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We're hosting a LAN party and I'm looking for software or hardware that can visualize the packet flow in cool ways. For example, something like the visualization plugins for media players. I'd like something a little fancier than rrdtool graphs :) .

Does anyone have tips?

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The BSOD visualisation tool uses the libtrace framework to transform network traffic into a graphical format that can be viewed in real time. Capturing from a live network interface, or from a saved trace file, bsod visualises the flow of network data between hosts, providing (at a glance) information about network usage.

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if it doesn't need to be realtime, you could look at Walrus from Caida.org. They have some really neat visualization examples, but I don't think they'll do anything in realtime.

another option, which just occurs to me, but which I haven't tried myself, is running tcpdump, and capturing some amount of traffic, then pipe it to something like portaudio to capture it in some audio format which could then be played in iTunes, with iTunes visualization turned on. I'm not sure there would be enough sound range to make the iTunes visualization very interesting, though.

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Creative answer, I like. –  Shinrai Sep 28 '11 at 16:25
I like the idea of turning it into sound, but I think it is above my competence. –  Bittrance Sep 29 '11 at 6:07
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While not quite as pretty as BSOD or Walrus, NetGrok can show you real-time and historical packet data on your network (YouTube Demo).

You define a set of local nodes that are shown in a force-directed layout at the center, and any external nodes are shown in a hash-based layout. Nodes are sized by the number of connections and colored by their bandwidth usage. The sizes and colors are updated dynamically, and you can filter based on activity during specific time periods. External nodes can be manually grouped together, e.g., all the Google servers placed adjacent. Here's an example:

Main NetGrok view

There's also an alternate space-filling treemap visualization:

Treemap NetGrok view

Disclosure: I am one of the original developers.

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