AirMagnet Duo a/b Wireless Laptop Analyzer

Similar to their popular handheld and laptop-based analyzers, AirMagnet’s newly-released
Duo a/b Laptop Analyzer
offers functions such as WLAN administration, installation surveying, security
assessments, connection troubleshooting, performance management and operational support
functions. The big difference, however, is that the Duo a/b includes support
for 5GHz 802.11a in addition to 2.4GHz 802.11b networks.

The AirMagnet Duo a/b includes software that you install on a laptop and a
PC Card NIC, the Netgear
WAB501 Dual Band Wireless Adapter
. The price of $3,495 includes the software,
the radio card and one year of support and software upgrades.

A definite enhancement of the AirMagnet Duo a/b over older
AirMagnet analyzers
is that you can now use one device to perform site surveys,
security assessments and troubleshooting tasks on wireless LANs using both 802.11a
and 802.11b. A single unit for both technologies makes a lot of sense with the
growing number of companies and public hotspots deploying 802.11a/b networks.
The Duo a/b displays all fourteen 802.11b channels and twelve 802.11a channels
within a single screen. This includes all bands worldwide, not just in North
America.

Another improvement is the addition of an interface with a global positiong
system (GPS) for tying location information (latitude and
longitude) to signal measurements. This certainly eases the creation of radio
frequency (RF) site survey security assessment reports because of the ability
to pin point applicable pertinent data. A problem, however, is that GPS signals
are often too weak indoors, which limits the use of the GPS function to outdoor
site surveys.

As with their existing 802.11b laptop analyzer, AirMagnet has made good use
of screen real estate when presenting information, such as signal strength within
each channel, noise power, access point details, etc. The Duo a/b unit offers
an option of displaying 802.11a only, 802.11b only, or both technologies at
the same time, depending on the type of network you’re analyzing. The user interface
enables the viewing of up to six user-defined charts simultaneously, with the
ability to drill down for more detailed information.

The Duo a/b contains many security auditing features and alarms, which has
always been a strength of AirMagnet. The unit sets off custom alarms that signify
an important event occurring, such as the identification of a rogue access point
or deviation from security policies. The Duo a/b does a good job of detecting
someone spoofing a MAC Address or causing a denial of service attack. You can
record all information and play it back later, enabling you to see a variety
of parameters that triggered an alarm.

In order to assist in tuning the wireless LAN for optimum performance, the
Duo a/b identifies hidden node problems, excessive roaming and access point
utilization. For example, the discovering of hidden nodes can prompt you to
implement request-to-send
/ clear-to-send
(RTS / CTS) functions.

To date, the AirMagnet Duo a/b is only available for laptops; it would be really
nice to have this in a handheld unit.

As with other AirMagnet products, the Duo a/b focuses more on protocol analysis
than RF spectrum analysis. The displays include signal strengths for each 802.11a
and 802.11b channel, however, which is somewhat of a crude spectrum analyzer.
This provides enough information to assess whether there is significant RF interference
present.

Installation of the Laptop Analyzer was very easy. You simply insert the CD
in the drive and the Netgear radio NIC in an open PC Card slot, then follow
straight-forward installation instructions. The AirMagnet Duo a/b runs on Windows
XP or Windows 2000.

If you want to evaluate Laptop Analyzer before spending any money, download
a product demonstration.

Jim Geier provides independent consulting services to companies
developing and deploying wireless network solutions. He is the author of the
book,
Wireless LANs
and offers workshops
on deploying wireless LANs.

Join Jim for discussions as he answers questions in the 802.11 Planet Forums.

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