I hope you'll forgive me if I vent a little. I just discovered that Microsoft has apparently removed content from the companion CD-ROM that ships with Pocket PC 2002 devices, and I'm annoyed.

What's missing from the CD-ROM? Pocket Streets, which Microsoft supplied—free of charge—with all previous Windows CE-based PC companion devices (including earlier Pocket PCs). For those devices, the companion CD-ROM contained a Pocket Streets folder that included the setup program and a folder full of maps. Instead, the Pocket PC 2002 companion CD-ROM now contains only a link to the Pocket Streets Web site, which provides information about how to buy the program. (Pocket Streets is included with Microsoft's Streets and Trips 2002—$39.95—and MapPoint 2002—$295.)

Pocket Streets has consistently been one of the best ways to demonstrate the usefulness of a Pocket PC. After you load an appropriate map, you can zoom in on any location and see a detailed, full-color view that includes points of interest such as restaurants and hotels. I've used the software for years whenever I've traveled to create custom maps with Streets and Trips or to grab a preformatted map off the CD-ROM.

I have a call in to Microsoft to find out why the company is no longer including the software on the CD-ROM; I suspect part of the reason is lack of space. But Microsoft should make the program available for download from its Web site rather than requiring customers to buy it.

While I'm on the subject, one aspect of Pocket Streets annoys me: Microsoft changes the software's file format with each version and doesn't make any provision for backward compatibility. As a result, you can use your custom maps only with the version of Pocket Streets that you used to create them. When you get a new version of the software, plan to make new maps.

Fortunately, I've found an alternative way to use a Pocket PC for navigation that is even more useful than Pocket Streets: Mobile MapQuest. This software provides turn-by-turn driving directions, plus local maps for any address in the United States, and it's free. You can download driving directions and local maps to your Pocket PC from MapQuest's Web site; if you have a wireless modem, you can do so even when you're on the road. Although Mobile MapQuest lacks Pocket Streets' points of interest, in my opinion MapQuest's driving directions more than make up for that shortcoming.