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SpringPort Wireless Preview

Sat May 26, 2001 - 11:13 PM EDT - By Alan Graham

SpringPort Wireless

To my delight this week, Xircom was kind enough to send me one of the WLAN Springport modules to evaluate. Even more to my delight was that I am at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference, and if you are familiar with Apple's wireless technology, you know that Airport runs on 802.11, just like the Xircom Module. And to top it all off, the conference floor of the show is running Airport everywhere, so I have had the opportunity to try the unit out - outside of my home wireless network.

Appearance

The module is relatively thin, smaller in many respects to many other wireless modules, but still a little bulky. It is relatively light and easy to install and carry around. It has a nice black matte finish with a raised silver Xircom logo. It looks like something right out of a Sci-Fi movie. It does add a bit of bulk to the depth of the unit, so it may not translate well to certain cases that aren't flexible materials.

Installation and Configuration

One of the joys of the module was that the software was actually on the module so I didn't need to do any type of Hot-Sync to get started. The module does come with a color version of the popular browser Blazer and non-color version of MultiMail installed. Since it resides on the module, internal Visor storage isn't affected when the module is removed. One thing I really love about the module is the charger. It uses a charger similar to the one included with the VisorPhone, so you can charge both the module and Visor (if you have a rechargable one) at the same time. Plus you can still use both units while charging.

I unpacked the module, slid it into the Visor and it brought up a very simple screen with basic choices for configuring the module. Basically I had to make one small Network configuration in my preferences and then come back and configure the module for the 802.11 network I was currently on.

Here at the conference we are using a network with an SSID network name of WWDCAir, so after entering this, and setting the module to DCHP, I was pretty much ready to roll. Drumroll please.

Within about 5 seconds it had negotiated with the network and obtained an IP address. I went right for Blazer.

Blazer

In color if you have it, and it has a nice little default screen for jumping to fast web content. You can change this setting to any web page. As my first test I entered www.apple.com and it pulled it up with little trouble, and other than the whole table issue, it looked great in color. The first thing I noticed is that as long as your signal is pretty strong, this module is very fast and responsive when combined with the browser.

Hot-Sync

About the coolest feature of all is the ability to Hot-Sync over the wireless network. Now I know why Xircom may have killed the Ethernet module. Wireless is the way to go.

Uses

We all know this module is pretty pricey, at around $299, so how do you justify owning it? So what if I have wireless LAN access in my house or business? Well I'll tell you what I am going to use it for:

I am going to set up a MP3 streaming control panel that runs through a web page interface on my internal Apache web server (built into OS X). With the wireless module and my wireless speakers in the house, I can now control and play any of my music from anywhere using this as a remote control. I have a dozen other ideas that I will share as I build them out.

So my first impression is PHENOMENAL!

As soon as James returns, we'll do a full review.




 

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