Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor
If you're a Windows Vista user and a Wi-Fi user, Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor will be one of the most useful Vista gadgets you can download. It automatically displays your signal strength, the SSID of the network to which you're connected, and your current IP address. Visually, in radar monitor-style fashion, it also shows the network to which you're connected and any other nearby networks.
That's just the basics, you can get a lot more information from the free software too. Click the Show Details link, and you'll see in-depth details about the connected network and any nearby networks. You'll see each network SSID, whether it's encrypted, the kind of encryption employed, the channel it uses, the MAC address, and more.
The world is not yet completely wireless, and unfortunately, free Wi-Fi connections are not always available wherever you roam. Whisher offers a free and nifty way to use more wireless hotspots in your travels. The concept is quite simple: share and share alike. You run the software, create an account, and let others piggyback onto your home wireless network. When you do so, you receive credits for hopping onto other people's networks and commercial hotspots.
When you want to connect to a hotspot, you use the Whisher software instead of Windows XP's normal connection utility or your Wi-Fi card's software. When you're home and you're willing to open your connection, tell Whisher that you want to share, and you'll get credits in your account. You can then use those credits when you're away from home. If you don't have enough credits in your account to pay for commercial-hotspot access, you can buy some from Whisher on a per-minute basis.
Want to know your Wi-Fi connection's signal strength? Download WiFi SiStr - a simple freebie that shows the info in a small display anywhere on your desktop. Since it's a real-time monitor, it changes as your signal strength changes. It's particularly useful if you're troubleshooting a wireless network and you want to find dead spots, or areas that don't have particularly good coverage. Move around with your laptop, and you'll be able to see where the signal is strong and where it's weak.
The tool will also keep logs of your connection, so you can see how it changes over time. It can issue alerts if your connection drops below a certain strength, too. In addition, the software is quite customisable; you can skin it, as well as change the size and opacity of the display.
NEXT PAGE: Hotspot Shield and WiFi Guardian