IPNetMonitorX 2.0.2, by Sustainable Softworks
Posted: 15-Oct-2006

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Sustainable Softworks Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Rick Davis Class: INTERNET
     
$60.00   Download

Overview
In the modern day world of tech support, you can never have too many tools. But when someone takes the time to combine several tools into one working application, life does get a little bit better. That's what the people at Sustainable Softworks have done with IPNetMonitorX.

IPNetMonitorX is a powerful Internet diagnostic tool kit featuring 19 integrated tools designed to help you quickly identify problems, locate where the problem is, and gather data which can be used to solve the problem either directly or through your Internet Service Provider. With IPNetMonitorX, you can see how the Internet is working, giving you the information to both optimize service and diagnose problems.

The tools included are Address Scan, AirPort Signal, Connection List, DHCP Lease, DHCP Test, Finger, Interface Info, Link Rate, Lookup, Monitor, Name Server Query, Ping, Port Scan, Server Scan, Subnet Calculator, TCP Dump (including TCP Flow), TCP Info, Trace Route, and Who Is.

Most of these tools can be found in Mac OS X if you are brave enough to look for them. Several are included in Apple's own Network Utility and the rest of them can be run from the Terminal or through shell scripts. IPNetMonitorX puts them all in one place and provides added details.

Requirements
Mac OS X 10.3.9 or higher (Universal Binary)

Price
An IPNetMonitorX license costs $60. Network administrators on a tight budget may balk at the $60 price tag, and experienced UNIX admins will tell you they can get all of the same information from a handful of shell scripts and the command line. However, Mac administrators will agree that it is a fair price to pay to have this collection of networking tools available in one neat package.

Installation
Installation follows the popular drag and drop procedure. Just download the .dmg file from the developers site. Double-click the .dmg to mount it and drag the IPNetMonitor to your applications folder. You'll be presented with the usual registration window the first time you open the application, and once you enter the appropriate information, you are good to go.

In Use
Many of the features in IPNetMonitor will make many Mac users' eyes glaze over. But for all of the Mac Geeks out there who are in charge of maintaining and troubleshooting your LAN, it's like having a looking glass into your network operation.

Address Scan:

With the Address Scan tool you scan a range of IP addresses looking for active addresses, services or assigned domain names. Use the Look Around scan to see a list of active IP Addresses on your LAN. Use the Last Seen scan to repeat the scan once every minute and report the last time each host was seen. This is useful for detecting which IP addresses are actually in use on your network or when a server becomes unavailable (since you can leave the scan running for as long as desired). The Domain Name Scan does a DNS lookup on each IP address that responds in the scan range to display the corresponding Domain Name if any. This might be used to check which hosts are currently available.

Airport Signal:

Having problems getting a good wireless signal? The Airport Signal tool will help you measure and compare wireless performance and make the needed adjustments, whether it is the need for additional base stations, moving the location of existing base sations, or adding an external antenna to boost your signal.

Connection List:


Connection List Tool

The Connection List window gives you information about your current TCP/IP connections. If you are having problems sending or receiving mail, double-click on the connection to your mail server and start a Ping test or Trace Route to try to identify the bottle neck.

DHCP Lease:

The DHCP Lease tool shows you the basic lease parameters if you are using DHCP. It shows your current IP address, the server that granted the lease, the length of the lease and when it will expire. You can also release the DHCP lease and rebind to get a new DHCP Lease. It will also tell you if the DHCP Server is supplying DNS information. If the Domain Name Server field is blank, you should inform your System Administrator or add the correct information to speed up network lookups.

DHCP Test:

The DHCP Test tool will introduce you to DORA (no, not the cartoon explorer). Each letter in DORA represents a DHCP transaction. D is for Discover; this is where your machine is attempting to locate or discover a DHCP server. The DHCP server will respond with a lease Offer. Your machine will respond with a Request for this lease and wait for an Ack or acknowledge response before assigning this lease to the network interface.

A system administrator can use this tool to discover and identify the presence of rogue DHCP servers or multiple default-gateways that may be slowing down the network.

Finger:

Finger is a simple Internet query and response protocol. The IPNetMonitorX Finger Client sends a text string identifying the information it wants to a Host server, and then displays the response (if any).

Interface Info:

The Interface Info tool allows you to view address information and statistics for each IP interface, Built-In Ethernet, Airport, Modem, etc. Use the popup menu to select the corresponding network device to show it's Hardware Address, Link Speed, Link Status, Vendor or manufacturer and Model. It also shows transfer statistics which are useful for debugging local connectivity problems.

Link Rate:

The Link Rate tool estimates the available bandwidth or transfer rate of a data link. This information can be used by a System Administrator to adjust TCP settings to optimize a networks bandwidth performance.

Lookup:

Lookup is used to convert between IP Addresses and Domain Names. Enter the name or address you wish to lookup, and this tool uses the domain name system recursively by calling the local Resolver (lookupd) to find the corresponding name or address.

To a computer, a server or a website residing on a server is just a set of numbers (IP addresss). A DNS server contains a database that directs various services, AFP, HTTP, etc to the corresponding address. For example, when a user types in www.macguild.org, a lookup is sent to the DNS server requesting the IP address assigned to that domain and loads the appropriate files.

Mac OS X Servers depend on valid forward and reverse DNS entries. Entering the Fully Qualified Domain Name should return the assigned IP Address. Entering the IP Address should return the FQDN. If either lookup fails, connections and data transfer loss can occur.

The Lookup tool can also be used to flush the DNS information that is cached locally. Old or stale DNS information can lead to failed connections to websites or cause delays whil lookup information is verified.

Monitor:


Monitor Tool

The Monitor window allows you to see the characters per second throughput of your Internet connection in real time. Green bars in the upper half show receive data while red bars in the lower half show transmit. The plot shifts left each second to show the last minute of data transfer.

Name Server Query:

Name Server Query allows you to retrieve additional information from the Internet Domain Name System by sending queries to your default Name Server, or an alternate Name Server you specify. Enter the domain name in the Query Name field, and select the type of query using the Query Type popup menu. This tool helps in the setup of a server when used to confirm setting changes to various services. Often times a setting misconfiguration can go unnoticed at setup and only becomes a problem when that specific service is required.

Ping:


Ping Tool

Ping is probably one of the first tools used when troubleshooting network connection problems. With Ping you send an echo request packet to an IP Address or Domain Name and wait to receive an echo response. The travel time is recorded and used to determine the effectiveness of your network architecture. Lost packets or long send and receive times can indicate routing problems, interference and misconfigurations. If you ping an address and get no response, you can use Trace Route to see where the failure occurred.

Port Scan:

The Port Scan window allows you to scan a range of protocol ports to check for available services (listeners). This is especially useful for testing network security including firewalls by verifying that there are no unintended services available.

Port scan is one of the favorite tools for people up to no good. After entering a domain name into the Port Scan tool, the tool will then scan all known ports on the host server looking for any ports that have been unknowingly left open. Once the open ports are identified, they will then attempt to compromise the system using various unsavory tactics.

Server Scan:

The Server Scan tool allows you to check one or more servers at regular intervals to verify whether they are available, log when they are unavailable, and notify an appropriate administrator if desired.

As often happens in system administration, a user will complain that a server is not available. When the system administrator is finally contacted and takes a look, everything appears to be working. Minutes, hours or even days later the complaints start again. Using Server Scan, the system administrator can set it to run overnight, or for days. The logs will tell him when connections were dropped or service disrupted and give him a bigger picture of where the problem might be.

Subnet Calculator:

The Subnet Calculator makes it easier to specify IP addresses and masks for routing. This tool can also be used to help track down spammers who disguise their IP address in decimal form.

TCP Dump:

TCP Dump is a simple User Interface for the UNIX tcpdump tool usually run from the Terminal. The amount of information available can be overwhelming and difficult to decipher. If your system administrator is a UNIX person, this will probably be one of the first places they look for answers.

TCP Info:

The TCP info window allows you to examine TCP/IP data transfer and connection behavior more closely. If you see a lot of duplicate or retransmitted data, you can use the other tools to look for network or configuration problems.

Trace Route:


Trace Route Tool

The Trace Route tool can help you locate bottlenecks in your network or alert you to routing problems. Some of the issues involving the internet may be beyond your control, but a freindly note to your ISP can often alert them to small problem before it becomes a much larger issue. Unlike normal highway traffic, the information highway doesn't always route things in a geographic sense, so don't be surprised if Trace Route shows your information passing through a midwest location when the geographic route would take you up the eastern coast.

Who Is:

The Who Is tool searches the InterNIC (Internet Network Information Center) Database of registered names allowing you to find the organization and administrative contact responsible for networks with registered domain names or IP addresses. For example, if you discover a routing problem in accessing www.sustworks.com, you can use Who Is to find out who is responsible for sustworks.com. The information returned will normally include the email address of an administrative contact to be notified in case of connectivity problems.

Interface
While IPNetMonitorX is actually a collection of nineteen tools, the interface is presented with a floating toolbar (aka "Launcher") that gives the user quick access to all nineteen tools. Once an address is entered into one of the tools, opening another tool automatically uses that address in the selected tools search field. Each tool has a window loaded with the familiar "Aqua" look of red, green and yellow buttons for closing or minimizing windows. With the floating toolbar and a window for each tool, you can quickly find your display littered with windows. Returning to the Launcher and selecting a tool will bring the appropriate window to the front. Or you can select the tool of choice from the list of open windows in the "Window" menu. Overall the interface makes switching between tools much easier than the alternative of locating and opening each tool on it's own.


IPNetMonitorX Launcher


Documentation
Unlike Apple applications, clicking on the familiar question mark babble does not open the OS X Help Viewer. Instead, it opens Safari (or your default web browser) and displays the application's documentation as standard html pages.
It includes a tutorial that takes you through various scenarios for using IPNetMonitorX, and describes how to analyze and use the resulting information. I found several instances in the documentation that were incorrect. For example, it shows CMD-T, Shift-CMD-T and Shift-CMD-R as the key combination to invoke the Trace Route tool from within the Ping, Connections and other windows. However, the correct key combination is CMD+Option+T. Other than the erroneous information, the help pages were useful in understanding the tools better.

Summary
IPNetMonitorX is an extensive Internet diagnostic tool kit that integrates several OS X network tools into a single package. With IPNetMonitorX, you can see how the Internet is working, giving you the information to both optimize service and diagnose problems. The integration between each of the tools makes analyzing and locating problem areas much easier than launching several applications from the terminal or through shell scripts. For example, if you find a problem with Ping, you can use Cmd+Option+T to quickly bring up the Trace Route tool, and the IP Address from Ping is automatically entered for you. If Trace Route shows a router or host not responding, double-click on the appropriate line in the window and a new instance of Ping opens and pings the device. You can select and copy data from most of the windows for pasting into an email message to your system or ISP administrator. If you spend a lot of time troubleshooting networks and connectivity issues, IpNetMonitorX will be a welcome addition to your toolbox.

Pros

  • Combines a great set of tools into one package
  • Integration between tools makes analyzing and troubeshooting a breeze
  • Cut and paste from the various tool windows allows for accurate reporting to system administrators

Cons

  • Mistated key combinations in the documentation had me looking for problems with the installation


Overall Rating:

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice