Toolbox: New Products for IT Professionals
The trio of free tools this month helps you create and test regular expressions, remove Active Directory addresses and track IP usage.
Regular expressions are a powerful means with which to concisely identify text within strings. Once you have the right pattern, they can save you time and lines of script. They can also be difficult to construct, however. There are a number of tools to help you construct and test your regular expressions. One such tool is the Web-based application you’ll find at refiddle.com.
One cool part of the refiddle.com application is that you can specify “red light/green light” tests for your new regular expression text by specifying either “#+” to match lines of text or “#-” to not match. When you do so, the left-hand navigation pane will show you how many of your tests passed and how many failed. This is a great way to ensure that your regular expression will stand up under a variety of different scenarios. You can also save your regular expressions to the site, sharing them in the “fiddle directory” so others can use them, comment and make improvements.
Conversely, you can avoid reinventing the wheel, and use the fiddle directory to find regular expressions from other contributors. To search the directory, you simply enter search phrases in the search text box at the top left of the site. The site also lets you save your fiddle and post it to StackOverflow.com. Here you can ask for help or demonstrate your prowess with regular expressions. So if you’re puzzling over a regular expression for your next administrative task, take a look at this free and helpful Web-based tool.
Even with just normal usage and rollover, your Active Directory domain can build up a number of stale or inactive user accounts. There are a number of tools that help you query Active Directory to get a list of those accounts, but one easy-to-use alternative is the Inactive User Account Removal Tool from SolarWinds Inc.
After installing the Inactive User Account Removal Tool (which is bundled with the Inactive Computer Account Removal Tool and the User Import Tool after you register with your e-mail and phone number), simply launch it and enter the target domain and credentials to connect to Active Directory. Then click Next to have the program scan the domain for inactive user accounts. Once it completes a scan, it gives you a tally of the number of inactive accounts since a particular date. You can change this date on the fly or set the default in the application settings.
You can search the results for particular targets or manually select accounts that you wish to remove. Clicking the remove button purges them from Active Directory. Before doing that, you’ll probably want to use the Export button. This will dump the results to a CSV and record your actions (useful for recovery if you make a mistake). The account output shows you the display name, last logon and directory entry path for each account. You can click on the headers to sort the results by the column.
After a scan, you can also see which domain controllers it queried to ensure you’ve traversed the whole domain. Besides the default time period for considering an account to be inactive, you can also set logging levels or enable debugging in case you need to troubleshoot the app.
There aren’t too many frills with this product, but it’s free and it gets the job done. So the next time you find your Active Directory becoming occluded with inactive or unused accounts, use the Inactive User Account Removal Tool from Solar Winds to remove them to make your job a bit easier.
Keeping track of IP address allocation is a necessity. You could create a simple spreadsheet of each of your subnets along with the details of the DNS names, purpose and location of the allocated IP addresses. However, these spreadsheets can quickly get out of date and are difficult to maintain. One simple alternative is the IP Address Tracker from SolarWinds.
The IP Address Tracker scans your network subnets and gives you a tally of the IP addresses currently in use, along with useful details such as DNS name, response time, machine type, system name and location of the responding device (if the machine responds to such queries). At the top of the results listing, there’s a summary of the total IP addresses of the subnet, how many are used and how many are available. You can also filter the results to either show all, used, available or reserved to help you more easily find your targets.
IP Address Tracker lets you define and keep track of multiple subnets. This makes it easier to track your whole environment. Once you’ve scanned a subnet, you can print or save the results to a file. IP Address Tracker can save results to a local database as well, so you don’t have to rescan your network every time you want to see the current allocation state. If you do want to rescan a subnet, simply click the Refresh button to have it reach out and ping the specified subnet addresses. It will also use SNMP traps to gather more information. You can also specify credentials to get better information returned.
Because the results are stored in a local database, you can add comments to each IP listing. The application will save its state for your next use. The database is somewhat portable, so you can put it in a shared location and then point the IP Address Tracker to the shared location via the File/Open IP Management Database menu option. This lets you protect the database via normal folder and file permissions.
You can right-click an IP address in the results window to mark the address as reserved, used or available, regardless of the scan results. You can also copy or clear the current entry from the same context menu. The last option on the context menu is Tools. This gives you quick access to Ping, Telnet or Web browsing of the target IP address.
If you’re still relying on a manual spreadsheet to track IP allocation, you might want to consider a tool like the free IP Address Tracker from SolarWinds. It could save you time and potential headaches in your day-to-day system administration.
Greg Steen* is a technology professional, entrepreneur and enthusiast. He’s always on the hunt for new tools to help make operations, QA and development easier for the IT professional.*