I picked up Koingo’s AirRadar utility as part of a bundle of useful utilities that Stack Commerce was selling for a pretty good deal a while back. I don’t normally purchase utilities such as this one, but I look at it as a free bonus for buying a license to Crossover and Paragon. It’s actually pretty useful!
AirRadar scans the airwaves picked up by your wireless card and delivers all kinds of useful information regarding signal strength, noise ratios, encryption, and much more! The average Joe probably won’t use all the features presented, but power users and system administrators will enjoy being able to dial down into the minutiae of WiFi radio engineering.
So far, I’ve used AirRadar to find the clearest channel for my router to broadcast on–which has noticeably improved bandwidth in my crowded apartment complex. Most of the routers–Pace DSL gateways from AT&T (yet another piece of information you can glean from AirRadar)–are clustered around a handful of channels toward the middle of the spectrum, so I just moved my router over to an empty channel and voila! I’ve also learned that there are a lot of unsecured private networks near by–most likely because of a benign ignorance to information security. I’m tempted to access these unsecured networks and drop them a friendly note to let them know how easy it is for an unsavory character to gain access to their computers, but that would technically be illegal (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986). Maybe I should just triangulate the signal and knock on their door instead?
Another cool feature in AirRadar that I haven’t used yet is hotspot mapping. Open the app, start scanning, throw the lappy in the passenger seat, drive around, and soon you’ll have a nice map of all the access points along your route! Granted, only the publicly open hotspots should be disclosed, but a broadcast is a broadcast. Use this feature responsibly!
I’m not entirely sure that an average idiot would want to spend the $10 license fee, especially considering that there are similar applications available for free, but since it was part of a larger deal, it was worth it. If you’re a war driver or a radio aficionado, it might be worth your Hamilton, but I would’ve been just as content letting my router figure out the best channel to broadcast on automatically.