Tag Archives: Fluke Networks AirCheck

Trilithic 802 AWE- A Star Is Born

802_AWEIt’s not often that a new stand-alone handheld tester comes to market. If I could see into all of your minds, I’d find most of you picturing the Fluke Networks AirCheck right now. And you’d also be likely digging around in the sawdust of your brainpans trying to remember the last time you saw anything that might come close to what the AirCheck can do in a self-contained package. You won’t find much in that sawdust, because short of Berkeley Varitronics’ specialty gear, there really isn’t a competitor out there for the AirCheck.

Until now.

Quick pause, and level-set on where Fluke Networks and myself stand in relation to each other. I have a deep and long-running appreciation for Fluke Networks’ network test platforms. Yes, I use a bunch of their offerings in my day job, but I have also been covering their products in my media role since almost day one of the company’s existence. The first real freelance article I wrote was about the original NetTool (I still have one, sixteen years later). I’ve covered oldies like LAN MapShot, Protocol Inspector, Network Inspector, early OptiView, ClearSight, fiber microscopes, and many more all the way through AirMagnet Enterprise. And yes, I use and have covered AirCheck’s various versions. Like the rest of the WLAN community, I loves me some AirCheck, and I loves me some Fluke Networks.

But I also know value and a good thing when I see it. And I’m seeing value and a good thing in Trilithic’s new baby.

Let’s talk about the good first:

  • The tester costs well under $1000
  • Support is free (software updates for life)
    • Put those two bullets together, and you have low TCO
  • 2-year warranty
  • Trilithic is new to WLAN, but not to test equipment- a mature American company
  • Comes with a snappy case
  • Screen shots, reports, etc
  • Is easy to use (I’m using it!)
  • Supports the same WLAN protocols that AirCheck does (through 11ac, but at 11n speeds)
  • Also supports Bluetooth and ZigBee
  • 802 AWE recently won an industry award
  • You can get familiar with this video
  • Screen shots, reports, etc

I’m really enjoying taking the evaluation unit for a test drive. I’m waiting on a firmware update to unleash all of the few not-yet-available features that will make the 802 AWE the home-run I expect it to be, but am also reserving my full praise for the tester until I see true feature parity with the AirCheck in action.

My early testing has me quite pleased, and I’ll update as warranted.

The following image was brazenly stolen from here.

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Wireless Handheld Testers You May Not Know About

In the world of Wi-Fi engineering and support, there are definite crowd favorites when it comes to tools.  Not every WLAN Pro sees the world exactly the same when it comes to tools, and usually what we pick to use in our daily duties comes down to ease-of-use (which can be subjective), cost, and effectiveness. That equation shakes out a little bit different for each of us, yet the same tools tend to show up often in what is a fairly limited market. I’m not talking apps here, as there are lots of those. Here, I’m more getting at handheld wireless tools, or if you want to stretch it a bit, ones that plug into a USB (or Lightning) port to turn the host device into a handheld tester. Before you yawn and click away, let me get right to the point: chances are that almost all of us have at least one tool from MetaGeek, or AirMagnet/Fluke Networks, or maybe Oscium. You know… the usual stuff. (Again, no slight to the software/app toolmakers in the crowd.) But this blog is about the slightly exotic. Of late, I’ve stumbled across some funky looking brands of hand-held testers/spectrum analyzers that I’d like to share. If you know of others that are off the beaten path, please let us know in the comments.

I’ll ease you into this with one from a company that’s actually been around a long time, and used to be more mainstream among wireless tools- the Yellow Jacket BANG, primarily a spectrum analyzer from Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS).

YJ-BANG

Everything BVS has ever put out just looks cool. Here’s the specs on the Yellow Jacket BANG.

Next- get an eyeful of this thing:

winet

From Test Um, with more info here. Needless to say, it’s underwhelming… yet interesting to look at, no?

Next up- the RF Explorer. (I wish I could say that in a Darth Vader voice with reverb effect.)

rfexplorer

(With handsome carrying case!) Details and specifications here.

Moving on to the 802 AWE from Trilithic Broadband Instruments, I have to say that this one looks like it could be for real, and a possible competitor to the Fluke Networks AirCheck.

802_AWE

I’d love to take the 802 AWE for a test drive. Check out this whitepaper, and see what you think.

We’ll finish with an interesting offering from the UK.

artisan

 

The Vonaq Artisan Wi-Fi Tester also looks like a for-real tester, and that snazzy orange case means it should be safe in the woods during deer hunting season.

How many of these have YOU seen before? Ever laid hands on any of them? Do any of them interest you? There *may* be life beyond MetaGeek and Fluke Networks here… Please add your thoughts.

Fluke Networks’ AirCheck- A Growing Family

People don’t take to change easily, especially when it comes to things they love. Wi-Fi support folks are no exception, so it’s not surprising that some Fluke Networks customers are a bit uneasy with the latest versions of AirCheck. A product line that started with a wildly popular hand-held dedicated tester has grown to also include a Windows version and, most recently, an Android app. I’ve personally heard protests over the direction AirCheck is headed by those who would rather see the evolution of the tester restricted to newer versions of the stand-alone, but I personally think that Fluke Networks has got it *mostly* right after using all versions.

I reviewed the original AirCheck for Network Computing back in 2010, and then found fault with what I considered risky marketing as AirCheck was touted as a law enforcement tool of sorts, in 2011. The AirCheck is and has been a big story, and Fluke Networks did well with it through the years.

Fast forward to earlier 2014, and here’s my Network Computing write-up on AirCheck for Windows. Again, not everyone was diggin’ it, but I’ll come back to that. Now, as I write this, I’m having a great time kicking the tires on AirCheck’s Android version. Before I spill the beans on my findings, let me also point you to a piece I just did on the evolution of established networking tools making the jump to the mobile form factor. It’s bound to happen, but there are considerations to be aware of for sure.

So what about AirCheck for Android?

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time of late pondering how to quantify the wireless end-user experience, and lofty topics like “service assurance”. These are both giant topics in their own right, but all AirCheck versions have a place in these conversations. Where the AirCheck for Android shines is by bringing the basic testing that makes AirCheck what it is to Android smartphones and tablets. These functions include:

  • Site surveying
  • Device discovery
  • A battery of tests measuring key network services like:
    • Basic WLAN connectivity
    • DNS
    • Latency
    • HTTP download
    • Video, audio, and browsing performance measurement
    • Youtube

The app simply shines in it’s UI and use of the limited screen size of the tablet I’m playing with. I’m not so sure I’d feel as excited about the tool on a smallish Android phone, but I really like the performance and usability on a 7-inch tablet. This would not be my primary or only tool for WLAN support duties, but AirCheck for Android would certainly get frequent use. As a go-to “quick check” app that you can trust even lesser-skilled staff to get right, the app has it’s place.

Where the stand-alone AirCheck equates to a piece of test equipment (as in all AirChecks running same code should behave pretty similar), the Android version (and Windows version as well) is at the mercy of the device it runs on. THIS is what doesn’t sit well with AirCheck purists, but to me it brings the advantage of truly measuring what a major device type (like the Samsung S3 tablet I’m testing with) will act like on a given Wi-Fi network in a given spot. Get a few AirCheck for Android on a number of different device types, and you get a good sense of how real devices perform versus the “control set” of the AirCheck tester. They both have their place, to me.

Where my appreciation for software versions of AirCheck pales is when it comes to cost. I do agree with the traditional AirCheck die-hards that say the Windows and Android versions should be much, much less expensive than any hardware-based version. If Fluke Networks can find the right price to cover their development costs yet appeal to those who expect to pay far less when there is no hardware involved,  then an excellent tool will find wider acceptance.  That would be good news for those who support Wi-Fi networks and the clients who benefit from their efforts.

Aircheck1 Aircheck2 Aircheck3 AirCheck4

Fluke Networks AirCheck Like You’ve Never Seen It

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I’ve been spending some quality time (under NDA) with the new version of AirCheck, and I’m very pleased with what Fluke Networks has done with the product line. Now that the wraps are off the new version, I’m tickled to be able to share what I’ve learned so far with a community that counts a lot of fans of the original AirCheck handheld tester in it’s ranks.

The premise is simple: put a tool in the hands of front-line network types that allows everyone to test the same way, and share their results with others when needed. Whether it be Enterprise Wi-Fi installers, service provider techs, or carriers that set up hotspots, the new AirCheck version is a nice add to the Windows 7 or 8 devices they are likely to be schlepping.

AirCheck for Windows amounts to:

  • Software (will be part of your My AirMagnet inventory)
  • License (same process as any AirMagnet tool
  • I used the Proxim 8494 a/b/g/n USB adapter provided by Fluke Networks (identical to Ekahau’s DNUA-81) (Supported adapters are shown here)

Your device’s built-in adapter is used for active testing, while the external adapter I was provided was used for monitor mode functions. I do wish AirMagnet could have found a smaller one to use. I tend to run very small laptops, and the 8494 really sticks out- it feels like an accident waiting to happen. But.. that’s my only real beef with the AirCheck for Windows, and I’m not quite sure that the external adapter is needed in all cases after viewing the product spec sheet.  The solution installs like any other AirMagnet product.

What it Does

The start menu shown above gives you a sense of what the new AirCheck does. You wanna see all APs and/or clients in the area, along with their WLAN-related info? That’s easy. Do a sight survey? Sure- that’s there as well. So is overall channel information for both bands. This is still AirCheck, baby…

Easy to navigate in a well designed, minimalist GUI, you can run through a variety of findings and save them as a Project. The results of the project can be turned into a nice report, or shared with others who can reopen them in their own copy of AirCheck for WIndows.

This is all very nice, but there is one feature that I really appreciate,

AirCheck User Experience

In the name of quantifying the user experience in a given location on the WLAN (call it Service Assurance, if you will, although here it’s not nearly as granular as the likes of 7signal or Streetwise), I can configure any number of Test Profiles on my AirCheck for Windows and export it to technicians to use, so we’re all testing the exact same way on trouble tickets.

You can set destinations, thresholds, and repetitions for testing:

  • What WLAN SSID gets used (there is a provision for Web portal logins if needed)
  • DNS resolution time, what URLs you want to test
  • Ping destinations
  • http and FTP download times
  • audio and video streaming quality

Again- I like the idea of being able to have even less skilled techs run the same battery of tests I might run when responding to trouble, while also giving the more savvy WLAN support folks flexibility to add other tests. All the results can be saved and exported for reference later on, or for analysis by senior troubleshooters.

Of course, the non-AirMagnet WLAN adapter in use on each client device will have a bearing on the test results (remember, the AirMagnet adapter only runs in monitor mode) and so you’ll want to consider what platform you run AirCheck for Windows from.

But wait-there’s more!

-If you run AirCheck for Windows from a laptop. you can also test through the Ethernet jack for comparing the WLAN feel to that of the LAN (nice option).

-And… an Android app version is also coming in Q2 of this year.

AirCheck for Windows ballpark list price: around $900

Other screenshots for AirCheck from Windows:

AirCheck Channels AirCheck Discovery NetCheckSplash winAirCheck