Category: Utilities, Network diagnostic software
Name of tool: NetHelper V 2.0
Company name: Core Competence Inc.
Price: $20 shareware
URL: http://www.corecom.com/software/
Windows platforms supported: 95, 98, NT, 2000
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description: A graphical network testing tool that takes the command-line ping, tracert (traceroute) and other utilities a nice step further.

Pros:
A nice collection of network utilities such as Ping and Trace Route under a simple graphical interface.

Cons:
Format of output is a bit messy under Windows 2000, but still readable.

Strom-meter:
**** = Very cool, very useful

Description:
Almost everyone knows that since Windows 95, several command-line utilities such as Ping and Tracert have been included as part of Microsoft's operating system. But wouldn't it be nice if you could have a more graphical version, so that you could easily manipulate the results or view more than a single screen's worth of information? Enter NetHelper. This inexpensive shareware tool, written by Lisa Phifer, can take command-line ping to the next level.

Included in the package, which is a simple ZIP file that you expand and then run using the Setup utility, are other networking utilities, displayed across a simple set of tabs:

  • Trace Route, to show you the path taken by packets from your machine to some specified host elsewhere.
  • Lookup, allowing you to map hostnames to IP addresses (or vice-versa).
  • NetBIOS information about shared resources and other Windows networking information.
  • Routes, for information about routing tables and packets sent and received by your computer.
  • Connections, showing you open ports and connections by TCP, UDP and NetBIOS connection levels.
  • Address Resolution, showing you the physical address level statistics.

These are all useful utilities to have in one single place. For example, if you are browsing through your web server access logs and need to find out what numeric IP address it corresponds to, using the Lookup utility will quickly tell you. Or if you are concerned that Your NT or 2000 server has too many open ports exposing it to Internet mischief, using the Connections utility will present you with this information.

This is a very simple and useful tool without a great deal of flash or Ornamentation, and there is just enough information in the help files if you are unfamiliar with these tools or how to track down various bits and pieces of information about IP networking in general.

I tested NetHelper on both Windows 98 and 2000 Server: It had some trouble formatting output correctly under Windows 2000, although it was still readable. If you register your software, you can unlock the ability to make use of various command-line arguments as well as remove the frequent nag screens.

Strom-meter key:
**** = Very cool, very useful
*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.
* = Don't waste your time. Minimal real value.

David Strom is president of his own consulting firm in Port Washington, NY. He has tested hundreds of computer products over the past two decades working as a computer journalist, consultant and corporate IT manager. Since 1995, he has written a weekly series of essays on web technologies and marketing called Web Informant. You can send him email at mailto:david@strom.com.


This was first published in June 2000

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