Tool Tips

Tool Tips

© Lead Image © Kheng Ho Toh,

© Lead Image © Kheng Ho Toh,

Article from Issue 191/2016

Tool tests on the fast track.

Fstools 20160322

Function: Useful script collection


License: GPLv2, Perl Artistic License

Alternatives: DK tools

Linux has a well-stocked toolbox with command-line tools for every imaginable scenario. Many admins combine them, write extensions, and create their own scripts for repetitive tasks. This is also how Framstag's Shell Tools (Fstools) arose, which programmer and admin Uli Horlacher compiled over the past two decades.

More than 200 shell and Perl scripts for various applications are included – from converting between number systems, file formats or fonts, to procmail extensions and statistical analysis. Other scripts determine the absolute path of a file and generate snapshots of files, if the filesystem supports this functionality. Alternatives to known command-line tools are also included.

The project page contains a complete overview of all the tools and brief function descriptions. Note that man pages do not exist, and the scripts contain hardly any comments. There is a rudimentary online help, however, via -h.

(3 Stars) The Fstools contain interesting additions to the common shell tools. In terms of documentation, the developer is reticent – a look at the code can help and possibly provide inspiration for your own scripts.

SUP 1.1

Function: Working with root privileges


License: LGPLv3

Alternatives: Sudo, Su

Linux admins can make use of a comprehensive system for assigning rights. You can selectively grant access to files or executables users or prevent this access. Using su, sudo, or the setuid bit gives admins three approaches. SUP is a C program that seeks to establish itself as a fourth alternative, and promises more security thanks to checksums accompanied by a compact design.

The archive includes three files: sup.c, sha256.c, and config.h. The latter accepts the admin's rules. You can define here, for every executable, a line with the UID, GID, the full path of the command, and optionally the checksum of the binary. Users who access a command in this way append it to a call to sup.

The configuration is thus handled in the source code, meaning system administrators need to recompile SUP after each adjustment. This is quite cumbersome, because you need to call make after each change.

(2 Stars) The idea is interesting, especially the extension for checking the checksums. However, it is quite time consuming to recompile the tool after every update. It is therefore not suitable for large-scale infrastructures.

MuPDF 1.8

Function: Simple PDF Viewer


License: AGPLv3

Alternatives: Xpdf, Evince

The PDF viewer MuPDF leaves a positive impression in part because of its low resource requirements. It cuts a fine figure not only on Linux or Windows desktops but also on Android and iOS devices.

On Linux, users call mupdf along with the name of the file. Documents with password protection require the -p option and password – a less than elegant solution because the password appears in the clear in the shell history. Also, MuPDF has only a few options. Besides the resolution and anti-aliasing, users can only define the font and window size. There is no configuration file, and MuPDF does not support links to internal or external addresses.

This lean approach is continued in the interface. There is no a menu or toolbar. Instead, users control the viewer with the keyboard. This means pressing the H, J, K, and L keys to navigate; pressing F switches to full-screen mode and / starts a search. The man page shows a list of all keyboard shortcuts.

(3 Stars) MuPDF 1.8 is fast – but users should not expect convenience. Older issues of the tools originally contained rudimentary functions for manipulating PDFs, which are missing in the current version.

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