Bluetooth on Ubuntu – A pleasant surprise

When I ditched my Windows XP for Ubuntu Edgy Eft last month, bluetooth connectivity between my PC and my cell phone was the only task I wasn’t sure my Ubuntu machine would be able to perform as easily as my Windows machine did.

After a couple of weeks of using Ubuntu, I finally took out some time to setup bluetooth as I thought it would be a fairly ‘power user’ task with lots of console commands and apt-gets.

Boy was I wrong.

Here’s a comparison of the setup procedure for my bluetooth dongle on XP and Ubuntu.

Windows XP

  1. Pop in the driver CD of the dongle. Install the driver.
  2. Restart machine.
  3. Plug in the dongle in a USB port.
  4. Find the data transfer software on the driver CD and install it.
  5. Select services (OBEX transfer, HID , Bluetooth dialup etc.) that I want to be able to use between the phone and PC.

Ubuntu

  1. Plug in the dongle in a USB port.
  2. Search for ‘bluetooth’ in Add/Remove Applications, and install Bluetooth File Sharing.
  3. Select files, right click and start sending ‘em via bluetooth!

No driver installation at all! Although I have to confess that before I got to this step, I did spend a good amount of time searching for a Linux driver for my MSI dongle (there isn’t one, or at least I couldn’t find one). I also spent some time looking at third part Linux software for bluetooth connectivity. In the end I had the solution already in Ubuntu.

This is more reason to first have a thorough look at the settings in Ubuntu before going the Windows way and searching for drivers. I made this very mistake when I setup my Creative 5.1 on Ubuntu, by installing ALSA drivers and in the end finding out that surround sound is muted by default in Ubuntu ;p. Lesson Learnt: NEVER assume that because it’s Linux, it won’t run your exotic hardware. Always look for the solution/settings inside Ubuntu before hitting your browser and searching for a driver to install.

One really cool thing about bluetooth transfer on Ubuntu is that you can click and send files to your phone even when it isn’t within range (or has bluetooth turned off). Ubuntu will queue those files and will automatically send those files to the device you selected (my phone in this case) the next time it comes into range. Really nice if you want to schedule sending stuff to your phone …

For synchronizing your cell phone address book with your PC, Multisync is a good option (it comes in the search results for ‘bluetooth’ in Add/Remove Applications). It synchronizes with Evolution amongst other things. After installing it, I found out I had to install its sync plugin to make it synchronize. Haven’t gotten around to actually doing that … shouldn’t be too hard to sync once the installation is done.

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21 thoughts on “Bluetooth on Ubuntu – A pleasant surprise

  1. Ermanno Labagnara says:

    I want to leave Windows for Kubuntu.
    Can I connect the internet after the installation?
    For my work I use a GPRS connection by bluetooth.
    Do you have any suggestion?
    Thank you for article!

  2. Jaffer says:

    Ermanno, there’s lots of help related to connecting to the Internet via bluetooth.
    Check out this page on the Kubuntu Community forum:
    http://www.ubuntux.org/bluetooth-gprs-internet-connection-on-ubuntu

    Here’s another step by step guide, which I think is slightly outdated, but still relevant:
    http://wildbill.nulldevice.net/wordpress/?p=86

    Just type ‘ubuntu bluetooth internet’ in Google and you should get a ton of useful results.

    If you were worried about whether it is possible to connect to the Internet via bluetooth on a Ubuntu machine than fear not. It’s very possible and lots of people have done it. Read up on how they’ve done it and you shouldn’t have any problem.

    Have fun installing Kubuntu! :)

  3. ceiradia says:

    dear jaffer,

    i just tried open suse 10.2 in my Thinkpad T30 using billionton bluetooth dongle. It was recognized by opensuse but when i tried to pairing with my nokia 6600, it didn’t work. There was no device. Would you help me how can i solve this bluetooth dongle problem in my lovely T30.

    Thx!

    Regards
    Ceiradia

  4. NEED HELP says:

    I want to connect my wiimote to my T41 running Fiesty Fawn (7.04). When i installed the Bluetooth File Sharing program, it whent to accesories, but i does’nt come up. Any help would be GREATLY Apreciated.

  5. A quick google gave me lots of results on how to setup the wiimote on your Ubuntu installation. Seems like its a popular thing to do :)
    You should have better luck searching on Google, I don’t have any experience in setting up a wiimote on Ubuntu. Sorry! :(

  6. Ryan says:

    This is great. I wonder if the new palm Foleo will work as easily with it. Go Ubuntu!

  7. Adrian says:

    Thanks!!! Like you I thought it wasnt going to be possible to use my BT Keyboard and Mouse. Guess what am I using to type this? ;)

  8. آریو says:

    and what happens when you want to use bluetooth PAN network in ubuntu to share your PC’s internet connectivity with you phone?
    What about listen to your PCs sound from your phone i mean using your phone as a headset for you PC?
    what about syncronising your phone with your PC and have a good phone manager software like my phone explorer in windows?
    I’m an ubuntu fan. I love the day i completely remove my windows. but as a matter of fact i’ve searched tousends of blogs and communitys and installed a lot of packegase but never have success in any of above. My distro is Ubuntu 8.04 i586 and my phone is p990i.
    Do you have any idea?
    Thanks

  9. houtek says:

    I just ordered a MOTOROLA PC STEREO ADAPTER PC850 to use with Skype on a Dell Mini-Note. Later, I noticed that it is advertised for PC/Mac, but not Linux. Any idea if it should work with the Bluetooth File Sharing enabled per above? Thanks, h.

  10. James L says:

    A couple of months ago, I got a bluetooth dongle for my PC. It only said that it was Windows compatible on the box, but it was reduced and I figured that if it didn’t work with Ubuntu I could always give it to one of my friends.

    So I got home, cut open the annoying plastic packet, put the CD on one side, and plugged it into my computer. I waited about two seconds, and the Bluetooth manager icon popped up in the panel in the top right corner. Way easier than Windows!

  11. Nick says:

    I have the same story to tell… :P But on win my phone can’t send an image.

  12. MicroAngelo says:

    Thanks for the post! I too was busy searching Google in preparation of the struggle get Bluetooth working on my laptop under Ubuntu (it’s always been such a pain in Windows) when I stubled across this post.

    It was only then that I actually just tried turning on the built-in bluetooth device, and… it all just worked perfectly. Now I have my bluetooth mouse saving me from RSI and I can send files to my WinMo phone better than using activestink.

    Thank you Ubuntu, and thanks to you for saving me from my Googling self!

  13. Joe says:

    I was reading your article and it seems to be most helpful although as I am writing this post UBUNTU 9.0.4 is released and some kind soul has even created a netbook edition. The Ubuntu installed flawlessly and found all the drivers to make it work even the wifi that everyone complained about in the 8.04 editon. I next attempt your article to mate my samsung i760 to my asus 900a and attempt a bluetooth internet conection.

  14. SuperSamosa says:

    Funny that, in XP my dongle worked right off the bat but with Ubuntu I get nothing.

  15. How Ubuntu’s broken bluetooth support came to be [http://blog.projectnibble.org/2010/08/08/how-ubuntus-broken-bluetooth-support-came-to-be/]

  16. Nelto Luís Parruque says:

    For some two weeks before i wass using windows 7 and there was no problems of transfering data using bluetooth from my cellphone and my computer, but from the time i changed to ubuntu, every thing were very and very difficult, so i`m asking your help to restore this system of bluetooth

  17. Nick Thomas says:

    On Ubuntu 10.11:
    Assuming the Bluetooth Applet is installed and showing on the status bar, NOTE:
    It only sends files!!
    To receive files the gnome-file-share utility must be installed using
    ‘Ubuntu Software Center’, ‘Personal File Sharing’.
    Even if already installed, select ‘More info’ and install the add-ons if
    necessary.
    Then set-up from ‘Dash home’ button with ‘Personal File Sharing’.
    Then you can receive files using the Bluetooth icon.

  18. Nick Thomas says:

    I meant Ubuntu 11.10 above.

  19. Carl Smith says:

    Hi Jaffer

    Could you provide some details so we know which Bluetooth dongle you used please?

    Thanks

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