Plug2Net & Aileron for Palm OS

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, send e-mail
Published by: Corsoft Corporation, go to the web site
Requires: Palm OS 3.5 or higher with minimum 30KB free; Plug2Net desktop software operates on Windows 2000 Professional/Server and Windows/XP
MSRP: US$34.95 (Plug2Net), $9.95 (Aileron 1 year subscription)

As if a moderately overactive interest in the World Wide Web wasn't enough, Corsoft decided to develop and release yet another way of inducing me to stay online. Corsoft's solution is a little Palm OS utility called Plug2Net which essentially mates your wireless (or wired) PDA to your PC's Internet connection. Nice. It works too (which is the main thing) and I'll be darned if it isn't fast and capable as well.

Internet access through your Windows PC is established by means of a pass-through connection set up by the Plug2Net desktop software. A small applet running in the Windows system tray allows you to select your PDA connection preference (Serial/Modem, Infrared, Bluetooth or USB). The applet monitors the selected connection method for access by the PDA and when it's detected essentially acts as a conduit to the PC's Internet connection. Because the connection to the Internet is provided by the PC, your existing firewall and other security settings remain in place - Plug2Net doesn't disable or circumvent anything, which means you'll never compromise settings on any computer or network to which you connect.

Users of regular PDAs (my Palm Zire 71 does not have built-in WiFi or Bluetooth capabilities) can leverage the Internet connectivity of their cell phones to connect using a serial or infrared interface. This capability permits the user to access the Internet when they are traveling or at times when a PC is not available. Plug2Net provides preset one-tap connections to most U.S. wireless telephone carriers and also incorporates lots of custom configurations. The phone interface provides users with simplified dial-up connectivity (similar to a hardware modem on the desktop).

Installation of Plug2Net is a two part process: the PC desktop application and the Palm OS program. Installation is seamless and quick; Plug2Net and Aileron are both small. We did not initially install Aileron because we already had VersaMail on the PDA. After installing Aileron about midway through the first week of using Plug2Net, we stuck with it for a while because of its speed and simplicity. Note that Aileron requires a minimum 1 year pre-paid subscription. We used the free Eudora Web browser for all our browsing because of its speed and stability. It worked flawlessly with Plug2Net. We tested Plug2Net and Aileron on a Palm Zire 71, a Palm Tungsten T3 and PCs running Windows XP and Windows 2000.

Cons: The online help system for Plug2Net is limited in scope. For example, we couldn't find any information on the errors thrown by the connection routine. The problem went away after we browsed to the Palm Preferences applet and simply clicked Connect, but a little explanation would be nice. The only real drawback to web browsing on your PDA is the fact that too many web sites aren't yet readable on a PDA screen - too small, not enough resolution. PDA browsers including AvantGo and Eudora Web don't handle frames at all. We found a small bug in Aileron - e-mail addresses longer than the first entry line in the "To:" field don't wrap properly and as a result can't be resolved and therefore the e-mail message can't be sent.

Pros: We used the PDA cradle as well as a Palm Zire 71 USB cable provided by Styrite which enabled us to plug into the Internet anywhere we could find a connection, install the Plug2Net desktop applet and grab our e-mail, check web mail, update news & information and so on - all without leaving a trace of any kind on the host PC. Very nice. Even easier, Plug2Net's Bluetooth compatibility allowed us lots of flexibility around the office and freed us from the need to have a HotSync cradle or USB cable when using a Palm Tungsten T3 with built-in Bluetooth (connecting to the PC via an Actiontec USB Bluetooth adaptor). Very nice again. Aileron is a simple and effective e-mail program with useful reading, sorting and storage functions - more than adequate for the majority of users. We also enjoyed using Eudora Web - it's fast, takes full advantage of the speed of the Plug2Net interface, and does a decent job with some difficult web pages. Plug2Net allowed us to establish Internet access in situations where a laptop either wasn't present or wasn't appropriate for the situation. We love this stuff because it represents a new approach to Internet access that's easy to install, configure and use. If you've got a Palm OS PDA and the need (or desire) to be connected everywhere, Plug2Net brings you one step closer. Highly recommended.

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