September 19, 2000

By Karen Kenworthy

IN THIS ISSUE

Hi! I hope you had a good week. It was busy, here at the secluded Power Tools workshop. Several clients had work for me to do, and I even found time to work on our latest Power Tool, the 'Net Monitor. And of course, I received a lot of email!

Many of the messages were about setup programs. Soon, we'll have to sit down and have a long talk about them -- their present problems and their uncertain future. There's a lot to say.

New 'Net Monitor

But today I thought we'd return to the 'Net Monitor. As you'll recall, this little program periodically tests web sites to make sure they are responding. If not, it records the time of the test, the reason for the failure, and more.

Paul Middleton recently suggestion two ways to improve the original version: "Karen, 'Net Monitor looks like an extremely useful tool. You caught us at exactly the right time as we have been looking for something to do this."

"However, would it be possible to add two further features to it when you next look at the program. One would be the option to change the length of time between tests rather than having a set 5 minutes. The second feature may be too complex but it would be great if you could set up a way for the program to e- mail or send a network broadcast message if the connection failed."

"Great newsletter by the way, not that I'm buttering you up, you understand!!! :0) Kind Regards"

Thanks, Paul, for your nice, butter-free note! Definitely non-fattening. :)

And thanks, too, for the great suggestions. I've implemented the first one, in 'Net Monitor v1.2. It now has a small "Time Interval" selector on its main window. There, you can specify the time between tests, up to 9 days, 23 hours, and 59 minutes. The program remembers this setting between runs, so you only need to set it once.

I'm still thinking about the best way to implement your second suggestion. I like both ideas (and email warning, and a network popup message). Perhaps both options should be available. I'd also appreciate other suggestions for ways to sound the alarm when a web site goes offline. Got an idea or an opinion? Drop me a note at karenk@karenware.com.

Memories

Reader John Shannon also had a good idea: "I just started using Net Monitor today, and I really love it. I have a suggestion to make it even better. How about saving a log of the reports in a text file. It would be handy to have when contacting an ISP or web site provider for tech help.

Your wish is my command. The new 'Net Monitor now has a "Save" button on its main window. Click it and you'll see the usual Windows "Save To Disk" dialog, where you can select a drive, directory, and filename. Make your selections, click OK, and all the test results shown on 'Net Monitor's main window are written to disk.

The file is a plain text file, with one test result per line. So it can be emailed to your favorite Internet Service Provider or web-master. You can also save the results over several days, building a detailed profile of a site's performance and reliability.

More Features

Another addition lets 'Net Monitor test several web sites and web pages at the same time. Now, the main window sports a list of URLs, and a checkbox beside each one. Place a checkmark in the box, and that site or page will be tested. To add or remove URLs from the list, click 'Net Monitor's new Edit button.

The dialog you'll see when you click the Edit button reveals another new feature. You may remember that 'Net Monitor can search web pages for a special "signature,", a bit of text that proves that the correct page was returned by the web server.

The original 'Net Monitor always looked for the same signature, an HTML comment reading "- - 'Net Monitor - -". But now you can specify a different signature for each page being tested. Just add the signature you prefer in the new "Signatures" list box, and place a check in the Edit dialog's Check Signature checkbox.

If you'd like to give the new 'Net Monitor v1.2 a try, visit my web site at https://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptnetmon. If you'd like to see or modify the program's Visual Basic source code, you can find it there to. As always, both are free!

And in case you're wondering, this new version's setup program was created by the good old Visual Basic "Packaging and Deployment" wizard, the same installation program generator I've used for many years. So there are no alligators lurking in the "setup swamp" this week. :)

Until we meet here next week, don't work too hard. Enjoy this wonderful season, and the many changes it brings. And if you happen to see me, on the 'net or in person, be sure to wave and say "Hi!". I'll be the one sitting on her front porch, getting one last look at the wildflowers and the hummingbirds, before they are gone for another year.