Ben Stanley's blog

The Indispensable FlexWallet 2006

I used to manage all my passwords with the capable PassMan, a freeware program from Martini Creations. However, I recently ventured beyond the confines of academic life and into the real world for the first time in over twenty years and found that I needed something a little more robust. I looked around at the many password management programs that are out there and finally settled on FlexWallet 2006 from Web Information Solutions, Inc. (a.k.a. WebIS).

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Of all of the password management programs out there, what led me to FlexWallet, you ask? Initially, it was the simple fact that it looked nice! After using FlexWallet for a little while, though, I've become firmly committed to it as my password management solution. Read on to find out why.


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It's Not a Diet, It's a "Health Plan"....

Look people, I just don't like the word "diet" okay? I choose instead to call it a "health plan" and I'm going to be on one for the next little while (notice that I didn't commit to any particular length of time). This is the first "health plan" I've ever tried.

I'm not huge or anything...I'm just your typical guy in his mid-twenties whose metabolism is starting to slow down and I could stand to lose a little weight. To this end, I've begun a rigorous regime that includes more jogging, less pizza and beer, and some serious monitoring of all things health-related.


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First Look at Firetop Mountain

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Depending on how long you've been into computer gaming, you may or may not remember the incredible Montezuma's Revenge (originally released in 1984). Since I first played Montezuma's Revenge back in, oh, probably 1987 I've always considered it to be a perfect example of how the adventure, action, and puzzle genres can all be successfully combined.

The same could be said of Firetop Mountain, the debut release from newcomer inoGames!


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Monitor Your Health with Blood Pressure Tracker

It's easy to forget about your health while you're healthy. But we all know that if you ignore it for too long, you're not going to be healthy for long. So why not let your trusty Pocket PC help you monitor your health?

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Blood Pressure Tracker from SoundTells helps you do just that by making it easy to monitor your blood pressure.


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Basic4ppc Receives a Major Update

I first wrote about Basic4ppc back in March. Since then, this excellent program still has not received the praise it deserves. Perhaps this is because most people with an interest in programming the Pocket PC are professionally-trained programers who primarily program for other platforms and for the Pocket PC only secondarily.

This fact helps explain why many of the leading Pocket PC programming tools are so inaccessible to beginners. These tools, both their functioning and their documentation, often assumes a familiarity with Microsoft programming enviornments that the beginner may or may not possess. Even where this is not the case, these tools sometimes display an almost complete disregard for the plight of the aspiring novice. To be fair, these tools do possess functionality that many of the more beginner-friendly programming tools do not, but these offer little comfort to the bewildered beginner.

Basic4ppc is a beginner-friendly program, but the latest update (to version 3.01) makes clear that the developer is not content with beginner-oriented functionality. Quite the contrary: it appears that Basic4ppc is continuing to mature into a powerful tool.


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Tracking Ernesto with Hurricane Tracker

Tropical Depression Ernesto is heading straight for me! See?

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And what was my first reaction when I learned this news? Did I go out and buy batteries and eggs? No. Did I pray? Nope. Did I call my mother and tell her thanks for raising me in case things don't go well? Nope. I did what any of you would have done (I'm sure)...I turned to that twentyfirst century Swiss Army Knife that always helps me get out of a jam: my Pocket PC!

A brief search of Handango yielded few programs relevant to my particular dilemma. But of these few Survivorsoft's Hurricane Tracker seemed by far the most relevant so I decided to give it a field test.


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Copy Protection Woes

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In the most recent installment of his "This Week in Games" column, Allen Gall asks whether or not the time and money invested in copy protection measures by Pocket PC developers is really worthwhile from the developer's point of view and tentatively concludes that it probably isn't worth it most of the time.

In the past, I've reached a similar conclusion from the consumer's perspective. In January I wrote a review in which I criticized overly stringent copy protection measures when they are adopted to protect Pocket PC programs. Specifically, my experience with the game I was reviewing made me "wonder what would happen if [the developer] were to go out of business next year...would I never be able to play the game I had duly purchased after that?" The truth is that when developers implement copy protection measures like these they place the burden of any potential problems squarely on the shoulders of the consumer.

While it's too soon to say for sure, I think this theoretical scenario might have become a reality for one of the games I've purchased.


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My Favorite Information Organizer: PlanyTree

There are a lot of information organizer programs for Windows Mobile with a dizzying array of available features. In this review, I'll give you a brief tour of my favorite: PlanyTree from AppliStudio.

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Another Gaping Void in the PPC Gameworld: Non-Linear RPGs

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On PocketGear.com, there are currently 513 action games, 646 puzzle games, and 387 strategy games. By comparison, there are a mere 67 games in the RPG category. But even this low number is misleading because for some reason it includes such titles as Harry Putter's Crazy Golf and Animal Ringtones Vol. 2. Handango, for its part, doesn't even have a separate RPG category. These facts illustrate the sad reality that while diamodoku clones continue to proliferate, there are relatively few RPG games available for Windows Mobile devices.


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SK Tools Is Getting a Makeover

The excellent maintenance title SK Tools, from SK Software, will be receiving a makeover in the next two to four weeks.

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The new version will combine related modules into a few simple functions. Thus, for example, the module that cleans invalid registry entries, the module that cleans your program history, and related modules will all be run by tapping the "Clean!" module (see screenshot above).


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Simbsoft Volleyball: A Top Notch Game!

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Everyone knows that one of the chief virtues of video games is that they allow the player to do things that can't (or shouldn't) be done in real life. But the degree to which this is true of Windows Mobile volleyball games is particularly remarkable. Did you know that if you want to play Volleyball on your Pocket PC your options include the ability to play as a seal? Seals not your thing? How about playing as a blob of jelly? Simbsoft's Volleyball makes the latter possible.

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I know what you're thinking: the game of volleyball isn't really that great to begin with. I'm not a huge volleyball fan myself (to say nothing of how I feel about blobs of jelly!), but Simbsoft has managed to turn the game into an enduringly fun and addictive experience!


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I'm Back

Hi everyone,

After neglecting my beloved blog for over a month, I've returned. It's been a very busy absence. In the past few weeks I took the bar exam (a horrible experience, I don't recommend it), moved 30 miles east, and, most importantly, got engaged!

It's great to be back!

Take care,

Ben


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Are Pocket PCs Modern Day Pocket Protectors?

I will never forget the humiliation. I had just returned from the restroom and was walking past my first grade teacher when a couple of the nails I had in my pocket fell to the ground. "Ben, you can't bring nails to school...come here...do you have any more?" I reluctantly reached in my pocket and handed the rest to her. "What else have you got?" I was wearing sweat pants with six pockets; two in the normal place plus two more on each leg.


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Update of the Excellent Today Screen Plug-In BatMemTime

BatMemTime has been updated to version 4.1. The new version fixes a problem previously encountered when rotating the screen between landscape and portrait display modes. There are updated versions available for WM2003/2003SE and 2005 (older versions are also available but not updated).

If you're unfamiliar with BatMemTime, I've posted the text (with a few minor alterations) of a quick review of it I wrote back in December for my old blog (Pocket PC Gems) below.


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Use SK Tracker to Avoid Botched Cleanup Jobs

If you use your Windows Mobile device for anything beyond simple appointment keeping, you're probably keen on keeping your device operating at maximum efficiency. To this end, you might have purchased one of the available system maintenance utilities, such as SK Tools, Pocket Mechanic, MemMaid, or a similar product. These products will clean up your device by removing unused registry entries, getting rid of cookies, cleaning caches, fixing broken shortcuts, defragmenting storage cards, etc. If you don't yet have such a program, you should probably acquire one.

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While programs like these fix many of the little problems that can slowly afflict your device, they do have limitations. For example, what one of them might consider to be a junk file ripe for erasing, another might completely overlook.

If you're really intent on making sure that your system cleanup utility doesn't leave any junk behind, one way to avoid the problem is to use SK Tracker from SK Software. With this handy little program, you can reduce botched cleanup jobs by essentially leaving nothing to clean up in the first place!


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Getting a Little Burnt Out on Sokoban? Try Manoosh!

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How many games can be set in a warehouse, involve moving heavy boxes, and still be fun? Your answer before the advent of Sokoban would probably have been something like...hmmm...I don't know..."none." Even after Sokoban's release, it seemed safe to conclude that the possibilities for this sort of game had been exhausted. I thought so too...until I met the mustachioed Manoosh!

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When Will Turn-Based Strategy Games Get a Turn?

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Despite periodic lulls from time to time, the Windows Mobile gaming scene is pretty lively for the most part. Whatever type of game you're into, chances are you'll find 20 versions of it for Windows Mobile. However, one genre is glaringly absent from the wide breadth of gaming opportunities available to the Windows Mobile user (and no, I'm not talking about the fact that there is still not a single Hockey game for the platform, although this is also troubling!). I'm referring to the almost complete lack of turn-based strategy games...games like Master of Orion and Civilization.


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Sneak Preview of a Highly Addicting Game: Globall

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Sometime in the next few days, developer Glogamer will be releasing its debut offering, Globall. And I'm pleased to be able to provide the first look at this wonderfully addicting game!

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If Globall had to be placed in a particular category, I'd say it belongs to the same genre as games like Zuma and Podz because the overall idea is the same: you shoot balls of different colors at a chain of balls that moves around a track and try to destroy the chain before it reaches the end. Segments of the chain are destroyed when you create groups of at least three balls of the same color.

Despite the similarities to its predecessors, Globall breathes new life into this genre by taking a somewhat different approach.


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Pocket PC Gems Is Now a Part of Smartphone and Pocket PC Magazine!

I'm proud to announce that my blog, Pocket PC Gems (a.k.a. PPCGems), is now a part of the excellent blog community here at Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine! I consider it an extreme privilege to be working alongside some of the most respected giants of the Pocket PC world and am really looking forward to getting started!

If you're not familiar with PPCGems, Here's our mission statement:

For one reason or another, a lot of the best Pocket PC games and applications simply don't get the respect they deserve. This site exists to sing the praises of these PPC gems!


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