Focus on Software

by David A. Bandel

Since the debut of this column, I have received several e-mails with suggestions for software packages to review. Last month, I looked at a few packages built with GTK+. While these still seem to be the large majority of start-up packages, ones written in other languages are also available. I will highlight one or two that use Tcl/Tk. It is also true that not all the good programs are graphical.


TkZip is a very well done program that can handle just about any compression utility available on Linux, including tar, bzip, bzip2, gzip, compress, cpio, zip and more. It will search your system for the utilities it needs. The interface is intuitive and aesthetically pleasing. If you are uncomfortable with archiving or compression utilities, either creating or extracting them, this program should be high on your list of “must haves”. It requires Tcl/Tk 4.2 or higher.


I have looked at several very nice GTK utilities, such as gtkfind, that did an excellent job and were intuitive to use. The one shortcoming I noted was that the command which actually does the work could not be captured. tkWorld allows you to see the command line and capture it for use in a script, as well as see the results in a window. tkWorld also allows you to create complex “scripts” by selecting a pipe and continuing with other commands. Currently, you can pipe find through grep. While I don't consider the interface quite as appealing as the interface in gtkfind, this program shows a good deal of promise, particularly when the “Registry”, the list of utilities tkWorld recognizes, is better filled out. It requires Tcl/Tk 8.0.


Just migrated from Windows to Linux? Still use Windows and its note pad? Well, tknotepad will have you feeling at home. Apart from the grey background, it looks and feels exactly like the note pad from Windows, complete with a selection for turning “Word Wrap” on or off. This gives all those who fear vi, but don't want the complexity of Emacs, reason to rejoice. It requires Tcl/Tk 8.0.

The premise for dut is that novice users should not be confronted with a command line while in a GUI. Buttons present the user with choices for selecting the file to work with, highlighting the file and editing it, removing, executing, etc. Not all buttons are functional at this time. According to the author, the goal is eventually to be able to replace an xterm for those doing rather vanilla things like creating, editing and executing files. The only problem I encountered was the same one most new users who don't read English encounter: I was not always sure what the button was supposed to do. A good initiative to keep the Linux momentum alive would be to allow users to set a language preference so that buttons, boxes and dialogs would be understandable to them. It requires libc5, xforms-0.88, X11 and libm.


compjuga provides a complete conjugation of whatever Spanish verb you specify. Currently, it is a command-line-only program. Writing a GUI wrapper should be trivial, although I don't know if the author is considering that as an option. A good compromise would be a GUI interface if the DISPLAY environment variable is set, otherwise output as it does now. The author does promise a move away from gdbm. It requires glibc and gdbm.

GNU Pilot LogBook Pro:

Pilot LogBook is a full-feature, functional log book for aircraft pilots. Just about any field you might need is here. You can view totals and make notes. One area that has not yet been implemented, but is planned (if you believe in labeled buttons), is Medical Info. For me, not much is missing. I would prefer the totals included categories for 90 days and six months back, common FAR prerequisites for certain flights. The database is a flat-file database; I would have preferred MySQL. It requires GTK-1.0.6, Xext, X11, libm and glibc.


I tend to stay quite busy, but even when on the road I check my e-mail. EReminder has a lot of promise for those who need polite reminders by e-mail. Now, instead of remembering to e-mail myself a note, especially if it is a recurring requirement, I can let my system do it for me. This is a first release and a little rough, at least in the security area. The author has not yet taken advantage of MySQL's ability to encrypt passwords, so they are stored as plaintext. It requires MySQL, Apache with the php3 module compiled with MySQL, cron and a mail transport agent.


sxid is great for system administrators who want to monitor the status of suid/sgid programs. It can be run from cron and the results mailed to anyone who needs the information. Another great security tool to compliment tripwire and others. It requires glibc; cron and a mail transport agent are optional.

That's it for now, even though many more good packages are available on the Web.

David A. Bandel ( is a Computer Network Consultant specializing in Linux. When he's not working, he can be found hacking his own system or enjoying the view of Seattle from an airplane.
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