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Brush Up On Bluetooth

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Ready to sink your teeth into Bluetooth? The wireless personal area networking (PAN) technology is now widely available in cell phones, PDAs, access points, telephone headsets, mice, keyboards, printers and even digital pens.

Bluetooth adoption thus far has been slow, but that may soon change. Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2, which ships later this year, will include support for Bluetooth, and Bluetooth is available on a selected distribution basis in Windows XP SP1. In addition, one-third of new U.S. mobile phones this year will come with Bluetooth capabilities, according to Allied Business Intelligence, a market forecaster.

Until recently, one of the main strikes against Bluetooth was that it was difficult to use, particularly if you were trying to get several Bluetooth devices to work together. But now you can configure these devices in less than five minutes, thanks to better configuration wizards and Windows XP's Bluetooth support.

Bluetooth connections are automatic and almost instantaneous--faster than pulling and connecting a cable. With a typical range of about 10 meters, Bluetooth can eliminate cables between personal devices. You can connect your notebook computer or PDA, for example, to your cell phone and use it as a modem.

Why not use Wi-Fi/802.11 wireless technology instead? Bluetooth is actually intended for cable replacement, though it can be configured to emulate a LAN. Unlike Wi-Fi, Bluetooth includes service discovery and usage profiles. These let devices automatically make the right service--such as a printer offering a printing service to a phone--available once connected. Plus, Bluetooth operates at lower power levels than 802.11, with many devices transmitting at just 1 or 10 milliwatts, and is aimed at ad hoc connectivity. The Bluetooth specification is controlled by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group and is a standard, IEEE 802.15.1.

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