Werner Ruotsalainen's blog

Audio player CPU (and, therefore, power) usage benchmark update!

Following is an update to my previous article on the CPU usage of the audio player applications. Please consult the old article on how the data should be interpreted.


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Want to add AVRCP support to GSPlayer? Here's the long-awaited solution!

GSPlayer is a well-known, excellent, free (!!!!), constantly updated audio player application I’ve very frequently elaborated on (search my blog for my related articles).


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A true web camera app for Windows Mobile and Symbian: OctroVideo

In my last Bible of Windows Mobile, Symbian and Blackberry webcamera applications directly usable in desktop messengers like Live Messenger, I haven’t elaborated on the apps that are a bit different: they let for using your camera-equipped handset as a camera for your messaging application running on your desktop PC (connected to your handset). OctroVideo is radically different: it allows for your handset to be used as a Web camera in itself, without running any external application.


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At last: File transfer in WM 6.1 RDP client

As has been explained in the Remote Desktop Control Bible, in the pre-WM6.1 days, Windows Mobile was clearly worse than WindowsCE .NET running on clamshell devices in that the Remote Desktop Mobile client couldn’t make any file transfer in the former, while it could do in the latter (for years).


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Legendary game Another World (& Flashback) released for Windows Mobile – for free! A MUST!

Many of you may already have heard of Another World (also known as Out of this World in the US and Outer World in Japan; Wiki page HERE; Abandonia page HERE), which was one of the best vector-graphic action-adventure games back in 1991-1992.

Compatibility


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(Multiplatform) ROUNDUP & TUTORIAL: Web Camera Applications

Not all notebooks or desktop computers have a built-in web camera. With desktop PC’s, this isn’t that big an issue: as you don’t carry them around, you can just buy an inexpensive, clip-on USB camera and you’re set. Not so with notebooks, UMPC’s or Tablet PC’s – with them, purchasing (and carrying!) a cabled solution might be overly suboptimal. Then, just using your camera-equipped smartphone may turn out to be the best solution; preferably over a wireless connection like Bluetooth.


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(Multiplatform) REVIEW & STRATEGY GUIDE: Towers Trap

In my latest Misc News collection, I’ve already recommended Towers Trap, a brand new game on two mobile (Windows Mobile and Symbian S60) and desktop Windows platforms. GameZoneProject’s official page is HERE. No matter what platform you have, I really-REALLY recommend giving the trial a try and play through the (initial) tutorial. (Again, you’ll have text rendering problems on VGA Windows Mobile devices). I’m pretty sure you’ll like the game.


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VGA & Opera Mini (and/or MIDlet) users, you’ll LOVE this: at last, readable charsizes!

So far, the biggest problem with running Opera Mini (or any MIDlet that uses characters to display anything; for example, the Gmail MIDlet) on high-resolution (W)VGA Windows Mobile devices was the far too small character size all contemporary, recommended (most importantly, Jbed) MIDlet managers used.


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The multiplatform Bible of using your handset as a modem

Now that I’ve become a proud owner of a super-mobile HP TC1100 Tablet PC, using mobile devices (smart phones) as external modems have became essential for me. Up until now, I’ve done most of my Web browsing, YouTube watching outdoors with some of my mobile devices.


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Misc news (07/10/2008)

Hardware

There’s a really interesting article comparing the built-in camera of the four most widely discussed new Windows Mobile phones: HTC Touch Diamond, HTC Touch Pro, Samsung Omnia, Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1. There is also a dedicated PPCT thread HERE, with some of my comments.

Games


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REVIEW: a new iPhone-alike Web browser, Touch Browser

Web browsing is one of the major application areas of portable devices – no wonder the iPhone is also Web-centric with its excellent Safari browser.

The “accelerated†scrolling mode of Safari is widely copied in the Windows Mobile world. The latest title to support this kind of screen dragging mode is Touch Browser by Makayama available for purchase and, now, trial download HERE (manual HERE).

It’s an external wrapper to Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM), just like Webby and unlike traditional IEM plug-ins like Spb Pocket Plus, PIEPlus and MultiIE. This also means it has some of the inherent problems common to all these solutions; more on this later.

OK, enough talk, let’s get straight to the facts: frankly, as of version 1.0.2, I’m not at all satisfied with this app. Currently, there are far better alternatives. Why? Let’s take a detailed look. (Note that this list is pretty much terse. If you don’t understand it, make sure you read my other Web browser reviews and Bibles; in them, I’ve thoroughly elaborated on all the issues I’ve referred to in this review.)

  • The keyboard is either vowels on top or numbers – there’s no QWERTY layout, unlike on the iPhone or with, say, Spb Full Screen Keyboard. This itself makes URL input very hard – iPhone’s QWERTY inputting is just far better and, if you’re (as most people) used to QWERTY, faster. Screenshots showing this: Landscape 1 2, Portrait 1 2. System-level auto-completion works in URL input mode (see THIS), but there’s no address completion (based on the history / the favorites) the like in Opera Mini 4.1 or all versions of Opera Mobile. Also note that it’s impossible to enter symbols like ~, ? and & - this is a MAJOR problem too! All you can do is assigning a hardware button to <Input Panel> and use it to quickly bring up the keyboard and enter anything on it, unrestricted.
  • It’s in no way possible to access the standard menu. Fortunately, it’s possible to access favorites via the context menu and the usual PIE / IEM context menu items, including for example Save Image for images, are all accessible. The lack of menu access results in, say, the inability to switch between low and hi-res modes on VGA Pocket PC’s on the fly. What is worse, it’s not possible to access the three (One Column / Fit to Screen / Desktop) different rendering modes in View, should you want to switch between them on-the-fly. Yeah, sure, TB does have an entire button for one-column view, so, the problem is mitigated to some degree. Nevertheless, the default mode seems to be the desktop (!!!) view, which is, in most cases, completely useless and to-be-avoided. That is, you’ll end up having to switch to the one-column view, which, with some kinds of content (for example, charts) results in a huge decrease in readability (in general, the “Fit to screen†mode, which isn’t supported by Touch Browser, is the best of the three modes).
  • Speaking of the (W)VGA hi-res mode switch introduced in WM5 AKU 3.5, independent of its state, documents will ALWAYS be rendered in low-res. This is not what you may want to prefer if you have a hi-res device and want to take advantage of the resolution to fit as much data into the screen as possible.
  • The Settings menu has been hastily designed for Portrait devices and needs scrolling in Landscape – (this is, of course, a minor issue, compared to the major problems of the app)
  • No tabs or other enhancements; the only enhancement is the one-column mode, which doesn’t add much to WM2003SE+ devices (it was in WM2003SE that One Column mode was introduced). Compare this to the tab support of Spb Pocket Plus
  • No way to switch to text copy/paste mode – VERY bad!
  • No hotkey support at all – all you have is the D-pad (and, of course, the on-screen menu) for shortcuts
  • Dynamic scrolling is just far less spectacular and far slower than with Spb– mostly because of the slow CF-based engine
  • The D-pad can’t be used for scrolling and the Action button to select links – it’s strictly for bringing up / hiding the menu (up/down), navigating to the previous/next page (left/right) and showing the actual position of the viewport in the page (Action). The latter (displaying the actual position with scrollbar-alikes) doesn’t let for scrollbar-based scrolling and is far-far inferior to, say, Opera Mini 4’s or NetFront’s minimap / page overview solution. That is, there’s absolutely NO way of scrolling the page without using the touchscreen, only via the buttons. This is a REAL disadvantage compared to ALL other browsers or PIE plug-ins, where you can not only use the D-pad for scrolling, but you can also configure how scrolling should be done (link / line / page-based scrolling) or, in cases, can even use other hardware buttons for scrolling. Touch Browser doesn’t allow for the latter (that is, assigning scroll or page down functionality to hardware buttons as is explained in the Button Enhancer Bible.) It isn’t compliant with SmartSKey either, configured to page scrolling using the volume slider – unlike with most other Web browsers (or plug-ins).
  • Sometimes it just crashes – for example, when just entering http://www..com or the random URL given in the system input panel tip above. The latter can only be helped with the phone buttons. Also, upon exiting the app with the X icon, it always throws exceptions (like THIS and THIS). This certainly shows it needs some HEAVY, additional debugging.
  • Absolutely no feedback on the state of loading pages – unlike with the underlying IEM.

Verdict

While I pretty much liked Makayama’s past Windows Mobile-related software titles, all I can say is you’d better stay away from this title for the time being – that is, before it undergoes a real facelift and enhancement. It’s just worse than the alternatives. If you do need iPhone-like accelerated (!) scrolling, go for any of the newer browsers: Opera Mobile 9.x, NetFront 3.5 or, if you plan to stick with IEM, Spb Pocket Plus 4. If all you want to have is screen-based dragging (without the nice “accelerationâ€), then, other, even older browsers will do: NetFront 3.3/3.4, Opera Mobile 8.6x, Thunderhawk, Opera Mini (all versions) or the two traditional IEM plug-ins: PIEPlus and MultiIE. Technically, these browsers are ALL far superior – far more reliable, far more feature-packed, easier-to-use (buttons, fast scrolling, minimap etc.) and, with some of them (Opera Mini, for example) even free.

Also, this browser (as with Webby) certainly shows Compact Framework is just unsuitable for writing fast-scrolling apps. Use native C++ for implementing applications that rely on quick (!) graphics.

Knowing the Makayama folks are pretty adept and knowledgeable people, I really hope they do improve this browser and that, once, Touch Browser will become a decent alternative to screen-dragging solutions. For the time being, I don’t recommend it, however.


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MWC: Bluetooth news: A2DP news & reviews (e.g. Voyager 855); a new BT access point; Nokia’s new DVB-H transmitter

In this part of my MWC report series, I show most of the (advanced – that is, I don’t show plain, “boring†Bluetooth headsets) advanced Bluetooth goodies I’ve seen in Barcelona. First, some A2DP news, together with a quick review & comparison of the Plantronics’ new Voyager 855.

A2DP (Stereo Bluetooth audio) news

There were tons of, in cases, brand new and/or forthcoming stereo (A2DP) Bluetooth headphones and/or speakers. Just to name a few:

Cresyn

Cresyn’s new headphones (I haven’t tested them); among others, the CS-BT713 and KS-Kleer (direct homepage of the BT800 is HERE; note that it’s Korean only and there aren’t pages on the two listed headphones at all, their being so new):


Gear4

The Gear4 folks showcased their BluPhones (official product page HERE):


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REVIEW: Free(!) vertical scroller space shooter Distant Galaxies

There are several vertical scroller space shooter games but very few of them are free. Distant Galaxies, available for both Windows Mobile platforms (touchscreen- and touchscreen-less) is one of them. It’s available HERE for download and is recommended, albeit it has some problems.


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New version of best, free arcade emulator, FinalBurn, out!

Another GREAT piece of news for you emulator fans after the recent release of Pocket Commodore 64 3.0 (see review HERE): version 0.14 of FinalBurn, without doubt the BEST arcade emulator, has just been released with many optimizations (most importantly, the CPS-3 core has been rewritten) and compatibility enhancements.


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REVIEW & COMPARISON: great, free(!) PDA controller software EveryWAN Remote Support Personal Edition

Sparus Software is going to release a free(!), slightly (but not that much) dumbed-down version of their pretty useful EveryWAN Mobility Manager software currently offered for enterprise customers.

The new EveryWAN Remote Support, Personal Edition will be completely free. The biggest difference between it and the already-existing enterprise version is that EveryWAN only supports connections via ActiveSync. This means no (remote) TCP/IP connections are allowed.


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ROUNDUP: Current Windows Mobile Theme editors

I’ve promised in my ThemeGenCE review & tutorial that I would quickly compare & evaluate the current theme editors so that you know which one to pick.


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TUTORIAL & REVIEW: free, EXCELLENT theme editor tool, ThemeGenCE

My well-known Theme Bible is, now, three years old and, therefore, a bit outdated when it comes to comparing the third-party theme creator tools.


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Misc., multiplatform hardware, software and rebate news

Yes, it was quite a long ago that I've published my last Misc news. The reason for this is my having been really busy:


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QUICK TIP: Changing the bar system color (the base hue) under WM5+

I’ve just been asked in the Smartphone & PPC Mag VIP section (where I’m the lead helper) of how you can easily change your upper / lower / scrollbar colors on WM5+ (WM5, WM6, WM6.1 etc.) Windows Mobile devices with touchscreens (NOT models without them!), also often referred to as the “base hue”.


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