NeoTrace tracks packets through the Net

NeoTrace tracks packets through the Net

By Carlos A. Soto

GCN Staff

Ever have Internet connectivity problems? Who hasn't?

NeoTrace from NeoWorx Inc. gives you a simple way to find out whether your packets reach their destination.

The ping and whois software tracks a signal from your computer along every router to the destination server of any Web site.

It then gathers all the information about the trek and relays it back to you in an electronic folder.

Four tabs on the virtual folder delineate the trace in different ways. They appear, from top to bottom, as Map, Nodes, List and Graph. The Map tab starts a trace by mapping your immediate geographic area. It expands to show the signal's entire journey. With mouse clicks, you can zoom in to see each node and zoom out to see the country for a local trace or the world for a trace overseas.

Box Score


Graphical ping and whois software

NeoWorx Inc.; Dayton, Ohio;

tel. 937-886-0185

Price: $30

+ Informative network and security problem information

+ Inexpensive and simple to use

' Documentation lacking

You scroll around the map by holding down the left mouse button, moving from node to node easily and accurately.'When the mouse passes over a node, it lists the name of the computer, the IP address, the longitude and latitude, the physical address, and the number of the node in the chain of nodes between your computer and the destination.

The Nodes tab demonstrates what goes on during a trace. It graphically represents every computer and router with an icon for its domain type. For example, a globe icon indicates a .net domain extension, a computer icon refers to .com, and a German flag refers to a .de for the Deutschland domain extension.

NeoTrace does more than ping routers and computers; it also illustrates their locations around the world as your data trave
ls across the Internet.

The trace starts in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. Lines connect all the icons. NeoTrace initiates a trace every 12 seconds. During a trace, data lines and icons light up in succession. The icons change colors to signal speed and connectivity differences. When the icons are green, transfer speed is good, roughly 250 milliseconds or less. Yellow signifies a slow transfer taking up to 1 second. Red means very slow, up to 5 seconds. Gray signifies either a firewall or a server that is down. If a router is set not to relay any information, it also will show up as gray.

The List tab catalogs all the nodes in order, the IP addresses, the names of the computers and the networks to which they correspond. But the most useful feature is that this tab tells the length of the trace in milliseconds.

The Graph tab demonstrates the differences in connectivity and speed between traces. It's most useful for administrators who want to discover slow sections in a network.

NeoTrace seems as if it's doing something complicated, but in reality it works by pinging'sending short packets of incomplete data to all the computers through which it passes. Using the Unix whois utility, it derives the IP and physical addresses of the systems along the traveling data's route.

The $30 software comes on a 3.5-inch floppy disk. You can also download it from the NeoWorx Web site. Installation is easy; the only information you must supply is the physical address of your system and where you want to store the 1.4M of program files.

The Net can't give you a dial tone; NeoTrace is the next best thing.

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