Solaris shareware roundup
We sniff-out every significant archive of Solaris software
The Internet is swimming with shareware and freeware -- inexpensive or public domain software and tools usually self-published by programmers dedicated to making quality software. Shareware often fills the gaps that commercial software packages miss in their quest for the almighty dollar. Users can try the software before they purchase it, and payment for shareware is typically enforced on the honor system. Includes copious hyperlinks. (2,100 words)
Shareware began in the early days of Unix and the Internet, long before the Internet saw commercialism. Programmers wanted to share their work so people didn't have to keep re-inventing the wheel. Well, the advent of the Web and the Internet as a marketplace may be competing with the philosophy that gave birth to shareware.
In our quest for Solaris shareware we got the distinct impression that although many Unix shareware packages are being ported to different operating systems, not much new Unix shareware code is being written or made publicly available. We wondered if perhaps many former shareware authors burned out and went commercial. Though we're guessing here, a tour through some of the shareware-related Usenet groups (alt.comp.shareware, alt.comp.shareware.authors, alt.comp.shareware.programmer) found some shareware programmers complaining about users not registering and paying for their software. It stands to reason that if you want to reap the benefits good shareware has to offer, it's important to help feed the programmers who are creating it. Pay for your shareware!
On the hopeful side of things, many Web programmers are making their Perl and cgi scripts publicly available. The most popular, and perhaps most advanced, Web server software is in the public domain and dedicated to remaining that way. Perhaps the shareware philosophy is proliferating on the Web after all.
So, you've got a shareware screen saver for your PC and some shareware fonts for your Mac, but what about shareware for Solaris? We searched the net high and low, and discovered that shareware for Solaris is a bit more difficult to find than shareware for PCs. The Web is rife with ad-laden sites dedicated to providing shareware, but many ignore Unix shareware altogether, or provide paltry descriptions of the software for Unix compared to the lengthy explanations given for PC programs and tools. A little digging, however, proved fruitful. Here's what we found.
Programmer & Library Tools
Shareware seems to have been started for programmers. GNU utilites are the standard. If you want to delve into the world of shareware, you might as well go get the entire batch of GNU utilites and get started. It may seem best to start with the gcc compiler, but gcc will send you into the world of GNU shareware, from bison to less to gawk to gunzip. The great thing about all these utilites is that they are tried and true. They're available at all the major sites, not just the main GNU site. Most importantly, they're available pre-compiled for Solaris, so you can simply use the pkgadd program to install them. The README file explains what tools are what, since things like bison, gawk, make, sed, patch and others are all bundled in a tools file, while Perl and emacs and gcc are in their own separate files.
A number of security sites have sprung up since the explosion of the Net. CERT, CIAC, and COAST are some of the organizations that are dedicated to computer security. Each of these offers a site chock-full of information and tools related to security, including public domain software, white papers, and just plain old information. Of the three, the best is at the Purdue Coast Project http://www.cs.purdue.edu/coast/coast.html or you can go directly to their ftp site (ftp://coast.cs.purdue.edu/pub/).
This is a "secure" site, so if they can't resolve your address they won't let you in, and the same is true of the CIAC site (http://ciac.llnl.gov). The CERT site (ftp://ftp.cert.org/) isn't as strident, but offers a less filling feast of information. Not to worry, if you have problems getting into the above sites, there are other security sites on the net. A good security site will list all of these organizations and offer the Big set of tools: cops, tiger, merlin, crack, satan, tripwire, lsof, wu-ftpd, more secure sendmail, and restricted shells. We found all of these at http://tezcat.com/web/security/security_http.html, neatly organized to include a site of Unix security programs. Don't worry, almost all public domain and shareware for Unix has easy instructions for Solaris.
Admin tools are a bit like the job itself: They tend to propagate everywhere, it's hard to find a good complete collection of them, and their functions are rather mysterious! That said, there is a wealth of public tools to be found on the Net. A couple of good starting places are: http://smc.vnet.net/solaris_2.5.html, which has good mini-descriptions of the programs and a truly annoying frame design, and http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~hak/unix.html, where the public domain programs are well-organized, starting with the programmer tools you need for compiling all public domain software, on through security, and then to some basic admin tools like a pop mail server, a more versatile sendmail, a news transport server (or should I say the news transport server INN), a fancy ftp server (wu-ftpd), a couple of web servers (including the ever-popular Apache), and a great system monitoring tool that's completely GUI (first thing we nabbed at this site)! It also includes the news readers, email readers, and web browsers that all of us Sysadmins are required to provide to our users! They've got things our users want, such as elm, pine, tin, mosaic, netscape, and procmail. They also include some X window goodies -- a couple of X window managers, an Xftp server, Xemacs, and even an X chess game.
Perhaps us Solaris users are a serious lot. Games for Solaris are a rare find when compared to the PC or Mac. In fact, it was easier to find games for the Amiga than Solaris! One site in particular, however, ( ftp://ftp.alkymi.unit.no/pub/store/ernie.itea.unit.no/) has the largest collection of public domain shareware for Unix that we could find, and there are a lot of games there. But be warned, it's very unorganized, a bit daunting, difficult to tell what things are, and can be hard to reach. We did find another index of games files with no explanation over at http://nswt.tuwien.ac.at:8000/internet/unix/games/. Besides these couple of sites it seems like Doom's the only game in town when it comes to Unix, though the GNU chess game pops up in most of the GNU sites and there are a sprinkling of other games here and there.
It's nice to get a complete collection of WWW shareware without having to pick up the servers here and the browsers there and the html editors somewhere else! For a collection of web stuff that includes servers, browsers, and editors, check out: http://netsvc.utirc.utoronto.ca/HTMLdocs/unix_tools.html. There were many translators there for converting ascii to html, TeX to html, PostScript and even Word 6.0 (Microsoft's rich text format). Though this place is WWW one-stop shopping, the servers were a bit difficult to find (http://netsvc.utirc.utoronto.ca/HTTPdocs/http_servers.html) and Apache, the most popular public domain http server, isn't even mentioned.
Oldies but goodies
It's nice to know that you can still reach those golden oldie ftp sites! Back before the Web had nice GUI browsers you were stuck with the ftp command line, praying you'd remember to give it the binary command so your compressed tar file wasn't garbage when you quit! When the Net started to get a bit congested, most ftp sites put a limit on the number of concurrent users, so we had to do our file transfers during off hours. This can still be a problem, but in general we find it easier with a Web browser to simply add a ftp:// to one of our favorite ftp sites. Surely we're missing some, but these were the sites we went to for SunOS stuff, and now to upgrade to Solaris. They are:
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the shareware available for Solaris on the Internet. Check out he resources section below for more jumping off points.
About the author
Max Airborne is a San Francisco-based webmaster and technology writer. Reach Max at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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