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Preview: Springtooth

Mon Apr 1, 2002 - 1:01 AM EST - By Michael Ducker

April Fools!

Bluetooth is finally coming of age now and new applications are being created daily for it. Apple recently showed off its Bluetooth support in an upcoming version of OS X, by wirelessly hot syncing a Clie with a Bluetooth memory stick and an iBook. Already there are products available to allow users to connect their Visor to a Bluetooth cell phone. In fact all Visors, any Palm with an SD slot, and any Clie can now use Bluetooth with the right module/adapter. It is due to this wide Palm OS acceptance of Bluetooth, that the product that VisorCentral is about to preview comes into existence.

Introducing Springtooth - a Springboard to Bluetooth adapter.

The Springtooth is for users who have amassed a collection of springboard modules, yet want to move on to a handheld that doesn't have a Springboard slot. Example uses include using an old MiniJam MP3 player on a Palm m515, or a Springboard modem with a Clie T615. The Springtooth basically enables almost most Springboard modules to work with ANY Palm OS based, Bluetooth capable PDA.

There are two parts to the Springtooth. The first part is the hardware; as shown in the picture at right it is a Springboard sled. The sled contains a removable Lithium-Ion Polymer battery and a Bluetooth chipset. There are 2 LED's on the sled, showing battery life and Bluetooth activity. The battery LED is multi colored to make the readings easily understandable. Green means full battery, orange indicates 50% capacity, and red means 25% battery life left. The sled provides power and transmits any communication that would normally occur through the pins on the Springboard wirelessly to the PDA.

The second part of the Springtooth package is the software connection. I have been told that the company that made the Springtooth (our NDA currently restricts us from disclosing the company), spent months writing this software. It is a Palm OS program that runs in the background (much like the driver for the Stowaway keyboard) and contains most of the Springboard API. When a Springboard module tries to communicate with the PDA, the sled intercepts the data and transmits it wirelessly to the PDA. The software intercepts this data and forwards it directly to the Motorola Dragonball CPU. The CPU then sends the data back to the software, which transmits the information back to the Springboard sled. While it seems like many steps, this happens instantly with no notable drop in performance.

The developers that I have talked with have ensured me that they have implemented every part of the Springboard API that they could (most PDA's do not have microphones, so Springboards that require them will not work, for example).

In our initial test of the Springtooth, we found it quite easy to have a Minijam in our pocket and never having to touch it once. I tried the MiniJam over the Bluetooth connection on a Palm 515 and it worked great. Cargo pants are a plus with this adapter, as you need to keep the adapter within 10 meters of your PDA. The most amazing thing I found out was using the Eyemodule. Previously, the Eyemodule was connected to the Visor and you had to move the Visor to work with it. With the Springtooth, you can set up the Eyemodule in one position (taped to the ceiling :-D), and than walk near it and get the viewfinder. It really changed the way I took photos.

This adapter isn't just for users who want to migrate from their Visor to something else. I found it excellent to use with a Red-M Blade Bluetooth module in an Edge, and than have the Minstrel S CDPD module in my pocket. Say goodbye to bulky PDAs!

Versions are currently under beta-testing for 16 MHz, and 33 MHz palm OS based PDAs. A version that will work with the new 66 MHz CPU is under development. The hardware/software combo will cost $150, with extra adapters being $100. Current plans call for the Springtooth to be available mid-summer. Keep reading VisorCentral for a complete review, and thorough testing of the Springtooth springboard Bluetooth adapter.

We have been asked by the manufacturing company if we would also help them do a small product survey in exchange for them giving us rights to show this preview to you. Please email us with any comments and questions you have.


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