General Concepts


In this directory are bits and pieces of software that you may find useful.


Biffer is a "better mail notification server", written by me back in the late 1980's at the University of Waterloo's Math Faculty Computing Facility. Those were the days of central mail servers, terminals, and the time when X Windows started to be widely used. Biffer is a daemon that works with a modified "comsat" daemon, to provide all sorts of interesting mail notification options, including filtering, forwarding, X popups, and arbitrary commands.

Now, in the days of central mail servers that you POP or IMAP your mail from, it's less useful than it once was, but still handy. I use it on my FreeBSD laptop, and (of course) quite like it. A FreeBSD port of biffer exists (or you can

cd /usr/ports/mail/biffer && make install clean
if you prefer), or you can grab the biffer-1.0.tar.gz tarball here and do it yourself.


GCtools is a small set of tools that includes

  • danglink -- a tool for finding dangling symbolic links
  • ifinput -- a wrapper command to run another command if there is any input on the standard input, most commonly used in situations like
    some command with no normal output | ifinput mail -s 'some output' me
Comes with the standard "configure" script and man pages too! Grab the gctools-1.0.tar.gz tarball here.


Lc is an alternative to the venerable "ls" command. It harkens back to the mid-1970's at the University of Waterloo, and displays a directory, separating the different file types (directories, files, special files, etc.) into different sections, making it easier to see what's what. Once you get used to using it, you'll need it.

There's a slightly newer version at

Also available as a FreeBSD port
cd /usr/ports/misc/lc && make install clean
or you can grab the lc-1.0.tar.gz tarball here and do it yourself.

Orca port for FreeBSD

Blair Zajac's cool Orca graphing software is now easier to install on FreeBSD. I've submitted an Orca port to the FreeBSD team, but it's not yet in the general distribution. So grab my tarball of the port, uncompress and "make install" on your favorite FreeBSD box. You can even use a FreeBSD machine as your web and Orca server for your Solaris Orcallator output.


Late 1990's variants of Remy Evard's "req" request tracking systems. Most outdated, but available here for your potential historical interest.

See also my Problem Tracking Page for other alternatives.


A variant of the "xmessage" command from the X11R4 release of the X Window System, updated to work on more current versions of X. Handy to have along with "biffer", and the FreeBSD port will install it for you. Otherwise, grab the xmsg-1.1.tar.gz tarball here (which generates no complaints with gcc 4.1 (for me anyway)), or grab the older xmsg-1.0.tar.gz tarball here.

General Concepts: Yesterday's Solutions to Tomorrow's Problems
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Last modified: 2022-08-03 23:35:57 -- Last formatted: 2023-01-08 12:56:44

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