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Canary Wireless Digital Hotspotter Reviewed

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the polymorphously-perverse dept.

Wireless Networking 87

The postman brought me a review sample last week of what is without doubt the best thing to hit my keychain in ... well, since keys. It's Canary Wireless's Digital Hotspotter, a Wi-Fi signal finder which, despite a few quirks, is the best (and most sophisticated) of the current crop of cheap hand-held detectors. Read on for my review of the device, which was also mentioned in this detector round-up linked to last month.

First, to clear up a misconception about Wi-Fi detectors in general: though they can be used to find and (usually illegally) hop onto someone else's wireless connection, that's not their only use. It's a pet peeve of mine to see technology vilified because it can be put to nefarious or even semi-nefarious use; in the case of hand-held wireless detectors, there are plenty of "non-infringing uses" to which they can be put. Troubleshooting in a house or office is one (wireless base station manufacturers sometimes claim coverage ranges that can charitably be called optimistic -- and even if their numbers represent a legitimate best guess, it seems that no house outside of Stepford is truly typical); making sure that your signal isn't reaching the general public (or is reaching the general public, depending on your inclinations and your ISP's Terms of Service) is another good use; so is finding which coffee shops have both drinks and wireless access. There's also counter-cracker vigilance -- making sure no one has installed a wireless router on your network without your permission.

On several cross-country trips, I've happily used an earlier-generation Wi-Fi finder -- Smart ID's WFS-1 -- to park intelligently at Flying J truckstops all over the United States; though hundreds of Flying J locations are set up as (subscription-based) wireless hotspots, the signal coverage is often haphazard, and it's more economical of time and battery life to spend a few minutes walking around with a hand-sized device than to keep trying new parking spots and consulting the signal meter on a laptop. Even if you have an 802.11-equipped handheld, offloading the task of signal detection (and, if you can, keeping 802.11 off unless there's a connection available) will save your battery a few percentage points.

My first impressions of the device were positive. It arrived in the hated plastic-clamshell packaging, but -- unlike some products -- didn't require a utility knife or dueling pliers to extract. The instructions are blessedly simple, and all fit on the back of the package insert, about the size of a 3x5 index card. (This insert opens up, and I expected to find inside the usual birdseed barrage of legal flummery and useless warnings, right down to "Don't feed this device to babies" -- all nicely absent. Simple product, simple instructions: magic.) The device is a medium grey, with the display located just below the centerline and its lone button in the lower left-hand corner. The required pair of AAA batteries is supplied in the package. (AAAs are nice -- much nicer than fiddly button cells at least; a single AA would be even better, though.)

Canary's device is the third Wi-Fi detector I've tried; Kensington's first-generation key-fob device was the first, but that one has forfeited its place in my toolkit: compared to the others, it is neither as sensitive nor as discriminating in the signals it picks up (neon lights all seem to set it off) and has a less informative display to boot, just three LEDs. (And it seemed the only way I could get all the LEDs to light strongly was to place the thing directly on top of a wireless router.)

Smart ID's four-LED meter may not seem a huge leap up from that, but compared to Kensington's, the WFS-1 is both more sensitive and more directional in its pickup, so those four LEDs actually convey more than a third more information than the Kensington's three. The WFS's more pronounced directionality (even compared to the Canary unit) and simpler display means it still has an important adjunct role for quickly finding the source of a signal.

One thing to note: Canary's take on the Wi-Fi detector, at 4.5 ounces, is the chunkiest one I've seen; it's solid-feeling (read: "surprisingly hefty") and squat -- about twice as thick as Smart ID's, and much fatter than Kensington's. The back is curved, though, making it comfortable to hold, if not to jam in a jeans pocket, and it's only about two inches tall.

To use the Hotspotter, there are only two things you need to know: 1) Hit the little grey button to scan for local wireless networks; if one is located, the screen will display in sequence four pieces of information: the network name, a signal-strength readout (one to four bars), "Secure" or "Open" to indicate whether the signal is encrypted, and the channel number of the detected signal. 2) To scan for more networks, hit the button again. (So it's really more like one and a half things.) The initial scan takes 8-10 seconds; subsequent ones are much faster.

Canary claims the Hotspotter should work up to about 200 feet (with a clear line of site, outdoors); I can confirm that it works to at least nearly that distance with the router in our house, but sight lines and property lines conspire to prevent me from reaching the full 200 feet.

I'm in Seattle's Capital Hill neighborhood at the moment, a target-rich environment if ever one was, and I took the Hotspotter along on a walk to Victrola, a very nice wireless-equipped coffee shop down the street, to see what it said about the neighborhood.

The answer is unsurprising, but something to keep in mind if you'd like your own network to be used only by you: of the 33 unique networks I noted in a 6-block stroll, fully 16 of them were shown as "open" by the Hotspotter. (That doesn't necessarily mean they're wide open, though; see below.) 11 of the networks I encountered displayed common default SSIDs (Linksys, Netgear, Apple Net, and the hot-selling "default"), which with a little googling can yield default admin-interface IP addresses and passwords. While some of the nominally open networks might be employing MAC-based security, I think it would be a conservative bet that well over half of them are simply open to all comers. Is yours?

(There may have been more base stations than the ones I could distinguish, because the coverage clouds overlap so much; I discarded some of the discovered networks as probable duplicates. By walking fast, I may also have missed some in the thickest sections.)

I've come up with only a few niggling objections to the device -- just quirks, really, but they're worth laying out:

First quirk: For some reason, on its initial scan (that is, on being powered up from the Off state), the Canary device usually fails to detect the house network, though scanning again immediately has always found it. This is a trivial point, for one big reason: you'll have to hit the scan button again anyhow to scan for multiple networks.

The second quirk is one I hope is fixed on the Mark II version: the absence of a backlight. Unlike the other contenders in this niche, all of which are based on LED displays, the Hotspotter has a 12-character LCD readout, which is what lets it display so much information in the first place. However, the display is difficult to read in anything but bright light, and useless in actual dark. An internal LED with its own button (or an EL backlight like Timex's Indiglo) would be a great improvement.

Lack of a backlight aside, the scrolling display requires more attention than the one-dimensional LED graphs of the competitors -- a fair trade-off for the additional information to be gleaned. However, it doesn't have to be a trade-off at all: I wish the signal strength aspect of the display was displayed on dedicated LEDs either instead of, or in addition to, the scrolling LCD display.

One more quibble, though it's getting close to looking a gift horse in the mouth: this detector will say whether a particular wireless signal is encrypted, but it can't say whether it's protected by other means. If you use MAC-based authentication, for instance (but not WEP), the signal would still show up as "open." It would be more accurate to label such signals "unencrypted" or "no crypto" rather than "open."

In short, the Hotspotter is my new favorite portable Wi-Fi finder, and handily tops the features of the competition: the WFS-1's stronger directionality and bright LEDs can't beat network identification and encryption status, so Canary's device moves up in line. It works well, is useful for multiple purposes, and provides all the functionality it's reasonable to expect from a $50 device the size of a nice piece of fudge. (And of course the great thing about favorites sometimes is waiting for them to be toppled.)

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My God (0, Troll)

CodeWanker (534624) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149205)

Does the Bush White House know about this? "Every Hotspot is a terrorist Hotspot."

Re:My God (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149311)

Yes, that is why the link is https, to protect our anonymity. I cannot wait to see how ssl compunds the slashdot effect!

Re:My God (1)

JaffaKREE (766802) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150406)

How does "Service unavailable" sound ?

Re:My God (1)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150649)

it sounds secure!

Canary Wireless Digital Hotspotter mini-review (5, Informative)

omahajim (723760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149237)

Already posted my review a couple weeks ago as a comment in the original story comparing these devices. Here it is again.

Look at their website www.canarywireless.com for product images. This thing is really small, about the same width as a PCMCIA card, but about 3/4 to 1 inch shorter. It is about 1 inch thick though. It came well packaged, but after ordering on Sunday night, it took them until Wednesday evening to get it out the door with expedited shipping.

Press the one button, and it says "Wifi Detect" on the dot-matrix LCD screen and begins scanning. When it finds an AP, it scrolls the SSID, signal strength in bars, Secure or Open for WEP status, and Ch:__ (showing 1-11 or 1-13 depending on country I think).

It is reasonably sensitive... it picks up my roof mounted D-Link DWL-2700AP with WEP, shows three bars and "Secure". This is from the below-grade basement of a wood-framed house; the AP is on the top of the one-story peak roof on the other end of my house. The Hotspotter picks up the signal better than my laptops (or at least according to the ultra-subjective comparitive # of bars).

After you read the first result, press the button again and it says "Scanning". It will display the info for the next AP it can hear. And so on.

The "instruction" cardlet in the blister pack says it powers off in about 30 seconds, but it seems shorter than that... didn't time it though. When it powers itself down, it starts from the beginning again with the apparently strongest signal, you have to click back through again for more scans.

This device also picks up my neighbor's Apple Airport Extreme, while I am inside my front living room (wood frame construction) and his AE is inside his brick home. We are about 100 feet apart. Not bad through those materials. The device reads "Cloaked" because he has SSID turned off and WEP on, but it does show good sig strength and the correct channel (I know because I set it up). He gets his internet from my roof AP, into a stock (indoor) WET11 that feeds the WAN port on the AE.

Curiously it won't pick up my Linksys befw11s4 while scanning it from within the same room. It's open with SSID broadcast on. I've gone elsewhere in the house in case I am swamping the front end of this thing but no dice. Will test it another day on other Linksys devices I have elsewhere.

Anyways, it seems the feature set and signal sensitivity make it the choice of devices in this roundup.

IMHO.

Oblig. (1, Funny)

JamesD_UK (721413) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149245)

Yes that's all well and good but is the device digitally signed?

I want! (3, Informative)

alop (67204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149255)

Darn, Backordered, I guess that means they won't ship in time for xmas.

Re:I want! (2)

Library Spoff (582122) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150171)

and not shipping outside the us or canada.

If I post my credit card details can someone get me one and send it to the uk?

Re:I want! (1)

theLastPossibleName (701919) | more than 9 years ago | (#11152007)

no display of the ID but a quick newegg.com search and I found the Hawking - HWL1 [newegg.com]

Sounds useful (2, Funny)

Bill_Royle (639563) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149258)

Just don't use it in a Lowe's parking lot.

Re:Sounds useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149538)

Or outside a public library.

Re:Sounds useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149918)

Or during "foxy boxing".

wow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149269)

Already slashdotted.

dectectors are not for "nefarious" use. (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149284)

First, to clear up a misconception about Wi-Fi detectors in general: though they can be used to find and (usually illegally) hop onto someone else's wireless connection, that's not their only use. It's a pet peeve of mine to see technology vilified because it can be put to nefarious or even semi-nefarious use; in the case of hand-held wireless detectors, there are plenty of "non-infringing uses" to which they can be put.

Duh, this device doesn't really help you connect to a network. It just tells you that one is there. Anyone with a laptop/PCMCIA card or a wifi CF card can "Stumble" onto any network with any number of WEP encryption cracking programs/MAC sniffers.

This device is a tool, plain and simple. To use it "nefariously" would be a waste of money.

Re:dectectors are not for "nefarious" use. (1)

P-Nuts (592605) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149404)

Wi-Fi detectors in general: though they can be used to find and (usually illegally) hop onto someone else's wireless connection
Anyone with a laptop/PCMCIA card or a wifi CF card can "Stumble" onto any network with any number of WEP encryption cracking programs/MAC sniffers.

Well, with this /. article and another from earlier today [slashdot.org] , who knows what havoc we can wreak?

too big (4, Informative)

asv108 (141455) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149316)

I ended up purchasing a Wifi Seeker [wifiseeker.com] a few months ago and so far I've been very impressed. In the use case of finding a good signal spot at the flying J truck stop, the wifi seeker would probably be the better option.

I don't want to carry another PDA sized device in my laptop bag just to detect wifi networks. A key chain device seems to be the better form factor, even if it doesn't list the networks.

Re:too big (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149530)

I agree I have the mobile-edge wifi signal locator.

insanely cheaper at $9.99 at compusa and has a reduced sensitivity compared to my laptop so I KNOW that there is an available signal if I get one Bar on the 4 led display.

reading out all the other stuff is nothing but fluff. I can get that and more the second the laptop or zaurus is powered up and kismet is started.

typically if you enter a place and see people with laptops out, they have open wireless....

and that is a free detector.

Re:too big (1)

Omestes (471991) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150964)

Man you got my hopes up, but according to the webpage it is 29.99, and not 9.99. I just got into the wireless thing, and think it seems fun, but have a hard time finding any free hotspots around my house, or even on my way about town. I think the one in the actual story, though, would be better being it actually gives a brief rundown of the spot, and not just strength, which my laptop seems to do just fine. (though the other computer on my network, which is sitting about 3 feet away, only registers moderate strength...)

Re:too big (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 9 years ago | (#11152642)

the local store has them sitting there at $9.99 ($19.99+$10.00 rebate

I suggest going there and taking a look. I never had luck with their website and I certianly would not have bought it at $29.99

I picked mine up 2 weeks ago, and it looked like it was normal price. no tag on the item but it rang up $19.99 and the lady gave me the rebate info right there.

Re:too big (2, Insightful)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150383)

I don't want to carry another PDA sized device in my laptop bag just to detect wifi networks. A key chain device seems to be the better form factor, even if it doesn't list the networks.

Which makes me think it would be totally cool if they had something like this that was USB (like the jumpdrives) that could also act as a USB wireless adapter when plugged in or as a standalone detector. That would be something I would buy.

Re:too big (1)

spinozanyc (776634) | more than 9 years ago | (#11157004)

I misread that you were suggesting a "wifey" seeker.

MOD PARENT DOWN. (4, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149333)

Damned commercial spammer.
-1 overrated, Timothy.

how about -1 Tease (2, Insightful)

johnpaul191 (240105) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149940)

.......since it's backordered, and won't help for christmas gifts.... and i'll forget this one exists in a few days anyway.

Useful for detecting leaks (2, Interesting)

barrkel (806779) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149355)

There are products already in the field which are designed to keep the wireless network from leaking out of the building.

This product looks like it'll be good for tracing down those leaks.

Re:Useful for detecting leaks (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149615)

I think this thing would be a lot more useful for that if it had an LED bar graph. It would be nice to be able to see at a long glance whether you could see any signal before peering into the screen.

3Hom0 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149389)

The official GAY Year contreact.

FriSt psot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149455)

polite to bring are incompat1ble than this BSD box, a change to the most vibrant Coming a piss Go of tHe minutiae and the Bazaar [gay-sex-access.com]? NetBSD user

I have a good one (2, Informative)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149468)

A Palm T3 plus a PalmOne Wi-fi Card [palminfocenter.com] plus a NetChaser [bitsnbolts.com] software. It works great, lots of details, can log the details of the access points found to file.

It's quite expensive if you want a wi-finder device and don't have a palm. But if you already have a palm with wi-fi, it's a cheap ($12.00) fun toy.

Re:I have a good one (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149570)

And it is also bigger and doesn't take AAA batteries. And the link that you provided shows that the card costs closer to $120.00

It IS a nice setup, but not even in the same class as the device being reviewed.

Re:I have a good one (1)

rzebram (828885) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150813)

Unfortunately the $12 quoted doesn't include the WiFi card:

But if you already have a palm
with wi-fi, it's a cheap ($12.00) fun toy.

Re:I have a good one (0, Redundant)

harrkev (623093) | more than 9 years ago | (#11151013)

A palm with wi-fi for $12? Where? If that were true, I would buy three or four.

Re:I have a good one (1)

rzebram (828885) | more than 9 years ago | (#11151079)

Hrm, it seems I didn't word that right... The poster was saying that if you already have a palm with wifi in your posession, the software would only cost you $12.

Re:I have a good one (1)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 9 years ago | (#11157782)

the card costs closer to $120.00

Yup, the card costs £80. But if you have a wi-fi capable portable computing device such as a palm with the wi-fi card, a software wifinder should be cheap and more functional.

If you don't have a wi-fi capable portable computing device, your uses for wi-fi are limited. Removing those cables cluttering up the hall, perhaps.

Seems neat! - One desired feature (2, Interesting)

the.aham (839985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149499)

There is a radar detector made by the Valentine One Company http://www.valentine1.com/ [valentine1.com] that tells you via an LED what kind of signal it's detecting AND from what general direction the signal is coming from: front, back, or sides. Wouldn't it be cool to have the Canary Wireless device do the same, so to indicate which coffee shop/restaurant has the signal so I can sit there, drink my java and work?

Re:Seems neat! - One desired feature (1)

Raistlin77 (754120) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150291)

Even better would be a radar detector with built-in WiFi detection :D

Re:Seems neat! - One desired feature (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11150595)

If these detectors become popular, coffee shops might set their network ID to the name or address of the business to help out. (STRBK_ON_MAIN, etc.)

Why?!? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149552)

I guess it is just too much damn work to open your laptop and run kismet or wavemon to see if a network is availible. Our society has become way to lazy. I will save my money and buy something more useful, like a subscription to Slashdot!

Obligatory Dumb-ass question... (1, Troll)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149555)

Does it run on linux?

(Please, if you feel compelled to answer me, realize that it's just a joke...)

Re:Obligatory Dumb-ass question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149996)

RTFA ...

(Please, if you feel compelled to answer me, realize that it's just a joke about a joke...)

Re:Obligatory Dumb-ass question... (1)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11154263)

IWHRTFAIIW\.'D

(I would have read TFA if it wasn't slashdotted)

(Please, if you feel compelled to answer me, realize that it's just a joke about a joke about a joke...)

Okay, it's gone too far now...

My Canary wifi finder. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149560)

I merely tie a Pringles can [g4techtv.com] to the foot of my canary, and let him fly.

Re:My Canary wifi finder. (1)

wibskey (193633) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149944)

What do you mean, an African or European canary?

I have something similar (1)

wcitechnologies (836709) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149598)

I have something similar to that.

My doesn't go on a keychain though, it is about the size of a credit card. More like a PCMCIA card sized. Oh, it IS a pcmcia card, and it requires that its plugged in to my laptop to work.

The only difference is that a) it doesn't go crazy when somebody turns on a microwave and b) it also lets me CONNECT to the network :)

That's all well and good but (0, Troll)

Omicron32 (646469) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149657)

Are the drivers for it digitally signed?

Nice... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149675)

Just what I need, another damn keychain...

What am I missing? Why buy this? (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149683)

What's the advantage over running a wireless detection app on my laptop or PDA? Why spend $50 on something when I already have a tool that works?

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149924)

You don't have to dig your laptop out of your bag, open it up, and drain your battery to find out. Quite disappointing when the hotel advertises "free wireless access" and you can't figure out where the designated 3ft^3 that it works is.

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150119)

So, as opposed to asking somebody at the desk, I spend $50 and figure it our for myself? I guess some people have more free time than I do.

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (2, Insightful)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150195)

This device is small and convenient. It works right away with little to no effort. With a laptop, you don't get the same convenience of whipping it out and putting it right back for a quick Wifi signal check. Also, not everyone carries there laptop everywhere they go. If you don't have a PDA with Wifi (and most people don't), then this device would be an affordable alternative.

Remember, in life you pay for 1. convenience 2. small size.

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (2, Interesting)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150689)

I subscribe to a delightful hotspot service [airzed.com] that charges me US$10 for three months of unlimited high-speed access at about 100 hotspots all over town (I know this sounds like a commercial but I really love them - it's completely changed my life and I now spend 75% of my working time outdoors at sidewalk cafes and the like).

But there are a lot of factors to balance in order to get the perfect working spot. If it's outdoors, it's got to be in the shade (during daytime) or under shelter (if rain seems likely). They've got to serve something to eat that I'm in the mood for. They can't be so crowded that I will feel guilty about tying up a table for hours. And preferably, they have a power outlet I can use.

While I could wander around the neighborhood sizing restaurants up with my laptop open and bleeping, I think that would be a bit dorky even for me. With the little detector, people just think I'm glancing at my mobile phone.

At the moment I'm sitting at an all-night sidewalk Chinese joint near the Jalan Bulan Kiosk hotspot, where I pigged out for $0.75. No power outlet but the price is right (and the food wasn't bad at all). There's a perfect breeze, and good music in the background. All thanks to SmartID. Don't knock it!

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 9 years ago | (#11152535)

At the moment I'm sitting at an all-night sidewalk Chinese joint near the Jalan Bulan Kiosk hotspot, where I pigged out for $0.75. No power outlet but the price is right (and the food wasn't bad at all). There's a perfect breeze, and good music in the background."

Where is the Jalan Bulan Kiosk? This sounds really nice ...

timothy

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 9 years ago | (#11152680)

Where is the Jalan Bulan Kiosk? This sounds really nice ...

Kuala Lumpur, just across the road from Low Yat Plaza (Malaysia's biggest computer mall, a mere shadow of Bangkok's Panthip Plaza but with better prices).

Nice. (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 9 years ago | (#11153694)

That sounds like an interesting place [google.com] to see ... I wish I could find 75-cent Chinese buffet ;)

How well can someone with English as primary language navigate? :)

timothy

Re:Nice. (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 9 years ago | (#11156034)

How well can someone with English as primary language navigate?

Quite easy - almost everyone speaks English in that part of town. Malaysia is made of three primary ethnic groups - Malay, Chinese, and Indian. Many Malays in their 20s and 30s didn't learn English in school due to a temporary nationalist policy of teaching Malay language only in public schools. But the Chinese and Indian schools kept teaching English. And now all the schools do again. Most of the people working and shopping in and around Low Yat are Chinese and fluent or near-fluent in English.

The hardest part is recognizing that people are speaking English! Since the language has been mixing with Chinese and Malay and Tamil for such a long time here, there's a thick accent and a lot of foreign words and structures. Many people call the language spoken here Manglish [wikipedia.org] . It's pretty similar to the better-documented Singlish [talkingcock.com] , as spoken in neighboring Singapore which has a similar ethnic mix (but different distributions).

The good news is that thanks to TV and movies, they can understand you even if it takes you a while to understand them.

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11150733)

My laptop takes over a minute to boot, and has maybe an hour's battery life, so I don't want to turn it on and off a lot as I scan for possible networks. I have a cheapo detector too, but I'd guess 75% of networks I scan are protected, so it doesn't help much. If your equipment works fine for you, in the situations where you want it, and you see no advantage, then certainly you shouldn't spend the $50. But for me, and some others, it's a useful device well worth the money.

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (2, Insightful)

zoombat (513570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150776)

What's the advantage over running a wireless detection app on my laptop or PDA? Why spend $50 on something when I already have a tool that works?

Well.. if you already have a wireless PDA that you carry around all the time, perhaps it wouldn't be too useful to you. But it is useful for people who are looking for a wireless signal for their laptop. Instead of lugging the laptop around open and powered up, they can walk (or drive) around with this little gadget and check for signals. Not only is it less cumbersome, it is also safer while driving, and probably even more important it doesn't use up the laptop battery before finding a connection.

Or, for something like looking for rogue access points or checking network signal strength, one might ask "why pay $250 for a wireless PDA or even more for a laptop when I can get a $50 tool to that works just fine?"

Re:What am I missing? Why buy this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11150962)

I agree.
These things have been endlessly reviewed, but, no one ever tells me why I may want one. I got bored of this a week or so a go:

http://www.gonzo-wireless.co.uk/news/?postid=19 [gonzo-wireless.co.uk]

Retail stores and other products? (3, Informative)

antdude (79039) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149690)

I e-mailed the company if The Digital Hotspotter(TM) Model #HS10 was sold in any retail stores like Costco, Best Buy, Walmart, Circuit City, CompUSA, etc.

I got a human reply quickly after 1.5 minutes: "We currently sell the product only online through our website."

--

My question to everyone: Are there any products like these sold in retail stores in Los Angeles, CA area? Any replies appreciated. Thanks in advance. :)

Re:Retail stores and other products? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11149973)

My question to everyone: Are there any products like these sold in retail stores in Los Angeles, CA area? Any replies appreciated. Thanks in advance. :)

Yes.

Re:Retail stores and other products? (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 9 years ago | (#11153137)

Which ones and where?

Re:Retail stores and other products? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11150618)

My question to everyone: Are there any products like these sold in retail stores in Los Angeles, CA area?

Christmas shopping?

Blah blah blah WARDRIVING blah blah blah (0, Flamebait)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149804)

Blah blah blah WARDRIVING blah blah blah. Wonder what is going to be under the tree this year again, boys and girls? Wi-Fi devices for you and for me!

Disappointed (1)

beef curtains (792692) | more than 9 years ago | (#11149807)

I thought this was going to be an article about how someone attached a wireless access point to a canary, and now it was flying around randomly (and very, very briefly) giving people free wireless connections.

Many of you might think I'm joking, in a very lame manner. Unfortunately, I'm being totally serious.

And I really am kinda disappointed right now.

Re:Disappointed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11150114)

Are you suggesting canaries are migratory?

The device has no husk by which to grip it.

Zaurus == Great WiFi finder (3, Informative)

tji (74570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150006)

Before I get out my PowerBook, I whip out the Zaurus to see what WiFi networks are available, open, and operational.

The Zaurus can go all the way, and actually connect to the network and use a WWW browser to connect to sites. So, you can verify that everything is fully operational, available, and open.

If I just want to check something quick on a www site, I might not even need to get my laptop out. I certainly wouldn't want to be writing many emails from the tiny Zaurus keyboard. But, for some quick checks it's great.

Also -- A new version of OpenZaurus [openzaurus.org] was recently released. It includes updated Opie apps, and improves on the WiFi capabilities of the old Sharp firmwares.

Re:Zaurus == Great WiFi finder (crappy battery!!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11155237)

A big problem with the Zaurus, esp. with a wireless card attached, is that it's battery life is pretty short. My experience is that the battery similarly doesn't hold its charge for very long - you can't just carry this around for a while and then expect it to work - the device needs to be recharged on a regular basis. In fact, the wireless card simply won't work if the charge is too low even though other software will run. The Zaurus also doesn't fit in your pocket :-)

It's a little pricy, but (1)

spidergoat2 (715962) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150053)

Is it better than a Pringles' can?

Illegal? (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150190)

How is connecting to an open wireless network illegal? Against various companies terms of service (which, technically, the AP owner would be breaking, not the AP user,) yes. But illegal?

Last I checked, there was no law stating that it was punishable by jail time or fine to use someone's open wireless internet connection.

Why is is bad to be open? (1)

notthepainter (759494) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150201)

I'm curious.

My home network (Apple Airport Extreme Base Station) is open on purpose. I want my guests to be able to use it. And if you need signal from my front lawn, you're welcome to that also.

Seems like a decent net-citizen thing to do.

So what am I missing? Why would I want to be secure? (Answer 1: my personal data goes over the network unencrypted. Ok, how do I solve that yet give the world open access to by Internet connection.)

Re:Why is is bad to be open? (1)

rednip (186217) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150563)

Ok, how do I solve that yet give the world open access to by Internet connection.
Simple have two WiFi units. Use the 'front' one as your secured network, and plug another open wifi unit into the switch port.

Of course you should realized that any unencrypted traffic on the internet can be viewed, if you are in the right spot (cable modem users should be very aware of this).

Re:Why is is bad to be open? (2, Interesting)

zoombat (513570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11151109)

So what am I missing? Why would I want to be secure? (Answer 1: my personal data goes over the network unencrypted. Ok, how do I solve that yet give the world open access to by Internet connection.)

This is a common confusion with wireless networks. There's a difference between encryption and authentication. WEP and WPA are examples of wireless encryption technologies. They (try to) keep people from sniffing the contents of transmissions. But they don't control who can and can't get on your network. MAC filtering, not broadcasting SSIDs, EAP, and RADIUS-based authentication are examples of technology people use to make sure only trusted hosts can get on their wireless networks.

So you can just have an encrypted open network. This would allow anyone to get on, but would protect them from eavesdropping while they're connected.

Of course this means that anyone who hops on your wireless network can attack other devices on your network.. so it would be wise to keep up to date with patches and such.

Re:Why is is bad to be open? (1)

notthepainter (759494) | more than 9 years ago | (#11151302)

So I turn 128 bit WEP on and I'm encrypted. But now I need to know the password to get on. How does this help my guests? (If it helps, I'm running Apple's software, which is very possibly hiding a layer from me.)

Thanks!

Re:Why is is bad to be open? (1)

burns210 (572621) | more than 9 years ago | (#11153072)

Your post doesn't completely make sense, but for what its worth, Apple isn't 'hiding' anything with their software.

Turning on WEP means that you are both encrypting the traffic, and requiring authentication(WEP Key ~= Network Password). Your 'guests' all need to know this key and manually enter it on their computers to be able to use your network.

Re:Why is is bad to be open? (1)

radish (98371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11152347)

and WPA are examples of wireless encryption technologies. They (try to) keep people from sniffing the contents of transmissions. But they don't control who can and can't get on your network. MAC filtering, not broadcasting SSIDs, EAP, and RADIUS-based authentication are examples of technology people use to make sure only trusted hosts can get on their wireless networks.

Wrong. WEP, by encrypting traffic, works in both these dimensions. I have 128-bit shared-key WEP on my network. If someone wants to use my connection, sure they can associate, but without the magic password they can't get any traffic to or from the AP, thus, not only can they not snoop they also can't use the connection.

Now I'm not saying WEP is perfect, we all know that magic password can be fairly easily obtained, but it works better (IMHO) than MAC filtering or SSID hiding both of which are entirely trivial to break.

Re:Why is is bad to be open? (1)

zoombat (513570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11158070)

Wrong. WEP, by encrypting traffic, works in both these dimensions. I have 128-bit shared-key WEP on my network.

Right. But if you used open-key WEP (instead of shared key), anyone could connect and be encrypted.

Whats the point? (1)

Remlik (654872) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150601)

What is the point of this device if you need some sort of computer to access the network anyway?

I use the IBM connections manager on my thinkpad to scan for networks. It then displays a list of all the networks it finds. Tells me SSID, Type (a/b/g) and WEB secured or not. I select one and hit connect.

Seems like this is a solution looking for a problem.

Re:Whats the point? (2, Insightful)

Kredal (566494) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150672)

If you don't know for sure there's an open network in a given area, would you rather 1: look for an outlet, 2: find a place to set your computer, 3: wait for it to boot up, 4: run the connection manager...

or press a button on your keychain, and get the results instantly (or so). If there are no open networks, you've lost about 10 seconds, and can keep moving. If there are, you've only lost 10 seconds in your quest to get online.

Re:Whats the point? (1)

Remlik (654872) | more than 9 years ago | (#11151439)

So contrary to the reviewers comment you'd use the device for illegal purposes?

The point was if you are using wireless access points legaly then you don't need this device. You already know where the networks are and how to connect to them.

Its like trying all the door handles up and down a street without having to get out of your car and look like a thief, only the act is the same.

It's a GADGET, dammit! No point needed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11152577)

Whaddaya mean "What's the point?"? It's a cool little gadget!

A REAL AMERICAN would buy the little keychain model in order to detect whether there were any signals and it was worth pulling out the Canary Wireless model, in order to determine whether the network was open, so that they could pull out their WLAN PDA to test connectivity and download speeds, to make sure it was worth getting out the laptop and get some REAL WORK done!

Why? What kind of a question is that to ask, at Christmas of all times!

Wake me up... (1)

Stoutlimb (143245) | more than 9 years ago | (#11150702)

when they integrate GPS into these things. Before then, all these wifi detectors are just toys and not serious tools.

Re:Wake me up... (1)

radish (98371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11152881)

Why? I want to know where I can use my laptop, without having to walk around with it in my hands looking at the screen. Why do I care about the precise co-ordinates of the chair in starbucks with best reception?

Sure, for YOUR uses it may require GPS, cool, but just because you need it doesn't make it a universal requirement.

my tvbegone.com WIFI detector (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11150780)

I got my WI-FI detector from www.tvbegone.com and it's never worked right

Usually, when I try to use it in a bar, there's some kind of electrical problem and all the TV's shutdown

Kensington wifi , bad bad bad (1)

fairbanksd (761647) | more than 9 years ago | (#11151023)

I'm personally can't wait to try this new unit. I made the mistake of buying from kensington and what a disappointment that was.

Simple solution (1)

CompuSwerve (792986) | more than 9 years ago | (#11151090)

Why don't you just carry around a tiny access point instead of an access point finder? Duh! Problem solved!

Dol7 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11152145)

it justU 0wnz.', 7eeth into when

mod Up (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11153167)

code.' Don't *BSD has lost more Juliet ARe together the party in street

new hotness (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11153708)

These hotspot detectors are pretty good sensors. But what's really missing is a "live map" of hotspots, correlated with geolocation. So, before I disconnect, I get the last live map, which can direct me to the closest place where I can next connect. Combined with a mobile phone, or other 3G device impractical for long sessions, but OK to find the real connection, such a live map is a real enabler. All these sensors should be collaborating to contribute their local pieces of the puzzle, as they traverse it. How is it that they're leaving out the network from these network detectors, when that would address the main problem they're designed to solve?
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