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Reviewed Utilities

Utilities

Heck! Not another one of those "collection of software" pages. What's the difference between this page and the other "essential" page? Somebody forgot to organize their web site? Nope, nothing like that. Unlike the other page, the software listed here are good to possess but you can do without them. These are the "good-to-have" rather than "must-have" software.

There are lots of nice utility software on the web. The trick is to know which ones are good and which are not. This information can come from peer recommendations, other software reviewers and personal usage. Over a period of years, I've come across a few utilities/software which have been added to my toolkit. Most of these utilities were recommended by friends and friendly folks on the web ( Sorry, I am unable to remember who recommended what software or else I would have mentioned you explicitly ). I pass on this information to you and hope you find this page useful. The listing is in no particular order - I will rectify the situation when time permits. Also, if you know of any utility that is missing from this page, use the feedback page to send me information about the utility and I will consider adding it to the page ( you will be credited unless you are the shy retiring type ).

Tiny Web Server v1.9   * * * *-

TinyWeb is extremely small (executable file size is 53K), simple (no configuration other than through the command line) and fast (consumes minimum of system resources) Win32 daemon for regular (TCP/http) and secure (SSL/TLS/https) web servers. It supports CGI scripts and logging. Your very own web server!! Extremely useful for testing web pages locally before putting it on a production server. Use Apache if you need a production environment web server.

Home site: http://www.ritlabs.com/tinyweb


Netcat v1.10   * * * **

My favorite utility. Netcat has been dubbed the network swiss army knife. It is a simple Unix ( also ported to Windows ) utility which reads and writes data across network connections, using TCP or UDP protocol. It is designed to be a reliable "back-end" tool that can be used directly or easily driven by other programs and scripts. At the same time, it is a feature-rich network debugging and exploration tool, since it can create almost any kind of connection you would need and has several interesting built-in capabilities. Read the docs for some cool uses of netcat.

Home site: http://www.atstake.com/research/tools/


Cryptcat   * * * **

Cryptcat = netcat + twofish encryption.

Home site: http://sourceforge.net/projects/cryptcat/


Net-snmp/Ucd-snmp   * * * *.

A collection of tools relating to Simple Network Management Protocol. Net-snmp originated from ucd-snmp tool suite. So, it is recommended to use net-snmp instead of ucd-snmp. I give it only 4 stars rating because even though the tool is very useful - the syntax is awkward and the manual needs to be made more easier to understand for first time users.

Home site: http://net-snmp.sourceforge.net/


Putty   * * * **

Putty is a free telnet/SSH client for win32. Once addicted to putty, you will stop using the default win32 telnet client.

Home site: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/


Sockspy v2.0   * * * *-

To quote from the homepage:

Sockspy lets you watch the conversation of a Tcp client and server. Sockspy acts much like a gateway: it waits for a tcp connection, then connects to the real server. Data from the client is passed onto the server, and data from the server is passed onto the client.

Along the way, the data streams are also displayed in a text widget with data sent from the client displayed in green, data from the server in blue and connection metadata in red. The data can be displayed as printable ASCII strings, or as a hex dump format of both hex and printable characters.

Why might you want to use Sockspy? Debugging Tcp client/server programs, examining protocols and diagnosing network problems are top candidates. Perhaps you just want to figure out how somethings work.

Even though this sounds very similar to netcat - it is a different beast altogether. They serve different needs. It doesn't get a perfect 5 star rating because it needs Tcl/Tk to be installed and is not a standalone app.

Home site: http://sockspy.sourceforge.net/


Wget v1.70   * * * **

GNU Wget is a freely available network utility to retrieve files from the World Wide Web using HTTP and FTP, the two most widely used Internet protocols. It works non-interactively, thus enabling work in the background, after having logged off. This was the staple tool along with screen in college. Very useful if you plan to download big files on a slow pipe.

Home site: http://wget.sunsite.dk/


Screen v3.9.11   * * * **

GNU Screen is a full-screen window manager that multiplexes a physical terminal between several processes, typically interactive shells. Basically it multiplexes multiple virtual terminals on one physical terminal and allows you to run separate programs in each virtual terminal. The beauty of the software is that it allows you to detach this screen session from one telnet window and reattach to it from another telnet window. In college, we used to open up N virtual terminals in a screen session and use wget in each session to download one huge file, detach the session, logout and go home and reattach to the session in the morning to find all downloads were completed. It is available for Linux/Unix only.

Home site: http://www.gnu.org/software/screen/


Trapreceiver for NT/2000 v5.00   * * * **

Trap Receiver is a listener for snmp traps. It supports full SNMP V1 and V2c trap, and V2 INFORM decoding and archiving. Each trap is decoded and the data is presented in a typical GUI window. It is available for NT/2000 only. It can be configured to listen for snmp traps on any arbitrary port and dump the data to a file. Another useful SNMP tool.

Home site: http://www.ncomtech.com/download.htm


SNMP Trap Watcher v1.31 * * * *-

SNMP Trap Watcher is designed to be used to receive SNMP Traps from network equipment. It is a good tool for debugging network equipment. It is small, no installation required and supports basic decoding of snmp traps. The bad part is that it will only listen on port 162. You can use use netcat to listen on an arbitrary port and forward the data to port 162 to make this tool "listen" on the arbitrary port.

Home site: http://www.bttsoftware.co.uk/


Fport v2.0   * * * *-

Fport reports all open TCP/IP and UDP ports and maps them to the owning application. This is the same information you would see using the 'netstat -an' command, but it also maps those ports to running processes with the PID, process name and path. Fport can be used to quickly identify unknown open ports and their associated applications. Works on NT/2000/XP. For Unix use lsof

Home site: http://www.foundstone.com/resources/overview.htm


Lsof v4.65   * * * *-

Lsof is a Unix-specific diagnostic tool. Its name stands for LiSt Open Files, and it does just that. It lists information about any files that are open by processes currently running on the system. It can also list communications open by each process. A very good tool but suffers from the geeky malaise of having too many command line options ( hence deduct half a star ). For NT/2000/XP use fport

Home site: http://freshmeat.net/projects/lsof/


Hackman 7   * * * *-

For those times when you cannot want to tinker with a binary file. Hackman 7 is a freeware hex editor and disassembler. It comes with cryptography capabilities, decoding with ready and self-made algorithms and a fully-featured editor. Half a star deducted because some elements of the GUI are non-intuitive.

Home site: http://www.technologismiki.com/hackman/


Ethereal v0.9.8   * * * *-

Ethereal is a free network protocol analyzer for Unix and Windows. One of the best free network analyzers available today. I have only one complaint - the UI has too many pop-up windows.

Home site: http://www.ethereal.com/


POV-RAY v3.5   * * * **

The Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer creates three-dimensional, photo-realistic images using a rendering technique called ray-tracing. It reads in a text file containing information describing the objects and lighting in a scene and generates an image of that scene from the view point of a camera also described in the text file. Ray-tracing is not a fast process by any means, but it produces very high quality images with realistic reflections, shading, perspective and other effects. Ray-tracing cannot be explained in one paragraph - so please visit the web site mentioned below to get more details. Also check out some of the photo realistic images created using this tool on the home page.

Home site: http://www.povray.org/


RealVNC/TightVNC   * * * *.

RealVNC (Originally called VNC - an abbreviation for Virtual Network Computing) is a great client/server software package allowing remote network access to graphical desktops. With RealVNC, you can access your machine from everywhere provided that your machine is connected to the Internet. TightVNC is a sleek and slimmer version of RealVNC. TightVNC compresses all the data packets thereby ensuring low bandwidth requirements. Do not forget to run RealVNC through a SSH tunnel for security reasons.

Home site:
http://www.realvnc.com/
http://www.tightvnc.com/


Source Navigator v5.0   * * * *.

Source-Navigator is a source code analysis tool. With it, you can edit your source code, display relationships between classes and functions and members, and display call trees. You can also build your projects, either with your own makefile, or by using Source-Navigator's build system to automatically generate a makefile. Good tool for understanding somebody else's code. The cons is that disk access is very high for large projects and UI needs a bit getting used to.

Home site: http://sourcenav.sourceforge.net/


Sam Spade for Windows v1.14   * * * *.

Sam Spade is a collection of network tools like ping, reverse DNS lookup, SMTP relay check, WHOIS etc. A nice collection of small useful utilities. It can also be used to track down people hacking into your system - nothing scares a would be "script kiddie" than knowing that (s)he is being reverse scanned and his/her details are available for abuse reporting:-).

Home site: http://www.samspade.org/ssw/download.html


Vim v6.2   * * * **

Vim is a highly configurable text editor built to enable efficient text editing. It is an improved version of the vi editor distributed with most UNIX systems. I started out editing with the "vi" editor on Unix - so it was natural to progress to Vim. It is a light-weight editor with support for macros and plugins. It is totally customizable and is available for both windows and Unix. With its customizable syntax highlighting, built-in perl support, and support for ctags and cscope, it can be a good tool for a software developer.

Home site: http://www.vim.org/


Exuberant Ctags v5.4   * * * *.

Ctags generates an index (or tag) file of language objects found in source files that allows these items to be quickly and easily located by a text editor or other utility. A tag signifies a language object for which an index entry is available (or, alternatively, the index entry created for that object). A less resource hogger than cscope or Source Navigator, it can be used with a editor like Vim which supports tags to enable easy source code browsing. Unfortunately, it can only be used to locate the definitions of functions/macros, etc - you cannot find a class hierarchy, dependency or caller-callee relationships using ctags. I personally use it in conjunction with Vim editor.

Home site: http://ctags.sourceforge.net/


Cygwin v1.3.18   * * * **

If you are addicted to Unix consoles and need that look and feel on windows, then Cygwin is for you. It is a Unix environment for windows. Along with a port of popular Unix tools, it gives you a very good approximation of a Unix console environment.

Home site: http://www.cygwin.com/


HTML Tidy v4.0   * * * **

This little utility will clean up html pages to make them standards compliant. I ran all the my pages on this web site through this utility and it fixed quite a few errors. A must have for web page designers.

Home site: http://tidy.sourceforge.net/


Knoppix live CD   * * * **

Ever wished that you could run an OS from a CD? Knoppix is a bootable CD with Linux on it. The Linux OS is installed on the CD. Just pop the CD in the drive, reboot from the CD and voila you have Linux running. It comes with KDE desktop - so no fear for the Windows savvy users. It mounts the hard disk partitions as read only by default - so you have access to all your files on the HDD. It can be used as a Linux demo CD or rescue CD.

Home site: http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html


Firefox web browser   * * * **

Firefox is a stripped down derivative of the Mozilla browser. Some of the good features include tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking & vi-like search commands. Get this one just for the tabbed browsing.

Home site: http://www.mozilla.org/


Xenu's Link Sleuth v1.2d   * * * *-

Xenu's Link Sleuth (TM) checks Web sites for broken links. Link verification is done on "normal" links, images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps, style sheets, scripts and java applets. It displays a continously updated list of URLs which you can sort by different criteria. A report can be produced at any time.

Home site: http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html


Audacity   * * * **

Audacity is a very good audio editor. You can record sounds, play sounds, import and export WAV, AIFF, Ogg Vorbis, and MP3 files, and more. The best bit is its price - Free!!

Home site: http://audacity.sourceforge.net