After using Bluetooth technology to connect mobile phones to terminal devices (PDA or headsets), the next most sought after feature of Bluetooth must be network connection.
Although slower than wi-fi, the fact that a single device can be the information hub is a plus. A Bluetooth enabled laptop can host synchronisation (Pocket PC, Palm, Symbian), connect to the internet via mobile phone, have a wireless headset connected, use a printer from the other side of the room.
Network connection can be achieved by using a computer as a gateway (our Bluetooth Guides can help you on this) or by using a Bluetooth LAN Access Point.
Although a Bluetooth LAN Access Point costs more than a PC/Mac adapter, it's a device specifically designed for this use.
The Bluetake BT300 is a very cool looking little box also called "X-Bridge". It measures 203mm x 130mm x 40mm and weighs only 275g. It has a 10/100 Base-T connection in the back, and a serial adapter. The unit has a mini web server to allow remote configuration. The device supports the Bluetooth LAN Access profile only, but that's the only function we expect from this device, isn't it?
According to the specifications, the BT300 has a range of 100m in open areas. Of course the final range will be reduced if there is interference from other devices, walls and other barriers between devices.
Up to seven Bluetooth clients can connect to the BT300 Access Point at the same time.
Configuration and security
The device is ready to use as soon as it is out of the box - if you have a router, that is. The first step is finding the device from a Bluetooth enabled computer. Once the BT300 is found you'll see its icon in the Bluetooth Places. Opening it we'll see the LAN Access service available:
Simply double-click the service and the connection is initiated. Once connected, browse to its default address on port 5000 (http://188.8.131.52:5000). Enter the username and password and you're ready to configure it.
You have the option to select a fixed IP address (when you have it connected directly to the xDSL or cable modem for instance), PPPoE (xDSL) and DHCP (when another device will serve as a DHCP server and assign attributes to this device).
You can also select a security level. Level 1 will allow any paired device to connect, while Level 3 will require the user to enter a PIN (select here too) every time a connection is attempted.
The following diagrams illustrate different ways to connect the access point in a network.
Connecting the BT300 directly to a xDSL or cable modem will give you a 100% wireless network. In this case you have to configure the BT300 with the recommended settings from your provider. This includes IP address, gateway, DNS server address and netmask.
A more flexible alternative is to connect the BT300 to an existing router, and use DHCP to capture all parameters. In any case, the device will hand out addresses in the 111.111.111.x range.
In terms of security, the device acts as a router and blocks unsolicited incoming connections to internal addresses, but it does not have a firewall built in. To test it I had it connected directly to a cable modem, and used PC Flank to test some well known exploits. I also used GRC to test open ports. The BT300 passed all tests, except the port 5000 used by its mini web server is visible from the WAN connection side. For high security environments I'd suggest placing the device after a router packet with state inspection or a hardware firewall.
Another great feature of this device is VPN support. I managed to connect to a VPN server from behind this router without a problem .
A Pocket PC perspective
Connection from a Pocket PC couldn't be easier. Simply scan for the device, and once it is found, look for the services and connect. The following images show how the device appears for a iPaq H3970:
This is the final answer to users who want to have access to the internet from Bluetooth enabled devices and don't want to fiddle with IP and DNS configuration. Most of the times PDA users hit a wall while using Bluetooth USB devices and Windows ICS to access the internet via Bluetooth. A Bluetooth LAN Access Point simply bypasses these problems, allowing seamless integration to the network.
This is another device that had me excited, and I couldn't wait to have it out of the box. Not surprisingly it looks good enough to be on view, since you can't have it hiding like wired routers.
I'm more than happy with this product, and I'm sure other Bluetooth users will be happy with it too .