Last week the Bluetooth Special Interest Group celebrated ten years since its formation for the purpose of defining and promoting the radio-networking standard that was supposed to link everything together. But has Bluetooth actually done anything more than enable everyone to look like a twat with a glowing blue ear? When …
bluetooth was NOT invented to send anon. flirty texts to the hot girl on the next table....
(Ok so mostly they ended up being sent Big Sweaty bloke on the other tabel)
What about the Wii?
Implementation of the Wii to use bluetooth for its controllers has worked quite well; in fact I would gladly see bluetooth replace IR for remote controls on all home electronics as having to have unobstructed view of an IR receiver on a piece of equipment can be difficult and seems out of place in this day and age.
The whole problem with bluetooth...
.. is the concept of 'services' and 'service discovery'. Bluetooth unnescessarily complicates matters by confusing the connection mechanism with specific applications.
Wi-fi's approach is far simpler - you just connect, you get an IP address and thats it. You then use whatever 3rd party network apps you like to shuffle data/stream etc. This is both more logical for the power user and simpler for the man on the street.
"like a twat with a glowing blue ear"
Great article and a great strap line should the El Reg every consider a Nathan Barley style rebranding when upgrading to the Scatternet!
Bluetooth's biggest failing was probably not getting put into TV's and remote controls.
TV's and remotes
if you had bluetooth in remotes you only need the one, then you could afford more complex OS's in the remotes to run more things. Like the universal remotes now.
That has merit and would be far better. Tech nerds could then program their phones as well to run the whole thing. :)
You forgot to mention why pairing is a right pain the rear. Because of blue jacking and using that to rip off people with the premium rate number scam or scare them.
So it's universal ability meant it was used by criminals requiring people to lock it down and make it more complex, thus taking away it's main appeal.
no supply or demand
Yeah I would love to use Bluetooth as a remote control interface (rather than the awkward 'human interface device for PCs' which is not too useful.
I do however love stereo bluetooth (for pumping tunes/calls from mobile -> car).
Sadly, no services came along which gave Bluetooth a Wow! factor; there seemed to be a lot of dragging of feet with no killer apps coming out (it would taken all of a week to program a multiplayer bluetooth Snake game, but I never saw one - but those kind of apps can make technology mainstream in a matter of months).
It's a shame as I really like the technology.
Twice a year I wish that all the devices in the house containing clocks could synchronize themselves from a singe time server. A time protocol would have been a big selling point, I think.
Remote control for presentations
Bluetooth is widely used to control presentation software. The profile is supported by many phones and Windows. It's a good idea: flip between slides without having to keep going back to the laptop to hit the space bar.
Except... if you have a room full of people with Bluetooth phones, the connection freezes. So it appears to work perfectly when you rehearse before the presentation but fails as soon as you stand up and start talking. Sweet!
cybermen and printing
I've been involved in computing for 25 years, and up until about 12 months ago I had no idea what the hell problem bluetooth was supposed to solve, since wifi incarnations did what I needed.
Until, that was, I got one of those little HP printers that I can put near my phone and print pictures at the press of a button. Nice.
Up until that point, I just saw it as a means for the technology fraternity to take the p1ss out of mondeo driving sales folk, making them look stupid with that cyberman ear implant. You know, the one the converted humans wear in dr.who who always die first.
Well that's my plan , if a little off topic, genocide of bluetooth wearing monkey boys.
They're banned from my office and when I get into power, they'll be banned from planet earth too.
<evil laugh... cunning plan>
Re: no supply or demand
Bluetooth for multiplayer games was always killed by the latency in the early Bluetooth devices, as much of the protocol was managed by the main processor.
I spent a year developing games for the first Bluetooth iPaq before we managed to produce anything playable, by which time the funding dried up.
"like a twat with a glowing blue ear"
While we British all seem perfectly well able to recognise the fact that the fake borg / cyberman look does one no favours. For some reason this fact is lost on our american cousins who wander round all day with Bluetooth headsets flashing away in their lug 'oles. What does that say I wonder?
I remember when...
bluetooth first came out. USB was also fairly new. I was tasked with investigating USB as a replacement for the soon to be obsolete RS232, used on engine control modules. After I completed the USB research, I was asked to look at bluetooth. Boy, I thought USB was a lot of spec to cover at some 300+ pages, but when I saw the bluetooth spec at just over 1000 pages, whew! I attempted to read it, but the caffeine just wasn't enough. I told my boss I wasn't gonna do amphetamines to get thru the spec.
Paris-cause she wants to know how you can get blue teeth!
Bluetooth does me proud
and not a glowing blue twat ear in sight.
Get into car > start car > phone connects to plumbed-in bluetooth handsfree > no 'using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving' penalty points on my licence.
What gets me is the people who think a glowing-twat-ear headset is a useful in-car solution, especially when they keep said headset in some cubby-hole in the dashboard, the phone is not guaranteed to have connected to it, the headset is usually uncharged, they can't hear what the other party is saying over the noise of the car, and when they've finally found and put on the headset, they can't figure out how to actually answer the call!
So Bluetooth *finally* reaches ten years, huh?
Were you expecting it to reach ten years old any sooner? Cos I can't think of any technology that's managed to do that. It pretty much follows that you have to wait ten years for it to happen, and then it never fails to occur exactly on schedule.
It just doesn't work
Except for the earphone things, I've never been able to get bluetooth working between two devices made by different manufacturers, especially keyboards.
This includes those thinkgeek laser keyboard things and a Palm or N800/N810. I've had a bunch of people come up and say "I can't get this to work, can you help?" and we've never had any luck.
Sod the headset profile, Is anybody here using the Bluetooth SPP?
I am, its ideal for small data transfers, such as between a phone and a bluetooth GPS receiver. But it seems now GPS is being added to more and more devices, this may become less attractive.
At the mo, it saves me shelling out more cash for a TomTom Go.
All I need do before long car journeys is take out my BT GPS receiver, plonk it on my dashboard under the windscreen so it has a good signal, then fire up TomTom on my HTC Tytn 1 mobile phone (the earlier TyTn without built in GPS) and put the phone in my in-car cup holder! Job done!
TomTom also switches on your BT adapter in the phone, so once initial set up is done, you dont need to sod around switching things on and initiating connections before launching the satnav software.
Fantastic. Connection initiation is quicker than the GPS can lock onto satellites even during warm startups.
Its ideal because I can put the GPS in the position best suited for GPS signal acquisition too.
Bluetooth is far from being defunct. I never saw it as direct competition with WiFi, its just not for that, whatever happened to the PAN acronym? It was inevitable that most of the profiles would not be adopted anyway.
Bluetooth SPP is also great for hobbyist electronics / robotics work too - there are small modules you can buy which just act like serial ports to microcontrollers! Great fun and far better than trying to get a low end microcontroller to talk USB or a full WiFi TCPIP stack set up.
I blame Windows
It's a miracle if you can get Bluetooth running at all on Windows and Windows Mobile.
On Windows because Microsoft can't pull its finger out and the void is filled by WIDCOMM's half-finished drivers where the most complete feature is the DRM tying them to the dongle so you can't update them when a new profile comes out. What would it cost Microsoft to make their stack work with more than a handful of profiles, fix the bugs and push out an update to XP, Vista, and possibly 2000, therefore making Bluetooth an infinitely more pleasant experience for 90% of the computer market.
On Windows Mobile because unless it's talking with another Windows device you still need to need to faff about with COM ports and it's pot luck if it'll work.
In short, they made even more of a mess of Bluetooth than they did with USB.
LAN Access Profile
Hm... the LAN Access service is basically the only way I'm able to transparently use my W300 handset as a GPRS modem without resorting to arcane setups and *99# numbers that just don't seem to work with my carrier. Just fire up the LAN access service, and there you go! Instant mobile access ;) however, my Blackberry has no such support.
I would've liked to see something akin to "Bluetooth SMS" by default on all Bluetooth-enabled phones, as it would be an interesting feature, given how many people have their bluetooth turned on. Oh well...
I haven't done the "earphone Bluetooth" yet, and might not do it for fear of the "bluejacking". Then again, my Blackberry does have a "disable phone calls from BT devices" option.
Useful as mobile phone cable replacement
Prior to Bluetooth, serial or USB cables for mobile phones were an expensive optional extra. Bluetooth has made the use of a cable with some weird connector unnecessary (unless you want to change the phones firmware).
Interestingly, my latest Nokia had the USB cable included but I typically use Blutooth to transfer photos, transfer edited contacts and so on - it's quicker.
I do agree about the whole discovery, pairing and profiles business though - I know many non-technical users who just can't be bothered with it.
A Tale of Two Mice
I recently bought two wireless laser mice for my laptop. A logitech 470 bluetooth unit and the nearly identical logitech 450 non bluetooth wireless mouse.
I didn't intend to buy two mice. My brand sparkly new laptop had integral bluetooth so I bought the 470 bluetooth job. After a bit of frigging around I got it joined to my account on the XP SP2 laptop and it started working for a day or so. Then it stopped working. I swapped it out for another 470 but no joy. The laptop bluetooth was working as I could (slowly) pull pictures off my phone and the mouse worked using my linux system. So it was some nasty XP bluetooth mouse driver problem.
I then bought a bluetooth dongle and that worked with the 470 mouse, but what a carry on. Every user on the laptop had to register the mouse individually and repeatedly. My system became slower. It was a right pain in the bum all round.
So I gave up on bluetooth mice.
I went to the shop and bought the nearly identical but not bluetooth logitech 450 wireless unit. It just worked. No bother, no drivers, no registraton, no association, no messing around with different profiles and no speed loss. Plus they say up to a year on one set of batteries.
The new mouse is identical in size and shape to the old one. And it is cheaper.
Does anyone want to buy a near new logitech 470 laser bluetooth mouse? Going cheap.
work great for me!
reading this on holiday, sadly enough, but from buggy firefox on linux, via bluetooth to my nokia, then gprs to the web. Totally reliable, and not even that expensive. (£1 per 15MB/day on vodafone)
mobiles as modems
I used to do data support for a major mobile phone do and when anyone wanted to use a phone as a Bluetooth modem with windows, we would talk them into useing the cable instead, the connection is faster, and the setup relatively painless. On macs we'd do Bluetooth modems no problem because it made it easy, but windows was just a waste of time.
Buetooth is OK
I like bluetooth because it has too much potenial.
Even though it is 10 years old the "Standard is week". There should be a small base and tougher requirements for cert. With 2.0 stero head phones are now useful (Motorola S9).
My use of bluetooth is only recent. I have been using VS2008 and a trend net bluetooth adapter. Apps i have made, for research, have been SMS server (send SMS messages) on my XP box, more of a gateway. The best one allows you to know when you left a device behind. My desktop and phone use 'BlueLock' and I get notified when I wander off with my phone (not my desktop), beyond linkage. This seems impractical, but it could be if more devices had bluetooth - car/aparment keys, watch (SONY is making one) - anything you can forget - the kids?!
Small commitee, better cert. and at least one chair to push/motivate this standard.
It's not perfect but it is showing progress!
"Last year we asked Mike Foley, head of the Bluetooth SIG, if he could point us in the direction of someone, anyone, who was using Bluetooth Scatternets in anger – he couldn't."
Perhaps my English isn't as good as I think, but this reads like people were angry when using Scatternets. I know what you meant (I think), but it's an awkward sentence and deserved to die at the feet of the editor.
@Richard: "to XYZ in anger"
In idiom means "to be doing XYZ seriously/with a purpose/in the real world" i.e. not just playing with it, faffing around with concept-proofs, demos etc etc.
Paris because the world needs more love in anger
Sell me that mouse; it'll pry. work fine with MacOS X or Linux... (dang I'm glad I've got a M$-free environment at home...)
But seriously, keyboards mice and audio are just about all I can think of for using Bluetooth; data transfer is to bloody slow. And what turns me off BT for most purposes is its promiscuity - I don't WANT world + dog to know what sort of devices I'm carrying around with me, much less connect to them. Thankfully, my mobile is an antique that was made before BT.
@ AC "like a twat with a glowing blue ear"
"While we British all seem perfectly well able to recognise the fact that the fake borg / cyberman look does one no favours."
Try watching the people at a motorway services and see just how discriminating Brits are.
Never mind though - these people will soon be out of the gene pool. After all BT works on the same frequency as microwave ovens.
"But it's very low power", I hear them say?
"But it still follows the inverse-square law", reply I.
(because she's seen here fitting her earpiece - and anyway the damage is already done)
I recall that pre SP2, Bluetooth on XP was a complete 'mare and I spent hours trying to get those WIDCOMM drivers etc to work. Then SP2 came along with proper drivers and all was well...
...until Windows Update decided to install some new drivers which promptly broke eveything. Didn't take me too long to figure that one out, and banish the update forever. Plain sailing since.
Naff Windows drivers aside (and post SP2), I've managed to get my PC to talk to Nokia, S-E and Motorola mobiles and a Win Mobile PDA with no problems.
Icon as it's blue and I'm sure the guy's got some teeth, though he doesn't appear to have a mouth...
as I look round the room, ready to be hooked up to my PC by bluetooth (with a simple icon double-click) are:
* Wiimotes x2
* Windows Mobile PDAs x3 (WM2003, WM5, WM6)
* Spare Mouse and Keyboard
* BT-serial dongles hooked up to microcontroller programming boards
* Headset x2
* Stereo Headphones
* Microcontroller boards with bluetooth chips on set up for SPP controlling the desk fan, lights, etc.
So It's actually taken off really well for some of us- though it'd have been significantly better if they'd just used it for wireless networking. Even as a high-bandwidth serial cable replacement it'd have taken off more. Ah, well.
me wants intercom
An intercom with size of a typical BT earpiece and range of 50-150 feet is my Most Desired Gadget. It's such a shame that headset vendors do not include this functionality in their products. When you ski in a small company, you typically keep within this range, but it's impossible to talk due to the sound of the skies and muffling of the clothes.
I guess this means it'll be getting a visit from the (blue)tooth fairy.
Mine's the one with the bluetooth-enabled phone in the pocket.
It does what it says on the tin
I attended the Monte Carlo Bluetooth Congresses back in 2001. Two things stuck in my mind: 1) that Microsoft was only paying lip-service to adoption despite being a member of the SIG and 2) that the Wi-Fi brigade had misunderstood the concept and saw it as a competitor rather than a complementary technology.
It's a shame it's perceived as unsuccessful. It's a phenomenally useful product when it works, as a short-range personal networking and cable replacement technology. I sync my Nokia and Mac address books with it; I use a wireless keyboard and mouse during presentations; my wife and I exchange photos of our kids. For the record I don't have or want a Bluetooth headset.
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