Focus on Software

by David A. Bandel

Things sure do move fast on the Internet. Who can keep up? Not I, that's for sure. Since I started this column a few months ago, many of the applications I've written about have been updated. This is always nice to see. Many packages I haven't highlighted have also been updated, so if you've downloaded something and like it, you might want to check back now and then for upgrades.

Many of these packages are maintained by one or a few authors. Drop them a line, be encouraging, mention breaks and problems, and suggest improvements (don't be surprised if they aren't implemented). Let them know you use the program and appreciate their work. Programmers always welcome bug reports, particularly detailed ones that make it easy to track and fix the error (be sure you can reproduce it). If you can code, offer help.


QuickPlanning cannot truly be called a planner. It is more of a “tickler” to remind you what to do or what you did on a certain date. It built easily, but could use an INSTALL file containing a hint or two about what other things should be done. The first time I ran it and tried to save an entry, it aborted with a segmentation fault. A quick strace showed that it wanted to write to the directory $HOME/.qp/ which didn't exist. You must first create this file, until such a time as the author includes code to take care of it. Also, you must verify that any date you want to use actually exists. The program was happy to let me save data for 30 Feb 1999. For a program the author hacked together in 30 minutes, it works well. Libraries required are gtk-1.1.13,,, and glibc.


For those who actually like to play tic-tac-toe, this version can be played over a network. It is a simple SVGA game that allows two players to bore each other to death for hours. (Does anyone over the age of three ever lose this game?) It will drive mathematicians in the crowd crazy since it uses row,column notation rather than an x,y coordinate notation. Lawyers (or those who just like to read licenses) will get a kick out of the license the author wrote for this program. Libraries required are Perl 5 and IO::Socket.


Are you a musician looking for a cheap metronome? Well, turn on gtick and let it tick, tick, tick away to help you keep the beat. Or, turn it on to annoy everyone else in the room—after a while, they will ask “What is that noise?” A volume control is available as well as the choice of emphasizing timing beats: none, every other, every third or every fourth beat. Libraries required are gtk-1.1.13,,, and glibc.


ganesha displays the round-trip time and number of hops of multiple input sites. I think I need to turn it loose the next time I have a 10+ MB download to do over my 56K modem. A quick run-through showed me the sites I normally would favor are more hops and longer times away than a few sites in the opposite direction. Since I am on the west coast of the U.S., Japan is closer and faster than Europe. Now, if Japan has mirrored the big programs I want, I will get them there. ganesha is definitely a work in progress, but the author has already identified the shortcomings, so you should see some changes soon. Libraries required are gtk-1.1.13, libXext-6, libX11-6, libm-6, libpthread, libnsl, libdb-2, libgdbm-1, libcrypt and glibc.


Keystone is another job-tracking application. Similar to the program MOT, it has some of the same features and a few differences. Which program is better is a matter of taste. They accomplish much the same goal, just in a different manner. I found Keystone a bit more difficult to set up than MOT, but once set up, I saw little difference. The most difficult part of any program which uses a web interface with php3 against a MySQL database is compiling the ancillary applications (Apache, PHP3 and MySQL), since each relies on the other. Libraries required are Apache with php3 and MySQL.


grpn is a calculator with Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), which I haven't used in a while. Fortunately, this application has a nice help facility—it was a needed and good refresher. grpn is very nice—goodbye xcalc, it was nice knowing you. Libraries required are gtk-1.1.13,,, and glibc.


This is a very nice looking terraform program with the ability to show a randomly generated area in several different ways, including 2-D Plane, 3-D Wire, 3-D Height and 3-D Light. All, even the 3-D light, ran fairly fast on my slow system. You can also choose color bands, gray scale, desert and red hot—just a few of the options. It is a nicely done application. Libraries required are libgtkmm, libgdkmm, gtk+1.1.13, libXext, libX11, libstdc++-libc6, libm and glibc.

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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