Focus on Software

by David Bandel

Welcome to what will be a recurring column in LJ. This column will take a brief look at new/updated free software of interest. Each month, hundreds of open-source software packages are made available by developers on the Web. Some are included in nearly every distribution, but many are not. Some languish because not enough people are interested in or even aware of the software. I would like to recognize some of these new offerings.

The ground rules I will apply are simple. Large, well-known packages (Apache, Perl, or any modules for either, GIMP, and the Linux kernel itself come to mind), libraries, commercial software (Sybase, StarOffice, etc.), or common utilities (binutils, etc.) will not be included. I will also not highlight window-manager-centric items (such as all the new software popping up for KDE), as I expect these will be listed on a centralized site. Listings will have the package name, URL to home page or download location, required libraries and a few thoughts of my own.

I will use several sources in my search for new and exciting programs including e-mail from readers and developers. Let me know what you'd like to read about.


My hat's off to this one. I have more passwords than I have old shoes, and I can't keep track of either. Now I can store passwords in encrypted form on one computer. This is a “must have” for system administrators with too many passwords to remember. Required libraries are,, (these three comprise gtk-1.0.6),,,, (glibc).


This program is a great GUI interface to the find command. All find options (or test expressions) are available, and the program even accepts standard wild cards. The interface will be particularly familiar to those of the Windows persuasion, with tabs for all the major options, pick boxes, text boxes and wheels to select option arguments. Even help is only a pushbutton away. Output can be sent to another script for further processing. A very friendly, easy to use, yet powerful utility. My only gripe would be I could find no way to write out or display a command line find equivalent—which would be great for those who want to get away from GUI dependency. sed and awk would be next on my GUI wish list. Required libraries are,,,,,,

geg, GTK+ Equation Grapher:

If you have kids who are beginning to learn algebra, geometry or trigonometry, here is a simple, fun way to see the equations they are learning. I think I wasted an hour just checking out all the trig functions, and I don't have any kids in high school or college yet. One drawback is that all equations must be expressed in one variable only, so I haven't yet figured out how to graph a circle. It is well worth the download. Required libraries are,,,,,,


If you spend as much time as I do trying to find all the spam kings that waste our time and bandwidth with junk e-mail, you'll love this little utility. More often than not, I find GUI tools more trouble than they are worth and clumsier than a command line, but this one is much easier. I don't have to remember the different whois servers, I can just select one, type in the domain name and get back my answer—good implementation. Required libraries are,,,,,,,

X Northern Captain:

Seldom does a GUI file manager come along that gets my attention. While XNC won't replace “Midnight Commander” for me, it does have some nice features. This file manager will appeal to the graphic artists in the Linux community. It has a built-in viewer for several graphics formats as well as an “mc” style ability to peer into tar.gz files. You'll need extra graphics development libraries to compile in all the graphics support. Required libraries are,,,, (compiled with egcs, untried by me with gcc and its libraries),,

Web Secretary:

If you check out many web sites frequently, let Web Secretary do it for you. It will highlight differences in web sites and mail them to you. Now, if it would only mail me the text. Required library is Perl.

PySol 1.11:

This is Windows Solitaire on steroids. Fourteen games and three variants—more games than I knew how to play. Don't worry, the autoplay function will show you how. Great time-killer. Required library is Python.

David Bandel is a Computer Network Consultant specializing in Linux, but he begrudgingly works with Windows and those “real” UNIX boxes like DEC 5000s and Suns. When he's not working, he can be found hacking his own system or enjoying the view of Seattle from an airplane. He welcomes your comments, criticisms, witticisms and will be happy to further obfuscate the issue. He can be reached via e-mail at
Load Disqus comments