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Step-by-Step Guide for Adding a Stack, Expanding Control Lines, and Building an Assembler

After the positive response to my first tutorial on expanding the RAM, I thought I'd continue the fun by expanding the capabilities of Ben's 8-bit CPU even further. That said, you'll need to have done the work in the previous post to be able to do this. You can get a sense for what we'll do in this Imgur gallery.
In this tutorial, we'll balance software and hardware improvements to make this a pretty capable machine:

Parts List

To only update the hardware, you'll need:
If you want to update the toolchain, you'll need:
  1. Arduino Mega 2560 (Amazon) to create the programmer.
  2. Ribbon Jumper Cables (Amazon) to connect the Arduino to the breadboard.
  3. TL866 II Plus EEPROM Programmer (Amazon) to program the ROM.
Bonus Clock Improvement: One additional thing I did is replace the 74LS04 inverter in Ben's clock circuit with a 74LS14 inverting Schmitt trigger (datasheet, Jameco). The pinouts are identical! Just drop it in, wire the existing lines, and then run the clock output through it twice (since it's inverting) to get a squeaky clean clock signal. Useful if you want to go even faster with the CPU.

Step 1: Program with an Arduino and Assembler (Image 1, Image 2)

There's a certain delight in the physical programming of a computer with switches. This is how Bill Gates and Paul Allen famously programmed the Altair 8800 and started Microsoft. But at some point, the hardware becomes limited by how effectively you can input the software. After upgrading the RAM, I quickly felt constrained by how long it took to program everything.
You can continue to program the computer physically if you want and even after upgrading that option is still available, so this step is optional. There's probably many ways to approach the programming, but this way felt simple and in the spirit of the build. We'll use an Arduino Mega 2560, like the one in Ben's 6502 build, to program the RAM. We'll start with a homemade assembler then switch to something more robust.
Preparing the Physical Interface
The first thing to do is prepare the CPU to be programmed by the Arduino. We already did the hard work on this in the RAM upgrade tutorial by using the bus to write to the RAM and disconnecting the control ROM while in program mode. Now we just need to route the appropriate lines to a convenient spot on the board to plug the Arduino into.
  1. This is optional, but I rewired all the DIP switches to have ground on one side, rather than alternating sides like Ben's build. This just makes it easier to route wires.
  2. Wire the 8 address lines from the DIP switch, connecting the side opposite to ground (the one going to the chips) to a convenient point on the board. I put them on the far left, next to the address LEDs and above the write button circuit.
  3. Wire the 8 data lines from the DIP switch, connecting the side opposite to ground (the one going to the chips) directly below the address lines. Make sure they're separated by the gutter so they're not connected.
  4. Wire a line from the write button to your input area. You want to connect the side of the button that's not connected to ground (the one going to the chip).
So now you have one convenient spot with 8 address lines, 8 data lines, and a write line. If you want to get fancy, you can wire them into some kind of connector, but I found that ribbon jumper cables work nicely and keep things tidy.
The way we'll program the RAM is to enter program mode and set all the DIP switches to the high position (e.g., 11111111). Since the switches are upside-down, this means they'll all be disconnected and not driving to ground. The address and write lines will simply be floating and the data lines will be weakly pulled up by 1k resistors. Either way, the Arduino can now drive the signals going into the chips using its outputs.
Creating the Arduino Programmer
Now that we can interface with an Arduino, we need to write some software. If you follow Ben's 6502 video, you'll have all the knowledge you need to get this working. If you want some hints and code, see below (source code):
  1. Create arrays for your data and address lines. For example: const char ADDRESS_LINES[] = {39, 41, 43, 45, 47, 49, 51, 53};. Create your write line with #define RAM_WRITE 3.
  2. Create functions to enable and disable your address and data lines. You want to enable them before writing. Make sure to disable them afterward so that you can still manually program using DIP switches without disconnecting the Arduino. The code looks like this (just change INPUT to OUTPUT accordingly): for(int n = 0; n < 8; n += 1) { pinMode(ADDRESS_LINES[n], OUTPUT); }
  3. Create a function to write to an address. It'll look like void writeData(byte writeAddress, byte writeData) and basically use two loops, one for address and one for data, followed by toggling the write.
  4. Create a char array that contains your program and data. You can use #define to create opcodes like #define LDA 0x01.
  5. In your main function, loop through the program array and send it through writeData.
With this setup, you can now load multi-line programs in a fraction of a second! This can really come in handy with debugging by stress testing your CPU with software. Make sure to test your setup with existing programs you know run reliably. Now that you have your basic setup working, you can add 8 additional lines to read the bus and expand the program to let you read memory locations or even monitor the running of your CPU.
Making an Assembler
The above will serve us well but it's missing a key feature: labels. Labels are invaluable in assembly because they're so versatile. Jumps, subroutines, variables all use labels. The problem is that labels require parsing. Parsing is a fun project on the road to a compiler but not something I wanted to delve into right now--if you're interested, you can learn about Flex and Bison. Instead, I found a custom assembler that lets you define your CPU's instruction set and it'll do everything else for you. Let's get it setup:
  1. If you're on Windows, you can use the pre-built binaries. Otherwise, you'll need to install Rust and compile via cargo build.
  2. Create a file called 8bit.cpu and define your CPU instructions (source code). For example, LDA would be lda {address} -> 0x01 @ address[7:0]. What's cool is you can also now create the instruction's immediate variant instead of having to call it LDI: lda #{value} -> 0x05 @ value[7:0].
  3. You can now write assembly by adding #include "8bit.cpu" to the top of your code. There's a lot of neat features so make sure to read the documentation!
  4. Once you've written some assembly, you can generate the machine code using ./customasm yourprogram.s -f hexc -p. This prints out a char array just like our Arduino program used!
  5. Copy the char array into your Arduino program and send it to your CPU.
At this stage, you can start creating some pretty complex programs with ease. I would definitely play around with writing some larger programs. I actually found a bug in my hardware that was hidden for a while because my programs were never very complex!

Step 2: Expand the Control Lines (Image)

Before we can expand the CPU any further, we have to address the fact we're running out of control lines. An easy way to do this is to add a 3rd 28C16 ROM and be on your way. If you want something a little more involved but satisfying, read on.
Right now the control lines are one hot encoded. This means that if you have 4 lines, you can encode 4 states. But we know that a 4-bit binary number can encode 16 states. We'll use this principle via 74LS138 decoders, just like Ben used for the step counter.
Choosing the Control Line Combinations
Everything comes with trade-offs. In the case of combining control lines, it means the two control lines we choose to combine can never be activated at the same time. We can ensure this by encoding all the inputs together in the first 74LS138 and all the outputs together in a second 74LS138. We'll keep the remaining control lines directly connected.
Rewiring the Control Lines
If your build is anything like mine, the control lines are a bit of a mess. You'll need to be careful when rewiring to ensure it all comes back together correctly. Let's get to it:
  1. Place the two 74LS138 decoders on the far right side of the breadboard with the ROMs. Connect them to power and ground.
  2. You'll likely run out of inverters, so place a 74LS04 on the breadboard above your decoders. Connect it to power and ground.
  3. Carefully take your inputs (MI, RI, II, AI, BI, J) and wire them to the outputs of the left 74LS138. Do not wire anything to O0 because that's activated by 000 which won't work for us!
  4. Carefully take your outputs (RO, CO, AO, EO) and wire them to the outputs of the right 74LS138. Remember, do not wire anything to O0!
  5. Now, the 74LS138 outputs are active low, but the ROM outputs were active high. This means you need to swap the wiring on all your existing 74LS04 inverters for the LEDs and control lines to work. Make sure you track which control lines are supposed to be active high vs. active low!
  6. Wire E3 to power and E2 to ground. Connect the E1 on both 138s together, then connect it to the same line as OE on your ROMs. This will ensure that the outputs are disabled when you're in program mode. You can actually take off the 1k pull-up resistors from the previous tutorial at this stage, because the 138s actively drive the lines going to the 74LS04 inverters rather than floating like the ROMs.
At this point, you really need to ensure that the massive rewiring job was successful. Connect 3 jumper wires to A0-A2 and test all the combinations manually. Make sure the correct LED lights up and check with a multimeteoscilloscope that you're getting the right signal at each chip. Catching mistakes at this point will save you a lot of headaches! Now that everything is working, let's finish up:
  1. Connect A0-A2 of the left 74LS138 to the left ROM's A0-A2.
  2. Connect A0-A2 of the right 74LS138 to the right ROM's A0-A2.
  3. Distribute the rest of the control signals across the two ROMs.
Changing the ROM Code
This part is easy. We just need to update all of our #define with the new addresses and program the ROMs again. For clarity that we're not using one-hot encoding anymore, I recommend using hex instead of binary. So instead of #define MI 0b0000000100000000, we can use #define MI 0x0100, #define RI 0x0200, and so on.
Testing
Expanding the control lines required physically rewiring a lot of critical stuff, so small mistakes can creep up and make mysterious errors down the road. Write a program that activates each control line at least once and make sure it works properly! With your assembler and Arduino programmer, this should be trivial.
Bonus: Adding B Register Output
With the additional control lines, don't forget you can now add a BO signal easily which lets you fully use the B register.

Step 3: Add a Stack (Image 1, Image 2)

Adding a stack significantly expands the capability of the CPU. It enables subroutines, recursion, and handling interrupts (with some additional logic). We'll create our stack with an 8-bit stack pointer hard-coded from $0100 to $01FF, just like the 6502.
Wiring up the Stack Pointer
A stack pointer is conceptually similar to a program counter. It stores an address, you can read it and write to it, and it increments. The only difference between a stack pointer and a program counter is that the stack pointer must also decrement. To create our stack pointer, we'll use two 74LS193 4-bit up/down binary counters:
  1. Place a 74LS00 NAND gate, 74LS245 transceiver, and two 74LS193 counters in a row next to your output register. Wire up power and ground.
  2. Wire the the Carry output of the right 193 to the Count Up input of the left 193. Do the same for the Borrow output and Count Down input.
  3. Connect the Clear input between the two 193s and with an active high reset line. The B register has one you can use on its 74LS173s.
  4. Connect the Load input between the two 193s and to a new active low control line called SI on your 74LS138 decoder.
  5. Connect the QA-QD outputs of the lower counter to A8-A5 and the upper counter to A4-A1. Pay special attention because the output are in a weird order (BACD) and you want to make sure the lower A is connected to A8 and the upper A is connected to A4.
  6. Connect the A-D inputs of the lower counter to B8-B5 and the upper counter to B4-B1. Again, the inputs are in a weird order and on both sides of the chip so pay special attention.
  7. Connect the B1-B8 outputs of the 74LS245 transceiver to the bus.
  8. On the 74LS245 transceiver, connect DIR to power (high) and connect OE to a new active low control line called SO on your 74LS138 decoder.
  9. Add 8 LEDs and resistors to the lower part of the 74LS245 transceiver (A1-A8) so you can see what's going on with the stack pointer.
Enabling Increment & Decrement
We've now connected everything but the Count Up and Count Down inputs. The way the 74LS193 works is that if nothing is counting, both inputs are high. If you want to increment, you keep Count Down high and pulse Count Up. To decrement, you do the opposite. We'll use a 74LS00 NAND gate for this:
  1. Take the clock from the 74LS08 AND gate and make it an input into two different NAND gates on the 74LS00.
  2. Take the output from one NAND gate and wire it to the Count Up input on the lower 74LS193 counter. Take the other output and wire it to the Count Down input.
  3. Wire up a new active high control line called SP from your ROM to the NAND gate going into Count Up.
  4. Wire up a new active high control line called SM from your ROM to the NAND gate going into Count Down.
At this point, everything should be working. Your counter should be able to reset, input a value, output a value, and increment/decrement. But the issue is it'll be writing to $0000 to $00FF in the RAM! Let's fix that.
Accessing Higher Memory Addresses
We need the stack to be in a different place in memory than our regular program. The problem is, we only have an 8-bit bus, so how do we tell the RAM we want a higher address? We'll use a special control line to do this:
  1. Wire up an active high line called SA from the 28C16 ROM to A8 on the Cypress CY7C199 RAM.
  2. Add an LED and resistor so you can see when the stack is active.
That's it! Now, whenever we need the stack we can use a combination of the control line and stack pointer to access $0100 to $01FF.
Updating the Instruction Set
All that's left now is to create some instructions that utilize the stack. We'll need to settle some conventions before we begin:
If you want to add a little personal flair to your design, you can change the convention fairly easily. Let's implement push and pop (source code):
  1. Define all your new control lines, such as #define SI 0x0700 and #define SO 0x0005.
  2. Create two new instructions: PSH (1011) and POP (1100).
  3. PSH starts the same as any other for the first two steps: MI|CO and RO|II|CE. The next step is to put the contents of the stack pointer into the address register via MI|SO|SA. Recall that SA is the special control line that tells the memory to access the $01XX bank rather than $00XX.
  4. We then take the contents of AO and write it into the RAM. We can also increment the stack pointer at this stage. All of this is done via: AO|RI|SP|SA, followed by TR.
  5. POP is pretty similar. Start off with MI|CO and RO|II|CE. We then need to take a cycle and decrement the stack pointer with SM. Like with PSH, we then set the address register with MI|SO|SA.
  6. We now just need to output the RAM into our A register with RO|AI|SA and then end the instruction with TR.
  7. Updating the assembler is easy since neither instruction has operands. For example, push is just psh -> 0x0B.
And that's it! Write some programs that take advantage of your new 256 byte stack to make sure everything works as expected.

Step 4: Add Subroutine Instructions (Image)

The last step to complete our stack is to add subroutine instructions. This allows us to write complex programs and paves the way for things like interrupt handling.
Subroutines are like a blend of push/pop instructions and a jump. Basically, when you want to call a subroutine, you save your spot in the program by pushing the program counter onto the stack, then jumping to the subroutine's location in memory. When you're done with the subroutine, you simply pop the program counter value from the stack and jump back into it.
We'll follow 6502 conventions and only save and restore the program counter for subroutines. Other CPUs may choose to save more state, but it's generally left up to the programmer to ensure they're not wiping out states in their subroutines (e.g., push the A register at the start of your subroutine if you're messing with it and restore it before you leave).
Adding an Extra Opcode Line
I've started running low on opcodes at this point. Luckily, we still have two free address lines we can use. To enable 5-bit opcodes, simply wire up the 4Q output of your upper 74LS173 register to A7 of your 28C16 ROM (this assumes your opcodes are at A3-A6).
Updating the ROM Writer
At this point, you simply need to update the Arduino writer to support 32 instructions vs. the current 16. So, for example, UCODE_TEMPLATE[16][8] becomes UCODE_TEMPLATE[32][8] and you fill in the 16 new array elements with nop. The problem is that the Arduino only has so much memory and with the way Ben's code is written to support conditional jumps, it starts to get tight.
I bet the code can be re-written to handle this, but I had a TL866II Plus EEPROM programmer handy from the 6502 build and I felt it would be easier to start using that instead. Converting to a regular C program is really simple (source code):
  1. Copy all the #define, global const arrays (don't forget to expand them from 16 to 32), and void initUCode(). Add #include and #include to the top.
  2. In your traditional int main (void) C function, after initializing with initUCode(), make two arrays: char ucode_upper[2048] and char ucode_lower[2048].
  3. Take your existing loop code that loops through all addresses: for (int address = 0; address < 2048; address++).
  4. Modify instruction to be 5-bit with int instruction = (address & 0b00011111000) >> 3;.
  5. When writing, just write to the arrays like so: ucode_lower[address] = ucode[flags][instruction][step]; and ucode_upper[address] = ucode[flags][instruction][step] >> 8;.
  6. Open a new file with FILE *f = fopen("rom_upper.hex", "wb");, write to it with fwrite(ucode_upper, sizeof(char), sizeof(ucode_upper), f); and close it with fclose(f);. Repeat this with the lower ROM too.
  7. Compile your code using gcc (you can use any C compiler), like so: gcc -Wall makerom.c -o makerom.
Running your program will spit out two binary files with the full contents of each ROM. Writing the file via the TL866II Plus requires minipro and the following command: minipro -p CAT28C16A -w rom_upper.hex.
Adding Subroutine Instructions
At this point, I cleaned up my instruction set layout a bit. I made psh and pop 1000 and 1001, respectively. I then created two new instructions: jsr and rts. These allow us to jump to a subroutine and returns from a subroutine. They're relatively simple:
  1. For jsr, the first three steps are the same as psh: MI|CO, RO|II|CE, MI|SO|SA.
  2. On the next step, instead of AO we use CO to save the program counter to the stack: CO|RI|SP|SA.
  3. We then essentially read the 2nd byte to do a jump and terminate: MI|CO, RO|J.
  4. For rts, the first four steps are the same as pop: MI|CO, RO|II|CE, SM, MI|SO|SA.
  5. On the next step, instead of AI we use J to load the program counter with the contents in stack: RO|J|SA.
  6. We're not done! If we just left this as-is, we'd jump to the 2nd byte of jsr which is not an opcode, but a memory address. All hell would break loose! We need to add a CE step to increment the program counter and then terminate.
Once you update the ROM, you should have fully functioning subroutines with 5-bit opcodes. One great way to test them is to create a recursive program to calculate something--just don't go too deep or you'll end up with a stack overflow!

Conclusion

And that's it! Another successful upgrade of your 8-bit CPU. You now have a very capable machine and toolchain. At this point I would have a bunch of fun with the software aspects. In terms of hardware, there's a number of ways to go from here:
  1. Interrupts. Interrupts are just special subroutines triggered by an external line. You can make one similar to how Ben did conditional jumps. The only added complexity is the need to load/save the flags register since an interrupt can happen at any time and you don't want to destroy the state. Given this would take more than 8 steps, you'd also need to add another line for the step counter (see below).
  2. ROM expansion. At this point, address lines on the ROM are getting tight which limits any expansion possibilities. With the new approach to ROM programming, it's trivial to switch out the 28C16 for the 28C256 that Ben uses in the 6502. These give you 4 additional address lines for flags/interrupts, opcodes, and steps.
  3. LCD output. At this point, adding a 16x2 character LCD like Ben uses in the 6502 is very possible.
  4. Segment/bank register. It's essentially a 2nd memory address register that lets you access 256-byte segments/banks of RAM using bank switching. This lets you take full advantage of the 32K of RAM in the Cypress chip.
  5. Fast increment instructions. Add these to registers by replacing 74LS173s with 74LS193s, allowing you to more quickly increment without going through the ALU. This is used to speed up loops and array operations.
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Fixing KotFE Part 4 - What's An Alliance Without Allies?

Special thanks again to these two sites for summarising the expansions so I don't have to watch hours of youtube videos or fights thousands of Skytroopers to remember what happened in some of the chapters. They were incredibly helpful and I honestly don't know if I would have bothered finishing this if I didn't have them on hand. Also, if you want to compare and contrast my story to the original, these will probably come in handy.

Introduction

Welcome to Part 4 of Fixing KotFE! Here, I'll be looking at the story after you take over as Alliance Commander which, in my version, occurs in Chapter 6. The story up until this point can be found in Part 3 here.
This is the section where I usually write out my aims but these carry on from Part 3, so I'll save everyone some time there. I'm really happy with some of the changes I made and I think we get some cool concepts that aren't explored in the original so I hope you like it too. However, there is something I'd like to explain that I never really got into. Technically, I guess it would go into the gameplay section but it feels more story-based.
I'd add a prison to the base on Asylum where you can place characters who you decide to capture or imprison. At this point in the story, that would only allow for Senya, if you chose to imprison her, rather than allow her to join the council, however there are other characters in the future who can be held there. I think the prison would be an optional area that you can visit and talk to your prisoners, if you have any. They would say different things depending on your last completed chapter. This would obviously add more voice acting but I think it would help to create a sense of continuity when you can see and talk to these characters you chose t capture. It would also allow Senya to continue being a part of the story, even if you chose not to allow her onto the War Council. It's also just a fun idea that plays well into you being the big boss if you can interrogate your prisoners.
With that little bit out of the way, we'll start with:

Chapter 7: Twin-Tailed Scorpion

Some time has passed since you officially joined, and became the commander of the Alliance. You are called to the war table to discuss a strange broadcast that Theron had picked up. He refuses to tell you more without meeting in person.
You join your war council, who are already in place. As a reminder, this includes:
Theron reveals that he received a distress signal from the very prison you had been imprisoned in for 5 years. Even more peculiar, the signal was only broadcast on channels used by Imperial Intelligence before it was disbanded. Theron warns you that this was probably a trap but Lana points out that you could use some allies on Zakuul. You decide it's strange enough to investigate regardless.
The scene shifts to you being discreetly dropped off within the Old World district of Zakuul, with Hylo explaining that it would be impossible to get you any closer without being spotted, with Arcann having increased security after your escape, increasing the production of the prototype Skytroopers.
You make your way through the Old World where your radio signal is lost. Instead, you are greeted by a strange, robotic voice that begins directing you to a service door in the Old World. You go through the door which shuts and locks behind you and begin making your way back up to the prison, fighting through maintenance and industry droids as you do, all the time being directed by the synthesised feminine voice.
Eventually, you enter the prison once more. However, you are in a different part than before. You continue to receive directions, with doors closing to cut off Knights and allowing you to pass. You are eventually brought to a room. The door opening to reveal SCORPIO, hooked up to a machine and wired into the wall. She speaks to you, introducing herself and explaining the situation (or simply explaining what had happened if speaking to an agent).
SCORPIO explains that, after Arcann's takeover of the galaxy, she allied with him, quickly rising through the ranks to become one of Arcann's most trustworthy allies over the 5 years. However, this was all a ruse so that she could gain information. She planned to sell Arcann's secrets to the highest bidder but was caught before she could leave Zakuul. She was imprisoned and wired into the prison security system, trapped both physically and mentally. However, the Zakuulians underestimated her and within days, she had taken over the system completely. She'd even snark that this wasn't the first prison security system she had taken control of, referencing Belsavis. She explains that she had discovered your location while in the system and had managed to send a message to Lana, allowing her to enact your escape. SCORPIO goes on to add that she had used the security systems to aid you, in the hopes that you would return the favour and free her from her own imprisonment, since the prison was a closed system and she was locked inside. In return, she would join the Alliance, if only to get revenge on Arcann.
You agree to free her and are sent around the prison to deactivate various systems, allowing SCORPIO's escape.As you do so, you see snippets of SCORPIO's most recent memories, showing Arcann ambushing her as she attempts to leave the palace, sadly admitting that he had hoped she wouldn't try to betray him, even after the Scions warned him it would happen. SCORPIO, being her usual self, would respond snarkily, leading Arcann to angrily sentence her to be implemented within the prison security system. You then have to defend SCORPIO's body from Skytroopers and Knights while her consciousness downloads into it once again. As she is freed, explosions rock the prison and SCORPIO smugly explains that it is time for you to leave. Before you can ask how, another explosion causes the cell to break away from the prison complex, letting you freefall towards the planet's surface. You are saved as Hylo's dropship swoops in managing to catch the cell within the cargo bay.
Returning to Asylum, SCORPIO begins to brief everyone on what she knows; to get to Arcann, the infrastructure of Zakuul must be taken down, starting with the Old World, where he has the weakest grip. Arcann rules over the Old World thanks to a shaky alliance with the Scion cult. The Scions essentially rule over the sector by providing Arcann with access to Heskal's prophecies. In turn, only a minimal security force of Skytroopers exists in the Old World. She mentions that the best way to dethrone Heskal and the Scions is to work with one of the rival gangs. Lana adds that she had already established contact with two of the Old World's gangs and that she would need time to set up meetings with the gang leaders.
At this point, you see your first newsreel. It shows two presenters, a male who introduces himself as Adorus Bell and a female, Zelia Myker, sitting at a desk and recounting an act of domestic terrorism by the cell calling itself the Alliance. The Alliance, led by a radical extremist who is believed to be serving Vitiate destroyed a secure complex, killing a number of knights who were protecting the area and almost killing Princess Vaylin, who has been moved to a more secure facility. Thanks to the sacrifices of the Knights, no civilians were injured in the explosion. They then broadcast a message from Emperor Arcann himself, reassuring the people of Zakuul that he will personally capture this Agent of Vitiate and stop the Alliance.
My aim here was to establish SCORPIO with a clear character that fits her personality, keep her selfish amorality and also provide her with a motivation to actually help you, even if she's still secretive and coy about it. She wants revenge on Arcann for pre-empting her betrayal and imprisoning her. she simply thinks that you and your Alliance are the best chance at fulfilling her revenge. SCORPIO's weakness was always her pride. We don't really see that In the proper expansions. Instead, we just got a series of convoluted double crosses and fake outs which were just more confusing than anything and made it seem like she just bounced from one side to the other. I hope to create a more straight forward story For SCORPIO that is still true to the character. I also liked the idea of SCORPIO ending up in a similar situation to when the agent first meets her.
As an extra note, I added the idea of you escaping via SCORPIO ejecting the cell And hylo catching it at the last moment and I Just really think its a fun, silly concept that gets to show off SCORPIO's unique problem solving while selling Hylo as a great pilot.
Lastly, this is where I introduce a new narrative technique. In the original game, we often jump to conversations between Vaylin and Arcann that we, as the character, are not privy to. I think this is a problem since we, as the audience, now know more than our characters do which creates a narrative dissonance to the choices. I understand that the purpose of this was to develop Arcann and Vaylin as characters while we couldn't meet them but I think a better solution would be the newsreels. It lets us see Arcann, in character, and gives us an understanding of what the population of Zakuul are getting in terms of how our actions are portrayed.

Chapter 8: Friends In Low Places

You receive a message from Lana who has contacted two gangs within the Old World. She asks for you to accompany her to meet with the gang leaders and choose which one you'd want to work with. As you travel, you learn from Lana that the Scions are practically untouchable, due to Arcann's aid. The local security chief, Captain Arex, secretly protects them from other gangs in return for Heskal providing Arcann with visions of the future.
The two of you shuttle to the Old World and go to meet with the gangs. The first is a group of anarchists led by Kaliyo known as the Firebrands. They have a plan to blow up a Skytrooper factory and need your help. Theron argues over the radio that the factory is too close to civilians while Lana points out that destroying Arcann's source of troops would hurt the war effort.
You then go to meet the other gang, a group of thieves known as the Old World Kath Hounds, led by Vette, who steal from the rich living in the Spire to give back to people of the Old World. While they have the favour of the people of the Old World, the gang members aren't fighters and wouldn't be able to help much with the war effort. Vette proposes a plan to steal intelligence from the Old World security depot. However, they need your help to distract the security chief and his Skytroopers.
At this point, you have to choose who you will ally with; Kaliyo's Firebrands or Vette's Kath Hounds. Depending on the one you choose, you are sent on a different mission.
For the Kath Hounds, you create trouble, attracting the security forces and fighting off Skytroopers. While they chase you, Vette keeps you informed on the mission's progress as they sneak into the security depot and take what you need, before you are tasked with escaping from the Skytroopers and meet back up with Vette.
Meanwhile, if you chose to aid the Firebrands, you are tasked with placing bombs around supports beneath the droid factory, since the factory itself is too well secured. As you go, you are met by security forces that you have to defeat. As you finish, you rejoin with Kaliyo and watch the bombs go off, causing a section of the Spire to collapse down, much to Kaliyo's delight.
With the mission complete, your chosen gang agrees to aid you against the Scions. Both groups managed to find information on Arex that he was extorting money from civilians within the Old World in return for protection. If this was revealed to those in the Spire, they would demand his imprisonment. However, before you can set up plans, the base is attacked by Captain Arex and a prototype skytrooper design. You and your chosen gang leader fight the two of them. You can then choose to kill Arex, report him or blackmail him for his corruption to either leave his position or work for you.
With your new allies firmly established and Captain Arex dealt with, you join up with either Vette or Kaliyo to assault the Scions' fortress. Without Arex and his skytroopers to defend them, you are able to fight through the Scion forces and reach Heskal. Upon defeating him, you are given the choice to imprison or kill him, leaving your new ally to take control of the Old World.
Another newsreel with the same presenters rolls. The presenters discuss a gang war that had begun in the Old World district, followed by a video of Arcann alongside a woman he introduces as Knight-General Vendryl. Arcann apologises to the people of the Old World for this terrible tragedy and explains that Vendryll will be personally dealing with this new menace.
Speaking to Senya, either in her cell or the war council, will reveal that Vendryll was her second-in-command before her defection and that she is a ruthless individual completely devoted to Arcann.
So, the aim of this chapter is to provide a big choice that actually affects the story, this choice being whether you have Kaliyo or Vette as your advisor for the Old World gangs. There's an obvious light side/dark side binary with Vette's Robin Hood-esque antics obviously being nicer than Kaliyo's terrorism. However, I wanted to make it a bit more complex with Kaliyo actually being the more competent choice, pragmatically. While Vette has the favour of the civilian population, Kaliyo's gang are more competent combatants. This adds a different dynamic than just "Good choice" and "bad choice" but still allows that morality for those who wish to choose it.
The second notable choice is what you do with Arex. I think this is a fun one, since there isn't really a 'nice' answer, with you either handing him over to Arcann, blackmailing him to leave or work for you, or just straight up killing him. I like this as there isn't one 'right' answer.

Chapter 9: Mercy Mission

Koth asks to meet with you privately to talk. You oblige and he explains that he received a message from one of his contacts on Zakuul about a group of anti-Arcann refugees who are high profile targets looking to escape the planet. He planned to go pick them up but wanted to check with you first. You agree to go with him to meet these refugees.
The two of you take a shuttle to meet up with the refugees. There are 5 in total, all with different characters:
However, while down there, you receive word from Theron who has been tracking your movements, believing that he had to be careful after the disappearance of Marr and Satele. He informs you that he received intelligence that one of the refugees is a spy working for Arcaan. You are then tasked with speaking to each of the refugees in an attempt to discover who, if any, is the spy.
After speaking to all of them, you are given a decision: you can bring all of them back with you, accuse one character of being the spy or abandon them all. If you choose to leave the one you believe to be the spy or all of the refugees, you are given the choice to kill or imprison them. If you choose to imprison them, you can also have them tortured for information. Killing or torturing one or all of the refugees will negatively affect Koth's Alliance Influence to varying degrees, while allowing them to come to Asylum with you will positively affect it.
After returning to Asylum, we receive another news report. This time, Zalia is joined by a new host, Brennon Brosnee. The report explains that someone believed to be the Agent of Vitiate kidnapped many of Zakuul's greatest minds in a clear attack on Zakuulian society. Adorus Bell is not mentioned in the report.
This is what I'm calling a 'chill out chapter.' It's pretty short and doesn't have any combat but is more about player choice and character interactions. Your decisions in this chapter also have long-reaching effects as, in later chapters, Koth may leave the Alliance due to your choices here. If you do allow the spy onto Asylum, this will also affect the story later on.
I think, overall, this is a fun, short chapter which mixes things up from the longer ones that come before and after. It's fun, it's interesting. It's different and you don't even fight any Skytroopers! It would also be a good way to get a different perspective on Arcann's rule from the people of Zakuul themselves. On a technical side, this sort of 'bottle episode' type concept would allow the developers to spend more time on later chapters while still keeping a consistent schedule.

Chapter 10: The Lost Masters

Theron is finally able to decipher the information he took from the gangsters when you rescued him (see Chapter 6 for more info).
He explains that they are coordinates to a remote planet called Odessen within Wild Space. Lana adds that the planet seems to be unpopulated but shows all sorts of strange readings. She agrees that you should go investigate the landing coordinates with Theron.
When you land on Odessen, you find it to be a lush, fertile and wild planet. However, you also find a campsite and begin to investigate. You are met by Satele who explains that they had been awaiting your arrival. She invites the two of you to sit down and talk. As you do, she explains that she and Darth Marr had sensed a strong dark side presence on Odessen and had come to investigate. What they found was an entire compound controlled by the followers of Vitiate, hoping to revive him.
The two of them realised at this point that Vitiate's forces were more numerous and covert than either of them had believed, and resolved to stay on Odessen until the compound could be destroyed. Satele explains that they had learnt from their experiences with the Revanites and agreed that they could not trust even those in the Alliance in case it was compromised. However, Satele did leave a clue, saying that she knew Theron would be able to decipher it and bring you here. When you ask of Marr's location, Satele explains that they take turns keeping watch before noting that he should have been back by now. Suddenly, the camp is attacked by dark side beasts and the three of you fight them off. Once they're defeated, Satele states that Marr should have seen them coming and that he must be in danger. You head into the forest with her, leaving Theron to protect the ship.
You travel with Satele through the jungle of Odessen to reach the compound, fighting through local wildlife as well as mutated Sith beasts. As you approach, Satele suggests you sneak in while she distracts the cultists. You agree and Satele splits off from you as you make your way into the compound that seems like a fortress. You fight through a mixture of sith beasts and cultists loyal to Vitiate, mostly Sith. As you go, you hear Darth Marr and approach his location. A member of the (former) Emperor's Hand, Servant 11, is interrogating an unmasked and kneeling Marr who refuses to give up any information on Satele, surrounded by members of the Emperor's Guard. As you enter, Marr takes the chance to attack the guards, taking one of their pikes and impaling them upon it. He grabs his mask and lightsaber before the two of you fight the rest of the Emperor's Guards together until only Servant 11 is left. Marr starts interrogating Servant 11 on the cult's activities with you being able to act as the 'good cop' to his bad cop or reinforce Marr's bloodthirst.. Servant 11 smugly declares that there are plans in motion that will bring a new era of Vitiate's power. Marr then kills Servant 11.
Sidenote: I think this scene could go a couple of ways. We could finally get a Darth Marr face reveal or the scene could be shot in such a way that we never actually see his face until he retrieves the mask and puts it back on. I prefer the second because I just think it's a really fun concept for the scene.
You plan to escape with Marr but he refuses, stating that all remnants of the Emperor's filth must be cleansed from this place. You agree and travel with him, killing more cultists and making your way to a large room with a strange Sith holocron on it. Marr informs you that the holocron is a Reliquary, an artifact containing a fraction of Vitiate's presence and an item of Sith Sorcery. He explains that it absorbs the Force released by beings as they die and would eventually resurrect Vitiate if given the chance. With this said, Marr draws his lightsaber and impales the Reliquary, causing purple energy to blast out from within. The two of you then meet up with Satele and Theron to talk.
You discuss with the three of them on whether Satele and Marr should return to the Alliance. Satele agrees to join you but Marr states that he must ensure that the cult is completely destroyed before returning. You agree and leave the planet with Satele and Theron.
You return to Asylum and get the usual newsreel. However, since you haven't actually done anything that they know of, the news is instead about preparation for an upcoming event: Liberty Day, a yearly day of celebration in honour of Valkorion's forces defeating Vitiate and his Sith long ago. The two hosts discuss what Emperor Arcann could be planning for this year's Liberty Day, which would be happening in the coming months, and point out that the increased security provided by the Knights and Skytroopers will stop the Agents of Vitiate from stopping such an auspicious occasion.
So, I wanted to do a few things in this chapter: Firstly, I wanted to bring back Satele and Marr and, with Marr not being dead in my version, have them both do some cool stuff and show off a bit. In fact, my sequence with Marr is heavily based on his moment in the original story, shortly before he gets fucking gutted. I also wanted to be a bit fan-servicey with Marr's whole mask thing and I really love the idea that we never actually see him unmasked. On a slight tangent, I've just realised that, in the original expansion, Marr is just… left in his armour after being captured. Surely if you wake someone prisoner, you'd take their badass, technologically advanced battle armour off them, right? I suppose it's because they wanted him to be recognisable as Darth Marr still but it seems strange, not only from a literal point of view but a metaphorical one too. Stripping Marr of his armour signifies that he isn't some unstoppable machine but a man, and when he then fights back and kills Valkorion/Vitiate's minions, (in either version of the story) it shows that, as a man, he is able to overcome these greater odds.
I'd also want there to be some honest interactions between Theron and Satele, maybe having Satele actually show pride in Theron and what he's become. In the original story, I don't think Theron even meets her in these expansions, since you go to see her alone and then she just leaves. It honestly is just bizarre to me that you have two characters who are mother and son with a strained relationship (in an expansion that revolves very heavily about family ties, none-the-less) and they never interact. I think having Satele and Theron repair their relationship a bit would be good story progression and an interesting route for both their characters, especially if Satele is going a bit AWOL from the Jedi teachings, which she already was in the original version.
Secondly, I wanted to implement the Cult of Vitiate as antagonists. Since Valkorion isn't just Vitiate in a meat suit in this version, he should definitely have his own thing going. I also want this to be more of a thing later on, so I think it's good to plant the seed here.
Thirdly, I wanted to introduce Odessen as a location. Asylum being the home of the Alliance gives us a chance to make Odessen a little more interesting than 'the place you decided to just make a base'. Again, this will come back later in the story.
Lastly, I think this newsreel is a fun one. It's something light-hearted and unrelated to you and has the irony of Arcann pushing this 'Liberty Day' when he has taken over the entire Galaxy.

Chapter 11: Twists of Fate

With Satele back in the Alliance, things are running more smoothly. She calls you to join her to talk. When you meet with her, she is alone in the council room. She asks you to join her on a walk.
Satele explains that she has some errands to run on the station and asks you to help. Regardless of your answer, she begins leading you deeper into the underbelly of the station to meet a friend of hers. Before you reach your target, you are pickpocketed by a young boy who runs into a back alley. The two of you follow the thief and catch him. He explains that he has to steal in order to make enough money to feed himself and his sister and that if he doesn't return with something, his boss will throw them out. You are then given a choice to take your credits back, kill the boy or recruit him to the Alliance. Whichever choice you choose, the boy pleads with you to save his sister who is being held by a gang known as the Engineers. Satele admits that the Engineers have caused problems for the Alliance in the past, but are the only ones able to keep Asylum running. You decide to go and deal with them.
As you make your way down into the lower levels of Asylum, you are split off from Satele and are contacted by Valkorion once again. He apologises for possessing you and explains that doing so used up his energy and he was forced to retreat into your subconscious to recover. The two of you discuss the Alliance and your plans for after Arcann is defeated. Valkorion admits that he doesn't know if he will remain in your mind forever or eventually fade away. As the two of you talk, you arrive within the Engineers' territory. You fight your way through until you reach the Engine Room which is set out like a treasury.
In the middle of the room is a rotund twi'lek man, Ral Ekval, sitting on a throne made up of scrap metal. He sends his goons to attack you and you fight them off. You then speak to Ral, who smugly explains that only his people can run Asylum. Without him, the station would fall from orbit and be sucked into the gas giant. You then have a choice:
Whichever you choose, Satele makes her way inside with Alliance back-up to help you. If you chose to kill or imprison Ral, Satele notes that it will be hard to find anyone who could replace him and that she would ask Hylo to talk to her contacts. As this happens, you get an emergency broadcast from Theron, stating that Koth and the Gravestone have gone missing and have been spotted in the Spire.
You return to the Alliance base to meet with the War Council, deciding that a major assault would be too costly at this point. Instead, you will lead a small strike team into the Spire to retrieve Koth and the Gravestone. At this point, you're able to choose from the companions you have acquired to join you on the mission by performing different tasks:
Depending on who you pick to lead the distraction team, you gain Alliance Influence with the Republic, the Underworld or the Empire.
With the positions set, you start your assault, landing within the Old World and fighting your way through to an elevator that leads up into the Spire. This is the first time you get to actually see the splendors of the Spire but it doesn't last long as alarms start to blare out. As you go, you receive reports from the other members of your team, with SCORPIO providing overviews on security movements and Jorgan/Vette/Kaliyo/Pyron and Hylo providing updates on their conflict.
You make your way through the streets of the Spire, fighting through Skytroopers as you approach the palace. You fight through knights as you make your way through the palace towards the throne room. You reach the throne room where you are met by Arcann, alongside a group of Knights. You also see Vaylin, standing at her brother's side and Koth in manacles. Depending on whether Koth's Alliance Influence score is above or below a certain amount (heavily affected by your choices within Chapter 9 but also affected by other choices within the story), Koth will either have been captured while trying to pick up more refugees or he will have betrayed you, attempting to join forces with Arcann, who believes him to be a spy and had him locked up. Either way, you speak with Arcann, who seems strange. He is angered by your presence, claiming that you were an agent of Vitiate come to destroy him. He demands the Knights execute you and draws his own lightsaber, ready to fight. If you have Senya with you, she will attempt to talk him out of it, but this only enrages him further as he claims you have turned his mother to the darkness. You ready yourself for a fight, but before you can, Vaylin suddenly screams and the entire room begins to shake and shudder, windows smashing and the thin bridge to the throne collapsing, taking some of the knights with it. The throne room begins to fall apart and you are forced to retreat, bringing Koth with you.
You receive confirmation that the others have captured the Gravestone and you make your way towards the ship. You get onboard the Gravestone with your companion and Koth while Hylo takes off, escaping Zakuul. No one seems to know the cause of the sudden damage to the throne room.
With the danger passed, you're able to turn your attention to Koth. Regardless of whether he betrayed you or simply got captured, you're given the choice to let him go, imprison him or kill him. If you let him go after he betrays you, he agrees to exile himself. Otherwise, he will return to the Alliance. You return to Asylum and speak with the War Council who have mixed feelings. While some are happy about the victory, however minor, others believe that this will only harden Arcann's resolve.
This is where Part 4 will end, since I've already massively surpassed my 5000ish word limit for these posts. I felt like this worked as a pretty good 'midpoint' for the story. The theme of this section of Chapters is about building up the Alliance into a better fighting force. The next section will delve into deconstructing Arcann's powerbase some more and then getting to the grand finale. Laughably, I thought I could get away with 4 parts when I started writing all this but that clearly isn't the case.
This last chapter is fun because it gets you your first real look at Arcann since the start and you get to see his deterioration as he becomes more paranoid and cruel. It also includes the first seeds of Vaylin's storyline. I've also included a trope I really enjoyed when it was used in the class stories where each of your allies is doing something, with the twist of you picking and choosing for a few roles. There's also the whole bit with the Engineers which is more throwaway, but I thought some light adventure would be fun and I felt like I should bring Valkorion back for a bit. I've already gone on long enough though, so I'll finish with a TL;DR.

TL;DR

submitted by Magmas to swtor [link] [comments]

Part 2: Tools & Info for Sysadmins - Mega List of Tips, Tools, Books, Blogs & More

(continued from part 1)
Unlocker is a tool to help delete those irritating locked files that give you an error message like "cannot delete file" or "access is denied." It helps with killing processes, unloading DLLs, deleting index.dat files, as well as unlocking, deleting, renaming, and moving locked files—typically without requiring a reboot.
IIS Crypto's newest version adds advanced settings; registry backup; new, simpler templates; support for Windows Server 2019 and more. This tool lets you enable or disable protocols, ciphers, hashes and key exchange algorithms on Windows and reorder SSL/TLS cipher suites from IIS, change advanced settings, implement best practices with a single click, create custom templates and test your website. Available in both command line and GUI versions.
RocketDock is an application launcher with a clean interface that lets you drag/drop shortcuts for easy access and minimize windows to the dock. Features running application indicators, multi-monitor support, alpha-blended PNG and ICO icons, auto-hide and popup on mouse over, positioning and layering options. Fully customizable, portable, and compatible with MobyDock, ObjectDock, RK Launcher and Y'z Dock skins. Works even on slower computers and is Unicode compliant. Suggested by lieutenantcigarette: "If you like the dock on MacOS but prefer to use Windows, RocketDock has you covered. A superb and highly customisable dock that you can add your favourites to for easy and elegant access."
Baby FTP Server offers only the basics, but with the power to serve as a foundation for a more-complex server. Features include multi-threading, a real-time server log, support for PASV and non-PASV mode, ability to set permissions for download/upload/rename/delete/create directory. Only allows anonymous connections. Our thanks to FatherPrax for suggesting this one.
Strace is a Linux diagnostic, debugging and instructional userspace tool with a traditional command-line interface. Uses the ptrace kernel feature to monitor and tamper with interactions between processes and the kernel, including system calls, signal deliveries and changes of process state.
exa is a small, fast replacement for ls with more features and better defaults. It uses colors to distinguish file types and metadata, and it recognizes symlinks, extended attributes and Git. All in one single binary. phils_lab describes it as "'ls' on steroids, written in Rust."
rsync is a faster file transfer program for Unix to bring remote files into sync. It sends just the differences in the files across the link, without requiring both sets of files to be present at one of the ends. Suggested by zorinlynx, who adds that "rsync is GODLY for moving data around efficiently. And if an rsync is interrupted, just run it again."
Matter Wiki is a simple WYSIWYG wiki that can help teams store and collaborate. Every article gets filed under a topic, transparently, so you can tell who made what changes to which document and when. Thanks to bciar-iwdc for the recommendation.
LockHunter is a file unlocking tool that enables you to delete files that are being blocked for unknown reasons. Can be useful for fighting malware and other programs that are causing trouble. Deletes files into the recycle bin so you can restore them if necessary. Chucky2401 finds it preferable to Unlocker, "since I am on Windows 7. There are no new updates since July 2017, but the last beta was in June of this year."
aria2 is a lightweight multi-source command-line download utility that supports HTTP/HTTPS, FTP, SFTP, BitTorrent and Metalink. It can be manipulated via built-in JSON-RPC and XML-RPC interfaces. Recommended by jftuga, who appreciates it as a "cross-platform command line downloader (similar to wget or curl), but with the -x option can run a segmented download of a single file to increase throughput."
Free Services
Temp-Mail allows you to receive email at a temporary address that self-destructs after a certain period of time. Outwit all the forums, Wi-Fi owners, websites and blogs that insist you register to use them. Petti-The-Yeti says, "I don't give any company my direct email anymore. If I want to trial something but they ask for an email signup, I just grab a temporary email from here, sign up with it, and wait for the trial link or license info to come through. Then, you just download the file and close the website."
Duck DNS will point a DNS (sub domains of duckdns.org) to an IP of your choice. DDNS is a handy way for you to refer to a serverouter with an easily rememberable name for situations when the server's ip address will likely change. Suggested by xgnarf, who finds it "so much better for the free tier of noip—no 30-day nag to keep your host up."
Joe Sandbox detects and analyzes potential malicious files and URLs on Windows, Android, Mac OS, Linux and iOS for suspicious activities. It performs deep malware analysis and generates comprehensive and detailed reports. The Community Edition of Joe Sandbox Cloud allows you to run a maximum of 6 analyses per month, 3 per day on Windows, Linux and Android with limited analysis output. This one is from dangibbons94, who wanted to "share this cool service ... for malware analysis. I usually use Virus total for URL scanning, but this goes a lot more in depth. I just used basic analysis, which is free and enough for my needs."
Hybrid Analysis is a malware analysis service that detects and analyzes unknown threats for the community. This one was suggested by compupheonix, who adds that it "gets you super detailed reports... it's about the most fleshed out and detailed one I can find."
JustBeamIt is a file-transfer service that allows you to send files of any size via a peer-to-peer streaming model. Simply drag and drop your file and specify the recipient's email address. They will then receive a link that will trigger the download directly from your computer, so the file does not have to be uploaded to the service itself. The link is good for one download and expires after 10 minutes. Thanks to cooljacob204sfw for the recommendation!
ShieldsUP is a quick but powerful internet security checkup and information service. It was created by security researcher Steve Gibson to scan ports and let you know which ones have been opened through your firewalls or NAT routers.
Firefox Send is an encrypted file transfer service that allows you to share files up to 2.5GB from any browser or an Android app. Uses end-to-end encryption to keep data secure and offers security controls you can set. You can determine when your file link expires, the number of downloads, and whether to add a password. Your recipient receives a link to download the file, and they don’t need a Firefox account. This one comes from DePingus, who appreciates the focus on privacy. "They have E2E, expiring links, and a clear privacy policy."
Free DNS is a service where programmers share domain names with one another at no cost. Offers free hosting as well as dynamic DNS, static DNS, subdomain and domain hosting. They can host your domain's DNS as well as allowing you to register hostnames from domains they're hosting already. If you don't have a domain, you can sign up for a free account and create up to 5 subdomains off the domains others have contributed and point these hosts anywhere on the Internet. Thanks to 0x000000000000004C (yes, that's a username) for the suggestion!
ANY.RUN is an interactive malware analysis service for dynamic and static research of the majority of threats in any environment. It can provide a convenient in-depth analysis of new, unidentified malicious objects and help with the investigation of incidents. ImAshtonTurner appreciates it as "a great sandbox tool for viewing malware, etc."
Plik is a scalable, temporary file upload system similar to wetransfer that is written in golang. Thanks go to I_eat_Narwhals for this one!
Free My IP offers free, dynamic DNS. This service comes with no login, no ads, no newsletters, no links to click and no hassle. Kindly suggested by Jack of All Trades.
Mailinator provides free, temporary email inboxes on a receive-only, attachment-free system that requires no sign-up. All @mailinator.com addresses are public, readable and discoverable by anyone at any time—but are automatically deleted after a few hours. Can be a nice option for times when you to give out an address that won't be accessible longterm. Recommended by nachomountain, who's been using it "for years."
Magic Wormhole is a service for sending files directly with no intermediate upload, no web interface and no login. When both parties are online you with the minimal software installed, the wormhole is invoked via command line identifying the file you want to send. The server then provides a speakable, one-time-use password that you give the recipient. When they enter that password in their wormhole console, key exchange occurs and the download begins directly between your computers. rjohnson99 explains, "Magic Wormhole is sort of like JustBeamIt but is open-source and is built on Python. I use it a lot on Linux servers."
EveryCloud's Free Phish is our own, new Phishing Simulator. Once you've filled in the form and logged in, you can choose from lots of email templates (many of which we've coped from what we see in our Email Security business) and landing pages. Run a one-off free phish, then see who clicked or submitted data so you can understand where your organization is vulnerable and act accordingly.
Hardening Guides
CIS Hardening Guides contain the system security benchmarks developed by a global community of cybersecurity experts. Over 140 configuration guidelines are provided to help safeguard systems against threats. Recommended by cyanghost109 "to get a start on looking at hardening your own systems."
Podcasts
Daily Tech News is Tom Merrit's show covering the latest tech issues with some of the top experts in the field. With the focus on daily tech news and analysis, it's a great way to stay current. Thanks to EmoPolarbear for drawing it to our attention.
This Week in Enterprise Tech is a podcast that features IT experts explaining the complicated details of cutting-edge enterprise technology. Join host Lou Maresca on this informative exploration of enterprise solutions, with new episodes recorded every Friday afternoon.
Security Weekly is a podcast where a "bunch of security nerds" get together and talk shop. Topics are greatly varied, and the atmosphere is relaxed and conversational. The show typically tops out at 2 hours, which is perfect for those with a long commute. If you’re fascinated by discussion of deep technical and security-related topics, this may be a nice addition to your podcast repertoire.
Grumpy Old Geeks—What Went Wrong on the Internet and Who's To Blame is a podcast about the internet, technology and geek culture—among other things. The hosts bring their grumpy brand of humor to the "state of the world as they see it" in these roughly hour-long weekly episodes. Recommended by mkaxsnyder, who enjoys it because, "They are a good team that talk about recent and relevant topics from an IT perspective."
The Social-Engineer Podcast is a monthly discussion among the hosts—a group of security experts from SEORG—and a diverse assortment of guests. Topics focus around human behavior and how it affects information security, with new episodes released on the second Monday of every month. Thanks to MrAshRhodes for the suggestion.
The CyberWire podcasts discuss what's happening in cyberspace, providing news and commentary from industry experts. This cyber security-focused news service delivers concise, accessible, and relevant content without the gossip, sensationalism, and the marketing buzz that often distract from the stories that really matter. Appreciation to supermicromainboard for the suggestion.
Malicious Life is a podcast that tells the fascinating—and often unknown—stories of the wildest hacks you can ever imagine. Host Ran Levi, a cybersecurity expert and author, talks with the people who were actually involved to reveal the history of each event in depth. Our appreciation goes to peraphon for the recommendation.
The Broadcast Storm is a podcast for Cisco networking professionals. BluePieceOfPaper suggests it "for people studying for their CCNA/NP. Kevin Wallace is a CCIE Collaboration so he knows his *ishk. Good format for learning too. Most podcasts are about 8-15 mins long and its 'usually' an exam topic. It will be something like "HSPR" but instead of just explaining it super boring like Ben Stein reading a powerpoint, he usually goes into a story about how (insert time in his career) HSPR would have been super useful..."
Software Engineering Radio is a podcast for developers who are looking for an educational resource with original content that isn't recycled from other venues. Consists of conversations on relevant topics with experts from the software engineering world, with new episodes released three to four times per month. a9JDvXLWHumjaC tells us this is "a solid podcast for devs."
Books
System Center 2012 Configuration Manager is a comprehensive technical guide designed to help you optimize Microsoft's Configuration Manager 2012 according to your requirements and then to deploy and use it successfully. This methodical, step-by-step reference covers: the intentions behind the product and its role in the broader System Center product suite; planning, design, and implementation; and details on each of the most-important feature sets. Learn how to leverage the user-centric capabilities to provide anytime/anywhere services & software, while strengthening control and improving compliance.
Network Warrior: Everything You Need to Know That Wasn’t on the CCNA Exam is a practical guide to network infrastructure. Provides an in-depth view of routers and routing, switching (with Cisco Catalyst and Nexus switches as examples), SOHO VoIP and SOHO wireless access point design and configuration, introduction to IPv6 with configuration examples, telecom technologies in the data-networking world (including T1, DS3, frame relay, and MPLS), security, firewall theory and configuration, ACL and authentication, Quality of Service (QoS), with an emphasis on low-latency queuing (LLQ), IP address allocation, Network Time Protocol (NTP) and device failures.
Beginning the Linux Command Line is your ally in mastering Linux from the keyboard. It is intended for system administrators, software developers, and enthusiastic users who want a guide that will be useful for most distributions—i.e., all items have been checked against Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE. Addresses administering users and security and deploying firewalls. Updated to the latest versions of Linux to cover files and directories, including the Btrfs file system and its management and systemd boot procedure and firewall management with firewalld.
Modern Operating Systems, 4th Ed. is written for students taking intro courses on Operating Systems and for those who want an OS reference guide for work. The author, an OS researcher, includes both the latest materials on relevant operating systems as well as current research. The previous edition of Modern Operating Systems received the 2010 McGuffey Longevity Award that recognizes textbooks for excellence over time.
Time Management for System Administrators is a guide for organizing your approach to this challenging role in a way that improves your results. Bestselling author Thomas Limoncelli offers a collection of tips and techniques for navigating the competing goals and concurrent responsibilities that go along with working on large projects while also taking care of individual user's needs. The book focuses on strategies to help with daily tasks that will also allow you to handle the critical situations that inevitably require your attention. You'll learn how to manage interruptions, eliminate time wasters, keep an effective calendar, develop routines and prioritize, stay focused on the task at hand and document/automate to speed processes.
The Practice of System and Network Administration, 3rd Edition introduces beginners to advanced frameworks while serving as a guide to best practices in system administration that is helpful for even the most advanced experts. Organized into four major sections that build from the foundational elements of system administration through improved techniques for upgrades and change management to exploring assorted management topics. Covers the basics and then moves onto the advanced things that can be built on top of those basics to wield real power and execute difficult projects.
Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches, Third Edition is designed to teach you PowerShell in a month's worth of 1-hour lessons. This updated edition covers PowerShell features that run on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and later, PowerShell v3 and later, and it includes v5 features like PowerShellGet. For PowerShell v3 and up, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and later.
Troubleshooting with the Windows Sysinternals Tools is a guide to the powerful Sysinternals tools for diagnosing and troubleshooting issues. Sysinternals creator Mark Russinovich and Windows expert Aaron Margosis provide a deep understanding of Windows core concepts that aren’t well-documented elsewhere along with details on how to use Sysinternals tools to optimize any Windows system’s reliability, efficiency, performance and security. Includes an explanation of Sysinternals capabilities, details on each major tool, and examples of how the tools can be used to solve real-world cases involving error messages, hangs, sluggishness, malware infections and more.
DNS and BIND, 5th Ed. explains how to work with the Internet's distributed host information database—which is responsible for translating names into addresses, routing mail to its proper destination, and listing phone numbers according to the ENUM standard. Covers BIND 9.3.2 & 8.4.7, the what/how/why of DNS, name servers, MX records, subdividing domains (parenting), DNSSEC, TSIG, troubleshooting and more. PEPCK tells us this is "generally considered the DNS reference book (aside from the RFCs of course!)"
Windows PowerShell in Action, 3rd Ed. is a comprehensive guide to PowerShell. Written by language designer Bruce Payette and MVP Richard Siddaway, this volume gives a great introduction to Powershell, including everyday use cases and detailed examples for more-advanced topics like performance and module architecture. Covers workflows and classes, writing modules and scripts, desired state configuration and programming APIs/pipelines.This edition has been updated for PowerShell v6.
Zero Trust Networks: Building Secure Systems in Untrusted Networks explains the principles behind zero trust architecture, along with what's needed to implement it. Covers the evolution of perimeter-based defenses and how they evolved into the current broken model, case studies of zero trust in production networks on both the client and server side, example configurations for open-source tools that are useful for building a zero trust network and how to migrate from a perimeter-based network to a zero trust network in production. Kindly recommended by jaginfosec.
Tips
Here are a couple handy Windows shortcuts:
Here's a shortcut for a 4-pane explorer in Windows without installing 3rd-party software:
(Keep the win key down for the arrows, and no pauses.) Appreciation goes to ZAFJB for this one.
Our recent tip for a shortcut to get a 4-pane explorer in Windows, triggered this suggestion from SevaraB: "You can do that for an even larger grid of Windows by right-clicking the clock in the taskbar, and clicking 'Show windows side by side' to arrange them neatly. Did this for 4 rows of 6 windows when I had to have a quick 'n' dirty "video wall" of windows monitoring servers at our branches." ZAFJB adds that it actually works when you right-click "anywhere on the taskbar, except application icons or start button."
This tip comes courtesy of shipsass: "When I need to use Windows Explorer but I don't want to take my hands off the keyboard, I press Windows-E to launch Explorer and then Ctrl-L to jump to the address line and type my path. The Ctrl-L trick also works with any web browser, and it's an efficient way of talking less-technical people through instructions when 'browse to [location]' stumps them."
Clear browser history/cookies by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-DELETE on most major browsers. Thanks go to synapticpanda, who adds that this "saves me so much time when troubleshooting web apps where I am playing with the cache and such."
To rename a file with F2, while still editing the name of that file: Hit TAB to tab into the renaming of the next file. Thanks to abeeftaco for this one!
Alt-D is a reliable alternative to Ctrl-L for jumping to the address line in a browser. Thanks for this one go to fencepost_ajm, who explains: "Ctrl-L comes from the browser side as a shortcut for Location, Alt-D from the Windows Explorer side for Directory."
Browser shortcut: When typing a URL that ends with dot com, Ctrl + Enter will place the ".com" and take you to the page. Thanks to wpierre for this one!
This tip comes from anynonus, as something that daily that saves a few clicks: "Running a program with ctrl + shift + enter from start menu will start it as administrator (alt + y will select YES to run as admin) ... my user account is local admin [so] I don't feel like that is unsafe"
Building on our PowerShell resources, we received the following suggestion from halbaradkenafin: aka.ms/pskoans is "a way to learn PowerShell using PowerShell (and Pester). It's really cool and a bunch of folks have high praise for it (including a few teams within MSFT)."
Keyboard shortcut: If you already have an application open, hold ctrl + shift and middle click on the application in your task bar to open another instance as admin. Thanks go to Polymira for this one.
Remote Server Tip: "Critical advice. When testing out network configuration changes, prior to restarting the networking service or rebooting, always create a cron job that will restore your original network configuration and then reboot/restart networking on the machine after 5 minutes. If your config worked, you have enough time to remove it. If it didn't, it will fix itself. This is a beautifully simple solution that I learned from my old mentor at my very first job. I've held on to it for a long time." Thanks go to FrigidNox for the tip!
Websites
Deployment Research is the website of Johan Arwidmark, MS MVP in System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management. It is dedicated to sharing information and guidance around System Center, OS deployment, migration and more. The author shares tips and tricks to help improve the quality of IT Pros’ daily work.
Next of Windows is a website on (mostly) Microsoft-related technology. It's the place where Kent Chen—a computer veteran with many years of field experience—and Jonathan Hu—a web/mobile app developer and self-described "cool geek"—share what they know, what they learn and what they find in the hope of helping others learn and benefit.
High Scalability brings together all the relevant information about building scalable websites in one place. Because building a website with confidence requires a body of knowledge that can be slow to develop, the site focuses on moving visitors along the learning curve at a faster pace.
Information Technology Research Library is a great resource for IT-related research, white papers, reports, case studies, magazines, and eBooks. This library is provided at no charge by TradePub.com. GullibleDetective tells us it offers "free PDF files from a WIIIIIIDE variety of topics, not even just IT. Only caveat: as its a vendor-supported publishing company, you will have to give them a bit of information such as name, email address and possibly a company name. You undoubtedly have the ability to create fake information on this, mind you. The articles range from Excel templates, learning python, powershell, nosql etc. to converged architecture."
SS64 is a web-based reference guide for syntax and examples of the most-common database and OS computing commands. Recommended by Petti-The-Yeti, who adds, "I use this site all the time to look up commands and find examples while I'm building CMD and PS1 scripts."
Phishing and Malware Reporting. This website helps you put a stop to scams by getting fraudulent pages blocked. Easily report phishing webpages so they can be added to blacklists in as little as 15 minutes of your report. "Player024 tells us, "I highly recommend anyone in the industry to bookmark this page...With an average of about 10 minutes of work, I'm usually able to take down the phishing pages we receive thanks to the links posted on that website."
A Slack Channel
Windows Admin Slack is a great drive-by resource for the Windows sysadmin. This team has 33 public channels in total that cover different areas of helpful content on Windows administration.
Blogs
KC's Blog is the place where Microsoft MVP and web developer Kent Chen shares his IT insights and discoveries. The rather large library of posts offer helpful hints, how-tos, resources and news of interest to those in the Windows world.
The Windows Server Daily is the ever-current blog of technologist Katherine Moss, VP of open source & community engagement for StormlightTech. Offers brief daily posts on topics related to Windows server, Windows 10 and Administration.
An Infosec Slideshow
This security training slideshow was created for use during a quarterly infosec class. The content is offered generously by shalafi71, who adds, "Take this as a skeleton and flesh it out on your own. Take an hour or two and research the things I talk about. Tailor this to your own environment and users. Make it relevant to your people. Include corporate stories, include your audience, exclude yourself. This ain't about how smart you are at infosec, and I can't stress this enough, talk about how people can defend themselves. Give them things to look for and action they can take. No one gives a shit about your firewall rules."
Tech Tutorials
Tutorialspoint Library. This large collection of tech tutorials is a great resource for online learning. You'll find nearly 150 high-quality tutorials covering a wide array of languages and topics—from fundamentals to cutting-edge technologies. For example, this Powershell tutorial is designed for those with practical experience handling Windows-based Servers who want to learn how to install and use Windows Server 2012.
The Python Tutorial is a nice introduction to many of Python’s best features, enabling you to read and write Python modules and programs. It offers an understanding of the language's style and prepares you to learn more about the various Python library modules described in 'The Python Standard Library.' Kindly suggested by sharjeelsayed.
SysAdmin Humor
Day in the Life of a SysAdmin Episode 5: Lunch Break is an amusing look at a SysAdmin's attempt to take a brief lunch break. We imagine many of you can relate!
Have a fantastic week and as usual, let me know any comments or suggestions.
u/crispyducks
submitted by crispyducks to sysadmin [link] [comments]

Tools & Info for MSPs #2 - Mega List of Tips, Tools, Books, Blogs & More

(continued from part #1)
Unlocker is a tool to help delete those irritating locked files that give you an error message like "cannot delete file" or "access is denied." It helps with killing processes, unloading DLLs, deleting index.dat files, as well as unlocking, deleting, renaming, and moving locked files—typically without requiring a reboot.
IIS Crypto's newest version adds advanced settings; registry backup; new, simpler templates; support for Windows Server 2019 and more. This tool lets you enable or disable protocols, ciphers, hashes and key exchange algorithms on Windows and reorder SSL/TLS cipher suites from IIS, change advanced settings, implement best practices with a single click, create custom templates and test your website. Available in both command line and GUI versions.
RocketDock is an application launcher with a clean interface that lets you drag/drop shortcuts for easy access and minimize windows to the dock. Features running application indicators, multi-monitor support, alpha-blended PNG and ICO icons, auto-hide and popup on mouse over, positioning and layering options. Fully customizable, portable, and compatible with MobyDock, ObjectDock, RK Launcher and Y'z Dock skins. Works even on slower computers and is Unicode compliant. Suggested by lieutenantcigarette: "If you like the dock on MacOS but prefer to use Windows, RocketDock has you covered. A superb and highly customisable dock that you can add your favourites to for easy and elegant access."
Baby FTP Server offers only the basics, but with the power to serve as a foundation for a more-complex server. Features include multi-threading, a real-time server log, support for PASV and non-PASV mode, ability to set permissions for download/upload/rename/delete/create directory. Only allows anonymous connections. Our thanks to FatherPrax for suggesting this one.
Strace is a Linux diagnostic, debugging and instructional userspace tool with a traditional command-line interface. Uses the ptrace kernel feature to monitor and tamper with interactions between processes and the kernel, including system calls, signal deliveries and changes of process state.
exa is a small, fast replacement for ls with more features and better defaults. It uses colors to distinguish file types and metadata, and it recognizes symlinks, extended attributes and Git. All in one single binary. phils_lab describes it as "'ls' on steroids, written in Rust."
rsync is a faster file transfer program for Unix to bring remote files into sync. It sends just the differences in the files across the link, without requiring both sets of files to be present at one of the ends. Suggested by zorinlynx, who adds that "rsync is GODLY for moving data around efficiently. And if an rsync is interrupted, just run it again."
Matter Wiki is a simple WYSIWYG wiki that can help teams store and collaborate. Every article gets filed under a topic, transparently, so you can tell who made what changes to which document and when. Thanks to bciar-iwdc for the recommendation.
LockHunter is a file unlocking tool that enables you to delete files that are being blocked for unknown reasons. Can be useful for fighting malware and other programs that are causing trouble. Deletes files into the recycle bin so you can restore them if necessary. Chucky2401 finds it preferable to Unlocker, "since I am on Windows 7. There are no new updates since July 2017, but the last beta was in June of this year."
aria2 is a lightweight multi-source command-line download utility that supports HTTP/HTTPS, FTP, SFTP, BitTorrent and Metalink. It can be manipulated via built-in JSON-RPC and XML-RPC interfaces. Recommended by jftuga, who appreciates it as a "cross-platform command line downloader (similar to wget or curl), but with the -x option can run a segmented download of a single file to increase throughput."
Free Services
Temp-Mail allows you to receive email at a temporary address that self-destructs after a certain period of time. Outwit all the forums, Wi-Fi owners, websites and blogs that insist you register to use them. Petti-The-Yeti says, "I don't give any company my direct email anymore. If I want to trial something but they ask for an email signup, I just grab a temporary email from here, sign up with it, and wait for the trial link or license info to come through. Then, you just download the file and close the website."
Duck DNS will point a DNS (sub domains of duckdns.org) to an IP of your choice. DDNS is a handy way for you to refer to a serverouter with an easily rememberable name for situations when the server's ip address will likely change. Suggested by xgnarf, who finds it "so much better for the free tier of noip—no 30-day nag to keep your host up."
Joe Sandbox detects and analyzes potential malicious files and URLs on Windows, Android, Mac OS, Linux and iOS for suspicious activities. It performs deep malware analysis and generates comprehensive and detailed reports. The Community Edition of Joe Sandbox Cloud allows you to run a maximum of 6 analyses per month, 3 per day on Windows, Linux and Android with limited analysis output. This one is from dangibbons94, who wanted to "share this cool service ... for malware analysis. I usually use Virus total for URL scanning, but this goes a lot more in depth. I just used basic analysis, which is free and enough for my needs."
Hybrid Analysis is a malware analysis service that detects and analyzes unknown threats for the community. This one was suggested by compupheonix, who adds that it "gets you super detailed reports... it's about the most fleshed out and detailed one I can find."
JustBeamIt is a file-transfer service that allows you to send files of any size via a peer-to-peer streaming model. Simply drag and drop your file and specify the recipient's email address. They will then receive a link that will trigger the download directly from your computer, so the file does not have to be uploaded to the service itself. The link is good for one download and expires after 10 minutes. Thanks to cooljacob204sfw for the recommendation!
ShieldsUP is a quick but powerful internet security checkup and information service. It was created by security researcher Steve Gibson to scan ports and let you know which ones have been opened through your firewalls or NAT routers.
Firefox Send is an encrypted file transfer service that allows you to share files up to 2.5GB from any browser or an Android app. Uses end-to-end encryption to keep data secure and offers security controls you can set. You can determine when your file link expires, the number of downloads, and whether to add a password. Your recipient receives a link to download the file, and they don’t need a Firefox account. This one comes from DePingus, who appreciates the focus on privacy. "They have E2E, expiring links, and a clear privacy policy."
Free DNS is a service where programmers share domain names with one another at no cost. Offers free hosting as well as dynamic DNS, static DNS, subdomain and domain hosting. They can host your domain's DNS as well as allowing you to register hostnames from domains they're hosting already. If you don't have a domain, you can sign up for a free account and create up to 5 subdomains off the domains others have contributed and point these hosts anywhere on the Internet. Thanks to 0x000000000000004C (yes, that's a username) for the suggestion!
ANY.RUN is an interactive malware analysis service for dynamic and static research of the majority of threats in any environment. It can provide a convenient in-depth analysis of new, unidentified malicious objects and help with the investigation of incidents. ImAshtonTurner appreciates it as "a great sandbox tool for viewing malware, etc."
Plik is a scalable, temporary file upload system similar to wetransfer that is written in golang. Thanks go to I_eat_Narwhals for this one!
Free My IP offers free, dynamic DNS. This service comes with no login, no ads, no newsletters, no links to click and no hassle. Kindly suggested by Jack of All Trades.
Mailinator provides free, temporary email inboxes on a receive-only, attachment-free system that requires no sign-up. All @mailinator.com addresses are public, readable and discoverable by anyone at any time—but are automatically deleted after a few hours. Can be a nice option for times when you to give out an address that won't be accessible longterm. Recommended by nachomountain, who's been using it "for years."
Magic Wormhole is a service for sending files directly with no intermediate upload, no web interface and no login. When both parties are online you with the minimal software installed, the wormhole is invoked via command line identifying the file you want to send. The server then provides a speakable, one-time-use password that you give the recipient. When they enter that password in their wormhole console, key exchange occurs and the download begins directly between your computers. rjohnson99 explains, "Magic Wormhole is sort of like JustBeamIt but is open-source and is built on Python. I use it a lot on Linux servers."
EveryCloud's Free Phish is our own, new Phishing Simulator. Once you've filled in the form and logged in, you can choose from lots of email templates (many of which we've coped from what we see in our Email Security business) and landing pages. Run a one-off free phish, then see who clicked or submitted data so you can understand where your organization is vulnerable and act accordingly.
Hardening Guides
CIS Hardening Guides contain the system security benchmarks developed by a global community of cybersecurity experts. Over 140 configuration guidelines are provided to help safeguard systems against threats. Recommended by cyanghost109 "to get a start on looking at hardening your own systems."
Podcasts
Daily Tech News is Tom Merrit's show covering the latest tech issues with some of the top experts in the field. With the focus on daily tech news and analysis, it's a great way to stay current. Thanks to EmoPolarbear for drawing it to our attention.
This Week in Enterprise Tech is a podcast that features IT experts explaining the complicated details of cutting-edge enterprise technology. Join host Lou Maresca on this informative exploration of enterprise solutions, with new episodes recorded every Friday afternoon.
Security Weekly is a podcast where a "bunch of security nerds" get together and talk shop. Topics are greatly varied, and the atmosphere is relaxed and conversational. The show typically tops out at 2 hours, which is perfect for those with a long commute. If you’re fascinated by discussion of deep technical and security-related topics, this may be a nice addition to your podcast repertoire.
Grumpy Old Geeks—What Went Wrong on the Internet and Who's To Blame is a podcast about the internet, technology and geek culture—among other things. The hosts bring their grumpy brand of humor to the "state of the world as they see it" in these roughly hour-long weekly episodes. Recommended by mkaxsnyder, who enjoys it because, "They are a good team that talk about recent and relevant topics from an IT perspective."
The Social-Engineer Podcast is a monthly discussion among the hosts—a group of security experts from SEORG—and a diverse assortment of guests. Topics focus around human behavior and how it affects information security, with new episodes released on the second Monday of every month. Thanks to MrAshRhodes for the suggestion.
The CyberWire podcasts discuss what's happening in cyberspace, providing news and commentary from industry experts. This cyber security-focused news service delivers concise, accessible, and relevant content without the gossip, sensationalism, and the marketing buzz that often distract from the stories that really matter. Appreciation to supermicromainboard for the suggestion.
Malicious Life is a podcast that tells the fascinating—and often unknown—stories of the wildest hacks you can ever imagine. Host Ran Levi, a cybersecurity expert and author, talks with the people who were actually involved to reveal the history of each event in depth. Our appreciation goes to peraphon for the recommendation.
The Broadcast Storm is a podcast for Cisco networking professionals. BluePieceOfPaper suggests it "for people studying for their CCNA/NP. Kevin Wallace is a CCIE Collaboration so he knows his *ishk. Good format for learning too. Most podcasts are about 8-15 mins long and its 'usually' an exam topic. It will be something like "HSPR" but instead of just explaining it super boring like Ben Stein reading a powerpoint, he usually goes into a story about how (insert time in his career) HSPR would have been super useful..."
Software Engineering Radio is a podcast for developers who are looking for an educational resource with original content that isn't recycled from other venues. Consists of conversations on relevant topics with experts from the software engineering world, with new episodes released three to four times per month. a9JDvXLWHumjaC tells us this is "a solid podcast for devs."
Books
System Center 2012 Configuration Manager is a comprehensive technical guide designed to help you optimize Microsoft's Configuration Manager 2012 according to your requirements and then to deploy and use it successfully. This methodical, step-by-step reference covers: the intentions behind the product and its role in the broader System Center product suite; planning, design, and implementation; and details on each of the most-important feature sets. Learn how to leverage the user-centric capabilities to provide anytime/anywhere services & software, while strengthening control and improving compliance.
Network Warrior: Everything You Need to Know That Wasn’t on the CCNA Exam is a practical guide to network infrastructure. Provides an in-depth view of routers and routing, switching (with Cisco Catalyst and Nexus switches as examples), SOHO VoIP and SOHO wireless access point design and configuration, introduction to IPv6 with configuration examples, telecom technologies in the data-networking world (including T1, DS3, frame relay, and MPLS), security, firewall theory and configuration, ACL and authentication, Quality of Service (QoS), with an emphasis on low-latency queuing (LLQ), IP address allocation, Network Time Protocol (NTP) and device failures.
Beginning the Linux Command Line is your ally in mastering Linux from the keyboard. It is intended for system administrators, software developers, and enthusiastic users who want a guide that will be useful for most distributions—i.e., all items have been checked against Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE. Addresses administering users and security and deploying firewalls. Updated to the latest versions of Linux to cover files and directories, including the Btrfs file system and its management and systemd boot procedure and firewall management with firewalld.
Modern Operating Systems, 4th Ed. is written for students taking intro courses on Operating Systems and for those who want an OS reference guide for work. The author, an OS researcher, includes both the latest materials on relevant operating systems as well as current research. The previous edition of Modern Operating Systems received the 2010 McGuffey Longevity Award that recognizes textbooks for excellence over time.
Time Management for System Administrators is a guide for organizing your approach to this challenging role in a way that improves your results. Bestselling author Thomas Limoncelli offers a collection of tips and techniques for navigating the competing goals and concurrent responsibilities that go along with working on large projects while also taking care of individual user's needs. The book focuses on strategies to help with daily tasks that will also allow you to handle the critical situations that inevitably require your attention. You'll learn how to manage interruptions, eliminate time wasters, keep an effective calendar, develop routines and prioritize, stay focused on the task at hand and document/automate to speed processes.
The Practice of System and Network Administration, 3rd Edition introduces beginners to advanced frameworks while serving as a guide to best practices in system administration that is helpful for even the most advanced experts. Organized into four major sections that build from the foundational elements of system administration through improved techniques for upgrades and change management to exploring assorted management topics. Covers the basics and then moves onto the advanced things that can be built on top of those basics to wield real power and execute difficult projects.
Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches, Third Edition is designed to teach you PowerShell in a month's worth of 1-hour lessons. This updated edition covers PowerShell features that run on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and later, PowerShell v3 and later, and it includes v5 features like PowerShellGet. For PowerShell v3 and up, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and later.
Troubleshooting with the Windows Sysinternals Tools is a guide to the powerful Sysinternals tools for diagnosing and troubleshooting issues. Sysinternals creator Mark Russinovich and Windows expert Aaron Margosis provide a deep understanding of Windows core concepts that aren’t well-documented elsewhere along with details on how to use Sysinternals tools to optimize any Windows system’s reliability, efficiency, performance and security. Includes an explanation of Sysinternals capabilities, details on each major tool, and examples of how the tools can be used to solve real-world cases involving error messages, hangs, sluggishness, malware infections and more.
DNS and BIND, 5th Ed. explains how to work with the Internet's distributed host information database—which is responsible for translating names into addresses, routing mail to its proper destination, and listing phone numbers according to the ENUM standard. Covers BIND 9.3.2 & 8.4.7, the what/how/why of DNS, name servers, MX records, subdividing domains (parenting), DNSSEC, TSIG, troubleshooting and more. PEPCK tells us this is "generally considered the DNS reference book (aside from the RFCs of course!)"
Windows PowerShell in Action, 3rd Ed. is a comprehensive guide to PowerShell. Written by language designer Bruce Payette and MVP Richard Siddaway, this volume gives a great introduction to Powershell, including everyday use cases and detailed examples for more-advanced topics like performance and module architecture. Covers workflows and classes, writing modules and scripts, desired state configuration and programming APIs/pipelines.This edition has been updated for PowerShell v6.
Zero Trust Networks: Building Secure Systems in Untrusted Networks explains the principles behind zero trust architecture, along with what's needed to implement it. Covers the evolution of perimeter-based defenses and how they evolved into the current broken model, case studies of zero trust in production networks on both the client and server side, example configurations for open-source tools that are useful for building a zero trust network and how to migrate from a perimeter-based network to a zero trust network in production. Kindly recommended by jaginfosec.
Tips
Here are a couple handy Windows shortcuts:
Here's a shortcut for a 4-pane explorer in Windows without installing 3rd-party software:
(Keep the win key down for the arrows, and no pauses.) Appreciation goes to ZAFJB for this one.
Our recent tip for a shortcut to get a 4-pane explorer in Windows, triggered this suggestion from SevaraB: "You can do that for an even larger grid of Windows by right-clicking the clock in the taskbar, and clicking 'Show windows side by side' to arrange them neatly. Did this for 4 rows of 6 windows when I had to have a quick 'n' dirty "video wall" of windows monitoring servers at our branches." ZAFJB adds that it actually works when you right-click "anywhere on the taskbar, except application icons or start button."
This tip comes courtesy of shipsass: "When I need to use Windows Explorer but I don't want to take my hands off the keyboard, I press Windows-E to launch Explorer and then Ctrl-L to jump to the address line and type my path. The Ctrl-L trick also works with any web browser, and it's an efficient way of talking less-technical people through instructions when 'browse to [location]' stumps them."
Clear browser history/cookies by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-DELETE on most major browsers. Thanks go to synapticpanda, who adds that this "saves me so much time when troubleshooting web apps where I am playing with the cache and such."
To rename a file with F2, while still editing the name of that file: Hit TAB to tab into the renaming of the next file. Thanks to abeeftaco for this one!
Alt-D is a reliable alternative to Ctrl-L for jumping to the address line in a browser. Thanks for this one go to fencepost_ajm, who explains: "Ctrl-L comes from the browser side as a shortcut for Location, Alt-D from the Windows Explorer side for Directory."
Browser shortcut: When typing a URL that ends with dot com, Ctrl + Enter will place the ".com" and take you to the page. Thanks to wpierre for this one!
This tip comes from anynonus, as something that daily that saves a few clicks: "Running a program with ctrl + shift + enter from start menu will start it as administrator (alt + y will select YES to run as admin) ... my user account is local admin [so] I don't feel like that is unsafe"
Building on our PowerShell resources, we received the following suggestion from halbaradkenafin: aka.ms/pskoans is "a way to learn PowerShell using PowerShell (and Pester). It's really cool and a bunch of folks have high praise for it (including a few teams within MSFT)."
Keyboard shortcut: If you already have an application open, hold ctrl + shift and middle click on the application in your task bar to open another instance as admin. Thanks go to Polymira for this one.
Remote Server Tip: "Critical advice. When testing out network configuration changes, prior to restarting the networking service or rebooting, always create a cron job that will restore your original network configuration and then reboot/restart networking on the machine after 5 minutes. If your config worked, you have enough time to remove it. If it didn't, it will fix itself. This is a beautifully simple solution that I learned from my old mentor at my very first job. I've held on to it for a long time." Thanks go to FrigidNox for the tip!
Websites
Deployment Research is the website of Johan Arwidmark, MS MVP in System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management. It is dedicated to sharing information and guidance around System Center, OS deployment, migration and more. The author shares tips and tricks to help improve the quality of IT Pros’ daily work.
Next of Windows is a website on (mostly) Microsoft-related technology. It's the place where Kent Chen—a computer veteran with many years of field experience—and Jonathan Hu—a web/mobile app developer and self-described "cool geek"—share what they know, what they learn and what they find in the hope of helping others learn and benefit.
High Scalability brings together all the relevant information about building scalable websites in one place. Because building a website with confidence requires a body of knowledge that can be slow to develop, the site focuses on moving visitors along the learning curve at a faster pace.
Information Technology Research Library is a great resource for IT-related research, white papers, reports, case studies, magazines, and eBooks. This library is provided at no charge by TradePub.com. GullibleDetective tells us it offers "free PDF files from a WIIIIIIDE variety of topics, not even just IT. Only caveat: as its a vendor-supported publishing company, you will have to give them a bit of information such as name, email address and possibly a company name. You undoubtedly have the ability to create fake information on this, mind you. The articles range from Excel templates, learning python, powershell, nosql etc. to converged architecture."
SS64 is a web-based reference guide for syntax and examples of the most-common database and OS computing commands. Recommended by Petti-The-Yeti, who adds, "I use this site all the time to look up commands and find examples while I'm building CMD and PS1 scripts."
Phishing and Malware Reporting. This website helps you put a stop to scams by getting fraudulent pages blocked. Easily report phishing webpages so they can be added to blacklists in as little as 15 minutes of your report. "Player024 tells us, "I highly recommend anyone in the industry to bookmark this page...With an average of about 10 minutes of work, I'm usually able to take down the phishing pages we receive thanks to the links posted on that website."
A Slack Channel
Windows Admin Slack is a great drive-by resource for the Windows sysadmin. This team has 33 public channels in total that cover different areas of helpful content on Windows administration.
Blogs
KC's Blog is the place where Microsoft MVP and web developer Kent Chen shares his IT insights and discoveries. The rather large library of posts offer helpful hints, how-tos, resources and news of interest to those in the Windows world.
The Windows Server Daily is the ever-current blog of technologist Katherine Moss, VP of open source & community engagement for StormlightTech. Offers brief daily posts on topics related to Windows server, Windows 10 and Administration.
An Infosec Slideshow
This security training slideshow was created for use during a quarterly infosec class. The content is offered generously by shalafi71, who adds, "Take this as a skeleton and flesh it out on your own. Take an hour or two and research the things I talk about. Tailor this to your own environment and users. Make it relevant to your people. Include corporate stories, include your audience, exclude yourself. This ain't about how smart you are at infosec, and I can't stress this enough, talk about how people can defend themselves. Give them things to look for and action they can take. No one gives a shit about your firewall rules."
Tech Tutorials
Tutorialspoint Library. This large collection of tech tutorials is a great resource for online learning. You'll find nearly 150 high-quality tutorials covering a wide array of languages and topics—from fundamentals to cutting-edge technologies. For example, this Powershell tutorial is designed for those with practical experience handling Windows-based Servers who want to learn how to install and use Windows Server 2012.
The Python Tutorial is a nice introduction to many of Python’s best features, enabling you to read and write Python modules and programs. It offers an understanding of the language's style and prepares you to learn more about the various Python library modules described in 'The Python Standard Library.' Kindly suggested by sharjeelsayed.
SysAdmin Humor
Day in the Life of a SysAdmin Episode 5: Lunch Break is an amusing look at a SysAdmin's attempt to take a brief lunch break. We imagine many of you can relate!
Have a fantastic week and as usual, let me know any comments.
Graham | CEO | EveryCloud
Fyi - I've set up a subreddit /itprotuesday, where we feature / encourage posts of some additional tools, tips etc. throughout the week. Pop over and subscribe if you’re interested.
submitted by crispyducks to msp [link] [comments]

IT Pro Tuesday #64 (part 2) - Mega List of Tips, Tools, Books, Blogs & More

(continued from part 1)
Captura is a flexible tool for capturing your screen, audio, cursor, mouse clicks and keystrokes. Features include mixing audio recorded from microphone and speaker output, command-line interface, and configurable hotkeys. Thanks to jantari for the recommedation.
Unlocker is a tool to help delete those irritating locked files that give you an error message like "cannot delete file" or "access is denied." It helps with killing processes, unloading DLLs, deleting index.dat files, as well as unlocking, deleting, renaming, and moving locked files—typically without requiring a reboot.
IIS Crypto's newest version adds advanced settings; registry backup; new, simpler templates; support for Windows Server 2019 and more. This tool lets you enable or disable protocols, ciphers, hashes and key exchange algorithms on Windows and reorder SSL/TLS cipher suites from IIS, change advanced settings, implement best practices with a single click, create custom templates and test your website. Available in both command line and GUI versions.
RocketDock is an application launcher with a clean interface that lets you drag/drop shortcuts for easy access and minimize windows to the dock. Features running application indicators, multi-monitor support, alpha-blended PNG and ICO icons, auto-hide and popup on mouse over, positioning and layering options. Fully customizable, portable, and compatible with MobyDock, ObjectDock, RK Launcher and Y'z Dock skins. Works even on slower computers and is Unicode compliant. Suggested by lieutenantcigarette: "If you like the dock on MacOS but prefer to use Windows, RocketDock has you covered. A superb and highly customisable dock that you can add your favourites to for easy and elegant access."
Baby FTP Server offers only the basics, but with the power to serve as a foundation for a more-complex server. Features include multi-threading, a real-time server log, support for PASV and non-PASV mode, ability to set permissions for download/upload/rename/delete/create directory. Only allows anonymous connections. Our thanks to FatherPrax for suggesting this one.
Strace is a Linux diagnostic, debugging and instructional userspace tool with a traditional command-line interface. Uses the ptrace kernel feature to monitor and tamper with interactions between processes and the kernel, including system calls, signal deliveries and changes of process state.
exa is a small, fast replacement for ls with more features and better defaults. It uses colors to distinguish file types and metadata, and it recognizes symlinks, extended attributes and Git. All in one single binary. phils_lab describes it as "'ls' on steroids, written in Rust."
rsync is a faster file transfer program for Unix to bring remote files into sync. It sends just the differences in the files across the link, without requiring both sets of files to be present at one of the ends. Suggested by zorinlynx, who adds that "rsync is GODLY for moving data around efficiently. And if an rsync is interrupted, just run it again."
Matter Wiki is a simple WYSIWYG wiki that can help teams store and collaborate. Every article gets filed under a topic, transparently, so you can tell who made what changes to which document and when. Thanks to bciar-iwdc for the recommendation.
LockHunter is a file unlocking tool that enables you to delete files that are being blocked for unknown reasons. Can be useful for fighting malware and other programs that are causing trouble. Deletes files into the recycle bin so you can restore them if necessary. Chucky2401 finds it preferable to Unlocker, "since I am on Windows 7. There are no new updates since July 2017, but the last beta was in June of this year."
aria2 is a lightweight multi-source command-line download utility that supports HTTP/HTTPS, FTP, SFTP, BitTorrent and Metalink. It can be manipulated via built-in JSON-RPC and XML-RPC interfaces. Recommended by jftuga, who appreciates it as a "cross-platform command line downloader (similar to wget or curl), but with the -x option can run a segmented download of a single file to increase throughput."
Free Services
Temp-Mail allows you to receive email at a temporary address that self-destructs after a certain period of time. Outwit all the forums, Wi-Fi owners, websites and blogs that insist you register to use them. Petti-The-Yeti says, "I don't give any company my direct email anymore. If I want to trial something but they ask for an email signup, I just grab a temporary email from here, sign up with it, and wait for the trial link or license info to come through. Then, you just download the file and close the website."
Duck DNS will point a DNS (sub domains of duckdns.org) to an IP of your choice. DDNS is a handy way for you to refer to a serverouter with an easily rememberable name for situations when the server's ip address will likely change. Suggested by xgnarf, who finds it "so much better for the free tier of noip—no 30-day nag to keep your host up."
Joe Sandbox detects and analyzes potential malicious files and URLs on Windows, Android, Mac OS, Linux and iOS for suspicious activities. It performs deep malware analysis and generates comprehensive and detailed reports. The Community Edition of Joe Sandbox Cloud allows you to run a maximum of 6 analyses per month, 3 per day on Windows, Linux and Android with limited analysis output. This one is from dangibbons94, who wanted to "share this cool service ... for malware analysis. I usually use Virus total for URL scanning, but this goes a lot more in depth. I just used basic analysis, which is free and enough for my needs."
Hybrid Analysis is a malware analysis service that detects and analyzes unknown threats for the community. This one was suggested by compupheonix, who adds that it "gets you super detailed reports... it's about the most fleshed out and detailed one I can find."
JustBeamIt is a file-transfer service that allows you to send files of any size via a peer-to-peer streaming model. Simply drag and drop your file and specify the recipient's email address. They will then receive a link that will trigger the download directly from your computer, so the file does not have to be uploaded to the service itself. The link is good for one download and expires after 10 minutes. Thanks to cooljacob204sfw for the recommendation!
ShieldsUP is a quick but powerful internet security checkup and information service. It was created by security researcher Steve Gibson to scan ports and let you know which ones have been opened through your firewalls or NAT routers.
Firefox Send is an encrypted file transfer service that allows you to share files up to 2.5GB from any browser or an Android app. Uses end-to-end encryption to keep data secure and offers security controls you can set. You can determine when your file link expires, the number of downloads, and whether to add a password. Your recipient receives a link to download the file, and they don’t need a Firefox account. This one comes from DePingus, who appreciates the focus on privacy. "They have E2E, expiring links, and a clear privacy policy."
Free DNS is a service where programmers share domain names with one another at no cost. Offers free hosting as well as dynamic DNS, static DNS, subdomain and domain hosting. They can host your domain's DNS as well as allowing you to register hostnames from domains they're hosting already. If you don't have a domain, you can sign up for a free account and create up to 5 subdomains off the domains others have contributed and point these hosts anywhere on the Internet. Thanks to 0x000000000000004C (yes, that's a username) for the suggestion!
ANY.RUN is an interactive malware analysis service for dynamic and static research of the majority of threats in any environment. It can provide a convenient in-depth analysis of new, unidentified malicious objects and help with the investigation of incidents. ImAshtonTurner appreciates it as "a great sandbox tool for viewing malware, etc."
Plik is a scalable, temporary file upload system similar to wetransfer that is written in golang. Thanks go to I_eat_Narwhals for this one!
Free My IP offers free, dynamic DNS. This service comes with no login, no ads, no newsletters, no links to click and no hassle. Kindly suggested by Jack of All Trades.
Mailinator provides free, temporary email inboxes on a receive-only, attachment-free system that requires no sign-up. All @mailinator.com addresses are public, readable and discoverable by anyone at any time—but are automatically deleted after a few hours. Can be a nice option for times when you to give out an address that won't be accessible longterm. Recommended by nachomountain, who's been using it "for years."
Magic Wormhole is a service for sending files directly with no intermediate upload, no web interface and no login. When both parties are online you with the minimal software installed, the wormhole is invoked via command line identifying the file you want to send. The server then provides a speakable, one-time-use password that you give the recipient. When they enter that password in their wormhole console, key exchange occurs and the download begins directly between your computers. rjohnson99 explains, "Magic Wormhole is sort of like JustBeamIt but is open-source and is built on Python. I use it a lot on Linux servers."
EveryCloud's Free Phish is our own, new Phishing Simulator. Once you've filled in the form and logged in, you can choose from lots of email templates (many of which we've coped from what we see in our Email Security business) and landing pages. Run a one-off free phish, then see who clicked or submitted data so you can understand where your organization is vulnerable and act accordingly.
Hardening Guides
CIS Hardening Guides contain the system security benchmarks developed by a global community of cybersecurity experts. Over 140 configuration guidelines are provided to help safeguard systems against threats. Recommended by cyanghost109 "to get a start on looking at hardening your own systems."
Podcasts
Daily Tech News is Tom Merrit's show covering the latest tech issues with some of the top experts in the field. With the focus on daily tech news and analysis, it's a great way to stay current. Thanks to EmoPolarbear for drawing it to our attention.
This Week in Enterprise Tech is a podcast that features IT experts explaining the complicated details of cutting-edge enterprise technology. Join host Lou Maresca on this informative exploration of enterprise solutions, with new episodes recorded every Friday afternoon.
Security Weekly is a podcast where a "bunch of security nerds" get together and talk shop. Topics are greatly varied, and the atmosphere is relaxed and conversational. The show typically tops out at 2 hours, which is perfect for those with a long commute. If you’re fascinated by discussion of deep technical and security-related topics, this may be a nice addition to your podcast repertoire.
Grumpy Old Geeks—What Went Wrong on the Internet and Who's To Blame is a podcast about the internet, technology and geek culture—among other things. The hosts bring their grumpy brand of humor to the "state of the world as they see it" in these roughly hour-long weekly episodes. Recommended by mkaxsnyder, who enjoys it because, "They are a good team that talk about recent and relevant topics from an IT perspective."
The Social-Engineer Podcast is a monthly discussion among the hosts—a group of security experts from SEORG—and a diverse assortment of guests. Topics focus around human behavior and how it affects information security, with new episodes released on the second Monday of every month. Thanks to MrAshRhodes for the suggestion.
The CyberWire podcasts discuss what's happening in cyberspace, providing news and commentary from industry experts. This cyber security-focused news service delivers concise, accessible, and relevant content without the gossip, sensationalism, and the marketing buzz that often distract from the stories that really matter. Appreciation to supermicromainboard for the suggestion.
Malicious Life is a podcast that tells the fascinating—and often unknown—stories of the wildest hacks you can ever imagine. Host Ran Levi, a cybersecurity expert and author, talks with the people who were actually involved to reveal the history of each event in depth. Our appreciation goes to peraphon for the recommendation.
The Broadcast Storm is a podcast for Cisco networking professionals. BluePieceOfPaper suggests it "for people studying for their CCNA/NP. Kevin Wallace is a CCIE Collaboration so he knows his *ishk. Good format for learning too. Most podcasts are about 8-15 mins long and its 'usually' an exam topic. It will be something like "HSPR" but instead of just explaining it super boring like Ben Stein reading a powerpoint, he usually goes into a story about how (insert time in his career) HSPR would have been super useful..."
Software Engineering Radio is a podcast for developers who are looking for an educational resource with original content that isn't recycled from other venues. Consists of conversations on relevant topics with experts from the software engineering world, with new episodes released three to four times per month. a9JDvXLWHumjaC tells us this is "a solid podcast for devs."
Books
System Center 2012 Configuration Manager is a comprehensive technical guide designed to help you optimize Microsoft's Configuration Manager 2012 according to your requirements and then to deploy and use it successfully. This methodical, step-by-step reference covers: the intentions behind the product and its role in the broader System Center product suite; planning, design, and implementation; and details on each of the most-important feature sets. Learn how to leverage the user-centric capabilities to provide anytime/anywhere services & software, while strengthening control and improving compliance.
Network Warrior: Everything You Need to Know That Wasn’t on the CCNA Exam is a practical guide to network infrastructure. Provides an in-depth view of routers and routing, switching (with Cisco Catalyst and Nexus switches as examples), SOHO VoIP and SOHO wireless access point design and configuration, introduction to IPv6 with configuration examples, telecom technologies in the data-networking world (including T1, DS3, frame relay, and MPLS), security, firewall theory and configuration, ACL and authentication, Quality of Service (QoS), with an emphasis on low-latency queuing (LLQ), IP address allocation, Network Time Protocol (NTP) and device failures.
Beginning the Linux Command Line is your ally in mastering Linux from the keyboard. It is intended for system administrators, software developers, and enthusiastic users who want a guide that will be useful for most distributions—i.e., all items have been checked against Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE. Addresses administering users and security and deploying firewalls. Updated to the latest versions of Linux to cover files and directories, including the Btrfs file system and its management and systemd boot procedure and firewall management with firewalld.
Modern Operating Systems, 4th Ed. is written for students taking intro courses on Operating Systems and for those who want an OS reference guide for work. The author, an OS researcher, includes both the latest materials on relevant operating systems as well as current research. The previous edition of Modern Operating Systems received the 2010 McGuffey Longevity Award that recognizes textbooks for excellence over time.
Time Management for System Administrators is a guide for organizing your approach to this challenging role in a way that improves your results. Bestselling author Thomas Limoncelli offers a collection of tips and techniques for navigating the competing goals and concurrent responsibilities that go along with working on large projects while also taking care of individual user's needs. The book focuses on strategies to help with daily tasks that will also allow you to handle the critical situations that inevitably require your attention. You'll learn how to manage interruptions, eliminate time wasters, keep an effective calendar, develop routines and prioritize, stay focused on the task at hand and document/automate to speed processes.
The Practice of System and Network Administration, 3rd Edition introduces beginners to advanced frameworks while serving as a guide to best practices in system administration that is helpful for even the most advanced experts. Organized into four major sections that build from the foundational elements of system administration through improved techniques for upgrades and change management to exploring assorted management topics. Covers the basics and then moves onto the advanced things that can be built on top of those basics to wield real power and execute difficult projects.
Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches, Third Edition is designed to teach you PowerShell in a month's worth of 1-hour lessons. This updated edition covers PowerShell features that run on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and later, PowerShell v3 and later, and it includes v5 features like PowerShellGet. For PowerShell v3 and up, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and later.
Troubleshooting with the Windows Sysinternals Tools is a guide to the powerful Sysinternals tools for diagnosing and troubleshooting issues. Sysinternals creator Mark Russinovich and Windows expert Aaron Margosis provide a deep understanding of Windows core concepts that aren’t well-documented elsewhere along with details on how to use Sysinternals tools to optimize any Windows system’s reliability, efficiency, performance and security. Includes an explanation of Sysinternals capabilities, details on each major tool, and examples of how the tools can be used to solve real-world cases involving error messages, hangs, sluggishness, malware infections and more.
DNS and BIND, 5th Ed. explains how to work with the Internet's distributed host information database—which is responsible for translating names into addresses, routing mail to its proper destination, and listing phone numbers according to the ENUM standard. Covers BIND 9.3.2 & 8.4.7, the what/how/why of DNS, name servers, MX records, subdividing domains (parenting), DNSSEC, TSIG, troubleshooting and more. PEPCK tells us this is "generally considered the DNS reference book (aside from the RFCs of course!)"
Windows PowerShell in Action, 3rd Ed. is a comprehensive guide to PowerShell. Written by language designer Bruce Payette and MVP Richard Siddaway, this volume gives a great introduction to Powershell, including everyday use cases and detailed examples for more-advanced topics like performance and module architecture. Covers workflows and classes, writing modules and scripts, desired state configuration and programming APIs/pipelines.This edition has been updated for PowerShell v6.
Zero Trust Networks: Building Secure Systems in Untrusted Networks explains the principles behind zero trust architecture, along with what's needed to implement it. Covers the evolution of perimeter-based defenses and how they evolved into the current broken model, case studies of zero trust in production networks on both the client and server side, example configurations for open-source tools that are useful for building a zero trust network and how to migrate from a perimeter-based network to a zero trust network in production. Kindly recommended by jaginfosec.
Tips
Here are a couple handy Windows shortcuts:
Here's a shortcut for a 4-pane explorer in Windows without installing 3rd-party software:
(Keep the win key down for the arrows, and no pauses.) Appreciation goes to ZAFJB for this one.
Our recent tip for a shortcut to get a 4-pane explorer in Windows, triggered this suggestion from SevaraB: "You can do that for an even larger grid of Windows by right-clicking the clock in the taskbar, and clicking 'Show windows side by side' to arrange them neatly. Did this for 4 rows of 6 windows when I had to have a quick 'n' dirty "video wall" of windows monitoring servers at our branches." ZAFJB adds that it actually works when you right-click "anywhere on the taskbar, except application icons or start button."
This tip comes courtesy of shipsass: "When I need to use Windows Explorer but I don't want to take my hands off the keyboard, I press Windows-E to launch Explorer and then Ctrl-L to jump to the address line and type my path. The Ctrl-L trick also works with any web browser, and it's an efficient way of talking less-technical people through instructions when 'browse to [location]' stumps them."
Clear browser history/cookies by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-DELETE on most major browsers. Thanks go to synapticpanda, who adds that this "saves me so much time when troubleshooting web apps where I am playing with the cache and such."
To rename a file with F2, while still editing the name of that file: Hit TAB to tab into the renaming of the next file. Thanks to abeeftaco for this one!
Alt-D is a reliable alternative to Ctrl-L for jumping to the address line in a browser. Thanks for this one go to fencepost_ajm, who explains: "Ctrl-L comes from the browser side as a shortcut for Location, Alt-D from the Windows Explorer side for Directory."
Browser shortcut: When typing a URL that ends with dot com, Ctrl + Enter will place the ".com" and take you to the page. Thanks to wpierre for this one!
This tip comes from anynonus, as something that daily that saves a few clicks: "Running a program with ctrl + shift + enter from start menu will start it as administrator (alt + y will select YES to run as admin) ... my user account is local admin [so] I don't feel like that is unsafe"
Building on our PowerShell resources, we received the following suggestion from halbaradkenafin: aka.ms/pskoans is "a way to learn PowerShell using PowerShell (and Pester). It's really cool and a bunch of folks have high praise for it (including a few teams within MSFT)."
Keyboard shortcut: If you already have an application open, hold ctrl + shift and middle click on the application in your task bar to open another instance as admin. Thanks go to Polymira for this one.
Remote Server Tip: "Critical advice. When testing out network configuration changes, prior to restarting the networking service or rebooting, always create a cron job that will restore your original network configuration and then reboot/restart networking on the machine after 5 minutes. If your config worked, you have enough time to remove it. If it didn't, it will fix itself. This is a beautifully simple solution that I learned from my old mentor at my very first job. I've held on to it for a long time." Thanks go to FrigidNox for the tip!
Websites
Deployment Research is the website of Johan Arwidmark, MS MVP in System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management. It is dedicated to sharing information and guidance around System Center, OS deployment, migration and more. The author shares tips and tricks to help improve the quality of IT Pros’ daily work.
Next of Windows is a website on (mostly) Microsoft-related technology. It's the place where Kent Chen—a computer veteran with many years of field experience—and Jonathan Hu—a web/mobile app developer and self-described "cool geek"—share what they know, what they learn and what they find in the hope of helping others learn and benefit.
High Scalability brings together all the relevant information about building scalable websites in one place. Because building a website with confidence requires a body of knowledge that can be slow to develop, the site focuses on moving visitors along the learning curve at a faster pace.
Information Technology Research Library is a great resource for IT-related research, white papers, reports, case studies, magazines, and eBooks. This library is provided at no charge by TradePub.com. GullibleDetective tells us it offers "free PDF files from a WIIIIIIDE variety of topics, not even just IT. Only caveat: as its a vendor-supported publishing company, you will have to give them a bit of information such as name, email address and possibly a company name. You undoubtedly have the ability to create fake information on this, mind you. The articles range from Excel templates, learning python, powershell, nosql etc. to converged architecture."
SS64 is a web-based reference guide for syntax and examples of the most-common database and OS computing commands. Recommended by Petti-The-Yeti, who adds, "I use this site all the time to look up commands and find examples while I'm building CMD and PS1 scripts."
Phishing and Malware Reporting. This website helps you put a stop to scams by getting fraudulent pages blocked. Easily report phishing webpages so they can be added to blacklists in as little as 15 minutes of your report. "Player024 tells us, "I highly recommend anyone in the industry to bookmark this page...With an average of about 10 minutes of work, I'm usually able to take down the phishing pages we receive thanks to the links posted on that website."
A Slack Channel
Windows Admin Slack is a great drive-by resource for the Windows sysadmin. This team has 33 public channels in total that cover different areas of helpful content on Windows administration.
Blogs
KC's Blog is the place where Microsoft MVP and web developer Kent Chen shares his IT insights and discoveries. The rather large library of posts offer helpful hints, how-tos, resources and news of interest to those in the Windows world.
The Windows Server Daily is the ever-current blog of technologist Katherine Moss, VP of open source & community engagement for StormlightTech. Offers brief daily posts on topics related to Windows server, Windows 10 and Administration.
An Infosec Slideshow
This security training slideshow was created for use during a quarterly infosec class. The content is offered generously by shalafi71, who adds, "Take this as a skeleton and flesh it out on your own. Take an hour or two and research the things I talk about. Tailor this to your own environment and users. Make it relevant to your people. Include corporate stories, include your audience, exclude yourself. This ain't about how smart you are at infosec, and I can't stress this enough, talk about how people can defend themselves. Give them things to look for and action they can take. No one gives a shit about your firewall rules."
Tech Tutorials
Tutorialspoint Library. This large collection of tech tutorials is a great resource for online learning. You'll find nearly 150 high-quality tutorials covering a wide array of languages and topics—from fundamentals to cutting-edge technologies. For example, this Powershell tutorial is designed for those with practical experience handling Windows-based Servers who want to learn how to install and use Windows Server 2012.
The Python Tutorial is a nice introduction to many of Python’s best features, enabling you to read and write Python modules and programs. It offers an understanding of the language's style and prepares you to learn more about the various Python library modules described in 'The Python Standard Library.' Kindly suggested by sharjeelsayed.
SysAdmin Humor
Day in the Life of a SysAdmin Episode 5: Lunch Break is an amusing look at a SysAdmin's attempt to take a brief lunch break. We imagine many of you can relate!
Have a fantastic week and as usual, let me know any comments.
Graham | CEO | EveryCloud
submitted by crispyducks to ITProTuesday [link] [comments]

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