Saturday, February 02, 2008

New and Improved: Software Roundup - Grab a Plate!

Boy-howdy.

I've been swamped at work on my new project.  I'm regularly putting in 12-hour days now as well as doing fill-in work at home on the weekends...just to get it all done.

That has been leaving me scant time for blog-posts. (The Valca girls expect some "Dad/Husband" time as well, not to mention the daily chores, cooking, and real-world things that still need to be addressed.)

Whew!

Nevertheless, I still try to log on and sort through my 100 or so odd RSS feeds daily.

In this regard, I have been building up a good collection of new and improved (freeware) software finds, but haven't been able to post.

Until now.

The buffet is open, gorge to your hard-drive's content!

NirSoft Nuggets of Note

Where would we be without Nir Sofer?

OpenWithView - (freeware) - "...a small utility that displays the list of all available applications in the 'Open With' dialog-box of Windows, and allows you to easily disable/enable the applications in the list. When application is disabled, it won't be displayed in the 'Other Programs' section of the 'Open With' dialog-box. This utility can be useful if your 'Open With' window displays too much applications, and you want to remove the applications that you don't use frequently."

I really like this one in that you can "disable" the items you don't want to see, but later go back and re-enable them if you make a mistake or find you need something later.  Supports XP, 2003 Server, and Vista.  No installation needed; unzip and use.

CurrPorts - (freeware) - Updated version 1.32 - "...displays the list of all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports on your local computer. For each port in the list, information about the process that opened the port is also displayed, including the process name, full path of the process, version information of the process (product name, file description, and so on), the time that the process was created, and the user that created it. In addition, CurrPorts allows you to close unwanted TCP connections, kill the process that opened the ports, and save the TCP/UDP ports information to HTML file , XML file, or to tab-delimited text file. CurrPorts also automatically mark with pink color suspicious TCP/UDP ports owned by unidentified applications (Applications without version information and icons)."

Supports XP, 2003 Server, and Vista.  No installation needed; unzip and use.

This new version allows you to start the application as "hidden" as well as being able to copy the remote IP address.  Related freeware tools:  VStat by Robin Keir and TCPView from Microsoft Sysinternals.

USBDeview - (freeware) - Updated version 1.15 - "...USBDeview is a small utility that lists all USB devices that currently connected to your computer, as well as all USB devices that you previously used.  For each USB device, extended information is displayed: Device name/description, device type, serial number (for mass storage devices), the date/time that device was added, VendorID, ProductID, and more... USBDeview also allows you to uninstall USB devices that you previously used, and disconnect USB devices that are currently connected to your computer."

Supports XP, 2003 Server, and Vista.  No installation needed; unzip and use.

This new version update allows you to enable/disable USB devices.  Handy if you are a sysadmin and don't use Active Directory, but want to lock down a user's use of an unauthorized USB device they keep attaching to their system.  Also helpful, it records and displays the serial number (if available) of the USB device being attached.  Neat if you have to go back and prove it was the user doing it.

Net Tools 2008 - Pure Red Meat

Back when I was a kid and buffet style dining seemed new, I noticed that while customers were allowed to plate up all the salad, veggies, and desserts they wished, there was always the restaurant employee stuck with carving up the roast-beef and doling out the tiny portions.

Mohammad Ahmadi Bidakhvidi has really decided that model for software isn't a good thing.  He has placed the roast-beef out for all to serve-up to their heart's content.

Net Tools - 2008 - (freeware) - Requires .NET.  This utility contains over 175 network and system utilities all rolled up into one.  It bundles network scanning, security, file tools, system tools, and administrator tools.  Configure to your heart's content.

Must be installed on your system...so it's not really "portable" but it has so many useful tools, I can't imagine not using it.

See the link for the full list of included tools.  Below is just an "au-jou" sample of the tools that caught my eye to wet your appetite:

IP Address Scanner, IP Converter, Port Scanner, Trace Route (2 ways), Connection Analysator and protector, Spoofer, Mass Website Visiter, Trojan Hunter (Multi IP), Simple Anonymous E-mailer, E-mail Spoofer, File Dependency Sniffer, Encrypter,  File Difference Engine, Mass File Renamer, Password Unmasker, Web Server Scanner, Advanced Packet Sniffer, Bandwidth Monitor, API Spy, Advanced System Information, CPU Monitor, Widows Startup Manager, Process Checker, Connection Manager / Monitor, Force Application Termination (against Viruses and Spyware), Easy and Fast Screenshot Maker (also Web Hex Color Picker), Create Virtual Drives, Sniffer.NET, File Shredder, Steganographer (Art of hiding secret data in pictures), Subnet Calculator, Get Remote MAC Address, Cookies Analyser, Packet Generator, Secure File Splitting, Hide Drive, Software Uninstaller, Tweak & Clean XP, FreeMAC (MAC Address Editor), Network Protocol Analyzer, GeoLocate IP, Remote LAN PC Lister, Network Traffic Analysis, Network Traffic Visualiser, Advanced System Hardware Info, Live System Information, Network Profiler.

Spybot Search and Destroy - 1.5.2

The macaroni-and cheese of anti-malware products.  Tastes good and is comfort food.

Spybot-S&D 1.5.2 - (freeware) - I've been working with the Spybot betas for this release for some time and found they take care of a number of nagging issues (slow launch times, problems with Firefox support, etc.).  So it is with great pleasure I saw that version 1.5.2 of Spybot was released this past week in final-form.

Go load it up!

See the change list for the full list of goodies. But here are some highlights:

System support

    * Fixed HyperThreading issues
    * Improved 64 bit immunization
    * Create Portable.ini in main folder to use app folder as data folder as well
    * Support for multi-line bookmarks (IE 7 / Vista)
    * New Immunization for Firefox & Mozilla
    * Improved Immunization for Opera

Misc

    * Updater now in separate executable file
    * Improved disabling/enabling BHOs
    * New special error reporting for beta versions
    * Fixed update-related crashes on Vista
    * Fixed memory leaks (replaced Indy with Synapse)
    * Vista-compatible MSI installer for those who like/need that    

Detection and removal of threats

    * Improved PE detection all over the place
     * Improved file removal methods
     * Added support for renaming services before stopping/killing/deleting them
     * Much improved logic connections between files, registry and API detections
    * File version checking
    * Improved archives checking
     * Improved Sys Internals file location algo
    * Improved hosts file location algo

User interface changes

    * Improved localization of list of updates
    * Added Firefox icon on Cookie exclude page
    * Fixed cookie removal selection problems
    * New confirmation dialog for system restore points
    * Process list now is a bit less eager on tooltips
    * Improved "delay start" dialogs
    * Now displays checksum for each result for better trackback of results
    * Fixed "Ignore Products" column width problems on Vista
    * Improved SDHelper dialogs and block/allow choices

AVG 8 - Public Beta Available

Grisoft, makers of my favorite free anti-virus solution, Grisoft AVG Free, are working on a major update to their a/v product.  Public beta for AVG 8 - heise Security

The interface is much more polished and professional looking now.  I am finding navigation to be much more intuitive than in the current version 7.

You can download and install it from a number of sources.

The "official" download from AGV is here.  It requires registration (easy) as a beta-tester.  I went ahead and did so.  Unlike most beta-sites, Grisoft allows its registered beta testers to take well-designed surveys to provide testing and usage feedback.  So you really can play an active role in providing feedback on beta products.  Some other software makers offer beta-versions but make it difficult for feedback.  Kinda like they want to create "buzz" on a tool, but don't really want to hear what you have to say.

If you just want to get going with the product and pass up all this beta-registration stuff, I would recommend getting the file from FileForum | AVG Anti-Virus Professional 8.0.52a1239 Beta as your source.  The download is much faster and no registration is required.

Note:  This version is the "suite" package and includes anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, a firewall product, anti-rootkit, email scanner, a web-shield and a resident-shield protection.  Install on your "live" production system knowing you will have to remove like features you may have already installed by other vendors or disable the ones in the beta version.

I just installed in in a Virtual PC session of XP for my testing.

ZIP IT!

File compression tools are like the salad at a buffet.  They seem to be a dime-a-dozen.  Everyone has one and while you can add all the "extras" you want, they seem all pretty much the same.

The other day, I noticed that a new version of 7-Zip (4.57) was released.  I really like 7-Zip as a file compression tool, but the interface is just really awkward to use.  No matter how hard I try, I keep making mistakes using it to create new archives.

So while poking around the site, I noticed a tiny box touting a new 7-Zip based utility: jZIP.

jZip - (freeware) - jZip combines all the power and flexibility of 7-Zip into a well designed and intuitive interface.  It is very easy to use and work with.  Fully free for home and enterprise users.  Supports Zip, TAR, GZip, and 7-Zip compression formats.  Can also unpack all the formats 7-Zip can handle: RAR, CAB, ISO, ARJ, LZH, CHM, MSI, WIM, Z, CPIO, RPM, DEB and NSIS.

PeaZip - (freeware) - I have also carried this utility on my USB stick for while.  Comes in both Windows and Linux versions. You can create archives in the following formats: 7Z, ARC, BZ2, GZ, PAQ/LPAQ, PEA, QUAD, TAR, UPX, ZIP; you can open the following formats: ACE, ARJ, CAB, DEB, ISO, LHA, RAR, RPM, and more...

Other freeware favorites of mine include:

  • ZipGenius.it - Why pay for WinZIP?  This is all you really need.  Integrates beautifully with the OS.
  • FreeCommander's built-in compression tool.  I use this 90% of the time.
  • Universal Extractor - Opens just about everything compressed.
  • TUGZip - Very nice and clean interface.
  • ALZip - Cute interface.  More "nooby-friendly"

Doug Knox - No Blox!

Doug Knox has a number of really clever and handy XP utilities on his website.

In looking through them all, I found his XP Security Console tool - (freeware/$).

This no-install utility allows you to make various changes and tweaks to your XP Home system. Many of them are security-permission related.  If you really need to drop-down and control end-user permissions on your XP Home system, this might be the tool you want.

The $ (registered) version allows for some additional features, as well as making changes across user accounts without having to log into the target account first to use the tool on it.  You can also set "disallowed applications" in the registered version.

WinPatrol 2007 - Now with extra seasoning!

WinPatrol 2007 - (free/$ versions) - I know a LOT of folks who really swear by the protections that WinPatrol provides in the battle against malware.  It can detect and manage auto-start programs, monitor BHO's and toolbars, monitor scheduled tasks, kill running tasks, monitor and control services, manage cookies, monitor browser home pages, edit the HOSTS file, detect changes to file associations, detect and view hidden files, selectively delay auto-start launchings.  Besides the utility functions, it works well as a heuristic monitor for attack monitoring and behavior monitoring on your pc.  Threats are found and alerts provided with clear descriptions.

I already have enough other malware-threat security layer applications on my system, so I don't personally use WinPatrol, but I have seen it in action and am very impressed and can highly recommend it.

I mention it here, because the developer, Bill Pytlovany, has just added a new feature to it; keylogging detection.  While present before, detection and removal has now been activated in the free version also.

Keyloggers attempt to intercept and record key-stokes. By doing so, a hacker can recover passwords, text, and other input a user might do, and get a frightening insight into your computer activity.

Many anti-malware and anti-virus programs also will detect and remove them, but it is nice to see that Bill has recognized the threat and warmly decided to include this feature into the free version of his stellar product.

bCheck's Apps

This is so tiny and specific a utility, I'm not sure it will appeal to most users.  But if you need to accomplish a very specific task, it's the ticket!

DevMgr - (freeware) - Download and run.  It allows you to make a shortcut to launch the "Properties" window of any device found in the Windows Device Manager.

So if you are constantly having to enable/disable a device or change the settings, this is a great way to make a direct shortcut, rather than navigating to it the long way.

NewsFox RSS Reader Add-on for Firefox

Yep.  I'm still touting the wonders of NewsFox for Firefox.

Reminds me of the yummy goodness of fresh-baked buffet rolls.

New tip:  If you dislike the pop-up window view that appears when you move your cursor over a feed in the list, just drop into about:config

Type "about:config" in the address bar and enter.

In the filter bar, type newsfox to filter the list.

Find the key newsfox.advanced.articleTooltip and set the value to "false".

Now you won't see the pop-up preview windows when you browse your list.

Also, I highly recommend you go and snag the latest beta version for NewsFox:

Firefox NEXT (0.8.4rc1) - This version seems much faster at feed discovery and incorporates many of the "hacks" I have mentioned directly into the GUI interface for options.  I've had some issues with directly clicking the link offered and installing the xpi file.  So I right-click the file, download (save) to my desktop, then drag it into my open "Add-ons" window in Firefox to install it.

Once installed, it works wonderfully.  I'm really pleased with this new version, even though it is beta.

SUMo - Buffet Management

SUMo - (freeware) - This tool allows you to quickly scan your system and see any of your applications (installed or not) have newer versions available.  While Secunia Personal Software Inspector RC-1 focuses only on products that have security vulnerabilities, this tool just focuses on newer versions.

It runs very fast and does a pretty good job of finding software on your system.

First download and "install" the program.  Next click the "Scan" button to scan your computer for the files it recognizes. Once done, click the "Check" to see which programs have newer versions.

It did a very good job on mine.

However, a few "gripes".  Many of the "newer" versions it offered ended up actually being "beta" versions.  I don't know the wisdom of offering "beta" versions for an update over a final stable release that is a lower version.  Kinda dangerous.

If it does find an update, the "Get Update" button looks helpful, however it only takes you to a website where you can do a search for the application, not to the direct software maker's page.  I found it easier to just Google for the programs listed needing an update.  That way I could tell if it was actually a beta product and go to the main program developer's page for the download.

Overall, however, it is a great little program.  Very handy. 

See also CyberNet's review of SUMo: Ultimate Software Update Monitor?

For alternative software update checkers, see this GSD post: Maintaining Application Updates.

Defraggler Beta - Updated

While I now find myself using JkDefragGui or Auslogic's Disk Defrag as my primary drive defragging tools, I like to keep many others around, just for kicks.

One of those is Defraggler - (freeware).

The latest beta version (v 1.01.050) now adds faster stopping of defrag progress on very large files, support for pausing and resuming defragging, fixes a bug for some special files showing up that shouldn't, the system drive is now selected by default, some user interface tweaks, and minor bug-fixes.

Worth checking out as it is a clean and nicely designed defragging product.

Vista Recovery Disk - Free ISO Download!

If you took the time to read my post Windows PE 2.0 Free For Everyone (Almost), you would have seen at the bottom some links and tips on how to create your own WinPE 2.0 Recovery Disk for Vista.

However, if you don't want to do the work, and are a Vista user, I highly recommend you download and burn (RIGHT NOW) this Vista Recovery Disk ISO file.

Windows Vista Recovery Disc Download — The NeoSmart Files

This disk allows you to boot a Vista system and get the Vista Installation disk wizard.

While handy, it actually has a built-in "recovery-center" to allow you to recover your tanked Vista system via "automatic recovery", rolling-back to a system restore point, do a full PC backup, or access the command-line recovery console.

It also has a memory testing function.

Since word on the street is that Vista SP1 may be coming out in final release this week (Feb 4th?), it might not hurt to have this handy, just in case!

New Google Search Views

Official Google Blog: Introducing new search views - Official Google Blog

Google has been experimenting with some additional search-result views.  You may or may-not find them useful.

New views are:

Map View: Results are posted with flags on a Google Map so you can quickly view the event location directly from your search results. Sample View: olympics

Timeline View: Results listed, with an accompanying timeline chart at the top.  You can drill down to a particular block of time to view just those results. Sample View: Apollo Program

Info View: Not as dramatic, but still helpful.  Results appear as in a standard Google search, but now you have refinement links on the side for Dates, Measurements, Locations, Images. Sample View: Last Exile

Regardless, worth checking out if you are a Google fan.

Jump to this link then click the "Join this experiment" button for the "Alternate views for search results.  It sets a cookie to enable the feature in your web-browser.

Full Yet?

Push away from the table....

--Claus

2 comments:

Miguel Reznicek said...

Hi Claus:

Beautiful blog, and very helpful. Please let me ask you a question:

I want to learn more about all the options available in programing a switch. The documentation doestn really tell you what each option does. Can you suggest a tutorial on this subject?

Also,

What tools should be miniumum installs on my Linux server if I am to control access and prevent user from wasting bandwidth?

Thanks amigo,

Migs

Miguel Reznicek
mreznicek@pretensa.com
www.intoku.net

Claus Valca said...

Miguel, Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you find this humble blog helpful.

Alas, my "expertise" is primarily in the realm of (Windows) desktop systems. I do configure Cisco switches, but it is always using a canned script provided to us by the network group. And my use of Linux is almost entirely limited to "Live-CD's" used to boot and recover "dead" Windows systems and my daughter's Linux desktop system.

I did a brief bit of Google searching and found these links for your questions. I don't know how useful they will be, but maybe they could be a good starting point for additional searches.

I assume that you already have a fair amount of knowledge and skill in programming. Most of the switch vendors do provide useful documentation on their CD's and on their websites. You didn't say what switch brand you were using, but I think most of the feature options in programming will be similar.

Hope something here might be usefull...sorry I couldn't be of more specific help to you!

Cheers!

Securing and Optimizing Linux RedHat Edition -A Hands on Guide

How-To: Web Server Optimization Guide

Network switch From Wikipedia

How LAN Switches Work

CCNA TechLab: Switch Configuration Basics

Basics of Cisco Switch Administration - Part 1

Basics of Cisco Switch Administration - Part 2

OpenNMS

Router and Switch Network Simulator Labs

How to program Cisco and 3Com switches

Cisco ConfigMaker V2.6 Application

Getting Started with Cisco ConfigMaker