I am a mobile guy, no doubt about that. So I am always looking for ways to help me do things better, faster, or easier. And if it can eliminate carrying an extra cable around with all my stuff so much the better. That is why I had my eye on Bluetooth for so long. I mean, it is THE cable eliminator protocol, right? So last year I decided to jump on the Bluetooth wagon and make it hum. I started out easy enough and thought I would first hook up my Pocket PC to my laptop for Activesync and to share the Verizon Express Network connection on the laptop. I went with the Socket CF card for the Pocket PC as it is the only one that fits flush with the top of the CF slot. Nothing sticking out is a good thing and it means I can leave it plugged in all the time. On the laptop side I went with a Belkin USB stick adapter, and even though it sticks out a couple of inches it is otherwise very small.Hooking them both up was a snap and I was shortly connected with no wires and sharing the internet connection. No problems at all, it just worked like I’ve always heard Bluetooth should work once it is set up properly. And that is the way it worked until recently. I have always wanted a Bluetooth phone so I can connect wirelessly whenever WiFi is not available but Verizon never offered one until a few weeks back and I jumped on it. I also added the Sony U-70 to my mobile kit which has a nice empty CF slot on it so I thought I had a match made in heaven. Silly me.
First off the Motorola v710 phone with Bluetooth paired easily with my Toshiba e-800 Pocket PC and using it as a modem has been painless from the start. It is so nice to just pop the Socket CF card into the Pocket PC and every time I need to go to the internet it auto-dials and connects. And it hangs up when I close the browser. Sweet. This is what Bluetooth is all about. So the obvious next step is to pop the Socket CF card into the Sony which runs Windows XP and repeat the process. Wrong, wrong, wrong.See, the Socket CF card was sold with Pocket PC drivers only. I can understand that because there are few Windows XP computers that have CF cards. In fact I can only think of two right now and the Sony is one of them. So I have the CF card and just need Windows XP drivers so how hard could that be?Enter the twilight zone. I go (logically) to the Socket web site and after a lot of searching around and traipsing all through their support forums (which have a lot of irate questions by owners but few answers) I figure out that Socket doesn’t provide the Windows XP drivers to buyers of the Pocket PC package. You have to buy the Socket Windows XP package that comes with the same CF card and a PCMCIA to CF adapter for laptops that don’t have a CF slot. If you buy this package you get the WinXP drivers I need. Follow me so far? So I spent more time than I care to admit on the phone with Socket to explain that all I need are the drivers. The end response I finally received from Socket was that they would soon be offering the Windows XP drivers alone for purchase. It would cost me $10 but I had to wait until they put it up for sale on their web site which hasn’t been updated in about 3 years, or so it seems.So I started using the Belkin USB stick in the Sony as a workaround so I could connect using the Bluetooth phone when I needed to. It works flawlessly but it sticks out so far to the right of the Sony that it makes it unwieldy to work with while holding it. Plus, there’s something that snaps in me everytime I see that sticking out when I know the CF card would totally disappear inside the Sony if I only had drivers, which Socket has but won’t give me. Grrrrrrr.A few weeks ago I make one of my periodic stops at the Socket web site and lo and behold the WinXP drivers are available for purchase. I quickly buy them and the download starts rolling in. Life is good again. Do you hear the twilight zone music? I do. I install the software and drivers that Socket provided and quickly discover that they are actually Bluesoleil drivers from a company called- Bluesoleil. But, and this is a big but, these Bluesoleil drivers are sold by a company called IVT who provides them in OEM form to Socket. I’m tired just writing that. But who cares as long as they work properly, right?And they did work, sort of. I was able to install them OK and configure the Bluetooth stuff which was much more difficult than the Belkin which auto-configured everything thanks to WinXP SP2. It took a number of attempts to successfully pair the Socket-enabled Sony with the Motorola phone but it finally took and hallelujah I had a wireless connection. That’s what I’m talking about!I was happily using this set up for a week before I started getting dropped connections. A LOT of dropped connections which I have never experienced with any device like this. And then out of the Blue(tooth) I lost the ability to connect to the Verizon network altogether. Dials out, answers, hangs up in exactly 4 seconds. Now the Socket CF card still works flawlessly in the Pocket PC with different drivers but no go on the WinXP box. So I’m thinking drivers. Just slap me now and get it over with.I search the web and hit both the Bluesoleil web site AND the IVT Bluesoleil web site and sure enough, my current driver is version 1.4.0 and they are up to 1.4.9, and a bunch of issues have been fixed since the original version I have. Both of these web sites have the new version available for download so I said YAY! until I read the fine print (in red so we know it’s bad). Basically it says that the driver download is for evaluation purposes only and any Bluetooth connection made with this version will time out after 5 MB of data is exchanged. About 3 web pages in my estimation, maybe less. Crap! At this point I’m getting the feeling I will be forced to buy the new version of the driver I’ve already paid for. I’m getting really steamed now.But it was pointless getting mad about that because, you see, neither of these two companies will even SELL me the current drivers. They just refer me back to Socket for upgrades. They state they do not sell direct to end-users. Why, oh why, would these companies provide downloadable demo versions of software THEY WON’T SELL to consumers? Do they hope we will like it so much that we as individuals will try and FORCE the OEM to use their software? What are these people smoking?So at this point, today, I have flaky drivers that I paid extra for, a CF card that won’t work properly because of those drivers, and a new version is out that fixes my particular issue but I can’t get it. From anybody. Socket doesn’t provide any mechanism whatsoever for obtaining updates to the drivers that I paid them for. This is the most bizarre set of circumstances I’ve run across in many years of computing and if I hadn’t experienced and in fact still in the middle of I don’t think I’d believe it.So easy to guess I’m dumping the Socket. And other Socket products I have. And will never buy another one because they just don’t support their drivers and software. And to IVT and Bluesoleil- you people are idiots. I can understand why you might make a business decision or be contractually prohibited from selling your drivers direct to the end-user but if that’s the case why do you have restricted demos of the software? Guess I’ll have to get a Belkin CF for the Sony and be done with the problem.