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Review: Canary Wireless' Hotspotter

Hotspotter helps you locate WiFi networks quickly and easily.

InformationWeek Staff

January 26, 2006

2 Min Read

Do you know if you are within range of a WiFi hotspot right now? If there are several within the area, which ones have the best signals, and which are open, and which are secured? Finding all this with your laptop network discovery tools is painful, and not likely to get you connected any time soon. That's where the Canarywireless Hotspotter steps up.

Canarywireless' Hotspotter is a digital scanner, and what sets it apart from other WiFi scanners is the information it provides. The unit has a single button and an LCD. When the button is pressed, the Hotspotter searches for a WiFi signal, and when it finds one it displays the network name, its strength (indicated by signal strength bars), either "Open" or "Secure," and the broadcast channel. Subsequent presses of the button reinitiate the scan to search for additional hotspots.

I carried the Hotspotter with me on a trip through a shopping mall to check for signal availability and was surprised by the results. While sitting on a bench I discovered 4 different access points. Two of them were indicated as "Secure." One showed two bars and the other four bars of signal strength. Another access point was indicated as "Cloaked" but "Open" with three bars. The fourth access point was shown as "Open" with three bars of strength.

As I walked through the mall I pressed the scan button repeatedly and continued to find access points both secure and open, and with varying signal strengths. While I didn't attempt to connect through any of these networks, it's clear that if I wanted to get online, I could have done so from almost anywhere in the mall.

For a more useful test, I walked around our offices, pushing the scan button in different rooms and different floors. The signal strength indicator showed areas of strong and weak signal strength. Using the Hotspotter after relocating the access points allowed me to even out the signal throughout the office without having to add more access points or signal boosters.

The Hotspotter HS10 sells for $59.95 online at www.canarywireless.com. If you need to fine tune your WiFi environment, this makes a handy site survey tool. If you're just curious about what hotspots are available, you'll find yourself pushing the scan button everywhere you go.

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