Werner Ruotsalainen's blog

The HP iPAQ 210 – an in-depth review

Without doubt, during its almost four-year lifespan, the HP iPAQ hx4700 has turned out to be the best "traditional" (phone-less) high-resolution (640 * 480, also known as VGA) Pocket PC ever released certainly filling in a very important market segment: that of the comparatively (but not too) large VGA screens. The reasons for this are well-known when you compare it to the alternatives:
  1. Compared to the Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 718 / 720, the major advantage of the hx4700 is the sheer existence of a WM5 / WM6 / WM6.1 upgrade. On top of that, the larger screen, the quality magnesium casing and the faster CPU with a graphics co-processor greatly helping in playing back MPEG4 Part 2 (a.k.a. ASP / DivX / XviD) videos, on the long run, made it the winner (while this wasn't certain back in 2004-2005; the author of this article has also chosen, back then, the Loox 720 over the hx4700). Of course, it has had major problems compared to the Loox: the touchpad, initially, the higher price, the very low speaker volume (while the Loox has been one of the loudest ever PDA’s around), the lack of a camera (even if the one in the 720 isn’t anything to write home about, quality-wise) and the lack of USB host support. These problems, however, are easily mitigated by the really excellent WM6.1 upgrades released in the last few months. As the Loox isn’t upgradable to WM5, several current software titles (like Esmertec Jbed to run MIDlets like Opera Mini) just can’t be run on it.
  2. It’s too better than the Dell Axim x50v/x51v. The Dell has vastly inferior battery life, much-much worse screen almost useless in Landscape for many users because of the major polarization issues, the plastic, thick body and the x50v WM5 upgrade having major compaction issues (as was the case with pre-WM6.1 hx4700 upgrades, though). The only real advantage, in addition to the louder buzzer, th emore gaming-friendly D-pad controller and (at least in the U.S.) lower price of the Dell is the Intel 2700G support, offering both excellent 3D hardware acceleration and great help in playing back ASP videos.
Note that I don’t even list for example the Asus 730(w) and the Toshiba e830, which all had major problems (for example, the laughable battery life of the Asus, the washed-out screen of the Toshi and the lack of WM5+ upgrades for both models) compared to the hx4700 and are now completely forgotten. Over the years, because of HTC’s (the major Windows Mobile manufacturer of today) reluctance to produce anything similar to the hx4700, Windows Mobile users preferring a large (and quality) VGA screen had to stick with the hx4700. That is, if you wanted a 4" VGA screen but not significantly bigger (adding serious bulk: see the HTC Advantage / x7500/x7510 or even the even bigger and really expensive, SVGA [800*600] HTC Shift) and nothing less (4" is far better on a VGA device than 3.6", particularly when used in native VGA mode or an app not supporting large characters – for example, Opera Mini run under the MIDlet managers of Esmertec like the Jbed), your only choice has been the hx4700. Fortunately, the (software) bugs of the hx4700 have all been fixed during these years; the author of this having been one of the most widely-known "hackers" having discovered several ways of fixing the issues with the official WM5 upgrades. The major problem of compaction slowdown has also been fixed in the WM 6.1 upgrade released some months ago. Yes, you will no longer see lengthy compactions if you upgrade to WM6.1. The huge advantages and seamless operation of the WM6.1 upgrade(s) clearly make the HP iPAQ hx4700 one of the most recommended handsets for users opting for sufficiently, but not too large (4") VGA screens. Let’s see how its successor, the brand new HP iPAQ 210 compares to it. This comparison is of extreme importance because several ex-hx4700 users consider upgrading to the new device. The - without doubt - tempting price (around $400-$450 but, if you live in Canada or don't mind buying from there, you can get it for as low as $350) of the new model (which is almost half of the, originally, really overpriced hx4700) is also very hard to resist. Thanks to Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine publisher Hal Goldstein, I’ve been given a HP iPAQ 210. I wouldn’t have myself bought it because I already have the hx4700 – also from Hal – and just couldn’t justify the expense for such a not-that-major upgrade (I better save money for the S-E Xperia X1, the Acer/E-TEN v900 or the Gigabyte MS808 with their goodies like WVGA screen (X1) or TV receiver (the latter two models)). I never sell my past PDA’s and phones (because I want to be able to provide first-hand info on even past models), unlike most other people. This means I don’t "upgrade" but pay full price for another toy to play with. That is, you need to thank Hal for this article (and my past articles on the hx4700) :) Of course, immediately after receiving the new iPAQ, I’ve started testing it. In this article, I elaborate on my experiences with my new toy. Note that this article is in no way a full review of all features of the new device. Should you want to have a more gentle introduction to the new iPAQ, read for example Brighthand’s or Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine’s review. This article mostly targets past hx4700 users who would like to know whether it’s worth selling the old iPAQ and upgrading to the new.

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A quick bugfix for iPAQ 21x users

You’ll almost surely encounter problems with the Wireless tab after some (NOT all!) resets: it simply doesn’t display the Bluetooth tab: Fixing this is fairly easy if you already have SKTools on your PDA (if you don’t, consider purchasing it – it’s really worth it!), click Category (left softkey) and select Maintenance (this isn’t needed; just helps to find the menu easier); then, select Windows Startup: You’ll see a list of the programs started; one of them we need will be BTTrayCE.lnk: and the other is iPAQWireless.lnk:

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The Multiplatform YouTube Bible

Watching YouTube videos is a favorite pastime of many. With data charges constantly decreasing (or, should I say, plummeting), not-that-expensive flat 3G data rates getting common, Wi-Fi’s getting pretty ubiquitous and, of course, YouTube’s getting really-really full of videos worth checking out, you might be tempted to watch YouTube (or other) videos on your handset. After all, it's a great pastime and these handhelds have both the processing power, the necessary hardware and, in most cases, connection speed to render these videos well.

In this YouTube Bible, I show you how this all can be done on the three major non-iPhone platforms: Windows Mobile, Symbian S60 and BlackBerry. (As the iPhone, as opposed to most other solutions, already comes with a decent player, there isn’t much point in elaborating on it. You just fire up the YouTube icon and off you go at – if you have Wi-Fi connectivity – very good quality. Nothing needs to be installed and there’re no alternatives you will need to know to make an intelligent decision.)

Note that I’ve published several YouTube-related articles (a quick search for YouTube on my blog reveals these tutorials). These, however, are pretty outdated now – particularly that a lot of vastly superior solutions have been released in the meantime. I’ll, however, refer back to for example the HTC Streaming Media tutorial.

Also note that this Bible is multiplatform, as with the majority of my later Bibles. If you're a fanboy of any of the three reviewed operating systems, don't post angry messages like "Why on earth did you include operating system X? I hate it, it's sooooo inferior and lame!". Sorry, both as a gadget-loving geek and as a professional IT advisor / consultant, I MUST know all the mobile operating systems. (Particularly now that the Microsoft folks have just told me they would be interested in some of my week-long lectures on the differences on BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices. I need such kinds of work because I (more precisely, my employer) prefer getting mobility-related IT consultant contacts as opposed to non-mobility-related ones. This is also why I keep posting on other operating systems - as I need to know them, why wouldn't I post on them? Finally, I won't create a separate version of the Bible for Symbian, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices for two reasons: 1. it'd cause me a LOT of additional work not only initially but also when I post a revised, updated version: restructuring the entire Bible, taking out all references to other OS'es; 2. knowing what other operating systems are capable of won't do anyone any harm - you may even find that having read info on another OS useful if you are given a handset running a different OS.)

Also note that, Windows Mobile-wise, the discussion applies to both touchscreen-less MS Smartphones (Windows Mobile 6 Standard) and touchscreen-enabled Pocket PC’s (Windows Mobile 6 Classic / Pro) models. All the reviewed Windows Mobile solutions run on both platforms. In the compatibility lists, I've listed the earliest Windows Mobile operating system a given solution is compatible with but didn't list them all. This means if you see WM2003+, it means compatibility with WM2003 and all subsequent operating system versions (WM2003SE, WM5, WM6, WM6.1), not only with WM2003.

1.1 Browsing the desktop Web version of YouTube

This section applies to both platforms of Windows Mobile starting with WM2003+ and used with Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM) and Opera Mobile; Symbian with integrated Flash Lite 3.

1.1.1 Windows Mobile

1.1.1.1 IEM / Opera Mobile + Flash 7 plug-in

If you install the Flash 7 plug-in (see the Flash Bible HERE for more info on the availability etc.) on your Pocket PC and either use the WM5+ (not earlier: due to bad JavaScript support, they won’t work) Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM) or WM2003+ Opera Mobile (any version), the videos will be played back in-line, just like on the desktop.

This is, however, the worst approach you should ALWAYS avoid because it, in some cases, grinds the entire handset to halt and is very slow, even on high-end Windows Mobile devices. All in all, it’s in NO WAY recommended - there are far superior approaches.

1.1.1.2 IEM + FlashVideoBundle

This is an immensely better solution having all the advantages of the desktop version; most importantly, direct access to YouTube, Google Video & Veoh links sent in, for example, mails. Then, when IEM is invoked, you’re shown a context menu, where you can instruct IEM to show the video in TCPMP, save it into a file or, alternatively, take you right to the page so that you can see for example the comments / related videos:

If you directly enter the URL in the address bar (by, for example, pasting it to there), it’ll too present you with the same context menu; the same will happen if you just click a video link on YouTube (GV etc.) pages.

The current version is 1.4.4; CAB file available for download HERE (if you don’t want to register, I’ve mirrored it HERE); my old, now-outdated article HERE. Installing it is pretty straightforward; just follow the section "Installation instructions" in the tutorial on the homepage.

This is one of the most recommended ways of playing back online videos, particularly if you get links in e-mails / other, offline documents like Word files.

1.1.2 Symbian with Flash Lite 3

In order to play back (Flash, including YouTube) videos embedded in Web pages, you’ll need to have a device with Flash Lite 3 preinstalled. One of them, the, currently, best multimedia handset of all, the Nokia N95 received Flash Lite 3 support in firmware version v21 released some weeks ago.

If you have a compatible handset, you don’t need to install anything else (no third-party apps at all): videos will be played back right in the pages that contain them, with much-much less adverse effects than (currently) with Windows Mobile relying on the CPU-hog Flash 7.

As has already been emphasized, Flash Lite 3 on Symbian behaves much-much better than the full Flash 7 on Windows Mobile. While the latter is in no way recommended, the former – if you have a Symbian device – is. Note that you can still use the Mobile YouTube Web and the MIDlet-based interface too (see sections 1.2 and 1.3, respectively), but they only deliver 3GP videos at a much lower quality than Flash Lite 3. Alternatively, if you need high-quality (Flash / H.264) videos, you may also want to prefer Mobitubia – or the soon-to-be-released, YouTube-capable version of CorePlayer.

Note that Portrait playback will always be oversized as can be seen in THIS screenshot (source link HERE). Also, if you use the standard Nokia Web menu (Options / Rotate Screen) to switch to Landscape mode, it’ll stay oversized. The trick is clicking the Flash Lite 3 surface with the Action button – it’s then that it’ll be resized to fit into the screen as can be seen in the first screenshot.

Also note that there’s still no Flash Lite 3 on Windows Mobile but will, hopefully, be soon released; see THIS and THIS for more info.
 


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BlackBerry users attention - hands-on OS 4.5 screenshots & other info

After having upgraded my BB 8800, I've just posted some new info on OS version 4.5(.0.9beta) HERE (at the bottom). Certainly worth checking out if you'd like to know in what ways the new OS is different from / superior to the current 4.2 / 4.3 versions.

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Gaming & emulator news (04/20/2008)

1. One of the best Pocket PC games of all time, Orions: Legend of Wizards (along with its expansion pack Orions: The Second Age) is sold with a 40% rebate HERE. Definitely worth purchasing it if you already haven’t done so. See my two Orions Strategy Guides for more info (Pocket PC only).


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New Web browser file download benchmarks, incl. Adisasta WinMobile Download Accelerator 2.0

Some days ago, I promised I would benchmark the brand new Adisasta WinMobile Download Accelerator (wmDA), version 1.x of which I’ve thoroughly benchmarked in The definitive guide to downloading files, images and saving Web pages with Pocket PC-based Web Browsers. As I’ll keep a W3C session in a week, I found it necessary to test it – along with all the other, current (!) Windows Mobile-compatible Web browsers like the current NetFront 3.5 TP, Opera Mobile 9.33 beta, Opera Mini 4.1 beta. I also took the chance to compare it to the, so far best downloader tool, HandyGet.

I’ve tested everything on a Dell Axim x51v running makuu’s makuu A06 privß06p WM6.1, using exactly the same card and Internet connection so that there aren’t any differences. Please consult the above-mentioned Definitive guide to downloading files, images and saving Web pages with Pocket PC-based Web Browsers for the meaning of the results. For the card, I used a very fast (as far as file creation and random block writing is concerned) Ridata 256M CF card.

Browser / getter:Op. Mobile 8.65Op. Mobile 9.33 betaOp. Mini 4.1 beta + Jbed 3.1IEM 6.1NF 3.5HandyGet 1.6wmDA 2.0 (in parentheses, last, current 1.x version)
Makes downloads to cards impossible due to internal memory shortage?+- (while it still uses the internal storage for caching)----- (+)
Browser integration?n/an/an/an/an/a+, must be explicitly configured+, excellent
7M HTTP file to CF card0:570:412:200:540:520:22… 0:270:22 (1.40… 2:15; with cache on card: 2:24)
to internal memory0:450:25(couldn’t reconfigure it to download to int. memory)0:500:271.07… 1:11 (split: 1)0:28

To summarize:

- Opera Mobile 9.33 (and, therefore, the forthcoming 9.5) is much better than 8.65 in both speed (there is a certainly visible download speed increase) and in that it no longer stops when the internal memory fills up when you download files to cards that are too big to be stored in the internal storage (which is used for temporary cache).

- Opera Mini 4.1 beta is tolerably fast – pretty good results for a Java program. Note that you may still want to prefer downloading in the external, native browser - at least under Windows Mobile – because, as can clearly be seen, even Internet Explorer Mobile is far faster.

- HandyGet 1.6 is VERY fast when downloading to cards (but not when doing the same to the internal memory) – with the default settings. Note that, by default, it doesn’t monitor IE; this must be separately configured in File / Setting / General / IE Monitor.

- NetFront 3.5 is pretty fast – about the same speed as IEM when downloading to cards and much faster when downloading to internal memory

- Finally, wmDA has indeed been HUGELY optimized. Now, it’s FAR faster than the 1.x series when downloading to cards – and no longer needs to relocate the cache to the card when there’s little internal memory. Actually, it’s equally fast than HandyGet 1.6 when downloading to a card and much faster than anything else. Even Opera Mobile 9.33 (the fastest standalone browser) is almost two times slower than wmDA.


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Multiplatform Web browser W3C compliance report

Now that I’m working on my 45-minute speech & demo for my (international) W3C speech next week, I’ve re-tested the latest version of all browsers with the just-published, new W3C test suite specifically targeted at mobile devices. The greener, the better; red denotes a failed test.

Let’s start with Windows Mobile.

Windows Mobile

As you can rightfully guess, the built-in Internet Explorer Mobile (even as of WM6.1) is pretty bad:

… which is the same as on WM6 Standard 6.0 (MS Smartphone):

…and is only a bit better as in the 5-year-old WM2003:

Finally, here’s the Pocket PC 2002 screenshot so that you can see the difference between it and WM2003:

Opera Mobile:

Version 9.33 beta (the one presented at WMC this February):


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WM 6.1 upgrade & SDHC-compliance report: x51v, hx4700, Universal, Wizard

As promised in my previous article, I’ve taken a deep look at the latest Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrades for the Dell Axim x51v, HP iPAQ hx4700, HTC Universal and HTC Wizard. All the reviewed ROM versions are based on Windows Mobile 5.2.19209 (Build 19209.1.0.2). I run some VERY thorough SDHC conformance tests because, unfortunately, most (as far as the reviewed models are concerned, all – note that, in this regard, I haven’t tested the Universal) plain WM5 / WM6 devices can NOT be easily made SDHC-compliant. This means you MUST upgrade these devices to some of the newer ROMs (including the ones I’ve reviewed) in order to gain SDHC support. Note that I’ve devoted a separate section (at the end) to my test results showing the results of my trying to “hack†the non-WM6.1 ROM-based devices to accept SDHC cards with the latest hacks available.


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TCPMP news: new VS2008 build with somewhat faster FLV playback; much better subtitle support

TCPMP is a very nice, multiplatform (Palm OS, WinCE, Pocket PC and MS Smartphone) multimedia player with some, even by the current, latest CorePlayer, unmatched features like HE-AACv2 playback or subtitle support.

XDA-Devs forum member milesmowbray has released a TCPMP source compatible with VS2008 to fuel further, independent development.


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Miscellaneous hardware & software news; my plans for the near future

1. Hardware

a. HTC is going to introduce some new devices in early May – at last! While I certainly consider HTC’s models boring, unimaginative and far from multimedia- and gaming-friendly, I really hope they will, at last, come up with something more appealing for the generic users. I recommend THIS thread for more info; particularly my post posted at 04/10 15:36 CET, where I explain why I don’t consider HTC’s current lineup imaginative or even interesting and what functionalities I find the most lacking.

HowardForum's related thread is also worth checking out for other rumors / guesses. Hopefully, one of the forum members who has contacts at HTC and has always provided us with some rumors will fill us in with some insider info again ;)

b. at CTIA Wireless 2008, there have been several new devices at Microsoft’s booth, all with the new, just (at CTIA) announced 6.1 version of Windows Mobile:

Amoi 6711: a simple Smartphone with GPS:

A newcomer to Windows Mobile, Velocity, has announced two new models:

Velocity 103: a VGA Pocket PC model
Velocity 111: a QVGA Landscape Pocket PC model

Both Velocity models come with 128M RAM / 256M ROM, GPS and HSDPA. They have no goodies like 3D hardware acceleration, FM radio or TV receiver. HowardForums has a VERY long and interesting thread on these devices.

There also was a working (at MWC, it still didn’t work) prototype of the E-Ten (now: Samsung) V900, one of the most interesting VGA handsets because of its digital TV receiving capabilities. (I only wish it had a slightly bigger screen – it’s suffering from the same problem as i-mate’s new phones.)

(See for example THIS for more info & shots.)

c. AximSite has allowed discussing the (cooked) WM6 upgrade for the Axim x50/x51 series. This is certainly very good news and may also mean I also seriously rethink my not discussing these questions at all to be on the safe side. After all, it’s time to install (and, probably, report on) the latest WM6 upgrade on my HP iPAQ hx4700, which is still probably the best bed-time e-book reader.

For example, the cooked version of Windows Mobile 6.1 has just been released for the Dell Axim x51v, sporting a lot of niceties. See the related thread HERE and HERE for the WinMo Professional / Classic versions, respectively. (Yes, the former is a PPC Phone Edition version so that you can run by default PPC PE-only software like Esmertec Jbed without additional hacking - that is, copying the "placeholder" SMS.dll and phone.dll files to \Windows, as is explained in the MIDlet Bible.) I'll soon test and report on it.

You can only hope that the current (!) HP iPAQ lineup also receives cooked 6.1 (and, in the future, later) OS ROM versions - HP has just announced they won't release any WM6.1 updates for their current devices. I don't want to comment on HP's decision because I don't want them to make angry with me - you surely know what I think ;). Currently, there're no HP 6.1 ROM cooking-related threads at the, say, iPAQ 210 forums of BrightHand or AximSite. THIS and THIS threads may be of interest.

d. There is a brand new article on the S-E Xperia X1 HERE.

e. i-mate's new models, the 8502 and the 9502 (see my review & remarks HERE) have started shipping and are available in Europe as well (through Clove). The related HoFo thread, packed with shots of the new models (on, for example, page 15), is worth checking out, along with a brand new review of the 8502 HERE. The reviewer, generally, likes it very much, except for the lack of microSDHC support. The latter is quite a letdown if it can't be fixed...

2. Software

a. CorePlayer 1.2.2 has been released for Windows Mobile; see THIS for more info (and also my multimedia-related articles / Bibles). (For Symbian, after the already-released 1.2.0, 1.2.1 is promised in the near future)


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Opera Mini 4.1: FULL multiplatform tutorial & review

I don’t need to introduce Opera Mini for any serious mobile device user – it’s been one of the best browsers ever since the release of version 4.0 with all its goodies like favorite synchronization and full layout mode, the latter being excellent on (W)VGA Pocket PC’s and high-resolution Symbian devices like the Nokia E90. Note that I’ve written a review & full comparison to other browsers HERE – please DO read it if you don’t know what Opera Mini is or how it compares to other browsers, in which cases you might want to prefer it to native, fully-fledged browsers like Opera Mobile. Also, make sure you read my two Web Browsing Bibles, linked from the OM4 article, for additional info & comparisons. Finally, note that the linked article only discusses version 4.0; 4.1 is even better and more featureful.

The just-released 4.1 beta takes things even further and implements a lot of long asked-for functionalities. It’s REALLY worth upgrading; note that it can coexist with older versions (including 4.0) on the same handset. That is, if you, for some reason, find it useless, you can easily switch back to the older version without having to reinstall / reconfigure anything.

1.1 Availability; which version to go for?

Navigate to http://mini.opera.com/beta either with your phone’s WAP browser or, if you have Opera on your desktop, with it:


(mobile browser)


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Opera Mini 4.1 beta released - TONS of goodies like page saving!

The new 4.1 beta of Opera Mini has just been released with TONS of new features. Get it at http://www.operamini.com/beta/ . Features include:

* Download and upload files directly in Opera Mini (wowz!


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Sony-Ericsson publishes XPERIA X1 white paper! Wowz!

I’ve published several articles on Sony Ericsson’s forthcoming Windows Mobile device, the XPERIA X1. Up until now, little had been known of the capabilities of the phone. Now, the S-E folks have just published a white paper, which answers several (but not all!) questions.

It is available HERE for download as a PDF document. (Just enter the anti-denial of service four characters in the input field for access.) The best news is that, according to InfoSyncWorld, it’s coming in August 2008 – that is, earlier than most have thought.

Some of the most interesting stuff the old, MWC / CEBIT leaflets / presentations didn’t provide an answer to and/or could have been improved upon the first prototypes:

- it has a TFT LCD, NOT an OLED screen (some people stated it’d have OLED)

- it seems to have a traditional D-pad in addition to the touchpad if and only if "Four way key - to navigate menus" (see page 7) is what this means. Very good news for most people (see my generic remarks on the issue in my i780 article on touchpads.)

- the camera has both auto-focus and touch focus touch focus. The latter allows for quick focusing on the object you press on the touchscreen - clearly a clever way of focusing to out-of-focus subjects as quickly as possible. However, it seems it won’t have lens protection, unlike the Nokia N95 / N82 (the current top-end Smartphone camera model) and, generally, seems to be weaker.

- as far as the video recording capabilities are concerned, the video size (resolution) and frame rate are VGA and 30 fps, respectively for the non-US model; for the US model, this is QVGA and 24 fps only. Frankly, I just don’t get the point in so severely a dumbed down US model... Did the Sony people go crazy?! Not that I would except Nokia quality shots from the camera (no lens protector and the lens itself seems to be pretty weak), but 30 fps VGA is, today, a MUST in any decent smartphone; therefore, I just don’t understand why they plan to release a device for the US market with such specs. (Nevertheless, I’m absolutely sure some hackers / ROM cookers will be able to enable the American model to operate in VGA mode – if nothing else works, by flashing an European ROM on it.)

- it supports ("Media sharing is compatible with DLNA." on page 6) DLNA (see THIS), which is the first on Windows Mobile (unless you use a DLNA-compatible client). See my UPnP Bible for more info on it.

- it, in addition to the worldwide 3G bands, also supports most (but not all, as it's only tri-band) of the US 3G bands (but, of course, not the forthcoming, absolutely incompatible T-Mobile one); that is, most people in the US will get HSDPA coverage with either bands. This is definitely good news.

- according to page 27, the US version doesn’t support H.264 playback either. (See the H.264 Bible for more info.) Interestingly, the non-US version supports the H.264 Baseline profile.

- according to Page 26, the built-in music player supports eAAC+; that is, HE-AACv2. (I REALLY hope Sony didn’t mess up with the different versions in here.) This means the music player will be something much better than the built-in WMP in Windows Mobile 6 Professional, which doesn’t support this format. (See THIS for more info on this question.) At last some good news for us HE-AACv2 fans using Windows Mobile devices – I may even stop using my N95 as a HE-AACv2 player? ;-)


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MoDaCo: make your HTC Shift have a FULL WM6; new mobile2day.de rebates

1. I have some very good news for you all tech geeks. You may have heard (for example, from me) that the latest, double-OS HTC model, the Shift, has a severely crippled and almost useless Windows Mobile OS. This was one of the reasons I haven’t really recommended it either

The excellent MoDaCo guys, authors of several other, similar "liberator packs", did not leave it at this and have published a tool that unlocks the full Windows Mobile operating system on the Shift.


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REVIEW: TSMobiles: Terminal Service Client for Mobiles

I’ve long been promising a review of a multiplatform (Java-based) RDP client, TSMobiles (as of version 2.3.14) for quite a long time. Now that I’ve tested its brother, Remote Desktop for Mobiles (RDM+), I’ve decided to give a try to this app as well.

Note that this is a terse, technical, comparative quick review requiring you to understand the contents of my Windows Mobile Remote Desktop Controller Bible. Therefore, I won’t elaborate on, say, the RDP protocol itself, its advantages and disadvantages when compared to other protocols etc.

I’ve tested it on both QVGA and VGA Pocket PC’s and MS Smartphones. It should, essentially, work on Symbian S60 devices exactly like on the MS Smartphone platform; therefore, I didn’t separately test it on my Nokia N95. I haven’t run tests on my Blackberry either – essentially, the BB client must be far less different from its generic (non-BB-specific) Java brother than in the case with RDM+.

As it’s strictly Java-based, you’ll need a MIDlet manager to run it. See my MIDlet Bible for more info. I’ve tested it under the latest, most recommended Jbed version, JRebeiro_EsmertecJbed_20071119.3.1, reviewed HERE.

First, some benchmarks.

Benchmarks

As opposed to the official TSC (pre-WM6) RDM (WM6) client developed by Microsoft, it’s quite sensitive to smooth scrolling and other types of animations. Benchmark results:

Smooth scrolling (1sec): 2.8k/5.6M (!!!)
No smooth scroll (0.5 sec): 2.8k/1.1M

It’s still way better than NetOp Remote Control 9.0 by Danware and the RDP4-only Mocha Remote Client 1.2 by MochaSoft in this respect, though.

As opposed to RDM+:


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(Multiplatform) REVIEW: RDM+ by SHAPE Services: a decent remote desktop access tool

I’ve long been promising a full comparison, benchmark and (compared to alternative solutions) pros/cons list of SHAPE Services’ RDM+, a really decent, multiplatform remote desktop controlling / accessor solution. Now that they have a MASSIVE rebate, I dedicated some time for some thorough testing on no less than four different mobile platforms: Windows Mobile Pocket PC (with touch screens), Windows Mobile Smartphone (without touch screens), Symbian S60 (Nokia N95) and BlackBerry (BB 8800). Sorry for being four-platform again: a geek like me just loves toys and wants to play with all the major gadgets and major mobile operating systems available (not only Windows Mobile).

Note that SHAPE Services have another, purely Java-based (meaning there's NO native Windows Mobile client and you must use a MIDlet manager) remote access client, TSMobiles. I'll review it VERY soon.

Please note that this isn’t a full review, just a “list†of the pros and cons and my benchmark results and a complete comparison of the (in some respects, pretty different) implementations on the different platforms. You’ll want to read my previous Windows Mobile Remote Desktop Controller Bible to get more information on what for example the benchmark results stand for, what the different features really mean etc. Again, I will NOT explain anything in here already explained in the Bible. Read it to get a picture of what I’m referring to in the current article.

Note that the current, tested versions are as follows: 3.6.6 (Windows Mobile); 3.6.8 (Symbian / Java; BlackBerry). By the time you read this review (probably months or even years later), it may be heavily outdated. Of course, I’ll try to keep it up-to-date by constantly posting “UPDATE†sections at the bottom. Make sure you check them out. Also make sure you check out the links in this article: they link to a lot of screenshots.

1. Bandwidth usage benchmarks

Using exactly the same method as with the old benchmarks, with exactly the same set-up so that the bandwidth usage results can be directly compared:

(On Windows Mobile [on Blackberries, it's 24 bit], default) 8 bit color depth; measured twice

8k/970k (up/down)
6k/966k (up/down) (both quite good)

(exactly the same results with smooth scrolling – this is excellent)

1 bit color depth (that is, monochrome): 5k/556k (that is, almost half of the bandwidth required in the default, 8-bit mode)
24 bit color depth: 6k/1MB

Idling (without anything happening: no visible animations, cursor etc): 3k/10k a minute (excellent result – compare it to the very bad results of, say, GoToMyPC or, even worse, PPC Tablet)

Cursor blink test: 2k/11k a minute (again, excellent – compare this to the very bad results of I’m InTouch)

The transfer speed is excellent on Pocket PC’s via a Wi-Fi connection; I had no screen refresh problems even with 0.5s waiting between the page down events on a VGA (!) device, in Landscape mode, using 800*600 desktop resolution. The Java client running on the Nokia N95 was pretty fast, too. It’s only on (current) BlackBerries that you might encounter somewhat slower screen updates, it seems.


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Major (40%) multiplatform rebates at mobile2day.de – FlexMail 2007, RDM+ etc.

The mobile2day.de folks have a (really decent!) tendency of offering some killer apps for around 40% rebate. This time (until 03/16), they also have some nice apps at a substantive rebate.


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MIDlet manager news

Topics:

In addition to thoroughly re-testing the WM2003(SE) compliance of the latest, just-released 4PDA.ru Jbed version (see the UPDATE section in my yesterday's post), I've continued testing the new MIDlet managers.

I’ve also tested some of the versions linked from the 4PDA.ru thread on my HTC Vox (s710) to find out whether they’re any good compared to the old MIDlet managers; particularly Cloudyfa’s version - the version that, so far, I’ve recommended to all MIDlet users (unless in need for M3G (3D) support.). These two are both “fixed heap†versions; some of the less simple games (for example, DoomRPG) and benchmark apps with large memory requirements are stated to run much better / more reliably in the fixed heap versions than in the regular ones (for example, that of Cloudyfa) because of the much bigger available memory. I haven’t tested the effects of this myself.

1. JBed3dMod_HeapSizeFix (that is, 3D-capable Jbed version, based on 20070524.2.1, with fixed heap)

I was really interested in how this (and an additional, hacked file available for download HERE - just overwrite JBed.exe of the original, already-installed version with JBed3d_SreenFix.exe after renaming) worked because, at 4PDA.ru, there’s a version that promises flawless, screen problem-free functionality on MS Smartphones also compatible with the excellent Gmail client MIDlet.

(Also see THIS (original HERE) for more info; see freesunny's post at 10.01.08 10:56:06.)

So far, it seemed impossible to make the latter (the Gmail MIDlet) flawlessly work on MS Smartphones under any version of Jbed. An example of the display problems the non-hacked version (or any Jbed version) can be seen in the following screenshot:

Unfortunately, the hacked version (after overwriting the EXE file with the separately downloaded JBed3d_SreenFix.exe) doesn’t really work with Gmail: while indeed the entire screen estate is used, the three lowermost menu items (Search, Compose New, Exit) aren’t visible, just like with the non-hacked case:

Note that essentially the same results from the 4pda.ru folks can be HERE. The same problem also exists in Portrait mode, not only in Landscape.


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New MIDlet manager in development: PhoneME; Jbed for WM2003(SE) released!

There are two pieces of news for everyone interested in running Java MIDlets. The first will be having a pre-WM5 device and wanting to run Java MIDlets (for example, Opera Mini) on it. Yes, at last, some Russian hackers made Jbed, the industry-leading MIDlet manager work under WM2003(SE)! The second (and, for most people, not that important) piece of news concerns a brand new MIDlet manager port for Windows Mobile.

1. Some Russian hackers, including the 4pda.ru folks, have, at last, managed to make Jbed, the best MIDlet manager, work under WM2003 and WM2003SE. The importance of this just can’t be stressed enough: so far, you only had the really inferior IBM J9 and the 10-series TAO MIDlet Manager to run MIDlets on pre-WM5 operating systems. Now, this has dramatically changed. Now, nothing will stop you from using Opera Mini on your pre-WM5 Pocket PC.

The direct link to these WM2003(SE) MIDlet Managers are as follows. There are three versions: a modded one, a non-3D one and a 3D one; all with a heap size fix.

JBed3dMod_HeapSizeFix
Esmertec Jbed heapfix
Esmertec Jbed3d heapfix

They have also made a MAJOR update to their 4PDA.ru MIDlet article, linking to all the contemporary Esmertec, TAO etc. versions (including ones with heap fixes, with and without 3D support etc.); the above links can also be found in their article. You can see the translation of the new page HERE (Google) and HERE (Babelfish). Note that I’ve kept the original page HERE (Google) and HERE (Babelfish) for historical reasons for people interested in the pre-Esmertec times.

2. Now, the other piece of news, which, again, won’t be of that much interest to non-WM2003 / non-Java hackers.

Java is a really viable programming platform. Not only several high-quality games make it worthwhile, but also probably the best and, if you’re lucky enough with your geographical location, fastest and most bandwidth usage-friendly mobile browser available for mobile phones (including Windows Mobile), Opera Mini 4.

I’ve already devoted an entire all-in-one Bible to running Java on Windows Mobile (and Symbian). Now, let me introduce the latest Windows Mobile KVM: PhoneME.

PhoneME is another "let’s bring Java to various platforms†projects (official homepage HERE), which has recently received Windows Mobile support.


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