I've been experimenting with the new Wi-Spy spectrum analyzer from MetaGeek. This handy little
device plugs into a laptop's USB port and, with the software provided, displays a graph in real-time of the radio frequency (RF) energy over the spectrum used by 802.11b wireless networks. Ordinarily you would need to spend $4,000 to get this capability, but the Wi-Spy sells for $99 on the MetaGeek Web site, although as of this writing is it back-ordered until March 15th.
The Wi-Spy only covers the 802.11b band, but what do you want for $99? It's very useful for figuring out what other RF emitters might be interfering with your WiFi connection, as this band is also used by Bluetooth, cordless phones, and microwave ovens.
Hint: Don't bother installing the software on the mini-CD in the box. Go to the Web and get the more recent version found there. However, the Cd does contain some interesting AVI movies showing what you will see if you turn on various devices such as a microwave.
Better yet, try it yourself. The pictures below show my kitchen before and after turning on the microwave.