Author Archive

Quick Hack: Make a MSDOS Bootable USB drive… with Virtualbox?

by on Jun.29, 2019, under How-To's, Miscellaneous, Quick Hacks

To set the scene for this quick hack, I needed an MSDOS bootable USB drive so that I could flash firmware for a FreeNAS box I was building. Infortunately FreeDOS wasn’t working, unetbootin had failed me, and I was getting desperate. Fortunately VirtualBox to the rescue!… wait, what?

  • Install Virtualbox
  • Acquire a MSDOS .iso from the Internet (they’re out there.)
  • Create a new VM with a 500MB hard drive.
  • Attach the MSDOS iso to the VM and boot it
  • Depending on which MSDOS iso you have, you will need to partition and format the C: drive. Use fdisk to partition the 500MB drive (don’t forget to set it bootable) and then use format c: /s to format the 500MB drive as bootable. Perform the MSDOS installation or copy the DOS directory from the ISO.
  • Shutdown the VM
  • Locate the .VDI for the VM and use VBoxManage to export it to raw: VBoxManage clonehd image.vdi image.img –format raw
  • Use a tool like dd, rawwritewin, or imgburn to write the image.img file to a USB key.
  • Upon successful write, remove then reinsert your USB key. Your machine will mount it as a typical USB drive (Windows/Linux/Mac all behave the same in this regard).
  • Copy over the BIOS flashing utilities, RAID flashing utilities, etc. to the key drive.
  • (Optional) You can also create a \efi\boot directory and place a uefi boot file in there if you need it as well.
  • Eject the USB drive, then boot your target system. The USB disk will show up as drive C:.

The secret sauce is the VBoxManage command. It allows you to export a Virtualbox Disk Image (VDI) to a raw image that can be written to a USB disk. Now you have a solid MSDOS installation on a keydrive for all those damned ROM flashing utilities that will only work in DOS!

Happy hacking!

firestorm_v1

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Site News: Quick Hacks category

by on Jun.29, 2019, under Miscellaneous

Between work and life in general, I haven’t had much time to come up with really noteworthy long posts like I’ve been. It’s been several months since my last post about Cruising with Wi-fi, and a year between that and the previous post.

In an effort to try and produce more content for my site, while not putting too much a damper on work and life, I’ve decided to create a new post category called “Quick Hacks”. This category will be reserved for quick little things that I’ve encountered that are noteworthy, but previously didn’t justify their own full-length post. Now, the category “Quick Hacks” will give these hacks, mods, experiences, and ah-ha moments their own spotlight where they belong.

To my adoring fans (all 142 of you according to the FB page), thank you for hanging around. Here’s to this site’s continued success!

Thank you.

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Cruising with WiFi – Is that a travel router in your pocket?

by on Jan.10, 2019, under Embedded devices, Hardware, Networking

Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista

Internet access on cruise ships is now a common occurrence and more commonly, I get frequent questions on how to “game” the system and get Internet access without paying for it.  The short of it is, you’re going to have to purchase at least one account to get anything online.  The long of it lies in the rest of this article and it’ll be up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort.  Quick spoiler alert:  For me it wasn’t, and I ended up buying another access to get myself and my wife online at the same time.  While it was a punch in the pocketbook, it was a lot cheaper to pay money to resolve than the costs incurred in other areas (time, frustration, etc.).

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Networking on the Go – Creating a trusted wireless network in a sea of untrusted wireless

by on Aug.18, 2018, under Hardware, Networking, Security

Camping while connectedIn this article, I’ll be going over my setup for being able to join my camper’s wireless network to a host wireless network (RV park wifi, state park wifi, etc..) with the purpose of maintaining security and convenience between switching wireless networks.  Even though you’re on-the-go, you shouldn’t sacrifice security for convenience of park wifi, and at the same time, changing the wireless configuration on a slew of devices is inconvenient at best and maddening at worst.  First I’ll cover why you want to consider this method versus other methods, then I’ll itemize a product list, then finally we’ll jump right into configuration.  When we’re done, you’ll have your trusted wireless network all set up and ready for your devices.

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Part 1 of 2 – How to lock down your Facebook account

by on Mar.30, 2018, under Miscellaneous

You don’t have to be an elite hacker to keep your personal data personal and in this first part of the two part series discussing Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, we’ll walk through securing your browser and Facebook all while discovering what exactly Facebook’s been hoarding about us. In the second part of this series, we’ll go over how advertising turned from that annoying clip on TV and Radio to one of the most sinister methods of “Big Data” Matrix-esque surveillance to date.

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Editorial – The FNG goes to DEFCON 25

by on Oct.08, 2017, under Editorial/Opinion, Hacking in the News, Miscellaneous, Site News

Defcon 25 Title Image

Yes, it’s faded. I took this pic from a projection standing about 50ft away.

Good fortune has smiled upon me.  My company offered to send me to DEFCON 25, flight and hotel paid.  In this article, I’ll talk about DEFCON 25, the sights, the sounds, and my experiences of a hardware geek gone to the world-renowned hacker mecca. If you have ever wanted to go to DEFCON but aren’t quite sure what to expect, I have provided a summary of the trip as well as an important “FNG TIPS” list of things you want to be aware of before you leave.

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Overhauling the Battery Backup in an HP DL380

by on Jun.20, 2017, under Hardware, How-To's

Amazon's recommendation for a replacement battery pack.

Ain’t no one got that kind of cash!

Everyone knows that in most if not all devices, batteries are considered a wear item, an item that’s designed to be replaced at certain intervals of a machine’s lifetime. (Ok, unless you’re Samsung… or Apple… or any one of a bunch of stupid laptop vendors)  Enterprise level servers are no exception.  What is outrageous though is these consumables are usually stupidly expensive and can be repaired for much less than the replacement part.  In this case (and this post), I saved myself about $63 by building my own replacement battery pack for my HP SmartArray P400 raid card.

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Home Automation – Making a dumb switch for smart lights.

by on Feb.23, 2016, under Embedded devices, Hardware, How-To's, IoT

Sometimes you need a smart switch for a stupid job, othertimes you need a stupid switch for a smart job.It might not look like much, but the switch used as this feature image has more to offer than one would think judging by appearances.  In this article, we will be converting a “stupid” switch into a “smart” switch for the purposes of controlling a connected GE Light Bulb over Z-wave and discuss why you’d want to look for a stupid switch for smart devices in the first place. (continue reading…)

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Cisco WiFi – Disconnect from the hive mind

by on Jul.16, 2015, under Embedded devices, Hardware, How-To's, Linux, Networking

Cisco AIR-AP1131AG-A-K9

Cisco AIR-AP1131AG-A-K9

Everyone knows that I love a bargain. That love for bargains is intensified any time networking gear is involved.  Imagine my excitement when I found a bunch of the above pictured Cisco access points on Ebay for around $8 a pop because the lid won’t stay on.  Unfortunately, my excitement was tempered a bit when I found out that these were designed to work with a controller and weren’t stand alone units.  Undeterred by this disappointment, I researched and found a way to get these things to operate on their own as standalone units and freed them from the hive mind!  In this article, we will cover converting the Cisco AIR-AP1131AG-A-K9 from “Lightweight”(controller-based) to “Autonomous”(standalone) and will even cover how to put them back in “Lightweight” mode if you want later on.

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Raspberry Pi tastes better with RPi B+ edition

by on Jul.23, 2014, under Embedded devices, Hardware, Hardware Pr0n, Linux

Raspberry Pi B+

Raspberry Pi B+

The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a new arrival to their existing line of awesome little credit-card sized computers.  I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one and give it a go.  In the article (with pics!) below, I’ll cover what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, and what you can expect from everyone’s favorite mini machine.

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