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Windows XP Unwired

Getting Connected While on the Road Using Infrared or Bluetooth

by Wei-Meng Lee, author of Windows XP Unwired

Even though wireless hotspots are in vogue these days, getting connected to the Internet while on the road is still a challenge because wireless hotspot coverage is limited. Your mobile phone offers a much wider scope of coverage than the largest hotspot in the world. But how do you get connected to the Internet through your mobile phone? In this article, I will show you how you can make use of your mobile phone to connect to the Internet via GPRS. We will investigate two primary ways to connect your notebook to the mobile phone -- infrared and Bluetooth.

Using Infrared

The first solution is the easiest -- using infrared. Most mobile phones today come with an infrared port and you can establish a connection between your computer and the phone through this tiny infrared port.

Most notebook computers also come with a built-in infrared port located behind the screen. However, if yours does not come with one (or if you are using a desktop computer), you can purchase an USB infrared adapter for about $40. Figure 1 shows the U4-IRDA USB Infrared adapter from USBGear. The nice thing about USB Infrared adapters is that they are plug-and-play and require no external power.

Figure 1
Figure 1. The U4-IRDA USB Infrared adapter from USBGear.

The downside to using the infrared solution is that you need to maintain line-of-sight between two transmitting devices. Infrared ports have a 30-degree angle of coverage and due to infrared's limited transmitting distance you also need to ensure that the mobile phone is placed as near to the infrared port as possible.

Connecting your Computer to the Mobile Phone Through Infrared

You should first turn on your infrared connectivity on your mobile phone. In this article, I will illustrate using my Nokia 6610.

Once the infrared connectivity is turned on, point it at the infrared port of your computer. The Tray should display an infrared icon (see Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2. Windows XP sees the Nokia 6610 in range.

Now we need to configure Windows XP to use the Nokia 6610 as a modem. Right-click on My Network Places and select Properties. On the left side of the window, click on Create a new connection (see Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3. Creating a new network connection.

Choose the following options in the windows that come up:

  1. Select Connect to the Internet. Click Next.

  2. Select Set up my connection manually. Click Next.

  3. Select Connect using a dial-up modem. Click Next.

  4. Check the option Modem -- Standard Modem over IR link #2 (COM5) (See Figure 4, you may see a different COM port number on your screen). Click Next.

    Figure 4
    Figure 4. Using the Nokia as a modem over the IR link.

  5. Give a name to your ISP. Click Next.

  6. Type in the phone number to dialup to your ISP for GPRS access. Check with your ISP if you are unsure. Click Next.

  7. Select My Use Only. Click Next.

  8. Enter your user name and password to login to your ISP. Again, check with your ISP if you are unsure.

A new Dial-up Connection icon will be added to the Network Connections icon. Simply double-click on it and click on the Dial button to get connected to the Internet (see Figure 5).

Figure 5
Figure 5. Dialing up to the ISP.

Troubleshooting Tip

If you position your infrared ports correctly and still see the message "Wireless link interrupted -- the link has been blocked or the device has moved out of range" when you try to dialup using the infrared port, try the following solution. In the Tray, right-click on the Infrared icon and select Properties. Click on the Hardware tab and select Properties (see Figure 6).

Figure 6
Figure 6. Viewing the properties of the infrared port/adapter.

When the Properties window opens, click on the Advanced tab and select the Infrared Transceiver Type property. Change the value to "Vishay TFD" (see Figure 7).

Figure 7
Figure 7. Changing the value of the Infrared Transceiver Type.

You should now be able to use your infrared port.

Using Bluetooth

If you have a Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone, such as the Sony Ericsson T68i, you can use it as a modem to connect to the Internet. Best of all, with Bluetooth you can simply leave the phone in your pocket or briefcase and still be able to connect to the Internet (as long as the phone is powered up and your briefcase is within range). In this section I will show you how to connect to the Internet using the Sony Ericsson T68i.

The easiest way to add Bluetooth capability to your computer is to insert a USB Bluetooth adapter to your USB port. Today, USB Bluetooth adapters come in all shapes and sizes. For as little as $40 you can get a Class 2/3 Bluetooth adapter. For slightly more, you can get a Class 1 adapter that extends the effective communication radius. Figure 8 shows the Billionton USB Bluetooth adapter connected to my notebook computer.

Figure 8
Figure 8. The Billionton USB Bluetooth adapter connected to my notebook.

Connecting your Computer to the Mobile Phone Through Bluetooth

First, turn on the Sony Ericsson T68i's Bluetooth radio (press the joystick button, select Connect-->Bluetooth-->Options-->Operation Mode-->On) and make the phone discoverable (press the joystick button, select Connect-->Bluetooth-->Discoverable).

In Windows XP, go to My Bluetooth Places (I presume you have set up Bluetooth support on your Windows computer using the drivers provided with the Bluetooth adapter) and select View Devices in range. (You may also click the Bluetooth menu and select Search for devices or open Entire Bluetooth Neighborhood and press F5). After the discovery process, you should be able to see the Sony Ericsson T68i icon. Right-click on the icon and select Discover Available Services (see Figure 9).

Figure 9
Figure 9. Discovering the services offered by the T68i.

The Sony Ericsson T68i supports the services shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10
Figure 10. Services offered by the T68i.

To connect to the T68i, right-click on the Dial-Up Networking on T68 service and select Connect Dial-up Networking (see Figure 11).

Figure 11
Figure 11. Using the Dial-up Networking service on the T68i.

The phone will ask you whether you want to accept the connection request, decline it, or "add to paired." This last step pairs the phone and the PC and performs the connection request. Pairing the phone and the computer will ensure that the connection can be established whenever you need it (even though you have not used the connection for some time). If your phone is not paired, you need to make it discoverable every time you need to use the connection. See the section To Pair or Not to Pair for more details.

You will be prompted to supply a PIN code to pair up the phone with your computer (see Figure 12). You need to enter the same PIN code on your phone.

Figure 12
Figure 12. Supplying a PIN code for pairing.

Next, a dialog box will be displayed, prompting you to enter the user name, password, and the phone number to dial (see Figure 13). You can get all this information from your ISP.

Note: Some ISPs do not require a username or password, just the dialing sequence for the T68i. For example, AT&T Wireless' dial string is *99*CID#, where CID is your connection ID (typically 1, as in *99*1#). This uses the connections defined on your phone (#1 is usually configured by AT&T for your GPRS data connection).

Figure 13
Figure 13. Dialing using the T68i.

Click on the Dial button to complete the connection process (see Figure 13).

Related Reading

Windows XP Unwired
A Guide for Home, Office, and the Road
By Wei-Meng Lee

To Pair or Not to Pair

In Bluetooth, you have the option to "pair" two devices. When you pair with a Bluetooth device, this device will be "remembered." The next time you need to use the device, you won't have to search for the device again.

When pairing with a device, the device requesting the pairing will need to supply a PIN code to establish the link. The other device would need the same PIN to complete the pairing process.

You can still use a Bluetooth device without pairing, but you will need to search for the device every time you use it. (Some devices use the word "bonding" to mean pairing. They both mean the same thing.)

To pair your computer with a phone (such as the T68i):

  1. Turn on the Bluetooth radio on T68i and assign a name to it, such as T68i.
  2. On your Windows XP computer, go to My Bluetooth Places and click on View Devices in Range.
  3. Right-click on the T68i icon and select Pair Device.
  4. Key in the PIN code to be used for pairing on the computer.
  5. On the T68i, you have three choices: Accept, Add to Paired, or Decline. Select Accept to allow the computer to pair with the phone. Select Add to Paired if you want the phone to add the computer to its paired collection. Select Decline if you do not wish to pair.

A useful tip: If you are pairing your computer with a phone take care to use numbers only, or else you may have problems with keying in alphabetic characters using your phone's PIN code dialog.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.

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