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Additional Techie Gifts to Consider This Year [2010 Cool Yule Tools]

2010 Cool Yule Tools Supplemental Reviews

By , Network World
December 07, 2010 11:09 AM ET

Network World - When we publish the annual Cool Yule Tools holiday gift guide, we always have some additional products left over, and some of the “helper elves” decide to finish up what we started. Here are a bunch of additional reviews of tech and tech-related products to consider if you are still looking for some cool holiday gifts.

Controller-Based Wireless LAN Fundamentals, by Cisco Press
Books for the holidays? Absolutely! Real techies love to update their library and always enjoy learning something new. And no one can deny the importance of Cisco’s controller-based WLANs; they do, after all, lead the industry in sales and market share by a wide margin. And they got there without anyone claiming these products are easy to understand and use – they have enormous power and flexibility, but there’s a learning curve on the way to optimal installations.

Cisco Press has always done a great job of producing the books and other materials necessary to make the  most of Cisco technology, and the new volume Controller-Based Wireless LAN Fundamentals continues that tradition. The book opens with a little marketing on the justification for the controller-based approach (which, granted, remains controversial), and then digs into both the CAPWAP protocol that Cisco uses to control access points and the details of 802.11n. There are also chapters on security, network design, Cisco’s unified wireless architecture, troubleshooting, the WCS management platform, and multicast.

This book isn’t a tutorial (it would have received five stars if it had a little more comparative background info); it’s instead designed to present an overview of the key elements in Cisco’s WLAN product strategy. Regardless, it’s very well written, and even non-Cisco-using WLAN professionals will find it interesting and informative. There’s a copy-protected e-book version, which we didn’t review, but the content alone is worth the price of admission for the physical book. Check out the other volumes from Cisco Press as well – there’s something for every networking pro there, and don’t be surprised if your giftee curls up in a corner right after ripping the wrapping off of this one.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars
Price: $54 (physical book, online price), $43.20 (eBook, Adobe DRM), $70.80 (both)
Company Web site
Reviewed by C. J. Mathias

Wi-Spy DBx (device finder directional antenna) and Chanalyzer Pro, by metageek
I’ve always been a big fan of the Wi-Spy family of WLAN spectrum analyzers, used to evaluate interference in Wi-Fi installations, ever since their first 2.4-GHz.-only $99 special (which is still available, by the way, if your gift budget is limited). And Wi-Spy got a good review in the last Network World comparative test of spectrum analyzers. The latest edition of their top-of-the-line dual-band DBx (which we tested with the latest firmware) and the latest release of their Chanalyzer Pro software continue the tradition. The user interface of what was already a very easy-to-use product is much improved with additional functions. The optional “device finder” directional antenna lets you walk around looking for an ever-stronger signal from a suspected interferer, and hopefully finding the offending radiator.

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