Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Wi-Max, Wireless Broadband, aaarrghh! What’s a non-techie supposed to do with all this stuff?
All of the above things are different forms of wireless technologies. In this post we’ll try to explain them a little, without a great deal techno-babble but will provide links for more info for those who like to read techno-babble.
Bluetooth is just one form of wireless technology that is proliferating these days. Think of it as a “personal local area network.” The reason we say “personal” is that Bluetooth is limited to a range of about 30’. (I am sitting in a mall writing this article on my Bluetooth enabled laptop, with my Bluetooth headset and Bluetooth enable smartphone and I’m surfing using the Wi-Fi signal being broadcast throughout this mall. (I also came really close to buying a Bluetooth wrist watch too, but they are still in the range of $300.) But, I digress.
I have my own little personal local area network right now and it moves with me as my gadgets and I move about. Anyone else with Bluetooth technology that happens to move within my little 30’ radius network, can see my devices. That’s OK by me. I have my system set to warn of me of attempted intrusions so I can turn them all off.
You can have Bluetooth enabled printers and digital cameras so that as you snap pictures you can also be printing them wirelessly on the printer in the next room. Or, if you are writing a term paper on your laptop and want to print something out, you don’t have to get up, hook up your printer and then print. You can simply tell the computer to print and voila’, when you go to your printer, the printout is waiting for you.
Where does the term “Bluetooth” come from? Well, I don’t know how accurate the site is, but a site called “FileSaveAs” says they know. I’ll let you dig a little and let me know.
Wi-Fi is just another form of wireless technology and does the same sort of thing Bluetooth does, but in a much larger radius. A typical Wi-Fi device can provide a wireless signal across an entire house, provided it is not a gigantic house and not made out of unusual materials. These devices typically have a range, in real-world use, of about 100-300 feet. (Although a recent experiment resulted in a Wi-Fi signal being used where the two devices were over 230 miles apart.)
Due to the range of Wi-Fi there are much better encryption technologies available to protect your data from thieves than what Bluetooth can offer. However, just like any security system the protection is only as secure as the operator. Never ever leave your wireless router “open” for everyone to use. Why? There are a number of reason why you shouldn’t leave it open, but for one, if someone drives up to your house and sits in their car with their laptop or smartphone, they could be doing something illegal and if the authorities pick up on it and trace it, they will be able to trace it back to your house. Thus proving you are guilty! (Think child pornography here folks. Do you want authorities investigating you for suspicion of trafficking in child pornography?)
WiMax is yet another form of wireless technology that is still in the early stages of deployment. It works much like Wi-Fi but with a range of approximately 5-10 miles. (You may here someone speaking of ranges up to 30 miles but that isn’t really practical in real world use due to bandwidth limitations and other factors. If you want to know more about this go to WiMax.com. If you want to go straight to the page dealing with range, then click here.
Wireless Broadband is the latest rage. It’s been around for a while but has only recently really started getting advertised a lot in our region. The cell phone companies are the ones responsible for “wireless broadband.” But, you do not have to have your voice service with the same company as your wireless broadband although some offer really good discounts for both.
In the region around Owensboro, KY in the United States, we have the following cell phone services offering “wireless broadband,” Cingular, Sprint/Nextel and Verizon. (I use Verizon for my wireless broadband AND cell phone service and it is indeed the best quality signal in our county. (All you Cingular fans can keep your Cingular service. Please don’t switch to Verizon and take up any of my bandwidth.)
Why would someone want this service? Ok, like for me. I run a technology company. We provide computer services to a lot of different companies and individuals. Some of these companies and individuals depend on their systems for their business. If they are having issues and want to reach me via email, they want a fast response. (Please do not do the following….) If one of my customers sends an email to my business email address, it actually comes into my Smartphone before it reaches my computer! I can then respond via wireless broadband or call them. It’s about rapid response and quality of service.
If you are someone who is on the road a lot and need to keep in touch, or stay connected, wireless broadband may be the answer. You can actually surf the web while you are in a vehicle traveling at 70 mph. (Please do not attempt to do this while driving…make sure someone else is doing the driving.) This comes in handy while on vacation, traveling on business etc. You don’t have to try to find a “Wi-Fi Hotspot.” You have Internet service virtually everywhere you go.
This would even work for persons living outside of the city with no other broadband access. You can now get a USB adapter from Verizon and use it in your desktop PC for broadband service in your home or small office where no other form of broadband is available. Then, take the USB device with you and plug it into your laptop when you travel.
I couldn’t find links to any sites concerning Wireless Broadband that I would recommend at this time. If you have a suggestion, please post it by commenting on this article.
Well that above does it for my simple explanation of all this wireless stuff. If you have specific questions or need answers to specific issues, please send a private email to us. If you have a general question that may be of interest to all, please post it here.
Dennis “Inspector Gadget” Wilson