Use a low-power OS to access high-power networks

When you think about Windows-based net-work client OSs, Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro), Windows NT Workstation, Windows 9x, and Windows 3.x probably come to mind. You might not consider Windows CE, but you should.

Windows CE is a lightweight Win32 OS designed for portable devices in a low-memory environment. Whereas other OSs reside on the hard disk, Windows CE resides in read-only memory (ROM). In fact, Windows CE devices rarely have hard disks. Rather than going through the entire boot sequence to load the OS (i.e., counting memory, recognizing the disk, reading the disk, loading the important files from the disk into memory), a Windows CE device can start the OS as soon as you turn the device on. You can quickly load files and start applications because you don't have to wait for a hard disk to spin up. Windows CE devices store data and applications in memory, where you can access them instantly.

Windows CE devices have specialized functions that can take several forms. Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) help you keep track of appointments and contact information. Windows-based terminals (WBTs) don't have locally installed applications, but the devices come with the RDP and Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) display protocols. Thus, WBTs can connect to NT and Citrix MetaFrame terminal servers and run applications from these servers. Hand-held PCs (H/PCs) run limited-feature versions of productivity applications that you can use to supplement your desktop PC.

In this article, I discuss the benefits of Windows CE, and I explain how two Windows CE devices—WBTs and H/PCs—can interoperate with Windows 2000- (Win2K-) and NT-based networks. I also discuss how to set up these devices.

Windows CE Benefits
Windows CE supports only a subset of the Win32 API, so the OS can't do everything that NT and Win9x can. However, Windows CE's limitations give it certain advantages. The OS is great for portable devices. Accessing a hard disk or CD-ROM is a power-hungry operation. Windows CE devices don't need hard disks because the OS can fit in ROM. Thus, portable Windows CE devices have a much longer battery life than laptop computers running NT or Win9x do. Storing the smaller OS doesn't take up much memory, so Windows CE WBTs don't require nearly as much memory as NT-embedded WBTs such as Netier's NetXpress. Using less memory helps keep unit costs down.

Windows CE devices are easy to manage. They typically have few moving parts (e.g., no hard disks, no CD-ROM drives), so they're less likely to break than full-fledged PCs are. To update a Windows CE device with new applications or drivers, you use a desktop PC set up to manage Windows CE devices. For example, to update NCD's WBTs to use NCD ThinPATH Plus, you need to configure only one server to update the terminal clients. You configure each WBT to find its management server, which you load updates on. Then, you cycle the power on the WBTs to let them download changes and update their flash memory. Similarly, to manage several H/PCs, you can partner them with one NT desktop machine. If you updated the Windows CE services on the NT machine, the H/PCs would update the next time they connected to it.

Finally, Windows CE devices let you run applications without all the overhead of a PC. The types of applications you can run on a Windows CE device and the conditions under which you can run them vary. Because WBTs access applications from a terminal server, they can run any applications that run on NT in a terminal server environment. However, a WBT can run these applications only if the device is connected to a terminal server. H/PCs and PDAs can't run Win32 applications, but they can run limited-function Windows CE applications that they store in memory. Some of these limited applications are more useful than others. For example, you can use Microsoft Pocket Word to create simple text documents that you can later import into Word for final touches, but Microsoft Pocket PowerPoint can only display PowerPoint presentations—so if you're using an H/PC to power a slide show, you can't edit the presentation file before showtime.

Windows CE WBTs
A WBT is a device designed expressly for communicating with a terminal server. (For information about terminal services and terminal servers, see the sidebar "Terminal Services and Terminal Servers.") The first Windows CE-based WBTs hit the market in the fall of 1998. Not all WBTs use Windows CE for their local OS, but many do. Windows CE is the only low-memory OS that supports RDP. Thus, you need Windows CE WBTs if you want to connect to terminal servers that aren't running MetaFrame. For a list of Windows CE WBTs, see "Windows CE-based WBTs."

Setting up a Windows CE WBT to use on a Win2K or NT network is easy: You plug the keyboard, monitor, and mouse into the appropriate ports, and you connect the device to the network. When you power up a WBT for the first time, the device walks you through a setup wizard that prompts you to accept the license agreement and choose a display protocol to use. If the WBT didn't find a DHCP server, you need to provide the name of one. You can also specify a static IP address.

After you complete the basic setup, you can create terminal server connections. A wizard lets you specify the settings for each connection, such as the name of the terminal server and whether you want to access the desktop or run an application. To connect to the terminal server, you double-click the connection from the WBT. After you connect to the terminal server, you'll see the Win2K or NT domain logon screen. Logging on to the network via a terminal session is like logging on to the network from a PC: To connect to a terminal server, you must provide your user account name, your password, and the domain name (if you're logging on to the domain instead of just one server). After the network authenticates you, the WBT's monitor displays the Win2K Server or NT Server desktop. The desktop configuration depends on your user ID's profile and policy settings.

Windows CE-based WBTs
ADDONICS COMMUNICATIONS
ART 3000, 4000 series
http://www.addcom.com * 510-438-5230 or 888-291-1224
BOUNDLESS TECHNOLOGIES
Capio 320, 325; Viewpoint TC 300, 320, 325
http://www.boundless.com * 516-342-7400 or 800-231-5445
CEDAR SYSTEMS
NutShell
http://www.cedarsystems.com * 425-452-9496
ESPRIT SYSTEMS
200-TC; 400-TC
http://www.espritsys.com * 408-954-9900 or 800-937-7748
HP
NetVectra GT210, GT310
http://www.hp.com * 800-826-4111
MTX
eTerm 350
http://www.mtx.com * 918-628-2105
NEOWARE SYSTEMS
NeoStation 2000 series
http://www.neoware.com * 610-277-8300 or 800-636-9273
NETWORK COMPUTING DEVICES
NCD ThinSTAR 300
http://www.ncd.com * 650-694-0650 or 800-800-9599
TELEVIDEO
TeleCLIENT TC7150, TC7170
http://www.televideoinc.com * 408-954-8333
THINWORKS
e3000
http://www.thinworks.com * +46-8-654 39 00
VXL INSTRUMENTS
Winlinx Lite TC3000; Winlinx Pro TC3111
http://www.vxl.co.uk * 215-269-3339
WYSE TECHNOLOGY
Winterm 200, 3000 series
http://www.wyse.com * 408-473-1200 or 800-438-9973

Windows CE H/PCs
An H/PC looks like and functions as a lightweight laptop computer. A typical unit is the size of an appointment book and has an external video port, Universal Serial Bus (USB) port, modem port, and two slots for PC Card and socket devices. (Socket devices are low-power add-in cards for H/PCs.) An H/PC comes with a browser, utilities that help you configure the device to synchronize with a desktop partner, Microsoft Pocket Outlook for email and scheduling, a Control Panel from which you can view and edit system configuration settings, and a suite of lightweight productivity applications (e.g., Microsoft Pocket Office applications). For a list of Windows CE H/PCs, see "Windows CE-based H/PCs."

Setting up an H/PC to communicate with Win2K or NT is more complicated than setting up a WBT. You have two choices for configuring an H/PC to function on an NT network. You can use a serial cable, infrared connection, or add-in network card to partner the device with a desktop computer; or you can download a Windows CE-compatible display protocol from the Internet, install the protocol on the H/PC, and connect the H/PC to a terminal server via a network connection.

Because H/PCs aren't network-aware by default and don't have 3.5" drives, you need to partner an H/PC with a desktop machine before you can use the device. Partnering a Windows CE device with a desktop machine doesn't make the H/PC a client on the network but does let the two computers share files. The only way to copy data files to the H/PC or install software on the device is through its desktop partner.

To set up a partnership, insert the H/PC's Windows CE Services CD-ROM into the desktop partner's drive and run the Setup program. As Screen 1, page 74, shows, the installation process involves two steps. First, you install Microsoft Schedule+ so that the two computers can communicate. Then, you install Windows CE Services.

Installing Schedule+ is a simple process of agreeing to the device's licensing agreement, entering your name and company name, and specifying an installation folder for the files. The installation process prompts you to specify the Schedule+ components that you want to install and to choose a program group for the tool. The setup program then copies the files to the desktop partner.

Setting up Windows CE Services consists of installing the support files and ensuring that NT is running the services necessary to support the synchronization. A standard setup wizard helps you install the support files: You simply agree to the End User License Agreement (EULA), enter your name and company name, select the services you want to install (you need to install Windows CE Services and the Pocket Outlook extensions), and specify a folder for the wizard to display the services from. The setup program then copies the files to the hard disk location you specified. To ensure that NT is running the necessary synchronization services, you install DUN capabilities to the serial connections, enable RAS for a communications port, and grant the current user dial-in permission, as Screen 2 shows. The only information you need to supply is the password for the person who will use the H/PC and its desktop partner. Although this process shows the username as a variable that you can change, you can't edit the box that contains the username. After you set up Windows CE Services, a new folder called Mobile Devices appears under My Computer. A small icon that shows the connection status between the H/PC and the desktop computer also appears in the system tray.

To connect the H/PC to the desktop computer, plug the serial cable that came with the device into a COM port on the desktop partner. If the desktop machine supports infrared, use the infrared ports on the two machines. Turn on the H/PC, and plug the serial cable into the jack on the side of the device. The H/PC connection will start automatically if you set up the device correctly. When the two computers connect, you'll receive a User Authenticated message and the icon in the system tray will show that the computers are communicating.

The Synchronized Files folder on the H/PC and its desktop partner represents an active link between the two computers. You can view the folder's contents on the desktop partner only while the two computers are connected. If a document is active on the H/PC, you can't move the file from the Synchronized Files folder until you close the document.

After you connect the two computers, you can use the desktop partner to manage the H/PC. You can exchange files between the computers, back up files on the H/PC, and install applications and drivers on the H/PC.

To install network support on the RDP client to let the H/PC connect to a terminal server, you need to install applications and drivers on the H/PC. You can use network support to synchronize the H/PC with its desktop partner from anywhere on the network—not just when the H/PC is plugged into the desktop machine's serial port or lined up with the infrared port. In addition to giving you location flexibility, synchronizing via the network is faster than the other methods.

Installing network support consists of installing Ethernet drivers on the NT desktop partner and downloading the drivers to the H/PC via the serial link. For example, to install socket drivers, you run the Setup program on the 3.5" disk that comes with the card and follow a simple wizard that shows you the README file. Then, the program copies the drivers to the desktop partner. The next time you connect the H/PC to the desktop partner, you see a message that asks whether you want to install the drivers in the default application directory. You can click Yes or specify a different location; the drivers then copy to the H/PC. On the H/PC, you must specify whether you want ActiveSync to start when you insert the network card. ActiveSync automatically synchronizes the H/PC with its desktop partner. You must also specify whether you want to use the H/PC's NE2000 drivers or drivers that came with the card.

To complete the network support installation, you need to reset the H/PC and configure the network card and network settings from the H/PC's Control Panel. In the Network applet, edit the Ethernet card driver's properties. NE2000 is the default driver, but your device might contain a different driver. You must supply a static IP address or select the option to obtain an IP address from a DHCP server. In the Name Servers tab of the driver's properties, you can supply the names of DNS or WINS servers if you're not using DHCP on the network. Double-click the Socket icon in the H/PC's Control Panel to configure network connection indicators that show whether a connection is active and to specify whether to start AutoSynch when you insert the Ethernet card into the H/PC.

After you install network support, you can make the H/PC a terminal services client on the network. You can download the RDP client for Windows CE from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsce/ products/download/term-serv.asp. When you download the client, a Web-based wizard tells you about terminal server licensing and provides a link that is supposed to let you buy more licenses if you need them. However, the link didn't work as of press time. After you install the client software on the NT desktop computer and download the software to the H/PC, the device is RDP-ready. (Citrix also offers an ICA client for Windows CE; you can download the client at http://download.citrix.com.) When you restart the H/PC, you see a new Terminal Server Client program group that includes a lightweight version of the Client Connection Manager (for creating custom connections) and the terminal server client from which you can enter the IP address or name of the terminal server that you want to connect to. The connection works like any other terminal server connection: You can use the terminal server after you enter your name, your password, and the domain you're logging on to. The H/PC runs the terminal server session in full-screen mode.

A Specialized OS
Windows CE is a useful OS for letting devices such as WBTs and H/PCs participate on Win2K and NT networks. Until the recent advent of NT-embedded WBTs, Windows CE WBTs were the only WBTs that supported RDP and therefore were the only devices you could use to connect to a terminal server running Win2K or NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition (WTS) without MetaFrame. You can partner a Windows CE H/PC with a desktop machine running a PC OS such as NT to use the device on a network. After you partner an H/PC with a desktop machine, you can modify the H/PC to support an Ethernet card, and even to support RDP. You can then use the H/PC as a terminal server client on the network and thus run Win32 applications on the terminal server from the H/PC. You can also use an H/PC or a WBT to remotely administer a terminal server from an account with administrative privileges. Windows CE is a specialized OS that isn't for full-blown PCs. However, you can combine the OS with Win2K or NT to make Windows CE devices useful participants on a network.

Windows CE-based H/PCs
CASIO
Cassiopeia A-20, A-10/A-11
http://www.casio.com * 800-327-1266
COMPAQ
Aero 8000 H/PC Pro; C-Series 2015C, 2010C
http://www.compaq.com * 800-888-0220
HP
Jornada 680, 820
http://www.hp.com * 888-999-4747
HITACHI AMERICA
HPW-200EC; HPW-600ET
http://www.hitachi.com * 800-448-2244
IBM
WorkPad z50
http://www.ibm.com * 888-411-1932
NEC
MobilePro 770, 800
http://www.neccsd.com * 800-524-0819
PHILIPS ELECTRONICS
Velo 500
http://www.philips.com * 800-326-6586
SHARP ELECTRONICS
Mobilon TriPad PV-6000; Mobilon Pro PV-5000; Mobilon HC-4100, HC-4500
http://www.sharp-usa.com * 201-529-8200
VADEM
Clio
http://www.vadem.com * 408-467-2100
WPI HUSKY TECHNOLOGY
Husky Field Explorer 21 (FeX21)
http://www.huskyinc.com * 727-530-4141