Things I hate about PocketPC

I purchased a Toshiba PocketPC in June 2002. Its the 530 model, with both a MMS and Type I bay in it. Its a reasonable size, a little thick but not too bad, and a little too heavy for the top pocket of your shirt, but the screen is large and damn bright. The handwriting recognition is really good; I am impressed by this.

However, with all things, you can't get everything absolutely right. The following list are the things I'd like to get corrected.


The power of the PocketPC comes clear when you can connect it up and access network resporces; the web and your email being the big two. To do this you need to be able to connect to things; there are several choices: your local network, or via dialup of some sort.

When you're on the road, you don't want lots of little add ons that get lost or damaged. You need the flexaility to connect to a variety of different networks, and be able to securely retrieve the data you are after (more on the security in the next section). While all models do have infra red comms, and the next model up has the option of bluetooth or 802.11, there should be more done here.

Communicating over dialup is fine, but very expensive and generally very slow. Especially if your dailup is taking you around the globe to your modem pool. IR is good, but bluetooth should be a standard part of every one of these devices. Losing a connection and having to make a second phone call because the IR beam got knocked around is costly and slows you down a lot. With bluetooth, so long as you are always within range (around 10 m) then you should be able to keep working with no problems. Cost shouldn't be a factor; since bluethooth chips are coming down with volume being produced. A change of $1 per device isn't going to get noticed, but the feature will.

Communicating with local networks is also very important. Its also much faster and cheaper (if not free). However, these networks may e insecure or even hostile, so security is still important. The most common network connection in the world; and RJ45 socket, could easily fit on the top of the device. Giving this device a 10/100 connection would be a boon.

Beyond the wireed network, an 802.11b Wi-Fi connection is a big plus, but like always, security (regardless of WEP, since it is worthless) is still paramount.

Security and Encryption

Like most system administrators, I really like having backups. And this includes email. For that reason, I use IMAP. IMAP is an advanced mail setup, superior to POP. The next step up from IMAP is IMAPS, where the original IMAP protocol is done over SSL. This gives you end-to-end security of your password, and means that if you lose your device, you still have all your mail. You can switch between many mail readers and still have all your sent items, inbox, and other folders accessible.

Unfortunately, the mail client in PocketPC 2002 does not have any support for IMAPS, but just IMAP. While that is fine if you are using a mobile phone and your IR, it is more of a problem if you (a) don't trust GSM mobile encryption (which can be broken), (b) don't trust the wireed phone network, or (c) have to connect via an insecured network of any type. IMAPS can give you the security you need for your passwords. Really, the entire device should have support to do everything over an encrypted protocol. Despite the VPN support (which is good to see), using that VPN can be difficult (some require GRE sockets in the reverse direction, which will fail if on your client network your pocket PC is attached to there is a firewall/NAT box).

And while not essential, an easy to use SSH client would be useful for the odd time you need to shell to a system; however, typing on the screen is not as easy as using a keyboard, but for the odd time it can get you to do what has to be done! In fact, being able to set up arbitary encrypted network tunnels would be very useful. Eg: localhost:8800 to remote:9999 or whatever, and then be able to point applications at the local tunnel endpoint and know it is secured would be nice.


Printing. IR printing, TCP SMB printing, TCP IPP (or IPPS) printing. Getting hardcopies of your document is required sometimes. Why can't this device print?

Time. Can we get an NTP time client on here? And do it properly; store the time in UTC, and ask the user which timezone they are in. Have an otion to query mobile phones (via IR or bluetooth) to get the current GSM network time, and then prompt the user if they aren't in that timezone (or make this configurable, so the user can chose their timezone and stay in it).

Linux Drivers: would be nice to mount the device via its USB port, and access everything in it. Then we can do much better syncing of the data on it in user space. Doing this via TCP (over SSL) or bluetooth (SSL) or 802.11b (again using SSL) or ethernet (SSL) or IR (just for consistency, use SSL again!) would be great. Having this scriptable so that every time you get an interface, you can sync up to a server you have defined (over SSL) means that you will always have a valid backup.

VNC is really cool. However, I think Microsoft doesn't like it; their licence for Windows XP aparently outlaws using it. Phoey on MS. I'd like VNC for ARM to run on this! Again, witht he option of running VNC over SSL.

Thats it

Apart from the above few things, this device isn't too bad.