Well, I was very excited to get hold of Overworked's wi-spy on loan and try it out.
Plugged it into one laptop at one school - instructions say plug in - then load CD software (and nothing much else - no handbook :( )
My displays were nothing like the example they show on the screen.
Tried another laptop - same result -took it home - home laptop needed .NET downloading - wouldn't download even after 3 attempts - give up on that one at midnight :(
Tried it in another school today - displays still very weak - try unscrewing/re-screwing antenna - switch off local wi-fi card - still no joy - very weak signals being displayed even when 2 inches from Access Point :(
Go on forums - find post that says - switch laptop wi-fi on and get some traffic flowing - set it to copy down a big file - volia - it works! :D
I'll stick a little note inside the box for the next person :)
I found that to get a good image you have to leave it for 30 mins. MetaGeek recommend 24 hours but I haven't done that as it means leaving it unattended.
I know what you mean about the graphs not looking the samples they provide. But then I have seen different models of AP producing different forms. 3Com are strong square shapes (just like the samples), D-Link are more rounded and spread out (nothing like the samples).
I have seen bursts of apparently strong signal on Chanalyser for 30 seconds or so at apparently random times when it does look more like the samples provided. That's without me jiggling the antenna or touching the laptop at all. I can't explain that.
Anyway, despite this drawback it did help fix my problems. I found the sources of interference very quickly, and could re-assign channels to avoid it.
Let me know if you have any probs.
I've just read your post again. Better understood it this time.
We're a secondary with lots of laptops so there's always wireless traffic whizzing about. I suppose that would help produce something on the graphs.
I always used Chanalyser with the wireless card in and Inssider going at the same time.
PS - I'd recommend Inssider to anyone as it doesn't need the WiSpy and is downloadable from MetaGeek. (I don't know if the license requires purchase of a WiSpy though - would need to check).
It is a spectrum analyzer not a signal strength measurer, so even right next to an access point all you will see are the periodically beacon frames. Only when data is flowing, as you have now found out, is the radio spectrum in use, and this then shows on the WiSpy.
I used one of these for the research for my dissertation. Tried it out at home to see why my wireless was so crap. Turns out the cheap asian 2.4ghz AV sender I bought on ebay was using all channels accross the board. No wonder it worked so well.
This post came up in my google alert, so I hope you don't mind if add a couple of comments. We are glad to see that more people are able to use the Wi-Spy.
As far as your recordings looking nothing like the samples, you should check out this FAQ page:
Why does my recording look nothing like the samples? | MetaGeek
Inssider is free, and open source. Please download and use!
Chanalyzer 3.1 integrates Inssider within the Topographic view. This alone should be able to help you understand what you are seeing better!
Thank you OverWorked.