Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

CCNA Recertification

The time has come when I should begin to consider my options for renewing or 'recertifying' my Cisco CCNA qualification.

Looking on the it quotes...

"CCNA certifications are valid for three years. To recertify, either pass the current CCNA exam, or pass the ICND exam, or pass any 642 professional level or Cisco Qualified Specialist exam (excluding Sales Specialist exams), or pass a CCIE written exam on or after October 1, 2004."

The standard CCNA - CCNP - CCIE career path doesn't really appeal to me. I have the CCNA and I would like to renew it, but I would also like to gain an extra qualification if possible, rather than just re-taking the same exam again.

Since I passed my CCNA I've really got into WLANs and was surprised to discover that Cisco do a Wireless LAN Support Specialist exam. Being a Specialist exam according to the quote from passing it will also recertify my CCNA. This seems like the best option for me, since I'll be learning new skills as well as having an extra certification for my CV.

Cisco Wireless LAN Support Specialist

Wireless LAN Security Vulnerabilities

Since I last wrote about WLAN Security shortly after buying a Netgear Wireless router, I thought I'd write about improving your wireless network over-and-above that of what WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy) offers.

In 2001 two universities in the US, Maryland and UC Berkeley published separate studies into the inherent flaws with WEP encryption.

This had, until recently put many corporations off the idea of WLANs. After all there are tools freely available that can decipher the WEP encryption keys used on a network.

So what technology can we use to improve WLAN security?

Ever since the flaws in WEP were discovered the IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance have been busy trying to ratify a new standard in WLAN encryption. Known as 802.11i or WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) it is meant to be a software upgrade that is designed to address all known WEP vulnerabilities.

WPA uses an IEEE standard called 802.1X with Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP). Basically TKIP uses a dynamic key rather than the static one used in WEP, with TKIP a new key is generated every 10000 packets. TKIP also checks packets to make sure they haven't been altered by an intermediary.

Even though the upgrade to WPA was supposed to be a software (Firmware) upgrade it's still down to the hardware manufacturer to continue supporting it's hardware. Looking on the Netgear site it looks like my hardware (Netgear DG824M) won't be getting new firmware to upgrade the security from WEP to WPA.

Securing a home wireless router

Convert 3GP video to and from AVI or MPEG

If like me you own a recent Nokia phone that's capable of recording and playing back video files then you might be interested to know how to convert videos to 3GP format (This is the format the Nokia uses to encode video) to play on your phone or convert video files you've recording on your phone to AVI.

After scouting the web in search of these tools I've found two applications that do the job. The first is the Nokia Multimedia Convertor 2.0, I've added a link to this below, it's free, but you'll have to register as a developer. The other-so-called application is quite a bit more amateurish, but nevertheless does the job. It consists of an application back-end and a VBScript/browser based front-end.

I've also noticed that Apple QuickTime 6.5 supports 3GPP and 3GPP2.

Apples guide to the 3GP format

Converting from 3GP to MPEG and AVI

The link below lists a couple of programs capable of converting your 3GP videos to MPEG and AVI files. It also explains how to use the 3gpToRawAvi converter that I've reviewed here.

Nokia Multimedia Convertor 2.0

Used to convert MPEGs to 3GP video format to play videos on your mobile. Free but requires registration.

Nokia Multimedia Convertor 2.0

Searching For WiFi Hotspots

When you're out and about and need to check your email with your WiFi enabled laptop, wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to turn your laptop on to see if you are within range of a wireless hotspot?

I've come across a couple of solutions to that problem recently.

The first solution is to buy a 23 GBP PCTel WiFi Seeker. It's a small keychain based device that can detect IEEE 802.11b or 802.11g wireless networks within 300ft.

The other solution is a service by You simply text HOTSPOT to their text number and they tell you the nearest wireless hotspot. The service costs 1 GBP per successful search.

PCTel WiFi Seeker

Internet Content Ratings - Developers/Webmasters Guide

I've been looking into content ratings for websites recently, mainly because certain clients have mentioned that they can't get our sites on their internal network.

Whether that's the problem in this situation or not is another matter, but it's worth investigating anyhow.

After a quick look on IIS I noticed that you can edit the ratings of your site, but before I began to fiddle I thought I had better find out more about these ratings.

Clicking on 'more info' in IIS content ratings section I went to where I found out that the RSAC no longer exists. It is now part of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA).

They have a section especially for webmasters on the different ways of applying content ratings to your site. Included are instructions for Microsoft IIS web servers and Apache servers. I've linked to the webmasters section below.

Novell Suse Linux 9.2 Pro Supports Bluetooth and WLAN

I saw an advert in PC Pro claiming that the new Novell Suse Linux, version 9.2 Professional has improved support for mobile devices.

If you've read my previous post concerning Linux and WLAN you'll probably have guessed my reaction to this news.

I checked out, which is in the process of being moved to the Novell site, and read the product description with baited breath.

It seems that YaST (Suse's installer of choice) has been updated to include better support for WLAN, Bluetooth and IrDA.

It reads...

Improved WLAN support and configuration with YaST (including Centrino).

New YaST configuration modules for IrDA and Bluetooth.

Bluetooth support with autodetection for synchronization with Bluetooth cell phones and handhelds.

It's all very exciting stuff and for around 56 GBP it's competitively priced considering it comes bundled with over 1000 open-source software products.

404 Error pages Returns code 200

Since a site redesign we've been using a custom 404 ASP page rather than our old HTML 404 page, this gives us the opportunity to add dynamic content to the 404.asp page.

However after setting up Microsoft IIS to serve our custom 404.asp page we discovered to our dismay, using a HTTP header viewer, that the 404 page was returning a code '200 OK' rather than a '404 Not Found'.

After some searching the ASP Response.Status object was found. Now with just one line of code at the top of our ASP 404 page we can set the status to 404 Not Found!

Here's the code.


Response.Status = "404 Not Found"


I've added a link to a handy HTTP viewer below.

Peer-to-Peer Software and XP Service Pack 2

After installing Windows XP Service Pack 2 many fans of various peer-to-peer software will find that they no longer function. This is due to changes made to the TCPIP.SYS file in SP 2 effectively limiting the amount of connections a PC can make.

Quite why this change has been made under Windows XP is anyone's guess. A few reasons spring to mind though...

1.) Minimising the effect of SPAM sent out from hijacked computers

2.) Throttling peer-to-peer networks.

I've found a site that purports to have a fix for the problem, but I haven't tried the hack, although I've included the link if you are brave. (I will accept NO responsibility for any concequences of using this hack though.)

All this news will be a blow to the rising number of BitTorrent fans, who use it to legally download Linux distros and other open-source software.

Perhaps this will help Linux gain more ground over Microsoft's Windows?

Web Developer Extension for Firefox / Mozilla

If like me you work with browsers and web pages on a daily basis then you might find this extension to Mozilla's Firefox a useful tool.

The extension simply adds a web developer toolbar to Firefox enabling you to perform many annoyingly awkward functions of web development much more efficiently.

One of my favourite features enables you to edit a sites' stylesheet on-the-fly. Other features are very useful too, such as the handy view source button, the browser resolution resize button and cookie information retrieval.

It also enables you to validate a page and outline various page elements including depreciated elements etc.

This toolbar is a must for any Web Developer.

Web Browsers For Web Developers

A couple of years after the release of Internet Explorer (IE) version 6 and it's starting to feel dated. The competition (Mozilla, Opera, Safari) have superceded any advantage IE had over them with features such as tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking and built in multi-search toolbars. Microsoft's announcement of future revisions being shelved is another nail in the coffin for IE.

XP Service Pack 2 recently introduced a much-needed pop-up blocker for Windows XP users but I don't think this can save IE.

Mozilla's Firefox is gaining ground fast and I'm one of it's avid users. It's fast to load, has tabbed browsing (so you can avoid having 15 IE windows open at once), it's skinable and has a built in RSS reader and the best thing is it's FREE!

What's more it's open source meaning anyone can help in making it better.

What more could you want from your browser?