Bits and Bytes

Small home and office networks have been gaining popularity. However, with the inclusion of several network devices, cabling can get cluttered and confusing.

Running cables no longer has to be a hindrance in establishing a network.

Actiontec Electronics has developed a USB Bluetooth Adapter that enables a computer to communicate wirelessly over a network with any other Bluetooth v1.1 compatible device, including printers, cell phones and PDAs.

Bluetooth is an open standard in wireless technology that enables communication between network devices.

Measuring about the size of a highlighter, the adapter is compatible with any PC or notebook computer with a USB port. It can connect up to seven devices in a 33-foot range and can operate through walls and other non-metal barriers.

Installation simply requires users to plug the adapter into a spare USB port on their computer. No additional software needs to be installed.

Once installed, the adapter can be used for a variety of purposes. It can be paired with a Bluetooth-ready cell phone to create a high-speed modem allowing network data to be accessed remotely.

Computer resources, such as documents, files and other data, can be shared with multiple users through the wireless network. MP3 music files and other data can be exchanged between computers or PDAs.

High-speed Internet connections can also be shared, including the ability to surf the Web wirelessly with Bluetooth-ready PDAs.

In addition, the adapter can be configured as a Bluetooth server supporting up to seven Bluetooth client devices with IP addresses assigned automatically when connected.

Other common computer devices, such as digital cameras, scanners and fax machines will soon be manufactured with Bluetooth compatibility in mind so that users will be able to effortlessly connect them to their computers.

The Actiontec device uses 40- and 128-Wireless Equivalent Privacy encryption, password protection and trust levels for local and remote computers to secure the wireless network. It uses plug-and-play technology for installation and is compatible with Windows 98 Second Edition, ME, 2000 and XP.

The adapter retails for $39.95 and includes a USB extension cable. It is available from electronics retailers and from Actiontec’s Web site.

Through the elimination of cumbersome wires and the ability to access the Internet wirelessly, the adapter provides users with a moderately priced solution when setting up a home or office network.

Curtis Raburn