★ THE BLOG ★ Ramblings on WiFi & stuff.

Aruba Clarity. 'Cuz Wi-Fi ain't always the problem.

It’s interesting that Aruba showed off “Clarity”, a new feature in its network management product AirWave, at Atmosphere. It’s interesting because it seems that lately there have been discussions about users blaming Wi-Fi for non-Wi-Fi related issues. I even blogged about it myself a few weeks back. And recently, Lee Badman posted the "soon to be famous cocktail napkin" he drew, to explain how wireless issues are more complicated then they appear. When users are connected to Wi-Fi, and they can't get to a webpage, or get an IP address, or that fancy captive portal you spent so much time customizing, the assumption is, “the Wi-Fi’s broke” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. And the user is right… well, as far as they know, or care. And that’s where Clarity comes in.

What Clarity does is offer a window into what may be affecting the wireless user experiencing a problem. Clarity gives you a "heads up" letting you know there are issues with DHCP, or DNS queries, association, and authentication failures, by showing you an overview in its dashboard. Also, it gives you a "real-time" view of a client experience. Maybe it's taking too long for a client to associate to an AP, or the captive portal is not working, and you see DNS issues on the clarity dashboard - insight into what the REAL issue could be.

The fact is many help desk calls about wireless, are not wireless problems. The problems lay elsewhere in the infrastructure. Knowing where to start your troubleshooting helps you find resolution faster. Clarity is another tool in the help desk arsenal to help you get customer complaint resolution quicker, and more efficiently.

But, that's not all. Clarity also offers "Synthetic testing". Essentially, it allows you to simulate user activity on the WLAN, by using an access point as a client. You can then use that simulated client to run tests on the WLAN. If there are service affecting issues you have an opportunity to find them, and fix them, before you actual users arrive.

In a scenario we were shown you would go to the VisualRF tab and select the location you would like to perform the test. You then click on the AP you would like to act as your client and perform tests that simulate a client connecting to the WLAN. This test should expose issues with DHCP, DNS, captive portals, etc.

In theory, this should help predict, or rather, REVEAL problems that could occur once the real clients arrive onto the WLAN. This is what we as WLAN professionals do when we perform validation surveys after a deployment. You do perform validation surveys after all your deployments, right?  It's a very appealing idea to be able to perform tests, maybe even SCHEDULE tests, on a regular basis, to head off those issues at the pass.

This is what I would love to see - a mobile app that can be installed on a client, that can perform those same tests. This would be an improvement to the already great option of testing with an AP or an AM (Air Monitor), but here's the difference - it's an ACTUAL client. It's not an AP, on a ceiling (where there are no clients), with super RX sensitivity. It could be a single-stream mobile device, or 3-stream MacBook Pro, and you can run test AS THE CLIENTS THEMSELVES WOULD. Run test in multiple clients at the same time - like you would see with REAL clients.

Well, Aruba is already working on that. It will initially be an Android only app, that will allow you to perform Clarity tests from the client itself. There is no word on a release date, but I am hopeful that it will come in a timely manner.

At introduction, Clarity will be available only for Aruba controller-based platforms.

Aruba Clarity with real-time monitoring will be available as part of the Airwave 8.2 release coming out in the next few weeks. Synthetic testing will soon follow.

REVIEW: MEE Audio M6 PRO In-Ear Monitors. The $40 Earphones I can't Believe Exist

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 12 seconds. Contains 641 words

Yes, I am aware this has nothing to do with Wi-Fi, BAD, or otherwise, but we Wi-Fi guys (and gals) like to have nice things, don't we? Also, it's good to have some decent "buds" (earbuds) when studying, or working from say, a coffee shop. :-)

A few months back I lost my beloved Shure SE525-CL In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) due to carelessness on my part (for which I have imparted unending flagellation upon myself). I have since been using my Apple EarPods, or my wife's Beats Solo headphones, while I bide my time replacing my lost Shures.

Every now and then I'll do a search on the InterWebs ™ for "best earphones under $100". I've tried a few with poor results. I don't remember exactly how I got around to finding the MEEs, but I'm glad I did.

The first review I found for them was overly effusive, which to me is a dead give-away for not believing it, so I kept looking. After the 4th, or 5th review I was thinking there must be something to these things. So, I checked on Amazon and there they were for $40, in Clear no less (just like my Shures)! I figured for $40 bucks I'd take a chance on these.

Two days later a lovely, smiling, Amazon Prime box arrive with the acquired loot. I promptly opened it and was surprised by the quality of the packaging - it felt very high-end.

I opened the box and was surprised again by the quality of the included items:

  • A very nice carrying case
  • Earbuds (of course)
  • Detachable cables (1 with Mic & volume controls for phone use, and 1 without)
  • A bag of 6 pair of ear tips
  • 1 set of Comply ear tips (that's what I'm using)
  • And a 1/4" headphone adapter for use with stereos and what not.

All this for $40? Yup. So, we have some nice packaging, but how do they sound? Well, they sound like the best $40 earphones I've ever heard. Yeah, that's not much of an assessment, I know, but I'm just passing time here until I can pull the trigger on another set of $500 earphones. Until then, these fit the bill just fine.

If you're like me - not ready to be spending several hundred dollars on Pro IEMs, but still want something that sounds good, then these are a no-brainer. The build quality is better than it should be, and the sound is not only good, but "Sound-Isolating". Yeah, for $40 you get a good set of earphones that block out sound really well.  Not by any fancy noise-cancelling technology, but just good, foamy isolation, from the tips that come in the box.

If I were to describe the sound I would say their bassier than I would like, and the highs are not nearly as smooth as my Shures were. They're more "shrill" in that regard. But, with a little EQ adjustment they sound, for lack of a better word, good.

I primarily use earphones when I am trying to get stuff done, or traveling on an airplane, to block out the noise. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. I have an office, but for me, getting out, finding a secluded corner, putting on my earphones, turning on my Noizio app (for the appropriate amount of thunder & rain), my Film Score and Mozart playlists, helps me focus, and keeps me from being distracted. These earbuds fit the bill for me. Good isolation and good sound.

Look, these WILL NOT be competing with high-end IEMs. They're not gonna beat Shure, Etymotic, or Westone. But, if you're looking for a good pair of earphones for under $100, heck under $50, you can't go wrong with the MEE Audio M6 PRO In-Ear Monitors. 

 

LINKS:

MEE Audio M6 on Amazon $40

Shure SE535-CL Earphones $449

REVIEW: AirTool 1.0

 

I've been beta testing a new app called AirTool from developer Adrian Granados for a few days. It finally went live today, so here is an overview of the app .

What does it does:

  • Select specific channels to perform a pcap on in 2.4/5GHz.
  • Select channel width
  • Capture on ALL 2.4/5GHz channels (hops through channels during pcap.)
  • Open pcap in Wireshark automatically upon stopping capture.
  • Visual indicator in task bar of channel/width

Best of all the app is FREE! 

DOWNLOAD...

Here is a link to make a donation via paypal. Let's help keep independent developers working!
 

REVIEW: Xclaim Xi-3 AP & Harmony App


Video: 9 minutes

Walk-thru of the Xclaim Harmony iOS app for managing your Xclaim APs. I wasn't that impressed, but this is a 1.0.x.x version and I expect improvements to future versions.


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 41 seconds. Contains 538 words

 

Some of my observations:

  • ChannelFly is weird. It almost never chose 1, 6, or 11. And, it changed channels several times an hour on both 2.4 and 5Ghz (actually, more like every few minutes.). I don't see that as a good thing for clients as they have to reconnect every time the channel changes. In theory, I can see that using non-standard channels could work, but changing so frequently will only frustrate users with random disconnects. Here's Ruckus' view on ChannelFly.
  • My 802.11ac iPhone 6 Plus never connected to 5Ghz on this 802.11ac access point. On my office AP, coffee shops, pretty much any AP I connect to, I'm on 5Ghz. But, not on the Xclaim. I still need to troubleshoot that, but it's really odd.
     
  • The Harmony app is really limited. Only basic setup and stats are available. A web interface has apparently been added in the latest AP firmware, but I haven't been able to upgrade. The Xclaim forums says you can reboot the AP, and that the AP checks every 24hrs, and notifies you an update is available. I have yet to see the alert. There is no option to update manually. 
  • Simplicity is a great thing, but sometimes it can go too far. I'm not opposed to keeping it simple, and I hope they can add some more features while still keeping the interface clean, and easy to understand. Also, I'd like to see Ruckus/Xclaim take advantage of the WLAN community to beta test, and give feedback. Seems to me that could have helped a lot with version 1.0. 

The only light on the AP is the one you see. It's either green, or red, and doesn't flash. It's a lightweight, plastic AP, that does not have the "feel" of quality. Also, this is an 802.11ac access point that my 802.11ac device could only connect to on 2.4Ghz.

MY  TAKE: In it's current state I can't recommend these APs. They are too limited in feature set (even compared to consumer products) and I'm not comfortable with the way ChannelFly makes channel decisions. 

My initial thought was to buy the AP, play around with it a bit, and then install it at one of the local coffee shops I frequent. I won't be doing that. I wouldn't feel right installing this for someone. I do believe that with Ruckus behind this they can make a great product, but I think it was put out too soon and feels like a beta product. Their Web site says "Big Wi-Fi" for small business. I'm not sure they are there... yet.

That's an awfully bold claim to make. Right now the reality does not match the hype.

That's an awfully bold claim to make. Right now the reality does not match the hype.

UPDATE: A fellow Tweep made an observation that I missed:

The only thing I can think of regarding this is that these APs are not intended for Enterprise use, but designed to cater to non-enterprise, and hotspot-based businesses. But, again, even consumer-grade WLAN routers support 802.1X.

Just a guess.