The minute I saw this application on the internet, I wanted to try it.
Lucky for me I had my new Dell Axim X3i with me because usually
applications like this one require a more powerful WiFi card than the
Ambicom CF card I use with my X5. Actually, because this program
has not been finalized yet and is still in development/testing, it
actually only officially supports a couple of cards including the
embedded WiFi unit on the HP iPAQ H4350 series. Turns out, it will
work on at least one more. While I haven't checked it again any of
my other cards, it does work with the X3i's embedded WiFi unit.
Most people have seen the radar like WiFi scanner
that was recently released. While that is neat, it doesn't
actually show you where the access points are so there isn't a huge
benefit for using it other than just for seeing what access points are
available and their relative power. WiFi Graph is a stronger
solution (in my mind at least), giving a graphical representation every
available access points, their relative power, frequency, SSID and MAC
address. Based on how many access points are in the area, WiFi
Graph can show up to 16 separate graphs on the screen...but that makes
each graph rather little. Six graphs fit well on the screen, and
if for some reason you still have sixteen access points in the area,
WiFi Graph can deal with that too (I'll talk about that a little later).
WiFi Graph basically takes over your wireless
card. You can't really surf while you use WiFi Graph, but if you
are using it you are likely looking for access points. One of the
best applications for this program is war driving (finding access
points). I used it around my house this afternoon, and while some
of the access points I already knew about, because it makes a graph when
it sees an access point, I was actually able to find more of the weaker
access points as well that I don't normally see in the default WiFi
scanners. The cool thing is, if you "lose" the access point and
then "find" it again, WiFi Graph will continue plotting on the same
graph. If you only have three graphs on screen, the inactive ones
will be replaced with the most active, but as access point power
changes, so does the graph display. This is how it can show more
graphs on the screen then there are in the area. When you have a
situation like a building at Microsoft, WiFi Graph will change quite a
bit due to the large number of access points.
While WiFi Graph puts all of its data right into XML
files for parsing. Logs are placed in a special directory in My
Documents, allowing for syncing with your desktop. It logs by MAC
address, so each access point gets it own XML file that primarily
contains the signal strength. Also contained in the log is the
SSDI, if the access point is adhoc, if it is private (encrypted), and
its frequency. If
you quit the application and get back in, it will show you the previous
graphs for an access points. Also listed on the graph is not only
the signal strength from the access point (almost distance but not quite) and the
frequency of the access point, but also the speed of the access point.
This makes it easy to tell which points are 802.11b vs. 802.11g.
While it doesn't say which channel the access point is on, the frequency
is directly related to the channel. Below the graph is a series of
"lights." Really, I am not sure that they tell you that much
except the scan light, which shows when it is scanning.
Again I must note that WiFi Graph is not stable at this
point and/or compatible with every wireless card. This review is
talking about a beta version of the product. In any case, I am
extremely impressed by the product. At the current time the
application is free for download, and to anyone who likes to find WiFi
access points and doesn't mind potentially unstable software, this is a
great download. The XML logging makes it great for easy
integration with a GPS and map application. The application really does some smart things like showing
you the most active access points (graphs), overlaying previous session
data on a reconnect, and showing the speed of the access point.
Assuming the final version works as well for me as this one, I would
recommend that anyone using WiFi look into getting this great
application to learn about the access points all around them.
Click to enlarge