Access your desktop PC from your Pocket PC! (Part I)

UPDATE (03/20/2008):

1. should your WM5+ device lack it, you can download the excellent WM6 RDP client, RDM, from either HERE (linked from THIS thread), HERE or HERE (linked from THIS post in THIS thread). It works wonderfully on all WM5+ Pocket PC’s and Pocket PC phones (Windows Mobile 6 Pro / Classic devices). Note that there’s a thread at MoDaCo explaining using it on Smartphones (Windows Mobile 6 Standard devices). Also see for example THIS for a discussion of it.

2. I’ve published two, very thorough reviews in the meantime, both on SHAPE Services’ two remote desktop access applications.

The first is TSMobiles: Terminal Service Client for Mobiles, a Java-based RDP client. It works pretty well on Windows Mobile, both Pocket PC’s and MS Smartphones, under (the latest, 3.1 version of) Jbed, the best MIDlet manager for Windows Mobile. (Incidentally, this also shows what’s Java is capable of – this MIDlet is REALLY nice and fast, even with the Windows Mobile standards!)

The second is RDM+, which uses a proprietary protocol (NOT RDP, unlike the above-mentioned TSMobiles). It’s highly recommended if you, for example, need MS Smartphone compliance and/or file transfer and/or moderate costs but still a file transfer-capable access method.

UPDATE (06/02/2007): for quite a while, it was impossible to access the LogMeIn service from WM6 devices (from under IEM) because of the new (and, with the traditional hacks, not modifiable) User-Agent headers WM6 sends to the Web server. Fortunately, this problem has been fixed in the meantime as can be seen for example HERE. That is, now, LogMeIn DOES work under IEM in WM6.

I’ve frequently been asked whether there are Java midlet RDP clients runnable even on low-end mobile phones. Yes, there are; for example, TSMobiles by SHAPE Services. Incidentally, it also works on the MS Smartphone (WM Standard) platform. Note that, for the WM5+ Smartphone, you will want to prefer the WM6 RDP client with SPHelper, the mouse emulator; see THIS for more info. Also note that, should you need a VNC client for the Smartphone, you'll want to check out for example THIS client.
(end of update)

I’ve long been promising a generic roundup on accessing desktop Windows PC computers from Pocket PC’s, mostly because there aren’t really usable and/or up-to-date all-in-one articles on the subject, let alone comparative ones.

Getting this roundup ready took me a lot of time (over six weeks): much more than I’ve originally expected. The reason for this was that I’ve made some really serious bandwidth usage and networking model tests so that I can provide you as much objective, comparative information as possible. I have also very thoroughly tested the protocols used by these applications to find out internal weaknesses or lack of optimization. I’ve also been in really busy correspondence (asking about every single problem / question I’ve run into in their applications) with most of the authors of these titles; I’d like to thank Carsten Alsted Christiansen and Csaba Tutsek from Danware, Ditta Khan from NetSupport Ltd, Jan Frydendal from MochaSoft and Julie Geer & Heidi Wieland from Citrix Systems for their answering my questions. (The Symantec folks don’t have a working E-mail address and their online chat support (yes, it's outsourced to India), to put it mildly, leaves a lot to be desired. As far as Laplink is concerned, I haven’t received any answer to my mail sent to marketing [at] laplink [dot] com on 12/11/2006.) Also, special thanks goes to Minakshi Pai of 01 Communique and “Dave” from Parys Technografx for not only answering my questions, but also listening to my recommendations and ideas, some of them having already been incorporated into the most recent versions of these applications.

I’d also like to send special thanks to AximSite god akheron (he was of tremendous help in, for example, hunting for the trial version of pcAnywhere), H/PC Factor moderator (and also well-known contributor on many Handheld PC-related boards / forums) cmonex and forum member TFGBD for their help in their forums.

One of my main objectives with the thorough measurements was to provide an up-to-date bandwidth consumption report. Up to now, to my knowledge, it's only Jason Nieh that has published really usable bandwidth usage reports (I really recommend the articles on his just-linked homepage if you're into the subject). His, so far, most important PDA-related article, "Improving web browsing performance on wireless PDA’s using thin-client computing" (direct link to the article), which was published in 2004, contains pretty outdated and no-longer-topical information. With my measurements, I think I could produce a decent and, what is more, up-to-date overview of the bandwidth usage of current, real Pocket PC applications. By the way, still as far as Jason Nieh's PDA-related work is concerned, I especially recommend his article "pTHINC: A Thin-Client Architecture for Mobile Wireless Web" on a promising initiative. I really hope it will be released some day as a real Pocket PC product.

First, let me point out that I’ve “only” reviewed and compared “full” remote control solutions in here. This means I have not included multimedia- or scripting-only controllers. They will be reviewed in my forthcoming roundup. That is, if you “only” want to remote control, say, your desktop Windows Media Player or run your scripts when initiated from your Pocket PC, you may want to wait for the next article. (It’s, generally, much easier and much less resource-, including bandwidth, intensive to remote control a multimedia app or server-side scripts with a dedicated application than via a generic remote access application. That is, you won’t really want to remote control for example your WMP via, say, VNC.)

Also note that it’s not here that I have elaborated on the opposite direction; that is, controlling the Pocket PC from a desktop PC (or another Pocket PC). Please read this article for more information on this subject, making sure you also follow the links to my older articles.

Last but not least: most of the tangible information is in the 120 kbyte-long comparison and benchmark chart. In the non-chart-based part of this review, I only give a terse, broad, but in no way thorough overview of what the reviewed applications are all about and how they compare to each other. It’s also in here that I elaborate on the underlying protocols (RFB (in VNC), RDP (in Terminal Server/ Services aka (Microsoft) Remote Desktop)), the way you can decrease bandwidth usage (which is of paramount importance when you use, say, a non-unlimited mobile phone-based connection) etc. Most of the comparative, real, quantitive information and hundreds of screenshots (many of them functioning as a mini-tutorial showing how the mentioned/ discussed functionality can be enabled in a given application), however, are in the chart. Therefore, make sure you, for example, open the chart in a maximized browser window. If you have an UXGA (1600*1200) or an even wider screen (WUXGA, for example), then, you’ll be able to see all the 18 columns at once while still being able to read the text. With lower-resolution screens, you’ll end up having to scroll horizontally to be able to read all the information (and many state (W)UXGA screens are useless and should be avoided... :) ). Sorry for that: comparison / feature charts like this are still the best, the most compact and reliable way to compare products and list all their capabilities, unlike plain text-approaches many other reviews use. Note that I also thoroughly explain how the chart should be read in a later section.

1. Introduction

The aim of remote access applications is the same: to provide you access to your desktop computer(s) (in here, I'll refer to them as "remote desktops") when you’re away from them. You can control them from your client PC (or, in this case, Pocket PC) directly. That is, you can see the remote desktop on your (local) client PC (Pocket PC) as if it were running locally, right on your client and not somewhere else on the Internet far away. With some really advanced clients, you can also do direct file transfers, clipboard synchronization (for example, if you have a loooooong e-mail address in a local file / database on your local client (Pocket) PC, you only copy it to the local clipboard and, then, just synchronize the clipboard so that it also becomes available on the remote clipboard; this way, you can avoid having to re-enter it on the remote desktop by hand), remote administration and Personal Information Management (PIM) data (calendar, contacts and even mails) access in addition to “plain” remote controlling.

There are, basically, two kinds of remote access / control applications: 1. Web-based ones and 2. non-Web based ones.

In general, the former

  1. are much easier to set up on both the server and the client (except for, maybe, RDP-based, already built-in solutions like the RDP-based "Remote Desktop" in Windows XP Pro and Terminal Services Client (TSC) in most client-side Pocket PC’s). In most cases, when you plan to install the server on your desktop computer you want to access remotely, you just navigate to the homepage of the developer and let it download a server to your desktop PC, which, then, you just install (the latter is, in most cases, just clicking the “next” button and entering the username and/or password you’ll want to use). Furthermore, as far as client installs are concerned on any desktop PC or Pocket PC you come by, you just navigate to the above page and try to log into your remote PC. This will trigger a fully automated client download and install.
  2. give complete freedom to the subscribers in that they connect to their remote desktops really easily, independent of the networking model of their desktop (that is, these services even work over firewalled and/or severely restricted connections). All you need to do is making sure your computer you want to remotely access has Internet access. No need to configure any firewalls or to even know the actual Internet address of your computer, the central Web server takes care of all this. All you need to do is logging into your central account in the central Web server: it will connect you to your remote desktop.

That is, for a non-IT-professional, these kinds of remote access solutions are preferable to the other group, which, in general, requires manual server download, installation, configuration and, in cases, tuning. This is why, first, I discuss the first group.

1.1 Web-based end-user applications

1.1.1 LogMeIn

Probably the most important and most recommended Web-based application, unless you need advanced PIM / mail access functionality, is LogMeIn. It, basically, has two versions: the free LogMeIn Free, which only offers remote control (with all the advantages of web-based access: firewall support, on-the-fly, easy client install requiring almost no user intervention or setup etc.) and LogMeIn Pro, which, in addition to remote controlling your desktop, also supports file transfer (with desktop clients, bidirectional, with Pocket PC clients, download only) and, for non-Pocket PC clients,

  1. Remote Printing to print remote files locally, on the printer attached to client
  2. File Sharing to easily share large files, without uploads (similar to, say, MegaUpload)
  3. Guest Invite to share the desktop for remote collaboration
  4. File Synchronization to synchronize files & folders of the client and the remote desktop
  5. Security (256-bit SSL encryption)

As can be seen, the Pocket PC version, unfortunately, is decidedly worse than the desktop PC one – as is the case with, unfortunately, most of the reviewed applications.

If you opt for going for the Pro version, you can bring down the price by just declining the LogMeIn Pro update after the Pro trial period is over (note that if you go right for the Free version, you get a Pro trial too). Then, you’ll be sent a mail that offers another 30% rebate, bringing down the annual price to $44.95. It’s a pretty friendly and highly recommended price if you take the price of the other solutions into account (and don’t need their unique features; for example, the PIM access features of the two times more expensive I’m InTouch or the excellent bandwidth usage of the four times more expensive GoToMyPC).

Note that earlier versions had problems with WM5 AKU2 devices. This has been fixed in later versions and isn’t an issue any more.

More info: The free version of the LogMeIn service has also been mentioned in the “What Is The Best Free Service?” thread at PPCT.

Some screenshots (note that you'll find a LOT more in the comparison / feature chart!): Local client install to add computers; after it’s installed, it’ll prompt you. The server-side settings dialog is browser-based as can be seen in here.

Verdict

A well-behaving, stable, useful application. The free version is probably the most recommended, really-easy-to-set-up-and-access application working in any networking environment, for casual, not necessarily power users not wanting to have external PIM access.

1.1.2 GotoMyPC by Citrix

This Web-based remote access solution has by far the best bandwidth usage of all the solutions. This means about third or even fourth the bandwidth usage of comparable solutions. This is, unfortunately, a bit worsened by the idle bandwidth usage (see the chart for numeric results), of which I'll speak later more. The other, major disadvantage of this solution is the price (the monthly rate is $19.95, the annual plan $14.95 a month) – it’s way more expensive than other Web-based solutions. For example, it’s about four times more expensive than LogMeIn Pro and two times more expensive than I’m InTouch and RemotelyAnywhere. With the Pocket PC client, it doesn’t offer file transfer or other advanced functionalities either, unlike most of the alternatives.

A quick tip: Upon registering for a trial version, by default, you need to supply your card number for the trial. If you don’t want to use the card (because, for example, you are worried about forgetting to decline the subscription before the trial period is over), you’ll be offered a 30day/180 minutes, cardless plan. Alternatively, you may also want to go here for a version that doesn’t require inputting a card number. Finally, if you just stop the registration process on the credit card setup screen, after about three weeks you’ll receive a mail offering you the card-less registration page URL.

After letting the app install the client, a GoToMyPC icon will be put in the Start Menu / Programs. By just clicking it, PIE will be fired up and you’ll be taken to the online GoToMyPC login screen.

As far as the astonishingly good bandwidth usage is concerned, I’ve directly asked the Citrix folks whether they use the famous ICA protocol (also see this and this discussion). It is NOT using ICA, despite what I would have thought.

Note that the client no longer needs Java support to run, as opposed to older versions (see for example this for more info on the past versions).

More info: Reviews of the service are here and here; an ad is here.

Verdict

Go for this title if you want to have absolutely the best bandwidth usage and responsiveness and the high subscription price isn’t a problem. If you, on the other hand, don’t need to use a really bandwidth-saving method and/or would prefer a cheaper solution, look elsewhere – alternative solutions are not only much cheaper (if not free as is the case with LogMeIn Free), but also offer far more (file transfer with all alternative Web-based solutions – except for LogMeIn Free -, PIM / e-mail access with I’m InTouch etc).

1.1.3 RemotelyAnywhere 7.10.552

This Web-based service uses exactly the same Pocket PC GUI as LogMeIn and, therefore, is pretty similar to that of GoToMyPC. For example, the file transfer screen and waiting dialogs are the same as with LogMeIn. As with LogMeIn, it has chatting and it has very similar menus and can, for example, dynamically change the remote desktop resolution. The control interface is exactly the same as with LogMeIn; so is the file manager. Unfortunately, there’s no file upload here either.

The most unique feature of RemotelyAnywhere is the remote administration interface, which is accessible even on a Pocket PC. No other Pocket PC-based remote controller offers the same functionality. This means you will want to consider using RemotelyAnywhere if you want to access your desktop(s) through a local admin interface to, for example, remotely access the registry, the service list and other properties of a given desktop computer.

Connection model-wise, unlike on the GUI level, it’s really different than any of the other applications in the Web-based section. While it must be installed from the Web (the $99 – note that there’s a 25% rebate if you sign up for two years at once - Workstation Edition is available here and the Pocket PC client (as with all the other Web-based services, it uses auto-installation) here), you don’t need to visit the Web site of the developer to log into your remote desktop. Instead, you will need to connect to your remote desktop directly, by entering its (current) Internet address into your Web browser running on your client. This means, for example, you don’t need to have an active Internet connection to access your remote desktop and that your connections will be always direct, meaning no additional slow-downs caused by routing your traffic (or parts of it) through third-party centralized servers. This, on the other hand, also means you won’t be able to access your remote desktop unless you know its address (which may be problematic if it’s using dynamic IP’s) and it isn’t behind a non-port forwarding firewall.

All in all, the main differences between RemotelyAnywhere and LogMeIn / GoToMyPC / I’m InTouch are as follows:

  1. RemotelyAnywhere can be directly connected – no need to log in to the online LogInMe / GoToMyPC / I’m InTouch service. This means it can be used over strictly non-internet-connected LAN’s (for example, Wi-Fi P2P or BT PAN connections) too
  2. as can be seen in the left frame of the browser on desktop PC screenshots, it allows for using a lot of other technologies for accessing; for example, Java or even HTML (the latter is pretty useless though as it’s only static images that this returns, not dynamic, editable windows). On the Pocket PC, these won’t work; however, the (there, by default HTML + JavaScript-based) remote monitoring features do and are wonderful.

This means there are definite cases when you will want to prefer RemotelyAnywhere to LogMeIn and the other alternates: if you need LAN-based login and/or better access to direct system monitoring. This, of course, comes with a price, which is about twice of that of LogMeIn Pro. The complete lack of HTTP(S) tunneling can also be a stumbling block for many.

Screenshots: Login on desktop; the main desktop interface with a lot of additional info. On the Pocket PC, the login screen and the main menu (second page). As can be seen, it has a LOT of goodies, for example, a registry editor (second screenshot showing it can even create new entries, values (second screenshot) and, of course, modify existing ones). An example of the Services dialog. The system info window on the PDA (second page).

Note that it’s, protocol-wise, is compatible with LogMeIn Reach (also see the pricing info here).

1.1.4 I’m InTouch by 01 Communique

This, compared to other Web-based solutions, moderately expensive (annually, $99.95) solution is, as far as strictly the remote controlling functionality is concerned, doesn’t really have much to write home about. Not so with remotely accessing and searching (!) PIM data (Outlook and Outlook Express contacts, calendar, mails). This means you should pay special attention to this product particularly if you need remote access to your PIM stuff and e-mails.


(The remote viewer running on Pocket PC)

Note that they have two products: the $99.95 “Deluxe” version with remote control, file transfer, Web camera & PIM access capabilities. They also have a “Standard” version for half the price, which “only” offers mail/PIM access and wireless notification capabilities. (See this for the pricing information.)

Example screenshots: Remote mail; SMTP server setup; it uses its own login / password; the client loading on the Pocket PC. The Viewer also must be supplied a password; this may be different from the server password. It also supports stealth mode and contains an update module.

More info: A review of an earlier version is here. Note that the (moderately) high memory consumption (about 35 Mbytes) also mentioned in the linked review is, unfortunately, still true.

Verdict

Go give it a try if you want to have as easy remote PIM access as possible. Otherwise, for example LogMeIn Free may prove to be a bit faster, more responsive (and free).

1.1.5 Laplink Everywhere (LLE)

This is also a Web-based access service. I don't recommend it, not even for desktop PC client users, let alone Pocket PC users: its only advantage over the other reviewed remote controller solutions is the ability to access the remote desktop via Google Desktop Search directly on your Pocket PC, without your having to log into your desktop and without using third-party Google desktop proxy solutions like Project Computing’s Google Desktop Proxy or DNKA.

I haven’t included this title in the main chart because it entirely lacks remote control capabilities on the Pocket PC – it’s only on the desktop PC that it has remote control-capable clients. Furthermore, the Laplink Companion Client (the native Palm and Pocket PC client to remotely access E-mails on your remote desktop), as of version 1.1.412.812, doesn’t even start under WM5 and, under previous operating systems, while it does start, it can’t connect to desktops – it always displays the “Security negotiation failed” error message. (Also note that the Pocket PC client stores the username under [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Sproqit Technologies\ Client\ Settings\ {EE585C94-E44D- 4537-A003-B1B9E747A875}] and, it seems, it’s not possible to manually add new entries / modify existing ones. It’s set by ActiveSync; this means you must install the PPC client directly from the desktop you’ll later want to access.) Unfortunately, the Laplink folks still haven’t answered my mail so I don’t know whether this problem will be fixed or not.

1.1.5.1 The LLE Web client

The only functionality that works on the Pocket PC are as follows: the above-mentioned Google Desktop-based Desktop search, Internet Favorites and Files links; all accessible via a Pocket Internet Explorer-compliant Web interface (Web Login screen; main menu). Of these, I elaborate on the first and the third; the second only lists the Internet Explorer favorites stored on the remote desktop.

  1. Desktop searching: it’s one of the best things as it utilizes Google Desktop Search. If you haven’t already installed it, the client will display an error message (2 3). If you have installed it, you will also have access to this functionality – without your having to use the remote desktop to enter the expression to search for and see the results as can be seen in here and here (the search results on my remote desktop for “iPaq"). After clicking an e-mail link, the results are presented locally as can be seen in here and here. Of course, the “View in Outlook” link won’t work on the Pocket PC version (see the error message here)
  2. Files: file transfer. As it’s based on HTML (again, this is the only way for a Pocket PC user to access remote files on a desktop), the engine isn’t as flexible as native apps. It doesn’t have file upload capabilities – not even on WM5 devices (the PIE in WM5 already has file upload capabilities), as is, unfortunately, the case with all the other Web-based remote controller solutions too (except for I'm InTouch, which is promised to receive upload capabilities in the future). When you click a file link, the “Send File” button after the refresh will only let for e-mailing the given file, not uploading. Other screenshots of the file transfer module: WM5 download 1 2; WM2003SE filelist

1.1.5.2 Problems with LLE

As far as the remote control modules of the desktop client are concerned, they aren’t very fast. They’re constantly using a HTTPS gateway connection, don’t even try to utilize direct connections to speed up the transfer and is definitely slower than any of the four other, strictly Web-based applications. (In this netstat screen, you can also see there’s no direct connection at the client – everything has go through the LapLink server. This may be great for corporate users but not for users that have no or configurable / flexible firewalls where you could also utilize much faster and more capable direct connections.) The user remarks here also back this up.

Unfortunately, LLE is the worst remote access software product in server CPU usage too (as with all HTTPS tunnel-based/enabled solutions, it’s in constant connection with the LapLink server): it’s been constantly between 2 and 11% on all the test Windows desktop PC’s I’ve tested it on. No other HTTPS tunnel-based/enabled solutions (or, for that matter, ANY server-side app listening to incoming requests) behaved this bad in my tests - ALL of them remained under 1% CPU usage.

In addition, it’s a REAL memory hog! The cumulative memory usage of all EXE files in \Program Files\Laplink Everywhere\ and another, in cases, as large as 95M (!) memory hog in the Desktop Agent subdirectory take about 120Mbytes in all – it’s an order of magnitude more than most of the alternatives!

Also, unlike ANY of the always-connected, HTTPS-capable alternatives, it’s the only app to generate a LOT of idle bandwidth; about 39kbytes uplink / 50kbytes downlink in five minutes; that is, about 18 kbytes combined traffic a minute. This is plain unacceptable if your remote desktop has an expensive connection (for example, a non-unlimited GPRS / mobile phone-based Internet access).

Furthermore, it doesn’t let for fine-tuning server-side settings either; this means you can’t, for example, fine-tune the color depth it uses.

Finally, a very important warning: the Web login screen is at https://www.ll2go.com . There’s a Web page at http://www.l2go.com/ (with one ‘l'), which displays a HTTP authorization dialog upon connection. DO NOT EVER enter your Laplink password into this box! This may be a username / password stealing service, which makes advantage of many users’ forgetting to enter two ‘l’’s.

1.1.5.3 Additional information on LLE

Pricing:
One computer, one hour/month access, annual license fee: $44.95
Unlimited access vs one hour / month: +$50
License for +2 PC: +$30
Monthly fee (as opposed to annual): 1.38 times more

Example screens of the setup: 1, 2, 3, 4; the desktop client: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; the (VNC) login screen (it’s rendered improperly if you use bigger system fonts as can be seen in here – attention users with for example UXGA(+) screens!)

It, internally, uses three protocols: its proprietary Laplink protocol, the standard RDP and, finally, VNC.

There are differences between the RDP and the Laplink mode (all in, of course, only available in the desktop client version); for example, Remote Control 4 doesn't support clipboard synchronization, while RDP does; the latter doesn't support sound redirection and file copying (not even drive mapping is possible, unlike with most other Windows/Linux-based RDP clients). Remote Control 4 only supports the default 256-color mode; the RDP-based module supports 16 and 24 bits too (high / true color).

1.2 Non-Web-based applications

There are several applications that, unlike the previously reviewed ones, don’t use a central Web server for keeping track of a computer and client log-ins.

Some of them are based on the RDP (Remote Desktop) protocol (used by Terminal Server / Services in the Terminal Services / Server line of Microsoft Windows and Remote Desktop by Windows XP Pro / Vista); some of them (VNC clients) on Remote FrameBuffer (RFB ) and some use a proprietary one. In the following, I devote three subsections to these three cases. There are major differences between these three cases, which is worth elaborating on because they have a direct, at times, unwanted effect. This also has an effect on the behavior of all the applications based on these protocols. For example, RDP-based remote controlling locks the current user out of the desktop and sets the desktop size to, as far as Pocket PC clients are concerned either VGA (640*480) or SVGA (800*600) resolution.

First, how these protocols compare? I’ve constantly been asked on these; therefore, I elaborate on this question a bit more.

First, the RDP protocol differs a LOT from all the other protocols and has a lot of restrictions. While it’s already installed and available on Windows XP Pro (and enabling it is just some clicks as is explained here), it has some restrictions none of the other solutions have:

  1. When a remote session is active, the remote terminal can’t be used by anyone – they will be locked out
  2. As far as Pocket PC clients are concerned, the desktops will be resized to either VGA (640*480) or SVGA (800*600) size. This (particularly the former) may be just too small for some kind of applications you’d like to run. Furthermore, you can’t extend your desktop to your external monitors (which is supported by many other remote controller solutions) either. This may also be a problem in some cases.
  3. With Pocket PC clients prior to WM6 (Crossbow), it doesn’t even let for starting applications that require any kind of sound output. This, in cases, may also result in problems (for example, when you want to start a remote playback of a sound clip or recording some kind of sound input.) It's only with WM6 that this problem has been fixed.

Note that while the Start menu doesn’t contain Restart / Shutdown, you can always right-click an empty part of the Windows task bar at the bottom (make sure you don’t do this over any task icon!), and select “Task Manager” from the pop-up context menu. Alternatively, you can even create shortcuts to \Windows\ system32\ shutdown.exe as is explained in the Comments section here (thanks jds580s for the excellent tip!).

While RDP has its drawbacks, it has advantages too; in addition to the above-mentioned availability in many Windows operating systems (without your having to install any server component – you only need to enable them with a single checkbox tick), the really good bandwidth usage (the current, version 5 of RDP is very well though-out, which is not necessarily the case with alternative protocols). Therefore, you may really want to compare its disadvantages and advantages to those of the alternatives - in a lot of cases, RDP may be the best solution.

Second, the second most important protocol is RFB, which forms the foundation for VNC (Virtual Network Computing) clients. When properly configured, with the proper clients, VNC (from now on, I use “VNC” to refer to remote controller products using the RFB protocol) can be even more bandwidth-friendly than the above-introduced Microsoft RDP protocol. VNC clients don’t suffer from the above-listed problems of RDP either and, therefore, may be a much better choice than the built-in RDP under some circumstances (for example, when you don't want to lock out the current user while you remote control the desktop). They, on the other hand, require a separate one-time server install and also require some knowledge of the available encoding methods and server-side scaling (so that you know which menu item to select) to minimize bandwidth usage.

1.2.1 RDP-based applications

Unfortunately, in pre-WM6 operating systems, on the Pocket PC, all RDP clients are pretty restricted, compared to the desktop Windows (or, for that matter, Linux) counterparts – or, even those on the WindowsCE.NET 4.1+-based Handheld PC version discussed here. The latter is far superior to that of any pre-WM6 Windows Mobile-based implementation. Unfortunately, so far, the excellent folks at the just-linked HPC:Factor haven’t managed to “hack” the Handheld PC version onto the Pocket PC. You, however, may want to subscribe to the thread to see whether there is new information.

With WM6, this changes. The RDP client in WM6, Remote Desktop Mobile (note that the old name, "Terminal Services Client", has been dropped) implements most of the functionality of the Handheld PC version except for drive mapping / file transfer, which worked on some (but not all) CE.NET H/PC's.

Note that SmartCell’s RemotePlus still (?) hasn’t been ported to the Pocket PC. Hope SmartCell does it some day: Pocket PC-based Terminal Server / Services clients are all pretty bad and a decent alternative would be more than welcome.

1.2.1.1 Terminal Services Client (TSC) in pre-WM6 operating systems

TSC is built-in in most Pocket PC’s starting with the Pocket PC 2002 operating system. (If you can’t find it on your device (may be the case with devices with restricted ROM size, as was the case with the iPAQ 36xx series updated to PPC2k2), just download it here and just install it on your Pocket PC). It’s a really-really bare-bone application, really inferior to the above-mentioned WinCE .NET version linked above and not even capable of full screen. If you do need the latter, read the following subsection.

1.2.1.1.1 vijay555's full screen TSC hack

Well-known Pocket PC developer & XDA-Developers moderator Vijay555 has fixed the above-mentioned problem of TSC’s not supporting full screen mode (also see this XDA-Dev thread and for example some cache size hacks at post number #14 there.)

Get version 0.46b. It’s, fortunately, much easier to use than most would at first think. You need to do the following:

  1. copy vjfullscreentsc.exe to your \Windows\Start Menu\Programs on your Pocket PC and start it
  2. execute it again (or, just click the very small, newly displayed two gray circles in the screen, just under the Start menu; in this screenshot, the mouse cursor is just over them), a menu will come up; in there, select Fullscreen TSC
  3. it will load the TSC client (click OK)
  4. from inside, just log in to the machine you’d like to
  5. from the menu, you can hide the SIP (in the previous screenshot, it’s visible in the bottom right corner and can be pretty annoying if you don’t need to enter anything; then, now that the scrollbars aren’t visible either, you’ll make use of the full screen estate as can be seen for example here); if you get rid of the scrollbars then, you can scroll from here, from a submenu.

Note that, on QVGA devices,

  1. the horizontal scrollbar is invisible (because of VJFullscreenTSC’s assuming to be running on a VGA device)
  2. you can’t scroll down entirely with the vertical one either (the bottom 320 pixels aren’t displayed because of the above-mentioned functionality). You can, however, do the latter from the menu (and, then, of course, you can disable the scrollbars entirely).

Otherwise, I haven't encountered problems on QVGA devices either.

1.2.1.1.2 The Handheld PC version of TSC

Back in 2001, before Microsoft has released the official Pocket PC client, many used the Handheld PC version of TSC on their Pocket PC’s. The way it was used is explained here and here. Note that it (H/PC Pro version) should be downloaded from here and not at the no-longer-existing URL listed in the article.

Logging into the client is pretty much the same as with any RDP-based solutions.

Its only advantage (unless you use the Vijay555 hack explained above) over the “official” TSC client for the Pocket PC is that it hides the upper task bar. Also, it has a “Low Speed Connection” checkbox (missing from the PPC version), which can toggle between 16- and 256-color modes. (No high-color modes are present.) Some of its problems (there are a LOT more!) are as follows:

  1. It can’t be installed on WM5. It only works on operating systems prior to WM5 (I’ve done the tests on my VGA WM2003SE Pocket Loox 720)
  2. The lower Windows taskbar won’t be visible. Note that this isn’t a hacked VGA issue (Program Files\Terminal Server Client\mstsc40.exe must be manually hacked to VGA); not even real VGA mode will help in this case as can be seen in here
  3. You can’t issue right-clicks, unlike with other clients.

1.2.1.2 Remote Desktop Mobile in WM6+

As has already been pointed out, Windows Mobile 6 (Crossbow) has a really improved TS client: Remote Desktop Mobile (RDM). It's far better than its predecessor in almost every respect: it supports full screen, high-color (16 bit) mode, (selectable) remote desktop-to-client sound transfer, excellent two-way (textual) clipboard synchronization and local username / password input, which will, then, be remembered (that is, you don't need to input your login credentials to the Windows log-in box but can do the same locally.)

1.2.1.3 Mocha Remote Client 1.2 by MochaSoft

This is a commercial RDC client. While, GUI-wise, it’s certainly better than TSC (but not RDM), I can’t really recommend it because it’s based on the FAR worse version 4 of the RDP protocol, unlike the built-in TSC, which is RDP 5-based. Unfortunately, the older RDP version was far inferior to RDP 5, particularly communication bandwidth-wise.

If you, however, really need to stick to RDP, don't / can't have / get a WM6-based Pocket PC or CE.NET-based Handheld PC and really need the advantages (compared to TSC) of this client (for example, excellent scaling and scrolling capabilities) and can guarantee you manually disable any kind of animations on the remote desktop, you may want to give it a try.

CONTINUED HERE

Thanks for the info; I'll check it out.

Todd, NOW it works.

Matt, yes, T-Mobile has also removed RDM from the Wing.

Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to give you a direct link to the download (hope you understand this). However, a quick search at the XDA-Developers forum may help.

Tom, strange you're experiencing GPRS-related problems. It seems the server side is configured in a way that doesn't let for long answer times. That is, check out the server (desktop-)side configuration.

If nothing else helps, consider swithing to / additionally install for example LogMeIn Free. It'll work just great over GPRS.

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