Tool tests on the fast track

TrackFS 0.1.0

File System Overview
License: GPLv2
Alternatives: Installwatch

With eagle eyes, TrackFS watches over filesystems and logs the changes made to them. The tool notices when new files and directories are added, as well as when users or programs update or remove files.

Contrary to the well-known Installwatch tool, TrackFS does not rely on the LD_PRELOAD function. Instead, the program uses the ptrace system call, executing all child processes of the monitored program with tracing enabled, and thus monitors system calls.

Thanks to ptrace, TrackFS can cope with statically linked libraries – but at the expense of execution speed. The tool is not suitable for daily filesystem monitoring; its strengths lie in monitoring installation processes or looking for system errors. By default, TrackFS logs the changes it identifies in the logfile specified by -l. To keep the log readable, the tool combines multiple changes to an object in a single entry.

The tool also offers to create backup copies of manipulated files and folders (call option -b). The parameter -I expects a list of patterns to exclude objects from monitoring. TrackFS ignores these objects, does not save them, and does not write them to the log.

TrackFS is well suited for monitoring the filesystem during an installation or cleanup. The tool is useful for finding bugs, as well.

HTPDate 1.0.5

Synchronizing the Time via HTTP
License: GPLv2
Alternatives: Ntpdate, Rdate

The correct system time is a must-have. If users can't synchronize the date and time with an external or internal time server using ntp or time (e.g., because the firewall blocks the appropriate port), they can use htpdate. The tool sends requests to an arbitrary web server via the HTTP port and synchronizes the settings of the local computer with the remote source.

To do this, HTPDate interprets the timestamp in the HTTP header. By default, the tool uses HTTP version 1.1; alternatively, you can specify the parameter -0 to force it to use HTTP 1.0. HTPDate can handle both IPv4 and IPv6. Optionally, the tool runs as a daemon and queries the web server at regular intervals. It can define the optimum interval between the requests itself, or alternatively, the user can do this manually using -m and -M for custom limits.

The -b option launches htpdate in burst mode, which asks for the time several times on each run, thus providing more accurate results. To query one or more web servers for the time, simply call the program along with the server addresses. You can specify up to 16 web servers, but usually three will suffice. The -q option ensures that HTPDate only displays the time vector but does not change the system time.

HTPDate steps into the breach and offers time synchronization when NTP is not available. The tool runs in the background as a daemon, if so desired.

MKAT 0.5

Burning and Cataloging CDs and DVDs
License: GPLv2
Alternatives: PHP CD Archive, phpMyCatalog

The MKAT tool suite helps users create and catalog audio and data CDs and DVDs. The collection contains four command-line tools: burn, burna, mkat, and mkata. The first two create the images or burn disks, whereas the last two take care of cataloging. All of the programs are shell scripts that rely on proven tools such as genisoimage, wodim, and growisofs in the background.

The setup for the individual MKAT components is found in the /etc/mkatrc file. Also, you can use this file as a template for a personal configuration file in ~/.mkatrc. The files essentially contain parameters for generating the images and starting the burn software, as well as paths to the catalog directories. By default, these are below ~/.mkat. The settings in ~/.mkatrc take precedence over those in /etc/mkatrc.

For each disk, you will see a file with a label and the .list file extension. All of the files for the disk reside here, including their sizes and corresponding MD5 checksums. Tags are also included, as specified by the user when cataloging the disk. Later, you can search by filename as well as by these tags.

With just a few simple steps, the MKAT tool suite not only creates data CDs and DVDs but also records them in a catalog. The shell scripts rely on familiar tools and do not require a database connection.

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