20 great Windows open source projects you should get to know

A list of 20 great open source projects for Windows that will appeal to the management and maintenance of your network

H-Inventory

Need to manage your hardware resources without a budget? Here is a great alternative. Version 1.0 was just released in April and is already a very impressive product. The name is elusive since H-Inventory not only inventories your hardware but also has the ability to audit software, updates, and scripts running on the machines. Users have the ability to report incidents and these can be tracked in H-Inventory. Therefore we have an asset management and help desk software in one package that is open source. One drawback is that there is no ability to escalate or assign particular technicians, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that added soon. (Uhm, actually, I wrote the developers with the suggestion.) Now there is some work involved in setting it up to work on your Windows server. However, this software does work with IIS, which should make you "true blue" Microsoft professionals happy. To add to the entire package, you can download H-deploy and this will allow pushing updates and software installations to your users. H-deploy will work with either .exe or .msi packages. For networks that are a bit larger, you can even build a knowledge base for incidents that have been handled. The interface is all browser based and the script is simple to deploy on your network. This is definitely a project to keep an eye on.

RSSOWL

This is another productivity tool for your end users. Thanks to the growing popularity of RSS feeds, this tool makes a great addition to the desktop. Personally, I don't necessarily want all the feeds I am subscribed to bugging me when I'm in Internet Explorer or for that matter when I am using my Outlook mail client. If you feel the same, here's a solution. RSSOWL manages your feeds and even has an extensive directory of feeds you can subscribe to simply by clicking on them. I like it because I can find my favorite bloggers with RSSOWL. (The screen shot I used with this entry will give you a hint of whom that is.) RSSOWL is so simple to use I just unzipped the file, threw on my desktop and launched the executable. Within 10 minutes, RSSOWL was populating my feed reader from a long lists of bookmarks. I thought I knew of every tech blog and news source out there but I found out rather quickly I was wrong! A secondary benefit was to have the pre-populated bookmarks. Want to manage your RSS feeds in one place with simple installation and tons of content? This is the product.

NetStumbler

Here is a tool we can use for good or evil it depends on which side of the force draws you. I am going to speak about the good uses only. I don't want to know what the so-called "Wardrivers" are doing. Netstumbler is a neat utility for finding analyzing and troubleshooting wireless networks. This tiny tool allows us to see where we have weak connections. It helps us to detect rogue access points as well as detect causes of interference. Filters help you easily detect whether your WLANs are running encryption, the channel they are broadcasting on and speed of the connection. All of these are very useful features for securing and improving your WLAN. Moreover, if you are out of town on a business trip and the boss is too cheap to pay for Internet at the hotel, it comes in handy for finding a quick open WLAN for checking and sending e-mails (that wouldn't be considered Wardriving, would it?). Although NetStumbler is free (though its authors jokingly calls it beggarware -- as they do ask that you make a donation if you use it), it is technically not open source. A similar tool called Inssider is open source and its creators claim that they've taken up where NetStumbler left off -- namely at ongoing development and support for Windows Vista and 64-bit Windows XP. However, as NetStumbler is the granddaddy in this category of wireless analyzers, I felt it earned a place on this list.

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