Saturday, March 31, 2007

Don't have a LAN? Why not create a PAN?

If you have two PCs (desktop or laptop or whatever kinds of PAN-enabled computers), you can connect both with Bluetooth. I have tested, tried, and used it. It's a fun even at a maximum of 3 Mbps data rate.

Here below are the requirements:

- Your computers are running Windows XP SP2 (Home or Professional) or Vista,
- Both are Bluetooth-enabled using an external Bluetooth dongle or via an integrated-Bluetooth radio.

Even though the Microsoft stack solution only supports PAN user (PANU) service and doesn't support GN or NAP, I found this very handy in certain situations, such as on travel or inside a meeting. With this PANU-to-PANU direct connection, you can share any resources (files, folders, printers, etc.) except an Internet connection. I've also tried Net Meeting on this kind of PAN and it ran well.

To create such a Bluetooth ad hoc link, do these steps via Bluetooth Devices icon on Control Panel or the Bluetooth taskbar icon:

- Turn on the Bluetooth radio
- Make your computer discoverable (Bluetooth Devices>Options>Turn discovery on)
- Pair your computers (Bluetooth Devices>Devices>Add)
- Create a direct connection (Bluetooth taskbar icon>Join a Personal Area Network>select the paired computer on the list and click connect)
- Ready to share ...
- Open My Network Places and browse thoroughly under the Microsoft Windows Network, if you have set files/folders/printers to be shared across the ad hoc network, you can find them here.

Remember, each computer must have been assigned a unique name and both must have the same workgroup name. You can do this from Control Panel>System>System Properties>Computer Name>Change.

Here is the link as a comparison when using a PANU-to-GN connection with the help of a third party Bluetooth stack. Notice the difference, the latter is able to provide an Internet gateway and more than two computers (including PAN-enabled PDAs or smartphones) can join the wireless PAN.

==> The screenshots have been uploaded now (May 9, 07). You can read it here.

Bluetooth Version 2.1+EDR is coming

How many people who have Bluetooth-enabled PCs or gadgets have ever used their Bluetooth? According to a survey (sorry, I read somewhere and couldn't recall the source), only 30% of Bluetooth devices owners have ever used the radio. And those who manage to use it, most only taste a few applications such as small file transfer. Many other Bluetooth capabilities as described in the Bluetooth profiles are simply too complicated for novice users.

Driven by the above fact, the Bluetooth SIG has created an update to the existing Bluetooth Specification (i.e. Bluetooth version 2.0+EDR) with the focus on improved usability, security, and power consumption. The new specification will ensure a shorter pairing process involving less pairing steps, facilitate link encryption without user intervention, and reduce power consumption by up to five times. Such updates will hopefully be appealing to a broader user base to use Bluetooth in everyday activities and extending Bluetooth application to areas beyond its traditional markets.

The new Spec doesn't increase Bluetooth maximum data rate though, it remains at 3 Mbps. But in the future, the next Spec will enable Bluetooth to run over a very wide UWB channel to multiply data rates up to hundreds Mbps.