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Bluetooth Networking for your Pocket PC, Zaurus and Computer
by Lisa Gade, Editor-in-Chief

AmbiCom Bluetooth Compact Flash Card BT2000-CF

AmbiCom makes reasonably priced networking cards that are compact and power-frugal. Their Bluetooth type I CF card not only supports Windows Mobile 2003 (Pocket PC 2003) but also older operating systems such as Pocket PC and Pocket PC 2002. In addition, they offer Windows CE .NET drivers (NEXiO S160 owners rejoice) and Windows XP/2000/ME drivers for those who want to also use the card in a notebook using the included CF to PCMCIA adapter.

This class 2 Bluetooth 1.1 compliant card supports service discovery, device discovery, name discovery, Object Push (used to transfer files between two BT devices), Dial-Up Networking Profile, LAN Access Profile, Serial Port Profile, File Transfer Profile and has a phone manager.

Pictured left to right, you'll see the most recent revision of the card and the older revision. The newer card has a translucent purple cap and an LED that indicates activity, while the older card has a black plastic cap and no LEDs. Both versions of the card worked equally well in our Pocket PCs, but you'll need the older card if you wish to use it in the Sharp Zaurus line of PDAs (as of this writing, the Linux community has only created drivers for the older card which uses a different BT chipset from the newer one).

Pocket PC Installation and Setup

We tested the AmbiCom card with two Pocket PCs running Windows Mobile 2003: the Toshiba e805 (US version which has built-in WiFi rather than Bluetooth) and the Dell Axim X5 Advanced.

Simply select the desired operating system and run the installer on the included CD ROM to place the appropriate software for your Pocket PC. You may need to visit AmbiCom's web site to download the latest Windows Mobile 2003 drivers if you have a Pocket PC 2003 model.

Unlike HP iPAQs and cards such as the Belkin CF model which use Widcomm drivers and Wizards that integrate into the OS, AmbiCom's software runs from a Today Screen plugin. You'll configure the card and its connections via this plugin. Double-tap on the AmbiCom Today Screen plugin and you'll see four selectable options: Dial Up..., Dial Up Setup Wizard, Phone Manager and Blue Neighborhood. In the plugin module you'll also see a phone icon, and you can tap on this to connect to an already configured Bluetooth mobile phone— sweet!

To setup a Bluetooth mobile phone, you can use the Phone Manager option, which supports Ericsson (Sony Ericsson also works) and Nokia brands. The software will then pair with the phone and save a Dial Up networking connection for that phone. I tested the card with a Nokia 3650 and the Sony Ericsson P900 and it worked well.

If you own another brand phone, you can use the Blue Neighborhood selection from the Today Screen plugin (also available under Programs) to scan for your phone and manually pair. Blue Neighborhood automatically detects available services, so it will allow you to select Dial Up networking when you tap on the icon for your discovered phone.

 

Ambicom Bluetooth CF card Ambicom Bluetooth CF card older

Left: the latest revision of the AmbiCom Bluetooth CF card. On the right is the older revision which works well with Zaurus Linux PDAs.

CF to PCMCIA adapter

This CF to PCMCIA adapter is included with the card.

 

In addition, you can use Blue Neighborhood to ActiveSync (if your PC has a Bluetooth adapter) and discover and pair with other types of Bluetooth devices such as GPS, BT printers and Bluetooth access points. Surprisingly, I didn't have any luck connecting to our Red-M Bluetooth access point with either of my Pocket PCs using the AmbiCom card (usually access points are the easiest to connect to). However, phone pairing went well, and I was able to quickly and reliably connect to my Sony Ericsson P900 using the phone icon on the Today Screen plugin.

Linux Installation and Use on the Zaurus

I tested the older revision card on my Zaurus C860 using the free BlueZ software available on SourceForge.net. To learn how to install and set up the BlueZ software, read this detailed FAQ by tumnus who currently maintains BlueZ for Zaurus. In addition, I installed the high speed driver for the AmbiCom card a (must have!) and a very nice set of GUI front end applets for Networking and PAN that integrate into the networking applet in Qtopia on the stock Sharp ROM (they probably work on some other ROMS, but I didn't test that). These come from my-zaurus.narod.ru/bluetooth.html and make it very easy to work with various Bluetooth connections using the standard networking applet interface. Hopefully, tumnus or another talented members of the open source community will soon add a driver for the new revision AmbiCom card currently found in most retail locations.

Once I had these software packages installed and configured, I was able to use my Nokia 3650 as a GPRS modem for the C860, and I happily connected to our Red-M 1050 access point. Very nice!

Conclusion

The AmbiCom card is a low profile, type I card that won't break your budget or your PDA's battery. It works in both type I and type II CF slots, and supports older Pocket PCs as well as the latest models. AmbiCom has a strong history of frequently updating drivers, so you should be assured that the latest drivers will be available on their web site for download. The Today Screen plugin for Pocket PCs is clever and convenient, though their software lacks wizards and seems largely geared toward connecting to BT mobile phones, the card can work for many other types of connections using the manual discovery and configuration features of Blue Neighborhood. Connecting to the Net using your BT mobile phone simply by tapping on the phone icon on the Today Screen plugin is very slick, saving you time and screen taps. I recommend this card for Pocket PC users if your primary desire is mobile phone connectivity. If you're a Zaurus Linux PDA owner and you can find the older revision card, buy it! It works connecting to phones and access points flawlessly and offers very good connection speeds.

AmbiCom, list price $69.99

 

 

 

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