Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from NWPS!

Update: we actually had a true white Christmas, the first since 1990. It was snowing today, we got around an inch of snow, but the forecast is for it all to melt. We've had snow on the ground for the last 10 days, so it's about time for it to be over -- I am done, ready for return to our perpetual fall.

NetScanTools (TM) Pro 10.80 USB Version Patch Ready

The USB version patch was posted to our secure site on Monday, Dec 22. Please use Check for New Version to access the site.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New NetScanTools (TM) Pro Version 10.80

The newest release of NetScanTools Pro is finally done. This is the long form (or long-winded) explanation of some of the changes made in 10.80.

Several major changes have been made and they are mostly in the area of DNS Tools because that is where customer interest has been taking us. Current users take note -- the Name Server Lookup manual tool is GONE: but don't worry, it was reworked and renamed DNS Tools - Core. A few of the tools formerly on the Name Server Lookup tool were move to the new DNS Tools - Advanced tool, along with new tools. We have brought back the manual Zone Transfer tool where you specify the authoritative DNS to retrieve the zone from. New DNS Tools have been added including a DNS Version tool that retrieves the software version of the DNS, an Auth Serial Check used to compare the zone serial numbers of primary and secondary DNS, a new SPF/Domain Keys record retrieval tool and both DNS Tools groups have a new Batch Processing function. Batch Processing allows you to run the tools with a list of IPs, domain names or hostnames which is really handy if you have a group of queries to make. Autosave is included in both DNS Tools groups. There will be even more additions to the DNS Tools groups in future releases.

Speaking of Autosave, it has been added SNMP and to Traceroute. What is Autosave? It is a simple method of saving the results of all queries from a tool to a single user-defined text file. That way you can review all the data you have done in SNMP or Traceroute or the DNS Tools. Eventually we would like to put Autosave into every place it makes sense and SNMP and Traceroute were two that needed it the most right away.

SNMP has also had a minor facelift. The annoyingly short width OID entry field was made wider -- alot wider so that you can see what was entered before. The list of SNMP actions has been labeled too. The setup window has been improved.

Traceroute has the autosave function in setup and we also added a main tool quick select of the five kinds of traceroute (ICMP (MS), ICMP WinPcap, UDP variable port, UDP fixed port, and TCP). This means you don't have to go back into setup to change the traceroute mode.

Network Statistics also had a minor facelift mostly in the TCP/UDP connection endpoint list. More columns are visible. We split the Process:PID column into two and also split the IP/Port columns into two. A bit easier to read especially since it is now wider.

That's a few of the major changes, there are lots of other changes. The USB version will be done in a few days and the demo will be updated after Christmas to reflect 10.80 changes.

If you have an active Maintenance Plan, click on the Online left panel group, then click on Check for New Version, login and download the new version. Comments on the new version are appreciated and if you have any feature suggestions, let us know. If you don't have an active maintenance plan, go to our main page and look at the End of 2008 Special.

Weather and NST Pro release status

Tuesday morning it was 18F and clear, then Wednesday morning it was mixed rain/snow and 32F, then today it was 27F and light snow. Normally we hardly ever get snow before January and the last time there was snow on Christmas day was 1990.

I should have the 10.80 installed version release done later today. Just getting through email...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

the cold

I guess since we live in "Twilight territory" (Forks is west of us -- past Port Angeles -- we are all in Clallam County), I think with the current weather we can all qualify as "the cold ones". For the last two months we have been in a season of never ending Fall. The daytime highs never really were below 50F and the lows hardly touched freezing. Then all of a sudden, ouch! -- it got cold, 29F and dropping as I write this. To the credit of the weather forecasters, I will admit they DID predict this -- so I spent a good part of the last couple of days preparing for it: The cars were gassed up (we are down to the unheard of price of $1.79/gallon here finally after a few years of $2-$3-$4 prices), I got gas for the generator, checked and wrapped the faucets, moved the cows and put the heater in their water trough. All the little things. It all started on Friday as a simple windstorm -- we only lost the top half of one tree -- hurricane force wind gusts are common here on the North Olympic Peninsula -- something people don't realize. Then last night we got about 2-3 inches of dry snow. Now it's supposed to get cold (in the teens) -- the coldest we've seen since 1990. I know, midwesterners and east coasters think this is balmy...

Why say all of this? Well I intend to release 10.80 mid-week. But if the weather interferes (internet disruptions, power failures, more snow...), it may be delayed.

Friday, December 5, 2008


On Monday December 1, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) placed the start of the recession at December 2007. I would place it a bit earlier. We noticed a definite drop in business beginning in September 2007.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Specialized DNS Tools

Authoritative DNS servers are databases that contain all the records describing a domain in what are called 'zones'. When you do an IP address lookup of a hostname within a domain, that query may end up going all the way to the authoritative servers using a process known as recursion or it may come from a cached record along the way.

There are usually two authoritative servers, but sometimes more servers are used in the case of a large company with a distributed network. In some DNS implementations, the DNS maintainer changes a record like an MX record defining which machine handles SMTP email by hand and at the same time changes the serial number to show that the zone was altered. This serial number change is automated in other implementions.

The secondary servers get zone information from the primary server when they see that the serial number in SOA record in the primary server is different than the serial number currently in the secondary server. If the serial numbers are not the same, then a "zone transfer" is initiated either using a full zone AXFR or an incremental zone IXFR transfer.

As a side note, zone serial numbers are usually in one of two formats, the first being the most common: YYYYMMDDNN format, where YYYY is the year (four digits), MM is the month (two digits), DD is the day of month (two digits) and nn is the version per day (two digits); the second format is unix time, ie. the number of seconds since Jan 1, 1970. Some DNS maintainers use a simple incrementing number like a revision number.

If there is a breakdown in the process of replicating data between the primary and secondary servers (some DNS software can use methods other than zone transfers), the serial numbers may end up out of sync--especially if the serial number is maintained by hand. To check this, a DNS maintainer would have to individually query each authoritative DNS for its current serial number using NSLOOKUP or DIG to verify that they are all in sync.

To help speed up this process, I have created a new tool that finds the authoritative servers for a domain, then it quickly checks each authoritative server for serial number mismatches. It analyzes the results and tells you if there is a problem -- and since we show each authoritative server with its serial number for the zone, you can quickly see the results yourself. This new tool is tentatively called "Auth Serial Check" and it appears in the new DNS Tools - Advanced window in NetScanTools Pro 10.8 (which is not out yet -- be patient).