At our office we actually run a few separate networks to make sure that our main servers have the best protection available. For two of our three networks we run a free firewall based on Linux.
Our favorite product for our free firewall is IPCop, which is an open-source product currently up to version 1.4.11. The free firewall will run even on low powered equipment that would otherwise probably be retired in most settings.
Here is a list of some of the features that are built into the base level installation of IPCop:
- Secure https web administration GUI
- DHCP Server
- Proxying (Squid)
- DNS Proxying
- Dynamic DNS
- Time Server
- Traffic Shaping
- Traffic/Systems/Firewall/IDS graphing
- Intrusion Detection (Snort)
- ISDN/ADSL device support
- VPN (IPSec/PPTP) functionality
One of the great things about IPCop is that you can quite easily expand the firewall with quite a few add-ons that are readily available on the Web.
The IPCop web-site has very good documentation for how to set-up the firewall, if you are looking for a more robust package though you can find instructions on installing IPCop + Copfilter over at HowtoForge: The Perfect Linux Firewall Part I — IPCop.
This is the process that we went through when we last built an IPCop firewall and it produces a very robust and easily managed free firewall solution.
While running Windows XP it is easy to think that we are missing out on a lot of cool, free open-source software and applications. After all, not all open-source applications are available for a Windows PC.
Microsoft however has provided us with over 150 free Windows & Office Programs for free download. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Tweak UI gives access
to system settings not exposed in the default user interface,
including mouse settings, Explorer settings, taskbar settings, and more.
- ISO Recorder Power Toy makes images of CDs & DVDs to create ISO images.
- MSN Search Toolbar with Windows Desktop Search, tabbed browsing, pop-up blocker and automatic form fill.
- Image Resizer resizes one or many image files with a right-click. (Great for quickly resizing images for e-mail or web)
- Media Encoder provides
support for high-quality multichannel sound, high-definition video
quality, new support for mixed-mode voice and music content, and more.
- Movie Maker create, edit, and share home movies easily with drag-and-drops. (My wife uses this for making simple videos)
- Producer 2003 for
users of PowerPoint 2002 & 2003, includes improved audio and video
quality, better synchronization, and presentation-sharing tools.
You can check out the entire list at Ultimate List of Free Windows Software from Microsoft.
To defrag your hard drive is one of the easiest ways to speed up your computer. Unfortunately the default utility that is included with Windows XP is not the best one available, but there are some free alternatives out there for you to use.
In my last post, Removing Hotfix and Service Pack Uninstall Files Safely, I wrote about removing a bunch of files totaling about 500- 750MB. After removing all of those files I want to optimize the performance and distribution of files on my hardrive using a defrag utility. I am going to set my system to do a defrag over night with a free new defrag program called O&ODefrag 2000. It should do a much more thorough job than the one built into Windows XP. Unfortunately you can’t actually download the software from the site, but I downloaded it here, FreewareWeb – Freeware: O&O Defrag 2000Freeware.
The documentation doesn’t mention that it will run on Windows XP, but the site that I found it on says that it works without any problems. You can read that article here, LaptopLogic.com: Essential Utilities.
Windows Hotfix and Service Pack Uninstall files can take up quite a lot of space on a Windows XP installation.
Ed Bott’s got a good article about how to safely remove uninstall files from your Windows XP installation. It’s a question that I have often asked myself, but never really enough to go out searching for it. So when the answer popped up in my RSS reader I did it, and it was fast and painless. Here is a link to his article:
While I was reading that I also removed all of my uninstall files for the hotfixes that were installed in 2004. I wasn’t quite game enough to do the more recent ones, but I figured that with running it for over a year now it should be safe to do.