Some Favorite Open Source Utilities

I was inspired by Rui at the Tao of Mac and his open source watch list to think about some of the open source utilities I cannot live without.

Some are considered old school, some are new and some are just amazing productivity pieces.

For starters, I discovered that we shared one app in common, Newspipe. It is a python-based newsreader that processes RSS subscriptions and sends the headlines, story summary and links to an email address of your choice. I run mine in cron in the background on my OS X workstation and simply review the latest stories along with my regular email. No GUI RSS reader needed. It has very flexible configuration options and is well worth a look if you rely on RSS feeds and don’t need yet another app open. It works on Linux, Mac and Windows with Python 2.3.

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Webmin is by far my favorite systems management app. Though I spend a great deal of time on servers using the command line – there are several repetitive tasks which are just plain quicker using Webmin. Plus, for multi-server environments, I cana chain webmin installs together and broadcast configuration changes, updates, etc. (inside the firewall!).

Unlike a majority of control panels, this tool is targeting system administrators due to its root level access to the filesystem and underlying sensitive configuration files. I wrote a piece on Webmin in 2004 that goes in depth.

By default Vi is on this list due to the ease of use (after one gets used to tooling around in a terminal editor!) and quickness when making edits on files and touching configuration files. Though I know there are Emacs fans out there but I could not live without Vi.

Tripwire wins as a premium security asset on servers – and remains free for Linux administrators. In a nutshell Tripwire takes a snapshot of your filesystem including files and directories you specify during setup. It then guards these files by requiring an email to the administrator and a follow-up approval via command line by that admin for the change(s) to take effect. If you are working on a machine making substantial changes – the safety-net system can be overridden via an extra authentication (helpful unless you like reading lots of email).

Specific to the Mac OS X I hand out kudos to the developers of Adium, a multi-protocol instant messaging solution that allows me to be online via AOL, MSN and Yahoo screen names (it supports others as well). Though I primarily use an AOL IM account, some of my customers are on other networks – and those folks can now also ping me via IM as well as email and phone.