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    PlanetQuake | Features | Tech Tips | 10-7-2000
   

Tech Tips
This is where your gaming and hardware needs are met. Be all that you can be or get out of the game! This won't be a forum for techno-geeks to find more ways to impress their non-technical friends, it's for plain folk who need help to better their gaming experience. But don't blame us if you blow your machine sky high; we're offering tips, not the Bible on computers. The mailbag is alive and well - send in those questions to TechTips.
ó by Love2Play

Today is your lucky day readers!  we are fortunate enough to be able to personally share an excellent article written by John Gillett over at Speedcorp.net.  We would like to extend our profound thanks for allowing us to post his article here and hope you will all take a nice long visit over at Speedcorp.net for more speedy tips!

How To Use Trace Route To Find Problems With Your Internet Connection

By John Gillett

Many of us have experienced wild swings in the performance of our Internet connections from day to day, and even from minute to minute.  Sometimes blazing fast, sometimes at a snailís pace.  What causes this erratic behavior?  Is it your Internet Service Providerís (ISPís) fault?  How can you find out?  If it is your ISPís fault, how can you show them? 

Iím going to start out with some background information on PING and Trace Route.  If you are already familiar with how these work, you may want to skip ahead to the Ping Plotter section. 

How do computers communicate across the Internet? 

Protocols are like languages & customs which people use to speak and interact in daily life.  Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is a suite of several protocols designed for Wide Area Networks (WANs). As the most complete and accepted networking protocol available today, TCP/IP is the standard protocol used for communication between computers on the Internet.  In fact, your computer used TCP/IP to move data to and from your computer and the Speedcorp servers to allow you to read this article.  Simply, TCP/IP is the set of languages and customs used by computers speaking to one another across the Internet. 

There are a number of diagnostics utilities, which are included with all operating system software I know of.  Iíll speak from the perspective of Microsoft Windows 98.  Two of the many utilities are PING and TRACE ROUTE. 

PING 

Packet InterNet Groper (PING) is the simpler of the two.  This simply verifies that TCP/IP is configured correctly on your computer and that another computer on the network is available.  It is a quick way to test connectivity.  It also returns the time, in milliseconds, it takes a certain amount of information to travel from your computer, to another computer and back again.  One thousand milliseconds are equal to one second.

Every computer on a network has an address, like a house address, only it is described with numbers and looks something like 24.226.60.80.  This is called an IP address and is usually assigned to you automatically by your ISP.  To make life easier for humans, these numbers can be translated to and from names, such as Speedcorp.net.  Thus you may also ping a domain name over the Internet. 

Ping uses one of the protocols from the TCP/IP suite, Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) which uses echo request and echo reply messages to determine whether a particular TCP/IP host is available and functional.  If the remote computer is not available or functional, you will get a ďRequest timed outĒ message.  A computer may not be available to ping if it is on the other side of a firewall.  You can use ping from a DOS box, as in the figure below.

The IP address Pinged above is a special one, called the loopback address.  It uses loopback drivers to reroute outgoing packets back to the source computer.  These loopback drivers bypass the network adapter card completely.  This is a good way to test whether or not TCP/IP is configured correctly on your computer.  You can perform the same test by pinging your own IP address.  To find your IP address, click on Start -> Run, then type in WINIPCFG and click on OK.  The IP Configuration window will open.  Click on the drop-down menu to choose your Ethernet adapter if you use a cable ISP, or PPPoE adapter if you use an xDSL ISP, or choose the PPP adapter if you use a dial-up ISP.  You must be online at the time.  Click the More Info button and you will see something similar to the figure below.

 

There are a number of options you can use while Pinging.  To take a look, just type PING at your DOS prompt and hit Return.

TRACE ROUTE 

Data travelling across the Internet is routed along different paths, depending on where the computer you are connected to physically resides.  Like roads with intersections, the Internet is made up of cable and fiber, where the intersections are controlled by routers.  Aptly named, routers decide which route is least costly and send data packets in that direction. 

A trace route verifies the route a packet takes to reach its destination.  This is useful for determining whether a router has failed.  If the command is unsuccessful, you can determine where routing failed, possibly indicating router problems.  Trace route is also useful for determining a slow router.  The response time is returned in the output, indicating the effectiveness of a router. 

Trace route is a modified PING.  One of the parameters on a ping packet is something called Time To Live (TTL).  This is set to some suitably high number.  As this packet moves through the route to the destination, this number is decremented by 1.  If any router sees that the TTL is zero, then it sends the packet back to the computer that sent it (an echo).

Trace route plays with this TTL number on outgoing packets.  It first sends out a packet with a TTL of 1.  The first router that sees this decrements it to 0 and then sends it back.  It also sends back its own IP address with the packet.  So your computer receives a packet with an IP address in it, and you have the time it took to traverse this route.

The next trace route sends out a packet with a 2 as the TTL.  So it can find out what the next computer in the route is.  This is repeated until the final destination is reached.  At that point, you know the entire path the packet has traversed to reach the destination computer, and the time it takes to get to any of the routers in between.  Each server in this chain is called a "hop" .

So the last hop in a trace route is actually the round-trip time, or ping, to the destination server.  This is an important concept to understand.  You don't add up all the times between you and the destination host, as that time has already been added.  The time to the last hop in the chain is exactly the same is if you'd used a ping utility to that host computer.  So a trace route utility is actually two utilities - ping AND trace route. 

Similar to the ping utility, you can run a trace route from a DOS box while online by typing TRACERT at the prompt followed by the address of the computer you wish to ping.  As in the ping command, you may use the numerical IP address, or a name such as Speedcorp.net . You can view the options, or switches, available with this command-line utility by hitting enter after typing TRACERT with no address following.


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