Focus on Software

by David A. Bandel

Games, as I mentioned in a previous article, are the unquestioned staple that have brought the masses to computing. More man years have been wasted playing solitaire or other games over the last decade than on most other non-productive pursuits. Obviously, this is not why computers are so popular with business. Originally, spreadsheets were the reason for computers. Later, databases also provided a lot of the impetus for buying systems (at least the larger systems; smaller systems were used primarily for word processing). Today, with most companies enjoying Internet connections, most employees of almost any size business will tell you they use their systems mostly for e-mail. From senior management to secretaries, e-mail has redefined how companies do business. This also applies to individuals. You can send just about anything via e-mail, including money. So I'll devote half of this article to e-mail. In fact, I could devote several articles to e-mail, so I'll restrict this to some of the better new MUAs (Mail User Agent) I've found.


With neomail, you can read your mail in a web browser (secure server) if you want. It has support for an address list, and you can specify how large (in KB) the list can be to keep users from getting carried away. You can import a comma-separated value (.csv) file into the address list, which is handy if you're coming from Outlook or Netscape Mail. With this MUA, if you can connect to the Internet, you can read, compose, delete, forward, file and generally handle your mail. It requires Apache, Perl, suidperl, Perl CGI module and sendmail or exim.


This particular mail client claims to be a clone of Outlook Express. I've never used OE, so I don't know if it lives up to that claim, but it is a well-done mail client that includes drag and drop, easy filters for sorting, mail folders, address lists and more—all in a Perl-GTK wrapper. The most difficult part was installing the Gtk::Perl module, which requires you to build the main part and several subparts. It requires gtk, GtkXmHTML, Perl and the following Perl modules: DBI, Text::CSV_XS, SQL::Statement, DBD::CSV, DateManip, Mail::Sender, HTML::Parser, Gtk::Perl and Mail::POP3Client.


Twig does a very good job with mail. But Twig does more than just mail, it also attempts to be a Personal Information Manager (PIM) by providing you with a Contacts list, a Schedule, a ToDo list, Bookmarks and access to News servers. The schedule is an appointment list and provides a small calendar on the side. Within Twig, you can create groups for information sharing. This does a very nice job for an office or workgroup and includes support for various databases. It requires MySQL (or Postgres or Oracle) and Apache with PHP3 that includes support for IMAP.


AeroMail is a very spartan mail reader that will allow you to read, compose, file and delete messages, but very little more. No address books or contact lists are included—it's simply fast and efficient. If you don't want to give your users space for an address book, you'll like this mail client. It requires Apache with PHP3 that includes support for IMAP.


Bugged by those absurd, non-standard tnef files Microsoft likes to pollute e-mail with? This little utility will allow you to read them if you're wondering what's in there. It requires glibc.


Need something to track usage of your website(s)? apacheDB allows you to register all hits in a MySQL database and uses PHP3 to query the database for agents, hits, referrers, usage and more. You can convert your present access_log into the database and continue from there, if you wish. It displays hits graphically as well as numerically. You may need to make some small modifications to the script if you don't use the combined logs, but the author has some examples. Your marketdroids will love this tool, and your CFO will like the price. It requires MySQL, Apache with PHP3 support, Perl, Perl modules DBI, DBI::DBD and Entry.


Mozart is a start on a PIM. While not all areas are completely functional, and some work needs to be done on aesthetics, the major areas are all in place. This PIM is designed to be used by a group and currently supports Contacts, Calendar, ToDo list and Appointments. It requires a web server with PHP support, MySQL and a web browser.


Do you carry a laptop back and forth between home and work? Both sites have their own network? Both have different network setups? If you answered yes to the above questions, you might want to check out MultiNet. This little utility takes care of configuring (or reconfiguring) the network for you. It will at least save you manual configuration of each location. Can be launched from a command line or from your rc scripts at bootup. It requires /bin/sh and dialog (slated for rewrite in Perl).


This small utility will provide you with a wakeup call at the time of your choosing, to the music of your choice. Provided, of course, you have an MP3 for it to play. It requires Perl, mpg123 and at.


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.

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