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Working Hard So You Don’t Have To

Beneath the veneer of a cantankerous systems administrator, I like to help folks out from time to time. Behold the following tips gathered from the Internets that just might help you.

  • Speeding up PDF Reading
  • Open Source Alternative to Outlook
    • Know people who love Outlook but are too cheap to pay for Microsoft Office? There are two options if all they are looking to do is retrieve email. For those folks who need email access, tell them to use Mozilla Thunderbird. For those folks who need access to an Exchange Server and are accustomed to Outlook, go download Evolution for Win32. Evolution is an Outlook-clone that is popular on Linux distributions, and I can say it works fairly well for connecting to an Exchange Server. Now, you can get the same functionality without paying for Outlook/MS Office licenses.
    • Partition Tool for NTFS Volumes
      • If you have ever had to resize a C:\ drive that was too small on your Windows XP, your only alternative would be to buy PartitionMagic. If you have ever had this problem on Windows Server 2003, your only alternative would be to backup the server, repartition the storage, and rebuild and restore the server. Courtesy of Vlad Mazek comes Gparted. Now you can use an open source tool to resize your NTFS partitions on your servers without having to rebuild or buy some expensive piece of software.
      • Password Management
        • Having to maintain all of your passwords is such a chore. You have passwords for your email, network login, wireless network, online banking, online bill payment, your blog, and other websites, and the Post-It note on your monitor or beneath your keyboard is running out of room to put all these passwords on it. My mentor and old boss mentioned to me a free open-source alternative to managing your passwords, KeePass Password Safe. KeePass maintains your passwords in an encrypted database, and the database only requires a master password or the use of a keydisk to open the file. You can even use both methods to secure access to the database. You could even tote both the database and keyfile on a USB key and take it with you. As long as KeePass is installed, you could have access to your passwords and be safe in the knowledge that the data is encrypted. KeePass also includes a password generator if you need to generate secure passwords. Personally, I am using it to maintain some of the security information I need to maintain at my office, but I have been thinking of using it personally on my home machine. This is certainly a lot more secure than the Post-It note I know you are using. 😉

          After this brief interlude, I must return to hacking a database and buying some well-needed tools for the office.


          1. Thanks for the heads up on Foxit Reader – I’ve been more and more irritated with Adobe Reader for some time now. Loading Adobe Acrobat is fine when I want to MAKE a pdf, but just reading one seems to take forever. Foxit is fantastic.

          2. I like the easier way to create a PDF cheaply: PDFCreator. As for Foxit, it is quite nice. Quick, easy, and reading a PDF in no time whatsoever.

          3. Call me silly, why go load an outlook clone when the Exchange CAL, which you HAVE TO BUY to legally use Exchange, gives you the right to use Outlook?

          4. Re: Password Management with Keepass, I agree that it is 1000 times better than a sticky note; however, it doesn’t go far enough IMO.

            I much prefer a Password Manager that integrates directly with the browser, like RoboForm for Windows or 1Passwd for Mac OS X. I spend most my day browsing the net and I couldn’t live without these tools.

            Both these tools go well beyond KeyPass’ features, see the 1Passwd Mac OS X Password Manager and Roboform Form Filler homepages for more details.

            One thing I do love about KeePass, however, is that it has an open source implementation of the encryption algorithm. Sadly RoboForm uses its own proprietary solution. 1Passwd, otoh, uses the standard OS X keychain so you can rest assured that a whole team of Apple engineers have made it robust and secure.

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