Is there anyway to ping a computer's IP and find out some basic information about it? Platform, OS, etc...
If so, how would that be done?
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nmap from MacPorts you can run the following command to attempt to identify the OS of a remote machine:
sudo nmap ipaddress -O
$ sudo nmap localhost -O Starting Nmap 5.51 ( http://nmap.org ) at 2011-08-07 17:58 CEST Nmap scan report for localhost (127.0.0.1) Host is up (0.000085s latency). Not shown: 989 closed ports PORT STATE SERVICE 22/tcp open ssh 80/tcp open http 88/tcp open kerberos-sec 139/tcp open netbios-ssn 445/tcp open microsoft-ds 515/tcp open printer 631/tcp open ipp 3689/tcp open rendezvous 5900/tcp open vnc 8888/tcp open sun-answerbook 9091/tcp open xmltec-xmlmail Device type: general purpose Running: Apple Mac OS X 10.5.X|10.6.X OS details: Apple Mac OS X 10.5 - 10.6.3 (Leopard - Snow Leopard) (Darwin 9.0.0 - 10.3.0) Network Distance: 0 hops OS detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at http://nmap.org/submit/ . Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 8.80 seconds]
WakeOnLan is a GUI based app that can give some of this information. Additionally it scans the network and lists all devices. It doesn't have any success recognizing Linux based machines.