TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Review: VisualRoute

Volume Number: 12
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Review

Review: VisualRoute

Java tool for graphically displaying traceroute information

by Chris Kilbourn

DESCRIPTION

VisualRoute 7.1 is a Java application that provides graphical traceroute, real-time latency, and ping data graphed in a tabular and world map format. It also provides limited whois and nslookup features that are available when drilling down on any displayed data. VisualRoute also may be operated via a Java and JavaScript-enabled browser, as it includes its own built-in web server, allowing you to query the application from across the network.

Included in the VisualRoute application is an extensive database of IP address and geographic information that allows it to display traceroutes on the global map. VisualRoute also suggests possible causes for common connectivity issues, which may be helpful when diagnosing network issues.

Users unfamiliar with the command-line use of traceroute, ping, mtr, whois or nslookup will probably get the most mileage out of VisualRoute. It provides a GUI-driven interface for these commands without having to read the man pages. Network and system administrators who need to explain why, "the Internet is down" to users unfamiliar with Internet routing and topology will appreciate the map that you can point to and say, "The problem is there, not here."

FIRST BLUSH

Installation is straightforward from a Stuffit Archive to a standard package installer, except for a minor glitch that I had which required me to upgrade to Stuffit 7.0.3 from the 7.0 version I was running. As far as I could tell, the only files installed are the VisualRoute application itself, two html files and a gif. The system I tested the product on was a 667mhz TiBook with 768MB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.2.6.

Upon first launch of the program asks you to select the language you wish to use. Language choices are English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Portuguese, Czech and Dutch.

VisualRoute starts in Simple Mode, and you are presented with a world map and an Address field where you can type in a host address, (i.e. - www.forest.net,) or an IP address to begin a traceroute. Advanced mode provides a tabular readout of traceroute data along with the world map. I found that while the map was nice eye candy, I tended to work with the tabular information more than the map information. VisualRoute does provide options to display information in ASCII format in a text editor.

One of the first things that struck me when using the application was the lack of keyboard commands for menu items. This likely has to do with the fact that the entire application is written in Java, but it was odd, and was a persistent irritation when driving the program. System-level window controls were still available via key commands.

TRACEROUTE

The core of the application is its traceroute function. Typing in a hostname or an IP address, it begins to collect and display a variety of data about the network between your machine and the destination host.

For those unfamiliar with it, traceroute is a low-level network diagnostic tool that utilizes ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) packets. ICMP is used for error control, test packets, packet redirection and other informational messages about network transport of IP. Since ICMP has the potential to provide a variety of information about remote networks by sending off an ICMP packet and waiting for a response, as well as be used in certain network attacks, more and more Internet networks are beginning to filter ICMP packets on the edges of their networks.

Traceroute literally traces the network path, hop by hop, from your computer to a remote host. It provides the IP address of each hop, the node name, and the time in milliseconds from that node to yours. Running a traceroute allows you to discover three critical pieces of information about the network path: how many hops it is from your computer to the destination, if there is congestion at any of the hops, and if there is any packet loss along the way (The terms hop, node, and router may be used interchangeably).

The more hops in a network path, the longer the transfer times will be, in general. Each time a packet has to be processed by a router, it adds a small delay to the transfer. Hop counts from two to roughly sixteen are considered average. Traceroute displays each hop on a numbered line, so calculating hop count is very easy.

Congestion manifests itself in traceroute by a hop that has a high time value, usually considered to be above 250 milliseconds. Hops with time values of above 250 milliseconds generally mean that the router in question is very busy and queueing packets for processing, adding network latency to that hop.

Packet loss in traditional command-line traceroute is displayed with stars (sometimes referred to as 'starring out.') This means that ICMP packets sent to that node are not being returned. When this happens but you can still reach the ultimate destination, it usually means that the router in question is so overburdened that its queue is full, and it is dropping or rejecting new packets for processing. If the traceroute ends before the destination, it usually indicates that the network path has been severed. This could be due to any number of man-made or natural disasters such as power outage, fiber cut, router misconfiguration or the bane of network administrators the world over: telco incompetence.

VisualRoute provides information in its traceroute display in addition to the traditional hop count, IP address, host name and response time. For your viewing and information pleasure, it provides a packet loss percentage, its best guess at the location of a node, the time zone that node resides in, a time graph with current time plotted against minimum and maximum time values, and VisualRoute's best guess as to the network ownership of each hop.

End-user consumer networks, AOL, Earthlink, cable modem providers and DSL providers often filter ICMP traffic. Many corporate firewalls are also programmed to refuse to pass ICMP traffic. Since traceroute and ping require ICMP to flow, if your network provider filters ICMP, VisualRoute will be of little use in providing much traceroute information unless you can run the application from an unfiltered network connection.

USING VISUALROUTE'S TRACEROUTE

Using VisualRoute is simple. You type in a hostname or IP address, hit return, and it automatically begins to map the traceroute on the world map, and build a standard traceroute table with current packet loss and transmission time statistics.


VisualRoute keeps track of previously traced destinations from a handy pop-up menu and allows you to sort the list by name or most recently visited. It also provides the IP addresses of the hosts to the side in a pop-up menu.

One of the things I enjoyed about VisualRoute's traceroute is its analysis and summary information of the destination host. Above the world map, VisualRoute informs you what type of server the host is and what software it is running. This feature can be very helpful when tracking down web compatibility issues between browser and host or to see if your own servers are publishing OS information they should not be.

The application will also provide you with suggested connectivity issues if it encounters a problem during a traceroute. These messages will help you determine issues from ICMP traffic being filtered somewhere along the traceroute path to DNS misconfiguration issues.

Double-clicking on a host from the traceroute pane will launch a floating window with IP address information pulled from ARIN, RIPE or APNIC's, (the registration authorities that delegate IP addresses for the Western Hemisphere, Europe/Africa and Asia, respectively,) IP registry databases.

Any information provided that is located in other registries, (registered host addresses, contact handles, etc.) is hyperlinked to allow you to continue to drill down in registry databases. This is an incredibly useful feature that allows you to follow the trail of authority for an address range or host when trying to track down a network administrator to tell them to patch their servers or when hunting for spammer networks to block.

These floating information windows also provide a button to automatically copy information into a text document, which can then be easily cut and pasted elsewhere.

A nifty feature of VisualRoute is its ability to function as a stand-alone web server to provide traceroute information. This is especially helpful if your network filters ICMP and has a DMZ network between the Internet and your internal network.


All the features of the stand-alone server are available via the web interface. Using VisualRoute in the web server mode is a great way to enable users on your network to perform their own traceroutes.

YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE

In my opinion, one of VisualRoute's most touted features, its database and map of Internet host addresses, is also a subtle Achilles heel. Let's examine a traceroute to a Mongolian web server as an example:


If a user, client or pointy-haired boss of mine was complaining about access times to this server, I would show them the map and the traceroute output times and tell them that it takes a long time to get packets back and forth from inner Mongolia. The complainer thus pacified, I would then turn to more pressing matters like reading Slashdot.

However, taking a close look at and comparing VisualRoute's map versus a relief map of Mongolia indicates that VisualRoute thinks that this server is in the middle of a high desert. I sincerely doubt that server is where it is mapped. We all know that data center operators fight a constant battle with heat, but placing servers in such a low-humidity environment introduces other issues best left for another article. In short, the server is probably in Hong Kong or maybe Ulan Bator based on round-trip times.

Before someone cries, "Foul!" that the example is extreme, and that VisualRoute should be excused from a detailed mapping of Mongolian hosts, (a debatable point either way), allow me to explain why I chose this example and the ramifications of relying solely on single-sourced data for host location information.

One of the greatest things about the Internet is its resiliency in utilizing distributed services. This distribution of services is built in at the protocol level and is a core feature. Current (and some past,) routing technology has the ability to tunnel, VPN, route or otherwise allow for distribution of IP addresses in non-contiguous blocks on widely geographically separated networks.

When ARIN, RIPE or APNIC assign IP address space to organizations, they place no restrictions on where in the world those IP addresses may be used. Only the requesting organization's mailing address must be located in the region for which IP address space is requested.

A great example is an employee traveling on international business who remotely connects to the corporate network via a dial-in server and is assigned an IP address via DHCP. Performing a traceroute to their laptop may show increased round trip times due to the distances involved, and the IP address being used is traced back to the corporate headquarters address as listed in the IP registry database.

VisualRoute, or any other program for that matter, would map this dial-in laptop user as at the corporate location, even though they could be anywhere in the world. Examining all available IP address and network information, you have no way to discern if that host is at corporate headquarters or somewhere on the road. The only way to be sure would be to call the user and ask them where they are.

As you can see, you cannot rely 100% upon the geographic host information provided in databases and derived from analyzing IP packets. When examining VisualRoute's traceroute maps, you should be aware of this issue, and take location information for hosts that you do not know about with a small to large grain of salt depending on your need for accurate host location information.

VisualRoute does have an extensive geographic database, and it allows you to add or correct network and host information.


WHY CROSS-PLATFORM CAN BE A FOUR LETTER WORD

VisualRoute is a Java application and as with other cross-platform Java applications on the Macintosh, it shows. My two big beefs are that it ignores human user interface guidelines by forcing the user to go to the mouse for just about everything, and by ignoring Macintosh inter-application communications by using helper applications to pass data from VisualRoute to other applications.

Most inexplicable is the complete lack of keyboard commands within the application. I am not a Java programmer, but a quick web search brought up some examples of command-key coding in Java, with the caveat that with the continuing Balkanization of tools and technologies between platforms, implementing command keys can be difficult.

While annoying, I talked myself into believing I was just running a very old Macintosh application that did not have key commands. Mousing around so much really got to be frustrating when drilling down on registry lookups and in navigating the application's features.

VisualRoute has two features that cause it to interact with external applications: jumping to a web page and copying looked up information to a text editor. I can appreciate that being a Java application, it might be easier to create a platform-specific helper application to launch a web browser or a text editor, but I have a hard time excusing the fact that VisualRoute does this every time you go to a web page or paste information to a text editor.

For example:


Do not adjust your magazine, the image is correct. This is, in two words, sloppy coding. It took me almost as long to quit all those helper applications as it did for me to use VisualRoute to track down a spam source.

Here's hoping that a future revision of VisualRoute will fix these two glaring issues.

THE BOTTOM LINE

VisualRoute 7.1 is a Java graphical traceroute utility application that provides real-time, graphed displays of traffic information coupled with a geographic map display of the network path. Its core functionality is equivalent to command-line tools such as traceroute, dig, nslookup, ping and mtr. VisualRoute also provides a web server mode allowing for remote use or for use on a DMZ network that is not blocking ICMP traffic.. Additional features include mail server MX record lookups and the ability to drill down on DNS and IP address registry information for hosts and addresses. While useful for both new and seasoned network administrators performing network diagnostics, the application is hampered by its lack of keyboard commands and its proclivity to launch multiple instances of supporting applications.


Chris Kilbourn

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

SoftRAID 5.8.4 - High-quality RAID manag...
SoftRAID allows you to create and manage disk arrays to increase performance and reliability. SoftRAID allows the user to create and manage RAID 4 and 5 volumes, RAID 1+0, and RAID 1 (Mirror) and... Read more
Audio Hijack 3.7.3 - Record and enhance...
Audio Hijack (was Audio Hijack Pro) drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio... Read more
CleanMyMac X 4.6.15 - Delete files that...
CleanMyMac makes space for the things you love. Sporting a range of ingenious new features, CleanMyMac lets you safely and intelligently scan and clean your entire system, delete large, unused files... Read more
Suitcase Fusion 21.2.1 - Font management...
Suitcase Fusion is the creative professional's font manager. Every professional font manager should deliver the basics: spectacular previews, powerful search tools, and efficient font organization.... Read more
Civilization VI 1.3.6 - Next iteration o...
Civilization® VI is the award-winning experience. Expand your empire across the map, advance your culture, and compete against history’s greatest leaders to build a civilization that will stand the... Read more
Dashlane 6.2042.0 - Password manager and...
Dashlane is an award-winning service that revolutionizes the online experience by replacing the drudgery of everyday transactional processes with convenient, automated simplicity - in other words,... Read more
Airfoil 5.9.2 - Send audio from any app...
Airfoil allows you to send any audio to AirPort Express units, Apple TVs, and even other Macs and PCs, all in sync! It's your audio - everywhere. With Airfoil you can take audio from any... Read more
VirtualBox 6.1.16 - x86 virtualization s...
VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers... Read more
Xcode 12.1 - Integrated development envi...
Xcode includes everything developers need to create great applications for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Xcode provides developers a unified workflow for user interface design, coding, testing... Read more
FileZilla 3.51.0 - Fast and reliable FTP...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.51.0: Bugfixes and minor changes: Fixed import of... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

PUBG Mobile has provided yet another upd...
PUBG Mobile has been making a point of publicly mentioning all of their ongoing efforts to vanquish cheating from the popular battle royale. Today two teams within the company have provided updates on their progress. [Read more] | Read more »
Zombieland: AFK Survival is celebrating...
Zombieland: AFK Survival is currently celebrating its one-year anniversary. If you don't quite recognise the name that's because it initially launched as Zombieland: Double Tapper. Anyway, the game is celebrating turning one with two Halloween-... | Read more »
Distract Yourself With These Great Mobil...
There’s a lot going on right now, and I don’t really feel like trying to write some kind of pithy intro for it. All I’ll say is lots of people have been coming together and helping each other in small ways, and I’m choosing to focus on that as I... | Read more »
Genshin Impact Guide - Gacha Strategy: W...
If you're playing Genshin Impact without spending money, you'll always need to be looking for ways to optimize your play to maximize rewards without getting stuck in a position where you're tempted to spend. The most obvious trap here is the game'... | Read more »
Genshin Impact Adventurer's Guide
Hello and well met, fellow adventurers of Teyvat! Check out our all-in-one resource for all things Genshin Impact. We'll be sure to add more as we keep playing the game, so be sure to come back here to check for updates! [Read more] | Read more »
Genshin Impact Currency Guide - What...
Genshin Impact is great fun, but make no mistake: this is a gacha game. It is designed specifically to suck away time and money from you, and one of the ways the game does this is by offering a drip-feed of currencies you will feel compelled to... | Read more »
XCOM 2 Collection on iOS now available f...
The XCOM 2 Collection, which was recently announced to be coming to iOS in November, is now available to pre-order on the App Store. [Read more] | Read more »
Presidents Run has returned for the 2020...
IKIN's popular endless runner Presidents Run has returned to iOS and Android just in time for the 2020 election season. It will see players choosing their favourite candidate and guiding them on a literal run for presidency to gather as many votes... | Read more »
New update for Cookies Must Die adds new...
A new update for Rebel Twins’ platformer shooter Cookies Must Die is coming out this week. The update adds quite a bit to the game, including new levels and characters to play around with. [Read more] | Read more »
Genshin Impact Guide - How to Beat Pyro...
The end game of Genshin Impact largely revolves around spending resin to take on world bosses and clear domain challenges. These fights grant amazing rewards like rare artifacts and ascension materials for weapons and adventurers, but obviously... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Use our exclusive iPhone Price Trackers to fi...
Looking for a new Apple iPhone 12 or 12 Pro? Perhaps a deal on last year’s iPhone 11? Check out our iPhone Price Tracker here at MacPrices.net. We track new and clearance iPhone prices from Apple as... Read more
Weekend deal: $100 off 13″ MacBook Airs at Am...
Amazon has new 2020 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off Apple’s MSRP, starting at only $899. Their prices are the lowest available for new MacBooks from any Apple resellers. These are the same 13″... Read more
New 10.9″ 64GB Apple iPad Air on sale for $55...
Amazon has Apple’s new 2020 10.9″ 64GB WiFi iPad Air on sale today for $549.99 shipped. That’s $40 off MSRP. Pre-orders are available today at this discounted price, and Amazon states that the iPad... Read more
Get a clearance 2019 27″ 5K iMac for up to $5...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2019 27″ 5K iMacs available starting at $1439 and up to $520 off their original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard and shipping is free. The following... Read more
AT&T offers the Apple iPhone 11 for $10/m...
AT&T is offering Apple’s 64GB iPhone 11 for $10 per month, for customers opening a new line of service, no trade-in required. Discount is applied via monthly bill credits over a 30 month period.... Read more
Apple’s 2020 11″ iPad Pros on sale today for...
Apple reseller Expercom has new 2020 11″ Apple iPad Pros on sale for $50-$75 off MSRP, with prices starting at $749. These are the same iPad Pros sold by Apple in their retail and online stores: – 11... Read more
Did Apple Drop The Ball By Not Branding Its C...
EDITORIAL: 10.21.20 – In the branding game, your marketing strategy can either be a hit or a miss and the latter is the case for Apple when it missed out on an opportunity to brand its “SE” series of... Read more
27″ 6-core and 8-core iMacs on sale for up to...
Adorama has Apple’s 2020 27″ 6-core and 8-core iMacs on sale today for $50-$100 off MSRP, with prices starting at $1749. Shipping is free: – 27″ 3.1GHz 6-core iMac: $1749, save $50 – 27″ 3.3GHz 6-... Read more
Apple’s 16″ MacBook Pros are on sale for $300...
B&H Photo has 16″ MacBook Pros on sale today for $300-$350 off Apple’s MSRP, starting at $2099. Expedited shipping is free to many addresses in the US. Their prices are among the lowest available... Read more
Apple has 2020 13″ MacBook Airs available sta...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2020 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at only $849 and up to $200 off the cost of new Airs. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with a... Read more

Jobs Board

Chief Medical Officer, St. Mary Medical Cente...
…**Providence is calling a Chief Medical Officer to St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, CA** **.** **THE ROLE** Under the direction of the Chief Executive, the Read more
Dental Receptionist - *Apple* Valley Clinic...
Dental Receptionist - Apple Valley Clinic + Job ID: 57314 + Department: Apple Valley Dental + City: Apple Valley, MN + Location: HP - Apple Valley Clinic Read more
*Apple* Mobility Specialist - Best Buy (Unit...
**788165BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Specialist **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store Number or Department:** 001013-Virginia Commons-Store **Job Read more
Cub Foods - *Apple* Valley - Now Hiring Par...
Cub Foods - Apple Valley - Now Hiring Part Time! United States of America, Minnesota, Apple Valley Retail Post Date Oct 08, 2020 Requisition # 124800 Sign Up for Read more
*Apple* Mobility Specialist - Best Buy (Unit...
**784631BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Specialist **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store Number or Department:** 000522-Baxter-Store **Job Description:** The Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.