Using an Infrared Link

By Brien M. Posey | Nov 22, 2000 | Print this Page
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So far in this series, I've explained how infrared communications work, and how to configure some of the various Windows 2000 infrared-related options. Now, it's time to actually establish an infrared link and use it to accomplish tasks such as exchanging files and printing.

Establishing an Infrared Link

An infrared link between two devices can be established automatically or manually. In Windows 2000 environments, the infrared port is always on, and Windows searches every few seconds for infrared devices that might be within range. If an infrared device is detected, Windows 2000 will automatically try to establish a session with the device. However, if the foreign device isn't running Windows 2000, it may be necessary to establish a connection manually, using techniques I'll discuss later.

When infrared communications are initiated between two devices, the device that initiated the communications takes on the role as the primary device. This means the device regulates the infrared session and is responsible for sending data to the secondary or receiving device. In a Windows 2000 environment, either computer may dynamically assume the primary role, thus allowing it to send data to the other computer. However, some devices, such as printers, may only assume the secondary role.

When an infrared link is established, the icon shown in Figure 1 will appear in the taskbar's status area. This icon indicates that an infrared session has been established. The icon shown in Figure 2 will also appear on the Windows 2000 desktop; it represents the infrared device to which you're connected.

Figure 1
Figure 1: When this icon appears in the taskbar, it means that an infrared session has been established.

Figure 2
Figure 2: This desktop icon represents the infrared device to which you're connected.

One Device at a Time

Windows 2000 can communicate with only one other infrared device at a time. However, this doesn't mean that Windows 2000 is limited to communicating with only that device. After an infrared session ends with one device, Windows 2000 is free to establish an infrared session with a different device. This single-device limitation doesn't constrain Windows 2000 to performing a single task per session, though. Just as a network card can perform multiple communications-related tasks simultaneously, so can an infrared port. For example, you can use an infrared port to simultaneously send and receive e-mail messages and synchronize data files with your desktop computer.

Now that you know a little about the way that Windows 2000 establishes an infrared link, let's take a look at how to perform some common tasks through an infrared link. I mentioned earlier that the infrared link is usually established automatically, but can connected manually if necessary. Any of the procedures I'm about to explain should manually link the infrared devices if a link hasn't already been established. If you can't establish a link either automatically or manually, check the configuration of both devices and make sure that the two devices' infrared ports are in range of each other and have a clear line of sight.

File Transfers

It's simple to transfer files between infrared devices. To do so, simply use the computer that has assumed the primary role to drag the files that should be transferred to the desktop icon shown in Figure 2. When you do, the receiving computer will display a message asking the user if it's OK to accept the inbound files. If the user accepts the files, they will be placed in the location that the user specified as the default location for received files. As I mentioned in Part 2 ( Installing and Configuring Infrared Support ), this is, by default, the C:\Doccuments And Settings\user\Desktop directory. If you don't want received files to appear on your desktop, you can change the default location for received files by using the method that I discussed in Part 2.

Infrared Printing

Printing to an infrared-enabled printer is almost as easy as transferring files over an infrared port. Before you can begin printing, you must install a driver for the printer. This process is largely automatic. To do so, position your PC in range of the printer's infrared port (about one meter). After a few seconds, the PC will recognize the printer. You'll then be prompted to install the drivers for the printer. Once the drivers have been installed, the printer icon will appear on the taskbar's status area.

When you install an infrared-enabled printer, you're basically installing a printer that works identically to any other type of printer. From Windows 2000's perspective, the only difference between an infrared printer and a printer that's connected to an LPT port or to a network port is that the Windows 2000 redirector directs printer communications to an infrared port instead of to a parallel port or a network port. The process of printing to an infrared printer is no different than printing to any other type of printer except for the fact that you must establish an infrared link before you begin printing.

CrossLinks

Transferring Images from a Digital Camera

In Part 2, I discussed a few settings that can be used to control the way that Windows 2000 receives images from a digital camera through an infrared port. Basically, once you've enabled those settings, you're free to begin transferring images. Windows 2000 has very little to do with the process, aside from acting as a receiving device. The communications process is initiated by the camera itself. As you might imagine, the process of sending the files varies for different brands of cameras. You need to know, though, that for this process to work, the camera must support the IrTran-P protocol. If the camera doesn't support this protocol, you'll be limited to using software included with the camera to transfer files rather than using native Windows 2000 software to get the job done.

As you can see, in spite of the complexities involved in the way that infrared communications work, it's simple to use your notebook computer's infrared port to accomplish basic tasks. Establishing an infrared link is largely automatic, and the process of transferring files across the link is merely a matter of using drag and drop. //

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance writer. His past experience includes working as the director of information systems for a national chain of health care facilities and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. Because of the extremely high volume of e-mail that Brien receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message, although he does read them all.

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