Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Satellite TV R.I.P.

I watched most of the last presidential debate a week ago (boring...). I turned off the TV and came back later at 11 to watch the news. I turned on the TV and the satellite box as usual. No news. The TV worked fine but all I saw was error 015 Acquiring Satellite Signal with no progress being made -- it kept endlessly cycling through the satellites and the transponders. I tried resetting it but that didn't work.

So the next day I checked all the wiring inside and out. Then I called tech support. I tried the computerized voice command help. That was just plain weird and entirely unhelpful. I asked the computer for a technician (more weirdness). The first guy I got sounded Irish and far away. He probably was in Ireland. So I gave him my account details and he immediately said he could not (or would not) help me and he would transfer me to someone who would. Then I was promptly hung up on.

I called back and got someone in India. How do I know that? I didn't have to ask because she sounded far away and I've worked side by side with people from India before. She was helpful and walked me through the same simple tests I had already done, but our conclusion was something had failed. So she offered to schedule an appointment with a technician. I asked how much that was going to cost: $49.95 just for the tech to show up because we didn't spend $7 a month on insurance. And the costs would go up from there. I said no thanks, we would think about it.

We didn't think for long. It turns out that over the last 8 years since we got it, the TV viewing in our house has dropped precipitously. The only thing being watched was the 11 O'clock news and the first half of Jay Leno (the Seahawks weren't being watched this year). This is entirely due to the internet. I spend my full day on the internet, then some of the evening if I have to. News is at the click of a mouse whenever I want to look. And now all the TV networks have current and classic shows available to watch whenever I want to see them, not when satellite has them on. We had become more and more disappointed with the channel selection. The 500 or so channels we got were filled with boring shopping channels, infomercials, foreign language channels and duplicate shows all over the place. And PPV for about half of the rest.

So last Friday we simply said we were done and I cancelled the satellite by talking to someone in the US -- what a concept -- someone on the same continent! Now we save $40 a month that we can use to buy a whole year's TV series or a couple of movies each month. And we don't care about the Feb 2009 HDTV switchover now.


By the way, this has nothing to do with NetScanTools.

Monday, October 13, 2008

DHCP Servers

People have asked me to talk a bit about the DHCP Servers. As you probably know, DHCP is used on networks to automatically assign IP addresses to client computers (or devices) that connect to the network.

When a client without an IP address starts up on the network, it sends a DHCP_DISCOVER message. The DHCP server replies with a DHCP_OFFER to that client. The client then sends back a DHCP_REQUEST and the server acknowledges with a DHCP_ACK. Once this sequence is complete, the client can use that IP address for the duration of the time period contained in the offer packet.

Our DHCP Server Discovery Tool sends the DHCP_DISCOVER message and displays the returning DHCP_OFFERs. That means if you have more than one DHCP server on your network, you can see all of them and the information they are offerring.

Why is it important to see all the DHCP servers? Several reasons.

One is accidental conflicts. Two DHCP servers might be offerring overlapping ranges of IP addresses. This is not a good situation and could happen if a new device is put into the network that contains an active DHCP server that is active by default. Actiontec DSL routers, Windows Servers and Linux systems can all run DHCP servers.

Another similar situation that might occur is when a new device with an active DHCP server is added to a network by being moved from a previous location (a recycled device) and that device had a DHCP server offering a range of IP addresses from a different subnet than the subnet it is being moved to. Devices requesting new IP addresses might be offered an IP for a different (incorrect) subnet by the second DHCP server. This would mean that any device successfully obtaining an IP address from the new server would be prevented from talking on the network it is attached to because the IP address it has obtained is not within the subnet. This could be classified as a rogue server.

Another more dangerous scenario is when a "rogue" server is added for the specific purpose of offering legitimate IP addresses, while at the same time offering the IP address of a malicious DNS or router. The DHCP_OFFER packets contain more than just the offered IP address, they contain many other optional fields like DNS and router IPs.

Our DHCP Server Discovery Tool shows all the responding servers and the information they are offering including the IP address, subnet mask, DNS IPs, Router IPs, lease times etc. This way you can see the parameters and decided for yourself whether the information is correct -- especially if you find a second DHCP server on your network.

Stock Market Up Finally!

936 points up is amazing considering the drop over last week. Does it mean a turn-around? I don't know. I want to see a trend develop first. Hopefully it means something positive.

I would like to take issue with some of these columnists that say the losses were all on money that never existed. My 401K was down just to the amount of moneys that I put in there. Not fake imaginary money. Real money.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Stock Market Drops Again!

If the DJIA keeps falling at 500 points per day, it theoretically could be near zero in 19 days. Then what?

NetScanTools (TM) Pro 10.71 USB Version Patch Ready

On Monday October 6, we posted the patch to upgrade any previous NetScanTools (TM) Pro USB version to 10.71. This patch is available to those with active Maintenance Plans. Login through Check for New Version to download the patch.

The USB Version is a full portable version of NetScanTools Pro Edition that you can use on a Windows computer without the need for installation. Just plug it in, start the software and use it. No need to install and all data is saved on the USB flash drive.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Windows Operating System traffic on our sites

As we approach the 2nd anniversary of the release of Windows Vista, I couldn't help but notice that the traffic on our sites still show a huge margin of Windows XP users. Here is the raw data on two of our sites. (10,700 hits)
On this site 93.4% of our hits are Windows users, 3.8% are Linux users and 2.3% are Mac users. Here is a breakdown of the Windows traffic:
77.8% Windows XP
17.2% Windows Vista
2.8% Windows Server 2003
2.2% Windows 2000
0.1% Windows 98
0.02% Window ME
and 1 person using NT4 (must be Boris) (600 hits)
On this site 92% of our hits are Windows users, 6.5% are Linux users and 1.2% are Mac users. Here is a breakdown of the Windows traffic:
81.1% Windows XP
14.6% Windows Vista
2.5% Windows Server 2003
1.8% Windows 2000

This data shows that people are not only still using XP, they are favoring XP. To be fair, there has been a couple of percentage points increase in Vista traffic since the first of 2008. I wonder what the market penetration was for XP at the two year mark? I just thought this was interesting.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New NetScanTools (TM) Pro Version 10.71

Released late today. The reason for the release was two-fold. The first is that if you entered a DNS name such as in to Name Server Lookup current DNS field, version 10.70 was not necessarily resolving that name to an IP address correctly. This problem only existed in 10.70 and it is now fixed. The second reason was to add a minor enhancement to the Name Server Lookup that Autosaves all results to a single text or log file after each tool completes the current query or action.

Thanks to Brian at Netmatrix for the finding the DNS resolve issue and thanks to Phil at Ford for suggesting Autosaving.

Revision history is on our website.

New Freeware Tool and other ramblings

It's Friday. Finally. It's been a difficult couple of weeks watching the market news and Congress try to bailout Wall Street and fix the credit crisis. Funny, but they never talk about bailing out small businesses...

I saw the BLS summary of the unemployment report for September and I can directly attest to things I saw in it: every time we send out a newsletter announcement or a new program version announcement we see new bounces. Some of those may be due changes in server level email filtering, but I think more and more of them are people who have lost their jobs. In fact some of them are long time users of our software which is even more disturbing.

Speaking of the newsletter, we are sending it out once a month. Usually during the third week of the month. If you are on our list (or you think you are on it), please whitelist email from both on your workstation or laptop AND on your email server. We know that the word "netscantools" sometimes triggers spam filters, so please whitelist us if you want email from us. In case you missed one, the newsletter archive here.

Back to reality.

On October 1, I released a little tool as freeware that I originally made a couple years ago. This tool takes as input an IPv4 address of a device on your local subnet, then when you press the Get MAC Address button, it uses ARP to get the MAC address of the device. If the device is on and it can communicate over the network, it must respond. It must respond even if it is protected by a firewall like Windows Firewall. So it can't hide. Since ARP packets are not routed, you cannot use it to get the MAC address of some computer halfway around the world. The tool does this one IP at a time and it only works on your local subnet. If you need to scan a whole subnet with ARP to find every active device, we have that in NetScanTools Pro.

The freeware tool is called IPtoMAC and it runs on Windows Vista/2003/XP/2000 (it is codesigned for your protection) and you can download it here. It was also my first serious use of the new Visual Studio 2008 VC++ compiler. More on the new compiler in another post.