The lowdown on bluetooth

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Bluetooth arrives

What is it? The Bluetooth wireless specification includes both link layer and application layer definitions for product developers, supporting data, voice and content-centered applications. Radios that comply with the Bluetooth wireless specification operate in the unlicensed, 2.4-GHz radio spectrum, ensuring communication compatibility worldwide.

In practice, this allows creation of a personal area network linking PDAs, computers, printers, cameras and mobile phones, without the need to assign and use IP addresses.

Will Bluetooth replace 802.11 networks? It's not likely. The IEEE 802.11b, or
Wi-Fi, specification is designed for enterprise computing, allowing access to a corporate network and the Internet. Bluetooth is better suited, experts say, to less intensive tasks. The two networks can coexist within an office.

What do I need to run Bluetooth? Most PC operating systems'Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, NT and XP; and Mac OS X'have or will have driver software to work with Bluetooth, as will handheld OSes such as Palm OS, Windows CE and Pocket PC. Along with the software, you'll need a Bluetooth transmitter and receiver to make a connection.

What are the practical applications? If you want to check your e-mail using a PDA, a Bluetooth connection to a compatible cell phone will make it possible even if the phone is in a pocket or briefcase. You can also walk up to a compatible Bluetooth printer and print, without worrying about protocols: The Bluetooth software makes the connection possible.

Must-know info? Bluetooth is being promoted for use in enterprises as well as public areas such as airports, hotels and hospitals. But for all its convenience, do not trust secure information to a Bluetooth network; its transmissions can be intercepted.

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