The Windows Mobile Bug…

I mentioned in an earlier article that I am testing the latest Palm Treo 800w that hosts Windows Mobile 6.1 so that I could run SQL Server Compact Edition and replicate with a centralized server using HTTP. I am having fun with this device as I try to push it to its limits. Sprint supports the 3G EV-DO Rev A standard for this phone so you can get broadband download/upload speeds wherever Sprint has it available. At home, I have a 5 bar connection so I can get 3G speeds of around 1Mbps, no problem. But what about on the road? How good a road warrior is this device?

I traveled to the mountains of North Carolina last week (conveniently missing the effects of Hurricane Hanna) using the GPS chip and Sprint Navigation. All along Inter State 40 through Asheville I was able to connect to the internet through the Sprint network and able to make calls using my hands-free headset and microphone. I was able to check latest emails when I stopped for gas and coffee.  I was even able to listen to BBC TV ("audio only" feature !) through the Slingbox Mobile software. When I reached Asheville airport the connection seemed to go south. Not bad, since I was entering the mountain roads. On the other side of the mountain I returned to coverage. Strange, I thought Sprint coverage was limited in this area, wasn't it? Watch out, I was roaming automatically - extra charges! Even though I have unlimited data usage in my plan, that only counts for the Sprint network. I later found out that one of the factory installed phone settings is "Allow Roaming" with "When roaming, warn me: Automatically". This apparently means allow roaming automatically (without warning) but fortunately I am a suspicious character and I refused to look the gift horse in the mouth. Many Sprint customers are going to get some interesting first month's bills because of this setting! I quickly switched this to "Home Network Only" and "When roaming, warn me: Always".  Phew! That could have been expensive! At our mountain cabin, with no Sprint coverage, I was able to switch on the WiFi feature using WPA encryption. Great for the internet and email but what about phone calls? No problem, I had loaded Skype Mobile and was able to make calls via VOIP. I was able to call my sister for free in England since she was on her computer using Skype too. I like the Voice Command feature of Windows Mobile. This means that Calendar notifications (which are synched with my laptop using ActiveSync) are read out loud to me via the speaker when the notify time arrives. Not only that, if I receive an urgent email, the subject line is read out too. These hands-free features are excellent. Of course, you can turn off all audio with a single switch at the top of the phone. Then all notifications and calls will be indicated by vibrate mode.

One thing I discovered, being a new Mobile Windows user, is that when you "close" an application you are really "minimizing" it. It remains in memory and may limit other applications, especially as you launch several applications. I had to get into the habit of using Task Manager (Shortcut: Option button and OK button) and using the Menu option: "End All Tasks". This frees up memory and extends battery life. Maybe I'll program a single button to do this. Why doesn't Windows Mobile clean up itself? I presume there is a valid reason for this; maybe to speed up repetitive application launch speeds. The Palm Treo 800w has 256MB of memory which is plenty for a mobile device but any optimization would be good. The manual tells me that to reset the device (aka reboot), you need to remove the battery cover and the battery then replace. Knowing Microsoft Windows, shouldn't there be a Restart option? "If in doubt, reboot" - that holds true for Windows Mobile too. As good as Windows Mobile 6.1 is, I can't help thinking that my background knowledge of Windows and computers in general is helping me get the most out of this device. A novice user might be better suited to the iPhone, but for me, I have the Windows Mobile bug! (Pun intended...). I love this device and can now call myself a "treonaut" (see http://blog.treonauts.com/ ).

My next step is to learn how to program Windows Mobile applications using SQL Server 2008, ADO.NET and Visual Studio 2008. Obviously, my strength is in the Database side of things, but now I need to expand my horizons. I found a great resource on the MSDN Webcasts: "24 Hours of Windows Mobile Application Development" which is a 24-part webcast delivered every Wednesday. It just started September 3rd but you can review the sessions you miss via the MSDN web site. It is delivered by Constanze Roman and Maarten Struys who keep the sessions entertaining and informative. My Wednesday lunchtimes are now booked! And my Treo will talk to me just before each session. Am I a geek or what?

Cheers,

Brian

MSDN Webcast: 24 Hours of Windows Mobile Application Development: Introduction to Windows Mobile Device Development (Level 200):

http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/WebCastEventDetails.aspx?EventID=1032386646&EventCategory=5&culture=en-US&CountryCode=US

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