BitBank Software Virtual CE 2.0

As you read this article, chances are you are in one of two scenarios.

Scenario one is that you are either in an airplane or in an airport waiting to go out to the next Avanade customer site. Your laptop is open and your Pocket PC or Handheld PC is tucked away in your bag (that is unless you are sophisticated and are reading this article on your PPC or HPC!)

Scenario two is your are in your Development Center, reading this article, with your Pocket PC or Handheld PC sitting in it's docking station next to your laptop. If you need to access information on your PPC or HPC, you pick up your stylus and start tapping away until you find what you need.

What if you could access your entire Pocket PC or Handheld PC from your laptop? You would not have to move your hands from your keyboard and mouse and could find whatever you need on your PPC or HPC as easily as you could if you were working on it directly.

Larry Bank, President of BitBank Software, has developed such a product in Virtual CE. The product allows users a full range of connectivity options and allows one to completely control any aspect of their PPC or HPC, including running applications.

You can run any application on your Handheld PC or Pocket PC by clicking the Start button with your laptop's mouse

Virtual CE can be connected to your base PC through serial connections, LAN or WAN connections and through Active Sync. The quality of your image and your frame rate is dependent on your connection speed but any of these methods will work. Serial connections are the slowest while LAN connections are the fastest.

Once you are connected, you can adjust the frame rate from anywhere from 1 frame-per-second up to 15 frames-per-second using the configuration tool (the wrench icon on the menu bar).

Configuration dialogue

For normal use you will want to choose as high a frame rate as possible while slower frame rates are will work fine for viewing static information on your PPC or HPC. To help speed your frame rate up, you can also drop your connection image quality from high resolution (64K) to low resolution (4K).

 

High resoloution...

 

... and Low Resolution


Low resolution of Virtual CE

With the connection made and the frame rate adjusted, you are now able to virtually control your PPC or HPC with your mouse and keyboard. If you click on your Start button on your virtual view, you will pull down the start menu for you CE-based device. Opening and closing applications and files is a mouse-click away. Further, if you need to write a Task or Pocket Word document, all you need to do is open the application on your Pocket PC or Handheld PC from Virtual CE, then type in your information as you would if you were working on your working on your CE device directly.

As a developer, it is sometimes necessary to have screenshots of the work on your Pocket PC or Handheld PC. Virtual CE has a built in screen shot capability that I personally find better than most stand alone screen shot applications available for CE-based devices.

Once the information you need to capture is displayed on your virtual screen, simply click the printer icon on the menu and you are prompted to provide a file name and directory where to save the file. The files are saved in .BMP format, which can easily be converted to a more space and web-friendly .JPEG or .GIF format with most graphics applications (such as Adobe Photoshop (http://www.adobe.com) or Jasc, Inc.'s Paint Shop Pro (http://www.jasc.com ). The screenshot you see below is of Conduit's Pocket Artist taken with Virtual CE.

 

Running Conduit's Pocket Artist via Virtual CE

Virtual CE has two different versions, a standard edition and a professional edition. What separates these two editions is the professional's ability to create .AVI files of work being done on the Pocket PC or Handheld PC that is connected to the base PC. This function is helpful in creating tutorials for fellow employees or clients which Avanade has developed CE-based applications.

To create the .AVI file, click on the record icon on the Virtual CE menu bar. You are prompted for a file name and directory location. Once you save this information, the recording immediately begins. To stop the recording, press the stop icon on the menu bar.

The files are created in an uncompressed .AVI format which can make the files quite large if recording is done over an extended amount of time. Fortunately this format is also editable and convertible to many formats such as .MPEG or .WMV using available tools (You can create .WMV files using the free Windows Media Editor 7.1. This editor is available at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmedia).

In my list of "must-have" software for Pocket PC or Handheld PC, BitBank's Virtual CE is on it.

Virtual CE is currently in version 2.0 with the next revision, 2.1 in public beta at the time of this writing. The standard edition is available for $9.95 while the professional edition is $19.95. Both versions are available in 30-day trial versions.

System Requirements:

Windows CE 2.11 and above
SH3, StrongARM, MIPS

Rating  
Cost: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Usability: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Built-In helps: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Customer Service: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Overall: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional

Virtual CE 2.0 can be found at the following URL.
http://www.bitbanksoftware.com/

Clinton Fitch
Chief Reviews Editor