How To Use Xirrus To Figure Out Wi-Fi Problems

Guy McDowell over at Make Use Of recently made a detailed post in figuring out his Wi-Fi problems using the Xirrus gadgets/tools. I’ll paste it here for you guys to read, but please remember to visit his site as well, very informative.

For some unknown reason, my WiFi connection at home drops out. Sure, it drops when the microwave is turned on high, but I understand that. It’s the plate in my head. I pee my pants and forget who I am for about a half-hour or so……Yet, there are other times when nothing seems to change but the connection cuts out.

I’ve been looking for something that would help me monitor my WiFi network and show a bit more about what is happening. That’s when I came across Xirrus, and I’m pretty happy with it. Once I installed it, I was pretty much able to figure out what the problem is. Let me show you how I figured that out.

Initially I looked at the information about my WiFi network to make sure everything was okay.

Everything seems to be good there. Just so you know, for signal strength, the lower the number the better. However you can get too strong of a signal as well. Typically once you get up around that -80 or higher dBm signal strength, it’s not really usable.

Then I looked at what is happening in my neighbourhood, since I know a lot of folks have WiFi here.

So Coffee Pot is my network. And I think I know who has Gigaset2F3. Look there – Gigaset2F3 has a slightly stronger signal strength than Coffee Pot. That could contribute to the problem, but only really if both WiFi routers are using the same channel. Well look there! We’re both on channel 11 as well as the Hallands.

Do you remember when cordless phones had three channels to use? Occasionally you would pick up your neighbour’s conversation if you were on the same channel. Now cordless phones have many channels to use and changes up automatically. That’s pretty much what is going on here. Only I can’t see their data – it’s relatively secure, but it sure could mess up my connection.

Now check this out.

Aha! Gigaset2F3 has the same wireless router as I do. I can’t confirm that would contribute to the problem, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it did.

Another interesting feature that Xirrus has is the ability to chart signal strength for one or more WiFi networks. I charted the signal strength for my network, Gigaset2F3 and michelle, just to see what kind of changes were going on.

It’s interesting to note that Coffee Pot’s signal is all over the place, whereas Gigaset2F3 and michelle do have signal strength variances, but they stay relatively constant. I have no idea why that is, but it gives me something else to investigate. Should I loose my signal and I have Xirrus running, I’ll be able to see if there is an event with my neighbours that corresponds with that time. That would prove my theory that my signal is getting beat out.

You could also use XIrrus to see if any changes that you make to your WiFi router actually make a difference. Maybe you’ve added a directional antenna or changed the location of the router. Then you check with Xirrus and sure enough the signal improved 12 points. Then when your wife says your Internet sucks, you can say to her it doesn’t, and that it’s her and you can prove it. Then you can put ice on that eye. I’m not speaking from experience here. Really.



If all this is a bit more than you really want or need, there is a widget version of Xirrus. You can use it with Yahoo! Widgets for Windows and Mac, Windows Vista and Linux gDesklets.

In one compact widget on your desktop, you get much of the same information that you get from the desktop version of Xirrus.

Have you had problems with your WiFi network? What have you done to help figure it? I’m curious if anyone has built a cantenna and how that worked. Let me know in the comments.

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