It’s not often that I upgrade my mobile phone, but my old Sony-Ericsson K700i was getting flaky, so I recently replaced it with a Nokia 6110 Navigator. I haven’t had a Nokia in ages, but the 6110 was the perfect balance of Symbian OS smartphone, and traditional phone numberpad and interface, so there’s no need to whip out a stylus just to send a simple SMS. I can even write my own applications, thanks to Nokia’s port of Python.
The phone gave me a great excuse to check out the state of Bluetooth under Linux these days, and I’m very glad to say that it’s improved a lot.Pairing and sharing
The difficulty in setting up Bluetooth under Linux has always been in the command-line tools and tedious pairing procedures. Bluetooth radio support under Linux has never really been a problem: there’s only a handful of chipsets out there, and they all seem to be supported. I might regret saying this, but I’d be amazed if anyone can find an unsupported cheap USB Bluetooth dongle, or laptop with built-in Bluetooth.
However, I’m happy to say that modern distributions – Ubuntu Gutsy in my case – have made the basic setup of a Bluetooth device much easier. As soon as I plugged in my dongle, the Bluetooth Manager applet appeared in my panel notification area. Right-clicking on the applet gave me access to a preferences panel where I could configure my PC’s device name and visibility settings, among other things.
Also on the Bluetooth Manager’s right-click menu is a “Browse Device” option, which lets you select your device from a list of detected devices, then open the filesystem in the Nautilus file manager. Unfortunately, while I could attempt to connect to my phone, the actual connection failed. As it turned out, the GNOME-VFS module providing Bluetooth device access in GNOME (including Nautilus) isn’t actually installed by default. It’s an easy oversight to fix, though:
4sudo apt-get install gnome-vfs-obexftp
With that installed, I could connect to my phone and browse its files. Only fully GNOME-compliant applications can read the files directly. Most of the time, though, I just want to copy files to and from the phone, and for that, it works brilliantly, so I hope this module makes its way into the default install for the next Ubuntu release.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is pairing, the process of mutual authentication that’s required before you can perform privileged operations, like browsing a device’s filesystem, from another device. This, too, had long been frustrating under Linux, but the first time I used Bluetooth Manager to browse my phone, the pairing process began automatically. The phone asked for a PIN, and then Bluetooth Manager popped up a notification and asked for the same PIN. I couldn’t find an option to manually initiate a pairing from Bluetooth Manager, which might’ve been handy if the automatic pairing failed. Manual pairing worked from my phone though, so this wasn’t really a problem in practice.
When sending a single file, I find it easier to do a quick file send, rather than opening the phone’s filesystem and accessing the files directly, especially when I’m dealing with someone else’s device: casual file sending doesn’t require pairing.
These simple send and receive features are in the GNOME Bluetooth package:
sudo apt-get install gnome-bluetooth
This includes both an add-on for the “Send to...” functionality in Nautilus that adds Bluetooth device support, and a small utility called “Bluetooth File Sharing” (under the Applications/Accessories menu) for receiving files. The Bluetooth File Sharing tool is designed to run in the background – it sits in the notification area and pops up only when a file is being received.STAGE ONE: Pairing
Once the Bluetooth manager launches, you can use it to pair your phone and your computer.STAGE TWO: Sharing
The Bluetooth package adds tools for casually sending and receiving files.