Tool Tips

Tool Tips

Article from Issue 175/2015

Quick takes on cool tools for Linux.

Rspamd 0.8.1

Modular spam filter


License: BSD

Alternatives: SpamAssassin

Rspamd sets out to do battle with advertising email. The tool uses various filter functions. For example, its sender policy framework tests whether the sender was entitled to send the message. Rspamd also relies on the DomainKeys identification protocol (DKIM) to investigate the encryption signature of an email message. Last but not least, the tool draws on public DNS and URL blacklists.

After launching, rspamd provides a web interface for the local interface on port 11334, allowing users to configure and manage the system. You can define your own filters using regular expressions, query the current status, and feed the tool spam for teaching purposes. According to the developers, the program – written in C – offers good performance and cooperates well with MTAs such as Postfix, Exim, and Sendmail.

If you want to extend the functionality of rspamd, you can program your own extensions in C, Perl, or Lua. The project page offers information and documentation for the Lua API.

4 Stars – The rspamd tool significantly reduces the spam burden on mail servers. The web interface keeps things clearcut and, in combination with the documentation, helps users set up their own checks. However, you should expect a long learning curve before tackling fine adjustment of the filters.

phpSysInfo 3.2.0

System information in the browser


License: GPLv2

Alternatives: Sysinfo log, linux-dash

If you don't have remote access to the command line on your Linux server but want to check the current system state, take a look at phpSysInfo. The script provides information about the hostname, IP address, distribution, uptime, hardware, memory usage, mounted filesystems, and network throughput.

If needed, the tool will display even more information, because it is extensible with plugins. The source code archive contains plugins that acquire and present the battery status, the process list, or the SMART status of the hard drives. The archive also contains a README_plugin, which is a guide for developing your own extensions.

Unpack the archive in your web server's document root and modify the sample configuration it provides in the phpsysinfo.ini file. Because the tool gleans information from the /proc directory, among others, you need to disable the safe_mode parameter in the php.ini file, which might not agree with your security policy.

3 Stars – PhpSysInfo gives users information about the state of their servers in a web browser. Because the script does not provide any access controls, admins need to secure the sites themselves.

UrBackup 1.4.7

Client/Server backup solution


License: GPLv3

Alternatives: storeBackup, Bareos

UrBackup backs up complete images or individual files as full or incremental backups. The server works on Windows, Linux, and Free BSD, and clients work on Linux and Windows. A client for OS X is not included. The developers also offer a Live CD as a download that restores data from the system images. Some distributions include packages for the software. Instructions on how to install from the source are available on the website.

UrBackup comes with its own init script that runs the daemon at boot time. To launch manually, the developers recommend using the start_urbackup_server wrapper script. Running it opens a web interface on port 55414 where you can configure and monitor the activities of the server. For example, you can define the backup directory, the number of parallel backups, the call interval, and an email address for notifications. You can also define how many incremental and full backups the software should create.

4 Stars – The installation is easily done, but setting up a viable backup solution can take some time. The documentation and the web interface will help you with this.

Alaya 1.5

Small web server with WebDAV


License: GPLv3

Alternatives: Darkhttpd, Lighttpd

Alaya allows WebDAV access to users' home directories. The compact web server runs in a chroot environment and does not require extended access privileges. Thanks to CGI support, it can handle dynamic content. For authentication, Alaya comes with its own password management feature or cooperates with passwd or PAM. After logging in, users are taken directly to their home directory.

The developers kept web server configuration simple. All parameters are located in the /etc/alaya.conf setup file, which is well commented. Here, system administrators define the authentication method and enter a key for HTTPS access, among other things. Alaya optionally compresses content with gzip and stores frequently used data in a cache. The creators even implemented a rudimentary proxy feature.

Events prompt a defined response from the server when it encounters certain client addresses, header entries, or HTTP connection methods. The readme file provides information and examples.

3 Stars – Alaya is a handy web server and is ready for use in just a few minutes. However, some Windows and Mac clients may experience minor problems with WebDAV support, as described in the CLIENTPROGRAMS file.

htmLawed 1.1.19

Checks and cleans up HTML code


License: LGPLv3, GPLv2

Alternatives: HTML Tidy

The htmLawed PHP script cleans up HTML and XHTML files, checks tags, neutralizes malicious code, and restricts allowed tags. Thus the tool is well suited for automatic editing of comments in blog posts before publishing, removing certain passages of text from web pages, or standardizing RSS/Atom feeds. Users can integrate the script into their own code to filter input. A text block can contain 8,000 characters max.

HtmLawed removes invalid attributes, sanitizes invalid characters, converts element names to lowercase, deletes anything not allowed, and expands <img> tags to add missing attributes. The included text file contains examples that demonstrate how users can use the script in their own environments. The detailed documentation on the project website is also recommended.

To test the capabilities of the tool with no obligations, just open the htmLawedTest.php file in your browser. Users can type or copy HTML code into the input field and then experiment with the settings.

2 Stars – The htmLawed script is a practical tool for automatically checking and cleaning up HTML code. The stable version does not yet support HTML5, so the test team only gave the tool two points. However, the missing feature is already waiting in the wings, as the current 1.2.beta.7 proves.

yourDashboard 0.2

Put together a monitoring dashboard


License: GPLv3

Alternatives: Linux-Dash

The yourDashboard PHP framework helps users put together a browser instrument panel, offering a better overview of IT infrastructures with extensive monitoring solutions. Two dashlets are available for OpenNMS: one for the OTRS ticket system and the other a time display.

Admins can follow the instructions from the project site to install the framework. The archive contains two folders: etc and core. The latter contains the source code for the individual dashlets and the dashboard program code. The dashlets collect data from designated sources, and yourDashboard visualizes the data in the web interface.

The web interface is set up via XML files from the etc directory. This is where users define the dashboards and the dashlets they display. To keep the data up to date at all times, an AJAX routine updates them regularly. A user management tool is missing, and admins need to protect their web servers themselves. The wiki can help you with this.

3 Stars – The idea of an independent dashboard that taps external data sources is appealing; however, the still fairly young project currently only offers five dashlets. The wiki offers a how-to with instructions for developing your own dashlets. It is worthwhile keeping track of yourDashboard in the hope that upcoming versions will include more dashlets.

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