netwox: A set of 220+ (unwieldy) tools

I see that the netwox project closed down about seven years ago, but it’s still on my list and still available in Debian, so I will include it here.

Unfortunately, my opinion of it is not too strong.

2014-02-07-g60-125nr-netwox

As I understand it — and again, this comes only after tinkering with it for about half an hour — netwox encapsulates more than 220 tools, all aimed at network troubleshooting.

That on its own is quite impressive. My complaint comes in how netwox is arranged. Apparently, you access the tools by number. In other words, netwox 1 is a rundown of local network hardware. netwox 2 is a debug mode. netwox 3 is an IP address or hostname query. And so forth.

Cumbersome. Not impossible, but obviously ungraceful.

And unfortunately, this is where netwox falls down again for me. Because unless you use it frequently enough to memorize each of the available tools, you’re going to need some sort of index to see what’s available to you.

The man page is no help. It refers you to a documentation file — net-wox-5.39.0-doc_html.tgz — that doesn’t seem to be included with the Debian version, although there is a toollist.txt.gz hiding in /usr/share/doc/netwox/. Look there if you want a full list of tools you can try.

On the other hand, netwox does have onboard help in both brief and detailed form that you can access on-the-fly, just with netwox (number) --help or --help2. That’s a big … help. πŸ™„

And I will give it credit, that its output is clean and well arranged. It keeps to base ascii characters and displays information in neat sets and columns.

But I can’t get past the fact that it’s just a clumsy way to work a program. There are plenty of applications that use successive mnemonics to get the job done, and it would be my advice that netwox follow that style. The difference is memorizing which numbered tool floods an address with syslog messages (it’s No. 98, if you must know), and just netwox flood syslog 192.168.1.1 … or something to that effect.

If there’s a way to use netwox like that (short of 220 aliases 😯 ), I couldn’t find it.

I leave it to you to see if netwox is something usable. Like I said, the home page claims the project closed down in 2007, so I’m clearly just flogging a dead horse. All the same, this seems like an example of how not to design a tool, no matter how flexible it is. 😐

P.S.: I should mention that there is an AUR package, but it crashed when I tried compiling it.