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Toolbox New Products For IT Professionals
All prices were confirmed at press time and are subject to change.
Marnie Hutcheson is president of Ideva, a firm that specializes in Web application design, development, and hosting. She has published a variety of technical papers and books on various computing topics. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 Microsoft Corporation and CMP Media, LLC. All rights reserved; reproduction in part or in whole without permission is prohibited.
View and Manage All Types of Files
Directory Opus 8.0 by GPSoftware is a file manager that lets you view and manage all types of files, whether on your hard drive, across your network, in .zip files, or over FTP. Directory Opus 8.0 supports all the standard Windows® Explorer functions and options plus additional features like visual synchronization for files and folders, duplicate file finder, dual folder trees, fully customizable commands and styles tab bar, and an SMTP mailer for sending files directly from the viewer.
Directory Opus 8.0 lets pre-Windows XP users have all the seamless view and management capabilities for image files, media files, and .zip files that Windows XP users get (Directory Opus 8.0 runs on all Windows OSs, Windows 95 and later). Most types of image formats are supported so you can view your images in several different ways. Directory Opus 8.0 has an independent full-screen viewer that gives you slide show style viewing. You can also convert images between types on the fly.
Putting your cursor on top of a digital image or other media file will cause its complete EXIF properties set to be displayed in a popup window, along with a thumbnail. This hard to come by metadata can tell you when the picture was taken, camera make and model, aperture, shutter speed, subject distance, metering type, and size.
The Windows Explorer-style interface is easy to figure out and you can personalize the entire interface including the menus and toolbars; you can even create your own custom commands. You can print directory listings and change file attributes, but my personal favorite feature (besides the file synchronizer) is that it remembers the folders I visited recently so that when I open it up, it starts in the right place.
Price: Single user, $59.00. Dual, multiple, and corporate install licenses are available.
Great-Looking Screen Shots the Quick and Easy Way
TNT Screen Capture 2.1 by EC Software creates screen shots that let you make your point and, in fact, look better than the original screen. It has several built-in image filters and add-ons that give your screen shots that professional photorealistic look.
TNT Screen Capture 2.1 has all of the cool stuff that you want in your screen shots. It automatically detects window shapes such as the rounded corners on Windows XP and captures them, complete with the transparency right where you need it. You can select several frame styles; for example, if you want the image to have a shadow, just select the shadow option before you make the screen shot. The torn paper effect is one of my personal favorites. You can include the cursor in the image, and if you really want to call some attention to what you are clicking on, you can add several types of "sparkle" to your cursor just by selecting it in your Capture Options.
There are three different screen capture modes that let you capture everything from application interfaces to popup menus. The only thing you can't capture easily is a screen shot of TNT itself. It is lightweight, and lightning-quick to load and use. I use TNT Screen Capture for all my screen shots because the shots look great and I don't have to mess with them after they're captured.
Price: A single-user license is $44.90.
Don't Buy More Hard Drives—Clean House
FolderSizes 3.0 by Key Metric Software is a network-enabled disk analysis tool. This utility collects folder and file information and uses it to produce interactive visual disk analysis reports that you can export complete with graphs as XML and HTML. As the name suggests, the most obvious type of analysis is size, but FolderSizes 3.0 actually generates 10 different reports that let you do things such as analyze the characteristics of your drives and directories in addition to identifying who owns what files, and disk space usage by file type.
I was concerned with cleaning up the duplicate directories that my company was accumulating as people simply copied entire directories onto the server instead of only performing incremental backups which would be more efficient. Folder Sizes 3.0 does a good job of cleaning up all the duplicate directories.
You can use FolderSizes 3.0 to identify and remove oversized, outdated, temporary, and duplicate files. You can use the reports generated to create manifests and identify storage requirement trends. In addition to the reports, FolderSizes 3.0 creates a text-based directory tree when you analyze folders or drives, and you can save this tree along with the report that you are generating.
The FolderSizes main window shows you folder sizes, the number of child folders and files, folder and file size on disk, and items consuming more than a specified percentage of the parent are dis-played in bold. File attributes are displayed using configurable colors. You can customize on the options menu just about everything FolderSizes does. FolderSizes offers full support for all versions of the Windows operating system including Windows 95 and later.
Price: A single-user license is $34.95.
Enterprise Monitoring, Helpdesk, and Inventory
Helpdesk and Network Management Services
Enterprise Server 1.0 by Microforge.net Limited lets you provide helpdesk and IT management services for multiple networks from any speed of WAN/Internet connection using Microsoft® Internet Explorer or one of the Enterprise Server Windows clients (Ent Net Center and Ent Report Forge). It offers five integrated functions: helpdesk, inventory, calendar, reporting, and administration.
The Ent Net Center client gives you access to administration, networks, inventory functions, helpdesk, and calendar. Administration lets you manage your Enterprise Server settings, including user access rights, group memberships, and helpdesk configuration. The Networks function automatically builds and maintains an inventory of your company's IT equipment and software, with no deployment necessary. You can add non-networked machines to the inventory by entering the information manually.
Besides supporting the helpdesk function, the inventory reports let you track the service history for your IT assets and helps you identify licensing issues. The integrated e-mail client automatically assigns helpdesk ticket numbers to e-mail support requests and tracks progress on them. The Calendar function lets you manage tasks and activities, and facilitates a collaborative work environment for team members anywhere.
Management and productivity reports are provided through Ent Report Forge. The 30 standard reports include helpdesk performance, changes in IT assets, and software licensing issues. You can also create your own custom reports.
Price: $595 for a one-person IT department with a single network, $1,195 for a 10-person IT department on multiple networks and in multiple locations.
An Asset Management and Inventory Solution
If you are just looking for Asset Management and Inventory, rather than the whole help desk package, Network Asset Tracker 2.5, by MIS Utilities might be your solution. Network Asset Tracker is based on Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) technology so it gathers information about users, connections, running processes, software on individual computers, and software quantity on the entire network.
Network Asset Tracker inventories operating system type, version, and build; service packs and installed hotfixes, and size and free space of HDD volumes. It recognizes processor type, name and type of HDD, CD-ROM, FDD, video card, monitor, printers, and multimedia devices.
It is a client-free utility. The Network Asset Tracker report module can generate reports about selected PCs or the entire network. These reports can be exported to HTML, XML, Microsoft Excel, Visio®, XML Drawing, or RTF files. Network Asset Tracker runs on Windows 98 and later.
Price: Starting at $99 (10 PCs) to $999 (corporate license).
A Real-time Production Monitor
If you've always wanted a real-time production monitor that would flag an exception or application error and instantly pop up a window with all the details right down to the state of the user, location within the call stack, the variables, the preconditions, and the offending line of code, then Intercept Studio, and its Management Pack for MOM 2005, by AVIcode is something you might find interesting.
Intercept Studio extends the functionality of Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005 with two run-time agents that automatically detect and monitor .NET-based Web and Windows Forms applications in the production environment.
The exception monitoring agent, Xmon, collects detailed root cause information about application failures including the complete call stack object and source code. When an exception is reported, the failed function is highlighted in the report and hyperlinked to the variable(s) with the parameter that caused the exception. When you follow the links, Visual Studio® .NET opens to the offending line of code. Intercept Studio will even tell you how often this event is occurring. You can configure Intercept Studio to look at unhandled errors, handled errors, and critical errors. They can be grouped by specific class of error, and you can create exemptions for specific errors.
Pmon, the real-time performance monitoring agent, pinpoints performance bottlenecks in distributed business transactions down to the individual Web service, .NET Remoting, ADO.NET, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), SQL, or external resource request call, and then visually displays the critical path within an application. Pmon identifies performance bottlenecks and reports slow operations, along with the specifics. Pmon does hot spot performance reporting by issue and occurrence, giving you metrics you can use to prioritize development projects.
Critical event information generated by Intercept Studio agents is automatically reported to its console, the Intercept Structured Event (SE) Viewer, which has the ability to feed this information to MOM using the Intercept MOM Management pack. Event information can be sent to other WMI-compliant systems and several issue tracking systems as well. Once an event has entered the SE Viewer, system administrators have access to detailed information about software performance for future reference.
Price: A perpetual license for the initial server (includes the SE Viewer, Pmon and Xmon) is $9,995. Additional server agents are $2,495.
Dr. Tom Shinder's Configuring ISA Server 2004 (Syngress Publishing), which is a revision of the earlier book Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, gives you a look at the history of firewalls from the earliest proxies to today's ISA Server 2004. It discusses the feature set of ISA Server 2004, compares it to other firewall offerings, introduces the concepts underlying ISA Server 2004, and discusses preparations and considerations for setting up and supporting ISA firewalls.
Client types are also covered along with automated provisioning, installation and configuration essentials, and how to set up remote access and site-to-site VPNs with ISA firewalls. Other topics include stateful inspection and application layer filtering, and accelerating Web performance with ISA Server 2004 caching.
Price: $49.95, 1,013 pages.
Inside The SPAM Cartel by Spammer X was recently released by Syngress Publishing. I found the first few comments rudimentary; after all, most of us know better than to respond to spam, but then I started reading the sidebars and I got hooked. I never would have imagined all the nasty and underhanded things that Spammer X talks about.
The book takes you on a tour through the mind and methods of spammers, covering lots more than just the technical details of how to configure filters and clean mailboxes. Spammer X is quite candid about spammer ploys, angles, hooks, and dirty tricks that honest folks would never dream of, but definitely topics that administrators need to understand. So I recommend it—if you only learn one new thing, you could still save your company tons of expense.
The book starts with a look at how spammers think, and an explanation of spam as an industry, and why it has become a preferred method of advertising for many companies. Then it moves into the more technical details of how spammers take over proxy servers and SMTP relays, how they scan networks to identify security flaws that they can exploit, how they use phishing and other techniques to bait their traps, and the domains most often spoofed in their scams.
Once Spammer X has explained the mission, the book shows you how to use forensics to track a spammer's activities and build a fingerprint from the spam they send and the techniques they use. It covers the rules of the CAN-Spam Act so you get a better understanding of where the "teeth" are in the law. And it discusses how to combat spam with Exchange Server and Outlook®.
Finally, there is a sobering discussion of how VoIP Spam May Be the Next Big Thing: VoIP creates an IP address for your phone number, meaning most of the spammer's e-mail techniques can be readily ported causing you even more trouble.
Price: $49.95, 432 pages.
All prices were confirmed at press time and are subject to change.