Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Free Network Mapping Tools

Filed under: Geek Work,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This may not be a post for my regular readers.

So, I’ve been contracting for two weeks now and there’s a ton of work to do.
For those of you who know me, and know how I tend to approach what I do, one of my main goals is to get good documentation.  If you look at my resume, you know that I have changed jobs a lot.  And with every change has come a new, mostly-undocumented network for me to discover and, hopefully, improve.  As a result, I’ve used a bewildering array of network mapping and scanning tools.  Dark Reading has a list of free and low-cost network mapping tools, many of which I’ve used.  Since they review them all, I’ll only comment on the ones I’ve actually used and found useful.
First, there’s the venerable nmap.  Nmap has been around for a while and most of the more hardcore geeks, like me, have used it.  (And, yes, there is a Windows version of it, if you really want to use that.)  It’s probably one of the most complete, and oldest, tools on this list.  Though it’s more of a security finger-printing tool than a mapping tool in the sense that most of us mean.  Still, a security tool old enough and good enough to actually be used on-screen in The Matrix is pretty okay with me.
For simple listing of the IP addresses and hosts on a network, I really like Overlook Fing.  It’s pretty basic and actually command-line based with a Windows launching text interface to configure it.  The output is pretty basic, but you can quickly dump a list of device names and IP addresses, with probable manufacturer information to help identify the machines.  Also, they seem to have added a paid service that monitors your network and alerts you to changes, which seems interesting, but I’m usually on a budget, so I’ll stick with the free option.
If you want a nicer interface and more Windows-optimized IP network scanner, try Advanced IP Scanner.  Again, it’s pretty basic and simple, but it’s also free and super easy to use.  And, starting with at least a list of IP addresses with host names may be more documentation than a lot of new network administrators start with when they take over a network.
And, then there’s Spiceworks, which most folks think of as a helpdesk ticketing system, but actually has some fantastic network management and mapping tools built into it, too.  In fact, I initially installed it at my last full-time gig to keep track of all the user requests I was getting, but really ended up loving it for the reporting tools and ability to track machines on the network.  It’s free, and takes a little bit of work to get setup right for pulling in all the details of your network, but it’s totally worth it.  The user support forums are great and there are a lot of tools and custom reports being added for it all the time.  If you hunt a bit, you can find pretty much every answer to your question on the user forums.  I even found a way to automate emailing the weekly reports to everyone in IT and management.

One tool that Dark Reading does not mention that I find useful is Network Notepad.  Again, a free tool, but with a paid option.  The free tool, which is all I’ve used, is great for making an actual graphic map of your network. It takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, this is a pretty valuable tool.  For instance, if you add the IP address to the host on the map, you can ping or RDP right from the network map to the device.  In fact, I liked it so well, I whipped together an object library, using someone else’s free 3D icons, that I’ve attached to the bottom of this post.  So, enjoy that and enjoy your weekend!




Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Not exactly an IT tool.

I use a lot of tools and gadgets to make my life easier, not just computer related stuff.  And, I have to admit, while I intended to use my Tools for Tuesday “themed” posts for all kind of day-to-day things I use to upgrade my quality of life, a device to fold t-shirts was not quite what I pictured sharing.
Of course, like a lot of networking geeks, I tend to dress pretty casually, especially on the weekends.  And, when you factor in the fact that I live in a suburb of Hell during the Summer here in Houston, well, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I have quite a few t-shirts.  In the past, before I met my blushing bride, the Organizing Decorator, my closet was a kind of haphazard firetrap filled with, among other things, shelves of t-shirts.  It was hard for me to deal with and they took up a lot of room and it took forever to fold them when I took them out of the dryer.  It was my least favorite thing about both laundry and my closet, even though I love my t-shirts.  Naturally, my wonderful wife had a solution for me, but, well, the fact that it was a favorite tool of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory didn’t really help her case.
But, when I left her to go to DEFCON XX in Las Vegas for a long weekend back in 2012 before we were married, she helped me understand how such a small thing could improve my life immensely by folding all my t-shirts with her FlipFold and reorganizing them for me.  It was, quite honestly, amazing.  They were all folded to the same size rectangle and could be stacked neatly so they took up about two-thirds of the room they did before!  And, I could find just the right one when I wanted it!  No more searching for my favorite Tee Fury design or that Threadless reprint I found on sale or whatever hard core geek t-shirt I may be looking for, for hours on end.  The neat stacks make them all easier to find, and give me room for more!  Not to mention that they look better when I put them on, too!
And, yes, it does make folding them after laundry easier and faster, too.  (Though I have to admit, the spectacular spouse has been doing my laundry a whole lot more than I have!)

My FlipFold was a gift, so I don’t recall how much it was at the time, but it was worth it.  You can get your own, in a rainbow of color options, at FlipFold.com.

(And, yes, it is one of the many contributing factors that led me to marry her.  Not the only one, but certainly one of them!)


Bootable USB Linux

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Hey, it’s fun to me!

Yeah, so this is what I’ve been working on for the past two weeks. Well, not so much the USB part, but the rest of it. Along the way, we did a lot of work getting the boot image we were working on to run of a USB JumpDrive which was pretty cool. There are a lot of tools to use for this, but we mainly worked with SysLinux. This also seems to be what Novell used to make their boot image with, so I figured it was a good choice!
First, though, I had to use a tool from HP. I used an older version, but the one currently listed as Windows-based Format Utility for HP Drive Key or DiskOnKey USB Device, version 2.00.006 A (6 Feb 04) should still do the trick. But, once you’ve done that, the tutorial at SysLinux should get you along the right path.
Or, if you just want to try out Linux, or Unix, you can try UnixKit for Windows. I saw this the other day on the ScreenSavers. Actually, it was one of Leo’s Tips. Last damn thing good about that show.

Anyway, if you’re a hardworking network geek like me, you deserve to have a little fun with a USB drive. It’s Friday, go for it!

Updated 04-17-09: Link to HPDriveKey utility had gotten outdated, so I updated it.

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