Focus on Software

by David A. Bandel

The distribution front appears to have settled down. All the major distributions now seem to have an offering with a 2.2 kernel and glibc 2.1, and work has started on the 2.3 kernel. I am looking forward to a journaling file system, but it will undoubtedly require a particular format when it is introduced. After transitioning from a.out to ELF, then from libc5 to glibc, I should be used to it, but it is still mildly annoying. It is probably a good idea though, as it allows me to get rid of the chaff. I also have a few packages that compiled under glibc-2.0.7 which will not compile under glibc-2.1, but I am hopeful these will be patched soon.

Open Business Management:

The particular version of Open Business Management I downloaded (the latest at the time) is not complete, but has most of the required functionality. The documentation (TODO file) points to much work yet to be done, but this package will have a great deal of potential once it is nearer to completion. Separate web pages allow you to insert, find or modify company, contact or deal information. The use of “themes” is a nice touch and allows anyone to tailor the look, although it is not as important as the missing administration module. It requires Apache, php3 compiled with MySQL, MySQL and a web browser.


Need or want to have different signature lines? gensig will read a text file (one is included with gensig as an example) and go through selecting successive lines for each new outgoing mail message. The program looks for tag lines in files in various locations, including (first) the user's home directory, so each user can have his own tag-lines file, or the generic one can be expanded. It requires glibc.


IRC is not a program I use much. I personally find it too time-consuming and intrusive. I much prefer e-mail or a forum such as wwwthreads (below) to handle communication. However, xchat is a very friendly program for first-time IRC users. The program comes with several preselected servers programmed in, but can be easily changed. The program opens in two boxes: one for chatting, the other to manage connections. It requires gtk+1.2, glib-1.2, libgdk, libgmodule, libdl, Xext, X11, libm, libnsl, libdb, libpthread and glibc.


wwwthreads provides all the functionality of forums found on bulletin boards. Any number of forums can be created, and users may be designated administrators for boards. Posts can be public or private, and forum users can elect to have forum messages e-mailed at each posting or only for private postings. Administration, posting and reading are all done through a web interface, making administration simple. This program should be fast and powerful, capable of handling large message loads and thousands of messages due to its use of a MySQL server as the back end. It requires Apache, MySQL, Perl 5 and the Perl modules DBI, DBD, Data Dumper and Data ShowTable.


Most systems have Ethernet cards with a link light on them. The problem is, the link light is on the card and can be seen only from the back of the system, an inconvenience at best. NetLED allows you to use the LEDs on the keyboard to indicate the status of the network as seen by ifconfig. By default, the “caps lock” key indicates send, “scroll lock” indicates receive, and “number lock” indicates carrier. This can be changed as desired via a configuration file. It requires glibc.


ntop is to the network as top is to your system. That statement may be selling ntop short. The curses version certainly shows a top kind of view of your network and is configurable just like top, but it can also be viewed with a web browser and has pages of colorful, easy-to-read data. This program tells you almost everything about your network. Be careful; this program presents a possible security vulnerability if non-privileged users are allowed access. Since it can see all network traffic and read passwords passed in the clear, it is in effect sniffing your network. It requires ncurses, libpthread and glibc.


This sticker book is an excellent program for children 3 to 7 years of age. It is even easy to use for adults who have not yet mastered the GIMP. The program can be configured to have a large, easy-to-use pointer that is constrained to the program box. Three scenes are available, and the author is looking for assistance in creating a few more. It is about time we have something for little hands. My four year old has been logging in for almost a year, but could only play with the screen saver, and even that with some difficulty since it is a small icon and smaller pointer. Now I may never get a chance to use my own system.


xhangglider is a cute little nothing of a program that displays a hang glider flying around your root window while you work. Nothing but pure enjoyment—we all need a little diversion once in a while.

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