Pocket PC Software suggestions

For those lucky to have a Pocket PC PDA, here is a list of freeware applications that any user should have!

Utilities

vBar

At mere 31 Kbytes, vBar is the world's smallest and fastest PocketPC Task Manager (switch between and close open apps). And it can also show the memory and battery status in the notification area too, without taking much space! Magic Button and WisBar Advance are capable alternatives to vBar, but bigger and buggier, in my experience. vBar does the basic functionality one needs, and does it well.

MH Conversions

Convert Altitude, Areas, Distance, Depth, Fuel, Length, Liquid, Mass, Torque, Temperature, Volumes. Requires the MS eVB Runtime for PocketPC.

Ray's RPN Calculator

It is RPN calculator for the PocketPC 2002. Built from the ground up. Finger friendly!

Total Commander

Total Commander is a file manager, a program like Windows Explorer to copy, move or delete files. However, Total Commander can do much more than Explorer, e.g. pack and unpack files, access ftp servers, compare files by content, etc!

CabInstl

This program is an installer for CAB files and allows to install PPC programs into the specified folder instead of that by default created by the standard installer (great way to save main memory). If the folder is not specified, installation will be made into the default folder.

Productivity

Repligo Viewer

RepliGo allows you to read any document, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, Project, Visio, Web pages, and more.

Adobe PDF Reader

Adobe Reader for Pocket PC 2.0 extends the value and capabilities of Adobe PDF files by adapting them for high-quality viewing on smaller screens, while preserving their rich content.

Microsoft Money

Control of your finances, even when you're on the go. Synchronize your accounts to make managing easier. Update your investment portfolio on the fly. Complete financial tasks quickly and easily.

Microsoft Reader

Microsoft Reader for Pocket PC comes pre-installed on most Pocket PC 2002 and Pocket PC 2003 devices. If you already have an older version of Microsoft Reader installed, you'll need to uninstall Microsoft Reader, then install the new version. If your version of Microsoft Reader is installed in ROM (which means it was preinstalled by the manufacturer), you cannot uninstall Microsoft Reader. You can, however, install a RAM version of the program with your ROM version. eReader is a good alternative freeware too.

NoteM

Voice Notes Recorder with MP3 encoding (NoteM) was implemented as an alternative to build-in Notes application's voice recording feature. It gives you approximately 5.5 compression rate (for Low bitrate option) as compared to Notes default recording mode (8-bit 11.025kHz mono PCM), with the same (or even better) perceptual quality. Higher bitrates are also available (you can even record music).

Pocket Translator

Pocket Translator is an easy to use, freeware word translation utility. It supports 9 different languages. Included in the basic setup is English and French. Other dictionaries can be downloaded separately here. The only disadvantage of this app is that the language packs must be installed on your main memory's "My Documents" folder.

Networking

Agile Messenger

Agile Messenger is an Instant Messenger and supports the six most popular instant messaging services: ICQ, AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, QQ and Jabber.

AvantGo

Use AvantGo to synchronize specially designed mobile Web sites to your handheld using a desktop or wireless Internet connection. Get news, sports, stocks, movie listings from the world's top brands. It can be used as either offline or online browser.

NewsMonger

NewsMonger is an RSS feed reader for the Pocket PC. Features include: Supports RSS 0.90, 0.91, 0.92, and 2.0.1. Categories - organize your RSS channels into categories. Stores category and channels in one OPML file. VGA aware (e.g. axim x50v, iPaq 4700). pRSSReader has become my favorite the last few weeks though.

PocketPC VNCViewer Client

Connect to your desktop PC with your PocketPC. VNC client is not compatible with VNC 4.0 server, unless the server is configured to provide 3.x VNC protocol.

Skype

PocketSkype is free software that enables you to make Skype voice calls using your WiFi-enabled Microsoft PocketPC based handheld computer from any WiFi hotspot.

Stanaphone

The big Skype competitor, some say it has more free features. Stana-to-stana user calls are free and incoming calls to your (real) stanaphone telephone number is free.

Orneta FTP

This is an FTP client for Pocket PC. Requires a registration key that it's now available for free.

Multimedia

XnView Pocket

Reading :Jpeg / Jfif, Gif, Bmp, Png, 2bp, Tif, Pcx, Pbm, Pgm, Ppm, Pnm, xbm, xpm, Tga. Writing :Jpeg, Gif, Bmp et Png. Display in 5 input modes : Thumbnail, list, detail, Filmstrip et full screen. Display information, exifs and iptc of images. Sorting of images by the name, the date, the type, the size and the definition, the whole in ascending or decreasing order. Conversion of images between the different supported formats. Resizing of images according to various factors, sizes, and possibility to resize to the screen size in order to obtain the best ratio weight/clearness. Screen capture and more.

PaintWinCE

Similar to widespread application Paint. In the first version the following tools are implemented: Select, Erase, Eyedrop, Magnify, Pen, Brush, Line, Rect, RoundRect, Oval. Also it is possible to undo last action and load and save files in bmp format. Kinda jerky and buggy though, but it's the only free one...

TCPMP (BetaPlayer)

The ultimate video playback application, supporting XviD, DivX, mpeg, mp4, aac, ogg, ffmpeg and h.264 support is on the way. Also supports the GAPI & 2700G graphics accelerator for better performance. If you want to rip DVDs, this is the best player you can get yourself into playing back video on a PDA.

GSPlayer

GS Player is simply an audio player for Pocket PC. Features: MP3 playback using the MAD 0.15.0b, Ogg Vorbis playback, Wave format playback. HTTP streaming playback (MP3/Ogg Vorbis). SHOUTcast streaming playback (MP3 / Ogg Vorbis). ID3 v1/v1.1 support. PLS/M3U playlist support. 10 bands equalizer (MP3 playback only). Surround / Bassboost effects. Reverb / Echo effects. Skin support. Hardware button mapping. Noiseless playback (See decoder tab in options dialog). Sleep Timer. Hold (Lock hardware buttons).

Games

Freeware games

Logic games based on .NET Compact Framework. Chess v2.0, Rubik cube, GemSwap, Mastermind. Many more free games available online, however usually not as good as most commercial games.

And a personal wish: a usable & stable SSH & telnet client. There is one freeware right now, but it's really buggy, not recommended.

 

PDAs down, mobile up -- again

Worldwide PDA shipments dropped for the fifth consecutive year in Q1, 2005, according to an IDC report. Meanwhile, the market for mobile phones with PDA-like features continues to surge, with a growing number of PDA vendors shifting resources toward the mobile phone market as a result, IDC says.

Indian firm unveils low-cost Linux-based PCs

Indian technology firm Encore Software will soon offer a low-priced Linux-based mobile computer, the company announced on Tuesday.

Review: Dell Axim X5-Advanced

The Dell Axim X5-Advanced has been in production since November 2002, but it was so powerful when it came out, that even today it's one of the most powerful PDAs out there. It uses a 400 Mhz Intel XScale PXA255 CPU and 64 MB of RAM. It comes with 48 MB internal ROM storage, of which about 22 MBs are available to the user (which is a bit limited).

The PDA also features a CF and an SD slot (not SDIO-compatible), a microphone, a QVGA TFT 3.5" screen, a headphone jack, a loud speaker, a jog dial button (scrolls up and down on web pages - handy), IrDA and about 5 hours of battery (extended to more than 6 hours with reduced LCD brightness). Depending on the load, the CPU can be run at 200, 300 or 400 Mhz, saving your 1440 mAh battery's life.

Software

The clearance unit we received from Geeks.com came with the latest PocketPC 2002 ROM pre-installed, the Dell A04 ROM. However, Dell was once selling an upgrade to PPC 2003 for this PDA, and this is now available through several places. To upgrade to it, you need to write the P25_NK_H_07170300EN.IMG to the root of a compact flash card, insert it on the PDA, press Power+ reset+ Scroll-in-button-on-the-side+ Contacts-button at the same time, after 2 seconds release the Power and Reset buttons (before the actual hard reset takes place), and after that a white screen will appear reading from the CF card the .img file and installing Pocket PC 2003. It might take a few tries to get it right, but it is possible, I managed it after fighting with the combo keys for 20 minutes.

PPC 2002 and 2003 for the X5 come with MS Office Mobile, but they require an MSN Messenger and MS Reader update in order these to function (download them from MS' web site for free). Some people might decide to not be adventurous and stay with the 2002 ROM (many claim that the 2003 is buggier - I already had a lockup with IE), however, the 2003 ROM comes with an updated IE (vesion 4.01 instead of the very old 3.01), updated Office and most importantly for me, an updated Windows Media Player that is able to play more .asx content and it launches automatically when IE invokes such a file/object on the web! Also, don't forget to download the PPC2003 updates for the X5 from the Dell web site. There are about 4-5 driver updates for that ROM (audio, CF reader driver etc). One other significant usability improvement over PPC2002, was that after installing 2003 the tapping on the screen was flawless: before, I had to literally tap hard on the screen with the stylus to get something going, now, it just works as I expect it to.

The X5 is also a great multimedia device. Running at 400 Mhz can handle DivX just fine, so using freely available ripping software you can rip whole DVDs in about 400-500 MBs of SD or CF storage space and then use the BetaPlayer to play them back (BetaPlayer can rotate the screen to 320x240 and view widescreen movies in great quality). Also, the headphone jack makes it a good mp3 player (and ogg/aac player with BetaPlayer) as the PDA has good battery life!

Hardware

Included in the box were the craddle and the power cords (able to feed power to the PDA via the craddle or directly). The craddle has a space to place a second battery (Dell sells those) but I found the craddle ugly. It's big and it's cheezy with Dell's logo being backlit. Thankfully, Dell did better with Axim x50's craddles design-wise. There is also a belt clip and a basic case to protect your PDA, along with some quite thick manuals. Regarding the build of the PDA, it's actually a pretty big PDA overall. It is a bit longer that I would wish it to be, but it's not too bad, the older iPaqs and Zauruses are even bigger than the X5. One thing that I really dislike in the X5 is the Reset and Microphone buttons that are built on the smooth plastic surface on the side. They are next to each other and look very similar (in fact they are really hard to spot) and twice I pressed hard with my stylus on the microphone button instead of the reset button, by mistake. Result: I crapped up the microphone button (it still works, but you now need to press even harder to activate the microphone - awww). The placement of these buttons were really poor, I don't know what Dell was thinking! Also, the stylus itself is ugly, fat and weird (but hey, it's just a stylus). Other reviewers found the actual pad arrow buttons to be "mushy", but that didn't really bother me, I found it easy to use with IE, scrolling up and down web pages. Regarding the QVGA screen, it's a good screen (with ClearType enabled looks good), but it's definitely not as bright as other PDAs, e.g. the Axim x50v or the Sony Clie TH-55. In fact, the low brightness setting on the x50v is the highest capable on the X5.

Problems

So far, so good. The problems started when we wanted to add a WiFi card (the X5 has only IrDA, no Bluetooth or WiFi built-in). The Axim X5 supports most WiFi CF cards, except the one I picked (I felt really unlucky): the SanDisk WiFi+128 MB combo CF card. This CF card is able to do both WiFi and offer 128 MBs of flash storage at the same time -- and it's generally very compatible. But not with the X5. SanDisk worked with Dell to resolve the issues, but they did nothing at the end, even after all these years, and after 5 ROM versions on the X5 (note: the Sandisk equivelant SD card also has the same problems, apparently the physical slots were incompatible according to SanDisk). So, basically the problem is that the X5 does not recognize the 128 MB of card completely and after a while it screws up the file system, while WiFi makes the system really slow if it can't connect to the network for some reason. After upgrading to PPC2003, the storage part can't be accessed at all (it keeps asking you if you want to format the card or not and then fails to format it), but at least the WiFi works much better. These issues are known among X5 users at the aximsite.com forums, I should have researched before purchase. My only problem with the WiFi part is that it doesn't turn ON automatically after you turn on your PDA, you have to remove the CF card and replace it back in, and that can potentially destroy your CF slot after a few hundrend in-outs. So, stay away from the SanDisk WiFi+128MB SD/CF combo if you have an X5.

Conclusion

This is a good PDA. It's a good office companion and a great multimedia device too. It's an older model, but it's better/faster than some new lower-end models still shipping today. The X5 still sells as new in some clearance places on the web, usually below $180. So if you want a first PDA, or a powerful PDA on the cheap, this is your best choice. Just make sure you don't pair it with the SanDisk combo cards (get this one instead and use the SD slot as extra storage).

Overall rating: 8/10

 

LinuxCertified LC2210D Laptop Review

OSNews reviews the LinuxCertified LC2210D laptop. It proves to be an excellent purchase, but with still needing a few minor tweaks.

Linare Sub-$500 Notebook Review

This was too good to be true. Linare's $500 laptop deal is a support disaster!

Bluetooth, UWB techs combining efforts

The hodgepodge of incompatible wireless networking technologies is about to get a bit smaller as companies working on Bluetooth and Ultrawideband are combining their efforts.

Siemens spins Linux-based cordless VoIP phone

Siemens will ship a Linux-based Wi-Fi cordless phone in August, according to eWEEK. The OptiPoint WL2 Professional will be SIP- and CorNet IP-compatible, and resemble a normal phone with a large screen. It will support both 8011b and 802.11g, and cost about $500, according to eWEEK.

Windows Pocket PC and the Linux desktop

Linux and Microsoft's Pocket PC platform have different document formats. Since there is no automatic file synchronization program for Linux comparable to Windows' ActiveSync, Pocket PC users have problems not only with disparate file formats, but even file transfer between the two platforms. But there are ways to get them to talk to each other.

StyleTap runs Palm OS apps on PocketPC

A company called StyleTap Inc. has opened up a public beta test of a program that lets Palm OS applications run on a standard PocketPC. Unlike some previous compatibility attempts using emulators, StyleTap allows you to run programs designed for Palm OS 5, as well as programs designed for previous versions of Palm OS.

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