Sunday, September 05, 2010

Why aren't you using Bluetooth?

Here's how I use Bluetooth:
1. My earpiece connects to...
...my phone for handsfree dialing and talking.
2. My mouse connects to...
...my PC. I don't need a dongle, and it doesn't use a USB port.
3. My computer connects to...
...my phone for Web access when I can't find a Wi-Fi hotspot. I don't need an Aircard, and it doesn't take up a PCMCIA slot.
...my HP photoprinter for printing.
4. My venerable PalmOS device (still in constant use) connects to...
...my PC for file sharing and calendar and contact synchronization
...my phone for file sharing  and Web access
...the same HP photoprinter as the computer.

Have you ever seen in the Star Trek original series, in episodes such as Miri, where Spock and McCoy can hook up computers and tricorders to the ship's computers using their communicators? THIS IS THE SAME THING, folks. EXACTLY the same capability as the imagined technology. Sometimes, science fiction writers just nail it (as Star Trek also did with hands-free dialing and Dr. McCoy's diagnostic beds).

You might notice that I don't buy a lot of new multifunction devices. The reason is simple... all of my devices chat happily with each other. I've never needed to buy an iPhone or Android phone with web access because I already had a Palm device that could connect to any Bluetooth phone. So long as the phone is in my pocket, I can connect to the web with the Palm as if the Palm itself had a cellular data connection. Same with the computer... no data card because it talks to the world through the phone in my pocket. No cables for hotsynching devices for the same reason. So I can't really justify throwing $400 at a device just to do what I can already do, for the most part. The gee-whiz features like Layers haven't proved compelling enough to justify the price tag, either.

You might think I'm carrying around too many devices. Not really. I always carry my phone and I typically have my Palm handy. In a pinch my phone works as a web browser, and it does have GPS, but I generally use it as a phone. The Palm has a bigger screen, and I use it quite a bit for reading eBooks. But if I need to look something up on the Web, I can do it there a bit more easily than on the phone. A better experience still can be had on the laptop. When I recently bought this laptop, I didn't shop for one with all the connectivity features I might need, as I already have them. I just bought a fairly cheap laptop and enabled Bluetooth. the point is, I simply scale up or down as needed, and don't worry whether something can connect.

We don't have transporters, no. And no warp drive. To the best of our present knowledge, these things are not just technically unfeasible, but are practical impossibilities. Those things that ARE possible, though, are largely trumped by modern tech. My phone is better than Kirk's communicator. An iPhone or Android device doesn't have the sensors of a tricorder, but its computing abilities are superior. My computer isn't sentient (yet), but I'm not sure I want it to be. However, we can do wireless monitoring (like Dr. McCoy's bio-beds) using Bluetooth. I first got involved with computers because I loved the sort of world envisioned by the original Star Trek. To an increasing extent I now live in that world.

A nice new mouse.

Of all the things to geek out about, I'm really liking my new mouse. It's a Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000.  Now you'd think that a mouse is a mouse, and there's nothing to see here, but you'd be wrong. Here's why I like this thing:

1. Bluetooth! Let's pretend you're not like most people, who think Bluetooth is limited to phone earpieces. The whole purpose of Bluetooth is to get rid of cables. So why on Earth would you waste time with wired mice or wireless mice that use stupid dongles to give you the abilities that you already have, and eat up a USB port while doing it?

2. Accuracy. I've used it on a desk with a glass top. A GLASS TOP. Without a mousepad. It's not marketed as being able to do that, so I was super-pleasantly surprised.

3. No bright red lasers. How does it work? I dunno. I'm guessing it's a non-visible laser. I'm not going to stare at its bottom to find out if it will damage my eyesight. But I don't see any of that blinding light.

4. It has an honest-to-Pete "off" switch. My old wireless mouse had the off switch built into the cradle, but this one is selectable, so I can save some battery life.

5. Low battery indicator. Yup. My previous mice just stopped working or worked erratically. This one tells me it's low on juice.

6. Doesn't succumb to excessive button-itis. It has the following mouse buttons: Left, Right, Center (mouse wheel). There's a "back" button that I pretty much ignore, but it doesn't try to be a dumbed-down keyboard.

Is it pricey? Yes. It will cost you anywhere from $17.99 to $49.99, depending on how much effort you're willing to put into comparison shopping. Keep in mind that if you buy it cheap online you'll pay much of the difference in shipping costs. I bought mine at Best Buy. This is not a $5 mouse. But keep in mind that you're also freeing up a USB port and getting a generally better mouse.

Is it ugly? Pretty much, yeah. This one's ivory, black and silver, and I've not seen it in another color. But the advantages are worth it.