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View Full Version : TUTORIAL: The secrets of being notified of new, incoming E-mail messages on the PPC

06-18-2006, 02:30 PM
Pocket PC users, especially those using a Pocket PC Phone Edition (PPC PE) device, often ask me how they can be notified of new, incoming e-mail messages automatically. It’s easier than most think – and in no way complicated to set up. In this article, I elaborate on the secrets of fetching your mail periodically, without any human intervention, only alarming you when there is some new mail to report on. I also spend some time on explaining the problems related to this and also how the auto-fetch can be really quickly toggled between disabled and enabled state.

Note that I’ve already – shortly and succinctly – discussed this question in the Mailer Roundup (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=569&more=1) but, as it’s a very large article causing heavy information overload, I’ve found it better to devote an entire, full article to the subject.

To see the advantages of the periodic mail fetching this all involves, I recommend the excellent article The (non)sense of push communication (http://www.modernnomads.info/articles/read.php?article_id=7) by MS MVP Jaap van Ekris. He explains why periodic mail fetching can be better than even Push Mail.

What devices can you use autofetch on?

In general, all Pocket PC Phone Edition devices should work great.

“Plain” Pocket PC devices (that is, Pocket PC’s without a built-in mobile phone), on the other hand, won’t really work. The best device that was able to notify me in about 10-20% of the cases was the x51v. All the other test devices (iPAQ 2210, hx4700 (WM5), Pocket Loox 720) fared even worse – they haven’t notified me in any case.

Note that Wakeup Tweak 1.0 (http://www.pocketpcfreewares.com/en/index.php?soft=876) (also discussed here (http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=27840) and here (http://pocketpcmag.com/blogs/menneisyys/112005SoundRecorderApps.asp)) won’t help either. If you give BattResumingSuspendTimeout a higher value, the Pocket PC, if it starts connecting to the network at all, won’t likely to be able to fetch new mail with more probability. It won’t do any fetching if you enable full power-up either – in all the tests I’ve run, it was just powered up without even trying to connect. Finally (after all, being powered up all the time is what we want to avoid to conserve battery power), if you force (Settings/ System/ Power/ Advanced) the device to go to sleep after a given time, it will never ever wake up again – unlike with the case of non-full-power-up cases, where it was sometimes able to wake up and notify me about new mail.

This all is topped by the flaky design of the WM2003SE operating system (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=882&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1), which means that WM2003SE devices equipped with the Broadcom /Widcomm Bluetooth stack may encounter severe problems even with enabling the Bluetooth to an external modem. The reason for this is when the device comes out of suspended state and tries to re-establish the Bluetooth connection, it will also need to re-enable the Bluetooth unit to do so. This is bound to fail after two or three connection establishments.

All in all, stick to Pocket PC Phone Edition devices for really reliable results. If you don’t have one and don’t have the money to get one (or just refuse to get the new, converged HTC models because they are in no way really high-end and comsumer-oriented (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=901&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1)) but really need this feature, check whether your current mobile phone is able to do this. You may be pleasantly surprised – even the lowest-end current mobile phones are already able to do so, let alone any Symbian-based mobile phones (for example, ProfiMail on Symbian is able to run periodic mail checks (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=569&more=1).)

How should I use this feature the best?

To maximize battery life, you will have to stick to the built-in Messaging (under pre-WM2003SE operating systems, ‘Inbox’) client. It’s the only mailer client for the Pocket PC to support fetching mail when the PDA is, in order to save a LOT of battery, suspended. Unfortunately, other scheduling-capable mailer clients don’t let for working in suspended mode and require that the PDA is always on to function; this will result in much faster battery drain (about 60-70 mA (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=706&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1), as opposed to the at least an order of magnitude lower suspended battery drain), even with a switched-off screen.

Enabling periodic mail check

It’s very easy to enable periodic mail checks. If you’ve already set up a/some POP3 account(s) on your device, just navigate to (Menu/) Tools/ Options, click the POP3 account you want to enable periodic mail checking on, click Next three times (so that you get to the last, 4/4 dialog of the ‘E-mail Setup’ dialog series). There, click Options instead of Finish. Then, just enable the “Connect and check for messages every:” checkbox and fill in the minute(s) as can be seen in the following screenshot:


You can safely leave the “Connection” drop-down list on “The Internet”, as can also be seen in the above screenshot.

If you’re setting up a new account, just make sure you click Options on the last dialog and enable periodic mail fetching – just as above.

Please note that the automatic mail fetch feature of Messaging is really-really dumb – it’s either enabled or not and in no way can it be fine-tuned (or, for that matter, easily, without many taps, en/disabled, which is painful particularly when you have several mailboxes you’d like monitor). For comparison, the Palm OS-based Versamail is much closer to what one would require (for example, getting mail just between the given hours on the given weekdays), as can be seen in here:


And that’s a 3+ years old program... (no, I’m NOT a Palm OS troll! It’s just good to know in what Windows Mobile really needs some improvement.)

It's very important that you...

Minimize Messaging - when Messaging is active (in the foreground) when you suspend your PPC PE, you won't get any notifications! That is, just switch to another task (or the Today screen) or minimize Messaging before suspending your Pocket PC.

By default, some devices (for example, the HTC Wizard latest i-mate AKU2 ROM) disable New e-mail message notifications (unlike most others, for example, the WM5 hx4700, 2210, PL720, x51v etc - I've tested them in this respect). Therefore, you may want to go to Settings/Sounds & Notifications/Notifications, choose Messaging: New e-mail message from the "Select an event" drop-down list and enable the checkboxes you need:


Note that using sound/vibration will depend on the system-level setting; for example, if you switch on sound (and, consequently, disable vibration), there won’t be any vibration. Therefore, if your PPC is in your pocket and want to receive vibration notification, you will not only need to enable Vibration in Sounds & Notifications but will also need to set the volume slider to Vibration as can be seen in here:


The problem of staying-on connection

If you’ve ever tried to fetch mail with Messaging, you know that it's not possible to force the GPRS connection to be closed – once you (or, Messaging) start it, it will stay on forever, even in the suspended state of your PPC PE device. This will result in a decidedly increased power consumption of the device. Unfortunately, it’s only with third-party applications that this can be helped.

Fortunately, the application you’ll need, GB-SOFT Tweak, is both free and very easy to use. Please read this article (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=611&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1) on getting it and setting it up.

Shortcut to quickly en/disable auto mail fetch?

A common question concerns how a user can quickly (!) en/disable periodic mail fetching.

It’s, as with most of the Messaging-related settings, stored in the WindowsCE databases of the device, in the database named pmailFolders, in the field ID 33543. Here, the third bit contains a one if the autofetch for a given account is enabled and zero if it isn’t. (This means the enabled value of this field is four plus the disabled value.) This information (as with other pmailFolders-related real information (http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&p=231&more=1), never before published by anyone else BTW ;) ) should be enough for anyone (sorry guys, I simply don’t have to code and test one. A week later, maybe, when I won’t have Internet access in the rural Finland and, then, I’ll have some more time to code some locally doable stuff.) inclined to write an app that scans pmailFolders for records having ‘1879048192’ in the field with the ID 32772 (denoting it’s a POP3 account) and, then, just toggle the third bit in the field 33543.

06-20-2006, 06:05 AM
Menneisyys, very nice tutorial. Always a pleasure reading your tutorials.I've been wanting to learn how to do this. Thanks again.