Hours saved by the AirCheck G2

I really enjoyed visiting Netscout HQ during Mobility Field Day 2. They just might have the coolest social media manager in the tech industry (Hi Kendall!!!) and I was excited to meet some of the people on their wireless team behind my favorite tool, the AirCheck G2.  Chris Hinz pointed out a couple of things I didn’t already know about my Aircheck G2. Check out Chris’s presentations at the Tech Field Day page: Netscout at MFD2

In a similar vein, I thought I’d share my two favorite G2 features. I just spent an entire month on a industrial mine site physically recabling fiber optics and replacing switches.

To get an idea of the environment I’m talking about, take a look at these pics:

This is nothing linear about this facility, and I got turned around every day. Thankfully, my G2 has saved me from  hours of frustration on more than one occasion.

I’m almost ashamed to say that I probably use the G2 to trace wires more than I use it for troubleshooting wireless. Looking back at the pics above, you might imagine how difficult it was to follow cables visually. Without a tool like the G2, it would have been next to impossible to determine what was on the other end of a cable. The Aircheck’s Ethernet test has the ability to read CDP/LLDP and give us the name of the switch and the specific port number we’re connected to.

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Not to mention confirming that PoE is available, that we’re connected to a Gigabit port, and that DHCP is working. We can see that the G2 has even reached out to Google to confirm that there is a working internet connection, and then uploaded all of the test results to my Link-Live dashboard (a free service).

Screenshot0011

Besides tracing wired endpoints while I was replacing switches, I was also challenged with some actual wireless reconfiguration. I needed to reboot several wireless access points, but few of the switches in this facility were PoE enabled, and all of the (old 1242s) APs were powered by AC adapters. No easy power cycles from the switch port for me. Now I have the opposite problem from above – I know where the switch is, but there’s no way I can trace cables visually to the AP. AirCheck G2 to the rescue again:

Screenshot0012

The AP locator gives me an easy “hot and cold” way to find an AP by signal strength. I could do this with a laptop and Inssider or Wi-Fi Explorer Pro, but in this industrial facility, safety concerns make this an impractical approach (and safety rules actually prohibit having both hands full). I need to be able to have two free hands, not to mention that I am wearing gloves, along with a hard hat, safety glasses, and sometimes earplugs.

The G2 simplifies the whole process, giving me a visual indicator as well as an audible beep like a metal detector. I haven’t tried it, but the spec sheet says you can even plug in a USB headset instead of listening to the beep from the unit, which, looking back, would have been useful for working with ear protection. I can also slide the unit into a pocket in order to have both hands free for going up and down stairs and it’s small enough to operate with one hand once I’ve chosen the AP to track down. These are all big improvements over a laptop when I’m not working in a carpeted office environment.

These APs are also al in NEMA enclosures in a facility that has NEMA enclosures everywhere; and most aren’t protecting APs. Suffice to say, it was much easier to locate the APs I needed with the G2. I am even questioning my earlier decision to not purchase the directional antenna for the G2 (which Chris discusses in the TFD presentation linked above). I will gladly fork out the cash for that tool if I ever have to spend a month doing this kind of work again.

Netscout has done a great job with the AirCheck G2. Best of all, the G2 is still a new tool – so expect plenty of innovations and improvements to the G2 feature set to come out of Netscout soon. I can smell good things cooking in the Netscout kitchen…

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