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Microsoft Open Source Windows IT

Essential Open Source Tools For Windows Admins 226

snydeq writes "InfoWorld's J. Peter Bruzzese provides a list of 15 open source tools for enhancing your Windows server-side experience. 'You might imagine that the best place to go for improving your Microsoft server-side experience is to the mothership itself. In many cases, you would be right. But the truth is there are a meaningful number of open source tools that go above and beyond what Microsoft has to offer in support of Windows Server, Exchange, SQL, and SharePoint. Many of these alternatives provide — for free — more powerful capabilities than what you'd get with third-party retail products.'"
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Essential Open Source Tools For Windows Admins

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  • Easy (Score:4, Funny)

    by aglider ( 2435074 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @11:39AM (#37442710) Homepage


    • Yes! With one simple install you can make your whole infrastructure; the code your engineers spent so much time writing and maintaining; the third-party software you bought; your support contacts; in fact your whole business - stop.

      Highly recommended!

      (or was your comment a joke, in the not-funny sense?)

      • Yes! With one simple install you can make your whole infrastructure; the code your engineers spent so much time writing and maintaining; the third-party software you bought; your support contacts; in fact your whole business - stop.

        Highly recommended!(or was your comment a joke, in the not-funny sense?)

        Wait, is this the joke? That you think Linux is a joke? Maybe the engineers spend way too much writing and maintaining code in your company, and maybe Windows is the problem? Having bought expensive, broken third-party software is no reason to be a slave to it forever. Transitions take some work, which can pay off dramitcally from both a maintenance and cost perspective. There are alternatives that work, you know. But admitting that, and advocating something that you have no experience with or knowledge

  • #1 tool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @11:45AM (#37442820)

    Cygwin is the first thing every windows server needs installed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Stavr0 ( 35032 )

      Agree, but I prefer http://unxutils.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] -- less powerful but plays nicer with Windows native APIs

      • I created an MSI with all of those goodies and pushed it to every server and workstation.

      • by eht ( 8912 )

        Agreed, I gave up on Cygwin because it crashes too often for my taste and when it crashes in one Cygwin app, it crashes for all Cygwin apps at the same time, so that long script you have running in the background just hosed itself because you just wanted to run a quick little thing.

      • I have these installed to run from a usb drive. Even have a full activestate perl implementation working with zsh shebang and everything :-)

    • actually cygwin is quite useless on a server, it's only useful if you need to execute bash scripts and you don't really want to write bash scripts on linux either, better use something like python
      as for the article some of the tools seems quite "meh", they also put nmap two times since zenmap is included in the nmap installer for windows
      also they didn't mention managepc (http://managepc.net/) it can read pretty much any wmi info from other windows computers without the need to install any client
      • Oh yea, all those other goodies you can install are totally useless. You'd never want SSH on windows, or (just about anything else available on Linux).

        • PuTTY is a better SSH client, at least on Windows, than Cygwin's SSH.

          • I was talking about the server. PuTTY is a client (and a very good one I will agree)

          • by mickwd ( 196449 )

            Perhaps you should try Cygwin's mintty [google.com]

            From that page: "Mintty is based on code from PuTTY 0.60 by Simon Tatham and team. The program icon comes from KDE's Konsole. Mintty ties directly into Cygwin and leaves out PuTTY's networking functionality, which is provided by Cygwin's openssh and inetutils packages instead. A number of PuTTY issues have been addressed."

            They really should make it Cygwin's default terminal, if they haven't already.

    • Re:#1 tool (Score:4, Informative)

      by jsnipy ( 913480 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @12:28PM (#37443704) Journal
      needs more sysinternals
      • Seems that this post is referring to non-MS tools... since MS acquired Sysinternals, it goes to reason they wouldn't include it. A little post-article mention of Sysinternals and other very useful free/cheap tools from MS would have been appreciated (I.E. Windebug, SOS) if you're reading this, Mr. Bruzzese
    • Question:....why? I mean I can see it if you are a Linux admin just moonlighting on a WinServer as a favor or something, but if you are the administration full time on WinServer wouldn't it be smarter to stick with the native Powershell? What advantages does Cygwin give over Powershell? Do Cygwin scripts run natively across the network like Powershell scripts do?

      Having never used Cygwin I'm curious to see what advantage that you think it gives an admin over Powershell. Because it seems like with .NET bein

      • A lot of times it boils down to familiarity and convenience, especially in a place that has a mix of Unixy and Windows servers. I don't think Powershell is missing anything except the ability to run bash scripts.

    • Cygwin and its sshd. Being able to ssh into Windows boxes is essential.

      Cygwin is also just the thing if you're using Nagios - you can write bash scripts to use as plugins.

      • I don't see why being able to SSH into Windows machines is essential at all. If you're that obsessed with only having a command line, Windows comes with a perfectly tolerable Telnet server. But other than that, you have Remote Desktop, which is far superior. SSH is not needed.

  • I hate InfoWorld (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CarsonChittom ( 2025388 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @11:57AM (#37443080) Homepage

    Holy moly, but I hate InfoWorld. Without mentioning all the ads, or their apparent unrealization of the fact that browsers have scroll bars (though to be fair they're not the only ones), my biggest complaint is that never, not once have I read one of their articles and gotten what the headline promised. Isn't Zenmap just a GUI for nmap? Yet both of them are there. Is there a reason to prefer the third-party PowerGUI over the Microsoft Powershell ISE [microsoft.com] other than the former being open source? Maybe so, but you wouldn't know it from the article. Same with VirtualBox vs HyperV. Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.

    This is what passes for tech journalism?

    • clamwin antivirus is devastatingly inferior to microsoft security essentials. google "clamwin userinit.exe" to read about clamwin's false positives leaving computers inoperable back in 2009
      • by Amouth ( 879122 )

        while i am a fan of MS security essentials for end users - MS intentional prevent it from running on their server OS's. (and for good reason, it's not designed for that workload environment). so when it comes to free ClamAV is up there on the server side.

      • by b0bby ( 201198 )

        That's true, but MSE isn't licensed for/won't install on servers so it doesn't apply.

    • Haven't looked at HyperV in ages. I remember when it was trash. Every other virtualization tool available at the time was better suited to the job. Things change, though. Maybe HyperV is worth looking at again - but I tend to stick with what works for me. I'll stick with VirtualBox, and dabble with VMWare, thank you.

      • It may well still be trash. :)

        Actually, I have absolutely no idea how the relative merits of HyperV, VirtualBox, and VMWare fall out, because I don't use virtualization, and I've never needed to learn about them. But if I did need to know, I wouldn't've learnt it from the article. My point is just that if you're going to bill a list of things as "essential," you should actually say why it's essential (i.e., better than other solutions). I just think that'd be good journalism.

        But I guess "Some open source

  • Tools I agree with:

    Tools I disagree with:
    -UltraDefrag: Windows Vista and Windows 7 include built-in, very capable, automatic defragmentation tools

    Everything else is on a situational basis and depends largely on your environment. If you've got a massively virtualized system, Virtualbox is not necessary.
    • Can anybody give a brief summary of the differences between UltraDefrag, Defraggler, and the native defrag utility in Windows 7? The only difference I'm aware of is that the native utility only defragments entire drives, whereas the other two can defragment a single file or folder.

      • MyDefrag beats them all. Does sorting and other optimizations, and calls the built-in Windows defragmentation API to do the actual work. Scriptable as well.

      • http://blogs.msdn.com/b/e7/archive/2009/01/25/disk-defragmentation-background-and-engineering-the-windows-7-improvements.aspx

        While I don't have a summary on the other defrag tools, Microsoft has a very good write-up on defragmentation with Windows 7, I suggest it as a good read.
    • Something that Window's defrag tools never seem to do, is to defrag the metadata, and the swap file. I've found that the metafile defrag has been overhyped by some vendors, but that data can be fragmented all over the disk. It's nice to defrag it into only a few pieces, rather than hundreds. Performance does improve. The swap file? I can defrag that, manually, by deleting the swap file, reboot, then create a new, static swap file. I can't believe the number of people who allow Windows to manage that f

  • This list is fairly poor, but I just wanted to draw negative attention to UltraDefrag and all third party defrag programs. A lot of people use third party solutions but very few actually know why they are using them, except for claims like "they are better!" The truth is that defragging a hard drive is a fairly simple process that is hard to get wrong, you literally just re-organise chunks together into blocks. Windows Defrag gets it right, and to be honest you cannot improve on just getting it right, so wh
    • Probably because we have better things to do than to hit defrag whenever the fragmentation hits 15% or so and that the built in defrag can't defrag files that are in use at the time. A lot of the 3rd party utilties will allow you to have them run automatically every week or two so that you don't have to pay attention to that. Additionally, some of the 3rd party utilities use the same algorithms that the official defragger uses to accomplish the task.

      • Windows 7 and Vista automatically defragment without user interaction.

        Bonus points is the 7 defragmenter will disable itself on SSDs automatically as well.
        • They finally added that with 7? I'll have to look into that. I've only been using it for a couple months.

        • Only if you leave your computer on overnight on a Wednesday. Yet another reason to enforce an always-on power policy.
      • Depending on the size of your file system blocks.. if you use a server with Shadow Copy enabled, and run a defrag, you will lose all of your "previous versions" as it sees every file touched as an update, and basically overwrites the previous versions buffer. I think (but not sure) you need 16k clusters or bigger to prevent that. I run Defrag manually, only when really needed on my file servers, because otherwise users can't retrieve backups themselves, and I have to get them from tape.. (ie, I do it after

        • by Amouth ( 879122 )

          you are correct that your clusters have to be 16k or larger..

          my question is why haven't you taken the time to back up, reformat to 16k clusters, and restore.. do it once and you don't have to worry about defrag and shadow copies running into problems.. i'm sure it's a lot less work then having to go get backups from tape, and scheduling defrag around major deadlines rather than need.

          • Well, Where i was working.. each office had around 300GB of data on their fileshare, mostly stuff for local office needs. Most offices were connected with a bonded T1 line. We would have had to either ship a large USB drive to each local office, and walk a bean-counter through plugging it into the server, or backup/restore over a dual T1, that was also carrying other traffic. It was decided since all servers were on a 4 year rotation to just deploy new ones with the cluster size increase.. Also, the olde

            • by Amouth ( 879122 )

              well there - answered my question, sorry I've heard a lot of people complain about defrag & VSS messing with each other, rather than take a logical sane look at the problem and plan a solution, in your case you did.

      • Also the built-in defrag will use up all your RAM until it is full if you have no swap file. Had this happen on a Win7 system with 12GB RAM.

    • If Windows had a decent file system defragmenters would be a thing of the past. Windows is the only (supposedly) serious server side OS that requires them. I've yet to have to defrag my 1999 vintage linux file server.

      • That's funny, because I've had to use "e2fsck -D" before to reduce an obscenely slow pile of files to usability. To be fair, that there was such a huge pile of files to begin with was the fault of someone being a tool.

        That said, having to use it is quite rare.

    • I've always liked O&O Defrag, with lots of options available to arrange files on the disk in the way you want. To be honest though I can't remember the last time I've even felt the need to defrag a production server. It seems that the performance penalty for fragmentation has become more or less irrelevent with today's systems.

    • by dave562 ( 969951 )

      Diskeeper defrags on the fly.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Yeah, and it can do more than is available through the API's that other third party tools use. Diskeeper is from the guys that made the builtin defrag program that is included with Windows.
  • I can't really say much from experience with most of these, but clamwin? I am always in favor of open source when it is on the same league as paid software, but in this particular case... you are just asking for trouble if you cut this corner.
    • Really? Do you consider Symantec to be that much better? What experience have you had? In my experience all virus protection is somewhat haphazard.
      • It might be ok for checking a suspicious file or two but scanning an entire drive would take days. Its THAT slow, seriously.

    • Yeah the ClamWin virus DB is woefully inadequate. Which is really too bad, because if it didn't suck then MoonSecure might be worth using.

  • I would add Metasploit to the list, that is if you have any kind of custom website (most companies do). It would suck to have your user accounts or personal data spread all across the internet.
  • While I truly love wireshark, if we're talking microsoft server admin, you might want to think about Microsoft Network Monitor (current ver == 3.4). It does most of what wireshark does but pairs packet streams to windows processes. If you're on an enterprise premier support call with Microsoft, they'll only accept a pcap from netmon.
  • Lose the Borg Face (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drkich ( 305460 )

    I know haters will hate and Slashdotters love to hate Microsoft, but honestly, what the hell does open source tools have to do with the Borg Face?

    • I know haters will hate and Slashdotters love to hate Microsoft, but honestly, what the hell does open source tools have to do with the Borg Face?

      That sounds like something the Borg would say.

    • Hover your mouse pointer over the borg face and your question will be answered. Since this is a story about tools for Microsoft servers, it was tagged with the Microsoft icon.
    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      The Borg face has to do with windows, that is a borgified Bill Gates.

      It's due for a replacement.

  • If you hate having multiple RDP, SSH, Telnet etc windows all over your desktop you should look at mRemote NG [mremoteng.org].

  • I install Yahoo! toolbar for Internet Explorer before anything, its teh shit.
  • Any recommendations for a CAD PDM?

  • How in the world can you talk about administration in a Windows environment and not mention SpiceWorks.com? It's an end-to-end, 100% free support system and help desk.

    • Which our incompetent windoze admins have installed here and STILL can't figure out how to keep it from trying to probe networks that haven't been in use for over a year.

  • PuTTY (Score:5, Informative)

    by bpfinn ( 557273 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @01:07PM (#37444474)
    I use PuTTY [greenend.org.uk] daily.
  • any linux distro's install disk.
    Why struggle with the lame duck that is windows? just blow the whole thing away.

  • It may not be "open-source" in that there is no source code available for it, however it is freeware and is required for any Windows Administrator that always has multiple RDP sessions running.

    RDTabs [avianwaves.com]

  • file sizes (Score:4, Informative)

    by HeyBob! ( 111243 ) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:09PM (#37446708)

    This has been helpful (showing who/what is hogging disk space)
    http://windirstat.info/ [windirstat.info]

  • WinSCP

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.