ISSUE 512: The high tech office- Aug
Totally wireless PC access is fast becoming a reality
Last week, we saw that there was a wide range
of options (and prices) available for portable computing. This week,
we'll push the envelope of "taking it with you" one step further.
More and more, there are ways to access your data,
your e-mail and the Web while you're on the go -- and the ultimate goal
is to be able to do it wirelessly.
One way is to simply connect your notebook's modem to
cell phone and dial away. Of course, this assumes that your notebook's
modem is cell phone enabled (not all are) and that your cell phone has
an appropriate connection (not all do). Then, one cable later, you're
in business. Of course, don't expect that your 56kb modem will actually
be able to send and receive
data at that speed over your cell. Like other wireless options, it'll
work at a sedate 14 kbs
or less. E-mail may be usable and you can im-
prove things by turning off graphics in your Web browser.
Burnaby's Infowave Soft-
ware Inc. (www.infowave.
com) has been a leader in developing wireless solutions. The
est product, InfoWave for Exchange, works by keeping users
in touch with messages on a corporate Microsoft Exchange
Infowave's software works to-
gether with a wireless PC Card modem from Waterloo, Ontario's Research
in Motion (www.rim.
net). Versions are available for PC notebooks and Windows CE
handhelds. Infowave is also readying Infowave for the Net service,
which allows users to connect to corporate intranets. *
Users of the popular Palm handhelds
have been waiting, seemingly forever, for the promised Palm VII, a
model that adds an antenna and wireless connections to the unit.
(Add-ons provide wireless capabilities to older Palm models.)
Currently, the Palm VII has been made available, but only in the New
York metropolitan area. There, it can be connected to the BellSouth
Intelligent Wireless Network, for a minimum US$10 monthly fee. It
can be used to send and receive e-mail messages and access some
Internet content -- not the whole Web, but only what the company refers
to as "Web
Under the service, you send an inquiry to a listed
content provider such as ABC News, ESPN or The
Weather Channel and eventually receive information back. Early re-
ports are that the fee structure can become expensive pretty quickly.
But you may not need to tote around a notebook
computer or even a tiny handheld to keep up with your e-mail on the go.
More and more, two-way alphanumeric pagers are offering some sort of
limited e-mail capability, typically requiring a dedicated e-mail
address and only displaying short messages.
Research in Motion sells the RIM Inter@ctive Pager 950
for about $600 plus monthly fees (less with a 12- or 24-month
contract), which can be used with a Cantel service. It weighs
in at about five ounces and can store 12,000 messages or 2,000
contacts. Along with traditional paging, it allows you to receive and
send e-mail typed in on its mini-QWERTY keyboard.
If your recipient doesn't have e-mail, it can turn
your text into speech for voice connections or into a fax document. The
standard AA battery should be good for a couple of weeks of use.
RIM's 950 is powered by a 386 processor -- just like
the real computers of a couple of years ago. Messages can be read
fairly easily on its eight-line screen, while the message length limit
of 16,000 characters (about 2,700 words) should be more than enough for
most. (This column is around 800 words, for example.)*
Apple's just-announced iBook notebook
promises optional wireless capabilities and some published reports have
made it look like you can use it to access the Internet on the go.
But sorry, folks, that's not how it works. The iBook
does include built-in antennae and these can be used, along with an
optional $150 AirPort card, to connect to a network wirelessly. But the
network has to include a $450 AirPort base station that's wired into
the network (or connected to a modem) and the range of the base station
is about 150 feet -- so iBook users can connect wirelessly to the
Internet, as long as they stay within that range of home base, not
quite making it as road warriors. Backyard warriors, perhaps.
Still, the iBook's wireless capabilities are
impressive. Apple and partner Lucent Technologies have boosted
the performance of wireless networking, while dropping the price.
A different use for the cell phone network recently de-
buted in town. Montreal's Rankin Technologies, along with BC
Tel Mobility, an-
nounced availability of Boom-
erang, a homing device that can be activated to locate stolen property
anywhere in North America. The company claims it helped locate $1.8
in stolen vehicles in May 1999 alone (www.vehicletracking.com).