---------- ---------- PC Pro Realworld Computing: Paul Lynch - PDAs

HPC on the Internet

Last month I took a look at using the built-in Windows CE applications on the Internet: Pocket Internet Explorer, and InBox with POP3/SMTP email connectivity. PIE I rate very highly as probably the best PDA web browser. InBox works well with Internet email, being faster than the Newton solutions, but feeling cumbersome when used for mailbox management.

To be really useful as an Internet tool, a system needs more than just email and web browsing; especially if the web browser, like PIE, doesn't recognise ftp:, news: or telnet: URLs. Since the launch of Windows CE, several shareware applications have been released to fill these gaps. Another application, mobileIRC, I'll take a look at next month.

Scotty FTP, by Kaushik Sridharan, presents you with three windows grouped together by tabs; one shows the local file system, another the file system on the server that you are connected to, and the final window a log of all ftp messages that have been sent from the remote server. You change directory by double clicking on a subdirectory, and return back to a parent directory via the .. directory. Unfortunately with some types of servers the .. directory isn't shown, so changing directory to the parent directory can only be done by typing it in. Options are provided to delete or rename files, and to refresh the view of a directory.

the Scotty FTP browser
the Scotty FTP browser

A connection panel requires you to type in a hostname to connect to and a remote directory; you can also enter a hostname and password, and if you don't it will default to anonymous ftp. There is no way to set a default login name, or a correct anonymous ftp password, which is disappointing.

Double-clicking a remote file will fetch it to the directory displayed in the local file system window, or upload the file if it is in the local file system. Scotty seems to cover most simple ftp needs, and fills very well the gap left by the omission of ftp: URLs from PIE.

TelnetCE is also by Kaushik Sridharan, and implements a simple telnet application for WIndows CE. You can connect to any port number on any host, using a plain text window to capture the dialog. There is no ability to copy or paste from the telnet window, which is unfortunate. It implements enough of a terminal emulation inside the telnet session to be able to run full screen vi while logged in to a Unix host. As most requirements to use telnet will be to debug sessions on a server system, perhaps checking operation of a mail server or web server, with some users wanting Unix shell session for remote non-POP email, this is ideal. Connecting to CIX via telnet when travelling overseas is a lot cheaper than a long distance telephone call.

One inconvenience shared by both of these applications is that they are unable to automatically bring up the Internet connection; only PIE and InBox can do that. Instead you have to select a connection from the Remote Networking directory as a separate stage.

mobileNews is remarkably complete for such a small package
mobileNews is remarkably complete for such a small package

mobileNews is the remaining gap filler, and unlike Scotty FTP and TelnetCE, it comes from CEscape, a Windows CE development company. You can define a server to connect to; the definition screen allows you to enter authorisation information, and you can even define multiple servers, which is a reasonably advanced feature. For each server, you can enter a list of news groups to read.

Messages are retrieved in bunches of 100 (the exact number can be set in the options panel), which is convenient for reading on-line. The list of news posts displays the subject date and number of lines; once a message has been selected and retrieved, a separate pane contains the text of the message. If you wish, you can read the entire contents of a news group in sequence from the Message pane. Tool bar and menu options allow you to post a new message, or reply to an existing one. Options setting allow you to set the normal posting defaults, including a signature to use.

Message threading by subject is a feature that has been promised for a new version. mobileNews is a very good attempt at making a fully featured news reader fit into a a WIndows CE sized box.

Words and design by:
Paul Lynch
Last updated: July 30, 1997

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