|Using a Handheld Computer on the Road|
This page is written for readers of Handheld PC Magazine. If you have read my article published there, you may like to know how to do some of the things that I mentioned there, or you may want to know where you can locate the hardware or software I mentioned. This page is principally directed at those who plan to use a Handheld Personal Computer (H/PC) while on the road for extended periods of time (such as myself). Specifically, it details the techniques involved in transferring files to and from the H/PC without using Microsoft's Windows CE Services software.
Here is a brief table of contents:
|I am assuming that if you are trying to learn how to do all
this, then you actually have a Windows CE H/PC. If you don't, and you want
to purchase one, Microsoft have provided a web page where all the current
manufacturers of CE H/PC units are listed, at:
I use a Hewlett Packard 620LX (recently superceded by the Jornada 680). Details of both are available from Hewlett Packard's web site, at:
Obviously, a digital camera is not really required. But if you want to illustrate your web site with photos, having a digital camera makes this so much easier. In actual fact, any digital camera will do, but if you are planning to travel the world and upload your photos to your web site from a different computer every day (say, in cybercafes), then it makes sense to use a Sony Mavica camera. It has the singularly useful feature of using standard 3.5" floppy disks as film. Most other cameras require special software to be installed on the computer, and require serial cables to transfer the images from the camera. This would mean installing the appropriate software onto every computer you came to. With the Sony Mavica, you simply take the disk out of the camera and insert it into the computer. The photos are available as JPEG files on the disk.
I use the model FD71 (now superceded by the FD73), but there are (currently) four models in the line-up. More information about Sony Mavica digital cameras can be found on Sony's web site, at:
The standard software used to transfer files between a Windows CE computer and a Windows 95/98/NT computer is Microsoft's Windows CE Services (or the more recent ActiveSync). As anyone who has ever tried to use this has found, it is a large and sophisticated (and sometimes problematic) piece of software. It can take a couple of hours to install, configure and synchronise. If you are travelling the world with your CE computer, it is clearly inappropriate to try to install WinCE Services on every cybercafe computer that you want to exchange data with.
I have found an alternative. Two pieces of software are required. One, called WCEFiler, runs on the CE H/PC, and the other, called Transfile, runs on the Windows desktop/laptop. When running, they communicate with each other via the H/PC serial cable that came with the unit, and allow the user to exchange files (only files, nothing else). They are both freeware and downloadable from the Internet. They are also both very small and simple to use.
These programs require a bit of setting up, but once they are installed and configured, their use is actually very simple.
They will work with any Windows CE H/PC, not just Hewlett Packards. They will work with all versions of Windows CE, even 1.0. I'm not sure if they will work on P/PC's - maybe they will, but I've never tested them.
The system I'm describing has three drawbacks:
If these drawbacks are okay for you (they are for me), then read on.
This is a small program that runs on the Windows CE H/PC that emulates the Filer software communications from the old, DOS-based Hewlett Packard 200LX. In other words, when it is running on your H/PC, your H/PC is pretending to be (emulating) a HP 200LX palmtop for the purposes of serial communications. WCEFiler simply sits there and processes any requests for file transfers that it detects on the serial cable. It can be thought of as a server that will work in conjunction with any desktop/laptop software designed to communicate with a HP 200LX (like Transfile).
Where to find it
I can no longer find the site that I originally downloaded this program from. It seems to have disappeared. I can find no mention of it in any of the standard CE shareware repositories. So if you want it, you can download it from my web site, at the following address:
Download the file from the above address and store it on your desktop/laptop's hard disk.
Copy the file into the Windows folder on your H/PC. This needs to be done using WinCE Services, as follows:
Create a shortcut to the new program on your H/PC's desktop (or anywhere), as follows:
Modify the shortcut to start the new program at the fastest possible speed (56k), as follows:
One final step - do this only when you don't plan to use WinCE Services for a while. The automatic communications of your H/PC must be disabled, otherwise everytime you start the HP Transfile software on your PC, your H/PC will think that it's WinCE Services starting, and respond by automatically launching the standard PC Link software.
WCEFiler is now installed and ready to run at its fastest speed.
Double-tap the new icon - when WCEFiler is running it should look like this (it is waiting for a connection from the desktop/laptop):
No further interaction with WCEFiler is required while it's running. When communications with the desktop/laptop are done, the program should be simply closed.
This is the other half of the pair - the client to WCEFiler's server.
This is a program provided free by Hewlett Packard to owners of 200LX palmtop computers, however anyone can download it. The neat thing about it is that is will communicate seamlessly with WCEFiler (which is emulating a 200LX). Its sole purpose in life is exchanging files with palmtops.
Where to find it
Transfile is available for download from HP's web site, at the following address:
Installation of Transfile is as follows
If you are planning to take your H/PC travelling with you, locate the folder that the Transfile program files were installed into, and simply copy all the files therein onto a single 3.5" floppy disk. Keep that disk with your H/PC (and its cable, of course) while you travel.
Note: Some of the program files in the Transfile folder are "hidden." This means that you will only be able to copy them to a floppy disk if you first make them visible. This is done by using the Options option from the View menu of Windows Explorer.
Before you start Transfile, ensure that:
If you are using Transfile on the PC that is was originally installed on:
If you are running Transfile from a floppy disk:
Transfile will start and automatically determine which serial port the H/PC is connected to, and at what speed. As soon as it has established a connection with the H/PC, the right side of the screen will show the names of files on the H/PC.
The screenshot below shows the Transfile software running on a desktop computer and connected to a H/PC.
To copy files back and forth, simply click on the name of a file (from either side) and drag it to the other side. Multiple files can be selected with Shift-click or Ctrl-click actions. Files and folders can also be deleted and renamed.
If, during a file transfer, the H/PC auto-powers-off, simply turn it back on again - the current transfer will resume unaffected.
This section details how to send and receive email without a card modem and without WinCE Services.
Using this technique you can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend online (in expensive cybercafes, for example). Essentially, you write all your emails on your H/PC, taking as much time as you need, and only spend a few minutes connected to the Net sending them. Any emails you receive you transfer straight to the H/PC before reading them, and read them later, when you're not paying for connect time.
All that is required is a Windows PC with an Internet connection (such as one might find in a cybercafe). It is assumed that you have an email account that you can access from that PC, and that you have a Windows CE H/PC with a serial cable.
To transfer email messages that you have received onto your H/PC for offline reading:
You will be able to read the copied messages using Pocket Word.
This section is supposed to be about how to create and maintain a web site on the road, using a H/PC and a digital camera.
It is a little too huge a task to describe all the intricacies of web publishing, HTML, digital image management and web site layout. There are many fine books that cover these subjects. So I regret to say that you won't find a web publishing tutorial here.
All the skills required are general in nature. In other words, none of the skills you need is specific to travelling the world or using a H/PC. The only skill I developed specifically for this trip was transferring files to and from the H/PC without using Windows CE Services. The bulk of this page has been devoted to exactly that issue, so if you read and understood that, then you have all the specific skills you need. All you need to learn is general web management. :)
However, for those of you interested in the broad and general steps involved, they are detailed here.
This entire web site was created using just these steps. Feel free to check out the rest of the site, here.
If you have any comments about this page (or any of the others), you can submit them here, or feel free to contact me, at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like any more detailed information about any of this.