Last year I became a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA), and doing so showed me that I really didn't know about wireless networks as well as I thought, even though I work with them everyday.
It is true that my every day interactions with wireless networks are very different from those of a typical WLAN engineer. I don't do surveys, I don't install AP or WLAN controllers, I don't even design networks! My involvement with wireless networks at the moment includes research, development and testing of transport and routing protocols for tactical mobile ad-hoc networks (MANETs), and some cyber-security work on moving target defenses (MTDs).
Many of you also know me as the author of a few Wi-Fi tools for Mac, being the most popular WiFi Explorer. I started WiFi Explorer back in 2012 and thanks to the feedback of the WLAN community, especially a very large group on Twitter, the tool has matured quite a bit. What began as a very simple Wi-Fi scanner is now a serious tool for monitoring and troubleshooting home and small office wireless networks. Many WLAN and IT professionals also carry it in their toolbox for simple troubleshooting and preliminary assessments of larger (e.g. enterprise) wireless environments. And of that I'm very proud.
One of the many things I enjoy about working on these tools is learning. Learning is a very important part of my daily routine and it is in fact one of the reasons I decided to become a CWNA. I wanted to make sure the information presented in WiFi Explorer was as accurate and useful as possible, and that could only be achieved by learning how wireless networks really work. The Advanced Details tab in WiFi Explorer is a good example of what I mean. It took long, late hours of reading and coding but the end result was worth it. And I learned a lot.
Since learning doesn't stop, a few months after passing the CWNA exam I decided to become a Certified Wireless Analysis Professional (CWAP) with the hope that it will serve me for the development of a few other Wi-Fi tools I have in mind. I purchased the book and read the first three chapters, but then a series of unfortunate events in my life needed all my attention and I didn't continue studying. The book rested on my nightstand for months until I open it back a few days ago and realize I had forgotten pretty much everything about the first three chapters.
Studying for the CWAP requires a lot of memorizing. It's just how it is, and since I can only dedicate a few hours per week, this time I had to do something different to make sure I could retain as much information as possible. This is how concept maps came to mind. Concept maps are diagrams that can be used to capture, organize, and represent knowledge. They include concepts, usually represented as circles or boxes, and annotated lines that connect and specify the relationship between them.
I know about concept maps because I worked for the CmapTools project for about five years. I truly believe they're an excellent way of expressing and summarizing complex topics. However, what I found most valuable is the process of constructing a concept map. The mental effort necessary to build a concept map is what enables me to memorize the concepts and understand the relationships between them.
As part of my new CWAP study routine, I intend to build a concept map per book chapter and share it with the community so everybody can benefit from it. Today I'm sharing the first concept map, which gives an overview of the IEEE 802.11 standard. This concept map summarizes the first chapter of the CWAP book, titled "802.11 Overview", except that it omits the Wi-Fi Alliance section.
It goes without saying that if you're also studying for the CWAP exam please don't use the concept maps as an excuse for not reading the book. I actually encourage you to do the exercise and build your own as you see fit.