Class Communications with 3rd Class Tools
It’s amazing to me all the different ways I can communicate with my Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC! This article covers the disparity between the breadth of methods you can communicate with your Pocket PC and another computer compared to the tools available to you to mange the connection right out of the box. Also, I've included my thoughts on an ideal tool to diagnose connectivity problems that I would like to see in the future.
Tons of Connectivity
I can use it to connect via USB, Serial or Infrared with ActiveSync to my desktop right out of the box with most models. Further if you purchase some peripherals and services you can get on the web using Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPRS or even 1xRTT. In addition to the different physical ways you can connect you can also use your Pocket PC to access your e-mail server using POP3/SMTP or IMAP4, access your secure website with a local digital certificate and access network file shares to transfer files. Also for corporate users, you can use the Terminal Services Client to connect to any Windows XP PC for remote desktop support as well as Windows 2000 and 2003 servers. Further you can extend your network access via any of the hardware connections via their VPN client that supports PPTP and IPSEC. Once you are connected you can even use your proxy server to access the internet via Socks, Winsock or even HTTP.
So you are working on connecting your Pocket PC and it just doesn’t work when you expect it to. How can you expect the network engineer diagnose problems without any tools? Well Microsoft does not provide common tools to confirm the configuration of communications connections like they do for their desktop and server operating systems.
With their 2003 release Microsoft did add one bit of information that will help diagnosing connections easier. In their network adapter screen you now can see the DHCP assigned IP address! That’s as close as Microsoft comes to giving you the information like you get from IPCONFIG /ALL or WINIPCFG in the Pocket PC. What amazes me is that this is the first change in providing customers with configuration information since Microsoft added networking to Windows CE back in 1998.
What’s Tools are Missing?
The Pocket PC does not include common connectivity tools that even exist on the smallest Linux machine –tools like PING, TRACEROUTE, ARP or even the ability to release or renew an IP address. Without these tools it is truly impossible for end users to diagnose even the simplest problem just from the results they see on the Pocket PC. So if you need these tools visit www.cam.com and download for free their VXUtil which offers these utilities and more!
Pocket PC in the Enterprise?
If Microsoft is serious about having the Pocket PC succeed in the enterprise, they must offer the appropriate tools for network administrators to diagnose connectivity issues. If they do not offer tools, then they are hampering the integration of Pocket PCs as new devices into the enterprise because they are different to configure than desktops and they do not ship with appropriate tools to manage the connectivity we all seek.
Ideally these tools must be very easy for end users to assist network administrators since we all know that communications failures usually occur when you are out of the office. What I’d like to see is a utility that the network admin configures to confirm connectivity to critical hosts before the Pocket PC is given to an end user. That way the end just clicks on this utility and it tells him the common settings and test results that the network engineer needs to know to assist the user. With a simple tool like this, both end users and network administrators would have a better user experience than they do even on the desktop!