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Using Wireless Bluetooth Devices : Configuring Your Bluetooth Adapter

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1. The World of Bluetooth

As of late 2009, the current Bluetooth version is 3.0. Bluetooth transfers data at up to 3 Mbps, which is slower than 802.11b (11 Mbps) and 802.11g (54 Mbps). But when it comes to connecting noncomputer Bluetooth devices, wirelessly connecting a printer, or occasionally transferring files between computers, Bluetooth can't be beat.

There are three types of Bluetooth devices, classified by the range across which devices can communicate:

  • Class 1: Transmit and receive data up to 330 feet (100m).

  • Class 2: Transmit and receive data up to 32 feet (10m).

  • Class 3: Transmit and receive data up to 3 feet (1m).

Some Bluetooth buzzwords and concepts that you'll encounter in this section as well as in the instructions that come with Bluetooth devices are as follows:

  • Discovery: A Bluetooth device finds other Bluetooth devices to which it can connect through a process called discovery. To prevent Bluetooth devices from connecting at random, discovery is usually turned off by default on a Bluetooth device. You manually turn on discovery when you are ready for that device to be discovered. After a device has been discovered, you can turn discovery off.

  • Discoverable: A discoverable (or visible) Bluetooth device is one that has discovery turned on, so other Bluetooth devices within range can "see" and connect to the device.

  • Pairing: Once two or more Bluetooth devices have discovered one another and have been paired (connected), you can turn off their discovery features. The devices will forever be able to connect to one another, and unauthorized foreign devices will not be able to discover and hack into the paired devices.

  • Encryption: A process by which transferred data is encoded to make it unreadable to any unauthorized device that picks up a signal from the device. Bluetooth offers powerful 128-bit data encryption to secure the content of all transferred data.

  • Passkey: Similar to a password, only devices that share a passkey can communicate with one another. This is yet another means of preventing unauthorized access to data transmitted across Bluetooth radio waves.

  • Bluejacking: A process by which one user sends a picture or message to an unsuspecting person's Bluetooth device.

A noncomputer gadget such as a phone or PDA that supports Bluetooth is called a Bluetooth device. A standard desktop PC or laptop computer usually isn't a Bluetooth device. However, many newer laptops do include Bluetooth capabilities. But as a rule, it's easy to turn your PC or laptop into a Bluetooth device. You just plug a Bluetooth USB adapter — a tiny device about the size of your thumb — into any available USB port, and presto, your computer is a Bluetooth device. Making your computer into a Bluetooth device doesn't limit it in any way. It just extends the capabilities of your computer so that you can do things such as:

  • Connect a Bluetooth mouse, keyboard, or other pointing device

  • Use the Add Printer Wizard to use a Bluetooth printer wirelessly

  • Use a Bluetooth-enabled phone or dial-up device as a modem

  • Transfer files between Bluetooth-ready computers or devices by using Bluetooth

  • Join an ad hoc personal area network (PAN) of Bluetooth-connected devices (an ad hoc network is an "informal" network, where devices connect and disconnect on an as-needed basis, without the need for a central hub or base station)

Bluetooth devices use radio signals to communicate wirelessly. When you install a Bluetooth adapter on your PC or laptop, you also install radio drivers. Windows 7 comes with many radio drivers preinstalled.

NOTE

If a built-in radio driver doesn't work with your device, install the drivers that came with the device per the device manufacturer's instructions.

2. Configuring Your Bluetooth Adapter

If you plan to share a single Internet account among several computers or Bluetooth devices, you should install your first Bluetooth USB adapter in the computer that connects directly to the modem or router. That will give other Bluetooth devices that you add later easy access to the Internet through that computer's Internet connection.

After you've installed a Bluetooth adapter, you'll find a new icon named Bluetooth Devices in Control Panel. To get to it, click the Start button, choose Control Panel, and click Network and Internet. The Bluetooth icon looks like a letter B as shown in the Device Functions area of the Device Properties dialog box that is shown Figure 1. You might also notice a Bluetooth icon in the Notification area.

Figure 1. New icon on a PC that's configured as a Bluetooth device.

To return to the Category view in Control Panel, click Control Panel in the Control Panel window address bar. You also can click the Back button until you get there.


The Bluetooth Settings dialog box will be your central point for installing Bluetooth. To open that dialog box, double-click the Bluetooth Devices Notification area icon, or open the Devices and Printers icon in Control Panel. Initially, the Devices tab in the dialog box will be empty. But as you install devices and join devices to a Bluetooth PAN, you'll see the names of those devices listed on that tab.

The Options tab in the Bluetooth Settings dialog box, shown in Figure 2, provides general options for controlling discovery and the ability to install Bluetooth devices. If you don't see a Bluetooth Devices icon in your Notification area, make sure to select the Show the Bluetooth Icon in the Notification Area check box.

Figure 2. Options tab of the Bluetooth Settings dialog box and Notification area shortcut menu.

The shortcut icon that appears when you right-click the Notification area, provides options for adding a Bluetooth device, sending and receiving files, and joining a PAN.

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