A year with a Pocket PC

I’ve now spent a year with my Windows Mobile 5, Pocket Loox n560, so how has it been?

To give a decent account of the year I need to consider the hardware (Loox n560) and the software, obviously they come together but both have the pro’s and con’s. Also I thought that rather than go into some magazine style review I thought I’d say what I wanted it to do and if it managed it, so here goes…

Personal Assistant – calendar, meetings, contacts, etc
Both the device and the WM5 were good here. Creating the sync’ with my work’s Exchange had a few annoying problems they seem to be common with the majority of WM5 tasks. WM5 just isn’t very helpful. As a developer I’ve had to rely on a number of educated guesses to get things working. E.g. I couldn’t sync’ with Exchange until I removed the device from it’s cradle, why? Well I’m guessing that in the cradle it was sync’ed to my PC and couldn’t locate Exchange via the cradle, however once removed it used it’s WiFi connection and found Exchange.
Track all those important meetings and contacts, great for when you’re stuck in a traffic jam wondering if you’re going to miss a meeting!
For some reason I just can’t Task’s to sync
Clumsy configuration process

A friend launched a GPS Walk site and I was keen to add the stored walks. So a mobile GPS unit seemed the idea choice. After installed the .net framework and the GPSWalk software I again hit the WM5 unhelpful configuration. After a lot of guess work and  searching development forums I finally managed to get GPSWalk to work. The problem was a combination of hardware and WM5 historical issues. The Loox allows you to specify the COM port to use for GPS but that’s a pre-WM5 virtual GPS layer technique. Essentially if your software doesn’t use the GPS layer then you have to specify your port, if it does use the newer layer then you must *not* specify the port. Again absolutely no help from WM5.
Good, mobile, GPS device
Works with a number of GPS applications
Sucks on the batteries

Car SatNav – Traffic Avoidance
Before buying the Loox I read a number of reviews about TMC where the SatNav can direct you around traffic jams before you meet them, excellent. I bought Navigon 5 from ebay and a TMC module for the car. After a brief struggle getting Navigon to find the GPS (see above) I couldn’t find the TMC module. Turns out to be a problem with Navigon and I needed to buy a newer version from ebay. I finally got that, from someone with a n560 that couldn’t get it to work <oops>, and both GPS and TMC worked. However, the TMC module only ever finds a TMC single when the car is parked. As soon as I move it loses the signal, so the only time it knows about jams is when I’m stuck in one!
Very good and clear instructions from Navigon 5, much better than others I’ve seen.
TMC just doesn’t work as advertised

.Net Development
Choosing a WM5 device meant that I can write software for it. It’s been very easy to do, I’ve written a couple of utilities and the publishing and debugging have worked very well with Visual Studio.
Easy to develop, same skill set
None so far

Network Music Player/ Media controller
I have the typical issue of having a large amount of my music connection held on a PC sitting upstairs and I want to play tracks through my HiFi downstairs. With a bit of research and through the use of PocketMusic and NetUse I can stream music over WiFi via the Loox, into my Hifi. Not only that but the Loox is essentially a remote control too, since I can see all the usual playlist information.
Stream music
Can take a fair amount of time to initialise the playlist as it seems to check every time you connect. So much so that I’m looking at other solutions.

Casual Web Browsing
This is the ace for me, "what else has that actor been in", is a not uncommon question in my household. So rather than boot a machine up the Loox is on IMDB in a flash.
Quick to browse the web, excellent resolution from the Loox. Good at playing short webcasts.
Pocket IE can make a mess of some sites, sites fault or IE, hmm – mostly IE I think.
WiFi connection is just plain odd, at home it always works but connecting to other public sites is more miss than hit.

General Note taking
I hate taking notes on forests of paper to simply type them up later. The Loox allows me to take notes and sync’ them with a PC later.
Easy to carry note taker
The input method isn’t great. The Ink implementation is very poor compared to the excellent version in Vista, a real shame. Essentially I take notes and correct them later, "x is not cc" – one day I’ll get that working.

Overall it’s been a fairly good experience, although I cannot recommend it for use by a non-IT literate person. The lack of help for a modern device is truly appalling. The fact that I’m scared to change settings is very telling, and the failure to connect to other WiFi spots is very annoying.

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