Archive for the ‘Linux Utilities’ Category

Free file compare and synchronize tool

Friday, June 10th, 2011

runs on Windows
screenshot of FreeFileSync

If you're doing anything even the least bit complicated on your computer, chances are you're generating anywhere from several- to a whole bunch of files. Source code files, word processing documents, images, and everything else may be scattered across your hard drive. If you're really disciplined and tidy, then you know where all that stuff is and can keep track of it all. But if your organizational skills leave something to be desired, or if you're trying to keep track of multiple versions of a project—today's work, last Tuesday's work, the version from last month—your life can get exponentially more complicated. What you need is a tool that can help you keep track of all these files to make sure you've got what you want but aren't keeping unnecessary copies of old work.

FreeFileSync may be able to give you a hand with this. To use it, all you need to do is drag and drop the two directories you want to compare and then press the magic button. Then if you want to continue and synchronize the contents of those two folders, click the Synchronize button and FreeFileSnc takes care of the rest. There are oodles of settings you can tweak to give you the behavior you're looking for, including an option to stick files into the Recycle Bin instead of just deleting or overwriting them. You can also build filters to exempt certain files (maybe configuration info?) from being synchronized.

FreeFileSync is a free download. It runs under both Linux and Windows.

Download FreeFileSync

Tail lets you watch logs in real time

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of MakeLogic Tail

Your computer's a busy place. Even when you're not banging away on the keyboard or clicking wildly with your mouse, it's doing all kinds of stuff behind the scenes. And while it's working away in the background, it's keeping track of what it's doing by recording all kinds of important information in various log files. You may never have occasion to look at those logs, but if you do, you'll quickly see that they're not the easiest thing in world to work with. Logs are all written in chronological order, which means that the most recent happenings are at the end of the file; but when you open that log file to look at it, you're dropped at the beginning, which means paging through lots of data before you get to the information about the most recent application crash or security details.

In the *nix world, you've got the tail command, which lets you look at the most recent lines written to those log files. And when you through the right command line arguments at it, tail will actually follow those files and show you what's happening in real time. Not on Linux? Check out MakeLogic's Tail program. It runs like tail, but with a pretty GUI. In addition, you can keep track of several different log files at once. Since it's a Java app, it will run on any machine with the appropriate Java runtime, which means that one size really does fit all.

MakeLogic's Tail is a free download.

Download MakeLogic Tail

Backup tool for Windows and Linux

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Duplicati

If you've ever needed to restore data from a backup, you know how important they can be. Whether it's a simple human error—Oops! I deleted the wrong file!—or a total system meltdown, having that copy cached away can save your bacon. And if you never have had that need? Well, count your blessings, 'cause it's going to happen to you at some point.

Duplicati is a tool that makes it easy to create backups. It's got a wizard to walk you through the steps of setting things up. It's even made some choices for you, like the locations on your hard drive that you're most likely going to want to archive, so you'll be up and running that much faster. Your backups are both compressed and password protected, so that you save space and can sleep at night, knowing your data isn't going to fall into somebody else's hands. And the big difference between Duplicati and lots of other backup solutions is that your backups are designed to be stored off-site. After all, it's no good having a pristine backup in your home or office that then gets wiped out when fire or flood comes calling. You can choose to direct your backups to a network volume, or even to an FTP or SFTP server, as well as Amazon's S3 service or a WebDAV volume.

You can grab a copy of Duplicati for free. It runs under Windows (Win 2000 and later) and various flavors of Linux.

Download Duplicati

See what's taking up your disk space

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of JDiskReport

As hard drives get bigger and bigger, they seem to fill up faster and faster. Sure, there's a lot of good stuff you want to hang on to, but it's also easy to let things get out of control. Next thing you know that terabyte drive you invested in is 90% full just like that 40 GB drive was last year. So where did all the space go? Or maybe more correctly, what did we save on there that filled it all up?

JDiskReport is a tool you can use to get a handle on where all your disk space went. Yes, you could just run directory listings and sort by size or date and such, but with JDiskReport you can look at a bigger picture. It helps you to identify what you've got out there, and presents it to you in easy to comprehend charts and graphs, as well as textually. Sometimes that pie chart or a bar graph can make sense where a big screen full of numbers just won't do. You can examine things not only by size, but also by size distribution—how many files you have that are 4- and 16 MB as opposed to between 16- and 64 MB, for example. Or look at modified date—how many older files do you have compared with the number of more recent files? It also breaks them out by file type, so you can prove you have more Word DOC files (all those important reports) than you do MP3 files.

JDiskReport is a Java application, so you can use it on any system with an appropriate Java runtime installed. That means it's right at home on your Linux system, your Mac, or your Windows box.

Download JDiskReport

Free print monitoring tool

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of PaperCut

Do you love your printer? No matter how much everyone touted the coming "paperless office", we just can't live without a bunch of documents printed on paper. This can present several problems. Like the environmental issues involved with manufacture of printers themselves, as well as all the chemicals used in making the paper and printer supplies. Oh yeah, there's the cost too. If you think it's time to look at your relationship with your printer, you may want to check out PaperCut.

This tool lets you keep track of what your printer is up to. It keeps an eye on paper consumption, and lets you not only monitor, but also control, printer usage. You can set quotas for individuals and groups, to make sure that folks aren't using company resources to print their first novel. It also gives you realtime numbers on just how your printing is affecting the environment.

PaperCut is available as a free download for small office and home use (up to 5 users). It is compatible with Linux, Mac, Windows, and even Novell networks.

Download PaperCut

Data recovery tool

Friday, October 15th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of TestDisk

There's no doubt your computer is a powerful tool. It can crunch numbers, process data, and do a whole bunch of other great stuff. Unfortunately, it's a complicated piece of machinery, and from time to time, it can go on the fritz. You can have problems with memory; the CPU can mess up, and the hard drive can flake out on you. Fortunately, there is help out there.

TestDisk is an application that can give you a hand when your hard drive starts to go nuts. Specifically, it deals with broken, missing, or lost partitions, and with bootable disks that don't boot any more. If your problem is a specific hardware issue, it's not going to help, but if your hard drive has seen better days because of runaway programs, nasty viruses, or (shudder) operator error, you might want to give it a go.

This app can deal with a wide variety of different operating system and disk combinations. It knows about FAT and NTFS file systems on your Windows machine, HFS and variants on your Mac, as well as ext2 and ext3 filesystems on your Linux machine, and a bunch of others. Because this is complicated and potentially dangerous stuff, there are detailed instructions on just how to use this tool.

TestDisk is a free download. And good luck.

Download TestDisk

Free network backup solution

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Amanda

Backups. What can you say: you've gotta' do 'em. If you're just archiving your personal stuff, it's pretty easy. Make a copy. Store it someplace else. Automate it so you don't forget. Got a small network? That's still doable, although a bit more complicated. A bigger network? Now that's not going to come without some pain. Let's try to keep the discomfort to a minimum.

Amanda is a free, open source, backup solution. It's not something you're going to use for just your personal stuff, since there's servers involved, but if you've got a bunch of machines to watch over, it may be worth a try. You install the server piece on a Linux box—it needs to use tar, awk, Samba, and Perl—and then a client app on each machine you want to back up. There's a client available for Windows, Mac (OS X), and all sorts of other Unix-like systems. It boasts an easy, well-documented setup process, and gives you the option of backing up to disk or tape, or even both at the same time. And since it uses tar and other native tools, if everything goes sideways, you can still restore without Amanda being available.

You can grab a copy of Amanda for free. They've also got paid versions available if you want to save your backups in the Cloud.

Download Amanda

Archive your Tweets with TwitterBackup

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of TwitterBackup

If you spend your life on Twitter, it might be nice to have a record of your "Tweets". Unfortunately there's no built-in way to do that. Sure, your old posts are always there in your Profile page, but as well all know, sometimes Twitter can have, ummm, issues. The only totally safe way to keep track of what you've Tweeted is to save it yourself.

TwitterBackup is an aptly named application that allows you to do just that. Fire it up, give it your Twitter login credentials, and it will grab a copy of what you've done out there. It saves things off in an XML file on your local drive, so you can access it with any text editor. While it's doing its thing, it performs an "incremental backup", so it only adds newer Tweets to what you've already got backed up.

You can grab TwitterBackup for free. It's a Java application, so you should be able to run it on any system that has the appropriate Java runtime installed on it.

Download TwitterBackup

Audit your network with Open-AudIT

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Windows
screenshot of Open-AudIT

Networks come in all sizes and shapes. It may be a simple file sharing convenience on your desktop between your main system and your laptop, or it may be an enterprise-wide behemoth covering half the planet. No matter which extreme you're closer to, you know that with networks come complications. You've got machines, connections, protocols, applications, data, and a zillion other considerations to keep track of, and even if you're making a conscious effort to stay on top of things, there's more than a break-even chance that you're going to fall behind.

Open-AudIT is a tool that you might be able to use to stay in control. You can enter information about your network into it manually, but it can also reach out and touch your machines (Windows and Linux) and collect information about your network automatically. The best thing about automatic, or course, is that you can't "forget" or get too busy to do what needs to be done. Schedule regular scans and you stay on top of things—and you may learn about other things happening on your network, like installation of unapproved software or unauthorized machines joining in.

You can run Open-AudIT on Windows and Linux (Fedora, Ubuntu) systems. If you go the server route, you'll also need Apache or IIS and a MySQL install.

Download Open-AudIT

Convert text files between Unix, Mac, and Windows

Friday, March 5th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Flip

Everything in the world is connected. This is especially true with computer stuff. There are servers talking to servers, and desktop machines, smart phones, and all manner of other electronic goodies that talk to one another. The wonder of it all is that for the most part, they each understand what the other is saying. There is one notable exception, of course: the lowly text file.

Even though the text file is arguably the least-complicated kind of file out there, they are not all created equally. Even though these files are just text, no pictures, no formatting, no fancy stuff, there are differences between text files, depending on where a given file was created. Those differences all come with the end-of-line character–the way that your computer knows that one line has ended and the next one begins.

In the Unix world, the end of a line in a text file is indicated by the LineFeed character (0x0A), in the world of the Mac (at least through OS 9) it's the Carriage Return character (0x0D), and in DOS and Windows, it's the combination of the two (0x0D and 0x0A). While some apps are tolerant of these differences, others aren't nearly so well behaved. Create some web server configuration file on your Mac and upload it to your Unix web server, and you'll see what a mess things can be.

The solution? It could be something as simple as Flip, a little utility app that you can download. It's just a console app–no fancy GUI here–that allows you to convert files from one format to another. You can use it on single files, or on a whole bunch of them. A command line argument tells it which flavor you want your resulting files to be.

Flip is available in versions for Linux, Mac, and Windows machines.

Download Flip