A great tool for finding wireless spots in public places like airports, cafes, parks etc is iStumbler.  It is very full featured – describing the signal strength in a 0-100% range which is very useful when deciding between which access point to choose. When my MacBook Pro is right next to my router, it shows 70% so I am wondering how to get a 95%?!

Also, it shows if the noise, the channel the network is using (1-11 or 1-13 in Europe/Asia) whether the network is managed or not among other things.  This is a godsend when I am out and about and need to get online really quickly.

iStumbler

I can’t say enough good things about this application. 

The only thing that comes close is Shareware called Wifind from Tasty Apps.

The problem I have with Wifind is that its shareware and that it doesn’t give as detailed descriptions about the wireless hotspots as iStumbler. Also, because its a plugin, I am worried that Apple will mess it up in a future release or worse yet incorporate it in their software and make my purchase worth nil! That being said, its right there in the menu and its much quicker than iStumbler to use. 

Another app for this kind of work is Kismac. It has got some stability issues but on the good side, it does let you decrypt WEP and WPA keys (if you have a few days to spare while it gathers packets). We don’t condone those sorts of things here however ;)

Finally, there is another application, which is free, that does most of what Wifind does (meaning you can save the $8). It is called Coconut-Flavour (love the Brits and their spellings) and can be downloaded here: http://coconut-flavour.com/coconutwifi/

In the next few weeks we’ll see if these are really necessary when a feature complete Leopard comes out at WWDC.

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