Focus on Software

by David A. Bandel

Well, I'm really excited about the new kernel. The netfilter software (iptables) which replaces ipchains (I know, yet another packet filter to learn, but it's not that bad, really) will save me from having to configure both ipchains and ipmasqadm (at least for those systems doing port forwarding as well as packet filtering). I have more and more clients all the time who seem to need this capability. Combining these two (basically NAT and packet filtering) into one integrated bundle will make administration easier. And ease of administration is where I win clients away from Microsoft. I anticipate a webmin module (a framework consisting of modules you can add or remove) will be available to handle the netfilter rules (even if I have to write it myself, and no one, not even me wants that—at least, not if you've ever seen my Perl code). And the fact that the new netfilter also includes support for IPv6 is icing on the cake. I'm constantly amazed at the pace of improvements, not just in the kernel, but in all the software available for Linux today, as can be seen by looking at newer versions of past FOS software highlights.

Meeting Room Booking System:

I know of several places that could use a good meeting room booking system. I've seen a couple that work well, but this one certainly deserves a look. It really doesn't matter where the room to be reserved is; MRBS handles it very nicely. Multi-hour events are handled well, and the overall look is appealing. It requires a web server with php3, MySQL and a web browser.


My favorite browser has always been Lynx. It's fast, and I've always built it with SSL. But it doesn't support frames. This has always been somewhat annoying, especially given the number of sites that use frames. Well, w3m supports tables and frames. The frames are handled by converting them to tables and displaying them as such. I was also pleased to see that you could compile in mouse support, colors and SSL. In fact, you could choose the build size, which determined the particular options, or choose a custom build to mix-and-match options. On the downside, I did find that in an xterm, I had to either vary the width of the xterm or scroll across. On a VT, you can only scroll (unless you already have a wide page via frame buffers). This can be annoying if you're used to Lynx automatically sizing to the screen. But that's due to the use of tables, so it is the price you have to pay. I requires (depending on the build size you choose) libm, libgpm, libnsl, libncurses, glibc and openssl (for SSL sites).


It slices, it dices, it keeps your Calendar, ToDo list, Addressbook, it makes coffee and pays your bills (okay, so it won't pay your bills). I showed this to a client, and their first reaction was: When did Microsoft port Outlook to Linux? Well, I'm afraid I don't know Outlook from Adam (and for that matter, I have had the singular pleasure of not having to work with anything Microsoft in almost a year), but I do know this mail client includes everything but the kitchen sink (if you consider that a plus) and has a very pleasing interface. Try it if you like the “no need for any other software” approach to programs. It requires libgtk, libgdk, libgmodule, libglib, libdl, libXext, libX11, libm and glibc.

If you need a good web-mail client that won't strain your resources, this is one you'll want to take a look at. It doesn't have an address book, or folders for saving messages; in fact, it doesn't have much of anything. What it does have is a good-looking interface to read and send mail, period. Perfect for an ISP short on resources. It requires Perl, a web browser, a web server with Perl support, Perl modules: CGI, Mail::POP3Client, Socket, MIME::Base64 and Crypt::Blowfish.


For this program, the three-line output says it all: Linux 2.4.0-test2 #2 Sat Jun 24 16:19:55 EST 2000 One Intel Unknown 333MHz processor, 665.19 total bogomips, 128M RAM System library 2.1.3. You can even use it in a server-parsed web page (.shtml) by using the following line:

<!--#exec cmd="/usr/local/bin/linuxinfo" -->

Since the output doesn't contain any html commands, you might want to surround the above line with <pre></pre> tags, and perhaps even center tags. It requires glibc.

ftpgrab (download only):

Another site-mirror program that currently supports only ftp, but HTTP support is planned. This one is different, in that instead of mirroring all files, ftpgrab will mirror only the latest file version by parsing the version number. This can be very resource-saving if you have sufficient file space for only the latest version. It downloads the most current, then deletes the older one. This can be quite a savings with files like gtk+ and others. It requires libpthread, libstdc++, libm and glibc.


Okay, maybe you don't need any more tests in your life, given all the tests out there already (LPI, A+, etc.). But if you can find some sample questions, you can test yourself. Questions are simple to add to a file. The program even comes with a script to add questions, although the author suggests using vi. It's multiple choice only, no fill in the blanks, but you can have multiple correct answers (the number of required answers is shown). The program doesn't yet save scores, so you'll need to note your score before leaving the screen. The “examinee” can also cheat. But the instant feedback on right/wrong can be instructional. It requires libncurses, libmenu and glibc.

scanlogd: http://www.openwall.con/scanlogd/

Want to monitor port scans on your systems without the complexity of PortSentry? This logs all port scans. With the proliferation of juveniles who have nothing better to do than run nmap and other scans against networks and systems the world over, this can give you an idea of how much of a target you are. It's only one tool, but a good one. It requires glibc.


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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