Wireless Troubleshooting: On the Go

The saying goes, every good engineer has a good set of tools. Sometimes those tools might not be at your disposal at the right time. What do I do? Well if you’re an iPhone user, you can lick your thumb and stick it in the air and see which way the wind is blowing. If you’re an Android user, like me, you have a pretty good set of tools that you can use to do some wireless troubleshooting on the go.

We’ve all been there, right? You are at a public space, or at a customer’s office, or even your kid’s school. You fire up your trusty rusty wireless analysis app and go to town. No? Is it just me? Ok, fine, but I know I’m not the only one who constantly looks up to find antenna locations. Maybe we should have an #ISpyWifi scavenger hunt one of these days, but I digress.

I have a couple of go to apps when I am faced with the challenge (or pleasure) of testing out the wireless at a location when I am sans proper tools (Survey tools, Spectrum analyzer, etc.). They are the Aruba Utilities app from Aruba Networks and the WiFiman app (OK, it is available for iOS as well) from Ubiquiti.

Aruba Utilities App

This app is very robust, especially if you are running or troubleshooting an Aruba wireless network. You have many options within the app such as iPerf, SSH access to the controller, access to the ALE (if using), ping tests, DNS tests, etc.

Multiple options for troubleshooting from the Menu

When the app opens it defaults to the WiFi Monitor screen. This is where you are going to find most of the info you will need for basic troubleshooting. You can see your RSSI level, your data rate, you can perform a ping test, you can check which BSSID your are connected to as well as see the RSSI for neighboring APs. It will also show you channel information and the type of security being used for each BSSID.

WiFi Monitor screen

From this screen you can also filter out the BSSID that you are connected to or just filter out the SSID. This screen also gives a great visualization when you test out roaming. You can check your pings at the top and watch as they drop or continue when you roam to the next AP. You will also see the new channel and the new BSSID you are connected to. I had to do this for a quick test of some roaming areas at a large public venue, and it worked really well. You don’t have to worry about having to screenshot everything either, as there is an option to email yourself the logs. This will produce a screenshot of the latest data as well as a “.csv” output of the data.

WiFiman App

The Wifiman app from Ubiquiti is one that I just started using not too long ago. It is not as robust as the Aruba Utilities app, however, you can still gather enough data from it, to do some basic troubleshooting. The biggest differentiators this app has, is the channel graph screen and the ability to do a speedtest and latency test to a few popular sites.

This app does have the standard list of neighboring APs with RSSI levels and the info for the AP you are connected to, but it can also show you a channel graph. The channel graph will show you what BSSIDs are on which channel and what the relative RSSI strength is. This can help to assist with identifying potential co-channel interference (CCI) and adjacent-channel interference (ACI).

One of the coolest things that I think you can do with this app is have the ability to test latency to some popular apps. This will give you some insight on traffic congestion when trying to reach sites such as: Google, Facebook, or Twitter . You can also do a speedtest and it will save your results so you can have historical data to compare to.

All told these two apps, can give enough data in order to start the troubleshooting process, should you be without your normal tool set. Heck, even when you do have your normal tool set, these would be good apps to use in order to gain insight in to the wireless environment as the client sees it.

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