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What Linux admins are thankful for

Nov 21, 20053 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Tools that are not turkeys

With Thanksgiving upon us, let’s look at some of the open source tools and applications for which Linux pros are most thankful.

The following rundown is based on various surveys I’ve come across, reader responses to this newsletter, and conversations overheard in computer rooms, network closets, and in front of the candy machine:


The king of open source databases, readers have told me over and over how valuable this platform is for building Web-enabled databases, back-end databases for corporate applications, and as a test database environment for software development.


For managing all those MySQL databases, users apparently love this free open source tool. Written in PHP, this decade-old program lets users administer MySQL databases remotely over the Web. It’s one of the top downloads among IT-focused open source software tools on And many of the same newsletter readers who have expressed their affinity for MySQL have written saying this tool is almost as critical to them as the database itself.

CrossOver Plugin

Fast becoming a standard on many commercial Linux desktops, this tool – made by CodeWeavers – allows Microsoft applications to run as native applications. Built on WINE, the well-known Windows emulator for Unix (oh, sorry: WINE Is Not an Emulator!), the CrossOver Plugin family includes versions for Microsoft Office and Outlook, allowing users to keep running these often-mandatory corporate applications in a more secure Linux environment. 

Mozilla Firefox

The most popular open source browser with Linux users, (and second only to Internet Explorer overall), Firefox doesn’t need much of an introduction. Tabbed browsing, enhanced security, and hacker-friendly plug-in architecture have helped contribute to over 100 million downloads and 7% of the browser market.


This protocol analysis tool is used to troubleshoot networks by capturing mirrored streams of network traffic, digging into the network transport layer – ATM, Ethernet, FDDI, PPP, Token ring and 802.11 wireless among them – and analyzing the behavior of more than 724 protocols, from TCP to DEC DNA and MPLS. This is the favorite tool among many of Network World’s test experts, too.

Apache Toolbox

Apache Web server is legendary, but every try to compile it? Users swear by this tool, which allows Apache source to be easily compiled with a variety of add-ons and features, such as SSL, MySQL, IPv6, Java, OpenLDAP, and other open software. Not having to download the honkin’ 80M-byte Apache tar ball, the menu-based interface and error-checking features are reasons for this tool’s popularity.

Of course this does not scratch the surface by a millimeter in terms of what open source and Linux IT tools are out there. I’m always interested to hear what people are using and why.