Mac Software Review: VisualRoute 2008

VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Mac software review






VisualRoute, have you heard of it? The version is already 12. But, honestly, I never heard of it until a few days ago. As the name suggests, it’s a tool that you can use to track Internet traffic routes visually. Like Apple‘s default network application Network Utilities? Yes. If you often use Network Utilities, you probably know some of its weaknesses. No.1, you can’t tell where each node is located. No.2, you have to switch tabs to run different searches. In these aspects, VisualRoute is more visual-friendly and time-saving. In other words, those who use Apple’s Network Utilities are most likely to see the power of VisualRoute.


VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 01
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 02



In the meantime, if you own a blog or forums, you know what it’s like running multiple blogs and forums. In fact, the website owners of footballyears.net and heightgrowthshoes.com hired a spam terrorist yesterday to advertise their websites at MacHouse Forums yesterday. (See Screenshot 01.) And a blog like the one shown in Screenshot 02 is full of spam comments, which are likely to discourage visitors from coming back. So what can we do to stop spam comments? Deleting spam comments is just a superficial solution and won’t stop them from coming back. So you have to play offense and destroy the websites of those sponsoring spammers.

That’s why we are talking about Visualware‘s VisualRoute today. If you want to destroy a spam-sponsoring website, all you have to do is to find the nameservers of the domain in question, locate the owner(s) and have the website shut down.






If we use Network Utilities…

Let’s see how we can use Network Utilities at first quickly. For example, if we want to bust the sponsor of the spam incident that took place in our own backyard yesterday, I would look up its namservers as shown in Screenshot 03. The names of ns343.hostgator.com and ns344.hostgator.com will come up. If you are familiar with web hosting business in the U.S., you can probably tell that these nameservers belong to a web hosting comany based in Dallas (Texas) called HostGator. And the operation using Network Utilities would end here. But tracing Internet traffic routes isn’t always that easy. For example, if I look up footballyears.net’s friend heightgrowthshoes.com with Network Utilities, I get the names of ns2.streamline.net, ns2.streamlinedns.co.uk and ns1.streamlinedns.co.uk. (See Screenshot 04.) Who owns these nameservers? Is streamlinedns.co.uk a web hosting company or an Internet service provider (ISP)? I don’t know. I’m not familiar with Internet environments in the U.S. Then let’s run a traceroute search to find more information on heightgrowthshoes.com. Screenshot 05 shows a few problems with Network Utilities. No.1, your search will always start from your terminal. What if you want to hide your location? No.2, the search goes to San Jose. San Jose near San Francisco? Well, you never know, right? Then it goes to London and where? So you can’t tell exactly where each hop (device shift) takes place.


VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 03
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 04
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 05






Introducing VisualRoutes

Okay. Let’s see how Visualware’s VisualRoute 2008 Business works. First, you want to choose the origin of search. On top of your own terminal, you can use servers in Virginia (US) and U.K. (See Screenshot 06.) That’s a nice feature for us. Now, we don’t have to blur or hide parts of screenshots or video clips to hide the IP addresses of our terminals. Then choose a protocol, enter a domain or an IP address and press RETURN. (See Screenshot 07.) Wait. What are we trying to do now? Basically, it’s the same traceroute search that is available in Apple’s Network Utilities.


VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 06
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 07



Search results for footballyears.net are shown in Screenshot 08. As you see the screenshot, search results are shown in 5 rows (for the Business version). The first row, Analysis, will give you a quick briefing on your search. The second row, Map, will literally show you where the search originated and then ended on a map. OmniPath, which is not supported in Personal and Advanced versions, will show you how the IP addresses of nodes are geographically arranged. In our search case, first 11 hops took place in separate geographical locations. (See Screenshot 09.) Then the traceroute search shifted from device to device three times within the same local area before moving ahead. Furthermore, RouteGraph will show you the IP address and the node name of each hop. This graph is very useful in several aspects. Screenshot 10 shows the plug symbol in 5 locations. And you can tell how the search shifted from one network to another. Finally, it’s Route Table, which will assist you to see the shifts of devices or servers in a big picture.


VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 08
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 09
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 10






Tracing footballyears.net with VisualRoute

Okay. So how do we utilize VisualRoute to find the web hosting company of footballyears.net? Basically, the last green label at Hop15 says it all. If I click on this label, I get information on this node in details. (See Screenshot 11.) Let’s go to Route Table and click on the last node name. And a window will pop up and give you information on the domain. (See Screenshot 12.) That means VisualRoute accessed ARIN or something equivalent to look up WhoIs information on footballyears.net in our case. Furthermore, if I click on the name under the last column of Route Table, I get information on the network where the website of footballyears.net resides. (See Screenshot 13.) Note that this pop-up window shows information on a network, not on a device or a hosting server.


VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 11
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 12
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 13



By the way, we could look up footballyears.net’s WhoIs information with Network Utilities just as shown in Screenshot 12 with VisualRoute, right? We could. The country domain of footballyears.net suggests that WhoIs information on this domain can be found at ARIN, the regional registry for North America. But Network Utilities actually fails in our particular case for some reason. (See Screenshot 14.)


VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 14
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 15
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 16






More searches with VisualRoute

Okay. Let’s see quickly what we can find on heightgrowthshoes.com, using VisualRoute. This time, I want to set the original server of search to Visualware UK (London). After entering the domain name, I just click on the green arrow to the right to start search. (See Screenshot 15.) Again, if I just want the name of the hosting server for the website of heightgrowthshoes.com, all I have to do is click on the last hop label in RouteGraph. Now, I get the name of the network where the website of heightgrowthshoes.com resides. (See Screenshot 16.) Let’s click on the hyperlink. And I get the name of FASTHOSTS-UK-NETWORK. There’s an abuse report e-mail address. I could use this e-mail domain to access its website. Actually, this is not an editable file where you could make a selection. So I need to click on the Snap button at the top of the window. Then I get an editable TextEdit file. (See Screenshot 17.) Where is this file located, anyway? When you install VisualRoute, a folder will be created inside the user folder. (See Screenshot 18.) Finally, I get to find the website of the hosing company. (See Screenshot 19.) But this is a lucky case because the web hosting company owns the network. Do you see the plug symbol right before the last node?


VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 17
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 18
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 19 – Source: fasthosts.co.uk



Let’s see one more example. We introduced a spam website called autopressweb.com the other day in our SEO section. So let’s track back this website with VisualRoute. WhoIs information on this domain shows that the nameservers are ns6.public-ns.com and ns5.public-ns.com. (See Screenshot 20.) It sounds like they are public nameservers of some sort. Furthermore, if I click on the last network name… I get the name of HALDEX-NET. (See Screenshot 21.) Then? Actually, that’s as far as I can go with this case, using VisualRoute. In fact, we think that the hosting company of autopressweb.com can be tracked down to advancedhosters.com, a Russian hosting company, with a simple web browser trick.


VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 20
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 21
  VisualRoute 2008 Business Apple Network Utilites
Screenshot 22



Let’s see a few other features of VisualRoute. I already explained how to use the Snap function. How about changing maps? Under Maps, you can find Select Map. And you can easily change maps. (This feature applies to only Advanced and Business versions.) Moreover, there are several functions under Help. If you choose any of them, you are likely to be forwarded to Visualware’s website. But I don’t know. Whatever I select, something called BrowserLauncher launches but then quits itself. So you may have to go to their website manually to get support.

In summary, Visualware’s VisualRoute 2008 is a great time-saver for those who want to trace Internet traffic routes. It will visually assist you to find out which group of nodes makes a network. If you want to bust the sponsor behind a spam act on your website or a spam e-mail message, VisualRoute will be a great tool for you. The price of VisualRoute 2008 Business, which we tested, is set to US$249. That’s a little bit too much for regular personal computer users. If you are one of them, then you may want to start with Personal or Advanced versions or just test the demo version. By the way, it seems that there is no Universal Binary version of VisualRoute. That’s a small blow for Intel-Mac users.

On the other hand, VisualRoute may not necessarily give you any more information beyond the combination of Apple’s Network Utilities and simple web searches with an Internet browser.

There are spam comments everywhere we go. We can stop spam comments and spam e-mail messages only if we play offense, not defense.





  • Developer: Visualware Inc. (www.visualroute.com)
  • Developer’s location: Visualware, Inc., 937 Sierra Drive, PO Box 668, Turlock, CA 95381-0668, USA
  • Latest version: VisualRoute 2008 12.0d (PowerPC)
  • Prices: Personal (US$49.95), Advanced (US$89.95), Business (US$249), SupportPro (US$395)
  • MacHouse recommendation: If you want to save time in tracing Internet traffic routes, you may want to try out the demo version at first. You can also try out a server demo version at VisualRoute website (visualroute.com). If you want to save money, then you can just stick to Apple’s Network Utilities. Anyway, we give a Buy-It! recommendation to Advanced and Business versions of VisualRoute 2008.






    VisualRoute is a product of Visualware Inc.






    References:

    How Guilty is AUTOPRESSWEB.COM?
    Connection Between Fake Video ActiveX Object Error Scam and Involvement of MALWAREALARMS.COM





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