Once in awhile, I reflect on some of the tools that I use constantly, and the fact that there's an awful lot of unsung heros out there. Last night I started thinking about it and compiling a simple list of tools and some specific people that fit this bill. Here they are, in no particular order.
This one should be obvious. PHP has developed into an extremely strong, functional, stable, and fast Web development framework. If Perl makes easy things hard and hard things possible, PHP makes everything easy. I've even taken to writing backend scripts in PHP that would have been Perl not too long ago. A recent IMAP mailbox scanning, parsing, and spam blocking database interaction script springs to mind. It's around 30 lines of PHP and works like a charm.
Again, another obvious entry here. Where would we be without MySQL? It's far more powerful and flexible than many DBAs will admit, and scales extremely well. Think Wikipedia.
I don't know how many times I've used phpMyAdmin, or on how many servers I've installed it, but it's simply a phenomenal tool for working with MySQL.
FreeBSD (and NetBSD, OpenBSD, etc) are the unsung heros of the unsung heros. I operate several high-powered and heavily-loaded FreeBSD boxes, and it's a welcome change from the cult of Linux on occasion. It might not be as admin-friendly to the uninitiated, but once you grok it, there are features in FreeBSD that you wish your Linux boxes had.
For the past 7 years or so, I've been using Mac OS X, and never have I used the Fink package system. It just seemed, well, not quite right to me. Enter DarwinPorts. I use this all the time, and find it fast, flexible, and simple.
I want to live on whatever planet Larry's from. It's hard to picture the world without Perl... and we wouldn't have Perl without Larry, that's for sure.
The deployed base of OpenSSL and OpenSSH is probably incalculable. From my cellphone to my TiVo, to my workstations, laptops, servers, across all operating systems and devices, there's OpenSSL and probably OpenSSH. It's become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe.
Bram Moolenaar and Vim
Another hidden hero, Bram Moolenaar (et al) is responsible for the best editor ever -- Vim. It's my mail reader on some boxes, obviously my editor of choice, and my IDE all rolled into one. I've been using Vim for years and years, and probably still only know and use 20% of the functions. I'm constantly using Vim reflexes in other editors (like Microsoft Word, or in ecto, which I'm using to write this post). If I can find Vim keybindings for an app, I'll use them. Firefox already supports several, such as the / search.
There are many, many more than those listed here, but these are the ones that topped my list last night while I reflected on this post, a few fingers of Lagavulin warming by belly and my brain. Have some more? Drop me a line.