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Toolbox: New products for IT professionals

Monitor Web services and event logs with these easy-to-use solutions.

Greg Steen

HTTPie

As you move more applications and data to the cloud, you’ll need to monitor and test Web services more frequently. HTTPie is a free and open source tool that can help you test, verify and visualize HTTP-based services. It’s a command-line client with the stated goal of making “CLI interaction with Web services as human-friendly as possible.”

The HTTPie command-line client formats and colorizes HTTP responses to make them easier to understand. It’s written in Python, so you’ll have to get familiar with it if you haven’t used it before. To help you out, check out this handy installation guide for getting HTTPie up and running on Windows. The application and its requirements are being actively developed, so visit the site for the various prerequisites to ensure your installation methods (whether Python, curl, pip or HTTPie) are up-to-date before you jump into the process.

HTTPie is an HTTP request/response tool. You can easily use the various HTTP methods such as GET, POST, PUT and DELETE and check the responses. To push data directly to a Web service, the simple and flexible command-line client supports regular forms, file upload forms and the JSON data format.

If the data you want to send is a bit unwieldy for a command line, HTTPie supports redirected input via stdin. That buffers the data and sends it as the request body. For example, you could “pipe” data from another program to HTTPie or slurp in a file of data with the “<” input redirection. HTTPie currently supports Basic and Digest authentication, as well as proxies and proxy authentication. There are more methods on the development roadmap.

You can skip the hosts’s SSL verification or provide a custom certificate authority (CA) bundle path with your HTTPS requests. By default, each request you send with HTTPie is independent of the previous request. HTTPie does, however, support persistent sessions through a simple command-line option.

What sets HTTPie apart is the response output. It’s formatted, colored and easy to read. For example, HTTP headers are sorted by name; JSON data is indented and sorted; and encoded data is converted into readable characters.  HTTPie also supports binary responses. You can redirect the output from a response to a file or another program. You can even use the “stream” option to buffer and chunk the data.

So if you’re looking for a way to test HTTP-based services, definitely check out the free and open source HTTPie project. It’s easy to use, relatively easy to get up and running on Windows, and the well-formatted output will simplify testing and troubleshooting.

HTTPie

LogMeister

Just about every application you have to manage has some kind of output or event log. Keeping track of all those disparate logs can be difficult, but staying on top of them is a must. It’s always better to be the first one alerted to an issue, instead of your users or boss blindsiding you with news of an outage.

LogMeister, from Technology Lighthouse, monitors standard event logs such as Application, System, Security and Directory Services, as well as custom event logs. It can also monitor XML logs, RSS feeds, Microsoft Windows Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) logs and text logs in various formats, although you’ll have to define the format when you set up the monitor.

LogMeister is an agentless solution. You won’t have to manage remote client installs on each machine you want to monitor. This also means you’ll need enough privileges on the remote target and the appropriate firewall ports to retrieve log data. You can scrape log data from remote servers in real time or on a scheduled basis. Scheduled log data extraction is handy for more verbose or heavily accessed logs. It also helps avoid saturating the application or network with log monitoring data.

To set up a new log host, use the New Feed Wizard. This prompts you for the type of log data, the name of the host to monitor, and whether you want to poll periodically or in real time. If you need to custom configure your new feed, the wizard will guide you through setting up the format and data column mapping. The wizard also prompts you for time correction, which is handy for servers in different time zones. You’ll be able to ensure the timestamps line up across the environment.

If you’re only interested in particular types of log events, such as warnings or errors, the wizard helps you set up various log filters. Log filters are simple comparisons such as equals, contains, does not contain, greater than, less than, time or date range, and so on. For text comparisons, you can use either string literal or regular expression comparison. The last steps are to assign a name and category for your new log feed.

When the log data starts to roll in, it applies your filters and stores the remaining data in a local repository. You can limit the store size and have LogMeister automatically purge older events. If you want to keep the old data, you can archive it or export it to a database.

A log aggregator wouldn’t be much use without notifications to let you know when something is awry. You can use the LogMeister Notification Wizard to set up the criteria for which you want to be notified on a set of one to many previously configured log feeds. The criteria uses the same set of options as event filtering. You can also choose to only have the notification fire if one to N matches occur within a certain time frame. This will help keep notification noise down and reduce false positives. You can also restrict notifications to certain time periods.

LogMeister can deliver Taskbar pop-ups, e-mails, output log files, and custom script or command-line actions. It also has some built-in reporting capabilities. You can schedule reports or have them triggered by event notification. Reports can output processed or raw log data to text, CSV, XML, RSS or HTML.

LogMeister is $179.99 for a single license, which covers one application install and an unlimited number of servers and logs. If you need more than a single license, there are volume discounts available. There’s a full-featured 30-day trial available on the Web site. If you’re only interested in centralized event log monitoring, you might want to check out the company’s EventMeister, which is $129.99 for a single installation.

LogMeister

Greg Steen

Greg Steen is a technology professional, entrepreneur and enthusiast. He’s always on the hunt for new tools to help make operations, QA and development easier for the IT professional.

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