WLAN Branches Out - Page 3

MetaGeek Chanalyzer 3.0 for Wi-Spy 2.4x

Wireless administrators looking to get their feet wet with SA in the 2.4GHz band-either to perform simple or sporadic spot checks or as a technology pilot before investing in larger-scale solutions such as AirDefense Enterprise-should check out MetaGeek's affordable Chanalyzer and Wi-Spy 2.4x combination pack.

For just $399-a significant cost savings over AirMagnet's laptop-based Spectrum Analyzer-MetaGeek provides the latest version (3.0) of its Chanalyzer software plus the USB-connected Wi-Spy 2.4x adapter needed to analyze spectrum.

During my tests of the product, installation was a snap-the only prerequisite was a machine running Windows (2000, XP or Vista) with .Net Framework 2.0. What's more, since MetaGeek has opened its adapter to third-party extension, additional applications are available (VisiWave, EaKiu and Spectrum-Tools) that bring Wi-Spy's detection features to Mac- or Linux-based hosts as well.

Chanalyzer offers three different views of the spectrum. The Spectral View shows noise over time in a waterfall view-with a view of the present at the bottom of the product's interface, the beginning of the analysis session at the top and an adjustable time slice in between. Chanalyzer also serves up a Topographic View, which aggregates the whole of the interference detected during the analysis session into a single display that shows overall use of the spectrum. The Planar View shows the current, average and maximum amplitudes against their frequency.

All these views can be segregated by frequency, so you can easily decipher which channels (either Wi-Fi or Zigbee) would be affected by the interference the product detects. The software's time slider bar allowed me to look at the different views at specific times throughout the recording session. The product's Channel Report then takes all the collected information and assigns a performance grade to each channel in the 2.4GHz band, based on the detected duty cycle and average floor and peak (measured in dBm). This score gave me a clearer understanding of the impact that detected radio- frequency interference would have on my wireless network.

Chanalyzer 3.0 offers device signatures for a handful of technologies and specific devices. I could drag one of these signatures onto the product's Topographic View and identify the source of the spectral interference by the shape of its curve. For instance, the spectral signature of an 802.11b Wi-Fi network differs significantly from a 802.11n network (or a Kenmore microwave oven, for that matter).

The combination of the Chanalyzer software and Wi-Spy hardware is not as robust or extensible as their more expensive brethren are. For instance, the pair lacks 5GHz analysis capabilities and does not offer an option for correlating the spectral information with additional Wi-Fi-specific analysis from another tool. However, the price-and the open development architecture-may make this the right answer for small companies looking for an additional tool in the belt or large companies looking to develop a specific platform that requires spectrum analytics.