The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities

There are a lot of great freeware products out there. Many are as good or even better than their commercial alternatives. This list features my personal pick of the ‘best of the best.’ – TechSupportAlert; June 13, 2005

Opinions are like belly-buttons, everyone has got one. Likewise, I’m sure each of you has in their own mind and/or heart a top-10 list of their favo-freeware.

That said, here is a list I liked — mostly because the freeware at the top of the list is useful stuff, like FireFox and/or firewalls and/or free anti-virus programs –some items I wish a certain church would install on each of their office and personal computers so their former webmaster doesn’t get spammed into oblivion each and every time a minister or staff get’s zombied; ahem.

Personal conjecture aside, enjoy the list. Leave a comment here if you see anything you dislike, like but think it should be ranked higher – or better yet, suggest some freeware solution not on the list that can help your church operations and/or website run smoother, safer and less irritating to former web masters; ahem.

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find -perm 777 your first ssh security stop

Want to get hacked? It’s easy, just ‘chmod 777’ everything the next time you install a bbs or photo gallery application. Don’t want to get hacked? Read on and ‘find’ how hackers see, and exploit the unsecured areas of your system.

For those of you running online community applications such as phpBB, vBulletin, Coppermine Gallery, Mambo and a few others, installation can be a breeze if you have shell access. That said, installations can also lead to an unwanted visit if you get sloppy with your file permissions during the install.

For today’s example, I’ll pick on vBulletin today because it is a commercial product, but be warned: today’s topic of discussion equally applies to a host of ‘open sores’ applications as well.

The neer-do-well runs a Google search for those websites that are ‘Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.x.’ Upon finding a potential victom, they visit the site and … pay attention now … through their browser request a URL on your system that contains a remote command. That first remote command is likely to include “find -perm 777” giving the hakr all the information he needs to then “wget -O /your/unsecure/directory/logon.php” onto your system. Once that happens, there is nothing left but to wipe your system clean and pray your backups are recent and reliable (more on that topic another time).

So two things I ask of you.

  1. Keep your online applications up-to-date – get on their mailing list to kee abreast of changes, updates and patches.
  2. For those of you with shell access to your system, run file permission scans such as ‘find -perm 777’ on your system before someone less trustworthy does. You might be disturbed by what you ‘find.’

For those of you whose paranoia-meter just went off scale, here is a command that for now will lock down those open areas:

find . -perm 777 -exec chmod 755 {} \;

For those of you with root access:

find / -perm 777 -type d

You may also want to run a scan for programs that provide web-based shell access. You’ll be glad you did.

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Webcredible : Ten CSS tricks you may not know

They say you’ll have as much luck teaching an old dog new tricks as you would pouring new wine into old skins. Okay, so “they don’t” say this all that much … okay … never, so sue me.

The point of my not-so-toxic mix of metahpors is to remind everyone that though you think may have learned everything there is to know about a programming language, a protocol, a specification or what-have-you; the reality is that those of us who design and develop websites must either continually upgrade our skills or we must find a new career path.

So in my ongoing effor to keep church web masters on the bleeding edge, I present to you some light yet informative ‘reading material‘ you should print out and bring with you the next time you go to your … um … ‘reading room.’ I know I will!

Here’s a snippet to get you started:

“Usually attributes are assigned just one class, but this doesn’t mean that that’s all you’re allowed. In reality, you can assign as many classes as you like! For example:

<p class=”text side”>…</p>”

Ten CSS tricks you may not know – Webcredible

Now go read and learn likewise!

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Sample Regular Expressions

Neex an example of a regular expression real quick? Want to test it without fouling up your code? Here are two ‘resource-filled’ sites that help get you there and back.

Busy, busy, busy today folks – so just a quicky. And yes, I know that I’ve mentioned at least one of the following regular-expression example (and test) sites I’ve before. That said, like a good burrito it bears repeating:

  • Regular Expression Library – this website claims to be “the Internet’s first Regular Expression Library.” Whether they are or not is irrelevant, what is relevant are the close to 1000 semi-documented regex examples they provide.
  • Regular-Expressions.Info – also blessed with examples, I’m partial to their javascript testing page – and find their detailed explanations of difficult expressions well worth the visit.
  • Perl : Sample Regular Expressions – nothing as comprehensive as the previous two links, but here are some nice simple examples of the type of one-line-wonder stuff you may want to add into a MovableType or WordPress plug-in or text filter.

Now you have no excuse not to shoot yourself in the foot with a nice nasty regex!

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Mike Boyink on the problem with free ice cream

Church Webmasters – Stop Working for Free!

Mike Boyink implores “church webmasters to stop giving it away for free.“. Like many others, has concluded the only reward for free ice cream is complaints about the flavors. Mike also asserts that this lack of perceived value on the part of pastors and staff leads to re-spinning of style over sustaining long streams of substance.

I’ve learned something interesting: if you give away ice cream, eventually a lot of people will complain about the flavors, and others will complain that you aren’t also giving away syrup and whipped cream and nuts. – Steven Den Beste – USS Clueless – Capitan’s log – final post.

The above quote immediately came to mind after reading Mike Boyink’s well-justified rant today:

Are you a web developer working on your church’s website on a volunteer basis?Stop it.


Walk away.

Or start billing for your time, at rates competitive in the local market.


Knowing what Mike went through with the whole RidgePoint debacle I’m tend to agree.

For example: Just recently I just helped out with an article on search engine optimization. They offered me a small honorarium but since they are part of the North American Mission Board I opted they keep the cash for those out in the field … and hoped they would provide me with a mere hyperlink.

Instead, many of my thoughts wound-up being attributed to someone else in the form of an interview (with that someone else). Perhaps if I had invoiced them what my time, OnMission would have have made more of an effort to return the favor in the form of some electronic recognition (though my name is buried in the masthead, in an 8pt font some 47 pages away from the article). My mistake for not asking for the link up-front, their mistake for not understanding the worth of what they were given.

Likewise in Mike’s post, I happen to know the church site he’s talking about and know they are about to make an expensive mistake … but worse, I think Boyink hits the nail on the head when speaking of the ‘great cloud of witlessness’ that is the Body online. Regardless of whether its FrontPage, Publisher or whatever the WYSIWYG toy-of-the moment happens to be, Mike is dead right when he writes:

I’m seeing a pattern here, and it angers me. It angers me that, as the church, we can always find the time and motivation to re-implement a site on a different backend, or change the site architecture, or implement new navigational widgets.But try…just try…to find someone to invest that same effort in writing interesting, valuable content. Or documenting people’s stories for the web. Or talking at a strategic level about what the church should be using the internet for. Try it and you’ll get unanswered emails, unreturned phone calls, and blank stares in meetings.

The emphasis is mine, but I suspect its an accurate assessment of what’s being yelled at on the other side of Mike’s computer!-)

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