Category Archives: Troubleshooting

Oscium’s Wi-Fi 6E Spectrum Analyzer

With Wi-Fi 6E networks being implemented, 6E access points shipping, and new 6E client devices introduced to market, those of us in the WLAN support game need to make sure we have tools to function in the new and expansive 6 GHz spectrum. Fundamental to wireless support is the ability to display the RF environment through the use of a spectrum analyzer. Oscium has a fairly deep history in the Wi-Fi spectrum analysis realm, and has introduced their Clarity model for the 6 GHz part of the 802.11ax world- in addition to working in 2.4 and 5 as well with a band span of 2.2 GHz to 7.25 GHz.

Physically, Oscium’s Clarity is just gorgeous. It has a solid well-engineered feel to it and is very nice to look at (as silly as that might sound.)

Oscium’s Clarity

Unlike past Oscium spectrum analyzers, you’ll need either a Windows PC or a Mac for Clarity- no mobile devices are supported yet. Also unlike Oscium’s other spectrum analyzers, Clarity cannot natively show 802.11-related information on detected SSIDs in the environment as it does not have that capability under the hood from the chip perspective. It is strictly RF views, unless coupled with a tool like Intuitibits’ Wi-Fi Explorer Pro 3 when run on a 6E Macbook. At the time of this writing, no such Macbook exists so even Wi-Fi Explorer Pro 3 can only show 6E spectrum and not SSIDs when Clarity is used as an external adapter. Hats off to Intuitibits for building in support despite suitable hardware not yet being available.

Here’s Clarity looking at my Meraki 6E environment at Wirednot HQ:

And… what it looks like in the Wi-Fi Explorer environment, so far.

Read more about Oscium’s Clarity at the company’s product page.

We Shouldn’t Need Wyebot, But We Do

Just a taste of the Wyebot UI

Wireless network systems are expensive- like insanely expensive- and they are only one part of a given enterprise network environment. You can spend top dollar on market-leading WLAN hardware, switches, RADIUS servers, DNS and DHCP systems, Active Directory resources, security stuff and more You can have veteran IT craftspeople design, install and configure it all- and still have problems that are not only hard to solve but also hard to even start looking at when an end user tells you they aren’t happy. It is what it is, and many of the built-in tools that SHOULD help don’t do a particularly good job when you most need them.

Enter Wyebot.

I’ve been dipping toes in the Wyebot waters for a few years now, and was happy to see the Massachusetts-based company presenting at Mobility Field Day 8. Through the years I have been less than impressed after testing other 3rd party sensors and monitoring overlays (excluding 7signal, whose methodology I find to be quite effective), as false alarms are the norm and the systems frequently become just another high-cost glass of pain to ignore shortly after implementation.

I’ve personally found Wyebot to work well in effectively characterizing the WLAN space it operates in, exposing all of the WLAN-oriented details a wireless admin needs to know about. What’s there? How are the SSIDs configured? Where is contention and the potential for trouble? Which Wi-Fi networks are deviating from best practices? That’s the easy stuff. It also does highly-reliable synthetic testing that you define (one area where other sensors just don’t get it right) to help tell when any of the non-WLAN parts of the network are misbehaving in ways that frequently tarnish the WLAN’s reputation. I like the information delivered from the monitoring of spectrum, client behavior, and testing of upstream network resources. I find Wyebot to be a force multiplier in that it watches and ACCURATELY reports on what I care about when my pricey wireless system can’t natively get it done.

All network problems feel wireless to wireless users.

I particularly like that Wyebot not only has a robust packet capture capability for problem analysis, but you can also import wireless pcap files taken outside elsewhere using Wireshark on a laptop (just one example) and display that capture through the graphical Wyebot UI for Wyebot’s analysis of that capture. I also like that I can do wireless backhaul from the Wyebot sensors if needed.

The company is generous with free trials, and has some interesting case studies that show how organizations are using the solution.

Have a look at the Mobility Field Day 8 presentations by Wyebot. Also, see my past blogs about Wyebot here,

Well-designed and maintained wireless networks ought to not need outside tools to help keep them running well. Unfortunately, WLAN professionals know that we live in a very imperfect world. Unfortunately, not all of those outside tools are particularly effective, but I personally like what I get out of Wyebot.

Are Wi-Fi Networks in General THAT Bad?

Let me start by apologizing for a long absence here. It would seem it was my turn for life for a while. People and animals I love got sick and passed on, and those inevitable changes to each of our existences came knocking on my own door. I also had some demons that poke me at night sometimes to exercise.

But a couple of recent vendor and VAR interactions brought me back here.

Really? You Don’t NEED us?
I’ve been operating in the collective big overall networking universe for at least a quarter of a century now, so I get the rhythm of the music. Everyone has a part, and I begrudge few individuals for playing theirs (except maybe the vendor exec that has the gall to try to explain how sucking my bank account dry with complicated licensing schemes suddenly equals value or perhaps innovation). Still I’m occasionally surprised when I’m presented with some new solution, dashboard, or service that I was doing fine without yesterday and today, but if I don’t get on board my tomorrow will certainly be disappointing for my end users.

THEM: We have it to offer, so you MUST need it. It solves all kinds of problems.
ME: I’m not sure what we’re doing differently, but we don’t seem to have the problems you mention.
THEM: Bah. Everyone has those problems. Lots of them. In mass quantities. The freakin’ sky is falling!
ME: I’m gonna get some coffee now. Good talk, thanks.
THEM: You are pretty lucky then. Everyone else has problems that they need our stuff to find.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has been part of that kind of conversation.

Let’s unpack that a bit.
I always find the messaging that “lots of networks are just fraught with endless problems that you need help with” to be a little confounding. Why? I ask myself that, and I think I can answer it- beyond the “I’ve been doing this a while and have arguably seen it all” effect. I offer these:

We are on what generation of Wi-Fi now? Sixth? Sixth extra special? Shouldn’t the general kinks be worked out by now? With the Wi-Fi Alliance chest-thumping about all their certification programs and the IEEE putting out wireless “standards”, everything should generally just click, no?

No. I’m being sarcastic of course. This many DECADES after the original 802.11 miracle, we’re still dealing with driver issues. And that fuzzy, ill-defined gap between enterprise and consumer end devices, and the denial by groups like the Wi-Fi Alliance that this is a serious problem. After all, there is middleware kinda solutions that make it all right, no? Again, no. Not without paying through the nose in upfront and ongoing costs. Pffft.

So what is the expensive new dashboard, or managed services, exactly delivering? Is it telling me I got driver issues on a given client? Newsflash- I can tell that without the dashboard when a client stops working right after an OS update.

Shouldn’t proper WLAN design mitigate a lot of what the magic dashboard is supposedly figuring out? Price out Ekahau or iBwave (both fantastic tools) and the training and ongoing licensing for both. They are not inexpensive. Yet, somehow, you can design your networks perfectly using high end tools, and STILL need “help” with all the inevitable Wi-Fi issues you are going to have. Smells funny…

Speaking of expensive… Have you looked at the pricing on the latest access points? We have reached INSANITY in this area, when indoor Wi-Fi access points list prices EACH top $3K. For an access point. Without the mandatory licensing that The Industry now gets fat on. And for that lofty expenditure, you still need all the professional services and pricey dashboards because that increased pricing solves… nothing? Same problems are still with us, evidently.

You suck, Lee. You’re a real freakin’ downer, man. Perhaps. A lot of gloomy shit has been happening for me lately, but that aside- something is wrong here. Either I’m doing networking wrong, because I don’t have all the problems that I’m supposed to, OR those problems are the bogey man maybe created by The Industry to have more to sell us. We just can’t collectively be this far down the Wi-Fi timeline and be that bad off, can we? If we are, then everyone from the IEEE to the Alliance to vendors have screwed up. And if we AREN’T that bad off, then we’re being bilked for solutions that we really shouldn’t need.

Is there a point here? Whether I’m articulating it clearly or not, something isn’t quite right in Denmark, or in Silly Valley. Or is it just me?


I Friggin LOVE You, NetAlly LANBERT

His name was LANBERT and he came from the west
To show which cables sucks and which are best
With a push of a button it’s doing it’s stuff
Hopefully for mGig the existing wire is enough…
Oh looky there, this one passes just fine
That LANBERT just saved us money and time

–Ode to LANBERT, by Wendall Pissmont Jr

There’s a new Bert in town… forget about Reynolds*, Bacharach*, and that whiny neurotic muppet from Sesame Street. Them cats is yesterday. NetAlly has recently introduced LANBERT (at Mobility Field Day 6), and if you are in the business of network wiring then you should pay attention.

This was easily one of the more thought provoking sessions of MFD6, says I. Let’s set the stage: you have an installed cable base, and are migrating access points to Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, and at long last we hopefully will see the massive throughputs that WLAN industry marketers have been telling us we should expect for years… like to the point where the old reliable 1 Gig uplink may not cut it. Do you need to replace that cable to get mGig performance?

LANBERT to the rescue! There should be no mystery when it comes to cabling performance capabilities. Many of us grew up knowing the value of cable certification testing, and now the free LANBERT app adds a much needed evolution to the notion.

Working with NetAlly’s Etherscope nXG and and LinkRunner 10G portable analyzers, LANBERT “generates and measures the transmission of line rate Ethernet frames over your network cabling infrastructure, qualifying its ability to support 1G/10G on fiber and 100M/1G/2.5G/5G/10G on copper links.” You are proving what an installed UTP or fiber run can really do despite what a certification report might say, without needing a standalone certification tester.

Test that existing cable for mGig before the new AP goes in, and don’t assume that “old” runs can’t support the new speeds.

I’ve long beaten the drum that the physical layer is critical to good networking. I’ve always viewed each part of a structured wiring system as it’s own component, worthy of note when it comes time for labeling, troubleshooting, and yes- performance testing. I’ve seen old cable work surprisingly well, and new cable disappoint for a number of reasons. There is simply no reason to guess how UTP and fiber will perform FOR REAL, with LANBERT. It’s the shizzle, baby!

View this fascinating Field Day presentation here.

*Yes, I know these dudes are actually named Burt and not Bert. Shut up.

Aruba Said the Right Words Regarding Dashboards

I wanna be a dashboard ranger
Live a life of guts and danger
I better stop before this song gets stranger…

Ah, dashboards. We got ’em these days, in quantity. We got so many freakin dashboards we need a dashboard to keep track of our dashboards when it comes to networking. But beyond dashboards, we got… AI.

That’s right- we got Artificial Intelligence, baby. And it’s teamed up with Dashboards, Inc. to make sure we have ALL KINDS OF STUFF to worry about. And maybe, if we’re lucky, some time those alerts will actually be actionable…

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m dashboard-jaded. I’ve seen many dashboards from market leaders that cost a fortune (they gotta make money, no fault there), that are fraught with Chicken-Little noise that is so overwhelming and uncorroborated by any other practical metric that they become one more Glass of Pain that gets ignored. Will AI help that? The answer will depend on how that AI is coded- like does the team behind the AI actually GET that endless petty alerts aren’t really a good thing?

Which brings us back to REAL intelligence… and Aruba Networks at Mobility Field Day 6. In particular, the presentation on what Aruba calls AIOPS– their version of system monitoring, root cause analysis, system adjustment, etc. This is something all the major vendors are doing these days, and all make sure that “AI” is sprinkled liberally in the marketing so you know that you are good to go. Unless you’re not, because the AI flags a bunch of stuff you don’t care about that takes you away from real work.

But Robin Jellum at Aruba said something profound in it’s simplicity as he presented on AIOPS… The exact wording escapes me, but Robin alluded to the fact that we all get bombarded with data. There’s no shortage of it in today’s network systems. But turning that data into MEANINGFUL alerts versus just lots of red and yellow dots to get lost in is the challenge, and Aruba recognizes that gratuitous, copious amounts of alerting on transient stuff does no one any good.

As a customer, I don’t want to buy ALERTS by the pound. I want to buy INFORMATION that comes from my data. It’s nice to hear Aruba recognize the difference. Time will tell if AIOPS can deliver.

Best Danger Will Robinson GIFs | Gfycat

Interfering Personal Hotspots- Beyond Simply a Technical Issue

After 20-some odd years in the Wi-Fi business, I can safely say that I both love and hate personal wireless hotspots. Before I get into all that, let’s go back in time. If you want some zesty background, here are a few easy, compelling reads written by me from the way back machine:

If you don’t want to review the above links, here’s the poor man’s executive summary:

FCC: Don’t use de-auth frames- that equals jamming (depending on which one of our own definitions you stumble across). Selling jammers is illegal. We let Wi-Fi vendors sell illegal jammers because they provide tools that do de-auth. But that is illegal. You can’t sell jammers except when you can sell jammers. Confused? Shut up, or maybe we’ll fine your ass for our lack of clarity. Our annual fund-raiser is coming up- how’d you like to “donate” several thousand dollars?

Hotspot Makers: We use only the highest power and some really cocked up channel selection algorithms to ensure your device delivers the absolute finest in RF interference to the Wi-Fi environment you are sitting in the middle of.

Wi-Fi Alliance: BUY MORE WI-FI GEAR! FAT CHANNELS! GO TEAM! CRANK UP THAT POWER! WORK IT, YOU SWEET THANG! WE ARE AWESOME, JUST ASK US! IGNORE ALL THE STUFF WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS.

Network Customers, WLAN Admins: WTF?

It all makes perfect sense if you don’t think about it.

The Technical Frustrations

Anyone else in the biz knows that hotspots can be annoying, or they can be WLAN-killers. It all depends on the day, the device, the location, and the density of the WLAN where those hotspots are fired up. You can only play so many frequency-stomping games with spectrum, then physics shows through and Wi-Fi sucks for everyone until the contention is eliminated. This is the technical side of hotspot frustration.

And nobody of title has done a shittin’ thing to improve the situation- not the FCC, not the WI-Fi Alliance whose members make all of the devices that step on each other, not anybody. Everyone is in it for themselves… (Soapbox moment brought to you by the good folks at Shamwowsers & McKracken, LLC).

Ah well.

The Cultural Component to the Whole Mess

Cell phones and Mi-Fi devices have come soooo far since WLAN administrators first played whack-a-mole with hotspot-induced network issues. Data plans have also evolved, to the point where many of us are walking around with dual-band, unlimited data hotspots in our pockets ready to put into service at the slightest notion.

Let’s turn to rocker Ted Nugent for his take on the situation, as written about in his mega-hit “Free For All”:

Well looky here, you sweet young thing: the magic’s in my hands
When in doubt, I’ll whip it out. I got me a hotspot- dual-band
It’s a free for all

Or something like that… It ABSOLUTELY IS a free for all. That’s the culture right now. If I can’t get on the business network because I don’t know how to configure meself for 802.1X, I’m gonna WHIP IT OUT, Nugent-style, and get myself off to the Internet. The business Wi-Fi can suck it, and how dare you expect me to open a trouble ticket to get help with your 802.1X noise? THE MAGIC IS IN MY HANDS. Any collateral damage is NOT MY PROBLEM.

So what if your stupid police cars can’t transfer dashcam video because of interference? Why do I give two figs if your expensive Wi-Fi locks and clocks are acting up because of my RF pride and joy? Spare me the lecture on how your wireless VoIP handsets are getting walked on… Maybe YOU shouldn’t be using Wi-Fi-equipped medical devices. IT’S A FREE FOR ALL, DID YOU NOT GET THAT MEMO FROM TED NUGENT?

Hate ’em, Love ’em

Yeah, hotspots are a big fat PITA. They really do create problems. Some are dual-band, high power beasts that insist on obliterating your WLAN, while others seem to have a little more common sense and lower power built in, but in dense WLAN environments it still gets ugly.

But I’m here to confess that I too hear their siren song.

I get WHY people fire up their hotspots. At hotels, at camp, while troubleshooting systems that have potential ISP issues and so on. My phone’s hotspot gets it’s share of exercise, and I can’t imagine not having it available in a number of situations. But as a WLAN professional, I have the knowledge and (usually) the discipline to not hose up someone else’s WLAN with my hotspot when I’m at their place of business. Most people- not so much.

We’re way past the opportunity for THE INDUSTRY PLAYERS to responsibly to educate end users on why hotspots shouldn’t just be whipped out Ted Nugent-style. So we’re stuck with the problem.

Suck it up, Buttercup

What really sucks about all of this is that WLAN components are only getting ever more expensive. The tools that are used to design and support WLANs are only getting more expensive. Collectively, the security stakes in almost all WLAN environments are only getting higher. We can pump endless dollars and man-hours into delivering really good Wi-Fi, yet hotspots can lay waste to parts of our infrastructures, and there isn’t much anyone can do except to ask the offender to put them away, if we can pinpoint them and get them to listen to our appeal that they think of their fellow man…

Strange times, says I.

What I Took Away From the Wireless Adjuster Course

This course comes from Divergent Dynamics, taught by none other than Devin Akin. I have been following the story line of Wireless Adjuster since before it was unleashed, and here is some background if you have any interest:

Now that I have actually sat through the two-day course myself, let me share my impressions.

Wireless Adjuster Fills a Need

There is vendor training out there for wireless networking, and there is the excellent Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) program (reminder that I am CWNE #200 and current member of the CWNE advisory board). But I have yet to see a really good, practical, hands-on training course that looks to equip a broad cross-section of wireless troubleshooters with the mindset and experience to use tools that almost anyone can afford to find perhaps 90% of likely WLAN-side problems.

Wireless Adjuster Complements Other Courses

Regardless of your past training and proficiency with wireless analysis (like CWAP), survey tools (like Ekahau) and basic foundational knowledge (vendor training, CWNA), Wireless Adjuster re-enforces and introduces some pretty key best-practice (and exceptions to best practices) philosophy for a range of WLAN situations. Combine what you get out of Wireless Adjuster with what you already think you know, and you’ll be living larger as an analysis professional, I promise.

Wireless Adjuster Shows Just How Powerful WiFi Explorer Pro Really Is

WiFi Explorer Pro is already widely appreciated among WLAN professionals as an easy-to-use, huge-bang-for-the-buck WLAN analysis tool. It doesn’t NEED to be the main tool used in Wireless Adjuster to gain recognition, but the way it is used in the course will make you appreciate WiFi Explorer Pro even more. Devin does a nice job introducing aspects of the tool you may not be aware of, and uses it as a bona fide troubleshooting suite that competes with any tool out there. When you consider the integrations supported with MetaGeek’s dBx adapters, WLANPi, and other external devices, it’s fairly mind blowing that WiFi Explorer Pro can be had for under $100. To me, this is the best value out there among WLAN support tools.

Wireless Adjuster Exposes Just How Defective the WLAN Standards Are in Spots

I would love for anyone involved with developing 802.11 standards and the entire Wi-Fi Alliance staff to sit through Wireless Adjuster. Throughout the class, you’ll see example after example of how optional parts of the various standards cause a lot of performance problems in various WLAN settings. You see real-world examples of the cost of the IEEE 802.11 groups being hung up on backwards compatibility. You learn why many of the sexy, hyper-marketed aspects of 802.11, .ac. and .ax sound great in promotional material, but flat-out suck in the real world. Devin finds fault with none of it, and is far more of a gentleman about it than I am. He methodically and objectively guides you through this odd reality through real live examples that you analyze for yourself.

Having taken Wireless Adjuster, I’m now even more taken aback than I have ever been  about how out of sync with reality the IEEE 802.11 folks, the Wi-Fi Alliance, and many WLAN vendors are with real-world WLAN performance. It’s pretty freakin’ unreal, says I. Don’t agree? I’ll fight you, and I’ll fight dirty.

Wireless Adjuster Is Fairly Captivating

I will freely admit that I am a far better instructor than I am a student. I have a recognized track record of being good at teaching, dating back to my time in the US Air Force instructor school. But put me on the other side of the equation and I get bored easy as a student. I daydream. I doodle. I multitask, and do a fairly poor job of it. But for the almost twenty hours of Wireless Adjuster time, I was pretty much riveted. The discussion was fantastic, the examples are relatable, and even though I’m a certified “expert” I learned once again that I don’t know it all. Wireless Adjuster commanded my attention (despite taking the course remotely), and I finished the training with a todo list of things to go examine on my own networks.

Final Word: Time Well Spent

When it comes to technical training, I want VALUE. I don’t want to spend a day getting a half-hour’s worth of actionable information. Wireless Adjuster hits that sweet spot where newer wireless folks and vets like myself can both benefit greatly from the materials, the exercises, and especially the discussion throughout the course. I’m glad I took the class, and I highly recommend it.

 

 

NetAlly Adds WLAN Survey Capabilities to Etherscope nXG

Step right up and don’t be shy
Because you will not believe your eyes
It’s right here behind the glass
And you’re gonna like it
‘Cause it’s got class

(Apologies to the The Tubes for butchering up “She’s a Beauty”)

It’s not a stretch to say that the Etherscope nXG has class. It feels good in your hand. And it tells you A LOT. It tells you things that you may not have realized you even needed to know about your LAN and wireless networks. And with every firmware release, it gets more powerful. Like a magic network Jedi in a well-put together hand-held tester.

I watched the Etherscope nXG make it’s debut mid-last last year. And then I saw it get better before 2019 gave way to 2020. Now, we see yet another update to this uber-capable analysis platform, with one particular feature I want to focus on:
Etherscope1

This is such a handy add, as it brings an important and very useful graphical element to the gathering and reporting of Wi-Fi signals with the new AirMapper functionality. Here’s just a tiny taste from my own environment:
etherscope3

Remember- this tool also works the LAN like a boss (including mGig switching environments), does the same thorough WLAN support that we’ve all come to appreciate from predecessor tools like the AirCheck G2, and now is making it’s way into wireless survey duties-  expanding the synergies between the powerful Link-Live cloud repository and the Etherscope nXG.

A quick video on AirMapper is here, and longer overview on the full suit of features in the latest Etherscope nXG is here.

It’s probably obvious that I’m a fan of both NetAlly and Etherscope nXG. One thing I have come to appreciate with the vendor and the tools is that they only gets better, with improved functionality always on the horizon. To that point, the current AirMapper abilities are the first step for the feature, with more coming within a few months. For example, NetAlly expects  to release interference heatmaps at the end of May to show both co-channel and adjacent-channel interference. We’ll also see AirMapper for the AirCheck G2, and both AirCheck and EtherScope will become collectors for AirMagnet SurveyPro.

Given the impact that the current crisis is having on networking budgets, it’s really nice to see a tool like this truly become an investment as more features are added.

Some Advice for Ubiquiti Forum Posters

Having just migrated Wirednot HQ to Ubiquiti (LAN, WLAN, CCTV, and a P-P link), I find myself in the Ubiquiti forums more than I have been in the past. The community discussions are the main means of support on this ever-evolving (and expanding) product set, and you’ll find both fellow Ubiquiti customers and company employees engaged in discussions. It’s an interesting framework, and like any discussion forum where lots of people participate, you get good advice, odd advice, and exposure to a lot of different personalities (we’ll come back to this point).

I have noticed a few trends that I want to call out for the benefit of both those in the Ubiquiti forums, but also for anyone dealing with general networking issues that may benefit from some basic network troubleshooting advice.

  • The Physical Layer matters- bigtime. I notice a lot of “my network performance isn’t what I expect- something has to be wrong with my Ubiquiti gear” kind of laments in the forum. And the discussions that follow often NEVER get into the physical layer. Chances are, many of the same folks that use UniFi gear are also buying offshore-sourced (which is polite-talk for cheap) cable products, or terminating it themselves without having a certification tester to prove wiring and performance are up to snuff. So be it, remember that the physical layer is where troubleshooting should start. Do SOMETHING to verify your cable is not the problem, if nothing else than swapping out to another cable to see if the problem follows. And when you engage in the forums looking for help, tell us how you’ve verified the cabling is OK as part of your troubleshooting so far.
  • Network switches have stories to tell, but you have to listen. Just like we can’t assume that cabling is good when trouble hits, we also can’t assume that network connections between devices are behaving as they should. Check for speed and duplex status for the ports in the path of your trouble– like so:
    ubntspeedduplex
    and check for RX and TX errors (receive and transmit) that could indicate bad cable, bad jack, bad NIC, or misbehaving SFP module:
    ubnterrors
    If you find errors, I suggest you clear the counters and then watch to see if the errors continue to increment. If they do, you have at least part of your problem figured out.
  • What Access Point is your client device connecting to? I see plenty of “my Wi-Fi is slow” postings, and many of these are in environments where multiple access points are in use. Not only do you need to know what the output power of the access points are and what channels are in use so interference is minimized, you also need to know what access point your “slow” client is connecting to, and how good that connection is. Client devices do not always connect to the nearest or strongest AP, or to the radio (5 GHz or 2.4 GHz) you might assume they should.
    ubntclient
    There are other views that will tell you more, but “slowness” may be normal, based on the connection properties in play. Often the “fix” is to update the client device drivers or firmware.
  • Speedtest to the Internet isn’t the end-all. Understand what is actually being tested. To state the obvious, your Internet speedtest results can’t exceed your ISP connection capacity. If you have a 25 Mbps down/5 Mbps up connection, you won’t see any more than those numbers on Internet speedtests. And… if other devices are using the Internet while you are speedtesting, your results will be less because you are sharing “the pipe”.
    When you run the Internet speedtest, you are exercising one discreet path- the connectivity between your specific device and the server out on the Internet. If it feels slow and you are on WIRELESS, you need to verify that your wireless connection is healthy as described above.
    If speedtest feels slow and you are on WIRED, check the specific port behavior for your connected device, also as described above. If speedtesting from multiple devices feels slow, try to move as close to the edge router as you can and retest. If it suddenly perks up, you may have to “divide and conquer” to find what part of the network is slow versus what is behaving normally.
    Also know that some Internet speedtest sites can be fairly erratic, based on a number of factors. Try a couple of different ones, and never come to conclusions based on a single test.
  • Consider learning iPerf, possibly getting an internal testing device. Just like Internet speedtests can be fairly ambiguous, there are tools that can be pretty damn accurate in characterizing exactly how a network is behaving between Point A and Point B. Consider iPerf as an excellent freebie, or something like WLAN Pi that can be built for well under $100 (WLAN Pi also gives a slew more functionality than just throughput testing). However you get there, it’s empowering to be able to test between different points on the local network as you try to isolate perceived problems. This is where you make sure that switch to switch connections are actually delivering Gigabit, for example.

There are more basics to talk about (like being on the right FW versions), but these are a good start. I encourage using these tips every time BEFORE you reach out for help, as they will lead to better resolution faster, and you will also become more self-sufficient in solving your own problems (or in helping others to overcome as you better your basic troubleshooting skills.)

Now… back to the personalities thing I mentioned up front in this blog. For whatever reason, any forum you join from restoring classic campers to Ram pickup trucks to networking, you’ll find people that simply want to help, and others that see the world through blinders, and it’s their way or no way. That being said… don’t be GodComplex5.

A Little PCAP Reader for iOS+ Meraki Remote Capture = Handy

I had been pecking away at a problem at a remote site, where phantom ringing was driving staff nuts on their Ring Central VoIP phones. I’ll spare you all the nasty things I want to say about the frailty of Ring Central phones and try to stay on topic… These devices are clients on a Meraki network, which means that you can capture their packets remotely, while doing analysis locally.

image0

It’s a nice feature, as it really helps you to exercise a common network troubleshooting task that traditionally requires you to be within the network environment to carry out. I had left the office, and my Wireshark-equipped workstation behind for the day, but found myself with free time, my iPad, and the phantom ringing problem on my mind.

Hmmm. I wonder if there are any PCAP-related apps for iOS? I doubt it, but what the hell… Let’s take a look and see if there is anything I can break down those remote capture files with… If I had my PC with Wireshark on it I wouldn’t need this… But all I have is my iPad… Let’s see.. 

Whoa- what’s this?

It’s an app for iOS called Telluric, and it reads (to a certain extent) packet capture files. It doesn’t do 802.11 radio header stuff. It doesn’t actually CAPTURE packets. You can’t really do display filtering or fancy stuff like Wireshark can. But it does do a decent job when no other tools are available, provided you have access to remote packet capture and local download (or can have someone send you a pcap file).

Sure, it’s a niche app of limited value. But it helped me find the source of my problem when I had no other real options:

image1

It’s time for a firewall rule. Sorry, Mr. Vicious.

(I do know that there are online resources for dumping and analyzing packet capture files. Don’t ruin the mood.)