Wireless is the new watchword for the Mac, and there are many Bluetooth-enabled mice and keyboards that can untangle your computer’s snarled nest of cords. This cable cutting is now moving to other devices, such as Luidia’s eBeam System 3 BT, a whiteboard-capture device that uses Bluetooth technology to digitally record to your Mac what you write on an ordinary whiteboard. Working wirelessly makes it easy to connect an eBeam session to a Bluetooth-equipped Mac (running OS X 10.2.6 or later), but you can also connect to a Palm OS handheld. The wireless eBeam provides the same level of capture — good but not great — as the
USB version of eBeam did (
; March 2003). But with this device, poor documentation made setup unnecessarily difficult.
The portable eBeam receiver has suction cups that adhere to any corner of a whiteboard as large as 8 feet by 4 feet. It transmits the relative location of anything you write with dry-erase markers housed in electronic sleeves. The sleeves are pressure sensitive and send a signal whenever you write on the board, but we had to write firmly.
This version of eBeam differs from last year’s USB model because of its smart implementation of the Bluetooth transmitter: it’s housed in a power supply that you plug into the wall, and the power supply connects to a USB cable that runs to the eBeam receiver. If you’re in a location where there are no Bluetooth Macs, you can still connect to the receiver via USB. The eBeam system also includes four dry-erase markers and sleeves.
Setting up the Bluetooth connection to a 15-inch PowerBook G4 was a bit confusing. Unlike with most other Bluetooth accessories, you can’t just go to OS X’s Bluetooth preference pane or the Bluetooth Setup Assistant and then select the eBeam as a normal paired device with a secure connection to your computer. Instead, you must use Apple’s Bluetooth Serial Utility to create a virtual Bluetooth outgoing serial port.
The documentation was sparse and contained an error; eBeam’s online help doesn’t include Bluetooth information; and clicking on the Help button in the configuration-error dialog box loads no data.
Worth the Trouble
Once we’d set up the connection, the eBeam hardware and software worked without a hitch. The impressively full-featured eBeam application includes options that let you share a session with other participants over a network or the Internet; play back a session from the beginning; and export data to a QuickTime, digital-video, or image file.
We also tested the eBeam with a Bluetooth-equipped Palm Tungsten T handheld. Setting up a connection was effortless. Capturing a session worked well, and we were able to import the session into the Mac eBeam application. Currently, the meeting is sent to just one device; it would be nice if several people could capture a whiteboard session at the same time.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The eBeam System 3 BT adds wireless connectivity and Palm OS support to a device that is typically shackled to your Mac. Despite the glitches in setting up its Bluetooth connection, the eBeam performs well. But the price jump between the USB version ($749) and this version ($1,200) may give you pause.