New Tool Can Identify Wi-Fi Network Problems

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I vaguely remember reading about a new diagnostic tool for wireless connectivity problems somewhere else, possibly a press release. Anyway, it didn't do nearly as good a job as explaining the tool as this Technology Review article.


If you're running a multi-building Wi-Fi network, this could be the tool for you. The diagnostic system can tell you why traffic slows, what causes signals to drop and even why that certain vice president's laptop keeps getting kicked off the network (the secretary did it, in the library, with a candlestick).


It can even tell you that your network's dropping signals every time some broke grad student nukes a bowl of Ramon noodles in the breakroom. But then again, so could I.


The thus-far nameless system was developed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego to identify problems with the wireless network at the computer science building. The team used 192 traffic-monitoring radios to watch the 40 wireless access points. The radios collected traffic information and the software, called Jigsaw, analyzed the data.


The trick is in the software, which can make assumptions about connectivity, even if the data doesn't give it a complete picture. For instance, the radio might not have record that a packet was sent, but it did record the laptop received a packet. The software then logically assumes a packet must have been sent.


The researchers say it could be the perfect tool for solving that whole citywide Wi-Fi problem. Unfortunately, this tool comes just as many cities are giving up on the idea of a metro-wide wireless network.