Slideshow

20 useful Web sites for IT professionals

For both work and pleasure, these 20 sites should be a boon to any busy IT professional.

  • LOLCat Builder. For n00bs who are t143d of getting pwn3d by the l4m0rz at icanhascheezburger.com. LOLCat Builder lets you upload your own kitteh pictures and create your own goofy captions in genuine leet speak.
  • PwdHash. This browser extension is a boon for everyone who uses the same password for everything they do on the Internet. Offered by Stanford University, the extension converts user passwords into domain-specific passwords, thus thwarting hackers who try to use stolen passwords on multiple sties. According to Stanford, the extension also provides protection against phishing scams, as it ensures that "the phisher only sees a hash of the password specific to the domain hosting the spoof page." The extension is available for download on both Internet Explorer and Firefox.
  • Annoyances.org Annoyances.org describes itself as "the most complete collection of information assembled for and by actual users of Microsoft Windows" and contains troubleshooting for peeved Windows users. The site also gets major kudos for its graphic of the Monty Python foot stomping on Clippy, who has long been reviled as the Jar-Jar Binks of Microsoft Office.
  • TechNet Flash IT Newsletter. TechNet Flash IT is a biweekly IT newsletter put out by Microsoft that updates readers on security bulletins, product updates and event announcements.
  • Protonic.com. An online community that offers free technical support for computer users, Protonic.com allows users from around the world to submit questions to its all-volunteer techie staff. Although Protonic performs its services completely free of charge, it does accept donations from grateful users. The site says that it will help its clients solve "anything from hardware to HTML problems," but also pointedly notes that it will not giving advice for illegal activity such as hacking.
  • DNS Stuff. This site is a potpourri of DNS-related services, including DNS timing that checks the speed of your DNS hosting, a spam database lookup, a normal and a reverse DNS lookup, an ISP-cached DNS lookup, an email test that checks for problems in sending mail to users or domains, and a URL deobfuscator aimed at clearing up confusing URLs.
  • Optaros Open Source Catalog. Open source consulting and integration firm Optaros has released a catalogue of open source projects that it says should help IT managers separate the wheat from the chaff when considering free software. The Open Source Catalogue 2007, available on the Optaros Web site (registration required), reviews 262 open source software projects that fit into four software categories: operating systems, application development, infrastructure solutions and business applications. The applications range from projects such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the MySQL database to the Enhydra Shark workflow engine and the Bricolage content management system.
  • Big Contacts. Big Contacts is essentially a Web-based calendar and contact-management service that not only lets you mark down important dates and times, but also maintain group calendars, track client sales and send e-mails, files and photos. Additionally, the service can also be accessed from mobile phones, with no syncing required. Prices for the service start at $9.95 per month per user.
  • The Consumer Action Handbook. This online handbook bills itself as an everyday guide to being a smart shopper and offers advice for buying cars and homes, for preventing ID theft and for filing for bankruptcy. The handbook is published annually by the Federal Citizen Information Center.
  • Rate Beer and Beer Advocate. If you're looking to try out some new high-quality beer, Rate Beer and Beer Advocate will help you with recommendations. Ratings are user-generated, and both sites provide forums for beers geeks to discuss their favorite pilsners, stouts and lagers.
  • Informed Networker. Informed Networker is a Slashdot-style social news site that's targeted directly at IT professionals. Founded by IT professional David Mackey, this site is regularly updated with news about software, hardware, security, storage and just about every other topic an IT geek could want. The site is also notable because it lets its readers vote on the usefulness of the articles posted; thus, if readers don't find a particular story all that interesting, they can vote to bury it at the bottom of the page.
  • Engadget. Engadget is a blog about gadgets that features several subsections for robots, HDTV, GPS, digital cameras, laptops and many others.
  • Dictionary.com. To quote Network World writer John Fontana, "spell check will get the letters in the right order, but it doesn't do anything for meaning." Dictionary.com also features a thesaurus, a style guide on grammar and usage and a language translator that includes German, Russian, Korean and many other languages.
  • Historic Advisories by Secunia. Want to keep up with vendors' security advisories without having to visit each vendor's individual Web site? Fear not, because Secunia's Historical Advisories page collects them all within one spot for you and presents them all in chronological order. Secunia, a Danish security service provider, estimates that it posts more than 20 different advisories on a daily basis.
  • The Jack and Jill Children's Foundation charity recycling drive. This novel charity project allows you to transform your old cell phones and printer cartridges into help for developmentally delayed children. According to its Web site, "The charity benefits from every old phone re-cycled, estimating that for every 20,000 phones it receives, it will support one new nurse to undertake their vital support work."
  • Pandora Radio. For anyone who's ever listened to the lovely Icelandic drones of Sigur Rós or the catchy world music/hip-hop hybrid of MIA and wondered, "Why can't more artists sound like that?" Well chances are, a lot of them do, but you've probably never heard of them. Pandora takes a song's "music genome" and compares it to similar-sounding songs across its vast database. It then creates a playlist of tunes for you so you can check out artists you've never heard before and broaden your musical palette.
  • 5 Star Support. 5 Star Support is another free computer support site. This one is notable for its glossaries of computer terms and acronyms, as well as its "Tips, Tricks and Tweaks" self-help section.
  • LinuxQuestions.org. Everything you've ever wanted to know about Linux but weren't afraid to ask. LinuxQuestions.org is a very large forum for people who have questions about Linux applications, programming, security, basically everything.
  • SIRIUS Frequency Finder. SIRIUS Frequency Finder helps you find the best FM frequency to tune your FM transmitter to, whether it's for your satellite radio or your iPod's FM transmitter car kit, by searching an "FCC-provided database of licensed FM broadcasters."
  • IP Blacklist Check. If your company is having problems sending out e-mail, it might be because your server has inadvertently landed on an IP blacklist. The IP Blacklist Check runs your server's IP address against over 140 DNS-based email blacklists. The service is run for free by MX Toolbox, a company that specializes in offering managed IT services for small businesses.
  • Web sites worth your time. Do you have too many bookmarks that are clogging up your browser? If so, then try slimming them down to these sites, which we've selected as 20 of the most useful web destinations for IT professionals. And these Websites aren't just for work either, some of them will help you find new beer to drink and new music to listen to. Enjoy.
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