Bluetooth bites back

Reading a new products bit in a magazine recently I saw a piece about a 3Com Bluetooth printing kit. This looked ideal for my new MD. A dongle plugged into the computer's USB port uses Bluetooth to communicate with a similar device plugged into the printer's parallel port. Brilliant!

We’ve been adopted -- the family and I -- by a border collie. She’s a fabulous dog and taking some time out in the morning, at lunchtime and at night to go for a walk and throw a ball, stick or Frisbee has been doing wonderful things for my mental health.

An added benefit is that, like my old pal Don Hill over at CIO magazine, I now have an adviser I can really trust (and, just quietly, I think she’s smarter than I am so I’m expecting her input will raise the standard of A Week of IT quite a bit).

Feeling blue

Speaking of strays, our new-ish MD tends to spend time working in a variety of inconvenient locations. He’s frequently out and about taking care of his other interests. He needs, whether it’s in this office or another (or another company’s), to be able to connect up his laptop and access services like the internet, email and printers. To make matters worse, he tends to stash more technology about his person than Darth Vader and needs to keep all these devices in sync.

Reading a new products bit in a magazine recently I saw a piece about a 3Com Bluetooth printing kit. This looked ideal. A dongle plugged into the computer’s USB port uses Bluetooth to communicate with a similar device plugged into the printer’s parallel port. Brilliant! At least that’d solve that problem and get me a few runs on the board. I bought one and tried it out. It worked. I’d also bought another USB dongle and installed it on a desktop machine (so he could transfer files and stuff to and from the network and his laptop without messing about with wires). That worked too.

It all worked swimmingly -- right up to the point at which I installed the gear on my MD’s laptop and printer. Bugger. The various Bluetooth devices in the room could sometimes find each other and sometimes not. Bits of the Bluetooth network kept randomly fading in and out like the limbs of a Cheshire cat.

By this time, however, the big guy had printed a couple of documents and shifted a couple of files successfully and, despite the problems, was keen to run with using this Bluetooth wireless network thing and get his PDA and phone into it as well. This too introduced some interesting issues. Different manufacturers’ Bluetooth-enabled devices seem to do slightly different things, so mixing up 3Com Bluetooth with IBM Bluetooth with Ericsson Bluetooth seemed to increase the Cheshire cat effect.

I’m no networking guru and I certainly don’t profess to know very much about Bluetooth but, previous to this debacle, my own personal experience of it was that it was a JBW technology (that is, it Just Bloody Works). My Compaq iPaq and laptop and Nokia phone all chatter away quite happily using Bluetooth. Why was it that when I went to my big, big boss and said "I’ve got a cunning solution to fix that", did it not JBW? Just lucky I guess.

Next time: Connecting Jim’s MD Part 2: Adventures in Wi-Fi

Swanson is IT manager at W Stevenson & Sons in South Auckland. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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