Google AROUND, network scanning, and pinging with TCP

We start this week with a real geek out: If you have ever had to weigh the benefits and tradeoffs of Apache as an application server (for example, using Tomcat vs. node.js ("a platform built on Chrome's JavaScript runtime for easily building fast, scalable network applications"), then you absolutely have to watch "Node.js Is Bad Ass Rock Star Tech" (it's NSFW -- bad words). Make sure you watch all of it ... the end is great!

So, this week I have a few tasty techie delights to please your palate.

The first is Google's AROUND. Unless you're a die-hard Microsoftie you probably use Google quite frequently to search the Web (BTW, does anyone still use Yahoo?) and, being the well-informed chap or chapess you are, you likely know about the search operators you can use, such as "-" to exclude specific words or phrases and "OR" to, well, "or" words and phrases.

Q&A: Why Google is 'right to be paranoid'

But here's an operator you might not be aware of: the "AROUND" operator. According to the Search ReSearch blog written by Daniel M. Russell, AROUND "has been operational for ... oh ... the past 5 or 6 years. Turns out that nobody ever bothered to write much about it."

A good example of how to use AROUND is given in one of the comments to the posting: If you were looking for [Paul "the dude" SMITH] (we're using Google's convention for delimiting search terms with square brackets) but you didn't know his alias you could search [paul AROUND(3) smith].

"The number," Russell says, "sets the max distance between the two terms." Pretty slick.

Next up, Advanced IP Scanner.

If you're on Windows and you find that you often need to survey your TCP/IP-based network to find out what devices are running, the latest version of Advanced IP Scanner published by Famatech (purveyors of the fine remote access utility Radmin) is a must-have.

Advanced IP Scanner is a free tool that allows you to scan an IP address range. It's very fast and you can choose whether to show "alive" and/or "dead" addresses, the device manufacturer's name, the device MAC address, the current user (if available), the associated DNS name and, optionally, the NetBIOS names and groups the device uses. It can also scan for shared folders, HTTP and HTTPS, and FTP services and Radmin availability and can save scan results.

Advanced IP Scanner is incredibly useful and gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

Then we have tcping. If you need to check if a single TCP/IP device is "alive" you'll most likely launch a command session under Windows and "ping" the target machine. What Windows ping uses to check on a remote machine is Internet Control Message Protocol, or ICMP. Unfortunately, to foil hackers and the like, net admins will occasionally disable responding to ICMP, so, to test if an ICMP-blocked device is alive, you'll need to use some other protocol such as HTTP.

To do this you might choose another free tool, tcping, published by Eli Fulkerson. Fulkerson describes this as "a small console application that operates similarly to 'ping,' however it works over a TCP port. Not a terribly interesting concept, but I had trouble finding a Windows utility to do this that I was happy with." I love this! Very useful, simple, does the job, and gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

Gibbs is geeking out in Ventura, Calif. Express your techiness to and follow him on Twitter (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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