bluetooth and ubuntu for noobs

The bulk of the info and walkthroughs currently on the net about Bluetooth and Linux were written, basically, in the stone age. You know, back in the days where you had to ./configure and make install your own pile of stones to stand on so you could see above the grass to accurately aim small files at your tribemates.

What I really could’ve benefited from when I was doing this was a dead simple explanation of how Bluetooth is meant to be used and what apps there were for doing it using a plain Ubuntu install.

So, here one is. Enjoy.

Pairing: Bluetooth devices need to “pair” before they can do anything useful – this basically involves getting them to detect each others’ presence and giving them identical numeric passwords to talk with. To create a pairing between your computer and your mobile phone, you should have the Bluetooth Applet installed (package is bluez-gnome) and set to “visible and connectable for other devices” (not “other devices can connect” – no, I don’t understand it either). Create a new pairing on your phone, let it search for and find the PC, key in whatever you want the pairing password to be and the tray applet should prompt for the same key. First step done – phone and computer have agreed to talk to each other.

It’s just a pairing manager. It does nothing else, has nothing to do with actual connections.


File sharing: To send files between your computer and your phone, you need Bluetooth File Sharing installed (package is gnome-bluetooth). It just needs to be installed to send files to the phone – right-click the file you want to send, pick “Send to…”, change “Send As” to Bluetooth (OBEX Push), pick your phone in the list and off you go. To send files from phone to computer, you need the filesharing app running (it’s basically a server that listens for file transfer offers). It’s in Applications menu -> Accessories -> Bluetooth File Sharing.


File browsing: There’s a way to browse files on your phone like a normal folder. It’s called gnome-vfs-obexftp and this guy‘s working on it. Once you’ve got it installed and your phone paired, open obex:// in Nautilus and you’ll see your phone.

It’s a bit buggy at the moment (it’ll give you all kinds of stupid errors about viewers and folders and it occasionally rearranges my desktop VFS folder icons for no apparent reason) but if it does strange things you can generally refresh or keep trying the same thing over and over and it’ll work eventually. It’s worth it to be able to just drag and drop stuff to your phone.


(That image, by the way, is this awesome thing.)

Manual connections: The GNOME Phone Manager, yet another system tray icon applet, will try to connect to your phone on startup. Once it’s connected it lets you send/read new SMSes with your computer (you can use phone numbers from your Evolution contacts), but more importantly, it’ll just leave the connection open constantly. This is what you use to connect so things like Anyremote can work.


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