Posts Tagged ‘open source’

Sending Mass Email in Thunderbird Using MailTweak

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment

While Outlook has some great features for a corporate environment, Mozilla Thunderbird is probably one of my all-time favorite email clients. Its cross-platform compatible (runs on Linux, Windows, and Mac), fast, highly customizable, open source, and free to download and use (take that Microsoft!). Just like its cousin, the Mozilla Firefox browser, extra functionality and features can be added to Thunderbird by installing plugins. One of my all-time favorite plugins for Thunderbird (along with Enigmail), is MailTweak. This plugin adds a great deal of extra features and functionality to an already great program. One of these features that I find myself using fairly often, is sending personalized mass emails…


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Tutorial: Using WinSCP to Connect to a FTP, SFTP/SCP, or AFP File Share

January 22, 2011 8 comments

Both Mac and Linux have built-in support for connecting securely to SFTP and SCP file shares. This is because both are closely connected to the Unix platform, where the ssh protocol was originally developed. Windows, however doesn’t have any such connection to these protocols. Luckily, there is a free program that will add the necessary functionality to easily work with these file shares. Its called WinSCP (

WinSCP (Which stands for Windows Secure Copy) is a lightweight program that allows Windows computers to connect to other servers running FTP or SSH (and thus securely to SFTP/SCP file shares) on them, and I’ve even had success connecting to AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) shares (edit: since I wrote this article, I have done some additional research, and found out that the Mac servers that were using AFP also had SSH enabled for remote management, which is what WinSCP was probably connecting to — my recommendation is if you need to access files on a Mac from Windows, you probably need to also enable SSH on the server to make it work). In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to install this software and use it to connect to a server.

Installing WinSCP

First thing to do is download WinSCP from its download page ( You’ll note that there are two different install packages available: the standard Installation package and the Portable Executable package. Use the Portable Executable package if you don’t have administrative permissions or if you want to install the program on a portable device like a USB drive. Otherwise use the Installation package to install the software onto a specific computer. After downloading the program, go ahead and run it.

WinSCP Install: Select LanguageThe first screen you’ll see is the Select Setup Language window. For the sake of this tutorial, we’ll leave it as English, but you can choose whatever you want. Click OK to continue.

Click Next on the Welcome window, and next again to accept the install license (WinSCP is distributed under the open source GPL license). The next window is the Setup Type window where you can choose to use the Typical Install option or do a Custom Install. For the sake of this tutorial, we’ll stick with the Typical Install option. Click Next to move to the next screen, select the Do Not Install radial button on the extra software window, and click next again.

Typical vs Custom Install

TCommander vs Explorer Interfacehe next screen lets you select the type of interface you want to use. The two options are the Commander and Explorer interfaces. The commander interface has a more traditional FTP program look with one frame on the left of the window showing your local files and another frame on the right showing the files on the server. You transfer files back and forth by dragging from one frame to the other. The explorer interface looks more like a typical Windows Explorer window of just the server’s files, and you transfer files back and forth by dragging them from one window to the other. Either interface will work, and you can switch back and forth after installation, so it really doesn’t matter which you choose (I happen to prefer the Commander interface myself). After selecting which interface you want, Click Next and then Install to complete the installation.

After its complete, click finish to close the install program. If you leave the Launch WinSCP  box checked it will open the program automatically when you click finish. Otherwise you can use the desktop icon or Start Menu to run the program.Finished Installation

Setting Up a Connection in WinSCP

WhWinSCP Starting Imageen you open WinSCP, you’ll see the main program screen. On the right hand side is a series of buttons that allow you to edit, delete, and create new connections. Left of that is a list of the connections that you’ve created and saved in the past. Click on the New button to open up the Login screen.

There are several fields on the Login screen that you should be aware of:

  • Host Name: This is where you’ll put the name of the server that you want to connect to (for example:
  • Port Number: This is the port that the server will be connecting on. Unless otherwise instructed, just leave it set to its default number (port 22).
  • Username: This is the username that you would use to log into the computer normally (for example: u0123456). If you are not sure what to use, ask the server’s administrator.
  • Password: This is the password you would use to log into the computer normally (for example: password1234). Again, ask the server’s administrator if you don’t know what to use for this field.
  • Private Key File: If your connection is set up to use Public/Private key authentication, you would tell WinSCP where your private key file is. If you don’t know what a private key is, or if you don’t have one, just leave the field blank.
  • File Protocol: This is the type of protocol you’ll be using to connect with the server. Generally, you can leave this set to SFTP with the Allow SCP Fallback box checked.

WinSCP Login Screen

Once you’ve filled in the appropriate fields, you can click the save button and choose a name for the connection (this can be whatever you want). If you want WinSCP to remember your password, go ahead and check the box that says Save Password (otherwise WinSCP will ask you for your password every time you try to connect). Finally click the OK button to save the connection to your Connections List.Walks through

Transferring Files Using WinSCP

Once you’ve created and saved a connection, you can access your file share by clicking on the entry in the list and clicking the Login button at the bottom of the window. This will open a box saying it’s attempting to connect to the server. If the information you entered is correct, it will open up a window showing the files on the server, and (if you selected the Commander Interface) the files on your local computer as well. Commander Interface for WinSCP

To enter a folder on either the server or local computer side, simply double-click on that folder. To move back out of the folder, you can double-click on the folder at the top of the list with an arrow and two dots (the two dots mean move up one directory). Finally, to copy a file from one computer to the other, simply click and drag from one side to the other. This will cause WinSCP to verify that you want to copy that file. Click Copy, and when the transfer is complete, you should see a copy of the file on both the server and local computer in the place you dragged and dropped it to. You can also copy folders and multiple files the same way (to copy multiple files or folders, simply highlight them all using the shift or ctrl key, then drag and drop). It’s important to remember that this action only makes a copy from one computer to the other. The original file will still be in the same place it was before the transfer. When you are done, you can simply close the window like you would any other, and it will close the connection for you and exit the program.

You should now be able to use WinSCP to upload and download files from other servers. There are several features available in WinSCP that we haven’t covered in this tutorial however. If you are interested in learning what these features are and how to use them, simply check out the WinSCP Documentation page at I’ve also created a video tutorial demonstrating these steps that can be seen on Vimeo, or by playing the the embedded video below:

Disable the System Beep in Ubuntu Linux

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Materials Needed: A computer running Ubuntu Linux (may work with other distros)
  • Time: 5 minutes

There are three four simple ways to disable the system beep in Ubuntu. They are: Permanently for all users with a blacklisted module, Permanently for all users using inputrc, Permanently for a specific user, and Temporarily disable the beep. I will go over each of these three methods in this Wiki entry. If you are not sure which method you wish to use, I recommend permanently disabling the speaker for all users with a blacklisted module.

Permanently, for All Users (Blacklisted Module)

After initially writing this guide, I learned that Ubuntu allows you to use a text file in the /etc/modprobe.d/ directory to blacklist or enable modules as needed. I found this way to be the easiest and most robust way to turn off the system beep, and will be turned off from the moment your system boots up. To create a blacklisted module, simply open up a terminal (its under accessories in Ubuntu’s Applications menu) and type:

sudo echo blacklist pcspkr > /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-pcspkr.conf

Here’s what this command does:

  • sudo: Use this command to perform a task as the Super User. This gives us permission to create a file in the modprobe.d directory. You will probably have to put in your password before it will execute the command. If you don’t have access to the sudo command, you’ll have to contact your system administrator.
  • echo: This command will print whatever follows it to the terminal screen (or as we’ll see in a moment, to a file).
  • blacklist pcspkr: This is the command that tells linux to blacklist (aka. do not load) the pcspkr module on startup. In other words, this will keep the system speaker from ever starting up, which means there is no way for Ubuntu to beep at you.
  • >: This symbol says to take the output of whatever command is on the left-hand side of it (in this case, our echo command) and write it to a file specified on the right-hand side of it (in this case /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-pcspkr.conf).
  • /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-pcspkr.conf: The file path where we will be storing our command to blacklist the pc speaker module.

With this one command, you will never have to deal with a system beep again. Some of you may be wondering if this will also turn off your speakers that you use to listen to sounds/music on your computer. The answer is no. They should continue working without any problems.

Permanently, for All Users (inputrc)

If you want to permanently disable the beep for all users on the system, you will need to edit the system’s inputrc file. To do this, open a terminal and type:

sudo nano /etc/inputrc

For those of you not familiar with bash commands, we’ll take a moment to explain what’s going on here:

  • sudo: This allows you to execute this command as a Super User. Since we are editing the system’s version of this file, we will need Super User privileges.
  • nano: This is a really simple command-line text editor. You can substitute this editor for any other text editor that you would prefer to use (I like Vim myself). If you don’t know about any other text editors, or if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should probably stick to nano.
  • /etc/inputrc: This is the path to the file you are going to edit.

Once the editor opens your inputrc file, type the following command:

set bell-style visible

Again, we’ll go over this command:

  • set bell-style: This tells the system that we are going to change the way the system notifies us of an error. By default, it is set to beep at you.
  • visible: This tells the system what to do instead of beeping at you. Visible will cause the system to cause the window you are in to flash instead of beep. If you don’t want it to do anything, substitute the word none.

One should also note that in later versions of Ubuntu, this line of code is already in the file and is just commented out (made so it won’t run) by a # at the beginning of the line. Instead of typing the command, you can simply find the correct line and delete the # at the beginning.

Save the file (in nano, you push ctl-x, then enter y to indicate you want to save the changes) and restart your computer.

Permanently, for a Specific User

Follow the same steps for the “All Users” method as specified above, but instead of typing the command to edit the generic /etc/inputrc file as previously mentioned, edit/create the one in the user’s home directory. To do this, type:

nano ~/.inputrc

This file will override the generic file previously mentioned, but only for the user that is logged in when you edit the file, so you can have the default bell-style be set to one type, and your current user to another. Again, the rest of the steps are exactly the same as above.

Temporarily Disabled

If you only want to disable this temporarily (only when you go to the library for example), you can use this method. Open a terminal and type the following two commands:

xset b off
xset b 0 0 0

These two commands together will basically tell the system to turn off the bell, but it will be turn back on the next time you restart your computer.

Top Free Apps for Your Computer

August 20, 2009 1 comment

There’s an old saying that “the best things in life are free.” Few people know that some of the best applications written for the PC (and the Mac) are available free of charge. I’ve put together a “short list” of programs that may be of interest to the average Windows user. If you use a different OS (such as Mac or Linux) these programs may or may not be available, but with a little research (i.e. “Googling”), you should be able to find some plausible alternatives. Also, if you intend to use any of these programs in an enterprise/work environment, be sure to first read the license information as some programs (mainly antivirus/malware applications) are only free for personal use.


I’ve put this at the top of the list because no Windows based PC should be without some form of updating virus protection. I say updating because those “free” trials of Norton, Symantec, or McAfee that came pre-installed on your computer usually expire after a month or two and then are next to useless until you purchase a license for about $40 a year. This is not to say that these programs aren’t effective at protecting your computer when they are receiving updates. What most people don’t know, however, is there are some free antiviruses available that are just as good, and they never expire. Below are the two antivirus apps I recommend for the average user. Just be sure to only have one antivirus on your computer at a time, since having multiple antivirus apps will cause all sorts of weird errors.

  • Avira: This antivirus is one of my favorites and is what I run on my Windows computers at home. It is fast, easy to use and has a very good detection rate with very few false positives. Its also very light weight, so it runs well on both old hardware and high-performance gaming rigs alike. The only downside I’ve found is the free version displays a popup ad every time it updates (about once a day). Simple Instructions to turn off the ads can be found at the wikiHow website, but be aware that doing so is probably a violation of Avira’s End-user license agreement. Does this mean that disabling the ads will cause men in dark suits to visit your house in black helicopters? Probably not, but if you want to play it safe, check out AVG as a good alternative. You can get Avira Antivirus free at
  • AVG: As mentioned above, AVG is a great alternative to Avira. It uses a little more resources than Avira, but is also very dependable and easy to use. I often recommend it to people who don’t want to be bothered by ads, but also want dependable, free virus protection. In fact, up until I discovered Avira, this was my antivirus of choice. You can get AVG for free at

There are some additional antivirus apps out there (such as Avast! and ClamWin) that will also give you some free protection, but due to Avast!’s registration issues and ClamWin’s lack of features, they don’t quite make the cut.

Chat/Instant Messaging

I used to be a huge fan of Pidgin Instant Messenger because of its support for a wide variety of chat clients in one easy-to-use package. I found it to be perfect for people who used multiple chat clients, because they could just use one program rather than three or four to stay in touch with people…

Then along came Digsby. Digsby not only does what pidgin did by supporting multiple chat clients at the same time, but it also lets you receive email alerts and keep tabs on your social networks (such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook). And if that wasn’t enough, it does it while packaging it all into a stylish, customisable side-bar that can be minimised to a small set of icons in your right-hand part of the task bar. Simply put, Digsby is awesome! The only complaint I have is that it isn’t available yet for Mac and Linux (but they are working on it). You can download Digsby from

Web Browsers

Internet Explorer sucks. That’s all there is to it. It’s insecure, slow, and doesn’t always display websites correctly (mainly because Microsoft tends to make up a new set of standards for every version of IE it releases). To be fair, a lot of improvements have been made since it was first packaged with Windows. Changes have been made to fix it up, speed it up, and give it a new coat of paint. When you get right down to it though, these changes are like dressing up a turd; underneath that fancy top hat and coat tails, it still stinks. If you are currently using Internet Explorer to read this blog post, stop and download one of the following recommended web browsers right now.

  • Firefox: Most of you are probably not surprised this web browser is at the top of my list. Its secure, fast, reliable, and full of features. It also completely follows XHTML standards that have been created by the World Wide Web Consortium (of course, almost everyone except Microsoft does this). Simply put, this means that it will always display valid web pages correctly. If all this wasn’t enough, there is a plethora of free plugins available that will let you customise and add additional functionality to your web browser. You can get firefox at
  • Chrome: While this browser isn’t nearly as feature-rich as Firefox, it is by far one of the fasted web browsers around. This browser made by Google has an amazing startup time and can load web pages at a rate that will blow almost any competitor out of the water. Finally, its completely open source software, so anyone can contribute code to make Google Chrome better. You can download this cool, new browser from

Office Suite

What if I were to tell you that you could have the same functionality as Microsoft Office without the hefty price tag? Why pay over $100 for a decent word processor or spread sheet editor (or around $400 for the Microsoft Office Standard version) when you can use OpenOffice for free! OpenOffice has a word processor, spreadsheet program, database, slideshow, a math formula editor, and even a simple desktop publishing program. Finally, it can both save and open Microsoft Office file formats (including the new .docx format), and even create PDF documents with a push of a button. Get OpenOffice by going to

Like I said before, this is just a “short list” of free and useful programs available for the PC (there’s a lot more than what I’ve just mentioned). Please feel free to comment on which free applications you enjoy, or even ask questions about other free alternatives to your favorite programs (The Gimp being a great alternative to Adobe Photoshop for example). Since the main way people find out about these free applications is usually by “word of mouth,” the more commentary, the better.