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A Monthly Newsletter – March 2008

If you are one of those who prefer using a command-line interface whenever possible, you will love the new VanDyke ClientPack, a set of command-line utilities for automating file transfer, shell, and public-key administration activities. Once again we seek your input on development for SecureCRT® and the VShell® server, and report on the results of last month's survey. In between, there is a tip on silent installation, some activity from the software forums, and in the spirit of Getting Things Done, a productivity piece on the trendy but still useful idea of "life hacks".


1. New VanDyke ClientPack Delivers Automation Utilities
2. Call For Testers: SecureCRT Scripting, VShell W3C Logging
3. Tip: Silent Installation
4. Heard On The Forum: Reconnect All Tabs With A Script
5. Life Hacks: More Than A Buzzword?
6. Report: Quick Survey Results
7. New and Current Releases

Online Resources

1. New VanDyke
ClientPack Delivers Automation Utilities

For years, network administrators have used the command-line utilities that come with the VShell server to automate file transfer, shell, and public-key administration tasks. This set of utilities is now bundled for use on end user PCs running Windows, UNIX, Linux, or Mac OS X. The VanDyke ClientPack is for situations where the focus is on lightweight, system-wide task automation. Put the VanDyke ClientPack to work in your organization to save time, reduce human error, and increase compliance with security policies and practices.

The command-line utilities in the VanDyke ClientPack include:

  • vsftp Interactive SFTP file transfer
  • vsh Secure Shell client
  • vcp SFTP file transfer
  • vkeygen Public-private key generator
  • vpka Key upload to the Secure Shell server

While the VanDyke ClientPack utilities have command-line interfaces to facilitate automation, they employ the same mature Secure Shell technology as the latest version 6.0 client software, including public-key and other authentication methods. The vsftp and vcp utilities offer scriptable, SFTP-based secure file transfer, while the vsh shell includes not just command execution but also secure tunneling for a broad range of data using port forwarding and X11 forwarding. Each utility provides logging options for tracking and debugging.

MSI support allows you to distribute the applications through your distributions server using Group Policy and to automate installs through SMS or other install programs.

The VanDyke ClientPack is available for a wide range of Microsoft Windows® and UNIX platforms. Single licenses cost $59.95, with multiple license discounts available.

For more information on the VanDyke ClientPack, visit the VanDyke Software website.

Or, download the ClientPack today!

2. Call For Testers: SecureCRT Scripting, VShell W3C Logging

Once again the VanDyke Software development group is looking for customers to test pre-beta versions of upcoming VShell server and SecureCRT releases. If you wish to evaluate any of the three features below, send e-mail to .

For SecureCRT, new capabilities include a SendKeys() script method and the ability to access the system Clipboard within a SecureCRT script. The SendKeys() method makes it easier to send function keys, control keys, and other special characters. This capability also makes it easier to write scripts that are protocol and emulation independent. New Clipboard scripting functions provide access to the current selected text and also to available Clipboard data. This allows you to set up such actions as running a script that uses the contents of the Clipboard to send a command to the session, or selecting text in the session and running a script which launches a web browser to Google that text.

In the VShell server, a new logging mode employs the W3C extended log file format. This logging format allows the administrator to analyze the VShell server logs using W3C log analysis tools. The administrator will be able to easily determine crucial information regarding the server, such as how many users have connected, where they connected from, which files were transferred and who transferred them, plus many other details that may be of interest.

For background on the W3C logging format, the working draft is available at the W3C website.

3. Tip: Silent Installation

When you are installing or upgrading multiple machines, did you know that you can skip going though the installer wizard screens? There is a straightforward way to start installation from the command line, bypassing the installer wizard, for SecureCRT, SecureFX®, or VShell.

Read the complete tip on the VanDyke Software website.

4. Heard On The Forum: Reconnect All Tabs With A Script

Forum member rajtp uses SecureCRT 6.0 to VPN into a corporate network. Occasionally, the VPN disconnects, also disconnecting the 10-15 tabbed sessions that were connected to network devices. rajtp wanted a way to quickly reconnect all the tabbed sessions at once, instead of individually reconnecting each tab.

Kevin B. from VanDyke Software support provides a script that goes through each of the open tabs and connects to a list of sessions.

Read the complete forum posting, on the VanDyke Software Forums.

We've had a number of requests for this capability, and a new menu item to connect and disconnect all tabs is on the roadmap for SecureCRT 6.1. If you would like to be notified when this feature is available, send an e-mail to .

5. Life Hacks: More Than A Buzzword?

Are you a "geek who suffers from information overload"? Maybe you have "a playful curiosity in the ways you can accelerate your workflow"? A recent article in Information Week persuaded us that our readers might get some value from a topic that has already been covered quite a bit in the mainstream media: "life hacks". To delve into the life hacks concept, Mitch Wagner's article, "How To Take Back Your Time And Attention", focuses on a recent MacWorld Expo presenter, Merlin Mann of the blog site 43 Folders.

Mann is not the originator of the term life hacks – that would be the Englishman Danny O'Brien. Several years ago O'Brien interviewed and observed programmers and other computer professionals at work – and realized they often shared a common approach to using quick "hacks" to get past daily work and productivity issues, similar to the way they would write a quick shell script. Since 2004 the idea of tackling thorny problems with simple tactical solutions has gained many proponents. What pricks up our ears about Merlin Mann's message is when he focuses on "modest goals, like getting home at a reasonable hour and not spending all weekend catching up on e-mail". Those are goals that can motivate anyone.

Mann asserts that there are certain tactics or approaches that knowledge workers need to master to be in control of their lives. When separated from the life hacks jargon, some of what's presented
is common sense: don't read e-mail just because the new mail bell goes off, find ways to control time-wasting internet browsing, take charge of your work schedule. What's interesting is the tactical
approach: forget high concepts and focus on tweaks that make your life better now.

Reviewing a variety of sites and discussions, life hacks are often down-and-dirty software productivity tips: filtering e-mail, easy ways to edit photos, customizing Gmail keystrokes. That's a lot of what you'll find at, for example. But here and there you come across life hacks that seem to be wonderfully heretical – upending truisms of work life. Here are a few of the more profound ones:

  • Organizing: "Find something that works okay for you, and then stop. Incremental improvements are...just a black hole for knowledge workers."
  • Coping with mountains of e-mail: "I just delete everything every few months."
  • Working too much: "Get off the internet and go down to the pub."

If this approach appeals to you, the following links may help jumpstart your investigation:

6. Report: Quick Survey Results

As promised, here are the results of last month's survey of your satisfaction with SecureCRT and SecureFX. We asked both what you liked about the existing software and what you want to see added or improved.

Your favorite thing about SecureCRT by far was the window tabs capability, with session management and multiple protocol support coming second and third. You chose tiling multiple sessions as the feature you'd most like to see added. "Other" was also at the top of your lists. Some of your suggestions were the ability to configure tunneling sessions more quickly by mapping to a toolbar button, the ability to pass user ID and password location on the command line, and enhancements to scrollback history.

Most appreciated in SecureFX were drag-and-drop transfers and integration with SecureCRT. A Quick Synchronize database was highly-desired – and it is now on the roadmap for an upcoming version. You would also like to have bookmarks for favorite folders. Other suggestions for improving SecureFX were to display the estimated transfer time when transferring a complete directory tree, and the ability to upload a file using the ENTER key.

There was one request that was easy to satisfy because it was already in SecureCRT and SecureFX. Yes, you can already check for new releases and initiate download and installation. You will find "Check for Updates" on the Help menu – which supports the reputation computer professionals have for not often looking in Help, doesn't it?

Our thanks to all of you who participated. If you have more suggestions to share, or if you would like to be notified when a new feature is ready for testing, feel free to let us know via our online web forms.

7. New And Current Releases

The SecureCRT 6.0.1 and SecureFX 6.0.1 official releases are now available. They deliver increased productivity with enhanced user tools and a high level of integration between SecureCRT and SecureFX. SecureCRT adds the ability to move tabs in and out of windows, as well as a new button bar to automate tasks. SecureFX offers mirroring with delete, an editable address bar, and the ability to resolve symbolic links. A combined installer for both clients is available, as well as an installer for U3 smart drives.

A maintenance release of VShell 3.0.4 was made on March 20th.

Here is a list of the latest official product releases:

  SecureCRT 6.0.1
  SecureFX 6.0.1
  CRT™ 6.0.1
  VanDyke ClientPack 6.0
  VShell 3.0.4 Server for Windows
  VShell 3.0.4 Server for UNIX
     Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0
     Solaris 10 (SPARC)
     Solaris 8 (SPARC)
     FreeBSD 6.1 (Intel x86)
     HP-UX 11
     Mac OS X 10.2
     AIX 5.3

All VanDyke Software products may be downloaded and evaluated free for 30 days. Licenses include one year of free upgrades and access to our expert technical support. Licenses for three years of upgrades and support are also available.

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VanDyke Software, CRT, SecureCRT, SecureFX, and VShell are trademarks or registered trademarks of VanDyke Software, Inc.

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