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May 1, 2003--In this issue:
1. MOBILE & WIRELESS PERSPECTIVES - .NET Compact Framework: More Best Practices
2. ANNOUNCEMENTS - Windows & .NET Magazine Connections: Win a Florida Vacation - Sample Our Security Administrator Newsletter!
3. INSTANT POLL - Results Of Previous Poll: Have You Tried Voice Input? - New Instant Poll: WLAN Usage
4. RESOURCE - Event Highlight: Mobile Americas 2003
5. NEW AND IMPROVED - Monitor and Analyze Ethernet and 802.11b Networks
6. CONTACT US - See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
* .NET COMPACT FRAMEWORK: MORE BEST PRACTICES In the April 17 Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, I shared some best practices for working with the Windows .NET Compact Framework. This week, I want to continue looking at best practices, this time focusing on usability and deployment.
When you develop mobile applications within the Compact Framework, usability is a key consideration. Users navigate mobile applications quite differently from the way they use desktop, laptop, and even Web applications. If you design a mobile application's interface correctly, the application will be intuitive and require little training and ongoing support. Here are some usability tips:
- Avoid requiring intensive data entry. Best practice is to let users select options and data. If you can't get around a certain amount of data entry, you can have users use the Software Input Panel (SIP), but I've found that users prefer using the Pocket PC Transcriber for natural handwriting input.
- Enable device hardware buttons whenever possible, and avoid requiring the use of the stylus for repetitive and general actions. The up and down spinner buttons and the select button are examples of hardware buttons that let the user easily navigate lists and select options.
- Avoid presenting too many options to the user on each form. If you reduce the number of options, the user can more easily determine what he or she needs to do next. If you must provide additional options, place them in secondary menus to which the user can navigate, if necessary.
- Whenever possible, use large buttons so that users can easily make selections. Consider that many field users wear gloves or work in outdoor conditions. The easier a button is to press, the better.
To conclude this discussion of best practices for the Compact Framework, I want to talk about deployment. Remember that Compact Framework applications run locally on the mobile device and most often use local data storage. You need to get the application to the device for local usage. Therefore, you need to consider the best way to initially deploy the application to mobile devices and how to redeploy updated applications. Here are some deployment tips:
- Avoid using Microsoft ActiveSync from a desktop computer to deploy applications. Desktop ActiveSync requires that you have a PC, and you can deploy to only one device at a time.
- Use automatic distribution mechanisms--such as emailing compressed cabinet format (CAB) files or Web downloading CAB files--or other advanced software-distribution mechanisms, such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) or XcelleNet's Afaria. In my experience, using a Web interface to download CAB files is a simple but effective approach. Doing so involves creating an administrative Web site that contains links to relevant CAB files: You connect to the site from Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer (IE), click the appropriate link, and can then download and automatically install and reinstall applications.
- Use separate CAB files for prerequisites and individual applications. Separate CAB files let you separately download and install the prerequisites such as Compact Framework core components, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition 2.0, and other base functionality. After you install these core components, you can easily deploy and redeploy specific applications.
If you heed these best practices for developing and implementing Compact Framework applications, you'll be able to develop rapidly, access data effectively, ensure efficient application performance, and deploy applications to end users quickly. Nearly 300,000 developers are working on Pocket PC applications worldwide. Considering that more than 7 million Windows developers can now use the Compact Framework and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003 to rapidly develop mobile applications, I'm sure we'll start seeing many powerful solutions from many companies.
* WINDOWS & .NET MAGAZINE CONNECTIONS: WIN A FLORIDA VACATION Register now for this exclusive opportunity to learn in-person from your favorite writers you know and trust. All attendees will receive a free 1-year subscription to Windows & .NET Magazine, plus a chance to win a Florida vacation for two. Connections is simply the best lineup of technical training for today's Windows IT professional. Register now: http://www.winconnections.com
* SAMPLE OUR SECURITY ADMINISTRATOR NEWSLETTER! If you spend the better part of your day dealing with security concerns such as controlling user access, viruses, and tightening your network's permeability, then you can benefit from the type of information we publish each month in Security Administrator. Every issue shows you how to protect your enterprise with informative, in-depth articles, timely tips, and practical advice. Sample our most recent issue today! http://www.secadministrator.com/rd.cfm?code=fsei253xup
* RESULTS OF PREVIOUS POLL: HAVE YOU TRIED VOICE INPUT? The voting has closed in Windows & .NET Magazine's Mobile & Wireless Solutions nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Have you tried voice input for data entry?" Here are the results from the 40 votes: - 5% Yes, I don't understand how I ever lived without it - 8% Yes, I find it mildly useful - 43% Yes, once or twice - 28% No, but I'm dying to give it a try - 18% No, I don't think it would benefit me
(Deviations from 100 percent are due to rounding error.)
* NEW INSTANT POLL: WLAN USAGE The next Instant Poll question is, "What do you use your wireless LAN (WLAN) for?" Go to the Mobile & Wireless Solutions Web site and submit your vote for a) Vertical market (e.g., specialized enterprise application), b) Horizontal market (e.g., email, Web access), or c) Both. http://www.mobile-and-wireless.com
* EVENT HIGHLIGHT: MOBILE AMERICAS 2003 May 19 through 21 Miami, Florida
At Mobile Americas 2003, the focus is wireless profitability and migration. You'll learn about clear strategies and positive solutions to real-world problems facing service providers throughout North America and South America. This content-driven forum not only is technology-inclusive but also addresses your need to immediately find the best of new and existing applications and solutions that are helping pan-American mobile operators to grow revenues, cut operating expenses, and provide customers next-generation mobile technologies and services. For more information, go to the following URL. http://www.iirusa.com/mobileamericas
For other upcoming events, check out the Windows & .NET Magazine Event Calendar. http://www.winnetmag.com/events/calendar
* MONITOR AND ANALYZE ETHERNET AND 802.11B NETWORKS Baseband Technologies released LinkFerret 3.06, an Ethernet and 802.11b network monitor and analyzer for Windows. LinkFerret not only captures and displays network data but also breaks down protocol data and network statistics in realtime. LinkFerret displays protocol, statistic, and timing information in a variety of formats so that you can choose the options and displays that are best suited for your current task. The monitor also reads and writes packet trace files in different formats. Pricing is $249. Contact Baseband Technologies at 508-757-2034. http://www.linkferret.ws
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