Wireless Bummer

YadaYada has a few glitches

For fans of the hit sitcom Seinfeld, "yada yada" can mean either meaningless blather or a brisk roll in the hay. But for handheld enthusiasts, YadaYada translates into Internet access on the go. With YadaYadas wireless modem and service, a Palm or Handspring handheld becomes a good — although certainly not perfect — mobile Internet device.

Obviously, nobody wants to browse the Web on a 2-inch by 3-inch screen, so a customized portal designed for a handheld is called for. YadaYada provides such a portal, which is somewhat useful but not at all intuitive to set up. The QuikSnaps feature is definitely a plus: It lets you view the latest news from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, YadaYadas service supports other Internet programs, so you can send and receive Internet e-mail and possibly even access corporate databases. You can also send wireless instant messages using AOL Instant Messenger for the Palm. I found this to be the most productive use of the service, by far.

This only matters if you can connect in the first place — and with YadaYada, that isnt always a sure thing. The ser-vice worked pretty well in New York and Phoenix, but it wouldnt connect in Philadelphia; in Austin, Texas; or on a train ride through New Jersey.

Bandwidth was also a problem. Novatel Wireless Minstrel wireless modem — which YadaYada provides —transmits at only 19.2 kilobits per second. Download times were painfully long for individual Web sites. These network problems arent under Yada-Yadas control: Partners AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless provide the Cellular Digital Packet Data wireless band.

One of the biggest snafus I encountered occurred when I disconnected the Minstrel modem. If I did it while my handset was turned on, my Handspring crashed and had to be reset. This is a disaster if you rely on your handheld to hold critical data while youre on the road. YadaYada says it is aware of the problem and working on a fix.

Ill give credit to YadaYada for coming out with an interesting and potentially useful service. But because of its usability problems and the pricey $40 monthly fee, I would hold off on subscribing for now.