Toolbox: New Products for IT Professionals
Manage your library of SQL scripts, organize your taskbar and run Checksum virus scans with this month’s tools.
Do you have a bunch of T-SQL scripts on your file server? Chances are they’re not very well-organized. You might even have a bunch of different versions of the same script lying about. If this sounds familiar, you might want to consider a source-control system to manage, organize and share all those scripts throughout your team.
There are a number of source-control systems out there—many equally applicable for system administrators or software developers. One tool that connects SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) directly to various source-control systems is SQL Source Control for SSMS from Red Gate Software Ltd. Because it’s generally easier for your SQL admins to stay within their comfort zone, using SSMS to develop, test and run T-SQL scripts, SQL Source Control works with SSMS to control both schemas and data.
It connects to source-control software systems including Microsoft Team Foundation Server, Subversion (SVN), SourceGear Vault, Vault Pro, Mercurial, Perforce and Git. If those aren’t enough, it also has a command-line interface with which you can create a custom connection via the SQL Source Control configuration.
SQL Source Control seamlessly integrates with the source-control provider, so you can track changes, view development history and get specific versions of files. You can revert from recent changes if you find yourself proceeding down the wrong path. Updating to an earlier version is as easy as a couple of clicks. There are also version-comparison views with annotation, so you can see who made changes and what they changed within your versioned database.
SQL Source Control also lets you choose your development model. You can share a central versioned database or use local individual copies and commit changes as needed. You can also require comments on change commits to ensure you know why certain changes were made.
Sometimes you won’t want to include certain parts of your database or data in your version-control system. SQL Source Control makes it relatively easy to exclude those items from the versioned database. There’s also an option to link your project to migration scripts. These are useful for client upgrades or deploying versions of a product or script in sequence to ensure data integrity during schema changes.
SQL Source Control is priced on a per-user basis. It starts at $295 for one user, with discounts on the per-user pricing as you increase in volume. There’s also a free 28-day trial. The trial even has a test repository to which you can connect, so you don’t have to set up your own source-control system for testing.
If you spend a lot of time with SQL Server, you might also want to consider the SQL Developer Bundle. This groups a number of SQL-related tools in a single package that includes SQL Source Control, SQL Compare, SQL Data Compare, SQL Packager, SQL Dependency Tracker, SQL Doc, SQL Data Generator, SQL Multi Script Unlimited and SQL Prompt. The Red Gate Software bundle is $1,495 for a single user license.
The Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 Explorer interfaces have two useful features: the ability to pin frequently used applications to the taskbar for easy access and jump lists. This helps you return to specific items you’ve recently visited, edited or used. Screen real estate is limited, however, and there are only so many application icons you can pin to your taskbar.
Bins from 1UP Industries can help you organize your taskbar and free up screen real estate for those frequently used applications by putting them into logical groups. This low-cost utility combines related icons on your Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 taskbar into “bins.” You could drag your taskbar icons for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome into a single bin, for example. Not only can you can put application shortcuts into a bin, but you can also give related files and folders the same treatment.
There’s also an expanded preview function. Explorer gives you a preview of a running application when you hover over its icon in the taskbar. Using Bins, when you hover over a bin with multiple active applications, you can see all their preview hover states at once. You can even have the preview come up instantly when you hover over the bin, which expedites access to your Explorer previews.
Another option lets you click the taskbar icon to cycle through the open windows for each open application. You can also lock bins for editing so you don’t mistakenly move applications (or to protect your users from themselves). The simple utility speeds up your work flow and organizes your taskbar.
1UP Industries Bins taskbar organizer for Windows costs $4.99 direct from the product Web site. If you’re looking for a bit more real estate on your taskbar or would like to group documents, folders and applications into logical clusters, Bins might be just the tool you need.
During the course of a typical day, you have to download numerous files, applications, installers, updates and patches. Besides your standard virus scan as part of the download process, there’s another way to ensure you’re downloading just what you intended: an MD5 checksum verification.
Most vendors provide checksum verification on their download page so you can verify that what you see is what you get, and that no one has tampered with the download item. If you’re the one actually providing downloadable files, you should consider generating your own MD5 hash so people can verify what they’re getting from you.
There’s a tool that can help you generate and verify MD5 hashes called the MD5 Checksum Tool, from the aptly named NoVirusThanks, based in Italy. The simple interface is split into five function tabs: File Hash, String Hash, Compare Files, File Scan and the ubiquitous Settings tab.
For File Hash, pick a file and click the Hash button. This will generate an MD5, SHA1, SHA256, SHA384 and SHA512 hash for the target that you can use for file comparison or distribution. There are also quick copy buttons to copy and paste the results elsewhere. The Report button contains all the hashes in a text area that you can save or copy. The String Hash creates the same type of hashes for a string of text. On the Compare Files tab, you pick two targets and compare their MD5 Hashes to ensure that they are indeed the same file.
File Scan lets you point the application to a directory, scan all the files that match your file mask (such as *.* or *.zip), and generate an MD5 hash for each. You can also choose the output format so you can reuse the results in a document or another application. This tab also has a save button.
The Settings tab currently has only one setting—to add the application to the Send To options under your Explorer right-click context menus. If you’re looking for an MD5 checksum tool, this free and easy tool is worth adding to your toolbox.