Advanced Administrative Tools 4.1

\[Editor’s Note: At press time, G-Lock Software had released Advanced Administrative Tools (AATools) 4.25, which added several new features. However, the release didn’t improve upon the author’s primary misgivings about the product. For more information about this release, visit the company’s Web site.\]

IT administrators always welcome tools that make their lives easier and work processes more efficiently, and G-Lock Software’s Advanced Administrative Tools (AATools) 4.1 does just that. This collection of nine diverse network-utility modules provides a range of services—including port scanning, email-address verification, Internet link analysis, and proxy-server analysis—for Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, and Windows 9x systems. (You need to download patches to make AATools compatible with Win95.)

AATools is available only as a download, and you can run the product in demo mode for 30 days. I tested AATools on two systems: a Pentium III 500MHz processor with 128MB of RAM, running Win2K, and a Pentium II 450MHz processor with 128MB of RAM, running Win98. After I ran the setup executable, completed the simple installation process, and licensed the product, AATools executed a registration file that added information to the system registry. The product then presented me with AATools’ main screen, which Figure 1 shows. To see a module’s description, I moved my pointer over the tool’s name in the list at the left of the main screen. To use a tool, I selected it from this list and clicked Go! in the lower right corner of the screen; this process opened each module’s primary interface. I could also click tool icons from those interfaces to switch tools without returning to AATool’s main screen.

First, I tested AATools’ port-scanning tools: Port Scanner, Network Status, and Whois. I used Port Scanner to scan my system for Trojan horses and other security holes. I could click Network PC to add all networked PCs to my local machine scan list. I also could create port sets and schedule scans for those sets. From Port Scanner’s primary interface, I defined the IP addresses I wanted to scan. In about 1 minute, Port Scanner scanned more than 65,000 ports on my local machine. The scan results listed the scanned IP addresses, open ports, and descriptions of those ports. I could print the results or save them as text files.

Port Scanner identified several open ports on my test PC. To determine the status of these ports, I switched to the Network Status tool. Network Status analyzes specified ports and shows the port status (listening, waiting, or established), the port’s local IP address, the protocol that the port uses (i.e., UDP or TCP), and the remote port and IP address at the other end of the connection. I discovered, for example, that local port 1343 had established a live connection with remote port 8888.

To get more information about an open connection, I used the Whois tool. To apply this utility, I selected an open port in the Network Status module interface, right-clicked, and selected Whois remote IP. Because I was researching more than one port, I had to return to the Network Status interface and repeat the process to determine that the remote IP addresses belonged to a Napster server and an MSN Hotmail server

The next tool I tested was E-mail Verifier. This tool quickly confirms the validity of the email addresses in a mailing list. I could enter email addresses manually or import them from text files. However, I was disappointed that E-mail Verifier didn’t eliminate a step in the process and pull addresses automatically from common applications such as QUALCOMM’S Eudora and Microsoft Outlook. (G-Lock Software’s Advanced Email Verifier, which costs $25, provides this functionality, but AATools’ E-mail Verifier is a "lite" version of this product.) I imported more than 150 email addresses. The tool scanned the list in about 1 minute and found several dead links. E-mail Verifier’s results separated the good addresses from the bad, and I exported these lists directly to text files. If your mailing lists are extensive, you’ll want to reduce list-verification time. E-mail Verifier’s primary interface contains sliding bars with which you can adjust Timeout and Threads values.

Next, I tested Links Analyzer, which scans and verifies a local PC’s Internet shortcuts. The tool scanned the 750 shortcuts on my PC in about 3 minutes and, to my surprise, discovered 76 dead links. The tool’s Settings tab contains an option to move all the bad links to a folder in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). After doing some research, however, I discovered that several of the reportedly bad links were active. By tweaking the Timeout and Threads values and rerunning the scan, I significantly reduced the number of errors. I was disappointed that Links Analyzer didn’t clean up my Netscape bookmarks; AATools currently doesn’t support Netscape.

If you manage Proxy and Web servers, the Proxy Analyzer and CGI Analyzer tools will interest you. Proxy Analyzer helps you maintain privacy by determining if a proxy server you connect to meets your requirements for anonymity. To configure my anonymity requirements, I went to the tool’s Proxy Rating tab and selected the values I wanted Proxy Analyzer to use in its analyses. You can also test proxy servers for HTTP over Secure Sockets Layer (HTTPS) support.

CGI Analyzer helps Web server administrators verify the existence and security of specified CGI scripts. Because I don’t have a Web server running CGI, I could test only the tool’s setup. The module’s setup window was confusing because it contained several Add buttons. (One button adds directory paths to the search list, whereas another button adds CGI scripts to the test list.) I also discovered a bug in CGI Analyzer: The program didn’t add to the list all the CGI scripts that I selected. When I contacted the vendor about this bug, G-Lock Software promptly acknowledged the problem and offered a patch.

The Process Info tool is similar to NT 4.0 Task Manager but provides additional information about processes running on your computer. When I selected a process in the module interface’s left pane, that process’ associated DLLs appeared in the right pane. As with Task Manager, you can terminate a process directly from the Process Info console window. The tool can scan only your local machine, though. The ability to monitor a remote machine and assume access privileges for that machine would be a useful addition.

The System Info module takes a snapshot of local system settings. This tool provides useful troubleshooting information, such as the system’s hardware configuration, OS, printers, and network adapters, although you can’t use System Info to monitor remote machines. You can’t print the information directly, either, but you can export the information as a text file. Overall, AATools would benefit from more consistent print options. Some tools’ UIs have Print buttons and let you print results directly, whereas other tools don’t feature Print buttons and only let you export the results as text files.

AATool’s primary interface contains two practical options in addition to the nine tools. Resource Viewer displays information about executable file resources. The Blank option lets you launch AATools without the main menu appearing.

AATools includes online Help, which you can access directly from each module. The Help documentation provides an overview of each utility and descriptions of each tool’s options. Although useful, the Help documentation lacks troubleshooting tips. For example, I’d like a list of steps to perform if I discover a Trojan horse during a port scan.

For only $39.95, AATools provides a range of utilities that can help you troubleshoot your systems, improve your network security, and optimize Internet communications. AATools is a useful addition to your toolbox—and will be even more useful if G-Lock Software can make the UI more consistent across modules.

Advanced Administrative Tools 4.1
Contact: G-Lock Software 375 * 29 * 690 * 5206
Price: $39.95 for a single-user license; $199.95 for a site license
Decision Summary
Pros: Powerful; diverse troubleshooting and monitoring tools; useful for verifying Internet shortcuts and email addresses; helpful for discovering and closing network and PC security vulnerabilities
Cons: Some tools lack remote machine monitoring capabilities; UI is sometimes confusing; print options are inconsistent among tools
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