Network diagnostics, monitoring and building flash

A question about MAC-only device monitoring, a diagnostic suite, a server monitoring tool and a simple Flash creation utility.

First up this week is a question from me: How can you find and monitor devices that only have media access control addresses? I have asked many companies for a tool to do this because there are all sorts of network devices – such as power line network systems – that don't have IP addresses and it appears there's nothing available.

I have yet to find a tool that can find and "see" MAC-only devices other than the utilities provided by power line product vendors, and those don't provide any kind of alerting or integration with real network management systems. All suggestions gratefully received.

Speaking of tools, there are a few I use all the time that I would like to replace with something better. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. For us die-hard optimists it is hard not to hope that the next vendor's take on a word processor, e-mail client, calendar, synchronization tool or whatever is going to be the best you've ever found. This software Holy Grail, if you will, is what will transform your computer use into a transcendental experience and propel you into superhuman productivity. You hope.

Well, I have nothing quite that dramatic for you this week, but I do have a couple of pretty good network utilities for Windows: one a suite of diagnostic tools called NetInfo and the other a monitoring tool called NetGong.

Both of these titles are published by Tsarfin and have been evolving for some years (I last mentioned NetInfo in 2002). The chaps at Tsarfin recently got in touch and invited me to check out the latest versions, NetInfo Version 6.5 and NetGong 6.5.

NetInfo is a cleanly designed suite providing Local Info (Winsock, network adapter, and IP configuration data), Connections (local socket use data), Ping, Trace (traceroute), Lookup (DNS resolution), Finger (does anyone use this anymore?), Whois, Daytime (another antiquated protocol), Time (Network Time Protocol), Quote (yet another service with a beard), HTML (a Web page retrieval and raw content display), Scanner (an IP address range scanner), Services (a port scanner), and E-mail (an e-mail address validator). The final feature is Web Center, which links to Tsarfin’s Web site and provides access to various remote online diagnostics, such as ping tools in different cities.

NetInfo provides most of its results as hierarchical lists, and right clicking on a list item allows you to jump to another feature (for example, from Ping to Trace) or alternatively to jump and use the currently selected data. Exceptions to this exist in, for example, the Connections list where connection-specific functions such as "Terminate the selected connection" are available.

For $40 NetInfo is a pretty good deal, but featuring facilities that are more or less archaic lets the suite down. I’d rate Tsarfin's NetInfo at 3 out of 5.

One the other hand, I'm going to give Tsarfin's NetGong 4.5 out of 5. NetGong, also $40, does one thing well: It is a simple, robust ping-based server monitoring tool that can produce pop-up, audible and e-mail alerts as well as logging events to a file and optionally running any application when a server is detected as "down." For simple monitoring, NetGong does its job very well and cheaply.

My final topic for today, a new, slimmed down version of Swish Max2, published by Swishzone.com, called Swish minimMax2.

If you are putting together a presentation explaining what you do to the bigwigs and want to author simple flash content that uses text effects or simple animations, this new product looks to be a terrific tool for $100. I've only just got my hands on it so I'll reserve giving it a score until I've had a chance to break it.

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