Bluetooth, the latest in a series of wireless technologies
is finally emerging. A personal area network, or PAN, Bluetooth can be
implemented in a variety of ways to enable devices such as PDAs, cell phones,
appliances and personal computers to communicate wirelessly over short
distances. (about 10 meters)
TDK Systems has
recently released several Bluetooth enabled modules, including the Blue5, shown
below next to a pen.
You might guess from the name that the Blue5 is a
Bluetooth-enabled module for the now ubiquitous Palm Vx. The Blue5 is tiny,
quite light, powered by the Palm, and includes a Hot-sync button and a
pass-through power connecter.
Installation is straightforward, simply hot-sync the
drivers, and if desired the TDK-Dialer app (more on this later), attach the
Blue5 to the bottom of your Palm, and you have a Bluetooth enabled PDA!
Here are some photos of the Blue5 and the Palm Vx.
Top view of the Blue5 and Palm Vx together.
Bottom view, showing the Blue5 Hot-sync Connector
You can clearly see the connector that allows Hot-syncing
and charging of the Palm. The Hot-sync button on the bottom center of the Blue5
has a built-in LED, which flashes when traffic passes from the Palm to another
Bluetooth-enabled device. The LED is a nice feature that lets you know your
Bluetooth devices are really connected. Once you are sure everything works, the
LED can be switched off to save power. I still leave mine on, as the flashing
blue light just looks cool, and I charge my Palm Vx every night anyway.
It should be noted that due the design of the power
connector, you can only use the Palm Vx cradle to charge and Hot-sync, the
charger from the Palm Travel Kit and the Targus USB Charge/Sync cable won’t work
with the Blue5 installed. It’s not really a big deal, but it is something to
keep in mind.
So, now you have a Blue5-enabled Palm Vx, what can you do
with it? Well, for starters, you need some other Bluetooth devices to ‘talk’
with. Currently, Motorola, Ericsson and Nokia have cell phones with either
built-in or add-on Bluetooth capability, and Hewlett Packard makes the 995c, a
Bluetooth-enabled color inkjet printer. Bluetooth devices need to be paired in
order to work together. Basically, the Palm and your phone, printer, etc, need
to ‘discover’ each other, and have names assigned. (My Palm is ‘Palm Vx’ my
phone, ‘T39’, and my printer, ‘995c’) Once you have paired your devices, they
can see each other and grant one another access to various features. On the
Palm, the Blue5 is seen as a serial port, and any application that uses the port
will automatically connect to a paired Bluetooth-enabled device. The picture
below shows my Palm Vx/Blue5 with two more of my favorite gadgets, a 3Com USB
Bluetooth adapter and an Ericsson T39m GSM Cellular phone.
The coolest application for the Blue5 so far is wireless
internet access. Simply create an entry in the Network section of the Palm’s
‘Prefs’ application, using the serial driver for the Blue5. The Palm will
automatically connect to your phone using Bluetooth, and establish a Dial-up
networking link. There is little difference between this type of connection and
one made using the Palm Vx modem. Except of course that the Palm is wirelessly
connected to the phone! Data speeds are network dependant, and range from 9.6
kbps to 28.8 kbps. I use an Ericsson T39 phone on a GSM network, and can obtain
data speeds of about 9.6 kbps using a GPRS or GSM-data connection.
So, with the Blue5 configured and connected, you can browse
the web, access email and use Palm Query Applications (PQAs) on the Palm all
while the phone is tucked into a briefcase, or the pocket of your favorite pair
of blue jeans. The Blue5 really shines here, being lighter and less power
hungry than my OmniSky Minstrel V CDPD wireless modem. Although the Minstrel V
has its own battery, heavy use drains the Palm Vx battery in about a day.
Comparable use of the Blue5/PalmVx combination allows my Palm Vx to run for
about two days. Using the Palm Vx and the Blue5 in this manner has worked
flawlessly, and is much nicer than trying to keep the infrared ports of the Palm
and a phone aligned.
Additional cool uses of the Blue5/Palm Vx are remote phone
number dialing, SMS message management, and wireless document printing. TDK has
a small application bundled with the Blue5 called TDKDialer.prc. Once the Palm
is paired with a Bluetooth-enabled GSM cell phone, this application reads the
address book on the Palm and allows you to dial numbers automatically. In
addition the application downloads SMS messages from the phone for easier
reading on the Palm, and allows you to compose and send messages, all via
Bluetooth. TDKDialer is a work in progress, and extensive testing caused my
Palm to do a soft reset, a somewhat frustrating experience. Other than that, it
works well. As I mentioned earlier, Hewlett-Packard has released a
Bluetooth-enabled inkjet printer, the 995c. Using this printer and one of the
available print applications for the Palm, you can wirelessly print documents
from your Palm! In all, the Blue5 is a very innovative product, which
integrates Bluetooth devices with the Palm Vx nicely, and provides some great
functionality. Just when I think the Palm Vx is starting to get
long-in-the-tooth, and that I should move to a newer model, a company gives me a
new reason to keep using the Palm! TDK Systems has done this, and it’s great!
Bluetooth capability from your Palm