Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top Ten Tools for IT

People always tend to grow attached to their tools in life. Whether it is your favorite hammer, pencil or brand of tooth brush, everybody has their tool they personally grow close to. In the I.T. world, I grow more fond of the tools I use because they make my life all around easier. From system maintenance to enterprise communications to that tool you never knew you needed, here are the tools I use and love to use.

I will also mark which OS each tool is required on (or if it OS-independent)

1) RDTabs - (Windows) - This tool is just great. If you work on a Windows workstation and you need to remotely connect to other Windows computers (using the RDP protocol), this tool is a must. It is what the name implies - think of Firefox but for remote desktop. You have tabs across the top for each machine you are connected to, and the size of the window determines the resolution of the computer you will connect to. You can also save each connection as a favorite, leaving you the nice and easy task of connecting to a remote computer with a single click. It will notify you of an update and it also has a screen preview function to let you see all the active connections in one screen (like the Mac Expose feature).

2) CCleaner - (Windows) - This tool is the greatest. It's full name is Crap Cleaner, but that is not politically correct, so CCleaner it is. It will remove all of your temporary files from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Office, etc, and also scan and clean your registry when you want as well. This is just a cool toy.

3) Pidgin - (OS-Independent, Open-Source) - Tired of ads in AIM or Windows Live Messenger? Consolidate into one handy application - Pidgin. This app allows you to connect to AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google, Myspace, and so many other chat platforms in one application. This program is light-weight, fast and easy to use. Get it while it's hot.

4) Amarok - ("OS-Independent", Open-Source) - Originally developed and released for KDE in Linux, this powerful, flexible, attractive application can now be run on any operating system (yes, it will run in Windows and Mac - note that it is not officially supported outside of Linux).

5) Spiceworks - (Windows) - For any company out there looking for a great informational tool, this application is a must. This tool is designed to be installed on a Windows server and will periodically scan the company (or home) network and report in lots of great information about each PC discovered. It also can pick up VOIP phones, printers, routers, and other great stuff. It will notify you if your printer ink is low, or if your antivirus is not up to date. It's a great tool, but it doesn't replace your IT department. So don't cut out the guys that spend every day learning this stuff.

6) VMWare Server - (Windows, Linux, Open-Source) - I have Ubuntu AMD64 installed on my work laptop. I need Windows, but I don't want to restart. What do I do? I install Windows inside of Linux using VMWare. I can run Windows as if it was another application (but don't use it for gaming). Virtualizing on a computer is already the greatest thing to do now, but it also makes sense to if you need to use Windows, Linux, or a Mac all at the same time, on the same computer (granted, you'll need some more powerful hardware). While I am working, I start up into Ubuntu, and whenever I need to, I launch Windows Vista from VMWare, inside of Ubuntu. I also have virtualized Windows 7 Beta 64-bit, and it runs flawlessly, and faster than Windows Vista. I highly recommend this tool for any computer nerd. It's just great, and fun. You'll have more stuff to play with than you know what to do.

7) Ubuntu - (Linux, Open-Source) - Let me correct myself. Ubuntu is Linux. Ubuntu is not just a tool, it is not just an operating system, it is the very thing that saved my laptop from being a nuissance. Ubuntu is a community of other people, it is fun, it is a pioneer, it is the best. Did I mention it is free? I'm not sure how free and open source software can remain free and still keep on being developed and mastered, but it is. I've been following and toying around with Ubuntu since it's version 5 days. It has greatly been making improvements by leaps and bounds. It has been becoming easier and easier to use, and the easier it is, the more people will use it. The more people use it, the better and better it becomes. Ubuntu is on an upward spiral to success if it keeps doing what it is doing. Ubuntu is a living, breathing animal, and you can watch it mature over time into a better and better OS. If you have a problem with some hardware, submit the bug into Launchpad (http://launchpad.net), and people will be quick to respond and create the software fix for some hardware that should be working, but just wasn't. Forget about drivers - they are all (almost) installed already. Plug in your printer, camera, mouse and keyboard, portable music player, webcam, and whatever else, and it will just work (99 times out of 100). Ubuntu is just great. If you don't have it, you need it. Don't get rid of Windows or OSx, just virtualize it.

8) VNC - (OS-Independent) VNC is a protocol similar to RDP (the remote desktop protocol that Microsoft developed). I am saying VNC here because it reaches out to a broad spectrum of tools and doo-dads like PushVNC (Windows) and UltraVNC.

9) PSTools - (Windows) - For any Windows network administrator, these tools are a must. I don't know why they don't come pre-packaged with every Windows Server OS now, because these tools are almost essential for any network admin. This is a collection of powerful tools for use from the command line. My favorite tool is psexec, which gives the ability to run commands on another windows computer. You need to know the user name and password if you are not doing this as the domain administrator. You can also issue commands to all the computers on your network by simply using \\*, allowing you to restart all the computers at once, without having to get up, or to run "gpupdate /force" for the times users need a new group policy setting to take effect immediatly. You can even run the "cmd" command and access their command prompt to issue whatever commands you desire. This tool is great to issue scheduled commands in a batch script from a server to all workstations on the network, all at the same time. These tools are a must. Get them now.

10) Still Searching...