Networking PDAs: The software side

ITworld.com –

Last time, we discussed various hardware options for connecting Palm OS, Windows CE, and other PDAs to a network. Of course, hardware is only half of the battle. To network anything you need a combination of hardware and software. Whether you own a Windows CE device or one of the Palm platforms, your PDA can play on your LAN nearly as well as desktop machines or laptops.

Don't assume, however, that all the network software you need is in the PDA box. Although network applications come preinstalled on many PDAs, they may not be enough to get the job done.

Let's start with Windows CE and Pocket PC devices. While Windows CE may look a lot like Windows 9x, many of its preinstalled applications support networking in a quirky fashion. For example, the built-in CE version of Internet Explorer is slow and has such limited security capabilities that sites that require strong encryption, like certain Web banks, may lock you out.

Then there's the matter of matching the network software to the specific processor inside your Windows CE device. If the software doesn't support the processor in your PDA, it won't run properly. CE download sites usually list the processors their software works with.

Fortunately, there is CE networking software readily available that is more robust than what is available out of the box. For example, Foliage Software Systems' iBrowser is a full-featured Web browser developed for use on Windows CE systems.

In addition, Ruksun Software Technologies has released a number of Windows CE-based network applications, including:

  • Messenger Force, an instant messenger application
  • Scotty FTP, a graphical FTP client
  • Telnet Force, a Telnet client with VT100 emulation
  • News Force, an offline Usenet news reader
  • IMAP Force, an enhanced email package that supports both IMAP and POP3

River Run's Mail on the Run! doesn't interface directly with a mail server. Instead, it uses a PC as an intermediary between the PDA and the mail server. This may not suit your needs, though, considering that you can simply launch a POP3 or IMAP4 client on the PDA and get a simpler, cleaner direct connection.

Look for other packages at CEArchives.com, ce4you, and CEWindows.net.

Networking the Palm

When it comes to network software, the Palm platform has more shareware and commercial products to chose from than Windows CE. You can find Palm network applications at a number of Websites, including Tucows and PilotGear.

Here's a random sampling of the applications available. Most of them are shareware. There are many more than I have space to mention here. Try more than one in each category until you find one you like.

Want to surf the Net with your Palm? Try Auctioneer, PalmScape, Pendragon Browser, QuikUrl or Web Tracker. Need Telnet capabilities? AccessIt and Palm Term can get the job done. Want to access your email? Try Qualcomm's Eudora Internet Suite, Actual Software Corporation's MultiMail PRO, or TopGun PostMan. Usenet news? Check out NewsPad or Yanoff.

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