My Wishful Want for Connectivity

So I’m going to ask the Body Geek Politic here, because frankly I’m out of
the loop on this technology.

I’m doing enough mobile work on my IBM Thinkpad T23 that I
think it’s time to consider wireless service options. I’ve signed up for an
account with T-Mobile for wireless access
in the various Starbucks so liberally
strewn about the area, but that only gets me WiFi access within the cafe(s).

What I’d really like is full time wireless access via the phone networks.

Now, I’ve heard tell that this is fairly commonplace now, though the pricing
can fluctuate dramatically. I’ve been using an old tried and true Nokia
36mumble PCS phone from AT&T Wireless, and
I’ve been super-happy with the coverage and battery and the like, but I’d like
to explore things and see what’s out there.

So here’s my list of “Things I Want”

  • Full time or Near fulltime Internet service
    This means that I should be able to turn on the phone, and inside a few
    seconds, be on the net. I’ve used ‘cell modem’ technologies before, and taking
    30 seconds to connect up just made me avoid the whole thing.
  • Good battery life
    My current Nokia can go 3-4 days without getting plugged in, using it for 2-3
    calls a day. This is fantastic, and I know that sort of lifetime isn’t
    realistic for a phone with 10x the capability, but I would like to be able to
    go 2 days without requiring a plugin, and at least 4 hours of usage in wireless
    mode without needing recharging.
  • Affordable service
    I understand that wireless services need to be paid for, no problem there. But
    I can’t afford a hundred bucks a month just for the privelege of being able to
    check my mail from the road. I’ve seen TMobile offering unlimited data rates
    for $20/month, (on top of normal phone services) – I can handle that.
  • Good coverage
    I’ve also gotten spoiled by the very good coverage that AT&T PCS provides.
    I rarely get serious dropouts, and my wife, who has a Cingular GSM phone
    gets abysmal coverage in the same geographic area.
  • Bluetooth (or equivelent)
    I need a way to for the phone to talk to the laptop. Since I run Linux, that
    adds a complexity angle to it, but I’ve seen many posts on the net about Linux
    bluetooth tools (‘bluez?’) that make this possible. I’d love to hear
    experiences from people who have done this, and how well it’s worked. I’m also
    very interested in other bluetooth accessories, such as wireless headsets, so
    having the capability in the phone would be great.
  • PDA Functionality
    I’m a PDA nut, I admit, but I flip around on platforms a lot. I don’t want
    a WinCE or PocketPC or whatever they’re calling it nowadays. Since I’m a
    Linux shop, this would just set up more fights. PalmOS would be just fine,
    though anything that supports games, contact syncing, and perhaps calendar
    syncing would be great.
  • Oh, and a pony.
    I know, this is getting truly wishful. Something with a memory slot that
    lets me put memory cards in for MP3 playing would be wonderful. xsd and SD
    cards are getting cheap for 256 and 512meg cards, which are plenty big
    enough for holding some serious music. Wouldn’t it be nice if this were in
    the phone too?

Things not as important to me

  • Price
    I’m willing to spend the money necessary for a phone / device that
    does all this, since I feel that I’d be replacing my phone and gaining
    a PDA and an MP3 player all at once, but I’d like to keep the price
    below the Ridiculous level, like, if this can be had for less than
    $450, that would be peachy.
  • Screen / Keyboard
    Unless some amazing thing has happened lately, keyboards on PDA’s still
    suck. You can’t get a full size keyboard on a unit, and all the possible
    options are compromises. If I want to type / browse the web / do serious
    work, I’ll bluetooth into the laptop, not use the built in screen. Some
    functionality is okay, but I’m not going to spend a lot just to get an
    80×24 ssh session that I can run Pine in. If I -can- do it, great, but
    it’s not a requirement

So, does this sort of thing even exist? What the hell is the difference
between a GSM, Tri-Mode, and PCS phone anyway? Any experiences in the Boston
area (particularly -out- of the city, since I live In The Sticks) would be


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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8 thoughts on “My Wishful Want for Connectivity

  1. Talk to Cos about his experiences with the Sprint Treo 600.
    The highlights:
    Sprint’s CDMA 1xRTT data service is $10/month unmetered, and is generally faster than dialup.
    Via a serial cable, you can use that data service for your laptop.
    PalmOS, so every Palm app in the world works on it, and it will sync with everything and anything.
    The lowlights:
    Sprint wants a 2-year contract.
    CDMA is useless outside the USA.
    Screen is standard Palm 140×140 resolution. Nice and bright though.

  2. Oh yeah, and:
    “PCS” is basically a meaningless term that gets applied these days to any non-analog cell phone system, which is essentially all of them.
    GSM is the cell phone standard used by most of the rest of the world; GSM phones will generally work perfectly in Europe and Asia, which is handy.
    CDMA is Qualcomm’s non-GSM standard. The upside is that it allows more users per cell tower, and has faster data rates than GSM. The downside is that nobody but Sprint and Verizon use it, and only in the continental US.

  3. my ex-roommate, jason, had a lot of good things to say about his SideKick. downside is, you’re stuck with T-Mobile (GPRS, not CDMA); upside is, unlimited data service is $30/month standalone (phone service billed at $.20/min) or $20/month on top of a cellular plan. it claims some amount of PDA organizer stuff, as well as “wireless” syncing to your desktop, but never says the word Bluetooth. and i have no idea what the battery life is like.

  4. oh, digging a little deeper, it’s IrDA and USB. no Bluetooth. and it doesn’t look like it’s memory-expandable (though, USB pocket drives? who knows)

  5. I’m very happy with the Sprint Treo. I have a Treo 300, if you got one today you’d get a 600, which I haven’t tried. If you get a Treo, buy a “soccerball cable” on ebay – a retractable USBTreo cable that usually goes for about $15. There’s no Bluetooth, but this is a really easy way to connect the Treo to your laptop, and as a bonus, it charges through the cable too, so if you can plug in your laptop, it doubles as a recharger for your phone. Because of that, battery life hasn’t been an issue for me. I keep it plugged in in the car, and plugged in when I’m using it with my laptop.
    You will also need WirelessModem to allow you to use the Treo as an Internet connection from your laptop. I use it on OS X, it was a simple install and pretty easy to start up.
    Sprint coverage is nowhere near Verizon, but it’s on par with the others. In Boston I get full coverage everywhere except some T stations underground (and it’s spotty in the middle east downstairs).
    Treo runs PalmOS, and there are apps available for AIM, ssh v2, and imap-ssl, among other things. For IM, I like VeriChat. For $15/year, they run a proxy for you on their server, so you can be always on AIM, and if someone messages you when you’re not running the app, it gets delivered by SMS. you can reply to the message through their SMS proxy without quitting whatever Palm app you’re running at the moment.

  6. In doing a ton of searching, it looks like the SDIO slot in the Treo doesn’t support any Bluetooth adapter. There’s a couple dongles that’ll let you have a Bluetooth enabled headset hang on the headphone jack, which may be enough for me, and Cos has pointed out the USB tool that lets the Treo not only talk to the laptop, but also recharge from it. That’s pretty cool. I don’t know if that little toy will work under Linux though, that’s probably my next step.

  7. I love my treo 600. It’s a bit fragile though (I’m on my 2nd one in 7 months). The next gen,(later this summer if rumors are true) will have built in bluetooth and wifi and will have a replaceable battery and higher resolution screen as well

  8. I have a question for you – have you tried connecting a wireless headset to your laptop? do you know how I would go about accomplishing this task?
    When talking to people on my Yahoo/MSN but I don’t want to be attached to my laptop. Is there an option to use a cellphone wireless headset with a bluethooth enabled laptop?

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