Making the Wi-Fi connection

Wi-Fi discovery and connection tools aid in WLAN management

Wi-Fi discovery and connection tools have existed since the early days of 802.11. But while many of these tools have their roots in hacker tools like AirCrack, WEPCrack, AirSnort, CoWPatty, and AirSnarf, which were all originally developed to exploit the fundamental weakness in Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), these tools now legitimately embody the client-side user interface elements that help establish essentially every WLAN link.

Wi-Fi discovery and connection tools have existed since the early days of 802.11. But while many of these tools have their roots in hacker tools like AirCrack, WEPCrack, AirSnort, CoWPatty, and AirSnarf, which were all originally developed to exploit the fundamental weakness in Wired Equivalent Privacy, these tools now legitimately embody the client-side user interface elements that help establish essentially every wireless LAN link.


Tools that help find hotspots

How we tested the WLAN products

Archive of Network World tests


Today's commercial and open source discovery and connection tools – as shown in this Clear Choice test of nine software packages, the second in our series of tests homing in on the various layers of WLAN management wares -- range in function from the very basic (take Microsoft's Zero Configuration approach) to robust enough to enable diagnostic use in throughout the enterprise (such as PassMark's WirelessMon and Sandy Road's Wi-Fi Hopper, our Clear Choice winner and runner-up, respectively, in this test).

A good connection manager can complement the functionality of a centralized WLAN management console, providing a view of clients' radio and network parameters not readily available from most enterprise-class WLAN management products today. A network operations person would actually tap into the client (possibly over a remote-control or similar connection) to apply the data gathered by the connection manager. A smaller organization lacking a centralized management console could use one of the more feature-rich tools in place of that console for many troubleshooting activities. (Compare WLAN management products in our Buyer's Guide as well.)

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