IT Policies

Every administrator should take advantage of Geektools

Networking entails a variety of challenges, so you need an extensive toolbox to work efficiently. When it comes to networking connectivity and managing mail and Web servers, Geektools.com offers some great online tools that can benefit nearly every admin.

Whether you were working on a networking project or designing a Web site, you've probably wished you could put your hands on a tool to make the job go more quickly. Maybe you could have used a good traceroute utility that would let you test from anywhere in the world. Or perhaps you wanted a whois client that looks up all registrars simultaneously while keeping things simple. In either case, an online administrator’s toolkit called Geektools.com would have come in handy.

Set up by the techies at CenterGate Research Group, Geektools (Figure A) hosts a variety of everyday tools on a site that is “capable of being used by any browser including LYNX, with minimal color (16) and minimal resolution (640 x 480), with no cookies, or Java.” The site does indeed live up to this claim. I browsed to it with my LYNX browser, and aside from the fact that I had to manually choose the link to take me to text mode, the Geektools site was 100 percent viewable.

Figure A


The goods on Geektools
The content and utilities available on Geektools are quite useful, especially for those who work in the networking and systems administration areas. Others could easily make use of some of the information as well, particularly the RFC search function.

In addition to this RFC search utility, Geektools offers various calculators, some software and spam tools, excellent traceroute and whois utilities, and a listing of “geektels” (hotels with good connections to the Internet available from within each room).

The Geektel section of the site is broken down by country, state, and city and includes all of the contact information for the hotel, including a link to the hotel’s Web site and a link to the technology or Internet provider the hotel uses. For folks who visit a hotel that has a good connection but that is not listed on the site, Geektools offers a submission form they can use to get the list updated.

The calculators and tools that are available include the following:
  • AGGIS—This tool is used to manipulate CIDR IP address ranges. While this is a useful utility, some explanation of how to use it would be extremely beneficial to users of the Geektools site.
  • DEC—dotted quad—This simple tool, which takes an IP address as a parameter, performs a reverse DNS lookup on the address and returns both the hexadecimal and the decimal equivalents.
  • RFC search—This tool allows for a search of both the RFCs and the Internet drafts. For example, a search of the RFCs for VOIP returned the screen seen in Figure B.

Figure B


Here’s a look at what the other four sections of the site have to offer.

Software
Geektools has both a proxy utility and an excellent whois client utility for Windows, Macintosh, and Palm handhelds available for download. The client installs as an application on these platforms and is quite useful, although the default setting of the utility in Windows has it start as an icon in the system tray, which is somewhat annoying and unnecessary.

Spam tools
This section provides links to Sam Spade (the incumbent online spam tool) and a utility called blq, which queries the MAPS lists to see if a particular host is on it. Neither of these utilities is hosted at Geektools. In fact, the Sam Spade site offers a whole host of utilities to promote privacy, to determine the actual source of a spam message, and more.

Traceroute
The Traceroute link on the Geektools site allows you to perform a traceroute from any of the linked locations on the site—and there are a lot of them. While Geektools does not provide an interface that automatically submits the traceroute request to the various sites, it does provide a thorough list of places where you can go to test your Web site around the world.

Whois
The Whois section allows you to do a lookup straight from the Geektools site and will automatically find the best server to use for your query. It is both fast and accurate.

Summing up
The Geektools.com site is extremely useful and provides a good feature set for some common functions that almost every network administrator needs from time to time. Personally, I enjoy the Geektels section and have made use of the worldwide traceroute function to test access time to sites. While I have not made extensive use of the Sam Spade link, I can see how it would come in handy. The fact that the Geektools site is so easily accessible to so many, is free, and does not make use of technologies that limit access is also a big plus.

How could the site be even better? With all of this functionality, Geektools.com could offer better documentation to make it easier to use for the newbie. In addition, providing an interface to enable a worldwide traceroute would be a truly outstanding enhancement that I am positive would benefit a great number of people. And finally, determining if the browser is text-only upon entry to the site would create an easier experience for the folks using LYNX.

Which Web sites are part of your admin toolkit?
We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Post a comment or a question about this article.

 
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