The Internet is made up of a vast number of computers, all linked together, and when you want to connect to a specific computer - like the Fed2 computer - the information may pass through lots of different computers on its way to the destination. If any of the intermediate computers go offline, or a link goes down, the information can usually reroute and take another path.
But sometimes there are serious problems which can affect your ability to connect to another computer. A problem with one of the main Internet backbones in the US, or with the pipes across the Atlantic, or even with the link from your ISP out onto the Internet, can mean your connection to Fed slows right down or fails completely.
This can be most frustrating, particularly if you don't have a clue what is causing the problem. So any tool that helps you find out where the problem originates is useful.
There is a basic Internet tool called Traceroute which can do the job, but if you use a Windows PC, we recommend a very nifty piece of software called Neotrace.
Neotrace gives you a graphical representation of your connection to an Internet site, showing you what other computers you are passing through on the way, and how long it takes for information to pass to each of those computers. So if you are having problems with lag, or you cannot connect to Fed at all, you can use Neotrace to identify where the problem is. This is very useful - and besides, it's fun to watch it do its stuff, too!
Neotrace is published by McAfee and they charge for the full program, but there is a cut-down free version called NeoTrace Express which you can download from http://www.networkingfiles.com/PingFinger/Neotraceexpress.htm.
To use Neotrace to trace your connection to Fed, type in fed2.ibgames.net as the node you want to check. You will find that the final step in the connection to Fed will show up as having failed, because of our security, but although our machine won't respond, the link between our machine and the last node is a very low latency connection, so you can still trace the connection right from your machine to ours.
Note that Neotrace and the company that has produced it are nothing to do with ibgames; we are only telling you about the program because we think it's good, and think you will find it useful.
Another useful tool is the Internet Traffic Report, a web site that monitors the flow of data around the world. It then displays a value between zero and 100. Higher values indicate faster and more reliable connections. You can therefore see if there are any bottlenecks or problem areas.
The Internet Traffic Report is at http://www.internettrafficreport.com.