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BlueGear Bluetooth Networking Kit

 Author: Lonny R. Paul
 Review Date: 4/26/2002

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Model Number: b091h1

Don’t need a full-blown WLAN and want the convenience of a penknife-sized device for a wireless connection? The BlueGear Bluetooth adapter from Amazing Technology may be your answer. BlueGear provides a simple one-package solution for $129 to connect two machines in a “Personal Area Network” (PAN).

Pros:

  • Small form factor of adapter
  • Easy setup in less than 10 minutes
  • Great security features
  • Two adapter per package

Cons:

  • Low throughput rate
  • Limited Range

BASIC FEATURES

BlueGear has a complete solution in one small box for someone who occasionally would like to casually network two computers. This is a great setup for someone with a laptop that's frequently off-site and only needs to transfer files or sync with their primary desktop now and then.

These small Bluetooth units are two miniature USB adapters no larger than the average penknife, and half as thick. Data transfer rates of 1Mbps and complete passkey security allow for a secure connection. The installation software provided fulfills all the needed tasks, aside from the brief configuration of your “server” to provide extended network access or share an existing Internet connection. A total of eight devices can be connected to your Bluetooth network. The kit also includes two handy USB extension cables and a clip to hang the adapter on your notebook.

SETUP/INSTALLATION

Installation of the b091h1 adapter is pretty straightforward. First install the CD prior to plugging in the USB adapter. A standard setup application installs two different programs: PAN (Personal Area Network Manager) and the BlueGear Home IP Locator, which is only required for use on the “server” PC.

After installation, and a reboot, you are prompted to configure your Internet connection sharing via the Home IP Locator application. Simply choose the LAN connection on your PC providing internet service, click the “Change to Server” icon, and start the service.

Even if your connection is via America Online or some other dialup service, you are able to access the internet by defining a WAN (PPP/SLIP) connection. At this point you can exit the application, as you will no longer need to make any adjustments to it.

A small blue star icon in the system tray indicates that the PAN application is running. PAN runs in the background for connectivity management of the BlueGear network. For first time use, simply right click on this icon to define your options, and if you desire, allow users to connect to your network.

The options in PAN provided on the first screen are simply an option to modify your “passkey”, allow access to an outside network (called “NAP”), allowing for connection to non-Bluetooth devices connected through another network connection present on the “server” PC, and an advanced button.

The Advanced menu is divided into three sections:

  • SECURITY: You can define either “no security” or “security for each device.” If security is enabled, you may choose to apply encryption as well. You can completely disallow connections to the unit or even “hide” the server from others who may be searching for a Bluetooth connection.
  • OPTIMIZATION: This screen allows for “manual” or “automatic” scanning to determine available connections. You will be required to search if you are, for example, at a friend’s house and want to print something on their Bluetooth-enabled printer. A device shortcut can also be identified by MAC address and device name to allow common connections to be easily accessible within your connections list. A final option is provided to connect to the most recent network upon starting PAN.
  • BLUETOOTH DEVICE: This menu simply provides for defining the role of your device as a “master,” “slave,” or function as both. As an example, you would be a slave printing to a printer, however a master as well if you were providing internet connectivity to another laptop.

An additional “right click” on the PAN star icon will allow you to identify connected users and disconnect them if you wish.

On the client device, once you have scanned for a network, you simply click on the selected device, click on connect and are prompted for your “passkey.” This provides for user authentication on the network. Once you have connected, you should immediately be able to share files, printers and internet service. The blue star spinning in your system tray indicates connection to the network. (Printer and file sharing are dependant on the properties defined in your Windows operating system and do not require any additional configuration from within the BlueGear application.)

Two manuals are included in the package, however a simple two-sided yellow sheet folded over the installation CD provides step-by-step instructions. It wasn’t necessary to even consult the documentation for reference, however the User’s Manual provides great screen shots of every step along the way, including those for individuals not familiar with Windows needing to configure their network or share files and printers. The “BlueGear Q&A” booklet also provides answers to many questions novices may ask.

PERFORMANCE

After getting the unit set up, the connection is indicated by the blue star icon rotating in your system tray. First a 7.7MB file was downloaded from the internet, with an elapsed time of 4 minutes 11 seconds and download speed of 31.3 kbps. I was also impressed with the seamless ability to browse the complete network (with “NAP” activated) – systems both on the BlueGear network as well as wired and wireless clients.

In actual speed testing, TCP transfer rates were obtained from three different distances. The first was approximately 5 feet away in the same room. In this test, the throughput was averaged at 332.862 kbps. For the next test, the unit was approximately 15 feet away, on the opposite side of a concrete wall. Throughput at this distance was 231.074 kbps.

In the final test, the unit was approximately 35 feet away with several concrete walls between. In this test, the throughput dropped to 30.114 kbps.

Although the marketing materials and product documentation state a range of 264 feet, at approximately 55 feet (with several walls) the connection was lost.

SECURITY

Security and encryption options are provided within the application; however encryption technologies are not explained in detail within any product documentation. Enabling the encryption did not alter the throughput speed between the devices.

SUMMARY

For occasionally printing from a notebook, connecting to a PDA or cell phone, or syncing with a desktop and utilizing local network resources – this b091h1 adapter package has great value and works like a charm. The setup is easy and straightforward and internet connectivity works great -- within a close proximity.

BlueGear provides a simple solution for most users of the Bluetooth technology. Individuals looking for greater range will need to explore 802.11b connectivity. Overall, achieving Bluetooth for short-range connections has never been easier for PC users. The small size of the adapters provides for ultra-portability and the setup won’t take you more than 10 minutes.

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