Cool Tools

The programs you use ultimately decide how stably your operating system runs.

As a general rule I prefer console (DOS mode) applications, as I find it much easier to set up batches of downloads etc. that will run more efficiently and reliably in a way that allows for much better fine-tuning. I can run more windows while using less system resources when most of my processes are just DOS. Most console apps are available for more than one operating system too, unlike their graphical friends.

Only fools don't use my cool tools 8)

Boot Managers:
Windows NT usually gives you the option to boot in VGA mode or last known good configuration (and any other operating systems it finds). Linux usually installs lilo to give you the choice of loading other operating systems that may be installed on the machine. System Commander is often chosen as a commercial solution as it offers extended features such as backing up boot records in case an OS installer kills one you need.

As my last comment suggests, you can kill your installation setup, resulting in a lot of fiddly reinstalling/reconfiguring if you take a wrong step messing with multiple operating system setups - don't attempt these things on other peoples' systems.

XOSL is my weapon of choice - aside from looking amazing, (especially if you choose a flourescent colour scheme for the XOSL logo), it loads quickly and gets lost faster. It also detects well what operating systems are on each partition, which simpilfies setting up the list.

FTP Clients:
It's good to have more than one tool, as some perform better than others depending on circumstance. This is particularly true of FTP clients:

NFTP is console, but graphical in the same manner as the Norton Navigator interface. Available for most operating systems, this client allows you to flag many files on a site, then initiate the transfer & walk away - it will persistently reconnect & resume until the entire list is complete. Even works well via ssh/telnet through a modem.

Wget is a command line tool capable of mirroring entire sites with one command. Unlike most tools, it attempts to resume files from the very last bit, even if it has data indicating they are complete. This way, you can point it at a site, and have it ensure every file is complete. It also displays a "." for every bit it receives, so you can see how it's going. A great tool to use on remote shell accounts, and available for most operating systems.

A binary that doesn't require Cygwin (ie. a unix analogue installed within windows) is available here

ncftp (it's pronounced NikFTP) is my middle ground, and I find it unique in it's easy specification of the delay between retries when a site is busy (a variable many sites specify when advertising their address, and ban you if you don't comply). It is also available in unix and DOS binaries, and works well over slow connections.

SmartFTP is a free graphical client for all versions of MS Windows that allows multiple ftp connections in their own frames within the one big window.

SSH/telnet Clients, and accessing multiple platforms:
SSH and Telnet allow both encrypted and unencrypted connection to remote systems.

As the concept is inherently native on linux and other shell oriented systems, support on that platform is better, with ssh being a part of native command line syntax.

I have recently changed clients with brilliant results - see below:

SecureCRT is a graphical Windows 9x/NT client with good firewall, port forwarding and protocol support. It's ability to automatically resize terminal windows, however, is at best unstable - generally resulting in Windows freezing (including mouse) when you attempt to resize a window. (gotta love operating systems without a windows manager in the framework).

PuTTY is still a Windows 9x/NT application, but has no buttons or clutter, and uses about as much resources as a console application. I haven't been able to fault it on performance or functionality, with window resizing being perfect. Finding a font that displays ansi/high ascii becomes critical if you run programs like BitchX though - I use ibmpc.fon - paste it in your Windows/fonts directory to install the font on your system - that way you'll be able to see all the preeetty ascii art.

The SSH DOS binaries haven't worked for me, and since PuTTY is performing so well, I'm sticking with it.

Amusingly, Cygwin, a software suite which basically unfolds a linux system when you run it, offers access to a lots of native linux commands, amongst these are good implementations of ssh & wget.

Like Cygwin, VMware allows you to run more than one operating system within the one session - useful for learning networking techniques (since each machine has it's own address on a fully functional virtual network). It's also handy for technical support staff that need access to multiple platforms quickly on limited machines.

VNC is a remote display system which allows you to view a computing 'desktop' environment not only on the machine where it is running, but from anywhere on the Internet and from a wide variety of machine architectures. I use it to fiddle on my linux box - really handy if you need to tweak a monitorless box used as a firewall or something. There are even PocketPC clients for SH3 & MIPS. Try searching on Google if your P/PC has an ARM or other processor - ARM, at least, is definitely out there.

One of the features I really miss when I'm not in linux or Windows XP is tab doing auto-filename completion - a really useful feature if you move files around in shell.
It can be achieved in windows instantly with the following registry mod:

First, go to Start/Run and type regedit and hit enter.

Now, expand the following entries by clicking the plus next to them...

hkey_current_user / Software / Microsoft / Command Processor

Edit the following keys to the values noted...

CompletionChar - set Value Data to 9
Enable Extensions - set Value Data to 1

Following this, exit regedit & you should now be able to finish file names at the command prompt with the tab key.

Ext2fsnt - 0.4 by Andrey Shedel is a Linux Ext2 Filesystem Driver for Windows NT/2000. Ext2fsNT allows ext2 partitions to be transparently mounted by NT4/W2K. The driver supports read/write access, hardlinks, and pagefiles.
Platform: WinNT License: Freeware Size: 80 KB Release Date: 1/3/2001 Click here to download
There was a homepage mentioned consistently for this one, but I get a 404 so I'm not listing it.

IRC Clients:
International Relay Chat is useful for obtaining files in public forums where you can interact with users and shell scripts directly, in realtime. For this reason many people use it for meetings or just to chat.

BitchX - scarey name but a brilliant console IRC client that works well even over slow SSH/telnet links. Really useful when used through a remote system using screen (see below) - that way your irc client remains logged in so you never miss a word said in the channel. Available for most platforms.

Showdown Pro (a mIRC script/enhanced version) is a good allaround script for the standard Windows 9x/NT only IRC client. When a shell IRC client isn't doing some subtle or tricky function I need, this is usually where I go.

X-chat is now available in Win32 thanks to the port of GTK from X-Windows. Like most linux software and other open source community development, it is superior, as you would expect given the vast quantity of contributors to it's release.

Free Online Antivirus/WORM Scanners:
Housecall is Trend Micro's PC-Cillin in it's new web based incarnation. You don't need to register to download the java based engine, which auto-updates & produces a web based scanning and cleaning interface with none of your usual crippleware shortcomings or memory resident taskbar rubbish left on your system..

Symantec Security Check tests your exposure to a wide range of online threats - not just viral infections, but worms too. Be wary of the sneaky plugs for their products masked as "vulnerability warnings" - once you've seen them the first time, you know what is genuine easy enough.

I find, when running both, I get different virii spotted on each - why don't they both spot them!? You can run both at the same time, however, and I suggest you do.

For linux (and flavours) only:
I know most unixheads don't need to be told how to suck eggs, but for the newbies out there...

The Newbie's Linux Manual may be useful if you're just starting out.

screen - You should run this at the start of any remote shell session. It allows you to run more than one console window from a single login, and gives you the ability to switch between logins like windows. Additional to this, if you are disconnected from the network, fear not! You can detach & reattach a session from any internet connected machine, with broken connections auto-detaching. While detached, most processes will continue to run on the remote machine.

splitVT - The ultimate sidekick to screen, splitVT allows you to have two shells open in the same ssh/telnet connection/screen. Great if you use multiple irc servers via remote shells, and need monitor them all at once.

Ximian produce tonnes of great tools for X/linux, two of my faves are their update agent, RedCarpet, and Connector to integrate Exchange Server & linux. An interesting deleopment since this link was added is Novell acquiring Ximian to bring linux into their suite of services. I have left the links as they always were - they forward you in an interesting (for some) and informative manner.

Upgrading Redhat 7.x to 8.0 Psyche using apt-get has been my latest regular mission. All it involves is editing/replacing the sources.list file or saving this one locally (while logged on as root) as /etc/apt/sources.list then running:
apt-get update (enter)
apt-get upgrade (enter) then watch it go!
You may need to rpm -e some dependencies that wont resolve and are preventing the upgrade, but even with ximian gnome on my machine it still worked after a few libraries were removed.

Since my work, like most, is behind a firewall, to get out for most ftp & ssh connections, I have to use the SOCKS4 server (our SOCKS5 server works, but not like it should) - This is achieved by inserting runsocks before the command. A Redhat linux version > 6 compatible binary can be found here. A standard (working) libsocks5.conf that you could edit to include your server can be downloaded here

Sylpheed is a brilliant Email client for X - runs fast and uses GTK+ to look nice too - however, lately, I've been using
Ximian's Evolution mail client, which is even nicer.

Galeon is a web browser - just that (no email, news etc.) - it's fast, uses GTK to look pretty and makes suprisingly fast use of Mozilla.

GTM - The Gnome Transfer Manager is great if you want to get multiple files from the web (assuming you use gnome).

sabvga.pcf is a font that works for all the high ansi characters used in BitchX etc. I got it from X Ansi Fonts, which has some rough but ready instuctions to install them... I found it took a few reboots and I had to both specify the unlisted font sabvga, and disable multibyte support in the settings to get it to work in gnome terminal (both pre & post ximian). As mentioned earlier, ibmpc.fon will do the same thing in MS-Windows.

Enlightenment is my window manager of choice, and hey, why not even download my bitmap I tile for a desktop - I found it years ago - not sure of the source, sorry author.

If you deal with CDR image files:
Before you send files to a CD-writer, you usually store them all within a file system contained within one file - many formats exist, and are interchangable using many freely available conversion tools.

Daemon Tools sets up a virtual CDROM in the Windows 9x/NT device manager/drivers, and allows you to mount BIN/ISO images on it, giving them a drive letter.

CD Paranoia rips even the most scratched CDs flawlessly to image files ready for burning to a fresh CD. The comment at the top of their site hits it on the head - "Use your CDROM drive to read audio tracks.... and have it actually work right!" - linux only

WAVnorm is a linux console based tool for automatically maximizing the level of a .wav file (handy if you've got multiple track sources with the same destination) - it's the best and it's written by one of my best mates 8)

DVD ripping:
My DVD ripping HOWTO includes all the software and steps required to convert a DVD to a VCD/DiVX that can then be burnt to a CD. I am very eager to get a job in technical writing - if you can help me with this, click here.

Linux for use as an audio tool:
The last few links refer to linux audio tools, and I don't want to unintentionally delude people. Linux isn't that great for realtime audio applications - that's why I still use Windows sometimes... I find when you start to multitrack audio under any operating system, things start to get a little curly.. and for me, linux just doesn't cut it as fine as windows... for audio.
Currently I am re-evaluating linux audio solutions - keep checking back - I'll be adding programs as I try them:
Shareware Music Machine is a great source for audio tools.. they have a good collection of free music software for linux.
Freebirth is an ok tool for step sequencing of wav files (which you can change), and also has a synth kinda like a 303 or the 303 clone on Rebirth.
amSynth is a real-time synth controlled via an exteral MIDI keyboard, and using the ALSA virtual midi driver you can use it with a sequencer such as MuSE... (I havent tested this one yet, so no promises).
Agnula's main task will be the development of two reference distributions for the GNU/Linux operating system completely based on Free Software (i.e. under a FSF approved Free Software license) and completely devoted to professional and consumer audio applications and multimedia development. So far the site contains very little, but with redhat & a few others involved, it's certainly an exciting project.
VJ Tools has some great stuff I will be using a great deal in future 8).

For more information on audio software, also keep checking back to my Music section, where I will be eventually discussing a lot of audio tools in depth.

MS Pocket PC:

Pocket PC is the newest incarnation of the Windows CE Operating System development stream.

Being ROM based, crashing results in loss of all data, so use of non-volatile storage such as a compact flash card is advised.

The Linux Online Hardware Port Projects page acts as a good central info source for the many linux builds for handhelds.
Currently I'm mirroring - Redhat Linux for PocketPC ARM, I'll update this page when I have some results to report.

Most people buy handhelds to have access to the web and email through their mobile phones. Beyond that, they can be handy for other things, like playing back IR messages with software like SkyCommander - a tool designed to emulate remote controls so you can have all the buttons on your screen 8) - It is launched by double clicking the .rcu file for your remote - rcu kits can be found for most remotes by searching on your average search engine. A sample Sony one to get you up & running is available here.

I support palmtops for work, and have put together some instructions that may help if you're trying to configure PocketPC for internet connectivity. The Jornada 540 series is covered here, while the 560 series is covered here and the 700 series is here.

In the search for a decent range of games for handhelds I have begun pulling apart MAME, a utility that allows you to run ROMs of all the classic coin ops like Pac Man, Galaga, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons and the Mortal Kombat trilogy (well they were some of my faves anyway). There are versions of MAME for tonnes of hardware and operating systems including pocketpc, Win9x/NT, Linux & even one for video cameras?!

`---=quick sidetrack===> Game Emulators got me fuelled for nostelgia, so I hunted down Nester (pc only)and a few Keroppi games -I love keroppi, he rox. You can download the roms below if you're into cute crap.... don't get too excited - remember these links are mostly for me 8)

Kero Kero Keroppi's Big Adventure (english) v1.0
Kero Kero Keroppi's Great Big Adventure 2 (english) v0.9
Keroppi & Keroleen's Splash Bomb! (english) v1.0

VNC (as mentioned earlier) is a remote display system which allows you to view a computing 'desktop' environment not only on the machine where it is running, but from anywhere on the Internet and from a wide variety of machine architectures. I use it to fiddle on my linux box - really handy if you need to tweak a monitorless box used as a firewall or something. The PocketPC clients on AT&T's old distro page are only for SH3 & MIPS. Try searching on Google if your P/PC has an ARM or other processor - ARM, at least, is definitely out there. Some may say Citrix/Terminal Server solutions are better than VNC - and in a lot of cases this is correct. But in the capacity of having an Xwindows session running on a linux box that can be detached & reattached to&fro even via dialup with little or no fore-knowledge of the software, VNC wins hands down every time (it's also a tiny solution in total Kb and free).

Most other useful tools can be found in the following locations:
The Tucows PocketPC section (click the yellow tab that suits you best) at CE Monster.
PocketPC City.
Microsoft PocketPC Home.
PocketPC Gear A complete PocketPC resource.

System monitors:

Gkrellm is now available for MS Windows!!

GKrellM is a single process stack of system monitors which supports applying plugins to report the weather, add an audio mixer, all sorts of stuff - it rox! (for many years this program was linux only).
The windows port has it's own web page - click here to go there now.

Since the appearance of a win32 port of GTK (traditionally part of the Xwindows environment), many linux/Xwindows tools have become available for win32 - GTK, Gkrellm and a number of others can be found on Bill's Software Site

The default skin/theme is very ugly - sexier ones can be found at I use Spiff-E. The win32 version stores themes in "Documents and Settings"\Username\.gkrellm2\themes

My prior solution for M$ was messy - having multiple monitors on the desktop to see what I needed:
fkware Sysmon - was my fave tool for keeping an eye on RAM, CPU, hard disks, swap and uptime.

DU Meter is also handy for keeping an eye on network activity including dialup.

Other Cool Stuff:

Enable Virtual Desktop gives you the ability to expand the amount of windows you can flip between, similar to FVWM in Xwindows - you'll wanna turn the hot keys off tho.. they'll bug the daylights out of you if you're me.

HTMLBAR allows you to make your own explorer bars that pop out from the side in Internet Explorer by just adding the web address for the page you want to see in the bar.
Click here to download my backup - I've included a bat file that will install a bar without you needing to even work out the right syntax - just edit the bat file to include the right web page.

Ridge Technologies' Spinserver 1, 2 & 3U rack cases hold standard motherboards, and the slate black ones look nice.. shame that purple isn't a liiittle darker. They are manufactured and distributed in Australia, and have an office in Lilydale (Melbourne).

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