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Old 07-17-2005, 08:29 PM
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Default Accessing the Pocket PC on a PC Ė comparing Pocket Controller, dotPocket and ActiveSync Remote Display

Accessing the Pocket PC on a PC Ė comparing Pocket Controller, dotPocket and ActiveSync Remote Display

The question of accessing a Pocket PC device through ActiveSync (or, more generally, through any kind of wireless/wired connection) is being asked at several boards all the time so I deemed it important to devote a fully-fledged comparative (!) roundup with some benchmark figures to the subject.

There're several ways of displaying and manipulating the Pocket PC screen on the desktop over an ActiveSync and/or, as with more advanced solutions, a TCP/IP connection. Aside from slow(ish) solutions like running a VNC server on the PDA, these are as follows:

- SOTI Pocket Controller (from now on: SOTI; current version: 5.02): clearly the best, most powerful (except for the lack of a Nyditot-alternative), fastest solution. Flawlessly works with VGA PDA's (from version 4.12), even over TCP/IP connections (read: fast Wi-Fi) and has a lot of additional goodies.

If you have a VGA device, youíll certainly need at least version 4.12. 5.0+ is not much better than 4.12, speed- and basic operability-wise; it has some welcome goodies like Smoothing in zoomed-in modes that can be disabled (with 4.12, it was always on, making zoomed screen snapshots quite fuzzy) and a new ďStartĒ button on the main screen so that you donít need to press F5 to start communication and some other new features. If you donít need these new features, you may find version 4.12 fast and usable enough, even with VGA devices.

Differences between 5.01 and the recently-released 5.02 are minor. Thereíre, however, some important bugfixes in 5.02 affecting the Landscape mode with VGA devices (it still worked with 4.12); therefore, for VGA users, upgrading to version 5.02 is a must.

Please note that switching on the video acceleration on your PDA (the icon in the lower right corner or the Settings/System/Pocket Controller applet/Configure/Video/Mode Ė switching on Turbo Mode in the desktop component, in Tools/Configure/General/Turbo Mode, wonít cause problems) may result in a need for hard reset. I (as with some other PL720 owners) had to hard reset my PDA because of this (tested the most recent version, 5.02). On the iPAQ 2210, I had no such problems. However, enabling video acceleration didnít seemingly accelerate the 2210 further.

You may also want to read the Dave's iPAQ review of version 5.01. It has a lot of screenshots (therefore, I didnít bother making screenshots myself) and other good stuff.

- dotPocket. It's clearly worse than Pocket Controller with VGA devices and, in my opinion, isn't worth its price (US$ 25, as opposed to the US$ 30.95 of Pocket Controller) if you have a VGA device. If you still have it lying around and, therefore, do not end up paying for it, it may be useful, though - it's still better and faster than the ActiveSync Remote Display. As of version 2.1, it supports VGA devices.

If you, however, have a WM2003 QVGA device and donít want to purchase the NYDITOT Virtual Display, but you need its functionality, you may give this application a closer look.

You may also want to read the pocketnow review of the app. Interestingly, it writes version 3.0 in the title Ė it may have been an oversight. You may also want to check out some other reviews here. Interestingly, it doesnít list the Silicon Valley Pocket PC review, which is also worth reading.

- ActiveSync Remote Display, part of Microsoft's PowerToys: free, but clearly inferior to the two above programs: for example, it doesn't even support shared, synchronized clipboards (a very important feature in any program that accesses a Pocket PC). Therefore, I wonít directly compare it to the two commerical applications; only in the closing feature comparison table.

By default, ActiveSync Remote Display isnít VGA-aware, you will have to force it into the VGA mode based on the FAQ of ctitanic, author of Tweaks2k2; or, if you prefer an easier way of doing this, with Tweaks2k2 itself or with other tools like Mad Programmer's Force Hi-resolution tool. As you may guess after reading my article on relocating the three applications from the main memory, youíll need to force cerdisp2.exe into VGA.

So, what's the difference between the two commercial programs?

First, the speed of accessing VGA devices. The SOTI application is much faster on VGA devices; not only at controlling the Pocket PC itself, but also when you directly control your Pocket PC while the remote controller application is running. Then, the PDA remotely controlled by the SOTI app doesnít noticeably slow down; the dotPocket-controlled PDA, on the other hand, does. The difference is clearly visible.

Iíve also made a demo video on the access speed difference on VGA devices of the two applications. Please note that the codec used for capturing video was a plain desktop Windows codec and can only be played under Windows; if you want to play it on your PDA, with the infamous TCPMP (tested with version 0.66), youíll need to download this, considerably larger version of the video.

I ran the two applications parallelly, in two separate windows (it didnít decrease the access speed with either applications noticeably), and made the video with SnagIt, with 25 fps. The dotPocket window is on the left, while the SOTI window is on the right. You should pay special attention to the animated ActiveSync arrows. The difference in speed speaks for itself.

Fine-tuning the video refresh rate (more on this later), disabling encryption and optimizing for slow connections donít help much either.

Please note that all the above only concerns VGA devices. On QVGA devices, the dotPocket speed is pretty good (albeit still considerably slower than that of the SOTI app).

Unfortunately, goodies in dotPocket like enabling File/Properties/Grab Method/Direct Video Memory Access (DMA) doesn't work on VGA devices: it switches to QVGA and, what is more, completely messes up everything. Fortunately, unlike with SOTI, I didnít end up having to hard reset my Pocket Loox 720Ö

DMA works with QVGA devices though. As I could see, however, it didnít really increase the speed with my iPAQ 2210 Ė the dotPocket running at 150 ms refresh rate, the SOTI app was still faster. In this, the dotPocket app is like the SOTI app: both seem to have problems with VGA devices, as long as video acceleration is concerned.

The image/video playing capabilities of dotPocket are also a bit inferior to those of SOTI as far as output file formats / video codecs are concerned.

First, the former, dotPocket, can only save to BMPís and doesnít have a keyboard shortcut to do this (you will always need to go to the menu Ė two clicks instead of a much faster keyboard shortcut). SOTI, on the other hand, also supports JPG and GIF (the latter still needs to be compressed though Ė this is pretty easy if you have ImageMagick around. Iíve described this problem and the ImageMagick-based solution to that here).

Second, while with SOTI, during video recording, you can use any pre-installed codec on your Windows desktop, thatís not possible with the dotPocket app Ė you will only be able to use its default encoder, and not your (much better and more efficient) codec of choice.

Please note that these problems are not that crucial and shouldnít be a showstopper with dotPocket, unless you really need the fastest way of capturing PPC screens and/or donít want to do any kind of post-processing (which must however be done with SOTI to reduce its GIF sizes if you keep using it in GIF capture mode; or convert them to PNG; here I assume you donít want to capture JPEG images at all). Post-processing is really only a nuisance with videos because, to my knowledge, they canít be as easily automatizable (just run a batch file to convert) as converting image files (I may be wrong though).

SOTI also has some other, non-cruical, goodies like, for example, System Info, a remote process viewer (itís also capable of actually killing processes, unlike, for example, the PHM Task Manager) and a remote DOS box (which is almost useless, compared to real console applications Ė it doesnít support any kind of scripting support etc.) Also, Overlay Drawing. the ability to edit the keyboard shortcuts to make menu navigation even more unnecessary and Sync Manager (the latter can be made unnecessary with free (!) alternatives like MobSync though) are pretty welcome additions.

Thereíre some advantages of dotPocket over SOTI, though. First, the NYDITOT Virtual Display-like client on the PDA. Iíve made some tests with it on my iPAQ 2210 (didnít do the same with my VGA Pocket Loox 720 because it doesnít need a portrait vs. landscape tool because of the operating system) and was pretty happy with it. It worked flawlessly in all my tests.

Second, it has a built-in file transfer utility. It has a tolerable speed, about 11% less than the standard ActiveSync file copy speed with either the standard Explorer or using the Total Commander with the WinCE FS plug-in , counted in the speed hit introduced by running dotPocket itself.

Third, you can also record videos with dotPocket that also show the mouse cursor. This is not possible with the SOTI app. (The latter, however, is able to insert title/trailer frames into the stream so you wonít need to postprocess your captured videos to insert them.)

Some technical and benchmark data in tabulated form

Please click here to see it because I couldnít include HTML forms in a public forum and I didnít want to convert it to a < PRE > table because of the hassles involved.

A side note for the table: Iíve measured the slowdown factor this after starting the application by transferring a 2.44 Mbyte through ActiveSync to the main memory (I havenít used Card Export II, which undoubtedly would have shown much more pronounced differences), under exactly the same circumstances. Without running any of the three apps, the file was uploaded in 9.6 seconds (255 kbytes/s) on the PL720 and 8.3 secs (295 kbytes/s) on the iPAQ 2210. Iíve re-measured the transfer speed of the same file after starting all of the three apps one by one. As can clearly be seen, on a VGA device dotPocket really slows down the connection with the default settings; with setting the screen refresh rate to 1 fps (which, with VGA devices, isnít worse than the default setting, usability-wise), however, the slowdown decreased to 4%. Therefore, if you use dotPocket with a VGA device, you should go to File/Properties at once and set ďSend timeout (s)Ē to 1 sec as soon as possible.

On QVGA devices, there werenít so big differences.

Also, you may want to read my article on relocating the three applications from the main memory if you (would like to) want to decrease their RAM memory usage.

Bottom line:

There is no clear winner. Both the SOTI and the dotPocket applications have its strengths as far as previous-generation (read: no built-in lanscape support) QVGA devices are concerned. When it comes to VGA devices, however, I think, the SOTI app is the only real alternative because of its speed.

Broken down:

- if you use a WM2003 QVGA device, as simple remote controller tools, all the three apps are tolerably fast (with SOTI being the fastest, but the two are pretty usable too). The dotPocket price, as it contains a Nyditot alternative, can be pretty good cost/performance wise (you wonít need to buy Nyditot!), especially if you donít need the bells and whistles of the SOTI application.
- if you use a VGA device,
1. you will already have built-in Landscape support in your operating system (except for the old WM2003 Toshiba e800ís, if you, due to the screen refresh problems, donít upgrade them to WM2003SE), so, the additional capabilities of dotPocket wonít really interest you. On VGA devices, Iíd say itís only the SOTI application that can be used without major heart attacks because of the very slow response times.
2. if you still plan to use dotPocket, to avoid its connection (and the PPC itself!) being considerably slowed down, lower the refresh rate from 6.2/3 fps to one. It, however, wonít speed up its access speed.
3. donít forget to apply the Forced VGA patch to the Microsoft application if you still prefer that to the other two!

EDIT: 18/Jul/2005 11:30 CET: added a lot of new stuff (for example, URLís to other reviews) to the article; cleaned up the English a bit.
 
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Old 07-18-2005, 02:33 AM
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Nice roundup, Menneisyys. I'll link it to the frontpage.

--janak

p.s. The e805 had a free SE upgrade; I guess you're addressing the people who decided not to upgrade?
 
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Old 07-18-2005, 07:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Janak Parekh
Nice roundup, Menneisyys. I'll link it to the frontpage.
Thanks

Quote:
p.s. The e805 had a free SE upgrade; I guess you're addressing the people who decided not to upgrade?
Yes, because of the very slow screen refresh rate of the WM2003SE upgrade in Landscape mode.
 
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Old 07-18-2005, 10:37 AM
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Posted a revised review.
 
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Old 07-18-2005, 05:11 PM
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I use SOTI and made a video the other day with 5.02 that showed the mouse cursor moving around, so that seems to not be an issue. The best thing about the SOTI product (dotVideo may have it to, but I've never used that) is multiple connection profiles. I set my wifi router to give a reserved IP to my two wifi PDA's, then setup profiles in SOTI. Since it doesn't require the PDA to have interaction to enable the connection, one could be sitting in its cradle across the house charging with WiFi enabled, and SOTI can connect to it flawlessly, allowing me to be lazy and not get up to play Handmark Monopoly.
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Old 07-18-2005, 05:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Westfall
I set my wifi router to give a reserved IP to my two wifi PDA's, then setup profiles in SOTI.
I don't think you even need to do this. If your wifi router is set to use DHCP, you can just setup profiles in SOTI by the device name (rather than by IP address). I have 4 handhelds configured this way and I can even connect to all of them at once (granted it gets kinda slow).
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Old 07-18-2005, 06:07 PM
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Some bad news: SOTI 5.02 also has problems with all VGA devices (not just the PL720), acceleration-wise; please see http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/foru...c.php?p=355369 on this (the victim is a x50v user now).
 
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Old 07-18-2005, 11:07 PM
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Default Pocket Controller-Professional Features Comments

A couple of notes about the review and the comments above.

- Pocket Controller does have file transfer, in fact it has a "full featured" File Explorer tool that supports copy, rename, delete, move, drag and drop, and even auto execute. You can access the file explorer from the tools menu. You can also run DOS copy commands from the DOS box. We do actually support scripts in the DOS Box in the Enterprise version of the product (i.e. Pocket Controller-Enterprise) we have just not enabled it in the Professional version of the product, we may enable it in the future.

- Video Acceleration functionality is "typically" not available on devices that use the ATI video chip set. It is available on virtually all other chipsets we have tested it on. Devices that use the ATI chipset include the Toshiba E800, and the various HTC Blueangel flavours. Typically if you put the device in Test mode, and the screen does not come up, just do a second soft reset and your original settings will be restored, you should not need to do a hard reset. You generally do not need to use Video Acceration, it is just a way to boost performance. On devices that do support Video Acceleration the performance improvement can be approximately 35% to 45%.
 
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Old 07-19-2005, 05:06 AM
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Default Re: Pocket Controller-Professional Features Comments

Thanks for the correction on the file explorer stuff!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SOTI
You can also run DOS copy commands from the DOS box. We do actually support scripts in the DOS Box in the Enterprise version of the product (i.e. Pocket Controller-Enterprise) we have just not enabled it in the Professional version of the product, we may enable it in the future.
That would be great! Additionally, even implementing widely used and useful command parameters like "dir /s" (to be able to list all the subdir contents to find, for example, which files take up much RAM - a common problem on PPC boards, for which recursive subdirectory listing capabilities would be great) and output redirection ("dir >dirlistfile") would be great.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SOTI
Typically if you put the device in Test mode, and the screen does not come up, just do a second soft reset and your original settings will be restored, you should not need to do a hard reset.
Well, on (some? Didn't have the chance to test it on the hx4700, the e800/e830 and the Aus a730(w) yet) VGA devices (see the FirxtLoox and the PPCT thread for PL720 and Dell Axim x50v), you do need a hard reset - the PPC just dies on the boot screen (version 5.02) and a soft reset doesn't help. Neither do tools like SafeMode - the op. system doesn't even start loading anything, it is just sitting dead. I've tested it myself on my PL720.

EDIT: please read my next post before answering to this
 
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Old 07-19-2005, 09:18 AM
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Default Re: Pocket Controller-Professional Features Comments

Quote:
Originally Posted by Menneisyys
Well, on (some? Didn't have the chance to test it on the hx4700, the e800/e830 and the Aus a730(w) yet) VGA devices (see the FirxtLoox and the PPCT thread for PL720 and Dell Axim x50v), you do need a hard reset - the PPC just dies on the boot screen (version 5.02) and a soft reset doesn't help. Neither do tools like SafeMode - the op. system doesn't even start loading anything, it is just sitting dead. I've tested it myself on my PL720.
After I've been told over at iPAQ HQ that a hx4700 was able to restart after 10 or some soft resets and a great deal of waiting, I've continued playing with my VGA PDA. Interestingly, now it didn't have any problems when I switched to accelerated mode. I've tested this with both version 5.01 and 5.02.

I've made two example videos of the AS arrows using the enabled/disabled video modes: non-accelerated; accelerated. (Please note that TCPMP won't be able to play them and I didn't make a TCPMP version!).

I may come up with some reproducable, quantitive measurement of the speed gain of the acceleration. So far, I've mostly used the number of the Start Menu opening phases for this (which, with QVGA devices, has been two, in both modes), which isn't the best.

Bottom line: acceleration may work on your VGA PDA. Do, however, backup your PPC before enabling it!
 
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