A few weeks ago, I tried out the StarTech Wi-Fi Finder, which is nearly identical to an earlier product put out by prolific networking vendor ZyXel. Both look like extra large thumb drives with an LCD and display hotspot names as well as their channels. They have internal batteries that are recharged via USB and can actually also work as 802.11g network adapters, which might be helpful for a desktop as it’s been built into notebooks for some time. A third product in the vein from TrendNet, also released some time ago, added some embedded flash memory to the mix.
The granddaddy of the LCD-equipped hotspot locator is Canary Wireless’ Digital Hotspotter and it looks like the company — which has branched off into embedded wireless modules — will soon be taking the wraps off the pictured Digital Hotspotter 2..If nothing else, it seems to up the style of the original. What I’d really like to see in this category is a product that could confirm not only whether an access point was open, but whether it was actually providing Internet access by pinging some server somewhere.