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Wireless Networking Toys Hardware Technology

WiFi Seeker, Finder, Detector Roundup 168

Posted by timothy
from the beat-me-to-it dept.
captainJam points to this review at handtops.com of five reasonably priced hardware WiFi finders. A snippet: "If you're not using a WiFi enabled PDA, you either have to turn on your handtop or laptop, or wake it from standby just to check if there's a network in the area. While a WiFi Finder / Seeker won't make a connection out of thin air, it will conveniently tell you whether there is a WiFi network in the area."
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WiFi Seeker, Finder, Detector Roundup

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  • by Linuxathome (242573) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:03AM (#10940490) Homepage Journal
    You know WiFe technology has really been commoditized and has hit the mainstream when Home Depot [homedepot.com] is selling the stuff. I wouldn't be surprised now to see them stock these WiFi detectors, a great tool for the homeowner who wants to optimize his/her home network. They sell meters for just about every other wired products (RJ11, RJ45, etc.)
  • Re:Application? (Score:4, Informative)

    by revscat (35618) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:06AM (#10940502) Journal
    Wardriving isn't illegal. I had one of these when I went to San Francisco and used it to tell which restaurants/cafes/coffee shops had free wifi access. Sometimes they advertised it on the window, sometimes they didn't. If I got a ping I at least knew I was on the right track.

    Accessing a network you don't have permission to access is illegal (and, frankly, immoral). I never once did that, even though I very well could have.

  • by eeg3 (785382) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:06AM (#10940504) Homepage
    I got it from ThinkGeek [thinkgeek.com]... it was reasonably priced (Only $25). It's very well designed, and it's pretty compact.

    While it wasn't the #1 in the comparison, i'd recommend it to anyone.
  • encrypted? (Score:5, Informative)

    by VE3ECM (818278) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:06AM (#10940505)
    Well, only one [canarywireless.com] of the devices is able to detect if a node is running encryption.

    At about 2X the cost of the cheapest one (50 vs. 25 bucks), it's easily worth the expense.

    I dunno about you, but the amount of time it would take me to get my laptop out of my bag, fire it up, and try to connect isn't minor.

    The ability to show if I'm wasting my time or not is worth the extra 25 bucks.

  • Re:Application? (Score:5, Informative)

    by aaza (635147) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:08AM (#10940508)
    1. "Hmmm, I wonder how far I can get from the office, and still be connected to the network..."

    2. "I wonder if someone else has a WiFi connection in my appartment block that is causing problems with my laptop connection to my home network" (do they interfere? Or can you just choose which to connect to?)

    3. "Does this library have WiFi?" (Yeah, I know. Ask at the desk. But what kind of self-respecting geek asks, when he/she can find out for him/herself?)

    Laugh. It's funny.

  • RTFA (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:09AM (#10940513)
    If you took the time to actually read the WHOLE article, you'd see that the last device DOES tell you if the AP is open or not.

    Nice karma whoring.

  • Re:time (Score:3, Informative)

    by way2trivial (601132) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:10AM (#10940518) Homepage Journal
    re-RTFA, the canary wireless one does tell you if it's open or encrypted.
  • Hm.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by kaitou (789825) <webmaster@ani[ ]lobe.com ['meg' in gap]> on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:10AM (#10940519) Homepage
    That sort of thing would probably be pretty useless here in NYC.

    The problem is, that a lot of networks -seem- open, but require a login once you are connected, and around here, you are never far from a signal, so I just never found it worthwhile to plunk down the $30 or so they ask for them.

    The only one of them that I find interesting is the Canary one, which actualy has an LCD that shows you the SSID of the network. But I am not sure it's worth the $50 to me, but it's a much better value then any of the "if the light blinks, you got WiFi" ones.
  • Re:time (Score:4, Informative)

    by saitoh (589746) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:13AM (#10940527) Homepage
    Ever go sniffing in places that are... well, less then suitable to carry around a laptop (or conceil one while sniffing)?

    No, these don't tell you if you can connect, but it at least brings us one step closer to wether there is a network at all.
  • Re:time (Score:3, Informative)

    by wpc4 (169892) <wpc4&cynical,us> on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:36AM (#10940605) Homepage Journal
    Well, as the article says the Canary device does indeed detect SID/Channel as well as if WEP is enabled.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:50AM (#10940645)
    yeah, I have tried these gizmos and the cheaper ones are all deaf as a post, a waste of money

    mod this up

  • Re:Laziness (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:01AM (#10940865)
    I've actually done that before. The only problems you can run into is battery life. I use NetStumbler http://www.netstumbler.com/ [netstumbler.com], put it into the auidble mode, put my laptop into power-save mode so it doesn't completely destroy the battery, and leave it in its case. It can be a hassle, but if it isn't something you do too often it's not too bad.
  • by Yaztromo (655250) <.moc.cam. .ta. .omortzay.> on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:02AM (#10940866) Homepage Journal
    which phone?

    Well, first off I'm in Canada, so the carrier is probably going to differ from your available choices (as I'm assuming based on your selection of Sprint that you're in the US).

    Secondly, I'm currently lookig at the Sony Ericsson T610. From my limited research thus far it appears to be less expensive than a lot of other Bluetooth-enabled phones, and will sync via iSync with my PowerBook.

    I would prefer to be able to get a phone without a built-in camera, but most of the current crop of Bluetooth-enabled phones have one.

    However, being a primarily data guy, I'm fairly new to the world of cell phones. I've never owned one, and really don't want people calling me wherever I might be. I'm just not tied to the telephone like some many other people in this day and age. So what I'll probably end up doing is going to a cellular retailler and grilling them to try to find the best phone and plan to fit my needs.

    With all that said, based on my own research I'm thinking of going with Fido here in Canada, as they have a $50 unlimited data plan, whereas all the other providers have data plans that are more expensive. One of my concerns is to not pay an arm and a leg each month, but I also need to be able to do more than just check my e-mail (in fact, my primary need as a developer will be CVS access. As evil as it is, I can see myself starting to use -z9 :) ).

    Yaz.

  • by fmaxwell (249001) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:04AM (#10940872) Homepage Journal
    So we pulled out our Smart Id WiFi detector, purchased at ThinkGeek and proceeded to walk the streets, laptops in backpacks, Wifi detector in hand.

    Lo and behold, a few blocks from the hotel we found our first wifi hotspot, only to find it was secure. We walked on only to find another secure hotspot. After walking the French Quarter for the next 2 hours we had found several hotspots, but none that we could tap into. Now we realized that we really should have been partying.

    Why can't someone build a WiFi detector that finds the hotspot, flashes if its open and blinks if it can be subscribed to?


    From the article:
    Out in the field, the HS10 works very well. If any networks are found, it stops scanning and then scrolls the SID / name, its strength, whether it is encrypted or open and the channel the network is on. Pressing the button again will continue scanning.


    No other WiFi finder gives you this much information. Knowing whether there are any open networks in the area can save you from powering up / waking up your handtop/laptop, only to find out the network is encrypted. Detection is quick and range is above par, from 300-610 feet.
    The only thing that seems to be missing is detection of whether the network is locked down by MAC address. Isn't the device described above approximately what you are looking for?
  • by GekkePrutser (548776) on Monday November 29, 2004 @05:01AM (#10941235)
    The article says that it couldn't test the original Kensington finder, but that they only heard bad news about it. This is true according to my experiences.

    I've got one myself, bought it about a year ago in a typical airport impulse purchase :-) This is the grey-metallic creditcard-sized one with 3 lights. Unfortunately it sucks, the lights are way too dim to be seen in any sunlight and the button is so weak it gets pressed in your pocket and wastes battery power. Besides that it detects any bluetooth phone as well and doesn't mention the difference (so it seems WiFi is detected).

    I've also seen situations where I was able to get a WiFi connection on my laptop and the finder showed none, and the other way around (probably because it detected a bluetooth signal). I can't recommend it at all!

    Just my 2 cents :-)
  • Re:time (Score:5, Informative)

    by IO ERROR (128968) <error@NosPAm.ioerror.us> on Monday November 29, 2004 @07:25AM (#10941551) Homepage Journal
    Ever go sniffing in places that are... well, less then suitable to carry around a laptop (or conceil one while sniffing)?

    Oh yes. I just keep the laptop running while inside its nice leather carrying case. I use Kismet [kismetwireless.net] and it will tell me the SSID, MAC address, and GPS coordinates so I can find it again later.

  • Time Locating WiFi? (Score:3, Informative)

    by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew AT zhrodague DOT net> on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:52PM (#10944063) Homepage Journal
    You could also use our AvantGo [wifimaps.com] channel for WiFiMaps.com [wifimaps.com] -- even on your PDA, or your cell phone. Slightly more portable than opening up your laptop.

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