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Gadget gave Bluetooth a go. We arranged a Bluetooth-enabled laptop from Digitec and used it to connect to the Internet using a cellphone as a modem. We used Bluetooth to connect the notebook to the cellphone and then connected to the Internet over GPRS. Two new technological concepts working in tandem for a totally mobile Internet solution, was our goal.

Thanks to Digitec for the Pentium 4 notebook, to Nokia for the 6310i and to MTN for a GPRS-enabled SIM.

Being ‚wired‚ isn’t all its cut out to be especially when connecting comes at a price. Usually the price being the wire in the physical sense. No matter how well you plan your office or audiovisual area, the wires are never long enough to go where they’re supposed to and if they are, there is always an exposed mass of them. Wireless is the answer and two solutions stand out – IR (infrared) or RF (radio frequency). For the latter, the only real standard is Bluetooth. Infrared is the more mature of the two but it has three main problems: its very slow, not very secure and the connecting devices have to be within line of sight. Bluetooth on the other hand, is fast, not reliant on line-of-sight and is far more secure than infrared. In addition, the two connecting devices can be up to ten meters apart.

Bluetooth is a relatively new radio frequency technology designed for connecting devices to accessories. It was first developed for use on cellular handsets where wireless headsets have the most obvious application. Eventually Bluetooth was used to connect and control a multitude of electronic appliances. Unlike present-day radio-controlled remote devices, Bluetooth’s high frequency (2,4 GHz) doesn’t interfere with cellphones, police and ambulance radios or television sets. Further, the technology’s coding and inherent short range (10 meters) also keeps it out of radio spectrum mischief.

The Bluetooth initiative was started by Ericsson in 1994 but only really got kick-started in 1998 when Ericsson, along with Nokia, Intel, Toshiba and IBM formed the Bluetooth Special Interest Group and started promoting the technology as an open standard.

Gadget gave Bluetooth a go. We arranged a Bluetooth-enabled laptop from Digitec and used it to connect to the Internet using a cellphone as a modem. We used Bluetooth to connect the notebook to the cellphone and then connected to the Internet over GPRS. Two new technological concepts working in tandem for a totally mobile Internet solution, was our goal.

Is it ready to use?

Nope. Firstly you have to install and configure Bluetooth software and hardware on your notebook, a lot have it already installed. You then have to install the phone’s modem and Bluetooth connectivity software. Once all the software is installed, set the phone up as a modem, put in the dial-up number, username, password, Internet Access Point and set the phone to use GPRS to connect to the Internet. Once that’s all done, pair the phone and notebook and create a secure link between the two. If you are a computer novice, we suggest you get somebody to help you until you get the hang of it. After the initial setup, you hopefully won’t have to go through the rigmarole again, just select your phone as your modem to dial up to the Internet and away you go.

Is it easy to use?

Besides the initial setup where we had to consult the manual frequently to make sure we were doing things correctly, yes. Once setup, you connect to the Internet as you normally would, however one extra step when connecting through your cellphone is that you have to activate the Bluetooth receiver on your cellphone and obviously make sure the two devices are within ten meters of each other.

Does it operate as advertised?

Well, Bluetooth does what it’s supposed to do: it connects devices wirelessly with no hiccups within a ten-metre radius. Our Bluetooth notebook sometimes even located the phone before we were able to. Admittedly, dialling up to the ‚Net using a cellphone as a modem on GPRS is far quicker than Data over GSM, especially in establishing a connection. We connected to the Internet in less than ten seconds. GPRS was also a lot more cost-effective than conventional connecting methods. Instead of remaining connected whilst on the Internet, GPRS creates a connection every time you download something and then disconnects. This means you can display a page on your screen for as long as you want and only get charged for the time taken to download it to your PC.

Is it value for money?

At the moment Bluetooth technology is still quite pricey however, give it a year or so and it will be dirt cheap, just like most things in the computer world. If you can get by without it then we don’t suggest you go out and upgrade your entire network to Bluetooth.

If you connect to the Internet a lot whilst travelling, then we suggest you go for GPRS, it will take a big chunk off your telephone bill and will make browsing the Internet much quicker, whether it be from your computer or straight from your phone using WAP. One thing to remember though is that only MTN supports GPRS at the moment, the other service providers are expected to roll it out later this year.

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