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Visual Route

If you try a tracert, you may notice that it takes a long time! This is because for each IP address along the route, a reverse DNS lookup is performed to get the textual description of the IP address. Not to mention - the output is not very pretty.

VISUAL ROUTE is better than Windows' tracert command in technically important ways: When you do a tracert with Windows, 3 UDP packets are sent to the first router and returned; then a reverse DNS lookup is performed to get a name for the IP address of the router. If there is no reverse DNS entry, there will be a significant multi-second delay. Then, this process is repeated for each router in the path to your destination. Not only can this make doing a trace painfully slow, it can give false results: during the time consumed by the trace, traffic patterns can change causing a router to show high latency which really comes from a closer one. In addition, by timing only 3 packets, packet loss must exceed 66% to be reliably detected! Visual Route solves these problems by processing reverse DNS lookups in a separate thread, and sending out trace packets without delay to all the routers in the chain. The number of trace packets (default 10) can be set which allows you to get a much finer indication of packet loss.

There are a number of 3rd-party applications that can do a traceroute with varying added functionality. My favorite is Visual Route - which runs on Windows 95/98/NT, Linux & Solaris. (It's a Java application.) Visual Route is available with a 30-day free trial, after which it costs $37.50. Things I like include: the analysis which will also show the server type on the server; the speed of the report; and the quick list of addresses you've checked (not shown). The average response time (ms), is shown in a graph with the range of responses for each node, and you can click on a node or network name and get a pop-up of the WHOIS information on the owner. There's also a button to create a text file from the report (I save and archive traces), or you can save the trace as a graphic file.

Note on this screenshot: The 100% loss at hop 1 is due to ISP setup and is not a problem. My USR modem did a speedshift during this trace - I could tell my the speaker - and the drastic effect is seen by the maximum ping response of over 2 seconds and the declining maximum ping as hop increases. In addition, there is packet loss starting at hop 5 that will affect the connection.

Visual Route is fast - it's graphical, and it can help pinpoint the source of trouble. In addition, the small circle at the far right of the 'Network' column heading can be clicked to produce a text report that you can e-mail to the appropriate support people - click to see a sample.

CLICK HERE for more of my troubleshooting with VisualRoute.

In addition to getting this program to run from your own computer, you can run Visual Route from various affiliate sites around the world. I find many times I can't get to a site, but I can get to these Visual Route sites, and confirm that the site I can't reach really isn't down:

You can run a Visual Route trace from any of these server locations:

USA, Atlanta, GA USA, Fairfax, Virginia Canada, Ontario
Germany, Frankfurt Italy, Florence Netherlands, Rotterdam
  Switzerland, Bern  

If you don't want to spend $30 for this program, but still want something better than Windows/DOS, I suggest don't try Visual Route (you'll be spoiled!): Check out HyperTrace....

NOTE! Any trace/ping utility, including VisualRoute, have accuracy problems: An earlier hop can be the cause of a packet loss upstream; it may take repeated traces/pings to locate the source of trouble.

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