Andornot Blog

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 12:05 PM

Vista, Skype, and a Bluetooth headset

by Peter Tyrrell

I've always wanted to sit by the phone looking as sexy as all get out with a great coif, blindingly white teeth, and a weency wireless headset perched on my ear, ready to take your calls. So, this past week, because I could stand it no longer, I purchased a Bluetooth headset and a USB Bluetooth adapter to use with Skype. (The extreme dentistry and plastic surgery makeover will have to come at a later date.)

I had a little trouble getting things to work, but I won through in the end, and now have hands-free Bluetooth telephony working with Skype on Vista.

The Gear

I purchased a Plantronics 510 Bluetooth headset, and an IOGEAR USB Bluetooth adapter, which together cost me $135 from Costco (in Canada). Of course it would have cost me quite literally HALF that if I ordered the same items from the USA, but I was worried I might not even get them working together, and Costco has a fabulous return policy.

v510

Plantronics 510 Bluetooth headset

GBU221P

IOGEAR USB Bluetooth adapter

The Install

I plugged the USB Bluetooth adapter into a free USB port on my desktop machine, and allowed Vista to install native Microsoft Bluetooth drivers, instead of installing drivers from the supplied IOGEAR install CD. This was, in hindsight, probably a mistake. But whatever.

I had the headset paired with the USB adapter in a matter of minutes, but couldn't get any actual sound through to the headset from Skype or anything else. Nor, going the other way, could the computer pick up anything from the headset microphone. So it was "connected" (that's good) but didn't actually work in any way (that's bad).

The Pain Point (or, the Microsoft Bluetooth Stack)

Obviously the Bluetooth drivers were to blame (I said to myself). Maybe I should have installed drivers from the IOGEAR CD after all. Except that I couldn't. The setup.exe on the CD would start... but then just wouldn't proceed. There it was in the taskbar. Doing nothing.

Well, I'm no procmon ninja, so I went to IOGEAR's website to download the latest drivers. And indeed, there was a significant update. You can't trust the drivers that ship with a device anyway, since who knows how long the thing has been gathering dust on a warehouse shelf.

And so I tried to install the latest drivers, but again, setup.exe ran, and did nothing. Curse you, IOGEAR: may a thousand slammer worms infest your intimate recesses.

So I was stuck. Except that when I peered at the teensy tiny pictures in the PDF install manual that came with the latest drivers, I happened to notice that the installer was really just a wrapper for a Widcomm Bluetooth driver set. A-ha!

CropperCapture[2]

Yes, this picture in the IOGEAR install manual, in all its original no-quality glory. "Next" is helpfully circled. How nice.

Long story short, I eventually found my way to the original source for Widcomm Bluetooth software in a Windows environment: http://www.broadcom.com/products/bluetooth_update.php. That installed correctly.

Interestingly, the install seems to add on and plug in to the existing Microsoft Bluetooth stack rather than eradicating and replacing it. A bunch of new functionality appeared in the Bluetooth device settings control panel, including a checkbox to "control Skype(tm) calls using a hands-free device". Well!

CropperCapture[3]

Control Skype(TM)? Yes, please!

Windows help was also updated to include some blurb about the new functions, which mostly deal with sharing files and calendar information with Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Conclusion

I'm certain that any ordinary citizen consumer would have gone completely postal in their attempt to get the Bluetooth headset working with the USB adapter. It was definitely not plug n' play.

It's quite unclear to me why the default Microsoft Bluetooth stack is so crippled, and why it doesn't install the full and complete Widcomm Bluetooth driver set right off the bat, or at least alert me to that option. Also, it didn't help that IOGEAR made it appear that I needed an IOGEAR branded driver set, and could only provide a mortally wounded installer, when I really just needed the latest openly available Widcomm drivers.

But, the hands-free headset now works, and the sound quality is very good. I switch from desktop to laptop with ease, as well. I haven't quite figured out how to control Skype from the headset, but that's a minor inconvenience.

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