I have wanted to work more with the Xbee radios, but found out a few weeks ago that the ones I bought had old firmware from 2006 (even though I bought them in late march 2007).
This means that some features are not enabled, like connecting the input of one xbee to another xbee´s output (wireless) without the use of a microcontroller.
To update the Xbee´s firmware you have a few options: the expensive developer boards from maxstream, the DIY hack from Rob Faludi, or the xbee usb dongle from New Micros.
I chose the last option, because I thought it could be useful when including the xbees in a computer network for later projects. This turned out to be a very expensive solution. The dongle itself is only usd 39 which is not too bad. The problem is that New Micros doesnt specify shipping costs when you order, they just add it to your bill when it ships. I specifically asked them to send me a quote of how much the shipping would be, but they didn´t. I chose Fedex economy from the available choices, assuming it would be relatively fast and not too expensive. Well, I was wrong. They charged 71 usd for shipping and handling for a device the size of my thumb. And when I received the package I realized why it was so expensive: They shipped it in a pizza-delivery box filled with styrofoam, where the styrofoam pieces were bigger than the dongle, making it hard to even find it in the box.
Lesson learned: If placing international orders, don´t go for shops which don´t tell you the shipping costs when you place the order. Fedex, I didn´t order a pizza!
Do it the “hard” way: buy a hex inverter and follow Faludi´s tips here.
And, for uploading new firmware you need to do it from a computer with Windows.
Tomorrow I will find out if the dongle does what it is supposed to do.