Tag Archives: Wi-Fi tools

Learning to Use iBwave For Wi-Fi Design

ibwaveHaving been invited to try out iBwave’s suite of Wi-Fi design and survey tools, I couldn’t help but do what any WLAN pro does: immediately start judging it against my current tool of choice. For me, that’s been Ekahau for a lot of years. It didn’t take more than a couple of practice runs with iBwave to get the general feeling that it definitely competes with Ekahau, and I’m guessing that the AirMagnet designer/survey devotees would also reach the same conclusion. Each product will absolutely have advantages and subtle weaknesses when weighed against the competition, but in my mind that competition is legitimate and good for those in the market for quality wireless tools.

Back to iBwave and my journey through their Wi-Fi Suite.I had the pleasure of spending around a half-hour with iBwave’s marketing exec Kelly Burroughs in person (we were at the same conference), and she got me started with both the PC and mobile versions of the design and survey tools. Kelly is awesome, but after we parted ways and I dug in more on the tools, I found myself needing a bit more help. Part of the problem is that my mind is conditioned to use my current tools, and iBwave’s interface is different. It’s actually pretty well designed, having just been freshened up in January of 2017. But if you’re not used to something new that has some complexity, anybody might legitimately need some help. This is where iBwave’s tutorials are effective, and appreciated.

I already know HOW to design and survey. I just needed to learn how iBwave’s tools are leveraged to do that which is otherwise familiar to me. So… about those tutorials- once you start the PC software, you’re presented with very well-done walk-throughs on the major tasks if you need them (as shown below).

iBwave tutorials
These lessons are handy as heck, and did me up well as I got through my early projects.

As iBwave seeks to make a bigger noise in the WLAN design space, they are also coming out with certification training for their customers. iBwave Wi-Fi Mobile training is available now, with iBwave Wi-Fi (for PC) formal training coming in April.
I think we’ll be hearing and seeing a lot more from the company on numerous fronts in the days to come as they try to grow a following for their Wi-Fi tools and a name as not just a DAS design company.

Read my write-up on taking iBwave for a spin here.

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.

WLAN Book/Access Agility: Some Cool Wi-Fi Tools You May Not Know About

Always on the prowl for new WLAN tools, my spider sense recently went all tingly when I saw this come across the Twitter feed:

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The full link for the scanning utility is  http://wlanbook.com/free-wifi-scanner-for-windows/ and is worth checking out (bearing in mind that it’s still very much a beta tool and that your feedback is appreciated). But interesting beta code isn’t quite the point of this post; let’s have a quick look at an interesting (and accomplished) Wi-Fi guy, a company, and a website that are all tightly coupled. If you’ve not heard of Zaib Kaleem, Access Agility, or WLAN Book yet, you may not quite realize that they are all (essentially) one and the same, and are worth getting to know if you’re in the business of wireless networking.

Getting Acquainted

Zaib Kaleem is the brains behind the WLAN Book suite of wireless tools and website/blog. He’s also the vice president of DC-area Access Agility. Though Access Agility is about more than wireless tools as you can tell by the services listed on their site, for the purposes of this blog and getting familiar with the offerings we’ll say that Zaib Kaleem = WLAN Book = Access Agility and leave it at that for now. It also helps to consider the utilities sold by Access Agility to be perhaps a bit more “Enterprise Grade” than those offered through WLAN Book, but even this distinction isn’t quite accurate as many of the tools are compatible and complimentary.

My first brush with Zaib’s utilities came in March 2013, when I was putting together a blog for Network Computing on free or low-cost tools for wireless troubleshooting. “WiFiMedic” from WLAN Book made my list, and I became aware of Kaleem’s other tools back then as well. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Zaib in person and talking on the phone with him about a tool he had in development. A true gentleman, you can tell that Zaib not only knows wireless, he lives and breathes it.

The Lineup

Between the WLAN Book and Access Agility web sites, there is an interesting range of Wi-Fi survey and troubleshooting tools to consider:

  • Online tools that include Virtual Access Point software and a Rogue AP Scanner
  • Downloadable Apps for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows
  • An interesting group of survey and analysis tools and utilities (I wish all operating systems came with the functionality of Access Agility’s BridgeChecker built in)

Zaib doesn’t strike me as the kind of gent that lets grass grow under him, so check back now and then for additions to his offerings.

Taking the Message To The Wi-Fi People

The WLAN Book blog is particularity excellent for a few reasons. First, Zaib includes LOTS of pictures of whatever he is blogging about. Also, he gets around, and is a real-world practitioner (and not just a developer) as evidenced by his posts. To round it out, Zaib is one of those treasured people that gets the value of the greater Wi-Fi community. He mixes it up at conferences and via Twitter, he’s quick to respond to email and such, and is as active as anyone today trying to make our wireless world run smoother.

I was fortunate to catch Zaib speak about his Cloud WiFi Scanning tool at this year’s excellent WLAN Pros Summit, and the video on the session is here.

Though WLAN Book and Access Agility may not have the name recognition of Metageek or Fluke Networks, there are several fresh, innovative tools to be explored here. Having done so myself, I encourage you to kick the tires on Zaib’s tools that interest you as well as bookmarking the WLAN Book blog and following Zaib on Twitter. There’s a lot here to appreciate, and it’s obvious that there is more to come.

 

Please note: I have no relationship with Zaib, and there was nothing more to writing this blog than my own desire to let others in the WLAN community know about a sharp dude with some cool tools. if you got a problem with that, I'll fight ya.

 

 

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…

 

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.)