Archive for May, 2008


How to silently and remotely remove Symantec Antivirus

May 27, 2008

How to silently and remotely remove Symantec Antivirus

Getting away from the Linux game a bit I thought I would share a gem from my Windows side of things. This is how to remotely and silently remove Symantec’s Antivirus Corporate Edition from Windows computers.

I wanted to remove the antivirus programs remotely because the computers are too far away and my chair is rather comfortable having been moulded to my ample behind. I also wanted to do this removal silently to both allow the end users to continue working undisturbed and as an added bonus I don’t have to talk to them and have them put me off because they are just too busy at that moment.

The corporate edition of Symantec’s antivirus suite (version 10.x BTW) has a great tool for remotely installing to client computers but it has a nasty habit of not wanting to upgrade its minor version. That is to say it goes through the motions and talks the talk but it just didn’t walk the walk.

This means that there were several computers floating around using an older version of the antivirus program and they weren’t updating to the server. Nope not good at all. Unfortunately while I could install there was no way to remotely uninstall.

This is where I started talking to my good friend google again and after several conversations we worked out a method of remotely and silently uninstalling those wayward antivirus program so I could install (again remotely) those updated versions and have everything working hunky dory again.

What I first needed to do is find out how it manually uninstalls. This is found by going to the (I am not on a windows machine at the moment so this is going from memory) HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\ WINDOWS\CURRENT VERSION\UNINSTALL registry key and looking for the subkey dealing with uninstalling symantec antivirus.

For version 10.0 it is {BA4B71D1-898E-4306-AE87-8BA7A596F0ED} (that’s not from memory 🙂

There is even a line there showing what program it calls to actually uninstall which is (surprise, surprise) MsiExec.exe. Just typing that line in a console starts the removal process just as if you called it from add and remove programs. That is not what we want however. The actual line needed with all of the proper arguments is.

MsiExec.exe /norestart /q/x{BA4B71D1-898E-4306-AE87-8BA7A596F0ED} REMOVE=ALL

Typing msiexec /? will give you a dialog box with what all the arguments mean but basically it just tells windows to remove that program and all of its parts quietly with no fuss and don’t reboot when you have finished. Nothing would upset an end user more than having the computer reboot on them when they were just about to save a presentation that they worked on for four hours.

This is not the end of it though. First the command is done locally so you still have to be sitting in front of the computer and have the end user breathing down your neck. Secondly the corporate edition of Symantec’s antivirus can require a password to be uninstalled. Actually it should require a password to be uninstalled or you haven’t done your job properly.

This can all be fixed from the comfort of our well worn chair. First, to fix the password issue, we can start up regedit and from the file menu connect via the network to the remote machines registry. Then navigate to the following key.

“[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\INTEL\LANDesk\ VirusProtect6\CurrentVersion\AdministratorOnly\Security]”

In that key make sure the two following values “LockUnloadServices” and “UseVPUninstallPassword” are zero. That takes care of the password asking problem.

Finally the last thing we need to do is remotely execute the msiexec program. This is done by a great set of tools that were originally done by Sysinternals which have since been bought out by Microsoft. They are called PSTools and are freely downloaded from the Microsoft web site. The particular tool I used is called psexec and is used for remotely running a command on a machine.

So to uninstall Symantec’s antivirus program all I had to do was type the following line from a command prompt.

psexec \\computer_name MsiExec.exe /norestart /q/x{BA4B71D1-898E-4306-AE87-8BA7A596F0ED} REMOVE=ALL

Lo and behold the remote computer dutifully uninstalls that pesky virus program ready for a fresh install. The good thing about this is the end users have no idea what just happened and more importantly they had no interruption to their work. Most importantly I didn’t have to get up from my chair 🙂

There is one caveat. The account that you do all this work under has to have domain administrator privileges and the remote computer has to be joined to said domain. So random hackers, your out of luck. This operation is only for legitimate purposes.




May 22, 2008

Free open-source disk encryption software for Windows Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux
Main Features:

* Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk.

* Encrypts an entire partition or storage device such as USB flash drive or hard drive.

* Encrypts a partition or drive where Windows is installed (pre-boot authentication).

* Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent.

* Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password:

1) Hidden volume (steganography – more information may be found here).

2) No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data).

* Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish. Mode of operation: XTS.

Download at


The Physics of Santa Claus

May 7, 2008

No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
There are 2 billion children (persons under 18 ) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn’t (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total – 378 million according to the Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.
Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, and assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of his sleigh, jump down the chimnye, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course we know to be false but for the purpose of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking aabout .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second – a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 punds. Even granting that “flying reindeer” (refer to point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal load, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload – not even counting the weight of the sleigh – 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison – this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.
353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entereing the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy per SECOND, EACH! In short, hey will burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create a deafening sonic boom in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousanths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
In conclusion – If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead by now.
Santa’s Rebuttal
NORTH POLE, SANTA’S VILLAGE – For Immediate Release
It has come to the attention of Santa’s workshop that there have been disparaging remarks made in the press recently about Santa’s very existence. Several key points are overlooked by this callous, amateurish, so-called study.
As was admitted by the skeptics, there is only a very small probability of finding a flying reindeer. That is precisely because they are all located at the Workshop. Your very argument against Santa is proof of his existence! As is widely known (Re: the excellent historical documentaries “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) the flying reindeer are not a separate species, but were in fact given the power of flight due to eating magic acorns, which is passed on in their offspring.
A series of cascading assumptions have been relied upon to show the “impossibility” of delivering all presents in one Christmas. For example, there was assumed a uniform distribution of children across homes. Toronto/Yorkville, or NYC/SOHO, or other yuppie neighborhoods, have less than the average (and don’t forget the DINK/SINK homes (Double Income No Kids, Single Income No Kids)), while the Catholic (the predominant Christian denomination) families with 10 children would skew that derived 15% of homes down a few percent.
You’ve also assumed that each home that has kids would have at least one good kid. Let us assure you that anti-selection applies, and homes with good kids tend to have more than their share of good kids? Still other single-child homes are notorious for spoiled “naughty” children and average 55% delivery on a good year. Let’s drop that number of homes down a few more percent.
A simple history lesson reminds us that, the first major schism in the Church split the Eastern Churches, centered in Byzantium, from the Western, which remained centered in Rome, prior to the Gregorian correction to the Julian calendar. The Eastern “Orthodox” Churches do not recognize the Gregorian correction for liturgical events, and their Christmas is, as a result, several days after that of the Western Churches’. Thus, Santa’s schedule is not as tight as previously indicated.
Santa does indeed FedEx a number of packages ahead of time, since he is not be able to fly into Air Force Bases, or into tower- controlled areas near airports. He’s certainly not into dodging SCUD missiles over the no-fly zones in Iraq, so he uses DHL there. Subtract some more homes.
In regards to speed and time, we can’t reveal all the details, but let us remind you of basic relativity theory: The faster you go, the slower time progresses. Do you think StarTrek came up with the idea of warp drive? So, if Santa could go faster than light, then he can easily visit all the good children which are not uniformly distributed by either concentration in each home or by number of children per household, and get home before he left so he can digest all those stale cookies and warm milk. (Has anyone thought of ice cubes?)
Aha, you say, Enterprise has matter-antimatter warp engines, Santa only has reindeer, where does he get the power to move that fast? The answer is right before your skeptical eyes! The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy. Per second. Each. This is an ample supply of energy for the maneuvering, acceleration, etc., that would be required of the loaded sleigh. The reindeer don’t evaporate or incinerate or get crushed because of this energy; they accelerate! What do you think they have antlers for, fighting over females? Think of antlers as furry shield generator arrays.
The issue of weight constraints and delivery methods also shows a shocking lack of knowledge of basic matter/energy relations and beginning quantum physics. (Picture a two dimensional complex function mapped to the surface of a sphere with approximately 9000 nodal surfaces, and 18 million regions of relatively high amplitude.) Assuming this is getting way ahead of most people’s conceptual limits, we’ll just say that Captain Kirk wasn’t the first to say “beam me down.” Transporters, replicators, and holo-projections have been standard equipment in some workshops and certain aerospace vehicle way before the 24th century.
If that’s not enough, watch the news on the 24th at 11 o’clock. NORAD (one of the few government agencies with more than 3 initials in it’s name and therefore more trustworthy than the rest) tracks Santa every year and displays radar shots of him approaching from the North Pole. They haven’t bombarded him yet, so they must believe too, right?
We certainly hope this clears up any damage caused by the bad press. Santa dead, indeed–some people will twist any statistic model to “prove” their cynical theory.

Thought for the day

May 7, 2008

“Light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.”


A True South African Friendship

May 7, 2008

“Hello, is this the SAP?”
“e-Yes. What you want?”
“I’m calling to report my neighbour, Hendrik van der Merwe! He is hiding
dagga inside his firewood.”
“E-Yes…Thank you for your  co-opershun and informashun in combating crime
and violence, in our  society sir.”
The next day, the SAP descend on Hendrik’s house. They  search the braai
lapa where the firewood is kept. Using axes, they chop open every piece of
wood, but find no dagga. They shout and swear at Hendrik and leave.
The phone rings at Hendrik’s house. “Hey, Hendrik! Did the SAP come?”
“Did they chop your firewood for the braai tonight?”
“Happy Birthday Boet!”

Cab driver

May 7, 2008

A taxi passenger tapped the driver on the shoulder to ask him a question.
The driver screamed, lost control of the car, nearly hit a bus, went up on
the pavement, and stopped centimetres from a shop window.
For a second everything went quiet in the cab, then the driver said,
“Look mate, don’t ever do that again. You scared the daylights out of me!”
The  passenger apologized and said, “I didn’t realize that a little tap
would  scare you so much.
The driver replied, “Sorry, it’s not really your fault.
Today is my first day as a cab driver – I’ve been driving a funeral van for
the last
25 years.”



May 7, 2008

The ultimate response to a “Dear John” letter …..

A Marine was deployed to Afghanistan. While he was there he received a
letter from his girlfriend.  In the letter she explained that she had
slept with two guys while he had been gone and she wanted to break up
with him.  AND, she wanted the pictures of herself back.

So the Marine did what any squared-away Marine would do. He went around
to all his buddies and collected as many of the unwanted photos Of women
he could find.  He then mailed about 25 pictures of women (with clothes
and without) to his girlfriend with the following note:

“I don’t remember which one you are. Please remove your picture and send
the rest back.”