PC Plus HelpDesk - issue 268
||This month, Paul Grosse gives you more
insight into some of the topics dealt with in HelpDesk.
From the pages of HelpDesk, I look at:
- On-line file conversion;
- Finding things quickly;
- On-line banking safety;
- Windows IIS Server;
- That all-important Jalebi ('ਜਲੇਬੀ') recipe; and,
- Sniff the net.
On-line file conversion
If you run Windows and Linux, you might find that
support for some media file formats is not consistent
between the platforms - Windows supports some that are
proprietary and haven't been analysed by the Open Source
people yet; and some are Open Source and Microsoft either
brought out its latest version of Windows before the file
format was released and therefore does not support it or,
it has no intention of supporting it.
So, this brings us to the issue of either having
codecs for each platform or changing the file format so
that the file works on the desired platform.
Unfortunately, the workings of many codecs are secrets
and are only written for one or two operating systems
(usually Windows and Mac - other OSes have to rely upon
the good will of the codec manufacturers or on people
being able to fathom out how the media files work and
then build each codec from scratch).
However, there is a solution to this and if, for large
files, you don't have a problem with bandwidth, it is
quite easy to use.
|There are a number of sites that will
provide you with a free media file conversion.
and in amongst the adverts, you just fill in the source
file location and, if necessary the format, and it will
convert it for you.
Formats include text, sound, video and so on; and will
convert PDFs to Flash SWF format if you really want - you
can put these on your website as alternatives to each
|Anything that you see in the conversion
format combo should work and as there is no program
installation involved, it should work with pretty much
any browser on any operating system.
We tried this out
with various video formats, picture files and even
converted a PDF eNovel to Flash - all working well.
One problem that was encountered occurred with utf-8
characters from text documents going into html as the
encoding was not set to utf-8 but there was no such
problem with PDF documents with utf-8 characters going
into Flash - it all appeared perfectly.
Finding things quickly
things quickly is essential in the poorly organised mess
that your home directory has turned into over time.
On any operating system, your home directory is like a
teenager's bedrooms - it started off with good intentions
but there comes a time when finding something is just too
On the command line, there are tools like 'find' but
in a world where the GUI is king and users think the
command line is for geeks only, Kerry Beagle comes to the
Kerry Beagle has been around for a while and on new
installations, experienced users have either turned it
off or ignored it, leaving it for the noobies to use.
However, as your system's entropy level increases in
accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, things
become harder to find.
Kerry Beagle works by producing an index of your
system as a background process so that when you want to
find something, it only needs to search that.
The search process is quite quick and the absence of
organisation in your part of the real file system doesn't
slow it down. As with any search engine, just type in the
search term and click on the go button.
Clicking on the information button expands any entry
and if you hover the mouse over that result's icon, you
will see a preview of it. Clicking on the result will
open it up in the default program or right-clicking on it
gives you a menu.
On-line banking safety
On-line banking is convenient but some sites claim
that their services are secure. Can they be? Does the
little padlock icon really mean that a transaction can be
secure as the banks would like us to feel?
Whilst it is perfectly true that you can do on-line
banking at four o'clock in the morning in your underpants
and eating Jalebi (see the Jalebi recipe), the
security side of it is not quite so sweet (there
isn't a lot that is quite as sweet as Jalebi).
Secure transactions over the Internet, using a web
browser, rely upon public key encryption which, in
principle, is fairly secure - it makes getting hold of
the session data for any particular transaction, cost
spectacularly more than any attacker is likely to gain by
There are various attacks on specific browsers making
a hijacked session appear to be real by displaying the
visual clues that users rely upon and, there are always
attacks using other vectors such as phishing or key
loggers from email attachments. However, if you are lucky
and careful to the point of paranoid, the communications
between your browser and the server will reasonably
secure (but not totally).
The real problem then becomes, what happens to your
data once the banks, or anybody else for that matter has
it. Most of us can remember the Nationwide being find £1
million a year ago for the loss of a laptop in August
2006 but this sort of ineptitude is not limited to banks
or building societies.
Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs managed to lose
banking, building society and personal details for 25
million people and, TJX, the company that runs TkMaxx,
managed to lose the details of over 45 million credit
cards - there are plenty of others. It is fair to say
that these could happen whether you used on-line or
off-line transactions but when it comes to on-line
banking you don't gain from increasing your attack
So, whilst the services cannot be 100 per cent secure
and the little padlock icon was hacked a long time ago,
the browser might not be the weakest link.
Windows IIS Server
Although Apache rules the Internet, Microsoft also has
its own version of the humble webserver. If you have the
right version of Windows, you should be able to run it
once it's installed.
|Higher versions of Vista come with IIS.
Click on 'Start', 'Settings', 'Control Panel', 'Programs
and Features' and then, in the dialogue box's left pane,
click on 'Turn Windows features on or off'.
'Continue' and then wait for the Windows Features list
box to populate itself.
Check the IIS box and click on 'OK' then wait.
|The wait takes several minutes (if you are
unlucky, you will have time to make Jalebi) and shouldn't
include a reboot (although it did when I uninstalled the
Once the dialogue box disappears, you should
have a running installation of IIS.
You can check this out by opening up your favourite
web browser and typing 'localhost' in the address bar.
You should get something like the screenshot on the
|The next thing is where it hides its files.
We are all used to Apache putting its files in /srv/ or
/var/www or similar but this is a Windows system and you
need to navigate to C:\inetpub\wwwroot\.
In there, you
will see that the html document you have seen in your
browser is called 'iisstart.htm' - this displays the
You can add your own document called 'index.htm' or
even 'index.html' and that will be displayed in
With this up and running, you can now play around with
it, developing your own site in a live directory that you
can view using the server so you know that it works when
you are using extensions such as scripting languages and
That all-important Jalebi ('ਜਲੇਬੀ') recipe
If you want to sit around at four o'clock in the
morning in your underpants, doing your on-line banking,
eating Jalebi ('ਜਲੇਬੀ' pronounced 'Ja-Lay-Bee'
with the emphasis on the second syllable), you will
probably want to find a source of Jalebi. So, here is
First of all, I know that not all readers of PC Plus
are adults so, as this recipe uses hot sugar
solution and hot oil, you
really need to get an adult to help you. Remember to turn
off the heat under the oil when you have finished.
So, assuming that you can do this recipe safely, you
will need the following...
- 1 cup of plain white flour;
- 1 heaped tablespoon of rice flour
and/or gram flour*;
- 1 teaspoon of yeast or baking
- If you are using yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar;
- 1 teaspoon of sunflower oil;
- Warm water (cold water if
you are using baking powder instead of
- Sunflower oil for frying;
* if the white flour you
get is strong - bread-making flour - you will
need to reduce the protein content (specifically
the gluten) by adding another flour that doesn't
have gluten in it. Whilst gram flour has a lot of
protein in it (around 22%), there is no gluten in
it so it will dilute down the wheat flour all
right. If you don't reduce the gluten content,
the batter you will make can end up quite thick
and 'gloopy' which does not pipe too well.
** this is to make it
expand a bit. With the yeast, it saturates the
batter with CO2 and
when it hits the hot oil, that comes out of
solution and foams. The baking powder has the
same effect. Note that the water in the batter
will boil and expand as well.
- 1 cup of sugar;
- 1/2 cup water;
- 1 teaspoon yellow food colouring
- some recipes use saffron instead; and,
- 1 pinch green cardamom powder.
- a small frying pan - around
10" will do;
- a bowl to mix the batter in;
- a large spoon to put the
batter in the Jalebi bag with;
- a Jalebi bag or, a piping
- a spatula for handling
Jalebis in the oil;
- a milk pan;
- a fork for holding the
Jalebis down in the syrup and then fishing
them out afterwards; and,
- a dish to put the final
*** Some people have used
those tomato sauce squeezy containers. You just
want something that you can put the batter in and
squeeze without the hole changing its size - you
need a hole around 3 or 4 mm in diameter. A
plastic bag will not do because the nozzle needs
to be a stable size - you don't want it to grow
when you squeeze harder as the cut-off corner of
a plastic bag would do.
First, make the batter.
In a mixing bowl, mix the flours. If you are using
baking powder instead of yeast, add that as well. Then,
add the teaspoon of sunflower oil.
Next, fill a cup (1/3rd
of a pint) with water. If you are using baking powder,
make it cold water. If you are using yeast, make it warm
water and add the yeast to it - live yeast is better
because it gets to work quicker.
Add the water to the flour and mix, adding more water
as needed until a batter consistency is achieved - (not
too gloopy, not too runny - you've all seen the
consistency of the batter they use in a fish and chip
shop, try for that but a little bit runnier - it will
Next leave it for an hour but get on with the next
Next, make the syrup.
In the milk saucepan, put the sugar, water, food
colouring/saffron and green cardamom and put it on a
medium heat. Stir it occasionally until it comes to the
boil and all of the sugar has dissolved. If you are not
familiar with green cardomon, you should now find out for
yourself that it smells like ginger. Take it off the heat
(but don't let it get cold). I have found that I need to
use roughly 1.5 times the above quantities for the syrup
but if you make too much, it will keep (think of jam,
there is so much sugar in it that it doesn't go off).
When you have finished, just let it cool down and then
pour it into a jam jar through a sieve - when you come to
use it again, simply reheat it as though you had just
Now make the Jalebis.
same what that you would when making pancakes you need to
set up a production line of sorts
I do this by having the batter on one side of the
stove, next to the frying pan, then a piece of kitchen
towel, then the syrup and then the dish. Make sure that
you don't have the kitchen roll so close to the frying
pan that it catches fire.
This means that you are not trailing dripping batter
in your syrup or syrup into your hot oil (insert your own
favourite disaster scenario here..) and so on.
|Put around 1/2" (1.5cm) depth of
sunflower oil in the frying pan. Heat it up until putting
a drop of batter in it makes the batter come to the
surface within 5 seconds or so but that the oil is not so
hot that it browns straight away. The browning time
should be 2 to 3 minutes.
Half fill your piping/Jalebi
bag and then pipe it into the hot oil, using a quick,
|When you do this, don't do perfect spirals,
run a radial line across the spirals so that there is at
least something holding them together - the idea is that
you are making something that will hold together in one
piece when you pick it up, not something that is a fried
starch version of a spring.
Alternatively, you can make
loops like a daisy or, anything you like - there are
plenty of videos on the Internet showing you people
making these. The more 'inter-loop cross-linking' there
is, the more stable it is when you pick it up.
|When the batter has started to harden,
separate the Jalebis so that they are easier to handle.
a minute or two, the underside will have browned and you
can turn them over. If you had left them as one large
sheet, it would splash hot oil when it turned over.
|Once they have cooked on both sides, take
them out and rest them on the paper towel for a few
seconds (literally just 2 seconds or so, we are trying to
mop up some of the oil without letting them cool down -
they need to be hot for the next stage).
Then, put them
in the hot syrup. They should make a sizzling sound (the
water in the syrup boiling).
Put the fork on top of them straight away to hold them
down so that they are completely submerged.
The next thing that happens is that the steam inside
the Jalebi collapses and sucks the hot syrup inside it.
|Once they look like the one on the right,
pick them up with the fork and allow them to drain for a
few seconds and then put them in the dish (don't put
kitchen towel in this dish - they will just stick to it).
|The Jalebis will cool down and the syrup
will harden slightly (this is from water loss caused by
the sugar syrup being hot ... cold sugar syrup =>
Remember to turn off the heat under the
The next step is to eat them. They are best eaten
whilst they are still a bit warm (but not too hot -
remember that they have hot sugar syrup in them when they
have just been made).
They will keep for a day or two but not much longer
than that (water in the atmosphere will make them go
Heath Warning :-)
When thinking about how much to make, remember
that you are making something that has a limited
life-time and that the main ingredients are: sugar;
starch; and, oil.
Would you sit down and eat your way through a
pound of barley sugars?
If you want to find out just how much oil you have
used, when you let the oil cool down and pour it back
into its bottle (it's only had fried starch in it so
it is not tainted at all), just look at how far down
it has got.
recipe has been adapted for PC Plus from my (Paul's) own
collection of recipes.
Sniff the net
ever wondered what your firewall has to put up with? You
might occasionally see a broadband firewall report of a
port scan that has been blocked and odd attacks but you
could be curious to see what is actually going on.
In order to look at your network traffic, you will
need a packet sniffer like the one on the right
(WireShark). A packet sniffer is a network tool used by
administrators to look at the actual traffic on your
network and, contrary to a popular myth, there is nothing
illegal about them.
To look at your network connection, probably one of
the easier ways of doing it is to get a Linux/UNIX
machine, give it the IP address that your firewall uses
on the Internet and let it monitor the traffic.
In order to do that, first of all, reconfigure a spare
network card on it so that it has the same IP address as
your firewall - remember to make sure that your machine
is protected by your software firewall. You can get your
IP address from your firewall or you can look at sites
such as http://whatismyipaddress.com/ .
Next, open up a console as root and type...
ifconfig eth1 188.8.131.52
substituting 'eth1' with the network card name that
you want to use and '184.108.40.206' with whatever your
external IP address is.
After that, unplug your LAN from your modem and plug
in your network card using a crossover patch lead.
|Launch a program such as Wireshark and
monitor your modem.
Each packet that is received is
given a number, the time logged and various details are
gleaned from its contents.
|Each layer of each packet is analysed and
you can see these on the right.
You will probably not
see any traffic for other users on your ISP's subnet,
even with the card in promiscuous mode, but you will see
any port scans, pings and anything else that is going on
that is aimed at your IP address.
When you have finished, remember to put everything
back the way it was.
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