Netool – Pocket Sized Network Tester and Analyzer

As network engineers/analysts/administrators, we’re always looking to add to our list of tools. Whether these are pieces of software, tidbits of script, or physical tools, anything that helps us in the performance of our day to day work is something we tend to hang on to and use again and again. More often than not these tools are manifested out of a need to make a specific task more efficient, or less mundane, especially if you don’t have a junior analyst around to give all that work to.

One such task is identifying or tracing a switch port. In a perfect world, all of the network drops in a building would have accurate labels that never fade or fall off, that correspond precisely to the switch and port that they connect to, and cables that never get arbitrarily moved between ports, and of course accurate port descriptions on the switches themselves. In this world, there’s no need for any kind of tool to trace a cable or drop, is there?

Sadly that perfect world rarely exists. Even in new construction the natural entropy of networks ensures that wall jack labels, punch panels, and switch ports all become muddled, and more often than not one or more of those pieces is incorrect. This leads to a need to verify and ensure the information you have is accurate, and the need for another tool.

Now, cable tracing isn’t new, and tools for tracing cables have been around for a very long time. Often these come in the form of a probe and tone set, where one device is connected to the cable and it sends a tone along the wires, which can then be traced with a probe that listens for this tone. One simply waves the magic wand around all of your cables and wait for the one that provides tone, that must be the right cable! Well, not so fast, as crosstalk sometimes causes that tone to carry to several other cables in a bundle, and that tone you hear might not be the “real” one. That aside, it’s a tedious, manual practice, and can waste a lot of time if you have to repeat the task with several ports.

Companies like Fluke Networks have, over the years, developed some very nice tools for cable testing and verification. Many of these can be fairly expensive however, and perhaps outside the budget of an independant network consultant or other IT professional.


Enter Netool. This Indiegogo campaign touts the “World’s smallest network analyzer, testing and mapping tool”. When I came across this product on my Twitter feed I was very interested in learning more. This tiny tool will connect to and analyze a data port or cable, and provide switch and network information to your smartphone. It can provide information gleaned from protocols such as CDP (Cisco Discovery Protocol) and LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol) which can provide switch port, VLAN, switch host name and IP information. It will test for DHCP services and display a leased IP as well as default gateway.

Check our their campaign video:

According to the list of campaign perks, one of these will cost $160 USD + shipping, or a special early bird price of $130 USD + shipping. There is also currently a Beta Tester perk that will get one of these in your hands before anyone else for only $99 USD + shipping.

Compare this to a Fluke Networks Linksprinter 100 at $215.99 USD (as listed on CDW) this seems like a great deal. As far as I can tell the only features the Netool lacks in comparison to the entry-level Linksprinter would be PoE detection, and perhaps some support for additional protocols such as EDP (Extreme Discovery Protocol) or BDP (Brocade Discovery Protocol). All of these that perhaps could come via a software update in the future.

I would encourage any of you in the market for a lightweight, hand-held, network testing and port mapping tool to check out the Netool web site, and consider a contribution to their Indiegogo campaign if this device is something you could see being part of your toolkit.

Wearing Many Hats

Jack Of All Trades

If you’ve read my bio you’ll know I am part of a 4 person IT department for a small rural public school division in northern Alberta.  Technically there are 5 of us, but does Management count?  No, I didn’t think so.

This brings some interesting challenges, one of which is perfecting the lost art of the IT Generalist.  The person who can do a little bit of everything.  The guy or gal who, even if they’ve never seen that particular problem before, has a fundamental base skill set that will let them logically and efficiently troubleshoot and bring the issue to resolution.

I like to think that’s me.  Although my primary passion has always been networking, I don’t always get to pick and choose my assignments.  I have a primary responsibility to ensure that all of the technology in our schools are working, first and foremost.  That means general help desk type work fixing the mundane….printers, wireless mice with dead batteries, staff and student logins, turning it off and on again, etc.  On top of that each of us within the department has a niche area that we specialize in.

The Network Guy

Let me introduce the team.  We have “Server Guy” who handles a wide gamete of tasks such as managing our Exchange environment, our VMware cluster, our SAN…  We have “Linux Guy” who really has several things he takes care of but they all run on Linux so I don’t know what those are.  He’s also kind of “Security Guy” because he handles things like our content filter and likes to port scan everything to try to find “attack vectors”, when he isn’t lamenting our lack of password complexity rules, or stringing together video cards to brute-force passwords using rainbow tables.  Right now we also have “New Guy” who we haven’t quite assigned any niche responsibilities to as we haven’t fully evaluated his skill set yet.  For now he’s a good minion and we make him climb ladders and run cable.

Of course there is also “Network Guy”.  That’s me.  In this environment that means LAN, WAN, voice and wireless, all of it.  I (try) to do it all. I work closely with “Server Guy” when we’re adding a new VMware host to our cluster ensuring we have switchports and VLANs ready for his needs, connecting the iSCSI SAN where it needs to go, etc. I work with “Linux Guy” when there are firewall changes that need to be made.  It’s often said that you can be great at one thing or good  mediocre at several things.  It begs the question “Can you know everything?”.  I certainly don’t, nor do I expect I ever will.  It absolutely makes it difficult to focus on a particular area of expertise though.

Don’t Make Me Pick

I love it all.  Well, for the most part.  Sometimes there are those really nit-picky problems with a certain networking technology that drives you nuts and if it wasn’t for that one thing you’d spend 100% of your time working on that discipline, right?  As technophiles/nerds/geeks we all have a certain amount of attention deficit, it’s a trait that is almost required to be able to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the technology world.  This is a blessing and a curse.  After I’ve spent a week working on a nasty voice issue with Callmanager or Unity you can bet I’m feeling like a voice god and oh yeah I’m going to start on my CCIE-Voice right away!  Next week after spending several dozen hours with a spectrum analyzer and site survey tools trying to figure out why this one classroom has a large wi-fi black hole, I might be ready to challenge the CWNE, because clearly, 802.11 is what I was meant to do.  When you are forced to handle a variety of subjects like this it can be a daunting task to narrow the field when it comes to sitting down at your study desk or home lab and really deciding what you want to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the exposure and variety that comes with this territory.  Ultimately I have to be disciplined enough to focus on specializing in one area, without losing tough with the rest.  From my perspective, at least from my networking perspective, Routing and Switching is the base from which all the other technologies flow.  Being great at that fundamental level, I believe allows you to thrive in any subset of networking.  For me, that’s why I have renewed focus in working towards my CCIE R&S.

4 x CCIE

You’ve seen them, the folks sporting two or three, or even four CCIE certifications.  Will that ever be me?  No.  At least I don’t think so, not while I’m still married.  I have one goal and that is to get my CCIE R&S before I turn 40. I’m not going to tell you how long that is but I’ve got a long way to go since all I have right now is the CCNA and CCNA-Voice. I am about ready to write the 642-813 SWITCH exam towards the CCNP and will then move onto ROUTE and TSHOOT.


For several reasons that I won’t get into with this post, I’m very motivated right now.  I have a plan, and I am slowly working towards it.  This blog is one piece in that puzzle and I hope to use it as a tool and resource to study and push towards my goal.  It’s a great community of people in this industry and I plan to leverage all of the resources at my disposal towards the task at hand.  Feedback, comments, advice are always welcome, and thanks for reading!