Product Review: Cut the cables

PDA users may fantasize about looking up inventory or browsing the corporate intranet via their handheld devices, but without a wired connection to a PC or a cell phone, such applications are impossible. Now, thanks to a CompactFlash card from Socket Communications Inc., Pocket PC users (and Pocket PC 2002 users) can virtually roam any corporate campus that uses 802.11b wireless networking. The card’s primary uses are connecting to the Internet or intranet and running custom applications, but it’s also possible to use the Socket card for desktop sync and e-mail.

We tested the Socket Low Power WLAN (wireless LAN) Card in an Audiovox Maestro Pocket PC 2002 handheld and a Casio E-125 Pocket PC. Whenever the card is inserted, Socket’s driver software sniffs out the nearest 802.11b access point and negotiates a connection. Socket’s driver supports 40-bit and 128-bit shared key encryption. The Pocket PC’s IP address is either dynamically allocated or manually assigned. A tiny icon at the bottom of the screen shows the connection status. Tapping it opens the simple configuration and diagnostic interface.

The card consistently located and made an encrypted connection to our lab’s 3Com access point within five seconds of power-up. The card is very small, with only a minuscule bump at the top concealing the antenna. The card fit easily in our test devices and did not block the adjacent SecureDigital card slot when inserted in the Maestro.

The driver software includes some potentially useful diagnostics, but when we ran the card on our Maestro those diagnostics didn’t work properly: The signal strength graph and certain card status fields were blank. Still, we enjoyed roaming the lab and found the card imparted all the benefits of a wired connection with none of the hassle.


Socket Low Power WLAN Card

Business Case: This CompactFlash card frees Pocket PC users to roam about while remaining connected to the corporate network.

Technology Case: The Power WLAN Card’s small size, automatic installation, and easy configuration make it a solid choice for mobile applications. The 40-bit and 128-bit shared key encryption help keep communications secure.


+ Very small with no protruding antenna

+ Connects quickly with access point

+ Driver software installs automatically and is easy to use


– Diagnostics didn’t function on our Pocket PC 2002 device

Cost: US$189

Platform(s): Pocket PC and Pocket PC 2002 devices with CompactFlash slot

Company: Socket Communications Inc.;

Reach Test Center Technical Director Tom Yager