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

FOG

This tool is a cool alternative to commercial imaging utilities like Ghost. Support is available for both Windows XP and Vista but there is a catch: only the client runs on Windows systems. The actual Web-based management tools need to run on Fedora or Ubuntu Linux. If you are purely a Windows person, I tell you to fear not. I downloaded a virtual machine version of Fedora 8 that runs nicely in a VMware player. The installation is easy enough and management was simple. FOG is, after all, a Web-based app. Now, I know I'm the guy that writes a blog called "A Better Windows World," but sometimes to get to a better place we need to play nicely with the other kids. With FOG, creating images and managing them is similar to using a product like Ghost or Acronis. Like all imaging software, it needs to be tweaked for your environment -- imaging is not a perfect science yet. So, if you need to tweak images no matter what software you use, why pay for a solution? Anyone who has more than 10-20 user knows how expensive this can get since most commercial imaging software is priced per host. So give FOG a try. You won't regret it. And maybe with the money you save, you can buy some other things your IT department desperately needs -- like more IT people.

MRemote

This is perhaps one of my favorite open source tools. MRemote is a single tool to handle all of your remote connections easily and effectively. MRemote can handle RDP, ICA, VNC, SSH1, SSH2, Telnet, HTTP, HTTPS, RAW and Rlogin. What's fantastic about this tool is that you can set up a quick, one-time connection to a remote system, or you can save your connection profiles for future use. A feature called "smart size" allows you to shrink the workspace for RDP/VNC clients. This is a great feature for troubleshooting a remote client. Rumor has it MRemote may be leaving open source and going commercial. I'm torn over this idea. I love the fact that the tool is free and I can keep using my free version with no troubles right now. However, I can't say that this isn't something I would mind paying for in the end, especially if it continues to improve in the manner it has thus far. The ability to remote into all my servers, clients, Citrix sessions, Cisco equipment, Web servers, and whatever else I can't think of from a single console is worth the price. Nevertheless, for now it remains an open source tool and something worth checking out.

GIMP 2

Technically this program has been around for quite some time, on the Linux scene anyway. I first saw GIMP back in 1999 when I was working for a dot-com. The tool's move over to Windows is a win for Windows pros in a very big way. GIMP or GNU Image Manipulator Program was created by two students at Berkeley in the 1990's. The software has a long and complex history and a horrible name if you ask me. That being said this software rivals commercial image editing packages and has an incredible amount of versatility. When I was at that dot-com, I supported a marketing department with three full-timers and an intern. All four needed image-editing software on their machines. It cost us over $1800. Compare that to GIMP, which is easy enough to learn and cost nothing. It has pretty much the same navigation and menus as some of the commercial brands. Features such as layers, brush types, color controls, and filters are available. You can even download plug-ins to enhance the editor even more. So, we have a tool that has a long history, has the stability and feature set to match commercial products and works, looks and feels like all the major packages out there. Really this one is a no brainer!

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