Hands-On Fluke

Hands-On Fluke

By CWNP On 03/08/2010 - 19 Comments

Most of you know by now that I spend most of my days in my home lab…writing, testing, reading, and exploring different implementations of the technology with hands-on experience. A few weeks back, I was invited by Fluke to get a little hands-on exposure to their new handheld tool, AirCheck™. Normally, when we say "hands-on," what we really mean is that you are using real equipment instead of reading a book or watching a video. This time, hands-on is quite literal; I was holding a device in my hands. :)

AirCheck is Fluke’s new handheld frontline WLAN discovery and performance test tool. I think if anyone knows how to build a handheld network test tool, it is probably Fluke. That is their tradition, and they’ve built another fine product with AirCheck. As for intentions, Fluke isn’t trying to step on the market share of their other sophisticated products acquired with AirMagnet, as AirCheck is not a protocol analyzer. From the feedback of their product management team, AirCheck is a frontline troubleshooting and analysis tool to overcome most Wi-Fi problems with a quick and easy, dedicated, handheld tool.

One of the highlights of the tool is its clean and easy interface. As with all products, their intention was to keep the interface simple, while including a moderate feature set. Within just a few minutes, I felt very comfortable navigating the interface. The buttons are large, tactile, and kept to a minimum, the interface structure is intuitive, and I have no complaints about the look and feel of the device. In fact, as I put myself in the shoes of a mostly uneducated (about Wi-Fi, that is) and distraught customer with wireless problems, there’s something very technical looking about a dedicated handheld device. It gives the customer reassurance that you have something that was designed specifically for the purpose of solving their problem, and that your technician knows what he’s doing.

The next highlight was the quick-on operation. Pardon my rabbit trail here, but there’s a speaker named Tommy Nelson who talks about the romantic tendencies of each gender with the analogy of cooking apparatuses. Specifically, a woman is a bit like a crockpot, whereas a man is more like a microwave. Hopefully you get the point there. That analogy seemed perfectly relevant here as well, where we’re comparing a laptop or tablet with WLAN discovery/test software and the purpose-built AirCheck. Most laptops are a bit like cooking with a crockpot…push the on button and wait a good long while before it is useful—the dreaded boot. Conversely, AirCheck is more like a microwave. When you push on, the boot time is almost imperceptible…less than 3 seconds. The whole point is that frontline support guys are often interfacing with customers and short on time. Once they get to the area that needs attention, they don’t want to, or don’t have time to, wait around for a laptop to boot, and then run an application. And, heaven forbid that your techie support guy would have to carry on a conversation with your customer for 5 minutes while the laptop boots up. That could be dangerous. AirCheck cures that problem.

Finally, there’s the issue of form factor. While you might get away a bit cheaper with a netbook and free discovery software, there are some advantages to AirCheck. First off, troubleshooting wireless often includes ladders. Stand on a ladder holding a laptop and try to issue a ping command…have fun with that. In all reality, there are plenty of different situations in which carrying a laptop around a building is inconvenient. I’m curious what customers think about those lap trays. Silly? Perhaps. In any case, handheld tools are convenient. AirCheck was built thoughtfully for this reason. It is small, fits comfortably in the hand, and is durable for harsh environments.

I have nothing exciting to report on the negative side. I guess that means good job to Fluke Networks. :)

Check it out here, or for the full link: http://www.flukenetworks.com/fnet/en-us/products/AirCheck+Wi-Fi+Tester/Overview.htm

Tagged with: fluke, AirCheck, handheld, Wi-Fi

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