Focus on Software

by David A. Bandel

How have you weathered the recent (hopefully finished) spate of e-mail worms (mistakenly called virii) passing among our Microsoft-using associates? Linux could just as easily be the target. While its environment is much more hostile, I still see too many posts to mail-list servers where the sender address is “root”; these folks are very susceptible, and so are the files of many non-privileged users. It could happen to you. By default, most distributions of Linux are wide open. Even those users who know it's not wise to read mail as root may have no concept of how to secure their system from Net vandals. True, .vbx scripts can't hurt us, but many of the services run by default systems are able to. You can take comfort in the fact that the Linux/UNIX community has helped by adding new rules to Sendmail to strip off .vbx attachments that might have wiped out hundreds of thousands of systems. Be safe; shut off services you don't need, and make sure those you do need are current.


The author says the purpose of this program is to easily log changes to systems. All you do is send a very short e-mail to sysadmin (a one-line echo statement will work well). However, bartleby works great for many other things as well, e.g., a quick note when a check is sent off, or when other daily tasks are completed. Messages can easily be categorized by using a server name as a note category (perhaps using a client's name). This message is parsed and inserted into an SQL database, which can be accessed via a web browser. Look for more improvements to this program soon. It requires Perl, MySQL (or another relational database), DBD/DBI Perl modules, a web server that can run cgi scripts, an MTA (Sendmail, smail, etc.) and a web browser (Lynx, Netscape, et al.).


Show me the money! This particular utility will fetch quotes from your list of stocks, so you can see how badly or well they are doing. Display is configurable and will show price, last change, volume traded and more. Negative price changes are reflected in red. It requires Perl 5 with the following Perl modules: English, Date::Manip, File::Spec, Getopt::Long, HTTP::Request::Common, IO::File, POSIX, Tk, Tk::Balloon and Tk::FileSelect.


This news ticker is for those who crave information overload. Even I couldn't handle all the news it gave me with a default install, and that's a lot of news. Fortunately, ttnews comes with information on how to configure it, and it's not difficult to do. It requires libqt2, libX11, libXext, libstdc++, libm, glibc, bash and Lynx.


I travel to client sites often and like being able to connect my laptop to their network and run tests against the system I'm working on, grab files off my system and more (including keep up with my e-mail while programs compile). To do so, I usually have to bug the administrator to give me an unused IP if he's not running DHCP (permission to connect is usually easy to obtain, but an IP is much harder). Now there's a better way. This little utility allows me to ping a couple of IPs before I grab one that's already in use and stomp on it. It requires libnet and glibc.


I'd rather not install programs like Sendmail on a firewall or other “secure” system; I like to keep what's on these systems to a minimum. While Perl (which is needed for this program) isn't exactly small, I use it for other things anyway, so I've found sendEmail to be a useful addition to my bag of tricks. The sendEmail utility is very powerful. In fact, it looks like the next best thing to connecting directly to the Sendmail server to which mail is delivered. While it won't defeat a closed relay, it will allow you to rewrite the header in just about any way you might wish. It requires Perl and the Perl Socket module.


SICKnotes can provide you with a web-based view of your system inventory, configuration and knowledge base. It might be overkill for a small home network; however, most businesses need the kind of information this system stores. And while you may have this information already, it is most likely stored in several places rather than one (and possibly not available from just any network-connected system). SICKnotes is an IT information system worth looking at, since it can probably be reconfigured easily to almost any department. It requires Python, MySQLdb Python module, MySQL, a web server and a web browser.


Ever have one of those days where you just can't seem to remember the netmask for a /25 address, or maybe the network and broadcast addresses that correspond to it? Perhaps I'm just brain-fried, but I sometimes find myself staring at a screen where I have already typed ifconfig eth0 netmask and thinking, “Gee, I know this, I must use it every other day, so why can't I remember it now?” Well, just feed cidr the basic information, IP address and /25 or whatever, and the program provides the rest. At this rate, I'll be able to stop thinking completely in another two or three years. It requires glibc.


Don't like cookies? Well eatcookies is one hungry little program that will gobble them up for good. Run it once—it will eat all your Netscape cookies (at least those you allow) and won't leave any crumbs. The program comes with a Netscape loader that automatically runs eatcookies after Netscape exits, cleaning your cookie file after each use. You can adjust eatcookies' diet via its diet file. This may be little consolation, since some companies have figured out how to keep your cookies on a third host where you can't get to them, but that technology isn't widely used yet. It requires Perl.


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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