To make my volunteer support tasks easy I carry with me a number of Mac utilities which help to track down various issues that are common in Wi-Fi networks. Weak signals, conflicting channels, dead zones. One of the newest tools in my arsenal is Wifiner on the Mac.
In just a few minutes of walking around a Wi-Fi network in a home or small office you can find the good, the bad, and the ugly signals. How? Think heat map.
If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, a Wifiner generated heat map is it.
The way Wifiner works is both simple and complex. It’s simple to setup and use. Just turn on Wifiner on your Mac notebook (better than lugging an iMac and power cord through the halls, right?) and connect to a nearby Wi-Fi network. Then, just walk around. If you have a floor plan, even better.
What Wifiner does is track signal strength from location to location and map it all out visually. You can see the weak spots, the dead zones, and the hot spots. The app has nearly a dozen heat maps and you can compare them one to another to get a more detailed picture– literally– of your site’s Wi-Fi coverage.
Not only does Wifiner track your Wi-Fi network’s signal, it also conducts speed tests so you can see weak spots or hot spots from a different perspective– actual performance. For the most part, I use Wifiner on home Wi-Fi networks, and small offices where there are multiple Wi-Fi nodes for better coverage.
Wifiner can be used on larger environments with more extensive networks and more Wi-Fi nodes. While a floor plan is not a requirement, I find it helps– even if it is little more than a sketch on paper with dots for the Wi-Fi routers. To be honest, checking Wi-Fin network coverage has always been something of a pain. Wifiner makes it fun– more like following a treasure map to find the good, the bad, and the ugly of a Wi-Fi network.
Any issues? It takes a bit of practice at first; especially to track down Wi-Fi networks, and to use the included heat maps to see where your network’s problems may exist. The price tag is about right considering all you can do, and Wifiner scales easily from a home Wi-Fi network to an office to a building of almost any size.
Nicely done. No negatives. Except… I would love to have an iPhone version. Even a Mac notebook can be cumbersome to carry around.