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palmOne WiFi - Mini-review

While I'm on the subject, I might as well include a mini-review of the card. First, if you're hoping to try to use the card on other SDIO-equipped PalmOS devices, good luck. The installer provides only Zire 72 and T3 options and the install process appear to be slightly different for each device.

The card's controls are more tightly integrated into the PalmOs, appearing as an item in the Communication portion of the main Preferences application, instead of in its own application, but I felt integration could be improved. To save power, the card is powered off each time the display is turned off, which defaults to 3 minutes. Launching a network-savvy application automatically popped up a box asking whether the card should be turned on, but only allowed you to select a network service, i.e. WiFi, Windows RAS, etc. and not a WiFi Network (SSID). That required a trip to the Preferences > WiFi screen, which got to be a pain after awhile, especially when the T3's Status Bar provides an excellent place to put a quick link.

I have to say that I feel that the WiFi utility supplied with the SanDisk card is better than palmOne's, but for reasons that may appeal only to more experienced wireless network users. The SanDisk's utility lets you both force an AP scan and an IP renewal via separate controls, supports storing multiple profiles, provides a numeric reading of signal strength along with a "fuel gauge" type bar and indicates the Transmit connection speed. The Palm utility doesn't provide any of these features, though I found I could force a scan for new networks by power-cycling the card.

On the plus side for the Palm utility, it supports both AdHoc and Infrastructure modes and lets you disable power conservation and change the signal strength criteria for initiating roaming (I found this while foraging in the utility's Preferences). It also shows signal strength of nearby APs in little-bitty 5-bar signal-strength indicators on the Edit Wi-Fi Networks screen that also serves for Network selection. But this feature is so subtle (and hard to see) that many users may never notice it.

Negatives for both products is that only WEP (64 and 128 bit) encryption is supported (no WPA - shame!) and you can't indicate preferred networks or change the network scan order. I found that the Palm utility doesn't show multiple APs with the same SSID and suspect this is also true of the SanDisk utility but forgot to test for it. This means that you can't see same-named APs that could be interfering with your wireless connection or be able to force a connection to a specific, stronger-signal AP in a multiple-AP WLAN.

These points might be considered nits, however, in light of the superior speed provided by the palmOne solution.

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