Some weeks ago I switched from a straight dial-up internet connection on my Mac (on a PowerPC) to a cellular phone link. Over the past many days, I’ve learned many things, good and bad.

The link starts with setting up the bluetooth link with the computer. For me, running MacOS X Tiger, this involved getting a USB-Bluetooth adapter and then configuring the Bluetooth preference pane (under Hardware in System Preferences).

Setting up the hardware and pairing the phone was actually the easy part: the preference pane runs the Bluetooth Setup Assistant, which takes you through the process of pairing a new phone step by step. You’ll have to make sure your phone is “discoverable”, that is, the phone responds to anyone who requests it. After that, your phone will be paired using a code, and your phone will be examined for its capabilities.

Once the phone is paired, it will be necessary to set it up for Internet connection. It can take some guessing (!) to get the right connection script; for me, it was the “Nokia 3G Packet RB 460” (whatever that all means). This works with my Nokia 6265i and my CDMA 1xRTT connection.

The biggest hurdle of all was getting the phone number and password. The phone number (which seems to be rather generic for cellular internet) is #777. The username and password are carrier-specific; my carrier is U.S.Cellular, and they use phonenumber@uscc.net for name and password.

Once this is all done, you should be able to connect using the cellular phone over its Bluetooth connection.

However, that isn’t all. The connection is not much faster than a dial-up connection (though it is faster). In my case, if the call is dropped for various reasons, then the phone may no longer connect – and it turns out that it is mostly the phone which is at fault.

For example, one possibility is that the bluetooth connection will go through, but the modem will not respond to commands. Another possibility is that the modem will respond, but the dialing of the number will be ignored. Another possibility is that the bluetooth connection will “fail” (as reported by the phone and the computer) for whatever reason. All of these possibilities seem to be related to dropped connections.

Remember that there is a bluetooth (wireless) connection to the phone (which acts as a modem connected via a wireless serial link). The phone then dials (when requested) using its cellular technology. If the cell phone does not have reception, or otherwise cannot dial, then this will fail (mysteriously in most cases).

One particularly nasty case is if the phone runs out of battery and shuts down. This can result in the aforementioned failure to dial and the failure to respond to any modem commands at all – and often these errors will go back and forth! One time the modem will not respond, the next it will but won’t dial. After the phone shuts off, perhaps the best thing is to leave it off and recharge.

The recharging of this particular phone is fast when it is off – and probably is for other phones as well, or at least faster than when it is running. When the phone is connected to a data call via bluetooth, then placing it on the charger keeps it going.

Another thing to watch for is receiption. The phone will never give any errors relating to weak reception, but rather will just fail mysteriously.

I hope that my experiences can help you to avoid any of the difficulties I had. If you have any solutions for niggling problems or other’s difficulties, add them below….

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