Personal Tech Updates

Its been a long, long time since I blogged.  Lots changed and lots to update on.

One major thing is I finally bit the bullet and dropped Windows Mobile 10.  I was a long time user of W10M/8.1 Phone/8 Phone but I accepted fate and realised I am missing out on functionality, security, apps and tools. Whilst I still think Windows 10 is brilliant, I do use occasionally an Android tablet.  The flexability and app store is very impressive, plus there s no way i’m ever going back to Apple.

So having done some research a while back and nearly going for a Samsung Galaxy 8 (v v expensive) then being curious by OnePlus, I preordered a OnePlus Five.

If you don’t know about them, check them out at   Its bloody brilliant.

The OS is bang up to date, is fast and fluid.  No crapware on there and the camera is great.  Battery is brilliant, screen clear and nice and light.  Well designed and I must say I’m seriously impressed.   Ignore the crap about the ‘jelly effect’ as most of it comes from the fanboy sites and is hype over nothing.

More updates soon.


HP Microserver N40 Disk Upgrades ….. more than 4 disks ?

I use a HP Microserver N40 for use at our office.   Its a great peice of kit that I have had for a number of years and is used for a variety of purposes such as NAS, Media Sharing, Print/File Server and Virtual Machine host…

I recently decided to upgrade from Windows Home Server 2011 to Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2, as well as some hardware upgrades.

H40 Front
H40 Front

Sadly i found that Essentials 2012 R2 does not have a driver availible so support for this RAID card is not possible.  One thought was to use the Server 2008 R2 X64 driver but sounds a bad idea to me.   I then decided to look at using Windows Server Storage Spaces which is a technology Microsoft have been working on for a long time.  I had 2 x 4TB WD Green and 2 x 2TB WD Green drives in the 4 way SATA bay.

Not wanting to install the OS on the 4TB drives, I decided to make use of a spare SSD.  This was then connected to the motherboard SATA port.

I then realised there is an E-SATA port on the rear of the server.   With a bit of a Heath Robinson hack I managed to get this routed internally and then into a spare hot swap 3.5″ bay I had spare that I installed into the CD Drive 5 1/4″ bay.  The mod was to bend the left edge of the flap that covers the PCI slot screws outwards with a multitool which allows the E-SATA cable to be routed internally.

H40 Rear
H40 Rear

A quick addition of a SATA power splitter and job done.   Six drives in a four drive server !

I need to make sure recovery will work storage spaced going forward but the Heath Tools in Server Essentials seem to to quite good so time will tell.

Looking good so far….

Windows Phone 8.1 to Cisco ASA VPN – Part 2

AnyConnect-logo  Cisco have now released a BETA AnyConnect client for Windows Phone 8.1 availible here  at the Windows Phone store

I havn’t tested the latest builds but the initial version had a few showstoppers that look like to have been fixed.  Remember this uses SSL/TLS encryption only and your local security policy may mandate the use of IPsec, along with all its issues !

Also they dont appear to have fixed the session timeout bug so that may cause a few headaches with disconnects.

Windows Phone 8.1 to Cisco ASA VPN

[There is next to no information availible on this around so this was borne out of experimentation and a lot of packet capture analytics]

Update:  Since testing this I have since found that L2TP/IPsec does not work if the ASA is behind a NAT device.  This is because the WP81 device explicitly will not connect to a NAT-T device.  There is a registry key on Windows to enable this, however nothing on WP8.  

Windows Phone 8.1 introduced a Native VPN client to the operating system.  It allows L2TP/IPsec and IPSEC IKEv2 nativly, and various SSL VPN providers via plug ins downloaded from the Windows Store.  At the moment Juniper, Checkpoint and F5 have all made clients.  Sadly Cisco has not yet, although is due to release one by mid 2015.

This leaves organisations with a quandry not being able to support Windows Phone.   This is a shame as the platform appears to try to support strong authentication and encryption schemes where possible.

You would like to think that Windows Phone supporting IKEv2 and Cisco AnyConnect 3.x/4.x’s IPSEC implmentation using only IKEv2 that it would interoperate.  Sadly it does not.  The ASA – for some reason – always believes the Windows Phone to be a L2L (LAN to LAN/Site to Site) VPN.  Repeated attempts could not get this to work.
Since writing the above and reading the Cisco documentation more, you need ASA to be at 9.3(2) or above to support 3rd Party IPSec clients.

IKEv2 Proposals send from Windows Phone (just for information) are:

AES-CBC 128 SHA1 DH Gp 2
3DES SHA256 DH Gp 2
AES-CBC 128 SHA256 DH Gp 2
AES-CBC 128 SHA384 DH Gp 2

I’m still battling the ASA/WP81 connection using IKEv2 and certificates.   The configuration appears to be a little problematic and current working solutions rely on the use of EAP for the client authentication.   However, if you want to do plain, boring, RSA certificate authentication at both ends it does not work due to the ASA wanting to use RSA and the WP81 devices trying to ECDHA which the ASA dosent offer  ….. [currently talking to TAC]

This only leaves L2TP/IPsec as an option, which the ASA does support.  Effectivly this uses an IKEv1 IPSEC channel to tunnel L2TP over.  L2TP is not a very secure protocol but is very good for tunneling, but over IPSEC it should be fine for most environments.  As mentioned IKEv1 is used and the following modes are proposed from Windows Phone:

AES-CBC 256 28800  seconds SHA1 DH Gp 20
AES-CBC 128 28800 seconds SHA1 DH Gp 19
AES-CBC 256 28800 seconds SHA1 DH Gp 14
3DES 28800 seconds SHA1 DH Gp 14
3DES 28800 seconds SHA1 DH Gp 2

Testing with ASA code 9.2-ish (seems ok on 8.6-ish too), only the last mode (3DES, SHA1, DH Gp2) appears to work.   Not 100% sure of the reason, but I suspect Cisco only support DH Group 20, 19 and 14 when using IKEv2.  Thus on ASA side you need to add:

crypto ikev1 policy 5 (or whatever you have free)
 authentication rsa-sig
 encryption 3des
 hash sha
 group 2
 lifetime 28800

You then need to look at the IPSEC SA.  The ‘best’ I found to work was using AES128 with SHA1 hash.   The Windows client differs to a standard client in that it uses TRANSPORT mode, as apposed to TUNNEL mode.  Windows also has some values for SA lifetimes that need to be used.  Thus ASA config needs the following:

! Note:  My ASA external interface is called 'outside', YMMV
crypto dynamic-map outside_dyn_map 60000 set ikev1 transform-set ESP-AES-128-SHA-TRANS ESP-3DES-SHA-TRANS
crypto dynamic-map outside_dyn_map 60000 set security-association lifeftime seconds 3600
crypto dynamic-map outside_dyn_map 60000 set security-association lifeftime kilobytes 250000
! Note: No PFS is supported
! Note: NAT-T is enabled by default.

I could have ammended the standard dynamic crypto map to include these values but decides to keep it seperate.

Next challenge is authentication.   The ASA supports Certificate based, but Windows Phone only supports Pre Shared Key along with username and password.  This can be passed to whatever AAA solution you may have defined within the ASA (such as Active Directory/RADIUS/even SecurID) or could be a local username and password.   Also the L2TP/IPsec profile does not support the concept of a ‘group’ (which can be used to map to an ASA connection profile) thus the DefaultRAGroup has to be used.  Heres hoping haven’t used this group for any of your client access 🙂   If you have then you need to be very careful to break any existing access.

First you need to create a new group policy to attatch to the group

group-policy GP-WinPhone internal
group-policy GP-WinPhone attributes
 wins-server none
 dns-server value 10.x.x.x 192.168.x.x
 vpn-tunnel-protocol l2tp-ipsec
 pfs enable
 default-domain value yourdomain.local

This sets the protocol, client domain servers and name.  Next update the tunnel group

tunnel-group DefaultRAGroup general-attributes
 address-pool OneOfYourPools
 default-group-policy GP-WinPhone
 authentication-server-group LOCAL
 ! Set a different group here depending on local security policy
tunnel-group DefaultRAGroup ipsec-attributes
 ikev1 pre-shared-key xxxxxxxxxx
 isakmp keepalive disable
tunnel-group DefaultRAGroup ppp-attributes
 no authentication ppp
 no auuthentication ms-chap-v1
 authentication ms-chap-v2

This should be enough apart from adding a new local user for authentication.  In the above I used the local user database.

username myWinPhoUser password xxxxxxxxx nt-encrypted 
username myWinPhoUser attributes 
 service-type remote-access

That should get you a working connection ASA side.

From the Windows Phone side configure from Settings > VPN > Add:

wp_ss_20150223_0002  wp_ss_20150223_0001 wp_ss_20150223_0003 wp_ss_20150223_0004

You can decide to set a Proxy as need be.  As discussed before, there is no way to use L2TP/IPsec without a username and password being set.  So you may as well use them either using a local user as additional Pre Shared Key or Active Directory Username and Password as additional authentication.

Good luck !


Finally had notification that I now am offically CISSP certified !


I’m not a certification chaser but decided late last year I wanted to do something different to pure technical qualifiactions.  It was a very long (6 hour/250 questions – some interative) exam and certification process but now all done.  Very happy.

Next is keeping up with various things to gain CPE’s

I think Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) next……

Private Network Address ranges

Most people will be familiilar with the RFC 1918 standard for private network addressing.

Reading through a lot of the RFC’s, they have now been superceeded with later versions.  The most current appears to be RFC6890 although badly formatted into tables.   The prior version RFC5735 has a section 4 which is much more usable.

Address Block       Present Use                Reference
 ------------------------------------------------------------------           "This" Network              RFC 1122, Section          Private-Use Networks       RFC 1918         Loopback                    RFC 1122, Section      Link Local                  RFC 3927       Private-Use Networks        RFC 1918        IETF Protocol Assignments   RFC 5736        TEST-NET-1                  RFC 5737      6to4 Relay Anycast          RFC 3068      Private-Use Networks        RFC 1918       Network Interconnect
                     Device Benchmark Testing    RFC 2544     TEST-NET-2                  RFC 5737      TEST-NET-3                  RFC 5737         Multicast                   RFC 3171         Reserved for Future Use     RFC 1112, Section 4  Limited Broadcast           RFC 919, Section 7
                                                 RFC 922, Section 7

For DEV, LAB and TEST networks this shows two more segments that can be used ( and along with one I have used often

Its amazing how ofter I have come accross organisations not taking these into account when planning schemes.

Blogging is hard……

Despite what folks might think, if you have a ‘normal’ job and run your own blog its hard thing to reliably do.

I thought the challenge of blogging each day for a month would be easy.  I thought prepare a few up front, write on some days, publish on others would work out but it didnt.  I make eight days then failed.  Real life got in the way and meant it got left.

Bit of a fail there for me……  however in the meantime I successfully passed my CISSP exam which is a big result for me.   Perhaps ill have to blog about that ……. 🙂

I’ll try and post at least once a month from now on !

In Car Entertainment and Car PC’s

I have a fairly old car.  Its a 2005 Land Rover Discovery 3 that I purchased back in 2009.  Its a base model which meant it come without any of the frills and flash in car entertainment that the high spec HSE models come with.

It has its advantages.  It means I can upgrade what I like without meaning causing issues with other features of the car.

In turn I have now replaced the head unit (for a Pioneer DAB, Bluetooth device) and then about three years ago fitted an in car PC.  Ill detail this in another post but effectively its a ruggedised PC, with a 12v vehicle PSU (handles power cycle, starting cycle and power on/off) and allows attachments such as GPS, Bluetooth, Video Capture, Touch Screen, A/D Input/Output module etc and can be used for many things.   Navigation, Media/Video, Camera recording and many other things.  You can run Linux or Windows.  I now have Windows 8.1 and run a custom front end called Centrafuse which controls everything and acts as the skin to control everything.

D4 wheel with Centrafuse display
The PC
The PC innards
The PC innards

I guess they are not as popular now cheap tablets can be had for as little as £100 with GPS, SD cards and Bluetooth to be had.

Its been a bit of a labour of love and very testing at times.  I have been meaning to document it for ages and this post has made me remember this. So I shall begin….

IT Contract Recruitment in the UK

I have now been working in IT since 1989 and been an IT contractor since 2000.  I am still amazed how much the market hasn’t changed and how contractors get treated by IT agencies.

In the UK they are a necessary evil.  Large companies wont hire direct and can’t be doing with the hassle of searching, filtering as well as paying non employee staff so I can understand that part.  The agencies handle this (and to be fair other things) and yet most seem to lose all sense of manners sometimes.  My best experiences have been working direct but that requires a special relationship with the company for it to work.

Back in the day my contacting peers used to use the same agent who would look after them and get them work.  They used to wine and dine them and treat them as valued assets.  That seems to have changed since then and not got any better.

  • You fire off a CV, there is sometimes not even acknowledgement of receipt.  How hard is this be in 2014 ?
  • They call you – you have a long chat, say that “will submit CV” and then you never get any form of communication post that.  Again its not hard is it ?
  • They advertise jobs when blatantly there is no job.  They are just fishing for CV’s to then send companies
  • Ask you call premium rate numbers to speak to them
  • Hide behind filtered email addresses

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not bitter about the process.   I realise there is a lot of poor CV’s and yet worse staff in the market.  I pride my CV on being accurate and true. I also have worked for some very, very good agencies (my current is brilliant) and some really bad (one didn’t pay me until the end of the third month)

I have done well over the years and am sure they have too (don’t start me on margins!) but a bit of common courtesy wouldn’t go a miss.  It takes 1/2 minute to type an email or leave a message.  Otherwise they live up to there reputation as ‘pimps’ and in the same pigeon hole as ‘estate agents’ for most people.