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Network Connection

By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Director of  Academic Computing and User Services

Off the Wire

My friend's young son once claimed the ability to read his own mind. I guess I can claim the ability to predict my own future and be reasonably accurate. Back in August of 2004 in this column I stated, "I imagine that my next phone will have more characteristics of a PDA (some phones already do). My ideal phone would have Bluetooth (if the security improves) to sync with my Macintosh OS X system...."

I recently became the proud owner of a Palm Treo 650 which meets most of the requirements I imagined so long ago in 2004. It's a PDA and a cell phone. Bluetooth security has improved. The phone has a decent web browser and an OK camera. It plays music and shows video. It synchronizes with my Mac OS X system (for the extra charge of third-party software from And my cellular provider has "some reasonably fast Internet service" that let's me access "real" web pages on a teeny-tiny screen.

This acquisition gets me down to only one piece of electronics that I have to carry in order to feel connected in this wired age. I can maintain a calendar that is synced to our UNT GroupWise system, and I can read my e-mail from just about anywhere. Instead of just those text-based WAP pages, I now have a browser available to display most pages on the web.

The advantage to using cellular service for my remote connectivity is the relative ubiquity of today's cellular networks. WiFi networks found in coffee shops or airports are great for connecting your e-mail if you are caffinating or flying, but less convenient if you find yourself at a child's soccer practice or even in the grocery store wanting to know recipe ingredients for the night's meal.

Still, the phone-PDA combination is a pretty small package. If you want the same kind of ubiquity with your favorite laptop computer, you may want to investigate EVDO . EVDO provides broadband-type access speed in metropolitan coverage areas and dialup speed elsewhere on the cellular network. It won't rival a DSL connection in terms of speed and reliability, but for that must-have mobile service without caffeine, it's an interesting new solution.

Mobile phones and service plans continue to increase in sophistication and service levels. The increased availability of data service over cellular networks has relegated WiFi to home networks and hotspots. Some cities and towns are now installing more ubiquitous WiFi networks, but these are generally either providing an alternative or the only source of broadband service in these areas. It seems that cellular is on its way to cementing its position as a mobile data as well as phone service. Now if they could only make that little screen a bit larger...


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