Windows CE Meets Window NT

Here's the how-to that the documentation doesn't provide

You've probably heard a lot about Windows Consumer Electronics (Windows CE), Microsoft's entry into the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) market. With strong third-party support for Windows CE (90 companies have announced products) and big-name OEMs such as Casio, Compaq, HP, Hitachi, LG Electronics, NEC, and Philips, Microsoft is sure to be a major force in the burgeoning PDA marketplace.

Learning about such Windows CE and the configuration of a Windows CE PDA is all well and good, and I'll give you some overview information. But because this is Window NT Magazine, I'm more interested in showing you how to make a Windows CE machine work with Windows NT 4.0.

The unit I learned on is the Compaq PC Companion, with 4MB of RAM, a 480*240 back lit display (monochrome), and a PC Card slot. The Power Pack option comes with Quick Connect, AC adapter, NiMH battery pack, and battery charger for $95, and the Convenience Cradle for desktop use for $35.

The PC Companion comes with a mountain of software. Table 1 lists the software in the bundle and some third-party software for Windows CE.

OK, Enough with the Overview
With Windows CE, Microsoft bundles Handheld PC Explorer (HPC Explorer) Information Management Software. Naturally, Windows CE works well with Windows 95, but if you want to use Windows CE with Windows NT, you are relegated to the special "technology preview" version of HPC Explorer.

You start by inserting your Windows CE CD-ROM into your NT machine. If you are running NT 4.0 and haven't turned off the autorun CD function, up comes a dialog box that says something like, "You're running NT! We don't support it, but we have an unofficial technology preview that will work. If you have problems don't call."

When Windows CE finishes installing, you need to configure Remote Access Service (RAS) to make Windows CE work. Seems Windows CE calls your NT machine via RAS.

If you have a RAS device already configured, save the configuration and delete the device. This action will save you countless hours of frustration. You will reinstall it later.

A couple of pre-requisites: You must be running NT 4.0 final release (no beta stuff). I ran 1381 Service Pack 1 for this configuration. You must also run Microsoft Schedule+ 7.01 for Windows NT, and it must be installed to synchronize with the information manager on your PDA.

Let me detail the process of installing Windows CE. I derived much of this process from the read_nt file on the Windows CE CD-ROM, and I have clarified and added some steps to add functionality. I've divided the process into three phases.

Phase 1
1. Open Control Panel, and double-click the Network icon.

2. Select the Service tab. If RAS is installed, skip to step 7.

3. If RAS is not installed, install RAS

4. Press Add, select Remote Access Service, and click OK

5. Type the location of your setup files in the dialog box, then click Continue.

6. Click Yes to complete the installation. If you don't have any COM ports installed, skip to step 9. Otherwise, proceed to step 7.

7. Select Remote Access Service from the Network services list, and select Properties.

8. Remove COM ports that have been previously configured. This step is important because this version of HPC Explorer can get confused if you leave your COM ports installed. Adding them back in is much easier than dealing with the results if you don't take them out (the Microsoft documentation doesn't even recommend doing that!).

9. Click Add, then Install modem.

10. Check Don't detect my modem; I will select it from a list, as you seen Screen 1. Click Next.

11. You'll see two windows: Manufacturers is on the left, and Models is on the right, as Screen 2 shows. In the Manufacturers list, select Standard Modem Types. In the Models list, select Dial-Up Networking Serial Cable between 2 PCs. Click Next.

12. Click Selected ports, choose the COM port to connect your PDA, and click Next.

13. Enter anything (e.g., 800) if you are prompted for an area code, then click Finish.

That action completes the first portion of installation. Now you're ready for Phase 2, the RAS part of installation.

Phase 2
1. Select the port to connect to your HPC, and press OK.

2. In the Remote Access Setup dialog box, select the port for your PDA, and choose Configure. (Remember you might already have had a port installed and deleted it, and then reinstalled something different.)

3. Choose Receive calls only, and click OK.

4. Choose the Remote Access Setup dialog box, and then Network.

5. Choose Server Settings, and make sure that TCP/IP is the only box checked.

6. Click Configure for TCP/IP, and check This computer only. Then you see the RAS Server TCP/IP Configuration dialog box depicted in Screen 3.

7. Choose Use static address pool, and enter in the Begin dialog box and in the End dialog box. (Microsoft specifies these parameters. In the final static address pool in Screen 3, notice that I needed to add 10 to the number of allocated IP addresses.)

8. Make sure that Allow remote clients to request a predetermined IP address is not checked. This software requires a certain range of IP addresses.

9. Click OK, then Close. If you are prompted for Microsoft TCP/IP properties, click OK.

10. Reboot when prompted.

With this phase complete, you can go into the depths of the Registry to finish. On to Phase 3.

Phase 3
What technology preview is complete without some Registry spelunking? Add the following value to your Registry to disable the default disconnect after 20 minutes. Otherwise, while your PDA sits idle waiting for the next address to be entered or for another action, RAS disconnects and you must continually re-establish connections.


Key: System\CurrentControlSet\Services\RemoteAccess\Parameters

Add the following value under the Parameters key:

Value Name: Autodisconnect

Value Type: REG_DWORD

Data: 0

Attach one end of your serial cable to the PDA and the other end to the NT machine. You will see a prompt for Username. Enter a Guest password, press Enter and a domain, and press Enter again. The Setup New Partner wizard will complete the installation by preparing your NT and CE machines for synchronization.

If you had a RAS device installed and deleted it, follow the installation instructions for adding a new RAS device (Phase 1, steps 6 through 10). An error message will say you don't have enough static pool entries. You need to expand the range (Phase 2, steps 4 through 7). Change the value in the End box from to If you're using real connections and happen to use those particular IP addresses, you'll have trouble. But if you don't use those addresses, this solution works well. I use it successfully with both our LAN connection and also with RAS dialup. Finish configuring your dialup modem device, and use it like any RAS device.

When I use my PDA with NT, I've had a couple of problems. Luckily, I have found workarounds for them, too.

When you boot your NT machine, your PDA tries to establish a connection before the boot process is complete. An error message appears on the PDA. Ignore it. Press Cancel, and wait for the NT machine to finish booting. You can establish a connection from your PDA to the NT machine by selecting the PC Link icon, under the Programs\Communications folder from the start menu.

Sometimes, connecting to the NT machine from the HPC machine is difficult. It generally takes a couple of tries. If you fail the first time, try this: Select HPC Explorer application (which you see in Screen 4) from your NT desktop. Let the process time out and fail, and then select PC link from the HPC. This approach works every time for me. Or, you can change the speed of your RAS connection (see the read_nt file for the particulars).

If you cannot establish a connection between your PDA and your desktop, make sure to select the user right, Log on locally. (Screen 5 shows this right granted to Administrators.) You can modify this right from the User Manager applet.

Some Ideas
These steps will get you going with Windows CE and NT. After my trial-and-error experience with the Compaq PC Companion, Windows CE, and NT, I have some thoughts about how this combination compares with the U.S. Robotics Pilot (for more information about that platform, see Mark Smith, "NT Stuff We Like," January 1997, and "U.S. Robotics Pilot," February 1997).

The Compaq PC Companion is large. You don't want to just stick it in your shirt pocket and go. It fits, but if you lean over, the PC Companion tumbles out onto the floor. But this machine runs Windows CE, which is Windows: If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, you know Pocket Word. If you know Schedule+, the Windows CE version won't present a problem. So this new hardware and its OS are far more powerful than my Pilot, and the PC Companion now is in my shirt pocket more often than my Pilot. Now if Microsoft would just release a real NT version of the connection software, I would be happy.

TABLE 1: Windows CE Software
Microsoft Software Bundle Handheld PC Explorer, Information Management Software
Inbox (Exchange-like client), Microsoft Schedule+, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Pocket Internet Explorer, Pocket Help
Remote Dial-Up Networking, Terminal World Clock, Calculator, Solitaire
Third-Party Software Desktop To Go
by DataViz
(provides file compatibility with non-Microsoft PIM, word processor, and spreadsheet applications)
Mail on the Run!
by River Run Software Group
(provides support for Microsoft Mail and Lotus cc:Mail)
PC Companion
Compaq * 800-345-1518
Windows CE
Microsoft * 206-882-8080
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