Category Archives: Wireless Networking

Intuitibits: New Name, Familiar Tools

wifi_explorer_pro_largeI’m guessing that if you gathered 100 wireless network engineers in a room, at least 50 of them would have the WiFi Explorer Pro application on a Macbook. And I’m also guessing that like 35 of those 50 would actually use it frequently in their WLAN support and troubleshooting duties. It’s a great tool, written by a talented fellow. And that’s where the story line of this blog begins.

Adrian Granados- THAT Adrian Granados

Let’s clear something up straightaway. THIS Adrian Granados will kick your ass:

boxer Adrian

While THE OTHER Adrian Granados is the genius behind some damn good wireless tools:
Do-You-Have-a-Mac-Adrian-Granados-WLPC-Phoenix-2018

I would recommend not confusing the two. I’d also encourage you to say hello to Wireless Adrian if you ever get the chance at an industry event because he’s just a nice gentleman.

And… he wrote WiFi Explorer Pro.
And… he continually improves it.
And… he wrote a bunch of other excellent tools. Like Airtool, Transfer, and WiFi Signal.

Introducing Intuitibits, Headed up by Adrian Granados

Intuitibits is a new company, with Granados at the helm. In their own words:

We create the most intuitive, easy-to-use Mac tools for home users and wireless professionals looking to monitor, validate and troubleshoot wireless networks.

I can vouch for that description, as I’ve used these tools in a number of settings. They tend to hit that the elusive sweet spot where you don’t have to be a WLAN expert to get value from them, but they go the distance for those of us who are experts. I recently sat through the Wireless Adjuster course, where Intuitibits’ WiFi Explorer Pro features prominently in the course materials. I was impressed with WiFI explorer before the course, and was even more so after having it’s deeper capabilities revealed during the training.

Possibly the Best Value Among WLAN Tools Out There

Intuitibits’ products are effective, for sure- but they are also priced for all. With affordability in mind, nothing is lost for support (the rare times you may need it), and it’s not uncommon to see WLAN pros using these tools before their more expensive ones in troubleshooting.

I wish all at Intuitibits good fortune as they begin their journey. And I can’t wait to see what’s next in the product line.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

How NOT to Fly Drones

Permit me to stray off path here, this will not be about wireless networking.

Drones have become immensely popular among hobbyists and ever more useful in a range of business and emergency response situations. It’s fairly amazing to be able to mail order what amounts to a legitimate aircraft, take it out of the box, and put it up into the sky.

Which brings us to the problem. Actually several of them.

Lots of Use Cases

But first- some context. If you zoom out and consider the current “drone landscape”, you’ll find a fairly diverse ecosystem, There are hundreds of individuals out there flying drones professionally, making their full-time living at surveys, mapping, inspections, and a range of other applications. Then there are people like me… we have other day jobs, but also became FAA-certified as Part 107 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) pilots like the full-timers so we can legally do occasional drone work for pay. Both groups have demonstrated understanding of the rules of drone flight, and how our aircraft fit into the larger picture of all aircraft peacefully co-existing as part of a controlled system.

Finally, we those other people. If you are interested in getting into drones, you don’t want to be one of those other people. Let’s talk about them, and the associated problems they create.

The Stupid Runs Thick

Back to the fact that you can spend some money and have a powerful drone delivered to your doorstep. I don’t mean powerful in the military sense, but more so in the capabilities of the everyday drones a newbie might get into. Offerings from Autel Robotics (my current fleet),  DJI, and others in the mainstream market can go real high, real far, real fast, and take amazing photos and video. Anyone can get one, and better models are introduced frequently. Those other people love them.

They love them in the stupidest ways.

I’m in several drone-related community forums. Some are for commercial pilots where the dialogue is about aircraft safety, regulations, business opportunities, and the future of the industry. Other forums are pure hobbyist, and where those other people weave tales of stupidity that make those of us who know better cringe. Here you’ll find several recurring themes:

  • I unboxed my new bird and immediately did a “range test” to see how high and far I could push it. (YouTube has no shortage of these.)
  • My new expensive drone just FELL OUT OF THE SKY and boy am I pissed at the manufacturer.
  • My new expensive drone JUST UP AND FLEW AWAY and boy am I pissed at the manufacturer.
  • I don’t know how to do some basic feature that the user manual covers very well.
  • Look at these awesome shots I took at this place, where I really shouldn’t have been flying.

You’re probably starting to get a feel for those other people. They do irresponsible drone things that give us all a bad reputation. They don’t learn how to use their own equipment after dropping sometimes a couple of grand, and when something goes wrong it is automatically the manufacturer’s fault. They fly WHERE they want, WHEN they want, and they damn sure don’t care that by regulation you are not supposed to recreationally fly above 400′ AGL (above ground level) and are also not supposed to let the drone get out of your sight lest the drone run into trouble that the operator can’t see coming (hence the problem with range tests). Nor do they understand that the control signals between the drone and the controller are usually in 2.4 GHz, fairly low power, and subject to interference if you fly around Wi-Fi networks and such.

Know Right From Wrong

You can be new to drones and not become one of those other people. It’s pretty easy to stay legal, and keep your craft from FLYING AWAY or FALLING OUT OF THE SKY. Here’s how:

  • Know that any drone you buy is likely going to be subject to FAA regulation, even if you aren’t a certified drone pilot. Start here. Register your drones and start off legal.
  • Know that collisions DO happen between drones and other aircraft. See this.
  • Read the manuals that come with your drone, before you fly. Highlight areas that maybe aren’t clear to you and research them until you get it. Watch the countless online tutorials for any drone.
  • Do all of the required software/firmware updates associated with the drone, the controller, your apps, and even the batteries on some models.
  • Do all of the initial calibrations required-  control sticks, camera gimbal, etc.
  • Practice in a safe area before you get it up there high and far.
  • Don’t fly where you are likely to compete with Wi-Fi signals.
  • Never fly over people.
  • Know that many parks are off-limits, because those people have done stupid things to warrant the restrictions.
  • Join the user forums for your drone, but know that they are populated by many of those people.
  • Don’t be a jerk with your drone. There are enough of them out there already.

Happy flying!

 

 

Catching Up With Devin Akin- and the Wireless Adjuster Training Course

Late last year, I got wind of a new WLAN training option being developed. The course name was curious- Wireless Adjuster. It was the brainchild of long-time wireless pro Devin Akin, and it got a lot of people curious early on. I wrote about it then when it was still a twinkle in Devin’s eye. Now that the course has been running, several people who have attended it have spoken highly of their experiences with Wireless Adjuster.

Being gonzo, I wanted to find out how Devin himself thinks Wireless Adjuster has been going. After all, the last several months have rocked our collective world in a number of ways, and his baby was just getting started when the pandemic and all of it’s ripple effects hit.

Follow along for Devin’s answers to my questions.

 Hey brother, how’s the new course going? How’s the demand?

The interest is extremely high, but attendance is only modest. Many folks tell me that they want to attend but cannot due to lack of funds – whether personal funds or company funds. I can certainly understand that. Most employees rely on their employers for training funds, and when companies are furloughing and laying employees off, it’s hard to justify training funds. The monetary situation doesn’t make the training any less needed, but cuts have to be made somewhere, right? Most of the folks who take the class take the exam, and I’ve had unbelievably good feedback on the difficulty level and accuracy of the exam. Positive feedback on an exam is reassuring. It took many weeks to write the exam pools, so I’m glad to see that it’s being well-received.

It looks like you’ve really hit on something with Wireless Adjuster. Tell me, has COVID19 rocked your world too badly for the course?

Yes, without a doubt. I taught in-person classes until the middle of March, and within three days of the international travel restrictions, three months’ of classes had vanished. I quickly pivoted the courseware to online, and online classes have been a big hit. Every student (globally) who had paid for the in-person class has (or is about to) attend the online class. For those who paid for an in-person class, I am allowing them to sit both the online and in-person classes for the one payment. That has been extremely popular. Once we’re allowed to travel and host in-person classes again, I expect demand to be strong, and I look forward to seeing all of those who have taken online classes.

Let’s hope we all find some normalcy again soon. In general, what skill levels are you seeing across those taking Wireless Adjuster?

While the target audience is post-CWNA (whether holding the certification or not) level attendees, I’ve found that about 25% of my students are CWNEs. I have been very surprised by this. Additionally, the CWNE feedback shows that along the path to the CWNE certification, much best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting knowledge has been missed. That proves that my understanding of knowledge gaps in the industry were not misguided, which I’m exceedingly happy about. About 50% of attendees are the target market of post-CWNA, and the feedback there is usually very similar: that the Wireless Adjuster training program is hitting it’s intended mark as a hands-on preparatory step toward CWAP and CWSP certifications. What I find quite amusing is that post-CWNA students often do better on the exam than CWNEs. I currently attribute this to post-CWNA’s not overthinking the exam questions. The remaining 25% are a hodgepodge consisting of folks who are certification-averse, mom-and-pop shop WiFi engineers who need to understand practical troubleshooting and optimization better, and folks who were simply curious as to what the program is all about.

That’s pretty interesting. How you found that your original vision for Wireless Adjuster has needed to be tweaked at all?

Original vision, no. Content delivery, yes. The two beta classes were extremely valuable in honing the course material to achieve its goals. The original (and current) vision for the Wireless Adjuster program is to teach and certify engineers on WiFi best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting. It was designed to sit directly between CWNA and the professional levels CWSP and CWAP. The primary goal, as it relates to the CWNP Program is to assist post-CWNA students prepare for the depth of theory of professional level exams by giving them hands-on experience with inexpensive tools in modest complexity level WiFi environments. Student feedback tells me that it is achieving these goals.

It’s always nice to get that feedback. What do you think the biggest value is shaping up to be for those taking Wireless Adjuster?

I can only go by what I’m told by students who have completed the class, and so far, the biggest ROIs on taking the classes are: 1) Moving dysfunctional networks to functional (without the need for surveys or redesign), and 2) immediate optimization of modest-performance networks (given several dozen best practices). For administrators, it’s their own network, but for consultants (e.g. systems integrators) it may be many customer networks.

Let me put you on the spot. You’ve been in this business a long time, but I’m guessing that you’ve also learned a thing or two on the Wireless Adjuster journey. Tell me about that.

That’s an insightful question. There is one primary lesson that I have learned along the Wireless Adjuster journey, and everything else is a distance second place.

When I go to a customer site, and they tell me “my network sucks,” I don’t start with a site survey or a redesign. I start with a $100 WiFi scanner and assess best practice adherence via a standardized triage process. If the customer is using max output power, 80MHz channels everywhere, not using any DFS channels, have misconfigured Beacon Interval or DTIM periods, have QoS or security misconfigurations, have high channel utilization utilization all of the time, or any of 50+ other items, I don’t need a survey to tell me that their network sucks – I can already see that. A best practices assessment takes minutes, not days. Once best practices are dealt with, THEN the customer MAY need a survey or redesign, but in many cases they do not. Many of my customers simply want their terrible WiFi network to be functional at a modest level with minimal time and cost. You can achieve that in 95% of cases with just a scanner. The trick is knowing how to use the scanner really well. It like to say that a good scanner is like the world’s best WiFi Swiss Army knife. It has hundreds of blades, and you need to know what each does and how/when to use it. You can’t saw a tree down with a Swiss Army knife, but you can cut down the twigs that are in your way. You can’t build a house with a Swiss Army knife, but you could build a tent with it. It’s surprising how many networks can reach an acceptable level of optimization only using a WiFi scanner and knowledge of the 802.11 protocol.

WiFi scanners can assess algorithms like load balancing, band steering, DFS event response, Auto RF, protection ripple, and even Smart PoE. It’s not always about what the scanner can see, but also about what you can infer from what the scanner sees. It’s a learning process, and that’s what the class is all about. Starting with a $5,000 tool and taking 5 days to do what you can do with a $100 tool in 15 minutes seems silly to me. Certainly the WiFi design and survey tools on the market are very important and have their place, but they should not be the initial go-to tool for best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting. The Wireless Adjuster course focuses on the 802.11 protocol and use of advanced WiFi scanners to achieve remarkable results quickly and inexpensively.

I agree with you on the “lesser” tools absolutely having their place. Let’s finish with this:  What do you want people in the market for wireless training to know first and foremost about Wireless Adjuster?

If you have a base level of WiFi knowledge, and you want to dig into the protocol and best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting, you will get a concentrated dose of it over the two days of this class. The first day is understanding a large list of WiFi best practices and deep familiarization with a leading WiFi scanner through a half day of lab time. The second day is 100% lab time, where ten real-world labs of increasing complexity and differing types are presented to the student. After each lab, there is a group discussion of findings and solutions, e.g. what misconfiguration may have resulted in which symptoms. By the end of the second day, students are diagnosing layers of misconfigurations and explaining why the symptoms exist. The Wireless Adjuster course is the most real-world best practices assessment and WiFi network optimization class on the market today.


A big thank you to Devin for his time and thoughts. I gotta see for myself, now. I’ll be doing Wireless Adjuster soon myself, and will do a follow-up blog afterwards.

Have you attended Wireless Adjuster training? Please share your thoughts here, and thanks for reading.

Psst- Buddy… Want a Good Deal on an AirCheck G2?

SOLD!

SOLD!

SOLD!

Sometimes you get lucky and a good deal comes your way. Pretty much everyone  in the business of professional Wi-Fi is at least familiar with the AirCheck G2 from NetAlly, but here’s a quick visual if you need a reminder.

001AirCheck-G2

Yeah… we’re talking about THAT AirCheck G2. It is one of the Cadillac tools for WLAN support available right now, and I get endless value out of mine. If you are in the market, have I got an opportunity for you.

A great fellow named Mohammad Ali, or simply Ali to many of us, has an AirCheck G2 to move along. Ali is CWNE #375, and he blogs often at artofrf.com. Ali is active in the wireless community, and can be found on Twitter at @malief46 

So… why does Ali have a new AirCheck G2 to sell at a decent price? I happened to watch it all unfold, and it was glorious. Back in February, at the best wireless conference in the world, I heard the golden voice of Keith Parson announce

“…and the winner of the AirCheck G2 is… ALI!”

I wasn’t the only one green with envy… green like the AirCheck G2 itself. What an awesome prize to win. Anyhow, Ali needs to move it along out of personal necessity, and it is basically new. He has checked into it with NetAlly, and AllyCare can be added to this unit the same as if you bought it on the market, so no problem getting access to software updates.

Ali is asking $1,500. contact him with a DM on Twitter, or email at mali27 on gmail. Or- contact me directly and I can share Ali’s phone number.

Awesome guy, awesome, tool, awesome deal.

do 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.

Is Network License Becoming Predatory? A Lot of Networkers Seem to Think So

I recently threw this poll out on Twitter for 24 hours. I purposefully avoided defining “predatory” to let those responding apply the concept as they saw fit. Sure, it’s only Twitter, and arguably an informal poll. Those responding are assumed to be networkers in my circle of reach.

poll

Two hundred and sixty-four people chose to reply, and of those, 93% think that at least certain vendors are becoming predatory in their licensing methods. 48% say that the networking industry in general is becoming predatory. Only 7%, or 18 out of 264 respondents, do not see networking licensing becoming predatory.

My Take

I cannot speak for anyone else, but can share my own opinion based on over 20 years in the networking industry- mostly on the customer side but with enough time spent as an analyst and provider to have perhaps a more well-rounded opinion on the topic. Let’s start with a dictionary definition that I have in mind: to be predatory is to seek to exploit or oppress others. And to me, I would vote YES on that Twitter poll.

I’m assuming many factors influence how people answer a question like this. Again, I can only speak for myself. Longevity in the field means more opportunities to have felt exploited- like way back when I attempted to buy my first thin-AP network management system. I ordered it based on a quote provided by the vendor’s sales person (around $20K for a site license), and waited. And waited. And then queried about when we should expect it. The answer? “Sorry, we’re discontinuing that, now you have pay per access point and you are bigtime into six figures (like really bigtime)”. The fact that I ordered well ahead of the switch to the new paradigm meant nothing to the vendor, nor did our long-running history together. Pay up and shut up. That would be the start of almost two decades of FEELING exploited by vendors on occasion. Locked in. They say it, we pay it. A long history of this stuff makes you more sensitive to just how bad it’s getting today.

(I get that younger customers, and the just out-of-college fresh-faced vendor product manager sitting in my conference room may be oblivious to my personal history of feeling screwed over. Yet that history is relevant.)

The bigger your environment and the longer you’ve been with a specific vendor, the tighter the “vendor lock” can be, BTW.

OK, so those of us who have been around longer have seen more of the evolution of licensing, with each incarnation bringing more advantage to the vendor while said vendor masterfully spins tales of how the new model somehow works in the customer’s favor. Sounds great, until it doesn’t 30 seconds into the conversation. I’ll skip over a lot of the individual milestones on my own timeline of licensing frustration, but will report that NOTHING happens in licensing that isn’t meant to separate the customer from more of their budget dollars while frequently getting mostly buzzwords, promises of a better way, and hype in return.

If I was a marketer, I’d want to be in networking because the whole truth is generally optional, and you have broad freedom to weave ambitious tales hoping that customers bite…

 

You NEED this new dashboard- look at all the problems it helps you solve!
I don’t have those problems.
You MUST have those problems- because we have a new dashboard that solves them!

 
And so it goes. Except now marketing and licensing have fused into this convoluted, strange mess that seems to be the new industry reality.  93% percent of my poll respondents have issues with this reality. A few examples that to me are quite predatory:

  • The wireless survey tool maker who significantly raised their support cost because “we have a bunch of innovation coming”, only to raise their costs even more “because we just did a bunch of innovating!” But I don’t use any of the “innovation”- why am I paying for it? Don’t be a poop- just pay up.
    • The wireless vendor selling wallplate APs with mandatory license requirements for an NMS we don’t use. Stop whining, after three years, we don’t REQUIRE that you renew the license you don’t need anyways. See how customer-friendly we are? You want that access point, you buy that MANDATORY license you neither want nor need!
    • The switch vendor who now licenses individual hardware components. Now we buy hardware, then we have to lease what we bought or it stops working.

Bundles of BS

At any point when you have to buy something you don’t need or want, you are not getting VALUE regardless of how it’s packaged. A very popular commonplace methodology is to take every blasted feature no matter how minor and give it a grand name, to take every interface, every card, every everything and artificially elevate it in importance to where it’s worthy of its own license. Sleazy, yes- so to take the dirty edge off, lots of these now-fantastic offerings are combined together and priced less as a bundle than their individual artificially-valued individual components would be. The end result is a feel-good marketing ploy that makes you buy things you don’t need as part of some fantastic bundle that even the vendor’s own SEs can’t make sense of. Predatory? You make the call.

Innovation Is Defined By the Customer- Not the Vendor

Simply put, innovation is just a new way of doing something. Not all new methods are good for or applicable to a given customer, so to tout innovation as a justification for price increases, money-sucking license subscriptions and other unsavory-to-the-customer methods is very much predatory (and frequently tone-deaf). WE tell the vendors if they have delivered useful innovation. Not vice versa.

innovation2

Simply churning out new buggy products isn’t useful innovation, no matter how flashy the marketing is or who you pick from Hollywood to do your commercials.

Is Silicon Valley Is Becoming Leisure Suit Larry, Inc.?

Who among us loves going to the car dealer? You never really get to know what the cost of the vehicle is, so you haggle and fight for “your best discount” off of some arbitrary, agreed upon fake number. That discount will be different for you than it is for me. You have to pick your way through marketing buzzwords, try to fillet off the “add-ons” and hold your nose when you realize that you are stuck also buying B and C that you don’t want just to get A. You may also have to demand not to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for “shipping” licenses that are nothing but a string of characters in email. It hasn’t always been this foul, but it does seem to be getting worse.
93% of people who took my poll agree, to some degree.

Draganfly Answers the Pandemic With Innovative Drone Application

draganflyAs I write this, it’s mid-April of 2020 and most of the civilized world is hunkered down in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a strange time, but out of crisis often comes great innovation. One excellent example just came to me in the form of correspondence with a commercial drone company named Draganfly. A long-time leader in commercial drone platforms and technology, Draganfly is now bringing another powerful tool to the hands of those charged with identifying, monitoring, and responding to pandemics and disease.

Let’s get right to the money shot, as we say in the business- take 90 seconds and digest this video: DF_VI_News_Release_2020_03_25_02_Final – BIG Admin

Draganfly has already gone down the paths of drone-based delivery and even drone-based disinfecting of spaces and surfaces, but their new “pandemic drone” technology adds from-a-distance detection of a range of symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Elevated temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Sneezing
  • Rabid heartbeat

With purpose-built sensors and AI-based deep learning, Draganfly is basically equipping drones to be force-multipliers for disease diagnosis. There’s a lot to contemplate here.

In talking with Draganfly, they estimate a fairly short learning curve to use the drone platform in this new role. The operator will have to find the best angle, height, and distance to get the most accurate readings for the specialized software in use, but Draganfly has a proven history of success with balancing highly accurate sensing with ease-of-use.

The goal is to not only identify infected individuals, but also patterns in larger populations in hotspot areas (think NYC, Boston, and Seattle for example) to proactively identify new health situations or new pockets of density for known issues like Covid-19.

Currently, there are a number of “pandemic drone” trials going on, with wider adoption expected fairly soon. Though exactly how it may be deployed still remains to be seen, but I can imagine a number of government and private agencies and organizations being extremely interested in Draganfly’s latest.

This is one to continue following, says I.

If you are interested in other Draganfly goings on, have a look here.

——-
As a reminder, beyond being a WLAN and networking professional, I am also a drone enthusiast and FAA-licensed Part 107 drone pilot. Wirednot is a “mostly” wireless blog. Thanks as always for reading, and comments are always welcomed.

Chasing Down Errant Cisco APs

Some product sets definitely require more care and feeding than others… that’s all I’ll say in that regard lest I let go with the rant that is on the tip of my tongue. What I’m about to present is in regard to Cisco 3702 access points specifically on 8.5.151.0 code, although I have no doubt the condition applies to many models and code versions.

Problem statementThe freakin’ APs cut and run. They go over the wall, but they are real sneaky about it. They do it in a way that ain’t so easy to detect… Or in Cisco’s own words: “As per FN70330 – IOS AP stranded due to flash corruption issue, due to a number of software bugs an AP in normal operation,  the flash file system on some IOS APs may become corrupt over time. This is seen especially after an upgrade is performed to the WLC but not necessarily limited to this scenario. AP may be working fine, servicing client, etc, while on this problem state which is not easily detectable”. 

See this Cisco doc as the source of the above statement– and please know that I’m not saying that MY issue is absolutely THIS issue. Although it could be. There are are many fine bugs to choose from.

What it Looks Like, and What it Doesn’t Look Like.

Cisco rightly says that the “problem state is not easily detectable”, and I agree. We’ll focus on a single 3702 AP for this blog, but I know from first-hand conversation that some folks have been bitten by dozens or hundreds of similar free=spirited APs all going for an intent-based spontaneous joyride in the name of innovation.

Prime Infrastructure doesn’t show my AP as being “out”, and I have yet to find any reliable way to show this condition via any other reports in PI.  If you ping it, it responds. Look at it in CDP, it’s there. But… all is not well, sir. Not at all, sir. Despite the obvious indicators. This AP that has been up and fine and doing it’s job suddenly got cabin fever:

4704

So… the normal ways of finding out that APs are essentially out of service (like using your expensive NMS) don’t apply in this scenario, and you basically have to stumble upon it, or be alerted when users can’t connect to the AP- which unfortunately is a common canary in the coalmine when dealing with bugs in this particular framework.

Say there- did I mention that the AP never recovers in this situation? It stays in perpetual “Downloading” until you figure out a way to recover it. Value. Buy more licenses… because the one this AP is using is worthless while it’s in this innovative state of self-determinism.

No Resetting Through the Controller UI

It stands to reason that maybe rebooting the AP will get it back to where it needs to be. That’s a pretty common troubleshooting step. But you can’t do it from the controller interface while the AP is trying to go to a happy place that it will never reach.

4704-1

Allow me to digress…I like to think that when the AP gets to this point, it probably hears Soul Asylum singing Runaway Train in it’s mind…

It seems no one can help me now
I’m in too deep
There’s no way out
This time I have really lead myself astray

Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one-way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I’m neither here nor there

Ahem. Back to topic. (But what a great song.)

Off to the Switch We Go

Being that we can’t reboot THE VALUE from the controller interface while the AP is riding the runaway train, we need to visit the switch for command line operations. Basically, we pull the PoE plug via command entry, then restore it (informational note: no innovation licenses are required to enter commands- yet).

4704-2

If all goes well, a couple of minutes later you’ll have an AP that has atoned for it’s separatist thoughts of independence and freedom, and you can welcome it back to the fleet.

4704-3

Simple Fix (Maybe)

I’m guessing that you’d agree after reading this that the fix for my situation was fairly easy. I’ve seen maybe 20 of these goofball 3702 instances in the last year, now more reliably found after my office mate found a way to poll them with some degree of success via SNMP using AKIPS.

day downloading

So… finding them may be harder than fixing them, depending on how you are equipped and IF you are dealing exactly with whatever nuanced issue I happen to have in play. But let me again bring you back to this Cisco doc on the topic of corrupt AP flash. Your situation may end up being a lot messier than mine, given the hoops mentioned in the document.

Catching Up With Tanaza- a Different Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi Company

Tanaza-Company-Logo-2There is life beyond “big Wi-Fi”, but many of us don’t have need or have the opportunity to check it out. One of the things I enjoy about wearing the blogger/analyst hat is getting exposure to those companies, beyond the titans of Silicon Valley. Things are interesting (if not downright refreshing) things down-market, This is where companies look to provide alternatives to smothering licensing costs and to restore some customer independence in an era of Vendor Lock. In that spirit, I recently caught up with my favorite Italian Wi-Fi company, Tanaza.

Simple, Cheap, Multi-Vendor.

tanaza2

Tanaza is a framework for managing wireless access points only. No switches, no security appliances- because not everyone needs or wants full-stack and the associated costs. Tanaza flashes a range of different APs (off-the-shelf and new white-box APs) and manages them nicely with a full-featured management approach. Their firmware is TanazaOS, which works with the Tanaza cloud platform and is also OpenSync-compatible.

The goal is to be “Meraki without the Meraki costs” (not my words) with sub $50 per-AP one-time license cost. Tanaza sees the value as being in their software, with access point hardware being commoditzed at this point.

I will be taking the Tanaza APs for a spin soon, will share the experience in future blogs.

Evolving Since 2016, Alliances With Facebook, Open Sync, others

I’ve been following Tanaza off and on since 2016. They are always evolving, and tend to be a great window into tech goings on beyond the mainstream daily flow we see in the US. The company is working with these partners on bigger initiatives:


I’ll have more to say about Tanaza after I have get the opportunity to set up their hardware and put the dashboard through it’s paces. Meanwhile, the company is very interested in getting feedback from MSP types and wireless professionals, so feel free to engage.

You can also try their full-featured demo, to get a taste of what Tanaza is all about.