PalmOne SD Wi-Fi Card for the Tungsten T5, T3, E2 and Zire 72
Here's the card many Palm owners have been waiting for: the first SD WiFi card for the palmOne Tungsten T5, Tungsten T3, Tungsten E2 and Zire 72. PalmOne's card was released at the beginning of September 2004 and is compatible only with the Tungsten T3, T5, E2 and Zire 72. The card is the same size and shape as other SD WiFi cards and protrudes about 3/4" from the top of the Palm. It has a single LED that indicates when the card is turned on and active. The manual states that you will need to turn Bluetooth off before using the WiFi card.
Inside the package you'll find the card itself, a quick start guide and a CD with drivers and a very detailed and user-friendly PDF manual. Installing the software is a breeze and it uses ~ 1 meg of storage space on the PDA. The software includes the driver, Wi-Fi Setup application and a VPN Setup application. It also adds "WiFi" to the list of items under Prefs and a connection strength meter to the taskbar that appears when you use the command stroke (draw a diagonal line bottom left to upper right in the Graffiti area).
Setup and Features
Once you've installed the software using HotSync and soft reset your PDA, you're ready to connect to WiFi access points. The software supports infrastructure (access points) and ad hoc peer-to-peer networks (a WiFi connection served from your computer rather than an access point). It works with both 40 bit and 104 bit WEP encryption, more commonly referred to as 64 bit and 128 bit encryption. We tested it with a Linksys 802.11b access point using 64 bit encryption among other networks and it worked flawlessly.
To connect, you'll run the Wi-Fi Setup application on your Palm, and first select an access point or ad hoc network from the network browser screen. If you don't see your network, you'll need to hit the Previous button and try again since the network browser screen doesn't refresh in real time. The browser shows all available networks in range and indicates signal strength and whether they're standard or ad hoc networks. Select the network to which you wish to connect, enter a WEP encryption key if needed in hex, ascii or as a passphrase and you're done. Once you've established a WiFi connection, the Palm saves it so you won't need to re-enter the info again. If you launch an Internet application such as Web Pro, the PDA will automatically connect to your default access point if in range.
The card supports DHCP (default) or you can enter your own IP and DNS info using the menu in WiFi under Prefs. If you prefer to manually select a channel, you can select from channels 1 through 11. You can also turn off the Conserve Power feature which is on by default. If you turn it off, the card will use more power and actively search for stronger network signals. You can set it to search for new networks when your current network's signal is very weak, weak or moderate (not sure why one would want to switch from a moderately strong network).
VPN's are becoming common at workplaces and campuses, and thankfully palmOne has included a VPN client. It's Mergic's VPN client and uses the PPTP protocol supported by Cisco, Nortel and Windows servers among others.
Above: the access point browser. Below, the VPN screen.
HotSyncing over WiFi
Want to HotSync over WiFi? You can do it with the palmOne card. You'll need to sync once via cable, IR or Bluetooth with the PDA to establish the syncing relationship, and then you can sync over the network. Remember to turn on network syncing under your computer's hotsync prefs, then go to the Palm's HotSync prefs menu to configure your connection. You'll set modem sync preferences to network sync via WiFi, then enter your PC's info under the Primary PC Setup menu screen. You will need to know the IP address of your PC and if your PC uses DHCP and its IP address changes, you will need to keep the IP address updated on the Palm. Syncing over WiFi is quite fast and works for syncing data as well as installing software on the Palm.
WiFi shortens battery life on all portable computers such as notebooks and PDAs. The palmOne Wi-Fi Card is no exception, and it will reduce runtimes by about 50%. We were able to surf the web with our T3 for over one hour with power conservation turned on and the timeout set to the default of three minutes (you can set it to turn the card off after 3, 5, 10 or 15 minutes of network inactivity). When not using WiFi, palmOne recommends that you remove the card from the SD slot since it will draw a small amount of current in sleep mode.
No, you don't have another choice right now if you want an SD WiFi card for your Tungsten T5, T3, E2 or Zire 72. Even if the card had competition, it would be a recommended buy thanks to its reliable connections, good signal strength, configurability and included VPN client. If you have one of those models and want to use WiFi, go for it!