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Anycom Printer Module and Bluetooth CompactFlash card

(with PC Card adapter for notebooks)

By Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Anycom makes a good selection of BT products, including a PC card, CF card, printer module, access point and a USB adapter. With that large product selection, you get the feeling these guys know Bluetooth!

We tested the Bluetooth Printing Kit that includes the Printer Module and the type II CF card with PC card adapter. You'll get drivers for both Pocket PC/Pocket PC 2002 PDAs and Windows notebooks in the box, and you'll be able to use the card both with your Pocket PC and notebook. The printer module uses a parallel port connector, and works with most popular printers (ink jet, laser and dot matrix). Just plug it into the parallel port, and plug its power plug in and you're set— nothing else needed.

 

Installation

When you run the CD installer, you'll be greeted with options to install software for your notebook, Pocket PC and bundled Pocket PC applications. I installed everything, and I appreciated that I didn't have to run separate installers for the notebook (a Compaq Presario with AMD 1.1 GHz processor and PC Card slot running Windows ME) and Pocket PC (a Toshiba e740 and an NEC MobilePro P300).

It seemed a little odd that you have to soft reset the Pocket PC twice, according to the instructions, before using the card. The notebook required the standard single restart .

Anycom Bluetooth printing kit

What you Get

Pocket PC: You'll see a lot of new icons on your Pocket PC. There's a Dialer app for use with a BT-enabled cell phone, PrintPocketCE (branded as Anycom, but from Field Software), Conduits Pocket Slides, Bluetooth File Transfer, Pocket Messanger, Anycom's own BlueCard Printing Manager, and the Bluetooth connection wizard.

Notebook PC: Bluetooth Wizard, Printing Config and File Transfer applications. The Wizard allows you to set up serial port connections (BT emulates serial ports connections), DialUp Networking (use with a BT phone), Pairing (aka Bonding in BT-speak), Local Configuration and LAN Access. The Printing Config allows you to set up and print to a printer, such as a printer with Anycom's Bluetooth Printer Module.

What to do with it all!

If you'd like to ActiveSync your PDA to your notebook or another machine, you should first run the Bluetooth Wizard and set up a serial port connection to your PC (Compaq and Belkin Bluetooth require that you do NOT try and set up a serial port connection). The software will find your PC and you can assign it to the BT virtual serial port on your Pocket PC. Then run ActiveSync on your Pocket PC and use the drop down to select the "BT ActiveSync (COM6)" selection under the Enable synchronization when cradled option at the top of the screen. Note: your COM port number may be different. Set ActiveSync to use the BT connection on your PC and you're set! I connected both a Toshiba e740 and an NEC MobilePro P300 using the Anycom card to my desktop Windows 2000 machine which has a Belkin Bluetooth USB adapter and it worked fine.

Printing works like a charm with Pocket PCs and PrintPocketCE. I fell in love with it because it works from distances and doesn't require line-of-sight as does IR printing. I tried the Printer Module with an Epson Photo 870 printer. You can print Pocket Word, Excel and Notes files in your choice of four system fonts. If you've got a color printer and your doc uses colors, those will print. Anycom provides a Printing Manager that is supposed to increase the speed and reliability of jobs printed from your Pocket PC. It works in conjunction with PrintPocketCE. You should use PrintPocketCE however to actually handle proper formatting and rendering of your document. The Anycom package comes with a 30 day eval version, and you can buy it from Field Software or from Handango for $39.95.

PrintPocketCE has been around for a few years and is an excellent printing app for the Pocket PC. It supports Epson, HP PCL printers, Canon BJ, the popular portable printers, various dot matrix generic standards, Citizen and even the Seiko LabelWriter. Not only does it do BT, but also, IR, Network shared and IP printers, and iPAQ built-in Bluetooth. You can specify color or mono printing, portrait vs. landscape, custom paper sizes, margins and more. If you need to print from your Pocket PC, this is a killer app! You can purchase it from Handango for $39.95.

I didn't find printing from our notebook to yield good results. The printer occassionally hung during print jobs and printed out control characters in Word documents. This may be due to the Epson driver not understanding how to manage serial print jobs to a printer that has only USB and parallel interfaces.

Dialing for Data and your Contacts

For data connections you'll use the Pocket PC Connection Manager (found under "Settings" on the Start Menu) to create a new dialup account, or you can edit an existing dialup account to use the Bluetooth Modem. I won't go into all the details about how to setup your BT cell phone to bond with your PDA since each phone is somewhat different. In general your phone is discoverable when first turned on for a period of 1 to 3 minutes depending on brand, and is also discoverable for 1 to 3 minutes after turning BT on in the phone settings. You must have BT active on the cell phone before you can use it as your PDA's modem.

The Dialer program is quite nice and can pull any contact from your address book. While your phone is connected to your PDA, simply launch Dialer and select your contact from the address book to have the phone dial.

Pocket Messanger also integrates into your contacts list, and allows you to send SMS messages to anyone in your address book. You can also enter a new recipient if the person you're sending a message to isn't in your address book.

Conclusion

The Printer Module and CF card make a very nice pair! Printing from the Pocket PC works beautifully and I tested up to a distance of 40 feet and 1 story.

The bundled software selection is excellent, but unfortunately some of these are not registered versions and you will have to purchase and register them separately after the demo period has expired. It'd be more intuitive if the various BT apps could be integrated into one launcher app on the Pocket PC so that you don't have to go icon-hunting to find the feature you need.

The Anycom Printer Module is simply awesome, and it also works well with iPAQs that have built-in BT (3870, 3970/3975 models). Interoperability with other brand BT cards and adapters is good. Cell phone model support is strong (not that there are so many BT cell phones out there!). For a full list of compatible PDAs and devices, check out Anycom's compatability matrix here.

The included PC card adapter and drivers for Windows machines is a money-saving bonus for notebook owners.

Anycom www.anycom.com $299 for Printer Module + CF Card with PC card adapter
$150 for CF Card alone, $150 for Printer Module alone, PC Card (not tested) $139

 

Dialer and Pocket Messanger integrate into your Contacts on the Pocket PC.

Pocket Messanger SMS

PocketMessanger SMS

 

 

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