June 27, 2018

By Joe Winett


Four fortnights and nine days ago, Karen's Power Tools Newsletter was last sent. Â  Since, much has happened: I wrote a new subscription system and mailer for Karen's Power Tools Newsletter, I completely updated the website, and I released Karen's Traceroute, the newest of Karen's Power Tools utilities.

The previous newsletter subscription and mailing system we purchased got caught in a, "Sorry to see you go, but click here to re-subscribe," and "Thanks for subscribing, but click here if you want to stop your subscription," loop one day for just one user. Â  Apparently, some automated process followed the links in the emails. Â  The guy clicked SPAM!  to stop the crazy, so after 300 more loops, Amazon Simple Email Service to terminated our email sending abilities because our complaint rate shot through the roof. Â  That irked and embarrassed me. Â  The incident hurt our emailing reputation in many databases around the spam-police-state ecosystem and my personal reputation with the management of Amazon SES.

I had been thankful for the ability to send newsletters without spending dozens of hours on rewriting Karen's Mailer, but after going around and around months ago through SES probations and suspensions because many of Karen's original 90,000+ subscribers' email addresses were no longer valid (and because so many of the people who were still there clicked Spam! SPAM!!  This isn't Karen, SO SPAM!!!); well, I just couldn't stand not being in control of something I could have been controlling all along. Â  So, I did rewrite what could be called Karen's Mailer and it is now the software sending this message to you. Â  It's also the software that manages subscriptions, email confirmations, and un-subscriptions. 

If you want to check out how awesome the new subscription system is, and you're interested in being notified about beta versions of updated Power Tools like Directory Printer and Replicator, then you can subscribe to the BETA email list by visiting https://www.karenware.com/subscribe-beta. Â  There haven't been any announcements sent to the list, yet, by the way.

When you visit the website, you might notice it looks different.  Although not yet fully Karen-styled, it should better fit screens of any size, including your mobile device.  You can inspect the list of recent changes here.

The last KPTNL was sent on April 23rd. Â  That was so long ago that I had been sick about sending a newsletter that didn't have good news on the Power Tools front. Â  I've made many promises about updating Karen's original utilities with bug fixes and new features, but I've allowed life and the stresses of messing with beloved software to delay the release of those.    One user recently asked, "Can you assure me that the new version will not break the software we have been depending on for so many years?" Â  I answered that I didn't intend to break anything, but I can't promise that I won't break something, so he decided not to purchase a CD. Â  Hence, the need for beta testing, but that also hasn't started. Â  When I'm ready to send out a beta, I'll announce it to the BETA email list which you can subscribe to by visiting (heh) https://www.karenware.com/subscribe-beta. Â  Is there an echo in here?

Yesterday, to inspire some confidence in myself, I created Karen's Traceroute and put it up on the website for download. Â  This newest of Karen's Power Tools isn't perfect, but it's a start, and I didn't have to worry about upsetting a soul. Â  It's was a long, 14-hour day, and I'm proud I got it done. Â  Frankly, I'm better at doing lots of work in one day than putting together a string of days, but that's another story which isn't inspiring (see also: cramming for tests).

Karen's Traceroute

"Traceroute" is the traditional name for a utility which sends packets on an internet protocol (IP) network to probe the addresses of the machines between your machine's IP address and some distant machine's IP address. Â  Those steps along the way are called, hops.

Windows does still ship with a command-line utility to do a traceroute, called TRACERT.EXE, but it's not installed unless you activate it by checking its box on the Control Panel page called, "Turn Windows Features On or Off." Â  The program is used by opening the command prompt and typing something like, tracert www.karenware.com, to see the hops between you and our web server.

Or, you can download Karen's Traceroute and do the same from a Windows window.

What machines might be between yours and another? Â  Well, those machines are probably all machines called routers. Â  The function they perform is called routing. Â  Routing is the process of receiving an IP packet and upon finding that the destination address is somewhere else, sending it to the machine on which the destination address resides, if it's directly connected to the router, or on to some machine that might know better what to do with it.

Let's do a thought-experiment.  A train leaves Chicago going west at 42 miles per hour. Â  Just kidding — that's the beginning of a story problem.

For our thought-experiment, let's say: You have a Wi-Fi router and a human child in your house. Â  Let's also say that your human child has a computer and it is connected to the same Wi-Fi router to which your computer is connected. Â  Now, let's imagine that your child does homework and he or she has shared the Homework folder from his or her desktop to you so that you can do his or her homework for him or her. Â  When you connect your Windows to your child's Windows, the process involves the exchange of IP packets through your Wi-Fi router. Â  Since the IP address used by your machine and the one used by your child's machine are both on the subnetwork that is directly served by your Wi-Fi router, then it's an easy task for your router send each packet just one hop to its destination because both are directly connected to it. Â  From your perspective, that's two hops: the first is the router, and then the second is your kid's computer.

Maybe printing a document would have been a more realistic thought-experiment.  The same IP routing would happen: from your computer, to the router, to your network-connected printer.

You say hot potato, I say hot potato.

What happens if the destination machine isn't there at home? Â  When you visit our website, your PC sends a connection request to the IP address on our server that hosts it. Â  Your Wi-Fi router has no idea where in the world that machine is, but it does know that it doesn't know that, so it passes that IP packet hot potato to its Default Gateway.

The default gateway is a catch all handler for all addresses unknown to your router. Â  The default gateway is an address on a router owned by your ISP – it could be an address served from inside your cable modem, or from a giant box with lots of blinking lights at a telephone office, or be served from space on a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Â  The point is that the packet is no longer your Wi-Fi router's responsibility to deliver — now it's your internet service provider's router's problem.

Thank to digital technology, and the Law of Conservation of Unknowingness, the potato is just as hot after hopping to your ISP's router because it isn't the machine that hosts our website. Â  In turn, it will pass the hot potato on to its default gateway, or to one of the many gateways connected to it, as quickly as possible.

Deciding which gateway to choose is a fascinating process running in software on routers out there. Â  When I owned a small ISP in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, I loved connecting to multiple networks and telling my router to use the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to slice and dice and deal those hot potatoes to upstream transit providers. Â  That's a story for some other time, or perhaps a more technically-oriented, yet-to-be-created newsletter volume.


It's not perfect, but you are welcome to download and try out Karen's Traceroute, the first of Karen's Power Tools that I've written: https://www.karenware.com/powertools/pttracert.

Fred Langa, Windows Magazine

Fred was the editor of Windows Magazine for which Karen wrote articles.  You might have noticed Fred on Karen's Winmag.com - What ever happened to... page.  A couple of weeks ago, I received a nice email from Fred and notice of his mention of Karen's Replicator in an article published on his website:

Free templates automate your backup/copying/syncing tasks
Plus: What happened to Karen’s PowerTools?
by Fred Langa/Langa.Com

Thank you!

Quick! Â  Look behind you! Â  Do you see Karen, too? Â  Don't forget to wave and say, "Hi!" 


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Donations of any amount will help our cause and are appreciated!


About Windows 10: The problems caused in April by the Creators Update v1703 were fixed by Microsoft in November's Fall Creators Update v1709.

Click here for some information on how to figure out which version of Windows 10 you're running.

God bless you, Karen Kenworthy.

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