On-the-Go Internet Access via BlackJack II

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Q: I have an HP laptop with Bluetooth and a Samsung BlackJack II with complete Internet data plan. How do I tie my laptop to my phone for on-the-road Internet access?

– Mark

A: There are two issues involved in the answer to this question. One is the ability to access your e-mail and calendar from your phone, and the other is to achieve broadband Internet access through the cellular network.

With regard to the first issue, it depends on the e‑mail service you use. Windows Mobile, which is the operating system that runs on the Samsung BlackJack II, supports Microsoft and other standard mail services.

If your mail server is a Microsoft exchange, your phone can leverage the Outlook Mobile Access feature, which synchronizes your e-mail, contacts and calendar with your exchange server. It has to be enabled on the server side and uses ActiveSync to perform its operation. You also should be able to connect to a Windows Live (Hotmail) account; you will just need to install a client the first time you add the account.

Additionally, your phone can sync up with other mail servers that support either Post Office Protocol (POP3) or Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) for the incoming mail and SMTP for the outgoing mail. You can set it up manually or use the “Try to get e-mail settings automatically from the Internet” option. There are also downloadable applications for various providers that run on Windows Mobile.

As for the laptop, it will need a data connection and a virtual private network (VPN) setup to stay updated with an exchange server; other mail servers will require only a data connection.

If you have no data connection, you can set up ActiveSync to synchronize your phone with your laptop over serial or Bluetooth links. Just make sure you synchronize from the phone to the laptop and not the other way around, as this will ensure the updated information does not get erased. For more information on Windows Mobile phone setup, visit www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/en-us/help/email/send-receive-email.mspx.

As for using your data plan to achieve broadband Internet access, it depends on your phone type. The Samsung BlackJack II has an internal 3G modem that can be used by the PC to gain Internet access. Simply install the modem driver available on the phone’s installation CD, or download it from Samsung’s Web site. Once it’s installed, you will need to set the phone’s USB port to function as a modem and then connect the phone and the laptop using a USB cable.

If the driver install did not create a dial-up networking connection, you will need to add one yourself. The number to dial varies among service providers, but for AT&T — the typical service provider for the Samsung BlackJack II — it’s *99#.

Keep in mind, however, that not every data plan supports this process — known as “tethering” — and oftentimes the on-demand charges are very high. You should make sure your data plan supports it before connecting.

Also, the available speed for this kind of connection depends on your phone type and on the cellular coverage in your area. The range typically runs anywhere from 144 kbps to 2 mbps, with more speed for the downstream.

Another factor is your cell phone’s connection to the laptop. A USB cable or Bluetooth 2.0 connection shouldn’t pose a problem, but if you’re using Bluetooth 1.0, you won’t get more then 400 kbps out of your link.

Finally, if you spend a lot of time on the road or in places without free Internet access, you might want to consider a broadband-dedicated device. They are broadband modems that look like thumb drives and provide the same functionality without all the cabling requirements you need when using a phone.

Avner Izhar, CCIE, CCVP, CCSI, is a consulting system engineer at World Wide Technology Inc., a company that provides technology and supply-chain solutions. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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