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At a Glance

At a Glance
Product Omnipeek Personal Network Analyzer
Summary Powerful, free, real-time network analyzer with visual expert and packet visualizer toolsets
Pros • Free
• On-the-fly filter creation and switching
• Visually stunning
Cons • Windows only
• Limited support options
• Multiple NICs not supported

Is there such a thing as a free lunch? Certainly in the world of network analyzer tools the answer would seem to be yes, what with the ever popular and powerful open source Ethereal product entering a new phase of its ever evolving life and still being a no-cost option despite the change of name to Wireshark.

WildPackets have taken the brave step of taking this established free giant head-on with OmniPeek Personal; a free version of the OmniPeek Analyzer that is included as a part of the not-so-free OmniAmalysis Platform product suite.

Inevitably comparisons will be drawn between Wireshark and OmniPeek, the first being platform compatibility. Wireshark is truly cross-platform and flexible, running on Apple Mac OS X, BeOS, FreeBSD, HP-UX, IBM AIX, NetBSD, OpenBSD, SCO UnixWare/OpenUnix, SGI Irix, Sun Solaris/Intel, Sun Solaris/Sparc, Tru64 UNIX (formerly Digital UNIX), Debian GNU/Linux, Gentoo Linux, IBM S/390 Linux, Mandrake Linux, PLD Linux, Red Hat Linux, Rock Linux, Slackware Linux, Suse Linux as well as Windows Me, 98, NT 4.0, 2000, XP and Server 2003.

In stark contrast OmniPeek Personal demands a narrow allegiance to Windows, supporting just Windows XP Professional (SP2), Windows 2000 (SP4), or Windows Server 2003 (SP1). So users of Windows XP Home are out of luck, and don't even think of trying to be clever and running it on a system without Internet Explorer 6.0 (SP1) and Microsoft .NET Framework 2 installed, because it won't run.

WildPackets gives the impression of viewing OmniPeek Personal as OmniAnalysis Lite: not a full product in its own right, more of an introduction to the advanced features found in its commercial brethren. Even the fact that Gigabit Ethernet and WANs are supported with an additional cost analyzer card is not made immediately clear.

Instead, theWildPackets product comparison tables suggest these features are only found in the commercial products. Nor does OmniPeek Personal come with free support beyond a basic FAQ and poorly populated support forum. Wireshark, by comparison, has an informative and busy support forum. WildPackets will happily sell you an OmniPeek Personal support package starting at $299 (€234, £162) per year though.

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