Since smartphones came on the scene a few years ago, they have become more and more popular with everyone across the globe. To soccer moms and teenagers, they are an irreplaceable asset. We all know that smartphones and smart devices can help fight boredom with Angry Birds and Trivia Crack, but could they help assist with some everyday tasks that us IT folks are faced with every day? I’m happy to report that they absolutely can.
I’ve had an Android device since the HTC Hero hit the market in 2010 and haven’t been able to part ways with the platform. Since getting my first Android and beginning my road to all things IT, I’ve installed, tested, and uninstalled quite a few applications. In doing so, I’ve come across five apps that get installed on every phone and tablet I use. But enough of the intro, let’s get down to the good stuff.
First on the list is one that I found while taking classes through the Cisco Networking Academy. When it came time to Subnet, it didn’t seem to stick with me as well as the other material. I found the IP Network Calculator and used it to check my subnetting work. This little gem only needs you to input a network address along with the subnet mask, and it takes over from there. There is a slider under the subnet mask that lets you walk up or down one bit at a time. It shows the binary, hexadecimal, and dotted decimal notation for the following: network address, broadcast address, subnet mask, number of usable IP addresses, first usable, and last usable.
*By the way, after using the app for a little while, subnetting “clicked,” but I still like to keep this in my toolbox just in case.
Next on the list is a little tool that works in real time to help diagnose wireless access point trouble. Wifi Analyzer is a recently obtained application that is proving to be more than what I expected. Within the application, you can look at information in five different layouts: channel graph, time graph, channel rating, signal meter, and an AP list. The Channel Graph shows just that. It displays all AP’s picked up by the device along with their assigned channels. The Time Graph shows multiple lines labeled with the AP names with signal strength in real time. The Channel Rating shows a star-rating of the available channels and helps you find the best available channel for that AP. The Signal Meter gives you a meter-based output of a certain AP’s signal. Lastly, the AP List does just that. It shows a list of all AP’s in the area and the signal for each.
Next up is Fing. Fing is a network discovery tool that scans the connected network and shows all IP addresses used, host names, the manufacturer of the devices NIC or wireless card (i.e. Cisco, HP, Intel), as well as the Mac Addresses of the devices. From here you can ping, scan services, trace route, and send wake on LAN signals to the devices (that is if the device is configured to do so). This application is nice to have when checking to see if certain IP addresses are available, and seeing what device is using which IP address.
Fourth on the list is Windows Remote Desktop. This app is tried and true to connect to any windows machine with RDP enabled. If for any reason you need to connect to a server on the go, this is a reliable way to do so. Keep in mind, it only works when in the same network unless the server has a static IP or has a hosted DNS record. Another route is to setup a VPN where you can connect from anywhere. (Google has integrated a VPN client into the OS, or you can use your favorite client)
Lastly, one application that has thoroughly impressed and spoiled me without end is ES File Explorer. I recommend having a file explorer of some type on your device, because who knows when you need to look for a lost file, or change an extension in order to have the file work properly. ES, however, goes above and beyond in my eyes. With ES you not only get the basic file tasks (cut, copy, paste, and directory browsing), you also get a few bells and whistles. For example, if have a network drive that has documents you need to connect to, add the directory in ES and browse to it as long as you are on the same network. You can also add cloud services like OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox to have all your directories in one location. ES also allows connections to FTP servers (SFTP and FTPS included). Not to go on and on bragging about this tool, but it has definitely been a staple in everyday tasks for this nerd.
This pot of gold can be found at the end of the rainbow here.
As you can see, these devices are able to do some pretty awesome things when it comes to us IT folks. I recommend that any of you on Android devices to go check these out. They are all free, so no need in having to break out the wallet. There are paid versions out there, but these get the job done. If you want all the bells and whistles, grab the paid versions. Most of these also have an iDevice version as well, so all you Apple users don’t have to miss out. Hopefully, this will help troubleshoot and make your rounds about the office a little less cumbersome with a laptop when trying to find out which AP is on the fritz, trying to find that one file you need, or even checking that server’s performance while out of the office.