I did. I forgot the password to the only user on my three-weeks old laptop. Forgot as in no way to remember it, and the hint didn’t help either. I am sure it’s not one of my regular ones because I was trying to be cute and came up with a new word.

And it so happen that in MS-Windows world, if you don’t have administrator account enabled, and you forgot your user password, you’re toast. I guess its the same thing with UNIX as well, except in UNIX, you will always have a root (same as administrator) user account.

Now what?

My help came from a rather weird source. Youtube. Where a lot of people apparently had solved the same problem. Most of them are .iso files which can be burned into a CD-RW and you boot into the CD instead of the hard drive. Ironically almost all of them are built around some kind of Linux distribution.

I tried one called Ophcrack which attempted to actually decode the Windows password hash. Of course after cranking the CPU to 100% for 15 minutes, it failed to retrieve my password. I didn’t say I came up with weak passwords :)

Finally I tried what’s called the Trinity Rescue Kit (just google it, it’s better than my linking to a website that may not be there when you needed it). A 149MB .iso files which I burned into a CD-RW disc.  It gave me a command prompt after booting on my laptop.

I proceeded to type:
winpass -u [my_username] and I was presented with a couple of options, one of which is to clear the password. I selected it and less than one second later it announced that my password has been cleared. Holding my breath, I issued shutdown -r now and waited.

And Voila! my laptop booted right into the account without asking for the password. Whew! that was a relief.

NOTE: Had I been able to enable the administrator account, I may have been spared from this exercise, but as I found out later, my version of Windows 7 that came with the laptop does not provide a way to enable the administrator account. Strange!

So  my thanks to those ‘White Hat’-hackers who wrote the winpass utility and to those distro-jockeys who made it available in the .iso format.

And this time I remembered to create a password reset usb-keychain drive.  Without it, I’d be repeating this story all over again.

Running GUI Linux programs in Windows

Posted by admin on June 03, 2010  /   Posted in Data Best Practices, Linux, Microsoft Windows

Now why on earth would you want to run GUI Linux programs on Windows?

If you were to ask me that a week ago, I would not be able to come up with a good business scenario.  Other than the fact that I did it at home, because my main computer is a Windows box and my development stuff is on my Linux server.

But at the moment I am stuck with an old laptop at work — which, being a good corporate laptop, of course is running Windows XP — because the giant four-letter computer company has messed up the shipment for my new computer.

So to make lemonade out of a lemon, I have enlisted two powerful free software that can get me out of this jam: PuTTY and Xming.

The idea is to use a powerful Linux machine to host and run the GUI programs that I need to work with from my very resource-limited old laptop (Pentium 4 Mobile with 512 MB, anyone?).

What applications? you say…

Let’s pick a big one, how about the Eclipse IDE.

Step one:

You install Xming and fire up XLaunch.  Out of the three modes that Xming offered: 1) multiple apps in one window, 2) each app running in a separate window, 3) fullscreen mode, mode 2 is one that works the best in this scenario.

So I went ahead and created an .xlaunch file that basically fired up Xming in the background, ready to accept X-window connections on the old laptop. NOTE: Don’t forget to check a box that says “No Access Control” otherwise your Linux application will be rejected when it tried to connect to Xming.

NOTE: Xming has a file called X0.hosts (that’s X and zero, not the letter ‘o’) which is usually located in the Xming install directory.  This file may need to be modified to include the IP address of the linux box.  But only if it connects to Xming via another network domain (other than the primary one).

For example, I setup a virtual linux guest on my windows 7 machine, the local network subdomain looks like 192.168.56.x unlike the default network domain which is 192.168.1.x.  The latter is where Xming waits for connections from.  Therefore I need to add 192.168.1.101 (the IP address of the linux machine) to the end of X0.hosts file (a line by itself), then Xming will work as expected.

A subnote, on my machine, windows 7 forces me to become administrator user to edit this file.  Although not as elegant as UNIX’s sudo command, the Switch User facility in windows makes this not as painful as it could have been.

Next, I fired up PuTTy.  I followed the steps to configure a PuTTy session that will allow X-forwarding and all that good stuff on this website.

Once you are connected to the Linux server, in which I already have downloaded the appropriate Eclipse distribution, ready to go.

All I need to do once I connected via PuTTy is:

  1. Set the DISPLAY environment variable to point to the laptop’s Xming instance: export DISPLAY=192.168.x.x:10.0 (the 192.168.x.x being the laptop’s internal IP address, of course).
  2. Run Eclipse IDE: ./eclipse &

And voila! Eclipse is running on the Linux server with every bit of its UI tunneled via X onto the old laptop.  Of course the performance depends on the network connection, but it is surprisingly snappy on a typical 100Mbps Gigabit Ethernet.  And I am talking about Eclipse loaded with a large project.

Now if this article does not make you run to the storerooms in the back and pull out those old laptops and give those out to your developers, I don’t know what else will :)


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