Your typical product test isn’t the most aerobically challenging endeavor. Sure, there’s some lifting of manuals, a bit of cable wrangling, and the occasional respiration-raising cussing fit when things aren’t going well. But by and large, reviewers log loads of screen and chair time, offering more of a workout for the eyes and posterior than for the heart.
This week’s Test Center shootout of wireless bridges -- devices that enable high-speed networks across miles of varied terrain -- is the exception. In testing seven of these devices in and near the University of Hawaii’s Advanced Network Computing Lab, Senior Contributing Editors Brian Chee and Oliver Rist engaged in some serious calisthenics. “This test had us running around outside, hooking up converters, wheeling giant carts laden with equipment, and physically lining up devices to beam lasers or microwaves across campus,” Rist says.
Chee and Rist did both short- and long-distance tests. “For the short haul, we loaded up Brian’s Ford Explorer and lugged all seven wireless bridges to a scenic overlook with a view of the university. First, though, we had to rent a 2,000-watt power generator and fill it up with gas,” Rist says.
Lest you feel too much sympathy for our test-bound warriors, Rist adds, “For the long link, we were ensconced on a terrace. We had chairs, sodas, plenty of power, and even pizza -- delivered, of course.”
Not only was the testing atypical, so were the devices themselves. First off, they have widely divergent specs and power characteristics, support diverse protocols, and even employ different technologies -- optical and RF. More striking, they’re odd looking, especially given IT’s legacy of 1U or 2U look-alike pizza boxes. “The LightPointe FlightLite 100 was a dead ringer for the robot named Number Five from the movie Short Circuit,” Chee says. “In fact, we even took to calling it Number Five.”
Despite its similarity to the main character in a cheesy 1986 robot movie, the FlightLite and its brethren proved anything but outdated. “The product category has matured enough that it is now ready for the enterprise,” Rist says. “I’d like to have one of these in my toolkit,” adds Chee, “to create an on-the-fly network whenever I need one.
Now that sounds aerobic.