Focus on Software

by David A. Bandel

By the time you read this, even more restrictions on the export of strong cryptography will have been lifted. I was delighted to hear that PGP was given export permissions, although it still can't go to the T-7 (terrorist seven) countries. I've never understood the contention that cryptography was a munition. The folks (including politicians) who have insisted that the measure prevented terrorists from obtaining it show a complete lack of understanding of how terrorists work. Export of a few more packages (FreeS/WAN and OpenSSH, at least) will result in distributions with adequately secure administration tools. In the meantime, these tools are still available from sites outside the U.S.; just don't forget you can't export the tar files back outside the U.S.


note is an easy-to-use utility that allows you to keep notes to yourself in a MySQL database. You can create notes, edit them (using vi, but it will honor your $EDITOR environment variable), delete them, list them, search them, etc. This utility would also be the perfect tool for a journal when you need to keep extensive, dated notes over a long period of time because of the MySQL back end. Easily extensible, the front end works from a console or xterm and is written in Perl. This is one of those utilities that causes you to say, “how did I ever get along without it?”--a must-have. It requires Perl, the Mysql-msql module, DBI module and MySQL.


Although the author touts this program as a notepad, he also admits it is much more, thus the “+”. Indeed, gnotepad+ has all the trappings of an HTML editor. You can customize the button bars to include an HTML set, including only those buttons you might need. This notepad can create HTML code more easily than most of the HTML editors I've used. If you use GTK and need a good editor, give this one a try. It requires libgtkxmhtml, libgtk, libgdk, libgmodule, libglib, libdl, libXext, libX11, libm, glibc, libXpm, libjpeg, libpng and libz.

WebDownloader for X:

This utility gives you complete control over downloads. You can set it up to download http or ftp URLs at night. You can interrupt downloads, then pick them up where they left off. You can limit the download speed from any individual site, or if you're using it while on-line, you can select any of two configurable slower speeds. If you are connected to the Internet via cable modem or DSL and do a lot of downloading, you will want to check this one out. It requires libgtk, libgdk, libgmodule, libglib, libdl, libXext, libX11, libstdc++, libm and glibc.

Yet Another Computer Algebra System:

For all you math geniuses out there, yacas provides a convenient, easy-to-use interface for doing math computations. While I don't need much beyond simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, I do wish I'd had this 25 years ago while taking calculus. This program can handle Taylor series, Newton method for finding zeroes and several other functions. While the author is still working on improvements (functions with multiple occurrences of variables), this is an excellent program as it is. It requires libstdc++, libm and glibc.


Well, what can you say about another program that puts a globe on your desktop? I've always been fond of the Earth, and a satellite's eye view of the world is always nice. Shows the planet from the sun's perspective. Complete with names and locations of major cities. It requires libX11, libqt, libstdc++, libm, libXext and glibc.


It's been a while since I played with a Rubik's cube. What this little toy showed me was that I no longer remember how to solve it. It is not yet the easiest thing to manipulate and certainly not intuitive. Hopefully, the author will work on this aspect. Actually, it's probably more my ineptness at using a mouse than it is the controls. Hours of entertainment for the easily amused (even more for the easily confused). It requires libX11, libm and glibc.


If you remember zgv, you know what xzgv is. Since most folks today prefer graphical user interfaces to command-line ones, this provides them with the power of zgv in X. It does an excellent job of rendering most image formats. It requires libgdk_imlib, libgtk, libgdk, libgmodule, libglib, libdl, libXext, libX11, libm and glibc.


As GTK continues to proliferate on desktops, it's nice to see Tcl/Tk applications remain. This is especially true for folks with older PCs who want a GUI interface, but don't want to bog down their system with larger applications. This particular Tcl/Tk utility is very handy, easy to use and simple to configure. Connections options are flexible and powerful. This client can handle most, if not all, popular FTP servers with ease. It requires tcl-8.0 and tk-8.0.

David A. Bandel ( is a Linux/UNIX consultant currently living in the Republic of Panama. He is co-author of Que Special Edition: Using Caldera OpenLinux, and he plans to spend more time writing about Linux while relaxing and enjoying life in the “Crossroads of the World”.
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