• United States

Catching up with upgrades

Mar 03, 20034 mins
Data Center

* Gearhead columnist Mark Gibbs catches up on previously reviewed products

This week we’ll catch up on a few upgrades of products we’ve reviewed in this column.


First, there’s an improved version of a tool we loved, the remote control utility VNC. The new version, TightVNC, is a direct descendent of the original code.

TightVNC is faster, smaller and more robust than the original, and boasts all sort of enhancements:

• Improved cursor handling so you no longer see slow remote cursor movements that lag behind the local cursor.

• The algorithms for encoding screen data are optimized for slow and moderate-speed connections, meaning they generate less traffic than the standard VNC procedure. TightVNC also supports all the original VNC encodings so it can operate efficiently over fast networks.

• With TightVNC you can choose the ratio of compression and coding speed to match your connection speed and processor power.

• If you don’t care too much about image quality, JPEG compression is an option that compresses color-rich screen areas more efficiently than the compression scheme used in the original VNC.

• An improved Java viewer (accessed through the built-in HTTP server, as in the standard VNC).

• You can choose arbitrary port numbers for TCP/IP connections, a feature not available in the original VNC.

• The Unix version of the TightVNC viewer can tunnel connections via SSH automatically using a local SSH/OpenSSH client installation.

There are a lot more changes. But best of all, TightVNC is, like its forebear, free.

WhatsUp Gold 8

Another upgraded product is the network management console called WhatsUp Gold from Ipswitch (, now at Version 8 (see our review of Version 7).

In this release WhatsUp Gold adds:

• Real-time event monitoring of Windows log events and alert generation. You also can relate device downtime or network strain to a specific event that has recently occurred on the network.

• Selective Discovery, which maps the specific device types you choose to include or exclude rather than performing a “blanket” discovery of all network devices – this can be a real performance improvement in large networks.

• XML and custom map formats for sharing with other applications.

• SMS notification (TAP and UCP – GSM will be added in the future).

• Enhanced NT Service Monitoring adds the ability to restart a failed Windows NT/2000/XP service in conjunction with sending a notification of this service failure.

• SNMP Performance Reports include reports based on data retrieved from SNMP devices.

In short, WhatsUp Gold has been polished and improved. The product documentation and additional documentation is better and, overall, we’d say WhatsUp Gold still is an outstanding value at $795.

Servers Alive

Our final improved product is a tool we can’t live without: A network device monitoring system called Servers Alive Version 4 from Woodstone bvba, publisher of another of our favorite tools, WS_Ping ProPack (see our write-up). We reviewed Servers Alive last April.

The changes in this release:

• Two versions: The Standard version can monitor 1,000 devices, and the Enterprise edition can handle 5,000 entries and adds Open Database Connectivity logging.

• You can select the protocol and port to check rather than the protocol being assumed (for example, if you chose Port 80 the previous version automatically assumed you wanted to check HTTP).

• Each device entry now can have many different alerts associated with it, each with its own settings.

The templating feature for Web page generation is much improved, and you can define any number of customized pages to report on specific devices and/ or levels of detail.

This release of Servers Alive is better-organized than the previous version and is also better-looking. At $100 for the Standard Edition and $180 for the Enterprise Edition, it also is a great value.

Updates to


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

More from this author