Posted on Nov 06 2005 byin Software
As I’ve mentioned before, I really enjoy using Skype, the popular VoIP application that allows you to make free phone calls anywhere in the world using your computer. One drawback to using Skype – as well as any other VoIP application – is that you’re chained to your computer via your headset. And who hasn’t wanted to get up and go to the bathroom or refill your coffee cup during one of those longer conversations with your friend from Malaysia? Yes, you can ask the other party to wait as you remove your headset and go do your thing, but sometimes that’s just not practical. So, I searched high and low for a sinple and inexpensive solution that would allow me to use Skype without my mobility being limited by the length of the cord on my headset.
As it turns out, there are several solutions to the VoIP/Skype limited mobility problem. One of the simplest and least expensive solutions seems to involve combining bluetooth wireless technology with VoIP. According to Wikipedia:
“Bluetooth is an industrial specification for wireless personal area networks (PANs). Bluetooth provides a way to connect and exchange information between devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs), mobile phones, laptops, PCs, printers and digital cameras via a secure, low-cost, globally available short range radio frequency.”
“Wireless personal area network.” Wow. Imagine your entire office without cables. No mouse cable. No keyboard cable. No printer cable. And yes, in this case, no telephone headset cable to keep you chained to your computer. Now that’s what I’m talkin about. So, here’s what you need to make wireless Skype calls. First, you’ll need a bluetooth-enabled computer (with Skype installed of course). Don’t have a bluetooth-enable computer? No problem. Neither do I. There’s a simple solution to that, and it’s called a “dongle.”
How to Equip Your Computer to Use Bluetooth Wireless Technology
A dongle is a Bluetooth USB adapter. Just plug it into a USB port on your computer, install the drivers and suddenly you have a bluetooth-enable computer. The one you see to the right is the D-Link DBT-120 model, which is the bestselling unit on Amazon.com. Of course, there’s a whole slew of them, and you can do a search (like this) for many other options. I like to look first at the bestsellers, and then see which ones have the highest ratings among Amazon.com reviewers.
A word of caution here for Windows XP users. In doing some research and reading what other users had to say, it’s not so simple to install the drivers for the dongle if you’re on a Windows machine. Mac systems, it seems, install the drivers simply and flawlessly. Not the case with Windows-based systems though. And the problem doesn’t seem to be limited to just the D-Link dongle, rather it looks like a problem with most of them. D-link support, however, is aware of the problem and has provided a great deal of information should you run into problems with your install. They even created a special PDF download for Windows XP (Service Pack 2) users, and you can get it here.
Here’s what one Amazon.com reviewer wrote about his experience:
“Five minute set-up on XP SP1 – Works Great! After reading all the reviews I was very nervous about getting this adapter. I went ahead and backed up my system before installing it. Mine was the B4 revision (newest) and I reviewed Dlink’s support website which had an excellent PDF file on how to install this correctly with SP2. The CD install (which installed the latest driver, V126.96.36.199 and the V3.4 manual/guide PDFs) went fine, then I followed the SP2 instructions and it installed correctly. I have since paired my new Motorola E815 phone and my Palm Tungsten E2 (Hotsync only) with no problems. The Widcom tools seem very good. I can recommend this unit fully. It should be noted that the other vendors adapters (Belkin, Linksys, etc) seem to have the same issue with WinXP SP2 in that Microsoft’s driver gets used. You have to follow the vendors recommended procedure to correct it or you WILL have problems.”
Still, another user had this to say:
“Works good for me on WinXP SP2. After a miserable time with a Linksys BT100 Bluetooth (which I never did get to work properly), I tried the D-Link 120 (rev4). I started by downloading the rev4 driver from D-Link. After unzipping the folder I hit the install icon in the folder and just followed the screen prompts. No Codes, no problems or error messages. It has been totally flawless so far. I have low, but usable signal all over my small two story house. I haven’t tried it on our Mac iBook yet, but after reading other reviews I tend to think it will be fine. I was starting to think Bluetooth was a waste of time after trying the Linksys and reading some of these reviews, but I’m glad I tried the DBT-120. While trying to get the Linksys going, I spent alot of time learning about bluetooth setups. I don’t know what is causing problems for other users, but I’m just not having any under XP SP1. Now if it just lasts through the three year warranty.”
I’ll be getting one of these in the next few days, and I’ll update you on my experience with the install. In the meantime, we now need to look at some Bluetooth-enabled headsets.
Bluetooth Wireless Headsets
You may already be using a Bluetooth headset with a cell phone or perhaps a PDA. If so, not much about this section will be new to you. If you’re like me though, you haven’t yet made the lead to wireless.
Again, when I began looking for a Bluetooth-enabled headset, I started at Amazon.com. The bestselling units all seem to be made by Motorola. The one that jumps out at me though, is the Motorola HS850. This is their latest model, and it sells for about $70.00. It also has very high ratings among other users, and it’s black, which I prefer. I also like it because I have a Motorola cell phone, and I’d like to keep everything in the family, so to speak. Naturally, you’ll want to make your decision based upon your own situation and preferences.
In addition to a Bluetooth headset, there’s one other component that looks like the perfect application to round out this strategy. It’s a software application called, created by a UK company. It goes for US $20.00, and it seems well worth it just to simplify the process of pairing your headset to use with Skype. Here’s the description from the SkypeHeadset site:
“SkypeHeadset is a software application that seamlessly connects a Bluetooth® headset to Skype on your PC so that you can dial, pick-up, hang-up or mute calls with the headset buttons. The software works with all popular Bluetooth headsets.
“SkypeHeadset enables your PC to behave more like a mobile phone or a cordless telephone. You don’t have to be sitting in front of the PC to use Skype – you can be up to 20 metres* away and using the headset buttons to manage your calls.
“If you are using a headset that connects with two or more devices, you can take incoming calls from your mobile phone or from Skype.”
Phil over atalso has a nice write-up of the product that you’ll want to read. In the end, I’m not so sure you need SkypeHeadset unless you’re using your headset on more than one device. Perhaps the best solution is to try it without it first. If you decide to get it later, you can always do that.
Well, there we go. I’ll be interested to actually try this out myself, which I’ll be doing in the next few days. I’ll update this post when I do. If you try it, please send me a note or comment on this post to tell of your experience. If you have another wireless VoIP solution, I’d love to hear that as well. Happy Skyping (or VoIPing)!