Geek Tools Rant: Fluke Networks – AirMagnet

First, if you missed my public apology to Fluke Networks, you should read it. Besides giving some backstory to this post, it’s not very often you will see me eat my words. Wait, nah, that’s not true, I do it all the time.

A quick synopsis. In an event hosted by Fluke, I asked the question “When are you going to release a Mac client?” The response I received struck a nerve, and while I do not remember exactly what was said, it was something like “Why would we ever do that?”

So, this post will lay out the many problems I have with the current version of Fluke Networks solutions for the wireless industry.

The expense – AirMagnet Survey, Spectrum XT, and WiFi Analyzer are expensive products! I realize that they are complicated to build and maintain, but the cost is exceptionally high.

I have spent plenty of money on professional level tools without complaint, and yet every time I spend money on “Yellow and Blue” I can expect to be yelled at by my finance person and bruised by the purchase process.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that many organizations simply won’t spend the money. I spent four years working for a major global manufacturer with hundreds of sites, and many thousands of AP’s and I could not get them to purchase AirMagnet. In my current role, there is still no budget for the software. That means I end up spending my own money for software. I could get over this, except:

The software is OLD! AirMagnet Survey Pro is especially old code. It is clear in so many ways that the software hasn’t been refactored in many many years. I made a harsh comment at WLPC regarding the “Walking Man” animation when performing  surveys, but the comment stands. The little walking man is wasting CPU cycles on a laptop that is running on battery, and doesn’t even perform it’s primary function. I need a set of crosshairs to indicate where I stop, nothing more.

Spending money on AirMagnet feels like I am spending money on software that will be discontinued momentarily by a company that no longer cares about it.

Most importantly, AirMagnet only supports Microsoft Windows. I won’t rant about how much I despise, abhor, and generally hate Windows, really I won’t. A quick survey of their users would show Fluke that a surprisingly high number of users are Mac’s. We use Mac’s for many reasons and most of us only ever boot Windows to use AirMagnet products. Many have tried to use VM’s, and most have found issues with the USB sharing which makes it difficult to do our jobs. Even if we are able to make a VM work, we are now eating through our batteries much faster than we should be. If we are surveying a large facility, we are wasting our time, and our customers money waiting on devices to charge.

Based on conversations with Fluke during their session and after, I was given the impression (not told, simply given the impression) that Fluke is looking at an OptiView-like device as a future AirMagnet tool. I understand their thoughts. Control both the hardware and software, and you have fine grain control to make the most of the solution. I can only hope that Fluke Networks hears and understood from the feedback they received at WLPC that we want a single device for ALL of our work. We have that device, our laptop. We do not need a uni-tasker to drag through the airports and risk losing, stealing or breakage. The other concern with this solution is the OptiView is INSANELY expensive.

Fluke Networks repeatedly asked “What would you like to see?” to the audience. I’ve also spent some time thinking about that question. Here is what I hope could resolve many of the issues that are occurring on both Windows and potentially Mac and Linux clients.

Build the intelligence into a Docker App. That’s right, I’ll say it again. Build the intelligence to run on Docker. Immediately, you can now move the app to Windows, OS X, and Linux.

The most important code base can now be ran in a custom environment, easily reproduced on any piece of hardware thrown at it. Wait, you might say. Then I would have to install Docker on my laptop. How is that better than a VM?

I’ll answer that question in two ways. First, look at all of the redistributable apps that get installed along with AirMagnet. Imagine all of that going away. Just imagine…

Next, the resource utilization for Docker should be less than 1/4 of the utilization for a VM. Plus, there is no underlying windows OS to babysit. No updates to validate and install. No weird driver issues. No licensing issues do to a minor change in the VM.

Once the important code is running in Docker, build a GUI for each client that includes the hooks for the hardware (Spectrum Analyzers, USB NIC, etc.) and presents them to the Docker app in a standard consistent way. The GUI would include all of the OS customization, visuals, hardware hooks, but none of the intelligence.

I think I am most disappointed that Fluke Networks became comfortable as the market leader and chose not to push forward with new ideas. I have a ton of respect for the company and I own a lot of yellow and blue tools. Now that they have a serious market contender in Ekahau, I hope they take a serious look at their current situation, and choose to focus on the customer, rather than attempt to force the market to their will.

Geek Toys – The future of Apple TV

As WWDC approaches, I once again hope for a new Apple TV. The Apple TApple TVV has so much potential, and so much disappointment associated with it. Will WWDC be the time when we finally see an update? The bigger question is, with such strong competition from other products, has Apple already missed the boat?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I would like to see in a new Apple TV. There has been a lot of change in the last few months around home entertainment, and if Apple really wants to own the space, it has to adapt to compete. There are some key features that I think could make Apple TV ready to own the space again.

Siri

When I hear people discuss using Siri on an Apple TV, I rolled my eyes. I hate Siri. I refuse to use Siri. However, that changed just a little when I received an Amazon Echo. Amazon has knocked voice recognition out of the park! Alexa is fast, error free, and simply amazing. It is so good, I actually caught myself preparing to say “Thank you” to a piece of hardware! Each morning I ask Alexa for the news and my commute information. I use it when cooking for timers. Alexa is the only reason I use Prime Music. Let me repeat that. I began using Amazon Prime Music only because Alexa made it so easy. Make Siri that good on an AppleTV, and I get it now.

Facetime HD camera and mic

I do not understand why this hasn’t happened before. An Apple TV that could connect via FaceTime, is a no brainer in my opinion. Besides the ability to talk with relatives and friends through a TV, a camera could provide a lot of other features. The camera or mic could be used as a detector for HomeKit automation. Add some face recognition, and use it to choose the profile, and permit or deny content based on age restrictions. The list goes on and on.

HomeKit Integration

Imagine the Apple TV turning on lights when motion or sound is detected. It could also provide the remote view capabilities required by those of us who regularly travel and would like to check on our homes. This would be an easy way to integrate HomeKit and directly compete with the existing products on the market from Belkin and Wink and many other companies. I love my Wink Hub and the attached lights, sensors, and outlets. I hope that Apple gets the integration right.

4K

Apple has built the 5K iMac to encourage 4K content creation. 4K content only becomes valuable once there is an easy way to consume that content. Apple TV should be that avenue.

Glances and notifications

The notifications on Watch are the reason I love my watch. There is no reason why this same thing shouldn’t work as a pop-up on the Apple TV.

A decent remote!

Apple works hard to refine every detail of their products, which leads me to ask. What happened? The AppleTV Remote is simple, small, and sleek. It is also the worst of the worst of the entertainment hub remotes. It uses IR, which means it must be in direct line of site of the AppleTV. Anyone who has used both an Apple TV and a Roku or Amazon Fire TV understands what I am talking about. The Roku and Fire TV remotes can be oriented in any direction, and yet they still work. The devices themselves can be hidden behind TVs or in closets and they still work. Not so for the AppleTV. It is time to move to BluetoothLE for the remote and show IR the door.

Games, apps, blah blah, blah.

I don’t play games. I try to care…but I don’t.

Cisco Live US 2014 – Return to Camp

In May, I made my way to San Francisco for CLUS 2014. I had very fond memories from last year, and was looking forward to catching up with all of the great people that I met in Orlando.

This year was a little different for me. I purchased a full pass, paid for airfare, and my hotel all out of my own pocket. The ultimate question this year was going to be answered. How much is CLUS worth? Is the experience equally important when thousands of dollars come out of my pocket to experience it.

First, the most obvious difference this year was how crowded the experience was. Moscone was simply not big enough for 26,000 people. I recognized on day one, as I was looking for a place to sit for breakfast, that when San Francisco was chosen 5 years ago, the conference was much smaller. Conferences book their locations years in advance, and in this case the attendee base grew faster then they expected.

The large crowds definitely affected the experience. The World of Solutions reception on Monday was so crowded that I spent only 15 minutes there, and the majority of that time was trying to get back out. The crowds also affected the on-site meals. Lunch each day consisted of a boxed meal, breakfast was carb heavy, and the days that I went into the dining hall, it was extremely crowded.

On Thursday, I had an opportunity to talk with Kathleen Mudge, who manages the Social Media Team, and Kathy Doyle, the Director of Cisco Live, about the scale of the conference. Kathy mentioned that there were over 6,000 people who registered for Cisco Live at the conference. That is an incredible 23% of the attendees that could not be accounted for until the first day.

With that in mind, I can’t fault the conference. In-fact, I am surprised that the conference was able to absorb that many people and function at all. That is an amazing feat.

The next few years are in bigger venues, so I expect the conference won’t experience these growing pains again.

The sessions that I attended were all excellent, and allowed me to expand my knowledge in a few key areas that I had identified as needing more work. I didn’t attend as many sessions as I had planned, but that was simply a matter of not having enough time.

As for the social side of CLUS, it was everything I was hoping for. I was able to reconnect with friends made at CLUS 2013, and made many more. The Social Media Hub (which we quickly renamed the Social Media Routed Bridge) was in a great location. Power was easily available for recharging devices. The arrival Tweetup was well attended, and we were able to gather on Thursday for the final picture by the Cisco Live sign.

The Cisco Live Social Media Team at CLUS is always on top of the game. They work incredibly hard to help anyone who ask. They also keep things interesting with various games and prizes. I can’t say enough about the team, and how their work affects the positive experiences of so many attendees.

The parties and the Customer Appreciation Event were all excellent. I was able to participate in three Tech Field Day events, attended the CCIE party again as a non-CCIE, and participated in multiple Cisco Champion events. They were all opportunities to meet more people, and hang out with this huge group of engineers that I get to call friends.

Now for the question. Was attending CLUS on my own dime worth it? If my Cisco Live 2014 experience only included the standard CLUS sessions, the Customer Appreciation Event, and the World of Solutions, I would have to say “no”.

However, Cisco Live is much more than sessions, expo, and parties to attend. Cisco Live is a gathering of people who are passionate about technology and life. Cisco live is space camp, or as Denise Fishburne has begun calling it, simply “Summer Camp”.

Was Cisco Live worth it? Oh yeah. I’ll be back.

The Internet of Things begins to mature with Apple HomeKit

One statement that I have repeated many times is that the Internet of Things (IoT) will not mature until a non-technical person can buy a myriad of devices and configure them all through a common interface. Apple HomeKit seems to be that interface. There are a few things that I like about the announcement:

  • Apple isn’t going to make outlets, switches, and thermostats. They are leaving that up to the experts. 
  • Apple makes great interfaces, and I believe they are capable of doing the same for Home Automation.
  • The IOS user base is large enough to make this market explode. With an increased user base, comes more products.

Again, if you didn’t read it correctly the first time. This market is about to explode. 

One last thought. Apple started with the user, just like they did with iPhones. How many iPhones are now in our corporate environments? What happens when HomeKit migrates into the office?

Cisco Live Guest Keynote Speaker Announced – KHAN!!!

Salman Khan was just announced as the Guest Speaker for the Closing Keynote at Cisco Live US. If the name seems familiar, you have probably heard of the Khan Academy.

Picture of Salman Khan of the Khan Academy

Salman Khan of the Khan Academy

The Khan Academy uses technology to create online training which can be used anywhere in the world that has internet available. They have an incredible vision, and the backing to make it happen. I am really excited about hearing Salman speak. In my mind, the Khan Academy is the power of the internet put into practice, I might even call it a redeeming quality. Every time I see a tweet of Justine Bieber’s blowing the internet up, I simply have to remind myself that people like Salman Khan are countering the idiocracy with knowledge.

If you haven’t registered for Cisco Live US yet, now is the time to do so.

Geek Toys – Jabra Motion UC

Last week, I reviewed the Jabra Speak 450, which was provided by Jabra for a review.

Jabra Motion UC

Jabra Motion UC

This week, brings a review of the Jabra Motion UC. You will notice there is no disclaimer this week, as my Jabra Motion UC was supplied by my employer for testing, not by Jabra directly.

The obvious question is, why am I reviewing a product, when I have no obligation to do so? The answer is simple, because I REALLY like this bluetooth headset.

The model that I received included a dock/case, Jabra Link 360, and charging cable. The dock/case is quite ingenious, making it easy to store and travel with all of the accessories, while also providing a dock when at your desk. The case has traveled with me for a couple of trips, and has held up extremely well.

Battery Life

My average Tuesday is packed with meetings. I regularly have 8-10 meetings in a single day, all of them via phone, Lync, or Webex. With this schedule, the only time the headset goes into the charger is during lunch. The specs report 7 hours of talk time. While I have never tracked talk-time for a charge cycle, I have never found myself without battery.

Audio Quality

The loudness and clarity of the headset is very good. The noise rejection is also very good. The headset has two mics, which are back-to-back. With this setup, one mic is always used to pickup voice, the other is used for noise identification and isolation.

Comfort

The headset fits behind and over the ear. Its fit and weight make it very comfortable. Once I adjusted to the fact that it never felt tight on my ear, I was suprised by how well it held on. Short of head banging to an 80’s hairband, its going to stay with you.

Improvement Needed

There are two things that I would like to see improvement in. The first is the way the headset is switched from ear to ear. The process requires spinning the rubber earpiece on it’s mounting surface. This isn’t easy to describe, and it isn’t easy to do. The second issue has to do with the volume control. The touch control sometimes requires multiple swipes before it responds; other times, a simple bump is all that is required.

Wrap-Up

Despite the two areas that I would like to see improvement in, this is the best bluetooth headset that I have owned out of nearly a dozen units. It is comfortable, the battery last long enough for an entire day, and the range is exceptional. Ultimately, if I were to leave my current employer tomorrow, I would buy a Jabra Motion UC.

Geek Tools – OpenGear ACM5004 Console Servers

While I was at Cisco Live, I was invited to sit in on a Tech Field Day event with OpenGear. This was my first Tech Field Day, and hopefully not my last. You can see the full video here: http://techfieldday.com/event/clus13/

Additionally, you can see a great blog post, written by Bob McCouch,
about the event here:
http://herdingpackets.net/2013/07/13/openly-passionate/

and Blake Krone’s take on the event here:
http://blakekrone.com/2013/07/09/one-console-to-rule-them-all

In short, OpenGear did a awesome job presenting a new product, the IM7200. They asked us about use cases, answered all of our questions, and impressed quite a few of us in the room.

After the event, I ended up speaking with their team about a couple of ideas that I had for their product. Based on that conversation, they were nice enough to make a unit available for testing. I received it a couple of weeks after Cisco Live, set it up on my network, and began playing.

For the past three to four weeks, I have been using the console server on my network, and trying to figure out what I wanted to write about it. I’ve started this post at least three different times, and each time scrapped the post after an hour of work. Why was it so hard to write about you ask?

Because this is one loaded device! This thing has EVERYTHING you could want on your network.

WHAT IS GOOD?
-RJ45 ports for connecting to console ports. No special cables, no adapters in most cases, no rollover cables. Plug one end of a straight-through cable into the console sever, and the other end into the console port of a switch or router, and away you go.
-In addition to standard console ports, the ports can be configured in a number of various ways. This should allow for connection to almost any device in your network.
-SSH, Telnet, FTP, TFTP, HTTP, HTTPS, DHCP, NTP, SNMP, DNS Server/Relay, and the list goes on.
-Once you have devices connected, you can access them various ways. SSH, Telnet, no surprises, right? How about a web terminal? Yes, it is that awesome.
-I/0 ports. These ports can be sensed (door sensors, environmental monitoring, etc) or set (activate a relay to release a door.) Imagine with me working on a remote site, you ask the user on the phone to walk over to the door. You unlock the door for them, and see when the door is ajar. You ask them to complete your task, and then to close the door. Does the user close the door, or hang out and play in your IDF? Well, now you know.
-USB Port. The usb port can be used for flash storage, or it can be used to connect to devices which only support USB console devices.
-Easy to set firewall rules. Do you only want SSH allowable outside of the trusted network? No problem. Settings are made with a checkbox.

I could keep going. I could mention the IPSec, OpenVPN, and DDNS options…but I won’t.

WHAT COULD USE WORK?
My gripes are pretty small with this device.
-The documentation and product CD push additional software (SDT Connector) for creating connections. Really, I don’t see the purpose. Connections to the ports are easily made over SSH (or Telnet if you like living on the edge) by specifing the correct tcp port; 300X for SSH and 200X for telnet, where X is the console port number.
-Because this device has SO MANY OPTIONS, I think some default options would make setup faster and easier. If you could select a group of ports and assign a Cisco Console Profile to them, and choose another group and assign a APC Environmental Monitoring Profile to those, setup would go much easier.

Ultimately, what you need to know is that this device is a Linux server. It is capable of doing anything that a small Linux server can do. What makes this such a compelling product is that Opengear has packaged all of the daemons and services that can be used in a network into a single simple to use form-factor. Let’s face it, we spend our day configuring complex network services. Our network and device management shouldn’t be
difficult.

This isn’t the last that you will hear about my impressions with the Opengear ACM5004. I’m currently working on a use-case at work which I will write up in the near future. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

***Opengear provided an ACM5004 for this review. No other services or payment were received.***