Ben Stanley's blog

PocketGear Closing It's Doors

As reported in this article, PocketGear is about to shut its doors forever and its parent company, Motricity, is moving its operations from my current home state of North Carolina to Washington State.


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New Website: My World of Handhelds

Several mobile device enthusiasts, including our own Eric Pankoke, have created a new website called My World of Handhelds. The site covers mobile devices of all types, including Windows Mobile devices. Look for mobile news, reviews, hardware profiles, as well as information about up and coming developers in the future.


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5 Rules of Email Etiquette

The rise of email and other forms of instant electronic communication has eroded our respect for many of the conventions that we traditionally adhered to when writing paper letters and has introduced several new bad habits into the way we communicate with one another on a daily basis. Those of us who use mobile devices to communicate are especially susceptible to bad email habits because the size limitations of these devices encourage lazy habits and because mobile device users tend to be busy, always-on-the-go types.

In response to this phenomenon, I've decided to compile 5 rules of email etiquette.


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Nanobotz: A New Twist on a Familiar Game

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The developers over at MoreGames Entertainment consistently create games of the highest quality. Thankfully, they don't waste their abundant talents creating sudoku clones or solitaire collections. Instead, all of their games are either original, first of their kind for the platform, or refreshingly new takes on old staples.

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Their latest game, Nanobotz, continues this tradition by building on the familiar artillery duel subgenre.


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Favorite Cool Windows Mobile Apps

Unlike fellow blogger Mike Riley, I had a lot of difficulty deciding what my favorite "cool" applications for Windows Mobile were. For starters, I'm still not entirely sure what the term "cool app" means. After giving it a few minutes' consideration, I've decided to focus on those applications that supplement Windows Mobile's core functions. In other words, the list that follows includes those applications which I believe perform indispensable functions that Windows Mobile itself would provide in a perfect world. Microsoft has already lost those who only care about prettiness to the iPhone (good riddance!). The core of Windows Mobile users have always consisted of power users who need and demand functionality, not glitter.


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Revival: Finally a Civilization-Like Game for Windows Mobile!!!

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There have always been a few gaping voids in the field of games available for the Windows Mobile platform. One of the most striking is the lack of turn-based 4x games in the tradition of Sid Meier's groundbreaking Civilization series. I've been calling attention to this omission for as long as I've been playing Windows Mobile games (as can be seen in this post from almost two years ago, for example).

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Finally, though, finally, a Civilization-like game has arrived for Windows Mobile devices! I was so excited when I heard about Revival that I could barely contain myself. I couldn't resist the opportunity to take a break from the break I've been taking and write a review. And while not without its flaws, I'm glad to be able to report that Revival definitely delivers for the most part.


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I'm Taking a Break...

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After following the Windows Mobile scene for several years and contributing to it via my blog here and my old blog Pocket PC Gems, I've decided to take an extended break from blogging. There is more than one reason for this decision but one contributing factor is that I just had a really annoying experience with Verizon Wireless.

I've clung to the WM2003SE operating system for years but when I saw the Samsung SCH-i760 I thought that now might be the time to finally switch to a WM6 device. I joined a forum on the SCH-i760, read countless reviews, etc. and went into my local Verizon store to try to figure out how much it would cost to take an SCH-i760 home with me...

Several weeks and several conflicting answers later and I still don't have anything to show for it.

Read on if you want to hear more (but I don't blame you if you don't)...


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The Technological Dumb Down Continues...

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As technology proliferates, the entire industry is increasingly struggling to balance ease-of-use and usability on the one hand with power and functionality on the other.

A quick glance at the criticism leveled at any modern computing platform bares the truth of this assessment. While supporters of Windows Vista point to its "eye candy" innovations, detractors point to the fact that it is only a partially functional, less stable version of XP rife with software and hardware incompatibilities. Critics of recent Linux distributions--long the exclusive realm of ubergeeks--allege that attempts to lure users away from other operating systems have led to its watering down to absurd levels.

Perhaps the most succinct statement of the problem came from the creator of Linux himself, who in 2005 said of Gnome, a particular variety of Linux desktop environment, the following:

This 'users are idiots, and are confused by functionality' mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it. I don't use Gnome, because in striving to be simple, it has long since reached the point where it simply doesn't do what I need it to do.

The balancing act between usability and power is an unavoidable dilemma in this area, but I would argue that the pendulum has swung too far towards usability at the cost of power and continued advancement. I have demonstrated this phenomenon previously with respect to Windows Mobile hardware. In the current post, I argue that this trend also manifests itself in the way that phone companies and mobile software vendors market themselves to consumers, with similar results: technological innovation is stifled and the consumer remains uneducated.


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Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act of 2007

On September 7th, Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced Senate Bill 2033, entitled the "Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act of 2007"). If enacted, this bill would do a number of things that would impact cell phone users in the United States, including users of Windows Mobile phones.


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DukWite Goes Commercial

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A few weeks ago, Developer Pocket New released a commercial version of their popular freeware title DukWite.

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Read on for a comparison of the two versions and find out if this game is worth paying for.


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Use BirdieSync to Sync Thunderbird/Sunbird Data with a Windows Mobile Device

I never tire of complaining about what I consider to be nothing short of a scam perpetrated by Microsoft against Windows Mobile users: if you use Windows Vista you can't sync contacts, tasks, appointments emails, etc. with your Windows Mobile device unless you purchase one of the newer versions of Microsoft Outlook separately (a $100+ commitment).

My complaints in this regard are detailed in this post. In addition to being a greedy move, I think it's a tactical mistake on Microsoft's part: I am aware of no other mobile OS that doesn't provide syncing capabilities for free or as part of the purchase of the device containing the OS itself. And as long as Windows Mobile remains only one of several mobile OSes jockeying for market share it seems mind-bogglingly against their own interests to require that users of Windows Mobile shell out $100+ dollars for functionality that should be a fundamental part of any mobile OS. This is especially true now that device makers are increasingly declining to provide full versions of Outlook, as they once did.

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This deplorable situation led me to search for other ways of syncing data between my mobile device and my PC. I've previously discussed how it's possible to sync Windows Mobile data with Linux (see this), but for those of you who prefer to stick with Windows Vista, there is another alternative: Start using Mozilla's personal information management applications (Sunbird and Thunderbird) and use a marvelous program called BirdieSync to sync data between your PC and your Windows Mobile device.


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Two Types of Windows Mobile RPGs

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I judged a fair amount of categories for this year's Best Software Awards and one of the more difficult to judge was the Role Playing Games ("RPG") category. The reason for this is that this year's nominees generally fall into two categories: (1) those that attempt to deliver the full-blown RPG experience to Windows Mobile; and (2) those that have an RPG look and feel but lack one or more of the necessary RPG ingredients.


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How to Install .CAB Files from Your Desktop

As I'm sure of you know, most Windows Mobile programs come in the form of executable files (.exe files) that when double-clicked on will install the program via ActiveSync, or, in the case of Windows Vista, the Windows Mobile Device Center. However, if the program you want to install doesn't come as an executable, it is most likely a cabinet file (.cab file).


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The Greatest Windows Mobile Game That Never Was

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I've had a chance to thoroughly test a lot of great games during this year's Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine Awards judging phase, but I can't help thinking that one game is missing. I'm referring to what is undoubtedly the most promising Windows Mobile game that was never released: Pyromania.

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Read on only if you're prepared for immense disappointment at the fact that this game will never be released...


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More Evidence of the Smartphone-Led Dumbing Down of Windows Mobile Devices

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I've argued elsewhere that even as Windows Mobile devices appear to be proliferating, they are also experiencing a "dumbing down." The most obvious harbingers of this unfortunate trend are the hype surrounding the non-Windows Mobile iPhone and the increasing presence of touchscreen-less Windows Mobile smartphones at the expense of Windows Mobile devices that have touchscreens.

I've also concluded that another sad effect (or is it a cause?) of the Dumb Down is that the previously unceasing march towards greater and greater processing power on Windows Mobile devices has not only stalled but has in fact reversed.


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Basic4ppc Continues to Mature

Basic4ppc, at $39 the most affordable Windows Mobile development solution, has been updated to version 5.0 and now packs even more features, which include:

  • GPS
  • Serial
  • FTP
  • Networking
  • SQL (through SQLite3)
  • Encryption
  • HTTP
  • RAPI (allows communication between the desktop and the device)
  • FMOD (.mp3)
  • Pocket Outlook access (including the ability to send emails and SMS messages, etc.)

Version 5.0 improves application performance, adds a syntax verifier, autocomplete, and more.


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A New Adventure! Windows Mobile and Ubuntu Linux

I've been aware of the existence of the Linux operating system for a long time, but I'd always assumed that it would be too complicated for me to learn and was a bit too geeky. Recently, however, I began hearing about a version of Linux called Ubuntu that was supposed to be pretty easy to use. Flash forward a few weeks and not only have I found that it is relatively easy to use, but it's already replaced Windows Vista as my main operating system of choice for day to day use!

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Despite my generally positive experience with Ubuntu, I was almost sure that there would be no way to synchronize my Windows Mobile Outlook information (contacts, tasks, schedule, etc.) with Ubuntu. But after a bit of tinkering this morning I'm amazed to report that I am able to synchronize with Ubuntu! Not only is this fact amazing standing by itself, it is even more incredible when one considers that I cannot even synchronize this data with Vista (see my complaint to this effect here)!


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Sneak Preview of Earth Day

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As reported a few days ago on Pocket Gamer, esoftinteractive is about to release a new game called Earth Day. And as it just so happens, I was able to get my hands on a copy of the game a few days early.

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Read on for my mini-review...


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Pocket Heroes and the Rise of the Windows Mobile Turn-Based Strategy Game

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With the release of Orions, the Windows Mobile strategy game scene got a major boost. More specifically, the turn-based strategy game scene, which in my opinion has long been neglected on our platform, got a boost.

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And now, only a few months later, with the release of Pocket Heroes (based on the ever popular Heroes of Might and Magic games) the turn-based strategy genre has received another major boost. Read on for a detailed breakdown of this masterpiece...


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Azgard Defence: MoreGames Entertainment Does It Again

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I was surprised to see that MoreGames Entertainment had released another game so quickly on the heels of the release of their excellent game Orions: Legend of Wizards (see review here).

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However, the quick release schedule seems not to have adversely affected the quality of this game. If you're a fan of the Tower Defense sub-genre, then Azgard Defense will not disappoint!


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