Electronic Design

New Wireless Devices Keep Coming At Me

When we started planning this Wireless Everywhere issue, I naturally began to think of the wireless devices I’ve been using more and more in my own life. Strangely enough, I haven’t purchased any of my latest gadgets myself. I’ve obtained them either from my company, Penton Media, or through review units sent by enterprising public relations people.

For me, 3G started with a Motorola Q that I purchased several years ago. I wanted to get to know the technology, so I forked over $45 per month for Internet connectivity on top of voice service. I eschewed the extra $10 per month for an option to hook my notebook to the phone and get Internet connectivity wherever I happened to be, but I liked the idea.

Playing with this phone for several months gave me insight into the possibilities for accessing the Internet at any time, mostly via mobile sites. But I was able to access some regular sites as well by using the Opera Mobile browser. Eventually, I caved in to the cost and went back to my regular cell phone.

When I got this job a few years ago, Penton issued me a Palm Treo, complete with Internet connectivity. I use it often now to check various mobile sites as well as my new Twitter account (joedesposito). I also asked for the option to connect my PC to the Treo so I could surf the Web and avoid the cost of connectivity at some of the hotels I stay at.

I wasn’t happy with this option at all, though. The cable from the Treo to the PC uses a bulky connector that’s sensitive to movement, and I found it difficult to keep a solid connection to the Internet. In addition, answering calls while trying to keep the connector from disconnecting is a real pain. Eventually, I gave it up and asked for a 3G aircard.

My wife had gotten one, and I was jealous. She slipped it into the PC Card slot on her notebook, ran a connection program, and was connected to the Internet— no muss, no fuss. When my aircard arrived, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t a PC Card at all, but a USB stick. I was disappointed, since an aircard fits so well into a notebook, while this particular USB stick sticks out, forcing you to pull it out of the port whenever you pack up your notebook.

I got over it. The USB stick works great—much better than the Treo connector. I pop in the stick and run the connection program, and I’m up and running in seconds. If I get a call on the Treo, there’s no worrying about connectors coming loose.

With a couple of 3G connections in the house, I agreed to review a product called the MobilSpot from Level One. It takes 3G computing to the logical next level. If you’re on the road with family or friends or in a house that lacks a broadband connection, you can insert the 3G PC card or USB stick and everyone in range can connect to the Internet via a Wi-Fi connection.

To be clear, anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled notebook can connect to this mobile hotspot, which then connects to the Internet via the 3G card. It sounds simple enough. Not for me, though. I couldn’t get the device working. I even talked to a tech support guy, but still couldn’t make it work.

Though it recognized the 3G device, I thought the MobilSpot lacked a program to connect to the service, like the notebook has. When I connect with the notebook, I have to launch a program called VZAccess Manager, which then dials a number to connect to the Internet. My wife has the same type of program with her Sprint card.

Whenever I review a product and can’t get to first base with it, I usually assume it’s defective. Most of the time, I’m right. I’ve given the MobilSpot my best shot and will be sending it back to the company for further inspection.

A little over a year ago, I reviewed the Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick. It picks up broadcast HD signals so you can watch highdefinition television on your notebook. The hardware consists of a USB stick that connects to a high-gain telescopic antenna. The software player comes on a CD. I set up the system in my former office on the fifth floor of our building in Paramus, N.J.

I was skeptical that I would get good reception, since the small antenna sat on my desk, about eight feet from the window. I was 100% wrong. The reception was terrific. I was able to view popular network channels and many other broadcast HD channels. The software was excellent as well, enabling you to record programs and take snapshots. The program’s scanner also picks up radio stations, a nice extra.

When we closed our Paramus office and moved to New York, I brought the PCTV HD home with me. At first, I couldn’t locate any HD stations from the first floor of my house, with the antenna on my desk about 10 feet from the window. But I connected to 18 channels from the second floor, with the antenna placed by the window. The device receives ATSC signals, so you can’t use it in a moving car, for example. But you might take your notebook to a picnic and watch a ballgame while cooking the hot dogs.

TAGS: Mobile
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