Wireless modem lets you surf anywhere, but it's not...

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August 10, 1998|By Gareth Branwyn

Wireless modem lets you surf anywhere, but it's not cheap

Not so long ago, the idea of surfing the Net and writing e-mail while lounging in the sun - or any place I cared - seemed like a far-off fantasy. Well, welcome to the future. OK, so the future is a little pricey and is available in only a few cities, but that will change as wireless modem technology catches on.

The technology's first implementation is the Ricochet wireless modem and Internet service from Metricom. The modem I tried is the Ricochet SE, available for $349. There's a one-time $45 set-up fee, and the monthly unlimited Internet service is $29.95.

For those lucky enough to be in an area already "unwired" by Metricom, the system is a snap to install and use. The Ricochet unit is a 4-inch-long, 8-ounce black box that sits next to your laptop or can be attached to the lid with a touch fastener. It has a small antenna and an LCD indicating battery and signal strength. A cable from the unit connects to your modem port, and there's a power adapter for recharging the battery. The unit is surprisingly zippy, getting between 14.4 and 28.8 Kbps.

So what's the drawback? Until the major cities and beyond get the technology, you'll need two modems (one wireless, one not) and two Internet accounts (one wireless, one not). But when the future finally comes to Peoria, we all can telecommute from the yard and answer our e-mail while watching Jerry Springer.

Information: 800-469-4735, www.ricochet.net/

Send signals to any receiver in your digital domain

How cool is this? I'm sitting at my computer watching cable television - without any unsightly coaxial cables snaking out the back - because I'm using FM radio waves! The object of my geekboy fancy is a device called WAVECOM Sr. (short for "Wireless Audio Video Everywhere COMmunicator"), a transmitter and receiver combo from RF-Link Technology that uses the 2.4 GHz FM band to deliver stereo audio and video images up to 300 feet away. You can use this system to send audio and/or video from a videocassette recorder, cable box, laser disc or DVD player, camcorder, stereo receiver, compact disc player or cassette deck, or computer to another TV, VCR, stereo or powered speakers.

I'm amazed at how good the reception is. During the evening, there's little to no interference. During the day, there are some reception problems, at least in my area. The WAVECOM Sr. (suggested retail price $229, street price about $170) is an improvement over the still-available (and about $50 cheaper) WAVECOM Jr., which uses the more interference-affected 900 MHz AM band.

WAVECOM Sr. comes with one transmitter, one receiver, two DC power adapters, two RCA A/V cable sets (with audio right and left and video), the infrared extender mouse, a cable coax A/B switch and one length of coax cable. RF-Link also sells a mini-CCD camera that you can use with the WAVECOM in case you want to use it as a security system. If you have picture-in-picture capability on your TV, spy on your neighbors while you veg out in front of the tube!

Information: 310-787-2328 or Web: www.rflinktech.com

Reviews of these and other gadgets are at www.steettech.com

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