Just to share the alternative ping I'm successfully using with PCs running
Windows XP that only have the ssh port open for cygwin sshd. The server is
running on Debian.
It tries to connect to port 22 (sshd) with netcat. On connection it runs
/bin/true and exits with 0. If no connection is possible then it exists with
-w is the time you are willing to wait for a connection to be established.
Hope it helps other users.
nc -w 2 -c /bin/true $1 22
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