24 Great Open Source Apps for Admins & Technicians
If you're in the same boat as me, hopefully you're already utilizing some open source options. If not, I've put together this list of two dozen great applications that I can depend on to keep things running smoothly on my office LAN and customer systems as well.
Some of these you'll recognize, but I hope that there are some that are new to you as well.
- PING - I may be beating a dead horse here with my love of PING, but it's just a great piece of open source. Drive imaging with network and spanning support, password blanking, it's just an excellent app.
- NTRegEdit - The Windows Registry editor hasn't seen many changes over the years. NTRegEdit offers some great additional features like recursive export, color coding, improved searching, and quick edit window below the values list.
- Safarp - A portable alternative to appwiz.cpl (add/remove programs), it provides a few extra useful features - like silent uninstalls and repairs of Windows Installer-based apps. It also opens in a flash, unlike the clunky appwiz.
- WPKG - Maintaining software installs on computers in a small business environment can be a little frustrating sometimes. WPKG gives you push/pull installs and it can run as a service, so silent installs run transparently with no user ineteraction.
- ClamWin - Open source antivirus that does damn near everything the "big boys" do: automatic updates, scheduled scans, email scanning. There's no realtime shield, but coupling it with the next app in the list lets ClamWin do that, too.
- Winpooch - Originally designed to detect activity from trojans and other spyware, Winpooch monitors program activity on your system and gives you greater control over them (like preventing an .exe from connecting to the net or writing to a system folder).
- Xpy - These two offer fast ways to tweak XP or Vista by turning off unwanted services and features.
- WCD - Its stands for Wherever Change Directory, and it's a real timesaver for anyone that works with the Windows command prompt. All it needs is part of a directory name to change to it (wcd username to get to a user's home folder).
- Angry IP Scanner - If I'm asked to inventory a location, I usually start with Angry IP. It quickly builds a list of all live hosts on a network and makes it easy to locate the addresses for devices like Wireless APs, print servers, and the like.
- Startup Manager - MSconfig's startup control pane doesn't have a lot of functionality. Startup Manager is an excellent replacement, and it's available in a portable version as well.
- JKDefrag - Anything that automates system maintenance is worth a look, in my opinion. JKDefrag's screensaver installer puts your users' idle desktops to work for you, defragmenting whenever the .SCR kicks in.
- WinDirStat - Need to locate spacehogs on a user's hard drive? Fire up WinDirStat and let it go to work and it'll build a detailed (if not visually distracting) report of where drive space is being allocated.
- DeltaCopy - A fast incremental backup tool based on rsync. It supports scheduled backups and email notifications, and syncs client machines to virtual directories on a central server. I back up our point of sale history with this app - because a full copy of 1.2gb doesn't make sense when only a few hundred kilobytes have changed in the last business day.
Both the client and server apps are included in the 6.3mb download.
- InstantVNC - Run these two together and you've got a free (albeit visibly slower) version of TeamViewer. Make sure you (or your client) enters a password when launching InstantVNC, or anyone viewing the list of clients with Echo could, theoretically, take control of the machine.
- Putty - A fantastic portable SSH and telnet client. What else can you say about Putty?
- InfraRecorder - I don't necessarily want burning software installed on all my client desktops, but I need it from time to time to do a quick backup. Since InfraRecorder is portable, I can run it from my flash drive or a network share.
- 7-Zip - I know 7-Zip doesn't have the prettiest GUI, but I rarely use it from anywhere but the context menu. It works like a champ and handles all the archive types I deal with on a daily basis.
- FreeOTFE - If you have any sensitive data on your network, you may want to have a look at Free On The Fly Encryption. It sports an easy-to-use interface that allows the creation of virtual encrypted drives. There's also a PDA version available to protect mobile data.
- QLiner Hotkeys - I love my hotkeys, and I miss them when I'm working on someone else's system. QLiner is portable, so I can just fire it up on an unfamiliar rig and access them without missing a beat. Add in the Zip tool to archive files with a single keypress.
- HealthMonitor - Keep tabs on your servers (or workstations) and get email or SMS alerts when trouble's afoot. It'll monitor everything from ram and drive space to services and event logs.
- Memtest - The tool I rely on to troubleshoot RAM issues. I've never run a Memtest and had it miss a faulty module. If the test does't launch or if the screen goes red, I know it's found the problem.
- DBAN - Darik's Boot and Nuke is a nice tool to keep handy if you donate old hardware. It's available as a floppy, USB, or CD image, and will locate and securely wipe the contents of just about any hard drive. It's even certified by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.