Five great Windows open source tools

The union of open source software into the Windows market is becoming ever more commonplace. So I've compiled another, albiet short list, of some of my latest favorites. All of these are great products for the IT pro that rival their commercial counterparts and come with that loveable, open-source price. (Click on the product in table to jump directly to the product's review.)

If you must know, right now, without clicking on page 3, we'll name the Honorable Mentions now (drum roll, please): Firefox, OpenOffice.org 3, Thunderbird, MySQL, phpMyAdmin, ClamAV and SugarCRM.


Zenoss Core

Zenoss

ZenPacks from the community website to extend the features and functionality or Zenoss Core. Download Zenoss Core from the website

IT pros need to monitor their networks and applications but it can be a costly endeavor. There are lots of alternatives to the commercial packages on the market and I blog about them frequently. Even still, Zenoss Core is a project that not only caught my attention but seems to be one of the darlings of the entire open source software (OSS) community. Sourceforge.net gives it a sixth place overall ranking and with good reason. Zenoss Core is an easy to manage, easy to read monitoring tool with lots of features. I downloaded the VMware file, powered it on and was ready to go in no time. The dashboard style was easy to learn and the core product handles most of what you need to monitor. But wait, there's more! You can download


VirtuaWin

VirtuaWin

here and check out the modules as well.

Multiple monitors are great for extending the “real estate” you have to work with on your desktop. Sometimes you need to go beyond having more space. Sometimes you need to separate your workspaces according to functionality. If you have ever been the project manager, help desk, network administrator, Exchange admin, etc., VirtuaWin is the perfect tool to help you out. Rather than have many different windows on a single desktop, VirtuaWin allows you to create many virtual desktops that can be customized and setup according to functionality. I like knowing I am working in defined workspaces. VirtuaWin also offers numerous modules and is highly customizable. If you wear many hats or if you just need to get your desktop more organized, VirtuaWin is great solution for you. Download the program

Bochs (pronounced “BOX”)

Bochs

website

Legacy software, testing and incompatible file formats are all scenarios where you need to keep another system around. While virtualization has made it simple to toss out that old Windows NT 4 machine and run the application without the extra hardware, Bochs offers another alternative. Bochs uses emulation to create systems that are not only portable but capable of running any OS within any OS. Run Linux on a Windows Vista machine and then move that image to Mac OSX without needing to do anything to the image file itself. The latest infusion of cross platform computing has made file compatibility a bit easier to deal with, however many applications still need file conversion utilities to work. And many times these are only one-way conversions. That means transferring the data back to the original format and that can be difficult if not impossible. With Bochs you could simply load the file into its native file format and work on it without needing to convert something in order to make the file reusable. Bochs is lightweight and easy to configure and run. The images pull little in the way of resources on the host machines. I also enjoyed the idea of keeping a bunch of emulated legacy systems around. Who knows, perhaps I can break out some of my old DOS and Windows 95 games again? It could be fun to run them on my Vista machine. You can download Bochs and several image files from their


Recuva

Recuva

(Nothing is lost forever and Nothing is lost forever part II). Recuva is an open source iteration of recovery software. What I enjoyed about this software package is that it did everything the commercial packages did, had an easy to use GUI interface and it cost nothing. Recuva however offers just about all of the functionality of the commercial brands without the hefty cost. To me that makes Recuva a no-brainer. To management, it will make you a resourceful team player. To the executive who loses that critical file (the picture of his kids), it will make you a hero. You can download Recuva here. And while you are at it, with the money you save, donate something to support this project and keep it around.

Backup and disaster recovery are essential in every IT environment but can only take care of the files that are backed up. Most times, users systems are not part of the backup/DR plan, so what action can you take? Undelete and recovery tools are nothing new and there are many solutions. I have even blogged about a few commercial packages in the past


PINs

PINs

PINs here.

Remembering passwords of your user account, admin account, Exchange admin account. personal computers, online banking, LinkedIn profile, job sites, and any other source of password can be tedious and painful. I don’t know about anyone else but as an IT professional I have enough things on my plate already. PINs is a secure password manager that not only makes it easier to keep track of them all, it reminds you when passwords have expired, creates password for you and can even paste the username and password into the app for you – in over 25 languages. PINs uses 448-bit encryption to secure your data. The setup is very easy as well. Now that you know about PINs, isn't it time for you to generate a new password for some of those important online accounts (Gmail?) that haven't been changed in months? Download

Honorable Mentions

open source legends

I'm including this category because every time I write about open source Windows tools, I invariably get comments and e-mails asking how I could possibly have overlooked the following highly popular tools. I haven't overlooked them, I just prefer to blog about Windows open source projects that are not sitting in the bull's-eye of the collective radar. But, since no list is complete without mentioning these Windows OSS projects here we go …

FirefoxThe granddaddy (grandfox?) of all Windows OSS projects. Firefox has become the standard on which Internet browsers are judged. And while Internet Explorer 8 hopes to catch up, Firefox may be too far ahead in the game. OpenOffice.org 3For years the MS Office price tag has been a hard pill to swallow for many organizations. But business being what it is, many had no choice, until Open Office that is, the latest version of which includes support for Office 2007 files. Compare its price – free—to the retail cost of $379 for Office 2007 professional. Need I say more? ThunderbirdMany would agree that Outlook Express or Windows Mail is not an effective replacement for Microsoft Outlook as an e-mail client. If you were to go with OpenOffice.org 3 then Thunderbird would be a good companion. Thunderbird comes with a host of features like message tagging, advanced search options and even the ability to save searches, all of which makes it a viable replacement for Outlook. MySQLI am a big fan of Microsoft SQL Server but have many times been working on projects where I thought to myself that I had no need for all that power. SQL Server Express editions have left much to be desired in the area of managing those databases. MySQL is a popular alternative and it has gained a large following in the OSS community. Not surprisingly it has been gaining ground in the Windows world as well. phpMyAdmin If you are going to have MySQL, then you should have phpMyAdmin to administer your databases over the web. The project has numerous themes and allows you to control all the features that MySQL has to offer making this a popular management tool. ClamAVAnti Virus protection is in a lot of ways a double edged sword. On the one side it is absolutely needed to keep your system and data safe. On the other many AV applications are extremely bloated and slow your system down. ClamAV is a great solution for providing necessary safety without all the resource overhead and there is no upgrade costs to continue to get new virus patterns…need I say more? SugarCRM Is a full CRM solution that has grown in popularity over the years. The community edition offers the ability to track leads, create marketing campaigns, share calendars and manage accounts. You can even use SugarCRM as an email client or project management tool. Commercial solutions cost tens of thousands of dollars to deploy; the community edition of Sugar CRM gives you the most essential CRM tools without the cost.

I believe we are heading to a world where OSS with converge with proprietary software. In the meantime, please stay tuned to my blog as I continue to hunt down, and test, interesting fully open source projects for Windows that can help enjoy A Better Windows World.

Like this? Check out my other lists of tools:

20 great Windows open source projects you should get to know

12 cool cross-platform tools for Windows, Macs and Linux

Library of Tools reviewed in A Better Windows World

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