Tag Archives: Wireless Field Day 5

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:


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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.)

Aerohive Throws Hat Into The 802.11ac Ring

Ah, this crazy wireless world we live in. It’s easy to forget that 802.11ac is still not “really” a standard, although we’re getting very close.  It’s also easy to get sparkly-eyed by the 11ac products available now, despite the fact that with the new standard’s promised weird and protracted “wave” planned evolution, 11ac in a couple of years will likely feature many a new AP. But.. let’s talk about the here and now, because we’re here- and it’s now.

Since Ubiquiti announced their 11ac offering in April of this year, many of us have watched as different WLAN vendors have pitched their new 11ac products (and accompanying back stories). There was Motorola, Meraki, Meru,  Cisco, and Aruba. And then there are the not-yet-to announce, like Ruckus,  Juniper, and until today, Aerohive.

Aerohive brings two new APs to the 11ac market, and No Jitter does a nice introduction of the AP-370 (internal antennas) and AP-390 (external antennas) along with Aerohive’s take on how the new units fit into a smooth, take-your-time-and-don’t-fret-it migration plan to full 11ac deployment. Aerohive’s entry into the 11ac market does two things: it both pushes the message of early 11ac adoption but in a less aggressive way than some competitors are going about it, and further delivers the truth that cloud-based networking is both viable and capable of evolving with new WLAN standards. This second point gets some added umph when you consider that Aerohive announced their 11ac APs on the same day that Aruba Networks announced it’s own maiden voyage into cloudy WLAN. (It certainly smells like the WLAN industry is marching towards both faster WLAN and a welcome de-emphasis of controllers, says I.)

It’s a bit curious that Aerohive took so long to let their 11ac cat out of the bag (though I confess to getting a sneak look at the AP-370 under NDA at Wireless Field Day 5) given that Matthew Gast is is both Aerohive’s Director of Product Management and the author of the current Bible du Jur on 11ac. Many of us have come to personally  associate 11ac with Matthew because of his book, his excellent presentations on 11ac, and his willingness to talk with anybody who reaches out to him via social media. (If you think about it, this really isn’t fair to Matthew, the IEEE, Aerohive, or even ourselves!)

For what it’s worth, Matthew’s fellow cloud/11ac evangelists Devin Akin and Andrew Von Nagy recently left Aerohive, and both went to AirTight Networks (yet another cloud WLAN company)- who have yet to announce their own 11ac product.

Here’s What I Want NOW From My Wireless Management System

When it comes to the management and security of wireless networks, I want a lot of things. I want new things, and I want legacy things that aren’t going away to get better. I want slick, I want fast and I want effective. I want powerful, feature-rich, and a say in what features are worth devoting UI resources to. I want it all, baby- and here’s my latest rant on the topic. You’re going to love this.

Before I drop the bomb, lets set the stage.

I had the privilege of hanging out with the fellows from 7signal at the recent Wireless Field Day 5 event, and seeing how they do WLAN RF health characterization,  as well as getting a peek at what AirTight is up to. Being a long-time Cisco wireless customer, my mushy brain cant help but bring everything back to my vendor for comparison; but more on this in just a bit.

In my spare time, I’ve been having more fun than a person should be allowed to with the addicting Wi-Fi Pineapple (along with some tricks from the much-revered BackTrack Linux.) And at work, we’re gearing up for thousands of students to flood back into the dorms, which means Rogue Hunting Season is neigh. Put all this together and feed it into the “It’s Easy For Me To Demand Things From Other People That I Can’t Do” engine, and out pops the following wireless support and security gem:

Wouldn’t it be cool if…

  • You could take one of your in-service APs and turn it into a virtual client that associates with other APs? (stay with me, I know you’ve heard this part before)
  • Synthetic testing with said virtual client was possible: do my DHCP and RADIUS servers work? Can I reach the Internet? Can I reach other locations, from each of my SSIDs?
  • The virtual client AP could report on nearby rogue networks, after I set a min threshold value, (getting closer to the money shot) and tell- Is the SSID open or protected?
  • My virtual client could associate to the open SSIDs, and report back what the public IP is of the rogue?  (I could find it then through MAC or ARP tables if on my own network- doesn’t need to be automated)
  • Here’s the LAGNIAPPE, baby- If the rogue SSID was encrypted, I’d like my virtual client to execute Aircrack-NG, Reaver, Fern, or whatever. Somehow, the power of my management system harnessed to this virtual client/pen testing-mode AP would give me a big-assed, infinite dictionary from hell and lots of power to crack. Then I could go back to the “find the public IP” step, which to me is the ultimate and definitive “game over” versus a lot of wireside detection systems that are so-so with their success rates.

I know there are lots of ways to do “wireless support”, but I am enamored with the force-multiplying capabilities of a well-constructed virtual client mode for installed APs (as I imagine them working). I’ve been beating the drum for Cisco to consider basic virtual client functionality for years, to no avail.

But now I want even more- I want a “virtual client AP meets BackTrack Linux, and they have offspring” mode.

I’m not asking for too much, am I?

Get To Know MetaGeek, Look at Your WLAN As You Really Should

MetaGeek is one of those companies you love crossing paths with. Their staff have titles like Hacker, Geek, Firefighter, and so on. Everyone from MetaGeek I’ve ever met, be it at events like Interop or more recently Wireless Field Day 5, speaks with pride and openness. Their presentations and pitches never feel rehearsed, and you know that this is a company made up of believers in MetagGeek’s products and future. And- they always have that “Idaho Vibe” that you gotta love, once you know how to recognize it.

At Field Day 5, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Woerz and Stoney Tuckness, as they demoed the MetaGeek line, talked about some of the decisions that went into the specifics of their approaches, and queried us Field Day delegates  about what we would like to see in future products and feature sets. Chris and Stoney work fast building rapport with the crowd, and it’s obvious that those in the room adore the MetaGeek line.

About MetaGeek’s Offerings

I’ve used the original Wi-Spy, the freebie InSSIDer on every platform that will run it, and Eye PA in my wireless networking duties. At Field Day, Stoney proclaimed that MetaGeek likes to provide “kick ass visualizations”, and I can attest that they hit that target. Whether you want to see simple spectral views on what’s happening in Wi-Fi’s 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, a unique, powerful visual front-end to 802.11 packet capture, or advanced interference detection integrated with Cisco’s respected CleanAir, MetaGeek has you covered. Every good WLAN engineer wants there to be no mystery to what’s going on with the RF in their environments, and Metegeek nicely demystifies the complex.

Cool, fairly-priced tools are one thing, but then there’s general knowledge about wireless networking. I’m guessing  a fair number of MetaGeek customers aren’t aware of the online forums the company provides. Here you’llfind  a wide range of information on WLAN in general, and lots of tips on using MetaGeek’s stuff. It’s worth the visit.

As the 802.11ac clouds gather over the WLAN landscape, things in the RF domain are about to get much busier, and more complicated. Understanding what’s going on truly benefits from seeing  what your RF “looks” like through the lens of good tools. If you have no MetaGeeks’ utilities in your toolbox, you’re missing out on powerful magic at a fair price.

What Meru and Xirrus Need to Do

I’m not a big deal, but I know a guy who is. And- I have pulled off San Jose’s most brazen balloon theft. These two facts combined qualify me to advise multi-national wireless networking companies on communications strategies. Here’s my advice for Meru and Xirrus, after visiting with both companies for Wireless Field Day 5.

Both companies are headed by obviously intelligent technologists who are passionate about their product lines. Each has well-spoken customers willing to testify on the effectiveness of their gear. Both are still in business in a pretty competitive space, and hoping to grow their shares of the WLAN market. And both have unique technical stories that set them apart from their industry peers.

And here is the problem.

For years, I’ve listened to a number of briefings with Meru and Xirrus and always walked away with a nagging sense that each is actually a bit uncomfortable talking about their  “specialness” to any depth when dealing with Classically Trained WLAN Types. Xirrus does the array thing, and Meru rocks the single-channel architecture groove. Both companies want to talk about their bigger stories, but many of us don’t feel satisfied with terse “trust us, it works” explanations on features that are radically different from industry norms. So… briefings grind to a halt because tech-analysts want to know why we should accept that these companies have actually found a different way to do things. But the companies’ speakers obviously don’t want to spend their camera time on these years-controversial details, and neither party quite feels great at the end of the experience.

And here’s the fix.

There’s certainly a fine line between disclosing intellectual property and being open with those asking pointed questions about your technology. But that line needs to be walked when you build product lines on unique technical approaches. Sam Clements and Keith Parsons are well within their professional purview to challenge Xirrus on how they can pack so many antennas into such a little box without them creaming each other, especially when other vendors sometimes bash Xirrus for their designs. And Chis Lyttle is proper in asking a few times for more info on Meru’s “special sauce” even if it slows down Meru’s onboarding demo. Tech people want to hear what tech people want to hear, and neither company tends to want to get into the nitty gritty that would get us all to shut up already and let them get our full attention on their latest announcements.

Each company should embrace the living hell out of their uniqueness. Lead with it, don’t tap-dance around it. Stick it in our faces with good, digestible white papers and diagrams that clear up the mysteries once and for all without giving away IP. That way, when we all get together again, Xirrus and Meru can not only deliver the Message of the Day, but actually get us to listen to it instead of badgering them for information on the little things they do that many of us have been trying to comprehend for years.

We’d all be better for it, especially Meru and Xirrus.

Wireless Is So Not About Wireless Networking Anymore

Lee you fool, you’ve gone mad. How can wireless not be “about” wireless? 

Before you run off to another blog, let me clarify: today, as we stand in THIS SPOT in the wireless networking universe, never has the WLAN paradigm been so complicated. Yeah, we still need to get APs out there and provide access to wireless clients, but sitting through the sessions at Wireless Field Day 5 has me waxing philosophical. 

Like frogs in a pot, we’ve all been slowly boiling in increasingly complex waters over the last few wireless years, and it’s easy to not notice that it’s happening. Having sat through excellent sessions with WLAN vendors (Aerohive, AirTight, and Motorola- with Xirrus and Meru on deck) and toolmakers (Fluke Networks, MetaGeek, and WildPackets- with 7Signal later today), it’s safe to say that to be in the wireless game today means being more diversified in skills and general IT sensibility than ever before. 

As the 11ac tide starts to rise, we’re all faced with decisions:

  • When do we start taking our own networks to 11ac?
  • When do advise our customers to move to 11ac?
  • Is moving to 11ac a given for everyone?
  • Is 11ac the juncture where we consider changing WLAN vendors?
  • Is 11ac the juncture where we look more at cloud-managed options?”

These are easy enough to grasp, and behind each of these questions there are other questions regarding the states of our installed network wiring, what generation switches we’re running, what version of PoE we’re on, etc. But these issues are rather pedestrian compared to what else is afoot right now under the umbrella heading of “wireless networking”.

While marketing departments still like to lead with “we have the best APs! Look how freakin’ fast we are!”, there is a lot more to consider as our WLANs modernize.

Along with the radio technology and bandwidth sides of 11ac, we’re facing an onslaught of factors to grapple with- like:

  • a slew of analytical capabilities and ways to use that data
  • device onboarding that can be as nuanced as your mind can dream up
  • the ability to assign access privileges to device types, user types, application types, locations, times of day, and combinations of any and all of these
  •  application visibility and taking action on what you see
  • the system administration of complicated management systems that frequently fall on WLAN types (somebody has to keep them up)
  • the increased number of bugs that come with the floodwaters of new features
  • a procession of ancillary services and servers that don’t directly have anything to do with client devices talking to APs, yet each is part of the bigger picture

You can make the point that none of these really have anything to do with 11ac per se and are better suited for policy and staffing discussions, but here are my counter points to that:

  • To “go” to 11ac, you likely have to upgrade code on controllers, management systems, or whatever magic is afoot in cloudland
  • When you upgrade, you get lots and lots of features that you didn’t ask for- you’re already buying them (unless they take stand-alone licensing, which is its own story in inconstancy across vendors)
  • The more features you use, the more you have to troubloeshoot, debug, define policy for, educate users and support staff on, and watch over for issues
  • The ancillary services in use for our WLANs frequently take more effort to keep on the rails than the wireless environment itself does
  • Almost any part of the environment has the ability to convince users that the WLAN itself is borked, when the problem may actually be off in the hinterlands of the ecosystem 

Put it all another way- 11ac makes WLAN more complicated, but the accompanying backdrops and backstories of our networks are also getting dizzyingly busier. So busy in fact that they can make talking about 11ac itself seem like the easy part of the equation.

I’m not bitching, mind you- but just taking note. These are complicated times for wireless networkers, and sometimes “wireless” really has nothing to do with wireless.


The Little Adapter That Could… WildPackets Gives Us First 11ac Capture/Decode


As we all sail into the 802.11ac years, we’re getting antsy about tools that will support this rather complicated and nuanced standard.  How do you support and troubleshoot an environment made up of clients each using any one of dozens of permutations of spatial stream counts, data rates, and channel widths in wildly dynamic environments?

There has been a fair amount of buzz around early-shipping 11ac access points and clients with lots of philosophical buzz about uplinks, PoE requirements, and such. But not so much of substance has been said on the “and here’s how you’ll troubleshoot it” front. Here at Wireless Field Day 5, we spent Day 1 with a couple of network tool-makers and got perspective on where Fluke Networks and WildPackets are both going for 11ac support. Each sessions were great, with more to follow on Fluke Networks in another blog. Here’s what went down at WIldPackets.

The short of it: Wild Packets provided delegates with a nifty little USB adapter that can do legitimate 802.11ac packet analysis on their latest (7.5) OmniPeek.

I recently wrote about 11ac troubleshooting and WIldPackets a bit in my Network Computing blog, and it was great to have the opportunity to sit in WIld Packets’ conference room and get a demonstration from a master- Director of Product Marketing Jay Botelho.

Each Field Day Delegate was outfitted with the Linksys AE6000 mini USB adapter, the custom WildPackets driver that makes it all work with the all-important promiscous mode capabilities, and an eval copy of the latest OmniPeek. From there, Botelho showed the process of 11ac support with OmniPeek, discussed the challenges of 11ac when tackled at the packet level, and got the delegates each equipped to do their own captures.

Fellow delegate (and Wireless Jedi) Keith Parsons documented the process for getting this arrangement to work on a Mac laptop running Parallels- a very good read.