Tag Archives: Metageek

Why You Should Care About MetaGeek’s MetaCare

metageek logoTo the WLAN support community, there are just a few tools that are truly revered. Among these are the various offerings by MetaGeek. I still have my original Wi-Spy USB-based Wi-Fi spectrum analyzer dongle that I used a million years ago when 2.4 GHz was the only band in town, but have also added almost every other tool that MetaGeek offers. Go to any WLAN conference or watch the typical wireless professional at work, and you’ll see lots of MetaGeek products in play. So… is this blog a MetaGeek commercial? I guess you could say so to a certain degree. I decided to write it after my latest renewal of MetaCare to help other MetaGeek customers (and potential customers) understand what MetaCare is all about.

I queried MetaGeek technical trainer Joel Crane to make sure I had my story straight, as MetaCare is one of those things you refresh periodically so it’s easy to lose sight of the value proposition. Straight from Crane:

MetaCare is our way of funding the continued development and support of our products. It’s also a great pun (in my opinion), but people outside of the United States don’t get it. When you buy a new product, you basically get a “free” year of MetaCare. When MetaCare runs out, you can keep on using the software, you just can’t download versions that were released after your MetaCare expired.

On this point, I have let my own MetaCare lapse in the past, then lamented greatly when an update to Chanalyzer or Eye P.A. came available. You have to stay active with your MetaCare to get those updates! Which brings me to Crane’s next point.

When you renew MetaCare, it begins on the the date that MetaCare expired (not the current date). Basically, this keeps users from gaming the system by letting it lapse for a year, and then picking up another year and getting a year’s worth of updates (although I try to not point fingers like that, generally our customers are cool and don’t try to do that stuff). MetaCare keys are one-time use. They just tack more MetaCare onto your “base” key, which is always used to activate new machines.
Like any other decent WLAN support tool, you gotta pay to play when it comes to upgrades. At the same time, I do know of fellow WLAN support folks who have opted to not keep up their MetaCare, and therefor have opted out of updates. Maybe their budget dollars ran out, or perhaps they don’t feel that MetaGeek updates their tool code frequently enough to warrant the expenditure on MetaCare. As with other tools with similar support paradigms, whether you use to pay for ongoing support is up to you. But I give MetaGeek a lot of credit for not rendering their tools “expired” if you forego MetaCare.
Crane also pointed out one more aspect of the MetaGeek licensing model that is actually quite generous (other WLAN toolmakers could learn something here!):
 Speaking of base keys, they can be activated on up to 5 machines that belong to one user. Each user will need their own key, but if you have a desktop, laptop, survey laptop, a couple of VM’s… go nuts and activate your base key all over the place. 

And now you know. As for me, my MetaCare costs are a business expense that I don’t mind paying- and I’m really looking forward to new developments from MetaGeek.


But wait- there’s more! Thanks to Blake Krone for the reminder. MetaGeek has a nice license portal for viewing and managing your own license keys, so you don’t have to wonder where you stand for available device counts, license expiration, etc.

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Related:

MetaGeek Does the Inevitable With It’s Beloved InSSIDer

Metageek has a simple mission:

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And the company very much enables you to “visualize your wireless landscape”, in the most effective ways. It’s what they do- boil the many complex parts of Wi-Fi down to visual portrayals that are easy to comprehend, across their various products. One of their offerings, InSSIDer, has become massively popular because it shows WLAN RF in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, supports through 802.11n, and you can get a decent version of it for Windows and Android for FREE. MetaGeek estimates that there have been millions of downloads of InSSIDer. Curiously, this popular program was meant to be one of those niceties that get provided to introduce you to the company while providing basic WLAN support functionality, yet is has become much more than that.

And that brings us to the inevitable: InSSIDer now supports 802.11ac, and also comes with a price tag for the first time. Oh yeah- it’s also sporting new colors:

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Feature-wise, version 4 will show you 11ac channels if detected EVEN IF YOU ONLY HAVE AN 11n ADAPTER (of course it needs to be 5 GHz 11n). You can also group signals by ESSID/radio- very handy in multi-SSID environments. But on to the other part of the version 4 story…

My take on MetaGeek’s change of price paradigm: it’s a good thing. 

It’s hard to build a business case on “free”, and the raging popularity of InSSIDer signals that this is a gem that should be further developed. Though the MetaGeekers are dedicated to wireless excellence (if you ever have a chance to meet anyone from MetaGeek, their enthusiasm for Wi-Fi and developing good tools is palpable), no one can expect them to make a good product better without asking for a little in return (in this case, $19.99). 

802.11ac will further push Wi-Fi into the main for client access, and the importance of solid WLAN tools will only become more important. Along with MetaGeek’s other offerings (each has it’s role, learn about them here), I’m looking forward to seeing what future versions of InSSIDer bring us- both for the laptop and in mobile form. (Please note- the current free version will still be around, but no more development will go into it.) 

Now if you’ll excuse me. I got some fat channels to go look at…

 

Taking Colasoft’s Capsa 7 Enterprise For a Spin

A few weeks back, I was invited by Colasoft to take a look at their Capsa 7 Enterprise analyzer. Having a little time off around the holidays, I finally got around to spending a couple of hours with the product. This hardly constitutes an in-depth review, but I can share some of the first impressions this interesting and powerful tool made on me during playtime.

I was vaguely familiar with Colasoft, having looked at some of their rather nifty freebies (like a multi-host ping tool) in the past. Wanting to get oriented before digging in, I popped in on the website to see what the promise of Capsa 7 Enterprise amounts to. Lifted from Colasoft’s pages:

Key Features of Capsa Enterprise:

  • Real-time packet capture as well as the ability to save data transmitted over local networks, including wired network and wireless network like802.11a/b/g/n;
  • Identify and analyze more than 500 network protocols, as well as network applications based on the protocol analysis;
  • Identify “Top Talkers” by monitoring network bandwidth and usage by capturing data packets transmitted over the network and providing summary and decoding information about these packets;
  • Overview Dashboard allows you to view network statistics at a single glance, allowing for easy interpretation of network utilization data;
  • Monitor and save Internet e-mail and instant messaging traffic, helping identify security and confidential data handling violations;
  • Diagnose and pinpoint network problems in seconds by detecting and locating suspicious hosts;
  • Ability to Map the traffic, IP address, and MAC of each host on the network, allowing for easy identification of each host and the traffic that passes through each;
  • Visualize the entire network in an ellipse that shows the connections and traffic between each host.

It’s a pretty ambitious feature set, for a $995 price tag. (“Enterprise” differs from “Professional” in that Professional doesn’t do WLAN.) Capsa is only available for Windows (all versions), and this is a laptop analysis tool rather than a datacenter-racked super-sleuther. Also- WLAN support includes up to 802.11n, but not .11ac yet.

That’s the intro, but how does the product actually perform? I’ll admit to being impressed.

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Though I know my way around plenty of CLIs, I’m a UI guy- I hate sucky, confusing, ill-laid out interfaces. Colasoft passes my muster in this regard- Capsa 7 packs a surprising amount of analysis info into a peppy and nicely designed dashboard. Having little Ethernet in my home these days and not wanting to get up off my duff to set up a wired test scenario (it’s the holiday break, after all) I aimed most of my tire-kicking at my home WLAN environment (currently a mix of Aerohive and Meraki). As with any analysis tool, you start by selecting your adapter, and in this case a WLAN channel and one or more SSIDs, and off you go- no AirPcap needed or any sort of special drivers (I tested it with a number of adapters, all did well).

You get variety of analysis profiles to pick from (Full, Traffic Monitoring, Security, HTTP, Email, DNS, FTP, Instant Messaging), and deep views into the gory details of 802.11/802.3 packets as you would with any competing tool. You also get just a nice range of different views that feel AirMagnet-y (or WildPackets-y) at times, but what you don’t get is any of the spectrum type channel plots that MetaGeek gives. Short of that, Capsa 7 is pretty comprehensive.

My “testing” amounted to generating a bunch of nothing-special network traffic both locally and across the Internet, and then drilling into it looking for anyplace I might want to go for analysis that Capsa fell short on. There just wasn’t any.

I am intrigued enough to play further, and my fully-functional eval copy will also get turned loose on my big WLAN when I get back to work to see how it does in the presence of an enterprise-grade 802.1x Wi-FI environment with a ridiculous order of magnitude more clients than I have at home. If there is anything good or bad to add, I’ll come back and amend this post.

Meanwhile, Colasoft does make Capsa 7 available for free 15-day trials.

If you’re in the market for a decent all-in-one wired/wireless analyzer, AND you don’t need 11ac support, AND you run Windows, you might want to have a look at Capsa 7 Enterprise.

MetaGeek Updates Chanalyzer

There are tools that WLAN support types tend to gravitate to en masse. When it comes to design work, the discussion gets more individualized as architects have their favorites among pricey tools; but put a bunch of WLAN folks who work in different capacities in a room together and you’ll find that most (if not all) of them have tools from MetaGeek in their everyday bag of tricks.

My own appreciation for MetaGeek’s USB-based tools goes back to the original 2.4 GHz Wi-Spy I purchased to see the effects of different classroom transmitting devices on our fledgling campus WLAN. Since then, I’ve marveled at where MetaGeek has been able to go for those of us shopping for decent, affordable, easy-to-use Wi-Fi support tools. I’ve bought a number of MetaGeek tools, and have also been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of giveaways, like when MetaGeek presented at Wireless Field Day 5.

I like that MetaGeek keeps their fairly-priced tools fresh, both in response to changes in WLAN standards or just when there is room for improvement to make good even better. Like with Chanalyzer- which just got updated. Here’s my favorite new feature- the high-contrast Outdoor View color scheme:

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This is a pretty drastic change from the traditional black background, and yes- it is easier to see outside in the daylight.

I also found the latest version (5.0.124) to have a much easier-to-use report building module, which is my second favorite thing about it. You can also have both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz waterfalls active at the same time (if you have two suitable adapters), but I found this to crowd my little netbook display (though it would be handy on bigger screen).

Here’s the summary of what’s new, in MetaGeek’s own words:

NEW FEATURES

  • Improved Report Builder (specific list below)

  • Dual-band visibility. If multiple Wi-Spy DBx or 2.4x are plugged in, both waterfalls are displayed.

  • Optional outdoor color scheme with white backgrounds for better visibility in bright light.

  • Cisco CleanAir accessory (additional license required). Provides connectivity to view spectrum data collected from Cisco CleanAir access points.

  • Automatic update of OUI file to identify access point vendor by MAC address.

REPORT BUILDER IMPROVEMENTS

  • Created Report Builder menu item

  • Report Builder has merged with the Preview Pane

  • Simplified menus

  • Ability to add all blocks to a report with one click.

OTHER CHANGES

  • Improved licensing system

  • Improved color scheme

  • Moving the Unified Timeframe will now cause the timespan to pause in place.

  • Clicking on a table row highlights the entire row for ease of use.

  • Improved Filter usability

  • Improved fit and finish

Finally, for anyone keeping score, MetaGeek is part of the line-up for the upcoming most excellent WLAN Pro Summit 2014. (I hope to see many of you there.)

What I Hope To Get From Wireless Field Day 5

Being selected as a delegate to a Tech Field Day is a bit like winning a Golden Ticket to Wonkaland for us tech types (instead of chocolate, there is a lot of wireless fodder to enjoy). I’m pleased as can be to be going back for my second Wireless Field Day event, having attended WFD4 and soon, WFD5.

Given the Silicon Valley’s prominence in the IT world, a trip there is something akin to a pilgrimage for those of us too far away (by both distance and circumstance) to get there very often. And that touches on my first goal for Wireless Field Day 5: simply being immersed in the tech-rich backdrop of the San Jose area. I’m not a tremendously spiritual person, but there is a powerful vibe afoot just under the surface “out there”, and it bubbles up time and again throughout the few magic days that are Field Day.

The corny stuff aside, here’s some of what what I hope to get out of my time at WFD5:

  • Reconnecting with organizer Stephen Foskett and my fellow delegates. Most of the group was at WFD4, but there will be three new-to-me faces among the delegates, as well as Stephen’s expanded staff. These folks are sharp, down to earth, a pleasure to do the event with, and extremely deep in wireless networking knowledge. This alone makes the trip worth it.
  • In general, I’m looking forward to all of the companies that are presenting to give us a glimpse behind the curtain at what they are about to release, what they are thinking on a number of fronts, and what they want to know from us, the delegates. Expected hot topics: 802.11ac, analytics of various sorts, new tools and optimization methods.
  • Speaking of tools and optimization, 7Signal is sure to be a delegate favorite. I’m guessing we’ve all seen at least snippets of their case studies and what they recommend to make good WLANs even better. I hope to hear clarity on this topic, and to get a sense of whether 7Signal gear is more affordable than it seems and to hear about optimization tweaks that are real-world applicable.
  • With Meru Networks in the lineup, I’m guessing I’m not the only delegate hoping to walk away with a better understanding of their “secret sauce” for single-channel virtual cells, and whether there is more than just bluster to their occasional hubris (as I’ve covered in my Network Computing column). To a certain degree, the same goal applies to XirrusI’ve covered them a number of times but never quite got totally comfortable with the array thing. But I keep an open mind…
  • For Aerohive Networks, I’m both looking forward to updates and just as much to meeting the likes of Andrew von Nagy (perhaps the most approachable and willing-to-share senior tech guy from any vendor) and his homies. Aerohive just seems to have a different culture, and it’ll be nice to spend time in it for a couple of hours. (my latest Network Computing piece on Aerohive is here).
  • AirTight Networks will be interesting because they are “new”, at least as a wireless access player, in a very competitive market. I have a Network Computing piece on AirTight now running, and also recommend this piece by Man-of-Action and  fellow Field Day Vet Matthew Norwood.  Hearing their story in person will be pretty neat.
  • MetaGeek, WildPackets, and FlukeNetworks are all fairly significant players in my wireless world for tools. I’ve been a MetGeek fan from the days of the original WiSpy, and also frequently use EyePA and InSSIDer for Office (best blog on this one from another fellow delegate, Sam Clements). I’m looking forward to hearing any new announcements from the tools folks (gotta be something in this mix about 11ac) and maybe picking up a tip or two about how to better use the products I already have.
  • Finally, Motorola always stokes my interest because they usually have a somewhat unique story and understated approach versus the “aggressive” marketing of other industry players. I’m a fan of many Moto business units (as a radio and Android guy, that’s a given), and caught up with the WLAN folks at Interop in Vegas just a couple of months ago to hear their opening 11ac story. I gotta feeling they’ll have something new for us.

It’ll be a busy week at Wireless Field Day, and my eyes and ears will be open. Standby for updates.