The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

New Wireless Products Abound

Posted by Deliverator on March 13th, 2006

Went down to Fry’s today and spent some time looking at the new wireless doodahs and doodads. One of the neat product categories to emerge of late are devices that act as a USB Wifi Dongle, but also have a small LCD screen and Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, so that one can quickly check for the availability of wireless signals – without having to pull out a bulky laptop. Wifi finders have been around for quite a while now, but almost all of them only have indicator leds, that really only tell you if 2.4 ghz radio signals are detected. These devices can have a lot of false positives on things like microwave ovens, wireless phones, etc. Plus, even if it was truely a wifi signal, it woudn’t generally indicate if the signal was protected in some way (i.e. wep or wpa). Up until this latest generation of hardware, the only wifi finder with a screen was, to my knowledge, the Canary Wireless Digital Hotspotter. Having a screen lets one check on ssid, encryption status, signal strength, channel info, etc.

-Trendnet has two different models available, one that acts as a basic USB wifi dongle + site survey and another that adds 512 MB of flash storage. This is the sort of device consolidation that I would like to see more of, rather than yet another “phone that does everything but make phone calls.”

-Linksys has a basic usb dongle + site survey of their own, but it seems to be priced around $80-90, putting it a full $30 more expensive than the basic Trendnet model. In other Linksys news, Frys is the first store in the Seattle area that is stocking the WRT54GL. The latest version of the WRT54G (version 5) uses significantly different hardware than before and as a result, can no longer serve as a platfrom for some of the nice Linux based firmware projects. The WRT54GL is the same as the WRT54G version 4, so you can tinker with the firmware to your heart’s content.

-Zyxel seems to have the best of the 3 available dongle + site survey devices. Their product, the AG-225H supports both 802.11a and 802.11b/g networks (including site survey ability) and can also act as an infrastructure mode wireless access point, giving you the ability to easily share your internet connection with others.

Frys also now stocks a wide variety of travel routers, with 2 models from Linksys, one from Netgear, one from Belkin and one from D-link. The only two models that really popped out at me were the Linksys WRT54GC and the D-Link DWL-G730AP. Rob brought the Linksys for show and tell at Hacknight a few months back. The WRT54GC is nice in that it includes a 4 port switch for wired computers, and also has a pop out connector for attaching an external antenna if the internal proves inadequate. The D-link doesn’t have a switch, but comes with a lot of other compensations, including the ability to act as a router, ethernet< ->wireless bridge or as a client bridge. Another nice feature of the D-link is its ability to be powered through a USB port or via an wall wart. I ended up picking up the D-link model. It should come in handy on my coming trip to Atlanta.