Friday, June 24, 2011

Switching from a Blackberry 9630 to an iPhone 4

I've had a Blackberry since the inception of the 950 Internet Edition. I made the switch to the iPhone 4 mostly because of the problems I've had with the BES server at my current job. Every 15 days or so, I'd stop receiving corporate email. The 'fix' was to delete & re-add my account to the BES server. I got tired of needing someone to do that, and figured now was as good a time as any to learn a new gadget.

As you may or may not know, I am not a Mac fanboy by any means. There are a few simple things I want from a phone/handheld computer and I'm finding that the iPhone is lacking in a few important areas IMO.

I'll make it simple & make a list.
(This list assumes that you're not jailbreaking your iPhone)

  1. Customizing notifications between different email accounts is not currently possible. I'm told with the new OS release in the fall it will be possible. In the mean time, your only option to customize alert sounds is Boxcar.
  2. There is no way to change photo naming format without resorting to changing the phone region format to United Kingdom or some other such nonsense. Of course changing the phone region to United Kingdom also makes the phone numbers you dial look mighty strange if you're not used to international phone number formats.
  3. Single click dialing of conference call phone numbers is not supported natively. Of course there is a $5 app for that, but if you put the conference call number in the 'Notes' section of the conference call, you can do a single-click-to dial.
    • For the iPhone format the number to dial like this (leave off the last 'pound' sign)
      • tel://+ 1-123-456-7890ppp123456
    • For the Blackberry format the number to dial like this:
      • (123)456-7890!12345# (this string can be anywhere in the conference call info)
  4. Gmail push notifications didn't work smoothly out of the box until I followed these instructions to setup my Gmail account as an Exchange account.
  5. There isn't a red led indicator letting you know you've received a message if you weren't glued to your phone when the message came through. (no workaround)
  6. Battery life is pretty abysmal, but since this is a phone that is more like a personal computer, I expected that. Have your charger cables handy at all times!
  7. Name touch typing a contact's name to dial a contact - I miss this feature of the Blackberry. In the Blackberry phone you could type the name of the person you wanted to call instead of their number and the Blackberry would show the different phone numbers you had stored for them. It was really easy to choose a phone number and dial. Seems the only way to achieve this functionality is to - you guessed it - jailbreak the phone
Given that Cisco has partnered so heavily with Apple to create apps around VPN/WebEx/Security - I naively thought that the iPhone had all of the features of a Blackberry & then some. This is not the case.

Perhaps some of my gripes will indeed disappear with the new iOS 5 release in the fall. One can only hope.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Performing Passive Site Surveys with AirMagnet Survey Pro and Ekahau Site Survey

I've had the good fortune to receive a fully functioning (albeit limited to 90 days) license for the Ekahau Site Survey application. This is thanks to @Etherealmind meeting up with Jussi Kiviniemi from Ekahau at Interop. Jussi was in the Metageek booth at Interop to help showcase the Ekahau software suite and how it has been integrated to work with Metageek software/hardware. 

Thanks also to @SFoskett for recording the great video demonstration on the partnering between Ekahau & Metageek.

Starting off with what I know (because it is easier to explain what you already understand) I made a little video showing how I setup a map and perform a passive site survey of an existing wireless deployment. Naturally I'm expecting a similar functionality from the Ekahau Site Survey application. The only experience I have with the Ekahau application dates back to 2005 when I saw it used to do a passive survey of the hospital where I worked. I was not too impressed with the color charts used to represent the 'heatmap' of RF coverage. I thought that the color maps Ekahau used to show different areas of RF signal strength were not easy to understand, and showed the coverage with strange trapezoidal coverage boundaries.

I had to load a different driver for the Orinoco Proxim 8494 USB wireless card, but the Ekahau application had the drive it required as part of the installer. The installation was quick and painless, and then I had to set about figuring out an new site survey application. Starting a survey was pretty straight forward, but I did see that the survey data was collected quicker once I upped the 'wait time on channel' setting to scan quicker. There was a broadcasted SSID, so I was able to decrease the scan time and get survey data quicker as a result.

The things I don't know how to do with the Ekahau Site Survey application:
Show the SSIDs detected on the floor plan one SSID at a time
Show just the 802.11a or 802.11b/g coverage on the floor for each separate access point detected
Show only one data collection sample at a time. When I used the select/deselect options, the coverage map still showed on the floor plan. This might be because I still had the dropdown set to show the signal strength, but I can't be sure.

I did find the images from the site survey data from back in 2005. You can see what I was referring to regarding the coverage areas showing as large trapezoids. I think this must have been due to the team surveying not setting the granularity of their displayed data. Also I noticed that they didn't enter many of the patient rooms in order to gather RF data. When I'm doing a passive survey in a hospital, the only rooms I don't enter are the ones with the Isolation signage on the door.