Soussan DAS Computer Consultants

Our Team
Cool Stuff
KeyholeKeyboardLaptop ComputerComputer Chip

Webcast Information

As promised, some details that got cut from "The Art Of Debugging" webcast. I can talk for hours about this stuff, and the original thought from Microsoft was to give me half an hour ... maybe 45 minutes. In the end, I managed to cut out enough to give you an hour of hopefully very enlightening meat without all the potatoes. There are entire careers built on networking. My goal was to give anyone listening an idea of some of what is capable and hopefully get you sniffing and learning about networks at that low level.

Please let me know what you might have liked, disliked, wanted more of, or wanted less of.

To view The Art of Debugging webcast-Click Here

That said, onto more of the meat that got cut!

Network hubs VS network switches

A network switch is intelligent -- it tries to send packets out to only the ports that are listening for that kind of packet. If a packet is meant for every system on the network, called a "broadcast packet", then the switch sends the packet out every port. If the packet is supposed to go to one system only which is identified by its MAC address, AKA: A Unicast Packet, the switch will do one of two things:

If the switch knows what port that MAC address is connected to, then it sends the packet out just that port.

If the switch does not know what port that system is connected to, it sends that packet out every port.

When a packet comes into a port, the switch remembers what MAC addresses it sees from each system coming into each port of the switch. That way when a packet is supposed to go out to a system, it can lookup that MAC address in a table that (hopefully) tells the switch which port would be interested in hearing about that packet. This is very similar to what a "Network Bridge" does when it bridges two network segments together. Modern switches have 48 or more logical bridges, one for each port, all connected to a common backbone inside the switch.

On the other hand, a hub is more like a piece of coaxial cable that allowed Cat-5 wiring to replace coaxial networks. A hub sends every packet out every port no matter what. A hub is dumb, whereas a switch is smart.

In this way, a switch utilizes the available bandwidth more efficiently than a hub does.

Unfortunately, hubs are becoming harder and harder to find, which makes sniffing data a bit more challenging. Smarter switches can configure a "SPAN" port, or a "Monitor" port, or some other name. Briefly, that configuration tweak tells the switch to replicate every packet going out port #<whatever> out onto port #<whatever-B>. So if you are interested in the traffic on port #5, you can connect your sniffer to port #8, tell the switch to monitor port #5 onto port #8, and sniff away.

However, not all switches can configure any port to span any other port. Plus, sometimes not every packet gets forwarded. So that is why my choice is a hub -- plain old stupid network hub. When I'm hubbed into a network connection, I know I'm seeing every packet in or out of that port.

How to tell if you've got a switch or a hub

You can test your hub to be certain it is stupid as follows: Plug two systems in ports #1 and #2, then ping between those two systems. Plug your sniffer into port #3 and capture data. You should see all the pings and replies between #1 and #2; if you don't, you've really got a switch and not a hub. This is not an uncommon occurrence! Hubs are getting harder to find as cheap switch integrated circuits are deemed better than hubs, and who would want a hub anyway when a switch is better for networks?


Links contained in the presentation you might want to reference, and some other items of interest:



Internet Engineering Task Force: -- lookup the following RFCs for more information on some of the topics covered:

RFC 1180 - A TCP/IP Tutorial

RFC 2821 - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol

RFC 2045 - Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions

RFC 0793 - Transmission Control Protocol [TCP]

The Cable Guy – July 2004: Path Maximum Transmission Unit (PMTU) Black Hole Routers at:

Really detailed networking books by Douglas Comer, read about them on Amazon or at

ARP Packets:


A downloadable PDF of The Art of Debuggin Presentation can be found by clicking here


I'm not sure how much feedback I'll get from any of the Microsoft surveys regarding the webcast, so if you viewed it (and I know I asked it earlier, but unless you've done one of these you have no idea just how many hours of effort it takes) please let me know. I'd like it to be as good as it possibly can be, and for that I need your help!


So I'd love to hear from you! Please tell me what you might like to see in a future webcast!


David Soussan