At Cisco Live 2014, Tech Field Day provided a great opportunity to hear about Fluke Networks’ TruView. Fluke Networks also passed out cute* little LinkSprinter 200s, a tool which I have found to be incredibly handy in teaching IT newbies to troubleshoot basic client connectivity.
The LinkSprinter does all the basic things you could manage to accomplish with a laptop and/or a test phone, but it does so in a convenient little form factor, and more importantly – in a language new help desk interns can understand: light up, easy to read icons.
Now before I make this device sound like it’s designed just for beginners and/or idiots to use, I have to say I find the tool to be a huge help when I need to troubleshoot basic connectivity issues, especially when the network drop in question requires a ladder just to get to it (please hold all short jokes and applause till the end). The LinkSprinter pretty much does away with the need balance a laptop on a ladder or find a ridiculously long patch cable just to run basic connectivity tests.
What I really like, though, is how this tool helps new-to-IT technicians learn the troubleshooting process with more confidence and certainly in their processes. Not surprisingly, interns tend to goof up things like cabling and configuring their laptops correctly for testing IP connectivity. They forget that 169.254.x.x isn’t really a good thing (no matter how many times you tell them), the concept of a default gateway is totally foreign, and PoE just confuses the heck out of the them.
The LinkSprinter runs these checks (and more) and by removing the initial confusion of newbies setting up their own test devices up correctly, the new guy/gal can focus on correlating actual symptoms with an accurate diagnosis of what is happening, instead of mixing up the initial problem with self-created problems. Now it goes without saying that if you are going to use this tool with green engineers, you should proceed to explain to them what it is that the LinkSprinter is doing and how it is reaching its conclusions**. I have found the Wi-Fi ability to connect to the device and see the test results to be an excellent tutor in this.
Also, once the intern starts getting their feet under them, showing them how to run the same types of tests with a laptop or other networking tools shouldn’t be overlooked. The LinkSprinter is an excellent primer for these situations but shouldn’t replace good old-fashioned training and know-how.
A few visuals to give you an idea of what this thing looks like physically and from the web interface – I like that this thing can tell you the switchport, switch name, vlan assignments, as well as the DHCP server address:
And if you create an account online, you can keep track of your past tests, which is pretty snazzy as well:
*totally valid descriptor of networking gear and far less disturbing than calling network hardware sexy
**you can also tell them it’s dark, voodoo magic, especially if they are going into voice work, it will get them used to standard voice processes.
Disclaimer: While Fluke Networks was very generous to grant me a shiny LinkSprinter200 and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.