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Wireless Reviews

Setup and Configuration

The Wi-Fire installs like any other USB adapter. You just run the mini-CD on your Windows XP (only) system to install the driver and client utility and then plug the Wi-Fire into a USB 2.0 port once your system completes a mandatory reboot. Note that you can use the product on a system with only USB 1.X ports, but you'll get only 802.11b-like speeds (around 5-6 Mbps max). Note that there is no blinking LED to indicate wireless activity. To me, this isn't a big deal, since I don't think I've ever paid much attention to them on other adapters anyway.

The Wi-Fire utility automatically takes care of disabling Windows' built-in Wireless Zero Configuration utility when it launches, but allows you to go back to using it simply by simply right-clicking on Utility's System Notification area icon and choosing "Configure using WZC". Figure 5 shows the Wi-Fire Utility's Main screen (Figure 5).

Wi-Fire Utility Main screen

Figure 5:Wi-Fire Utility Main screen (click image to enlarge)

The Main screen nicely summarizes most of what you need to know about the Wi-Fire's status and includes quick-responding Tx (Transmit) Rate, Rx (Receive) Rate and Siqnal Quality meters that are the primary tools for aiming the Wi-Fire for maximum performance. The Information screen (Figure 6) contains other interesting info including the adapter's IP address (which I would have liked to have seen on the Main screen). I also noticed that the only indication or information that is available about the connetion security mode is a lock icon that appears next to the SSID on the Main screen.

Wi-Fire Utility Information screen

Figure 6:Wi-Fire Utility Information screen (click image to enlarge)

The Profile Manager tab is where you access the Wi-Fire's settings for each wireless LAN that you connect to. The Profile Configuration screen (Figure 7) contains controls for all adapter settings including Power Save mode, Transmit Power level and Transmit rate. I think the Wi-Fire is the first adapter I've seen where you must use its utility to access any of the adapter settings. So if you're old-school and like to use the network adapter properties window Advanced tab, you don't have that option.

Wi-Fire Utility Profile Configuration screen

Figure 7:Wi-Fire Utility Profile Configuration screen (click image to enlarge)

As good as the Wi-Fire Utility is, there are some improvements that I'd like to see. The Signal Quality meter, while very responsive, seems to have a bug that causes a "No signal" indication at a reading of - 82. A signal quality vs. time plot would also be a nice touch, although I must confess that I was able to use the existing Signal Quality meter just fine for aiming the Wi-fire. I'd also like to see a more useful signal-bar type System Notification area (tray) icon, or at least a mouse-over Tool Tip that provides the same info you get from the built-in XP utility's icon. This is handy for checking what's happening with the Wi-Fire without having to open the utility and take up valuable screen space.

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