The BT3021 and the Tungsten T3

There are even several software and operating system solutions to connect a T3 to the internet, using an existing LAN infrastructure. There's Mocca PPP and WinXP (prof.) has all on board, to setup a quite weird serial BT connection with a T3. I even found a PDF describing that in detail. But all these solutions are involving a PC which has to be up and running. Now, a PDA is no real 'internet machine' and alot of pages are still a pain to browse, even with the high-res screens. But one real useful 'internet job' for a PDAs is reading your favourite news sites and I love doing that late evening, especially when my PCs are finally shut down :). The only hardware running 24 hours in my house are the LAN components like switches, routers and APs. So I wanted a 'hardware' solution without spending the ludicous $300-400 some companies want for their Bluetooth access points. Frankly, I have no idea why that BT radio would make an access point 4 times more expensive than the same LAN functionality with an average 802.11b radio - rip off! And finally I found my solution:

The Bluetooth Access Point TECOM BT3021.


I got it brandnew from a dealer on eBay and I payed 69 €, IMHO a very reasonable price. I think the list price is much higher (~ 120.- €) and the average street price seems to be around 90.- €. Anyway, the BT3021 is worth it. Not only does it support several BT protocols, it's also a class 1 device good for up to 100 meter range. Although the T3 has only a class 2 BT radio (10 meter), my experience with mixed class 1 and class 2 units is still better than with two class 2 devices. And then, you never know what you'll get tomorrow :). For example I also have a LOOX 600 (not as a PDA <g>!) which has a class 1 BT module. The range between the BT3021 and the LOOX is very good, actually the same as all my 802.11 WLAN stuff. However, since an access point doesn't have to conserve precious mobile power, it's never a mistake to have it equipped with the 'power version' of Bluetooth. The unit itself is quite small, about the size of a Tungsten and it's very easy to install: Connect it to your LAN and power it up with the usual power brick (supplied). For the first use, there's a nice tool supplied called 'Locator'. It finds the AP in your LAN and allows to set the most essential parameters to match your LAN setup (IP, netmask, gateway). From that point on, you can handle all further settings with any browser, since the BT3021 comes with a small web-interface HTTP server. Two LEDs are showing that the BT3021 has power and is linked (or not) to a client. Spartanic, but enough. Actually, you can find much more info about the BT3021 on TECOMs site or in their 2 page PDF info flyer.

Now, as for the partnership between the 3021 and the T3, I have no exact idea why it's working so well, I just know it does! I think in the first place I still didn't fully understand PalmOS regarding these kind of connections. Why for example is there always that confusing speed and flow control setup (i.e. 115200 bps) when it connects to a 'Local Network'? That's no serial connection, right?? Anyway, here's how the T3 connects to the BT3021: Configure a new connection with any name like 'local LAN' or such, connecting to the 'Local Network' via 'Bluetooth'. Set the details to 115200 bps, automatic flow. Then configure a new network service with no user name, no password and use the connection you just created ('local LAN'). Provided you specified an IP range from your LAN address space in the BT3021 setup, the BT3021 supplies the Tungsten automatically with an IP and the DNS address. So in the details of the network service on the Tungsten you just need to check 'Query DNS' and 'IP address automatic'. Connection type is PPP and I personally set the idle timeout to 'never' since I'm on a flat rate, but that setting doesn't really matter for a successful connection. That's it, ready to go!

With its several BT profiles, the BT3021 connects to about any BT enabled device, so it can also be used to connect laptops or other PCs. It's a bit confusing how many connections the BT3021 can handle at the same time. The product flyer says 7, a little piece of paper in the box says 2 only, in the setup you can specify 5 IPs for the DHCP and I succeeded with 3 at the same time (I had no more devices). But considering the maximum speed of Bluetooth generally, too many connections are no good idea anyway.

A last word about another cheap BT AP: The D-Link DBT-900AP for roughly 60.- €. I tried that one first and it's really a crappy little thing. No web-interface, no setup of any kind, no tools supplied and it only supports the LAP profile which doesn't work with the Tungsten. Additionally it's only a class 2 device, specified for 20 meters. But the biggest joke about the DBT-900AP is its security feature which D-Link even emphasizes: The only security is the usual BT passphrase (the TECOM offers an additional data encryption), which is factory set to the imaginative word 'root' and CAN'T be changed by the user (that's confirmed by the D-LINK hotline)! So there's only one recommendation: Fingers off the DBT-900AP!

Last updated: January 12th, 2004
Copyright © 1997-2004 by Peter Strobel, all rights reserved.