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OPTIONS INTERNATIONAL PC CARD MODEM

Time was, not so long ago, trying to connect a laptop PC to a phone line for e-mail, fax, Internet or data communications, was a miserable and frustrating experience. It has got a lot easier in recent years, but now there are mobile phones to contend with as well. The point is, if you want to hook up your portable PC to anything more complicated than a bog standard telephone line you need to be an expert in telecommunications, have very deep pockets and a big bag to carry all the bits and pieces.

 

The Options International PC card modem is one of a new generation of multi-function devices that are helping to lighten the load, especially for those travelling abroad with a laptop and mobile phone. It is a 56kbps PSTN modem, GSM mobile phone modem and ISDN terminal adaptor all rolled into one and housed inside a standard Type II PCMCIA card. The outfit also includes a set of leads covering the various connection possibilities plus a CD-ROM containing a suite of communication utilities, drivers and installation and operating software. The latter can be upgraded on-line. The card can be used with a range of popular data compatible GSM phones including handsets made by AEG, B&O, Bosch, Ericsson, Nokia and Panasonic; for a full list of models call the number below or pay a visit to the Options web site at: www.options.com

 

Some things haven't changed though, and installing the PC software can still turn into a nightmare if you don't read the instructions. Modem set-up on Windows 98 is reasonably straightforward but it is worth going through the manual before attempting to use it with Windows NT, (and Win 95), though anyone who has been there, seen it and done it before shouldn't have too many problems. In common with any PC communications software it really does pay to start with a 'virgin' machine; if your laptop has any legacy programs or bits of old installation left behind, it is a good idea to do a bit of spring cleaning beforehand.

 

Previous bad experiences with comms software should have made us wary and lo and behold the first attempt went belly up on a two-year old Toshiba laptop running Windows 98. We never did get it to work, with numerous error messages and cranky behaviour from the PC and comms programs. The second session, after taking our own advice, deleting old files and re-installing, went smoothly. Once it was up and running the modem behaved impeccably, apart from getting quite warm. Side by side comparisons with a 56k US Robotics modem shows no significant differences in speed. Similarly, test-file upload and download times using a GSM only modem card with Nokia phones were almost identical.

 

Installation on a clean PC should be reasonably painless and the utility software is easy to use. Worth thinking about if you're looking for a one box solution and need ISDN connectivity abroad.  

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £309

Features            multi-function PC card modem for GSM 900/1800 phones with 56k/ISDN connectivity, Phone Tools, installer & driver software on CD-ROM

To fit                 most makes/models

Contact            telephone  (0870) 6072483

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            83%

 

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TDK GLOBALPLUS PALM ORGANISER SOFTWARE MODEM

The 3Com Palm family of electronic organisers has generated an almost fanatical following and it's not hard to see why. These tiny picket size devices combine the utility of the traditional Filofax organiser with the computing power of mobile and desktop PCs. They're also highly trendy, cute and covetable little gadgets that play games, but we needn't get into that… Palm organisers are equipped with quite sophisticated e-mail facilities but they are designed to work in conjunction with a PC, via a hard-wire or infra-red link. GlobalPulse from TDK sets the Palm free, enabling it to send and receive email and access the Internet via a mobile phone, without any extra boxes or modules.

 

GlobalPulse is a software 'modem' or terminal adaptor for GSM phones and a close cousin of the package reviewed last month for Windows CE palmtop PCs. The outfit includes the phone connecting lead and operating software on a single 3.5-inch floppy disc. At the moment only Nokia 5110 and 6110 handsets (and Orange equivalents) are supported but we understand others are being developed.   

   

Step one is to install the GlobalPulse software. It is first loaded onto the host PC then the applications are transferred to the Palm using HotSync. Once it has been loaded GlobalPulse is ready to run by tapping on the screen icon. This opens the main menu with options for enabling/disabling the program (in preference to the docking station), Data Connection (email & Internet), Phone Book and SMS functions. Phone Book uses the HandPhone utility to swap phone numbers between the organiser and the phone, the SMS option can be used to create and read SMS messages.

 

It's up to you and your Internet service provider as to how far you can go with this kind of set-up. At the most basic level you can send and retrieve e-mail but with additional software -- including a fair assortment of freeware and shareware downloadable from the Internet -- you can view the text content of Internet web pages and link to other sites in much the same way as you would from a conventional PC.

 

It has to be said that web browsing is not one of the Palm's most notable talents, and that combined with the relatively slow data speed of a GSM phone (max 9600 bps, if you are lucky….), it can be a slow and expensive business. Nevertheless, the Palm/GlobaPulse partnership copes well with email messages (provided they're not too lengthy). For anyone who is already well versed in the ways of the Palm III and using it with a PC to handle their email (and have a suitable Nokia handset) this could be a worthwhile addition to their organiser's already impressive repertoire of tricks.      

 

THE FACTS

Typical Price            £70- £100 (depending on palm organiser)

Features            software modem for 'palm' organisers

To fit                 Palm III/IIIx and IBM WordPad, Nokia 51 & 61 series phones

Contact TDK Systems 0181-938 1000

 

WHAT CELLPHONE VERDICT            82%

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1999 0706

 


 

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