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Everyday Free Tools – Tech Stuff

Each and every day I use a set of tools, mostly free or open source ones that help me get through the day. I though I would list of a few of them for you so that you can give them a shot as well.

Home Computer

I have a Panasonic Toughbook laptop running Ubuntu 7.04 that I really haven’t modified too awful much because I like the look and feel of the OS as it is. Here’s a list of things that I use everyday or every so often to accomplish a task without spending any money.

Operating SystemUbuntu 7.04 – Stable, clean, easy to install, based on GNOME and very well supported by the community. I would say that the forums for Ubuntu are better than most and for some reason, the users of Ubuntu are much nicer than that of Red Hat and others. attached to my Gmail account (I do my own hosting)

Firewall pfSense – I mentioned this a few post’s ago. I absolutely love this firewall.

Document ManagementGoogle Doc’s and Spreadsheets – This one is really neat, you can upload your Microsoft Office Word and Excel files as well as OpenOffice equivalent documents up to Google, edit them, and even save off as PDF documents if need be. – This site has been around for a little while now, It allows you to basically make your own radio station, and it dynamically learns what music you want to listen to. A side spawn of this project is Squeezebox which allows you to turn your music library into a radio station with streaming music.

Chat – Gaim – It’s easy to use, installed by default on Ubuntu, and supports multiple accounts. On Linux and Windows you can use Pidgin and for Mac OS X you can use Adium.

VoIPTwinkle – So far this is the best SIP capable client for Linux I have found. You can installed it through apt-get or Synaptic on Ubuntu or download it here. On Windows and Mac OS X I use X-Lite from CounterPath. I would say X-Lite is the best of the two but the Linux version sucks in my opinion.

PBXtrixbox – I just started using this because I’m trying to get my company or rather the company I work for into a new market so that we can make some more money as a company which personally helps me through profit sharing. Though, if I didn’t get that last bit, I would still peruse doing phone VoIP systems because I think they are interesting. I have it installed on an old PIII 500 with 256Mb of ram and it suits the needs of my wife an I just fine. A larger scale deployment would need a better server though.

EmailGmail and Evolution – I just started using Evolution about a month ago because Outlook Web Access on Microsoft Exchange 2003 sucks when viewed from Firefox. Damn Microsoft. 🙂 Kidding. Evolution seemed to be a logical choice for me because well, it was already installed on my computer and quite frankly I needed a way to check my mail. Sounds like a match made in heaven. Gmail, as you all probably know, is free and has cool features like web sharable calendars, documents and photos. You will probably see a trend here for me liking everything Google.

I think that’s enough for now. I’ll make a part 2 to this one pretty soon with quite a few more added programs and services that I use everyday for free. Compute free or die.


pfSense – The Ultimate Free Firewall

pfSense LogoIf any one is looking for an alternative firewall for their home, office, small / medium sized business or enterprise, I may have something in store for you. I have been using pfSense, a BSD based firewall at home for about a year and a half. Well, I was using M0n0wall for about 6 months of that but pfSense is based on M0n0wall so maybe I didn’t lie. Oh well. You can check it out at .

Please take some time to mull over all the features that the BSD based firewall offers for FREE. Unlike a Cisco or Fortigate, you don’t have to pay for the extras that actually make the thing functional. This is one of the best open source firewall solutions on the marked, the best in my opinion but well, thats my opinion. Take a look for yourself. The website has some tutorials of how to set things up and get you going however, any computer savy home user could set this up without too much fuss.

The firewall, hardware wise doesn’t require much of a system to run. I would recommend a PIII 500Mhz with 256Mb of memory and 2 NICs to get started. The server/firewall can actually boot and run from the bootable CD, then store it’s configuration on a floppy if you wish, however, some of the cool additional features can not be installed to make this thing really bad ass. Just install it to a hard disk, something small like a 6Gb drive or something. Could also be installed on a solid state disk if you have the time and money. Anywho, once you get the hardware, pop in the CD and floppy and get the thing to a basic config, you will have to tell it which interface is which NIC. So the outside interface goes to NIC fx0 and the inside interface goes to fx1 or something. You’ll figure it out. After you have an IP address on the box you can web into it and configure the rest from there. A few features that are worth mentioning would be:

Failover/Load Balancing
Statefull Packet Filtering
QoS / Traffic Shaping
Captive Portal
Wireless LAN Support
Free Radius
IPSec Tunnel Support
OpenVPN Support
Traffic Graphing with RRD Graphs
Real Time Graphing
and many more…

Please, Please, Please take a look at this package and give it a try. I know pretty much everybody has an extra computer laying around that they could put this on. If not, let me know and I’ll try to source you one. At work, a colleague of mine and I are working to get these into the production network and possibly offer it as a line of service for out clients. More on what I do and this project later. Enjoy.