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REVIEW: Acer Modem 56 Surf Bluetooth
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 15.12.03 - 16:54:28 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 20185x
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I've recently bought "Acer Modem 56 Surf Bluetooth" which is a 56 kbit analogue Bluetooth modem which can be used with every analogue telephone line. The reason I've bought it was the simple fact that I need a solution here which allows me to connect to the Internet without run a cable though the room. Therefore I've decided to give this modem solution a try because I already have the Acer Bluetooth USB dongle and I thought this must be compatible! ;-)

Technical Details

  • Modem: 56.000 bit/s with V.90/V.92 support
  • Fax: Send and receive up to 14.400 bit/s
  • Modem Compatibility: ITU-T (V.92), V.90, V.34, V.32, V.32bis, V.23, V.22bis, V.21, Bell 103, 212A Fax: Class 1, ITU-T V.17, V.27ter, V.29 Voice: ADPCM
  • Bluetooth 1.1

So the specs above are the typical specifications for a 56k modem and therefore I was most interested in testing it in combination with different Bluetooth equipped devices like my Desktop PC with the Acer Bluetooth USB dongle, my Sony Notebook with built-in Bluetooth and for sure with Pocket PCs also!

The modem itself comes with the power adapter and the cable which you have to simply plug into the phone outlet.
After "installing" the modem the most interesting part comes - searching and bonding.

Desktop PC with Acer Bluetooth Dongle
The Bluetooth modem is recognized by the Acer Bluetooth dongle immediately and it provides you an overview of supported Bluetooth profiles:

As you can see above it supports dialup networking as well as fax and serial port. Now, when it is in the list of your recognized Bluetooth devices you can start to create a connection:

That's it! Dialing your Internet connection is the same like you would use the internal modem of your PC.

Sony Vaio Notebook with built-in Bluetooth
Next to test was the Sony Vaio PCG-TR1MP with built-in Bluetooth. Sony's Bluetooth utility called "BlueSpace NE" also found it but wasn't unable to connect/bond it:

However, Windows XP already supports Bluetooth in its latest version and therefore I've switched to "Control Panel" -> "Wireless Connections" (sorry, the following screenshots are German because my current XP version is German too):

On the left shot you see an overview of all available and/or bonded Bluetooth devices. From here you can select the device and click "Settings". The next mask shows you which profiles can be used (DFÜ-Netzwerk = Dialup Connection). Select DFÜ Netzwerk and you are ready to go to create a dial-up connection as above with the Desktop PC:

Now you can also simply dial this connection and the Acer Bluetooth modem will establish the connection to the ISP.

HP iPAQ H5400 Pocket PC 2003 with built-in Bluetooth
The most instersting part in thiese tests was for sure if this also works with Pocket PCs. So I used the HP iPAQ H5400 with upgraded 2003 ROM for testing because it already includes Bluetooth as well and the Widcomm stack seems to be the most flexible for this kind of trials:

The modem is found easily and proper displayed as "Bluetooth Modem". From here you can create a new dial-up connection:


Pretty cool, using a Pocket PC via a cheap fixed line connection as well! Haven't done this for years and setup is easier then creating a GPRS connection since you don't have to enter any APN codes but the phone number, user name and password only! :-)

Final Conclusion

Unfortunately I wasn't able to bond the i-Mate Phone Edition because of the following reason, which is a real concern I have about the Acer Bluetooth modem also: The Microsoft Bluetooth wizard used with the HTC Himalaya Phone Edition requires to enter a PIN to bond with another Bluetooth device. You can't switch off this security feature which is okay for me. Unfortunately the Acer Bluetooth modem doesn't support any security by requesting a device PIN! 8O This means that everybody in range of this modem can create a partnership - without adding a device PIN! Inn fact it means everybody can use your telephone line to make an Internet connection which isn't acceptable at all! While the Bluetooth range is 10 meters only sometimes 10 meters could be too much! I've just tested it from my neighbor's apartment and I found the modem, even though the wall because his living room is next to my office! If he would be a bad guy with a limited PC knowledge he could use my line now to make Internet connections for free!
And no - I haven't overlooked anything - Acer is clearly noticing it (unfortunately in the package - not outside that you are informed before you buy it):

"This Bluetooth Modem does NOT Require "PIN code"; in case you are asked to provide such information during the connection, please refer to the instruction of your Bluetooth adapter to change the security requirement of each corresponding service"

Sorry guys but this is a bad joke, isn't it!? 8O A device, which is connected to a telephone line doesn't provide "PIN code" security which means everybody with a Bluetooth enabled PC, Notebook or even Pocket PC can use my phone bill to make Internet dial-ups!? Hard to believe but the truth and I really wonder who made this decision for which reason ever!

Maybe this security issue is the reason why I haven't found the Acer Modem 56 Surf Bluetooth on any other Acer site then the German. However, then I have to ask again why Acer thinks that Germans doesn't care such a security hole?

Because of this lack of security I can not recommend the Acer Bluetooth modem to anyone except users who really know which risk it is to use it. If this would be fixed it's a great companion to make an easy dial-up, doesn't matter which device you are using and it might be even more interesting for travelers since it gives you an easy and convenient Internet access - even from Pocket PCs - but please - not without this security hole!
I hope a firmware update will fix it sooner or later. Anyhow - the Acer Modem 56 Surf Bluetooth is available - at least in Germany - for around 99 Euro.

Cheers ~ Arne

Related Links : [More Information (in German)]


 

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Comments
Posted by Filip Norrgård on 15.12.03 - 19:23:19

That's very cool! big_smile

I've read about Bluetooth Access Points too (for Ethernet) and I would like to try some of them out. Does anyone know where to buy them in Europe?

Arne, have you tried looking in the registry for a hack? That's where Microsoft tends to hide such settings -- or so it seems to me... wink

My upgraded iPaq 3870 sadly has Widcomm's Bluetooth software, so I can not search for a hack for the PIN code security. (Neither does any other of HP's iPaqs, btw) sad

Posted by Arne Hess on 15.12.03 - 20:03:48

Filip! I think it's less a problem of my xda II that I can't bond to unsecured devices but more a problem of the BT modem that it doesn't provide secure connections/bonding!

As much I like this little wireless modem and as much I enjoy the Bluetooth modem idea I think it's not a good idea from Acer to exclude BT security here!

Posted by DubWireless on 16.12.03 - 02:21:37

looks like they went with convenience over security sad - leaving the services open without having any way of configuring security on the device - that's not good - maybe they think just because Bluetooth range is short (under 10m if a Class 1 device) that is enough... but they really shouldn't

@Filip

i'm using the Belkin Bluetooth Acess Point since the Summer - it is good for the price, Anycom is one of the best though (but you pay more) - you just have to be aware of the range limitation (especially if used to the liked of WiFi!)

the Widcomm software in the upgraded 3870 is great (I think!) compared to the original Compaq implementation - it can handle connecting whether a passkey is required not by specifying a Secure Connection isn't required on the Client side - then it just connects straight to the 'discoverable' service / profile - as in the image above on the H5400 where the 'Use a secure, encrypted connection' is left unchecked

e.g. the Belkin acces point you can connect ad-hoc to the network services without having to pair (when you specify the Client doesn't require a secure connection) - but the difference is an access control list is availbale which you can manage - so you can have full open access or lock it down if required - if you want to Pair the devices then it requres a PIN code swap

BrianG

Posted by Filip Norrgård on 16.12.03 - 16:49:49

@Arne: Yes, naturally... Luckily the Bluetooth modem only has a range of 10 meters (I do hope). Any bigger communication radius and one might get a gigantic phone bill! *yikes*

@DubWireless: Thanks for the tip!

I saw that the Belkin Bluetooth AP can also act as a printer server :!: That's handy when I want to print something from my Pocket PC out asap. big_smile But, I have to figure out if it is possible to still print via the network or if I should buy a Bluetooth adapter with the AP...

Posted by Arne Hess on 16.12.03 - 16:54:33

Hehehe... Yes, it's 10 meters max and it doesn't work anymore around the corner of my sleeping room. So a bigger radius with PIN security would be appreciated.

Anyway - don't get me wrong - I really like the modem and the idea since it serves fast, easy and convenient access. However - not being able to protect such a connected device (while even Bluetooth headsets are protected with a PIN) is out of my understanding... :?:

Posted by DubWireless on 18.12.03 - 00:00:52

hi - I haven't tried printing from a PDA via the BT Access Point yet - will give it a try over the weekend and see how it goes

and in my initial post I should have said "under 10m if a Class 2 device", a Class 1 device has a range up to 100m - too easy to make a mistake at that hour in the morning! smile

BrianG

Posted by Wolfgang on 08.01.04 - 17:19:09

Hi everyone, I own the acer Bluetooth Modem and it works very pretty with my Thinkpad.

My question is: does it work with the i-mac too??

Wolfgang

Posted by Wolfgang on 02.02.04 - 19:57:45

Thanks for the information, in Germany the officials try to push the people to ISDN or DSL, if they wont to have a wireless connection to the Internet so this modem is good.

The security problem may be that different computers can have an access to the net and the security ideologue allows only paired devices but I do not know exactly blue-tooth philosophy.

I hope there will be an update.

Greatings Wolfgang

Posted by Arne Hess on 02.02.04 - 20:23:55

There are a lot of serious situations where you don't need ISDN or even DSL. For instance my girlfriend neither need a flat tariff nor high speed for the limited amount of Internet she's doing at home (one in the "family" with this strong Internet skills is enough ;-)) so yes - there is a potential market out there.

Doesn't matter how the Bluetooth philosophy might looks regarding security (and yes - normally Bluetooth requires pairing with PINs), in such a cost intensive environment it's irresponsible to leave the minimum of security! Imagine if my neighbor would dial a 0190/0900 number through my phone line, just because Acer left authentication! :-(

I've already contacted them regarding an update but never got a reply... :-(

Posted by Spike on 24.03.04 - 21:53:03

I also tried to get an answer from the german acer support in order to get my acer bluetooth modem working with my apple ibook, having mac OS 10.3. I sended an eMail but never got anser AND when I called the german support I get answers like: "It is bluetooth so it has to work with eachother". But it doesn´t work and searched the whole web to get my ibook work with this modem.

If any one finds an update or has a solution please post it!

Thanks Spike

Posted by Mehli on 04.06.04 - 13:03:48

@Spike

Try This

Modem-Software für den Mac mit Bluetooth-Support

Der Berliner TK-Distributor Novamedia hat seine Modem-Software Mobile High Speed für MacOS in einer neuen Version veröffentlicht. Das Release 2.19b ermöglicht neben der Anwahl weiterer europäischer Mobilfunkbetreiber jetzt auch Funkverbindungen mit dem für Apple-Rechner zertifizierten Bluetooth-Adapter DWB-120M von D-Link, teilte das Unternehmen mit. Zusammen mit dem dafür notwendigen Bluetooth Beta-Treiber von Apple sollen auch Adapter von TDK und Acer (mini USB-Adapter-Kit) funktionieren, wofür Novamedia jedoch keine Gewähr übernimmt.

Posted by Serkan Ayas on 31.01.05 - 11:33:59

[3] hi!
i am using Belkin bluetooth acces point with PDA (casio Dt-X10). but i have some problems. will you help me on massenger. my maenger is serkanayas@mynet.com

Thank you very much.

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