The Next Do-It-Yourself Mac

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It seems as though every part of the digital hub has its own unique connector. But you can leave the cables behind and use a wireless technology that Apple is integrating into all of its computers: Bluetooth.

Bluetooth lets you synchronize digital devices within a 30-foot range. You can use it to transfer files among computers, connect wireless headsets, communicate with PDAs and printers, and set your mouse free so it can scamper unfettered about your desktop.

Bluetooth software is built into Panther (and can be used with Macs running Jaguar). It becomes functional as soon as your system spots a compatible module. Bluetooth is built into current 12-, 15-, and 17-inch PowerBooks and is an option for most other new Macs. If your Mac doesn't include Bluetooth, plug in an adapter, such as the $40 D-Link DBT-120 USB Adapter (, and join the fun.

Once your hardware and software is in place, go to System Preferences and click on Bluetooth, under Hardware. Enable networking by clicking on the Turn Bluetooth On button under Settings A. Select the Discoverable, Require Authentication, Use Encryption, and Show Bluetooth Status In The Menu Bar options. These settings make your Mac visible to other Bluetooth devices while providing you with a measure of security.

Establish Communication It's time to connect to something. I'll use the Sony Ericsson Z600 GSM smart phone. (Some phones are considered "smart" because they include capabilities such as personal information managers and Bluetooth connectivity.) Apple lists all compatible smart phones at

To begin the communication process, you have to introduce your Mac to your device. This is called pairing. You can pair manually in the Bluetooth preference pane by clicking on the Devices tab and then on the Pair New Device button. But I recommend the Bluetooth Setup Assistant, which is available via the Set Up New Device button at the bottom of the Devices pane. The Assistant walks you through the entire pairing process. Just remember to enable Bluetooth on your digital device so it can communicate with your Mac.

Get in Sync Now that your Mac and smart phone are trusted friends, you can start exchanging data. Open iSync and click on your phone's icon to reveal its settings pane.

Select the Turn On Synchronization, Contacts, and Calendars options. Under Contacts, you can sync either your entire Address Book or just one of the groups within its database. I recommend that you set up a specific group for your phone, so you add only the data you need in your pocket B.

The same goes for iCal. You can choose a specific calendar instead of syncing all of them. Many phones also capture your To Do list.

For your first synchronization, you need to turn off synchronization for everything (including .Mac) except your phone. Deselect the Turn On Synchronization option for each device in iSync. Click on the Sync Now button, and all of your data will flow from your Mac to your phone. If the first attempt is unsuccessful, enable one other device to iSync and try again. Now your contact and calendar data can be with you at all times.

Address Book Tricks Once you've uploaded your Address Book contacts to your phone, you can deselect Turn On Address Book Synchronization in iSync. Address Book lets you send single vCards directly to your device -- much speedier than a full sync.

To send a vCard to your phone, launch Address Book and click on the Bluetooth button in the upper left corner of the Address Book window. Select the entry you want to send, go to Card: Send This Card, and choose your smart phone from the menu. Address Book will send the new entry to your phone.

Your Mac and phone can be even closer. Click on any of the gray description labels within your contact record (such as Mobile), and Address Book dials the number for you. You can even send an SMS text message directly from your Mac.

Stay Secure Although your Mac uses authentication and encryption for transferring data to your smart phone, your phone probably isn't as secure. So you may want to turn off Bluetooth while in public, which is usually easily done via a top-level menu option.

Just the Beginning You can take Bluetooth much further. For example, what better way to transfer pictures from your camera phone to your Mac than by clicking on the phone's Send button and having the image magically appear on your Mac's desktop? That's the simple power of Bluetooth. -- derrick story

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