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Beating the WiFi dead spot

If you've got thick walls, a weak wireless router or a finicky laptop, you may take a dim view of the so-called wireless revolution. Sure, wireless networks mean you don't have to be physically tethered to the wall or the router to access the Internet. But for those cursed with bad wireless reception, the alternative is just as bad: waving a laptop around foolishly like a divining rod, hoping that if you stretch just far enough you'll catch enough of a signal to start your download.

Whereas most network finders either present a basic signal strength metre for each access point or display a radar-like display that looks more informative than it actually is, HeatMapper creates a signal strength map of the area that shows you exactly where signal strength is strong or weak. You load a floor plan of the area into the utility and walk around the area to build the map. When the process is complete, you can see the overall reception across all detected access points, or hover over a single access point icon to see reception for just that network.

HeatMapper is a great tool for figuring out where the weak reception spots in your house or apartment are, but there are several interface problems – you can't pan maps, you can only save survey results as screenshots, and there's no documented way of taking a screenshot of an individual network's heat map, which is probably the information most people will be interested in. Still, as a diagnostic tool or just as a plaything, there's nothing that's as easy to pick up and use as HeatMapper.

Full story: The Globe and Mail