Network Monitor Goes Mobile

SAN FRANCISCO (05/30/2000) - Diagnosing network problems was hard enough when a network stayed in one place. Today, with users dragging their iBooks and iMacs about with abandon, connecting at random Ethernet ports or via entirely too mobile wireless links, network-troubleshooting tools need to grow legs to keep up. That's exactly what Neon Software Inc.'s multifunction diagnostic tool, NetMinder Ethernet 4.1, has done, in the form of support for AirPort wireless-networking cards and modern PowerBooks' built-in 100BaseT Ethernet.

Neon has also added a sprinkling of feature enhancements, helping the product keep up with breakneck-speed networks.

NetMinder monitors your network through a Mac Ethernet port, displaying packets as it catches them; color coding lets you quickly sort through protocols. And NetMinder's AirPort-card support lets you turn any AirPort-capable Mac into a sniffer, inhaling packets as they flow between wireless users and their AirPort Base Stations.

You can configure as many as five filters and set triggers to start and stop capture at specific network events. The program decodes packets well, although it still lacks such refinements as unlimited complex filtering. As NetMinder captures packets, it tracks traffic levels in a histogram, which you can output as an HTML document for remote Web monitoring.

Since the 4.0 release, Neon has also enhanced NetMinder's trademark Packet Inference engine, a little artificial-intelligence gnome that looks for and reports on odd happenings in your network. The engine can now detect various kinds of hacker attacks, although it still has no means of generat-ing external notifications to alert you to unusual events. Neon could also improve NetMinder's documentation: the latest manuals aren't online, the printed documentation covers only older releases, and online help is limited to a general description of the program's functions.

Macworld's Buying Advice

NetMinder Ethernet's main competitor, AG Group's EtherPeek, is still the most powerful network-analysis tool. However, NetMinder is easier for less sophisticated users to master, and Neon's willingness to remain current with Apple's latest network-hardware offerings proves the company is committed to its niche.

RATING: 4.0 mice

PROS: Trend, protocol, and address-analysis graphs; rule-based problem detector; AirPort support; HTML output.

CONS: No paging or e-mail notification; weak documentation.

COMPANY: Neon Software (800/334-6366, http://www.neon.com).

LIST PRICE: $795.

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