WLW039 – Apple Products as WLAN Professional Tools

by | Dec 1, 2010 | Blog

Apple Products as WLAN Professional Tools

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OK, I know… everyone is going to think I’m just sort of Apple Fan Boy. And perhaps that is true. Not that I think Apple does everything right, far from it. But I have learned to appreciate the elegance in their design simplicity.

I like not having to do the dreaded “Backup, FDISK, Format, Load OS, Re-load Apps, reload data” thing every six months or so.

I like not having to deal with viruses and malware on my working machines.

I like the speed and simplicity of moving to a new laptop – mere minutes of my time, not the full-day it used to take in a Windows platform.

I like the ability to quickly move installed apps between machines without resorting to registry edits, and having to re-install from the original disks. (I know they are here somewhere…)

But most of all. I like this these products “just work”.

I also know many of you are hard core into the CLI world, and LIKE to do things your own way, and it rubs you wrong to HAVE TO do things (like iTunes) Apple’s way.

All that being said, this podcast is about how I use Apple products, like an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook laptops to help me in my work as a Wireless LAN Professional.

Let’s start with the biggest, and move to the smaller options


iMac 27”

Big – large screen real estate – desktop – working on processor intensive applications – rendering video – multiple VMs, even on screen side by side.

MacBookPro 15”

My main computer (at least for the next week or so – until I get time to move the ‘magic’ over to the new laptop) is a MacBookPro 15” laptop. This machine has garnered many industry awards – not only for its sleek aluminum uni-body design, but as a fast, intuitive machine to help me get my work completed.

The specs on this machine are  – in order of importance to me…

  • Apple’s OS X operating system
  • 1680 x 1050 High Resolution Screen
  • Intel 2.66 GHz Core i7
  • 500GB Serial ATA Hard Drive – 7200 rpm
  • 8 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 802.11n Wireless NIC

I’ve found this to be a great workhorse, running for weeks at a time without rebooting, a bit slow to ‘sleep’, but fairly fast to wake up and start working again. I run VMware Fusion, and Parallels to also run Windows apps on this machine. I’ve had multiple VMs as well as a full suite of OS X apps running simultaneously – and not been disappointed.

I love the ‘spaces’ feature, that let me quickly move between pre-loaded screens, each app has it’s own dedicated space. (VMs each get their own as well) – And Yes, I do know you can get this type of feature in other OS’s.

My ‘professional’ tools, like AirMagnet, Omnipeek, and Wireshark run very well in a VM environment. In fact, I’ve got much better results, faster processing, and no crashing of apps when running in a Windows 7 VM compared with a ‘real’ dedicated Windows 7 machine.

I have found I don’t use the DVD too much – but sometimes it’s nice to have access to optical drives.

I wish it had more than the two USB ports – wish they were USB 3.0. But overall very very pleased with this computer. It is a big large in my backpack, I did use a MacBookPro 13” for a year or so, and it was quite comparable, but the extra screen real estate more than makes up for the larger size.

MacBookAir 13”

This is going to be my next machine. As soon as I do the little ‘magic’ bit and have it become my ‘main’ machine. You know that magic that happens – one moment your machine moves from the old platform to the new platform.  I have this new MacBookAir 13” ready for the transformation, but I haven’t moved all my files over and had the ‘christening’ yet. Still need some open time to make the move.

This unit is very light weight, much smaller and thinner than the 15” MacBookPro, and doesn’t have the RAM or the big Hard Drive, and really isn’t even close in the CPU department. But… and this is a pretty big deal for me. It has the exact same screen resolution. So everything on-screen that I’m used to will be in the same position.

In my preliminary testing, this computer just ‘feels’ faster. I know the CPU is inferior to the MacBookPro’s – but that fast SSD just makes everything feel faster.

I won’t be able to run multiple VMs – just OS X and one Window 7 VM – but that’s enough for the large majority of the things I need.

There are two major factors in making the move to the smaller, lighter Air – Speed and Size. With the weight and size differences, I can take a 13” MacBookAir and a second 11” MacBookAir in the same space in my backpack.

I normally teach off of a big Dell laptop – that will no longer be needed. I can use the MBA 11” in Bootcamp mode to be my instructor machine, and have my spare ‘main’ machine with me at the same time. Both together weigh less and fit in a smaller space than my single Dell D6400!

MacBookAir 11”

This guy was purchased for a single job – and paid for itself in a couple days of surveying. My main survey machine (a Motion J3400 Tablet) was being used by a client, and I had an additional job drop in my lap. So I went to a local Fry’s – picked up the MBA 11” and within a couple of hours had a sweet survey tool.

The thing is the smallest and lightest survey platform I’ve ever worked on. And fast… nothing else I’ve used is as quick. From dead off – cold booting takes under 12 seconds. Waking up from sleep under 2 seconds. And moving between the Windows 7 Bootcamp, and Mac OS X is about 22 seconds.

I don’t VM this one… I use bootcamp so 100% of the resources can be dedicated to the current OS. Its size allows me to carry it in a unique way, more like a book with the spine vertical. Much easier to carry. (Though any computer starts to get heavy after awhile)

I don’t know if I’d use this as my main machine – not quite enough RAM or Hard Drive space available, but it makes a wonderful backup/spare.

Accessories

An entire suite of professional tools are now available in USB form factor. 802.11n dual-band NICs for surveying and sniffing. As well as Spectrum Analysis in USB as well

Without the option of USB devices, the Macintosh as a platform wouldn’t make any sense.

Link to podcast with Ron Nutter talking about using a Macintosh as a Network Professional’s platform. Moving to Mac.

Software

I run inSSIDer, WiFi Inspector, Wireshark, AirMagnet mobile Suite, and other professional tools in this VM with fantastic results.

iPad

On to the smaller tablet size. I really like my iPad as a portable consumption device. It has 3G so it’s always connected to the Internet. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, GPS, Movies, Games, and most importantly – a fantastic Tech Pub reader.

I wish Apple would allow this as a Wi-Fi enabled tool. But alas, they have stopped all really useful Wi-Fi tools from being developed because of some ‘private API’ issue. I sure hope they resolve it soon.

This would make the ULTIMATE Wireless LAN Professionals tool. Very light, touch screen, hi-res screen. Many people can quickly see how valuable this would be for conducting on-site troubleshooting, surveying, etc.

I’ve developed a 25-page document detailing all the features and screens needed for this ultimate tool – but until Apple releases the ability to support Wi-Fi in iPad apps – it’s just a useless folder of details sitting on my desk.

iPhone

Like it’s larger cousin the iPad – the iPhone also is ham-strung by Apple by not allowing the Private APIs any longer. There were some great tools available. But these have been pulled from the iTunes store. If you were lucky enough to have purchased them earlier (or if you don’t mind JailBreaking your phone) – you’ll have to live without these nice tools.

I wrote an entire blogpost dedicated to the wide variety of networking and wireless tools for this platform. Check it out at WLAN Professionals Portable Toolkit

Another article from Zaib over at WLANBook about iPhone apps. Scanner Apps Banned By Apple.


Thanks for listening.


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