Focus on Software

by David Bandel

The Linux community has become a true melting pot of cultures as well as a mix of users from super geek to <\#252>ber-newbie. For each, I have something to chew on this month. For the super geeks (code hackers, Linux wizards, etc.) I suggest looking toward the lowest common denominator, which now seems to be refugees looking for stability and useability. This means not only making your programs as useable as possible (think KISS, keep it stupid, simple), but also as available as possible. What I'm talking about regarding availability is the judicial use of libraries and Perl modules. I know some think GNOME is sexy, but there's nothing sexy about a program that, while it really doesn't need GNOME libs to run, won't compile without it. To the newbies, I offer that you are not as useless to the Linux community as you might think you are. If you can do nothing else, perhaps you can translate documentation or proofread it, insert comments and questions and send them either to the official mail list or to the author. Programs require testing (and so, alpha and beta testers) and documentation among other things. Help out the way you can. Offer support. The more folks that do this, the more momentum open source will achieve, and the better it will become.


The only drawback I see for this utility is it requires a web server on your DHCP system. You might want to find a smaller one that will run Perl scripts (perhaps a small Perl web server—I'll need to look for one of those). But dhcpstatus shows at a glance information that takes a few minutes to discern by looking or grepping through the leases.dhcp file. Granted, you can also do this with Webmin if you've chosen to install it, but sometimes that's like using a supercomputer when xcalc would do the job faster. Requires: Perl, web server on the DHCP server system, web browser.


If you like MindMind, you'll like this particular game. While not (yet) particularly customizable (you can't change things like colors, number of colors, number of guesses, number of hidden pieces) it's a good start. Just click on or drag-and-drop the pieces. When you're ready, click on the box to the side and see how you fared. It's been a while since I've played MasterMind, and it showed on my first few tries. Requires: libqt2, libstdc++, libm, libXext, libX11, libSM, libICE, libpng, libz, libjpeg, libmng, glibc.


If you're like me and despise the info pages (mostly for the hateful info program I can't bend to my will) but you like Lynx, then let me suggest you have pinfo installed on all those nongraphical systems (servers) out there. Yes, I know konquerer will make short work of info files (if you use KDE). Unfortunately, I always find the systems for which I most need to access the info pages are those not running an X server. While pinfo is extremely good for viewing info pages, I still uninstall all info-related stuff. Yes, I know info is GNU not UNIX, but I've never seen it on anything but UNIX systems, and I still think the man pages are better. But until info dies the horrid death it deserves, at least there's pinfo. Requires: libreadline (optional), libncurses (optional), glibc.


If you run X (I think most folks do), this is a mail client you should look into. It looks like Netcape's Messenger but is a lot lighter, quicker and less prone to crash. It also can be split into multiple boxes and moved around the screen (or sent to separate screens). This mobility can be convenient for seeing what's coming in without keeping a large application open on the screen. Requires: libgtk, libgdk, libgmodule, libglib, libdl, libXext, libX11, libm, libgdk_imlib, libgthread (optional), libpthread (optional), glibc.


This is a very nice utility that will allow you to view a POP3 mailbox from a web browser. One of the nice things is that rymo doesn't need to be on the same server as your mail; you can reach out and access your mail server across the network. While good, rymo still has some drawbacks: by default, it only sees the first 20 unread messages on your server that are unread. You also don't have access to mail you've already seen. Good for checking mail quickly, but mail you need time to think about before replying is a problem. Requires: web server w/PHP (3 or 4), web browser.


Yet another option if you're using an IMAP2 server instead of a POP3 server for getting your mail (or you just want to use IMAP instead of POP) is squirrelmail. This application does not need to be on the system with your mail server, but does require PHP4 (will not work with PHP3). The application is a little more polished than rymo, more along the lines of neomail. It has a large number of options and settings for users. Requires: web server w/PHP4, IMAP server, web browser.

Want to check your Class C network to see if any systems are binding a particular port? Running nmap to do this is an option but a rather heavy-handed one. This short Perl script will quickly check all systems for one specified port quickly, using very few system resources. Just call the program with the port number followed by the Class C address (substitute a * for the last octet). Requires: Perl, Perl modules IO::Socket, Time::localtime.

Nebula Freelancer:

This project is a start on a system aimed principally at contractors, freelancers or other organizations that have work outsourced to them in the IT world. The web interface allows you to track trouble tickets, projects, clients, contacts and hours worked. It will also have facilities to generate reports and invoices. Not everything is working yet, but the basic system is in place. This is worth looking at if you do a lot of outside work. Requires: web server w/Perl support, Perl, Perl modules: DBD, MySQL, MySQL server.

Until next month.

David A. Bandel ( is a Linux/UNIX consultant currently living in the Republic of Panama. He is coauthor of Que Special Edition: Using Caldera OpenLinux.
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