REVIEW: EMBARC Messaging Service

If you're on the road and need to receive E-mail, including text messages or binary computer files, take a close look at Motorola's EMBARC service.

By Rick Shaddock

Wireless Plug in for HP 95LX:  Graphic

A wireless receiver makes the 95LX truly portable. You no longer have to connect up to a modem to receive important messages; time sensitive information can be sent to you quickly, wherever you are! On page 20 of the Nov/Dec 92 issue we discussed the SkyTel SkyStream Service and the SkyStream Receiver. This article focuses on Motorola's EMBARC (Electronic Messaging Broadcast to A Roaming Computer). Both services provide an economical way to receive messages on the 95LX while traveling. Both services use similar pagers connected to the 95LX via the HP Mobile Accessory Cradle (Mobile DataLink Cradle).

SkyTel and EMBARC serve different niches -- SkyTel focuses on shorter transmissions (up to 250 characters) for immediate delivery to groups of up to 40 individuals. EMBARC provides less immediate delivery (15 minutes minimum) of longer messages (up to 30,000 bytes) to unlimited sized groups. EMBARC handles either text or binary files, and sends daily broadcasts of news, sports, and weather. With SkyTel, the receiver pays on a per message plan; with EMBARC the sender pays for the transmission.

Both services provide wireless reception of messages. A SkyTel subscriber sends messages using a modem or touch tone phone. An EMBARC subscriber sends messages via a modem or e-mail system.

EMBARC Subscription Package Lets You Receive Messages on Your HP 95LX

The EMBARC subscription package includes a Motorola NewsStream receiver, HP's Mobile Accessory cradle, ROM card with EMBARC software, manual, and cable. The basic EMBARC subscription costs $15 per month and provides an e-mail account, unlimited receipt of messages, and twice-a-day updates of USA TODAY news and weather. Other topics such as health, technology, and real estate news may be added to the basic service for about $8 per month each.

The Motorola NewsStream receiver is powered by its own AA battery and has 32K of memory. Every morning, the green light flashes on the NewsStream receiver, indicating that the latest news is ready to be downloaded. I pop in the NewsStream receiver and 95LX into the Mobile Accessory cradle, slip the EMBARC ROM card into the 95LX's A drive, and press the (CTRL)-(F1) hotkey to get the EMBARC Main Menu screen:

EMBARC Main Menu Screen

 I press (F3) to download messages and then (F1) to see a listing of the messages I just received.

Message Listing Screen

 Messages longer than 1500 bytes are divided up, so I get the USA TODAY update in three or more files. I press (CTRL)-(F5) to recombine them, which takes a couple of minutes. Finally, press (F1) again to view the formatted messages and news.

EMBARC transmits news of all types throughout the day to well over 200 cities. EMBARC has an exclusive agreement with USA TODAY for wireless delivery of news. Some sample news screens follow:

USA Today Opening Screen:  Graphic

News Screen:  Graphic

Stock Market Screen:  Graphic

Weather Screen:  Graphic

 Each message is automatically saved in the Mail Box, as part of the file MBX00001.MSG.

Sending Messages

EMBARC provides General Electric's BusinessTalk (BT) System 2000 software to desktop PC users. BT allows the user to fill "Out Box" messages to send on either the wireline e-mail network for regular PCs, or the wireless e-mail network for the HP 95LX. You can also check your e-mail "In Box" for messages your NewsStream did not receive.

EMBARC provides the necessary communications software for the 95LX on a ROM memory card. The card must be inserted into the memory card slot to upload messages from the NewsStream to the 95LX.

EMBARC connects with other e-mail services and private systems through a standard X.400 gateway. Messages are routed by satellite to the appropriate station(s) and transmitted on the EMBARC nationwide radio frequency (931.9125 MHz) to reach NewsStream receivers in most metro areas.

Usage fees are billed on a monthly basis and vary depending on:

For example, a 1200-word price update sent to a group of 100 sales reps nationwide, within 3 hours would cost $6.02 -- 6 cents per recipient! It is best to compose messages off line, then use your 20 minutes per month (basic plan) for sending operations.

Things I Would Change

I have a few things on my EMBARC wish list. I wish the APNAME.LST file on the EMBARC ROM card was changeable so I could assign a hotkey of my choosing. I also wish EMBARC did not use (CTRL)-(F4), which the Lotus Paste function also uses. When you press (Ctrl)(F4) to paste in 1-2-3, you sometimes get "Initializing modem. Please wait." I wish paging through the EMBARC messages wasn't so awkward. You have to press (F3) (Prev) or (F4) (Next) and you can't use the arrow keys to scroll up or down to view split paragraphs at once. This is very annoying when you are trying to read a paragraph longer than the screen. I prefer to use MEMO to view the MBX00001.MSG file (or FILER's Viewing function if the document is too large for MEMO to open).

The EMBARC software is easy to install, but a bit large at 192,497 bytes. I wish I could install the EMBARC software on the C drive and have the A drive available for data files. I was able to put a few of the files necessary to read the news on the C drive, but I still run out of room on my C drive until I delete the E-mail files.

Finally, I wish EMBARC could automatically update APPT, PHONE, or 1-2-3 files. As it is, you can save the message as a file by pressing (F1) and entering a filename and extension (.TXT for MEMO, .WK1 for Lotus, etc.).


The EMBARC system is covering more and more cities and countries every week. The variety of its special information services is also growing. Motorola provides excellent, courteous technical support, a one year limited warranty, and six factory authorized repair centers. EMBARC is an excellent wireless communication choice, especially if you need to send lengthy messages or files, or if you need one of its special information services.