Mobile Mac professionals will appreciate AirRadar, a tool that scans the ether for open WiFi access and automatically connects to networks when it finds them. It’s increasingly viable to work on the move – with open internet access provided in cafes, shopping malls, train stations and, suitably enough, airports. Your Mac picks up and recognises the SSIDs of networks in the vicinity, but AirRadar allows you to take things a step further, adding tools to organise your net access more selectively.
Powered by Growl, AirRadar’s notification settings are very useful, using Apple’s speech feature to tell you when a new network is found. This is configurable, of course – having your laptop telling you about every network as you wander around Covent Garden would very annoying.
The best aspect of the package for our money, though, is the ability to filter networks. If you know you get a reliable and free connection from a specific source, stick it in AirRadar’s favourites so that it’s easy to select every time you’re in the vicinity. In the same way, you can filter out networks that are no good to you.
AirRadar takes some of the guesswork out of finding the right network by giving you a report of the node’s WiFi signal strength. You can even check back over your usage patterns with graphs showing past connections.
There are a couple of caveats to counter our praise of the program, however. It doesn’t display the encryption type used by a detected network – something that AirPort automatically detects. Also, the tool scans for networks at set intervals rather than constantly. This may save CPU cycles – but it means you may miss the odd strong source.
On a static desktop machine, AirRadar’s not worth more than a handful of beans – but for business users roving the mean streets with a MacBook in their backpack, it’s both free and very, very useful.