In our world of Wi-Fi troubleshooting, we have a LOT of potential complexity. The 802.11 protocol is not the easiest to understand. (just try reading the 4,000+ pages of the standard sometime).
But a company with a long history of making complex technologies easier to understand and use has helped with their series of tools. (I’ll not go into the history of Fluke to NetAlly here)
These guys are wicked smart, yet have figured out many techniques to bring complex technology down to a level where end-users can access their tools and accomplish some amazing things.
For this series of blog posts on my experiences with NetAlly tools, I’ll try to focus on those tools with Wi-Fi/Wireless capabilities. Since this audience is mainly WLAN Professionals, yet NetAlly also has tools focused solely on wired networking as well.
I’ll use the term NetAlly handheld tool… a generic term for their family of devices that can be used to troubleshoot Wi-Fi. (AirCheck G3, EtherScope nXG, and CyberScope all share software and a hardware base, at least on the Wi-Fi side, so we can lump them together with respect to their Wi-Fi troubleshooting tools.)
Later, in a future post, we’ll talk about the differences between these hardware platforms.
Easy, Well-Known User Interface
With the latest iterations of hardware from NetAlly, they have focused on using an Android operating system. This allows for these handheld tools to be useful for more than just the included apps.
Note: There is even an Appstore for other useful apps you might want on your handheld device.
If you are comfortable with an Android interface with the back, home, and app overview, you’ll feel right at home. If not… it is quite intuitive.
Behind the simple set of icons are some amazingly complex technology and algorithms built into their software. Partially because they have a known set of hardware… they can code their tools to get the most out of the provided hardware.
AutoTest as an Example
We can start with the simple-looking ‘AutoTest’ – after a simple configuration for your specific SSID and PSK, the handheld device runs a series of tests, and collects the information on your Wi-Fi network. This can be viewed directly, in the case of the Wi-Fi engineer using the tool themselves. Or can be easily uploaded to the NetAlly Link-Live service where an off-site engineer can do the Wi-Fi analysis remotely.
Tools for All Levels
NetAlly has built a series of tools, slightly different sets depending on the actual hardware platform, that allow end-users, junior-engineers, or senior-engineers to share the same platform and accomplish what they need for analysis or troubleshooting.
The NetAlly Link-Live service works with any of the NetAlly handheld tools to upload the collected data for remote analysis and viewing. This service is invaluable for “auto”-documenting work when anyone is using the tools. This service is included with any of their tools.
Simple Remote Access/Control
Knowing people may need to access these handheld tools remotely, either in a ‘leave behind’ situation when a sporadic issue is difficult to resolve while on-site, or to ship one of the NetAlly handheld tools to a remote location and have a local employee just plug it in, and then the engineer can log in and control the unit over an IP connection. Or for any in the training business, or to show the interface to customers, you can access the screens and control the unit over a simple VNC connection.
Some examples of complexity made simple…
I’ve enjoyed watching the CTO of NetAlly show off their various products. He can take some amazingly technical issues, and using their software tools, show simple push-here-dummy techniques to get the answer from sometimes complex collected data.
Here are a few of his presentations at #WLPC and Mobility Field Days to keep you busy until my next post on Choosing your NetAlly handheld tool for your toolkit.
Until next time…
NetAlly AirCheck G3 – #WLPC
Enabling Wi-Fi Site Assessments with NetAlly CyberScope – Mobility Field Day
Chief Technology Officer