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The Bluetooth Suite

Bluetooth is an emerging wireless technology that allows you to form a wireless PANPersonal Area Network. Using this wireless network, you can synchronize PDAs, connect to the Internet through your cell phone, print to printers, use Apple's wireless keyboard and mouse, and so on. Although Bluetooth is an accepted standard, few devices currently use it, and not all Macintosh systems come with Bluetooth enabled. If you're interested in Bluetooth, you can purchase a Bluetooth USB dongle for about $40 that will Bluetooth-enable your Mac.

NOTE

Most third-party USB Bluetooth transceivers work just fine on Panther. Even Microsoft's Bluetooth adapter is recognized without a hitch.

Panther comes with a suite of Bluetooth tools, including a System Preferences pane, menu extra, File Exchange utility, Bluetooth serial utility, and Bluetooth Setup Assistant. Although this may seem like a lot of support software just to use a wireless mouse, it isn't as convoluted as it might seem. You should be familiar with two basic terms to use Bluetooth devices:

  • Discoverable—A device is considered discoverable if it can be "seen" on a Bluetooth network. Nondiscoverable devices are hidden from other Bluetooth devices.

  • Pairing—To speak to a Bluetooth device, your computer must be paired with it. This prevents any random person from walking into a room with a Bluetooth device and using it to access your computer. Pairing often, but not always, requires a password to be entered on the computer and the device connecting to it.

With that knowledge, and a compatible Bluetooth adapter, you're ready to get started.

Bluetooth System Preferences

After plugging a Bluetooth transceiver into your computer, Panther displays a new Bluetooth System Preferences pane, as shown in Figure 3.72.

Figure 3.72Figure 3.72 The Bluetooth System Preferences provide control over your wireless devices.

Settings

Three panes are used to control Bluetooth operation. The first pane, Settings, is shown in Figure 3.72. Here you can see the status of your Bluetooth adapter and make changes to your first Bluetooth device—your Macintosh. After your Macintosh has an adapter plugged in, it becomes simply another Bluetooth device on your network. It can speak to other devices, and they, in turn, can speak to it. That being the case, you may want to adjust the discoverability and authentication requirements to keep unauthorized users from seeing or pairing with your computer.

  • Discoverable—Enables other Bluetooth devices to see your computer on the Bluetooth network. They can, quite literally, browse to your computer. If unchecked, your machine will be invisible to other devices.

  • Require Authentication—Enable this setting to require other devices to authenticate with your computer before pairing. Click the Use Encryption check box to force authentication transmissions to be encrypted.

Although these are the primary settings for how your computer presents itself on the Bluetooth network, a few additional settings aid in device compatibility and setup:

  • Support Non-conforming Phones—When checked, Panther supports earlier Bluetooth-enabled phones that do not conform to the current spec. If you have trouble pairing your phone, try using this setting.

  • Allow Bluetooth Devices to Wake This Computer—If enabled and supported by your system, external devices will be able to wake your computer from sleep.

  • Open Setup Assistant at Startup When No Input Device Is Present—If Bluetooth is enabled but no input device is paired with your computer, this setting causes the setup assistant to run automatically.

  • Show Bluetooth Status in the Menu Bar—Adds a menu extra that can be used to quickly access many of the Panther Bluetooth settings.

File Exchange

The next pane, Bluetooth File Exchange (shown in Figure 3.73), is used to configure how your computer exchanges files with other Bluetooth devices. Although not quite the equivalent of File Sharing between Macs, Bluetooth File Exchange allows simple point and click file transfers between active paired devices.

The first set of preferences control what happens when a Bluetooth device transfers files to you. You can force it to prompt for each item, or refuse them altogether. PIM (Personal Information Manager (that is, PDA) items and other recognized data formats can be set to simply save the information, ask (the default) what to do, or automatically open it with a helper application. Use the Choose Folder button to select a folder that contains the items transferred to your computer.

Figure 3.73Figure 3.73 Set up how your Macintosh handles Bluetooth file sharing.

To allow other devices to transfer files from your machine, enable the Allow Other Devices to Browse Files on This Computer check box. You can use the Choose Folder button to limit their browsing to a single folder (by default, the Shared folder).

Devices

The Devices pane, shown in Figure 3.74, is the control center for pairing Bluetooth devices with your machine.

Figure 3.74Figure 3.74 Use the Devices pane to connect Bluetooth devices to your computer.

In the upper-left corner of the pane is a list of Bluetooth devices paired with your computer. Below the list is a detailed display showing information about the selected device. To the right of the selected device are five buttons used to control the device pairings:

  • Add to Favorites/Remove from Favorites— Toggles the device as a "favorite."

  • Delete Pairing—Removes a device from your list of known Bluetooth devices, effectively causing Panther to forget about it.

  • Disconnect—Disconnects a device but does not delete the pairing. Depending on the device (such as mouse), simply using it again causes it to reconnect.

  • Pair New Device—Sets up a new device on your system.

  • Set Up New Device—Does the same thing as Pair New Device but uses the Bluetooth Setup Assistant (path: /Applications/Utilities/Bluetooth Setup Assistant), which offers a "friendlier" approach to configuration.

Adding a New Device

To add a new device, you have two options: use the Setup Assistant, or click Pair New Device in the Devices pane of the Bluetooth System Preferences pane. Both setup processes are virtually identical. If you prefer the "wizard" approach to configuration, use the assistant; otherwise, you'll probably find that Pair New Device is slightly faster and more straightforward.

Clicking Pair New Device opens the Pair with Bluetooth Device window, shown in Figure 3.75.

Figure 3.75Figure 3.75 Set up new Bluetooth connections using the Pair New Device option.

Use the first pull-down menu to choose the type of device you're connecting to. If you aren't sure, it's safe just to leave All Devices selected. Next, choose the Device Category. You can choose to display only discovered devices, favorite devices, or devices you've used recently.

NOTE

Notice that you have the option of pairing with favorite devices. This means that you've previously used the device and marked it as a favorite. If this is the case, you can disable discoverability on the device and still pair with it.

If your Bluetooth devices are set as discoverable, or they match one of the other two categories (used recently or marked as a favorite), they appear in the list at the bottom of the window. If not, click the Search Again button.

Finally, choose the device you want to pair with; then click the Pair button.

Passkey

If prompted, enter a passkey to connect to the device, as shown in Figure 3.76. This is a key shared between your computer and the paired device. In many cases, you are prompted to enter this key on the device after you enter it on your computer.

Figure 3.76Figure 3.76 Passkeys are used to authoritatively pair two devices.

If the passkey is accepted, the device is considered paired and should be listed in the Devices pane of the Bluetooth System Preferences pane.

Bluetooth File Exchange

So, you've paired a device, now what can you do with it? If you've paired a phone, you can now use Address Book to make and receive phone calls directly from address cards. What the device does is, well, dependant on the device you're using! A common feature supported by PDAs and other computing devices is File Exchange. Using the File Exchange, you can browse and transfer files to a Bluetooth device, much like using a simple FTP client.

To use the Bluetooth File Exchange program (path: /Applications/Utilities/BlueTooth File Exchange), pair with the device you want to transfer files to/from; then start the File Exchange application either from the Utilities folder or from the Bluetooth menu extra.

Sending Files

To send a file to a device, use File, Send File (Command-O). Panther displays a dialog box enabling you to choose a file; then prompts you for the device that the file should be sent to, as shown in Figure 3.77.

Figure 3.77Figure 3.77 Choose the device that will receive the file.

Finally, click Send. If the remote device authorizes the transfer, the file will be sent.

Browsing Files

Another option for transferring files is to choose File, Browse files within the BlueTooth File Exchange application. Again you are prompted for the device you want to connect to (much like Figure 3.77). When selected, however, a file transfer screen appears, similar to Figure 3.78.

Figure 3.78Figure 3.78 Use the file transfer window to get and send files to or from the remote device.

Navigate through the file listing as you would in the Finder. Using the three buttons in the lower-left corner of the window, you can move to previous folders, jump to the "top" level (the "house" icon), or create a new folder.

To retrieve a file, double-click it in the list, or highlight it and then click the Get button. You can select multiple files with Command or entire folders if you want.

To send a file, click the Send button; then choose the file you want to send.

To log off the device, simply close the file transfer window.

NOTE

If you commonly find yourself sending or browsing files, you can set Bluetooth File Exchange to default to one of these modes using the application preferences.

Bluetooth Keyboards and Mice

In the late betas of Panther (and presumably in the version you're using too), Apple has added a Bluetooth pane to the Keyboard and Mouse preferences pane. This pane, shown in Figure 3.79, provides status on the battery level of your Apple wireless keyboard and mouse.

Currently, this pane shows only the status for Apple devices, but this may change in the future. To set up a new device from this pane, click the Set Up New Device button. This launches the Bluetooth Setup Assistant.

Figure 3.79Figure 3.79 Use the Bluetooth pane of the Keyboard and Mouse pane to monitor your Apple wireless device battery levels.

Bluetooth Serial Utility

Devices that require serial access, such as a PDA or cell phone require a Bluetooth serial port to be created to communicate with your system. The Bluetooth Serial Utility (path: /Applications/Utilities/Bluetooth Serial Utility) can be used to add a port to your system that is associated with a specific device.

The default Bluetooth Serial Utility opens to a list of the configured ports, as shown in Figure 3.80.

Figure 3.80Figure 3.80 The Serial Utility displays the configured ports on your system.

Use the New, Edit, and Delete buttons to modify the ports configured on the machine. For example, to add a port for a cell phone that your computer will use as a modem, click the Add button. A configuration window appears, as in Figure 3.81.

Figure 3.81Figure 3.81 You can add serial ports associated with a given device.

Choose a name for the device, such as "Cellphone_modem"; next choose the port directory. The Incoming port is for connections being made to your computer, whereas Outgoing is used when your computer connects to the device. Because your computer needs to connect to the cell phone, choose Outgoing.

Next, click the Select Device button to choose the device you are connecting to. If you require authentication or encryption to use the port, use the check boxes to choose those options.

Because this example connection is for a modem, click the Show In Network Preferences, check box. This adds the port to your Network System Preferences pane, where it can be configured like any other modem.

Finally, choose the Modem port type. If the device is not a modem, you would simply choose RS 232—an industry standard serial port.

Finally, click OK, and your serial port will be configured.

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