desert-island

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Howto share/transfer clipboard between pda and desktop
One of the most useful features that the MC218 (Series5/Series5a) has is the ability to share its clipboard with the desktop. With Windoze and Epoc Connect (PsiWin) this is achieved using CopyAnywhere. Under Linux and KDE one could get the same functionality using Klipsi which is part of plptools.

Being a systems administrator and web developer I keep the login/password info for hundreds of accounts on my MC218 and the ability to quickly access them and transfer them to the desktop via the clipboard is a huge timesaver. Thus I was quite anxious to be able to replicate this kind of functionality on the A730W.

I am only interested in free (as in beer) software and my search turned up 2 possible solutions:
- Remote Keyboard from TranCreative
- OPClip from OPByte Software

Remote Keyboard worked intermittently under Windoze and the telnet function (mainly for *nix clients) did not work at all. It's a shame because if it did function as advertised then it would be a very useful program. But as it is a commercial program turned freeware I doubt whether TranCreative will be supporting it anymore.

OPClip works as advertised but only comes with a Windoze client.

After some more rummaging through the freeware for pocket pc sites (yes I'm proud to be a cheapskate big grin) I found a gem in the form of nScriptm. This gives me the means to write my own clipboard sharing utility.

PDA Requirements
nScriptm installed on your pda

Desktop requirements
KDE
Klipper
KHotKeys
synce and you will probably want the KDE integration as well

How it works
A plain text file residing on the pda acts as the container for the transfer of the clipboard. Two programs are required, one running on the desktop and one running on the pda. They both do a similar same job, that is:

- get contents of the clipboard and write it to the shared file
- read from the shared file and put contents onto the clipboard

The program running on the desktop uses KDE's dcop mechanism to access & manipulate the clipboard via Klipper and the pcp, prm programs that are part of synce.


Prepare desktop
1) Download multiclip.sh, save it somewhere in your path and make it executable.

If run from the command line:
$ multiclip.sh export

will write the contents of the desktop clipboard to the shared file on the pda. And:
$ multiclip.sh import

will read the contents of the shared file on the pda and place it onto the desktop clipboard.


2) Configure KHotKeys
Open up your KDE Control Centre and find the KHotKeys panel.

Add a New Group and fill in the details:
multiclip-01 (10k image)

Add a New Action and fill in the General tab:
multiclip-02 (12k image)

Fill in the Keyboard Shortcut tab:
multiclip-03 (10k image)

Finally the Command/URL Settings tab:
multiclip-04 (10k image)

Create another New Action, this time for the import action, don't forget to use import instead of export in the Command/URL Settings tab!

To finish off, click on Global Settings > General Settings and make sure that the Disable KHotKeys daemon checkbos is NOT checked, then click OK:
multiclip-05 (11k image)

Prepare pda
1) Download multiclip.ns, save it somewhere on your pda.

2) Create the shortcuts
You need to create 3 shortcuts ...

multiclip.lnk
65#"\Program Files\utils\ns.exe" "\My Documents\macros\multiclip.ns"


multiclip-import.lnk
30#"\Program Files\utils\ns.exe" "\My Documents\macros\multiclip.ns" import


multiclip-export.lnk
30#"\Program Files\utils\ns.exe" "\My Documents\macros\multiclip.ns" export


... obviously you will have to adjust your shortcuts to reflect where you installed nScriptm and where your multiclip.ns lives.

NB here import means read contents of shared file and place onto pda clipboard, and export means put contents of the pda clipboard into the shared file.

3) Assign shortcuts to hardware buttons
Which buttons you assign them to is entirely up to you. You can opt not to assign any buttons if you wish but then using the thing would be very cumbersome indeed.

Using multiclip
Transferring the clipboard either way is a 2 step process (unfortunately).

To transfer from desktop to pda:

- in KDE press hotkey assigned to export
- in pda press hardware button assigned to import

To transfer from pda to desktop:

- in pda press hardware button assigned to export
- in KDE press hotkey assigned to import

Advanced features!
If you invoke multiclip.ns without any parameters ie if you use multiclip.lnk then you'll be presented with a dialog box:
multiclip-06 (14k image)
Here you can select select a previously used clip (multiclip keeps a history of the last 99 clips) and then either Copy to the pda clipboard or Export to the shared clipboard. The clips history is stored in a directory called clips which is created in the directory that multiclip.ns resides in. Thus if multiclip.ns was stored in \My Documents\macros\multiclip.ns then the clips history will be stored in the directory \My Documents\macros\clips (this directory is created automatically). Each clip in the history is stored as a separate file and are named _clip-??.txt. To remove unwanted clips from the history simply delete the corresponding file, they will automatically be re-ordered each time multiclip is started.

If you scroll right down to the bottom of the list:
multiclip-07 (13k image)
you can see there's a list of dates and times in different formats, these can also be selected and used in the same way as the other clips.

The last button is for invoking ClipMgr, a very handy program for storing and retrieving often used pieces of text.

That just about wraps it up. Enjoy smile

posted @ 06:49 AM CST [link]
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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Life with the A730W (Episode 2)
Here I'm going to do a quick comparison between the builtin apps of the Ericsson MC218 and the Asus A730W. Just a reminder, the MC218 is basically the same as the Psion S5a but with a few extra Ericsson-only applications thrown in (some of these extras are built into the ROM whilst others are installed separately).


Wordprocessing: Epoc Word vs Pocket Word

In a nutshell Epoc Word is a full featured word processor with sophisticated features (for a pda) and can be a competent substitute to your desktop wordprocessor. Here is a list of its most salient features:

- headers and footers, page numbers
- sophisticated character/paragraph formatting: bold, italic, underline, strikeout, text colour, background colour, borders, aligment, spacings, indents, bullets
- styles to manage your formatting
- templates
- print preview (you can even select the number of thumbnail pages!)
- print directly to an attached printer (requires an optional printer interface)
- print to a printer attached to the desktop via Epoc Connect (that is Epoc's equivalent to WinCE's ActiveSync)
- can embed Sheet documents (ie spreadsheets) and Sketch documents (ie images). NB these embedded documents will display and print as part of the Word document. Heck, a picture is worth a thousand words - see screenshots!
- tables, by embedding a Sheet document, bit of a kludge but works well for simple tables

lwa-epoc-word-01 (103k image)
Epoc Word document with an embedded image

lwa-epoc-word-02 (95k image)
Epoc Word document with an embedded chart from a spreadsheet

In comparison, Pocket Word is little more than a glorified text editor - glorified, because you can change the character formatting. Can't really think of much more to say smile Conclusion, Pocket Word is utter crap compared to Epoc Word. Actually Pocket Word does have one feature that Epoc Word doesn't have, and that is the ability to insert the current date into the document, however this minor feature can easily be implemented using the fabulous Macro5 utility. I'll talk more about Macro5 at a later date.


Spreadsheet: Epoc Sheet vs Pocket Excel

The features between the two are more evenly matched. Pocket Excel has in its favour the ability to sort, and being able to use more than a single sheet/page per document. Whilst Epoc Sheet has the ability to produce graphs and charts of your data, and in common with most of the builtin apps, the ability to print.

For Epoc Sheet, the ability to do crude sorting can be implemented by using the excellent Macro5 utility.

In conclusion, Epoc Sheet is the more rounded and better featured of the two.


Time and alarms

The Epoc Time application has a database of most of the world's major cities (certainly all the capital cities) allowing you to set your timezone precisely. If your city is not listed you can easily add one or more of your own. The cities information includes the international dialling code for the country and for the city itself as well the longitude and latitude and from this the sunset and sunrise times. It also allows you to easily specify whether a zone (Northern hemisphere, Southern hemisphere, Europe) is in "Summer Time" (DST) and adjusts all times accordingly.

Epoc Time allows for a total of 8 alarms. Some neat features are the ability to see how long there is to the next alarm (how many days, hours, minutes), and to be able to see what the previous alarm was.

WinCE (I'm going to be using WinCE as the all encompassing term for all the variations of WinCEs, Handheld PC, PPC, WM2003, and whatever fancy title of the day that M$ decides to come up with next) does not have a World Time app at all - it only has a crude (some would say crud) timezone setting.


Database

The MC218 comes with the incredibly useful Epoc Data application. It is a simple flat-file database system offering user defined fields and supports the following field types:

- Text (up to 250 characters)
- Number (integer)
- Floating point
- Date
- Yes/No
- Memo (unlimited - well not exactly, but very large nevertheless, I think it's 16MB, and seeing as the MC218 only has 16MB of RAM you're very unlikely to reach the limit)

The real power of Epoc Data is its ability to embed other documents - Word, Sheet, Sketch and Record (voice notes) - into any Text or Memo field. And for the icing on the cake, Text and Memo fields are rich text aware so the full range of character formatting can be applied to the text within.

Again WinCE has nothing comparable.

... to be continued!


posted @ 04:58 AM CST [link]
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Monday, June 13, 2005

Quick Tip - Force High Resolution
Force High Resolution is dead simple to use program that's very effective (when it works).

Just select the programs that you want to run in VGA mode:

quicktip_configure-force-high-resolution (10k image)

Here's Adobe Reader in QVGA mode, as you can see it's totally unreadable:

quicktip_adobe-reader-qvga (29k image)

And here's the same page in VGA mode, now you can see the text perfectly - if you squint hard enough big grin

quicktip_adobe-reader-vga (80k image)

The advantage of Force High Resolution over its competitors SE_VGA and ozVGA is that it is so easy to use. Just go into the system settings and run Force High Resolution, add the program you want to run in VGA mode then run selected program. There is no need to reset the machine. If a grumpy program doesn't like being run in VGA mode then simply remove it from the Force High Resolution list and the next time you run the grumpy program it will revert back to QVGA mode.

I must confess that I haven't actually tried SE_VGA (didn't like the idea of resetting my machine all the time) nor ozVGA (download link seems to be down)!


posted @ 02:01 PM CST [link]


QMAIL 3 - configuring an IMAP mailbox
For those who don't already know, QMAIL 3 (actually it's at version 2.9.14.2072 right now) is an incredibly full featured mail client for PPCs. In fact not only does it handle your regular POP & IMAP mailboxes with ease it also eats Usenet news (NNTP) and even RSS feeds for breakfast! And best of all it's free. Kiss goodbye to the decrepit Pocket Outlook (unless you're unfortunate enough to be tied to a Windoze desktop and have to sync to the desktop Outlook).

It's unfortunate that the author chose to name the program QMAIL as that name conflicts with the qmail MTA (note the lower case). However not knowing the history of QMAIL I've no idea who first used the name.

Anyway, to make the most of QMAIL you have to get past it's idiosyncratic interface. Configuring an IMAP mailbox had me stumped for a couple of days. It looked easy - just fill in the boxes then click on "Send Receive" or "Receive" and you can see your mail flooding in. The real problem comes when you try to send an email using your newly IMAP account, basically you can't until you perform a few more steps:

- tap on the account name in the folder list to select it
- tap & hold on the account name then select Create...

qmail3_create-outbox (18k image)

- in the dialog that appears set the name to Outbox, type to Local Folder then OK

qmail3_set-outbox (9k image)

- repeat procedure to create a folder called Sent
- tap on the Outbox folder in the folder list to select it
- tap & hold on the Outbox folder then select Property...
- in the dialog that appears change the "Box Type" to Outbox

qmail3_set-outbox-type (11k image)

- repeat procedure for the Sent folder (obviously setting it to box type Sentbox)

Enjoy. Your IMAP mailbox is now fully operational cool eh?


posted @ 11:46 AM CST [link]


Life with the A730W (Episode 1)
After deciding on the A730W I shopped around to find the best deal. Unfortunately every dealer in town offered exactly the same so there was no scope of getting a "bargain" crazy.

First Impressions
Having done the research and played with the machines in the shops beforehand the hardware side of the A730W presented no surprises.

However the software side was a different matter. Having played around with a WinCE 2.X machine years ago I was quite shocked that the builtin apps doesn't seem to have much improved. Pocket Word is still little more than a glorified text editor, albeit one that allows you to use multiple fonts. Pocket Excel still doesn't do graphs & charts. About the only application that is on par with the Psion/Epoc equivalent is Contacts.

Suffice to say that the builtin apps are so deficient that even basic housekeeping tasks such as PIM summary, task switching, file management are a chore and a PITA. Fortunately a few hours spent trawling the web found some rather good freeware applications which have now found a permanent home on my A730W:

- TaskPlus, allows you to see what tasks/appointments you have instead of just how many
- SmallMenu, a simple task switcher and program launcher
- Total Commander, a much better file manager

I will compile a more comprehensive list of "best of breed" (IMO) freeware applications later. In the meantime check out the links section.

Asus Goodies
Bundled with the PDA are the following:
- a soft carry case, not very practical because you have to remove the PDA before you can use it, better than nothing though, use it while you look for something better wink
- Bonus software CD
- USB to desktop cable, for syncing with your desktop
- USB host cable, allows you to use various USB devices
- docking cradle, unfortunately no slot to charge a second battery
- AC adaptor
- extra battery

Bonus software CD
Asus has put together a a fairly useful bundle of software to get you started and for most people there should be at least one item of interest amongst them.

- PaPaGo! 5, a complete map of Taiwan with GPS and routing support
- Money Tracer, a personal finance manager
- Presentation DX, a Power Point compatible viewer
- Aidem Pocket Painter, a surprisingly useable image manipulation/processing/painting package
- Aidem Engineering Calculator, fairly average
- MapKing 2, a complete map of Hong Kong or Shenzhen or Beijing or Guangzhou or Shanghai (you can only register one map)
- Monster Chinese, allows you to display Chinese characters on an English machine
- Monster SIP, provides various SIPs for entering Chinese characters
- Monster KB, Chinese keyboard driver
- Dung Cleaner, a Lode Runner play alike
- Guess Color, Gobang, Reversi, various games that I didn't bother with

Most of the above come in 3 languages - Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese and English. Note that some of them are not on the CD and have to be downloaded from the appropriate website.

Also most require registration which involves entering the (single) activation code (supplied with the CD) at the activation website and in return you get a list of all the registration codes.

My personal experience of the registration system is that it is a PITA, maybe more that later.


posted @ 03:32 AM CST [link]
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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Welcome
This blog was started to document the trials and tribulations of switching from an Psion/Epoc/Symbian pda to a pocket pc. The protagonists is this case being an Ericsson MC218 and an Asus A730W respectively.

Background
I had been using the MC218 for a number of years and it had given exemplar service. Unfortunately about a month ago it dieded. Fortunately I have backups of my precious data cool eh?. So the search was on for a replacement.

Requirements
- VGA screen
- keyboard
- WiFi
- Bluetooth
- CF & SD slots
- plenty of RAM smile

In addition I wanted something that would eventually be able to run Linux.

The candidates
I spent about a week researching current state of the PDA market and what I found wasn't too promising. Sharp is about the only company producing PDAs with keyboards and as a bonus they already use Linux! Unfortunately they seem to have retreated from the international scene and are now only selling to the Japanese market. PS I know there are companies selling English versions of the Sharp units but they were outside my budget.

I didn't want a PDA/phone so that eliminates most if not all Symbian based machines. That only leaves PalmOS based machines and PPCs. Now as there are no PalmOS machines with VGA displays that only leaves PPCs.

Luckily (or unluckily?) there aren't that many VGA PPCs to choose from:

- Asus A730W
- Dell Axim X50v
- Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 720
- HP iPAQ hx4705
- Toshiba e830

Out of these the HP and Dell were ruled out because they both only had 64MB of RAM. Knowing how bloated MS software are I wanted as much RAM as possible. The Toshiba was ruled out because of the flak they had over the e7XX series fiasco. The Loox wasn't available locally so that leaves the A730W the "winner" by default. Unfortunately opting for a PPC meant there would be no builtin keyboard angry, grr. That is something that I would have to sort out later.


posted @ 10:48 PM CST [link]
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