Non-touch screen smartphones
Welcome to July Edition of Ask the Experts â€“ Blog Edition. Today's topic, our fourth in this series, covers the most innovative technology available on handheld devices:
"Review your favorite Bluetooth solution."
As each blogger on our team answers this question, their entries will appear below as a trackback. Alternately, you can choose to visit your favorite authorâ€™s blog by clicking on the links above to read their answers.
Many game buffs know the name of Isotope244, the developer of Ackyâ€™s XP Breakout, the, in my opinion, (particularly music-wise) best Breakout clone for Windows Mobile Pocket PCâ€™s.
Their latest development is an Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game, Machines at War, promised to be released in a week and already having a public beta HERE.
((Q)VGA Pocket PC / Smartphone)
Iâ€™ve thoroughly tested the game and found it, apart from some problems (of which Iâ€™ll later elaborate on), definitely better than the two other native (!) RTS games for the Pocket PC, Warfare Incorporated and Argentum.
(Here, I donâ€™t count in the Age of Empires port; neither do I take emulation into account. Just keep in mind that some early RTS games like Dune II can be very well emulated under even free (!) MS-DOS emulators on the Pocket PC and Smartphone. See THIS for more information on all this. Note that there are a lot of other â€œancientâ€ home computer / console platforms with early RTS games too; of them, however, youâ€™ll want to prefer mouse-based ones like the above-mentioned MS-DOS emulators, the Amiga and the Atari ST emulators. See my emulation-related articles for more information. You might also want to give a try to n0pâ€™s Stratagus & Wargus port to play, say, Warcraft II.)
As usual, instead of publishing a full tutorial to the game (just start playing the title and youâ€™ll very quickly learn how to play it), I publish several tricks & tips, mostly in the extensive Comparison & Feature Chart.
What makes this game good?
As has also been announced in my (latest) guide to playing back (non-Mobile) YouTube videos published some weeks ago, the YouTube folks have been working on a really mobile, non-flash-based version of their services and, as promised, have indeed come up with it some days ago. Even when it only contains very few clips (in general, only the most popular ones â€“ for example, none of the not-that-popular but old clips Iâ€™ve searched for existed in there as of today), itâ€™s been continuously expanded, which means it might become a real repository of all â€œrealâ€, Flash-based videos.
As there is a lot of plain wrong or contradicting information and a LOT of hacks out there, all just confusing Windows Mobile users, Iâ€™ve decided to publish the one and only REAL guide to this question.
The new Mobile YouTube homepage is accessible at http://m.youtube.com/ from any Web browser, desktop or mobile alike. However, in order for the playback to work, you must use a browser accessible of passing control to external applications (in this case, the HTC Streaming Media player) because, when a Watch Video link is clicked (like the one in THIS screenshot), an external application, â€œStreaming Mediaâ€, will be invoked. This means you wonâ€™t be able to use, for example, the otherwise excellent and highly recommended Opera Mini. (Unfortunately, this also applies to the latest version, 4.0 beta.) This restriction, on the other hand, does NOT apply to the best Windows Mobile browser on both (Pocket PC and Smartphone) platforms, Opera Mobile. That is, you arenâ€™t forced to use the built-in, in most respects inferior Internet Explorer Mobile.
First, some bad news (in addition to the fact that, currently, the mobile version of YouTube only has few converted videos).
I was told about the brand new, multiplatform (desktop PC, PPC & ALL Smartphone platforms, including even Landscape QVGA models like the Q) in THIS MoDaCo thread. The Smartphone (not counting in Skyforce (Reloaded) and, of course, arcade emulation with FinalBurn Alpha) heavily lacking GOOD vertical scrollers, I hurried up to test the game on my handhelds.
Itâ€™s, as can also be seen in the above-linked MoDaCo thread, is constantly updated; the current version (1.21) was released just a few days ago (06/25).
The game supports all current screen resolutions. This, however, doesnâ€™t mean it makes use of high resolution on (W)VGA Pocket PCâ€™s â€“ just that it supports the common Smartphone resolutions and orientations (in addition to the standard QVGA and 240*240 square resolution on Pocket PC). Note that, on 176*220 Smartphones, some of the titles are not readable or hard to read (see for example THIS and THIS screenshots); fortunately, in-game graphics is pretty good (example screenshot HERE). On QVGA models, everything is OK.
Speed-wise, I havenâ€™t encountered any speed problems on any of my handhelds, not even on my comparatively slow Vox (s710) with A2DP activated (A2DP takes a lot of CPU cycles).
Fortunately, the Windows Mobile gaming scene is thriving. It was just a few days ago that Iâ€™ve published the last gaming news article (available HERE; it was also mentioned in THIS PPCT frontpaged story); in the meantime, there have been two major, new releases. (BTW, as far as the games reported on in the last part are concerned, in the meantime, the bugs of Plasma Duel have been fixed. I also recommend THIS PG.org thread on Corsair, which I have also nominated for this yearâ€™s Best Software Awards contest.)
Sindbad: Return of Legend â€“ a GREAT Prince of Persia clone â€“ finally out!
Iâ€™ve already reported on the early alpha of this title. It was pretty much useless and unplayable. Fortunately, the final version is (almost) flawless and offers a REALLY nice and rich graphics enviromnent â€“ definitely better than the home computers or 8-bit consoles of that age (early nineties) â€“ itâ€™s only the SNES version that is similarly rich. (See them HERE if youâ€™re interested.)
Unfortunately, thereâ€™s absolutely no in-game music, only (not really great) sounds.
It, as with the alpha version, is available HERE for WM2003+ -based Pocket PCâ€™s (no MS Smartphones are supported, sorry, mostly because of the two on-screen tap areas).
Verdict: I heartily recommend the title if youâ€™re a die-hard Prince of Persia fan and want to play through all the games based on the original game, but with brand new maps and excellent (albeit QVGA only, which is bad news for owners of VGA devices) graphics.
If, however, you â€œonlyâ€ want to play the original Prince of Persia and find the (pretty hefty, if you ask me) price tag ($19.95) of Sindbad too big, you may want to go for emulating the original title (I particularly recommend the NES (for example, with SmartGear) and the MS-DOS emulation (with both n0pâ€™s DOSBox port and PocketDOS); both are excellent). Itâ€™s not only free, but, as far as emulating with SmartGear is concerned, is much easier on the battery. (Sindbad continuously uses 100% CPU time even without you moving; this means heavily reduced battery life when compared to, say, the newer version(s) of SmartGear).
ConcreteSoft releases 3D Lawn Darts
The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was a very popular home computer system in the eighties.
The history of the Spectrum didn't end at the official, 1990 discontinuation of the series. As with the Commodore 64 (see the review of all Windows Mobile-based C64 emulators HERE) , which still receives top-notch scene demos, the Spectrum had (and is still having!) a spectacular afterlife in the ex-Soviet states; most importantly, Belarus and Russia.
Particularly in Russia, there have been a plethora of self-manufactured ZX Spectrum-based home computers throughout the entire nineties, with a lot of fans and developers. This trend even continued in this century - currently, there are still some hardware manufacturers still producing ZX Spectrum-based & compatible computers like the Pentagon and the ATM Turbo. While these models, in general, haven't really improved on the (gaming-wise, particularly weak) graphics subsystem of the original Spectrum (not taking the new low-res EGA-like mode into account), they come with plenty of memory (128k to 1M in general), good sound capabilities, IDE hard disk, CD-ROM, mouse etc.
Russia's leading role in the ZX Spectrum's surviving has also resulted in something else: a steady stream of software titles released for these ZX Spectrum-based computers. Just pay a visit to the Virtual TR-DOS main page (Wiki), which is the largest archive of the software ever released for these models. I especially recommend downloading the full app / games database (it's the Virtual TR-DOS Games & Press Base link on the main page) and browsing the database. Titles with the type "RU" are all genuine games developed by Russian developers. Titles with the type "D" are also interesting because they show what projects Russian developers have embarked on but, then, either failed at or, at least, didn't deliver a final, fully working version. The dedicated demo download page is HERE. I've even posted some screenshots of a somewhat working (!) Civilization and Wolf3D-clone in the The Comparison & Feature Chart (“Chart” for short). You WILL want to check out these demos in a capable emulator (in either the desktop-based Unreal Speccy or its Windows Mobile version, UnrealSpeccyPPC) - they are really fun and clearly show these models (except for the really bad, to avoid the infamous "color clash" of the ZX Spectrum, one-colour graphics) are much-much better than anything imaginable on the original ZX Spectrum. You may also want to check out some scene demos (again, under a capable, compatible emulator); for example, the two ZX demos written by AND, author of UnrealSpeccyPPC. While, technically (mostly graphics-wise), these clones aren't as good as the Commodore 64, some demos (and genuine Russia-based) are really top-notch.
If, on the other hand, you "only" want to play old, original, commercial games written for the original ZX models and are not at all interested in advanced stuff like watching Russian demos written for somewhat more advanced Spectrum clones, you will also want to read on - you'll find all the answers in this article.
In this roundup, I present a full roundup of the Windows Mobile (both Pocket PC and MS Smartphone) emulators of the platform. As usual, I'm absolutely sure you won't find a better discussion of the subject anywhere else. And, in addition, I present you a lot of new and REALLY groundbreaking information never ever published in English - only in Russian (one of the several languages I have the honor to speak) and a very short news item in Czech. Yes, this is the FIRST roundup to report on the BEST ZX Spectrum emulator ever written, UnrealSpeccyPPC. You can be pretty much happy that I also speak Russian (along with a lot of other languages) – without my knowing the language, Windows Mobile users would have ended up being not reported on this really groundbreaking emulator, let alone being presented with a usable tutorial, which I also provide in here –.
This roundup is somewhat different from the previous one discussing Commodore 64 emulators. The sole reason for this is very simple: of the five Pocket PC-capable Spectrum emulators, there is only one that should be preferred unless you need Portrait mode or an on-screen keyboard with all the original key labels (BASIC commands etc - note that Symbol Shift'ed characters are also shown by UnrealSpeccyPPC). With the C64 emulators, there were two strong Pocket PC contenders (PocketCommodore64 and PocketHobbit, but I've also explained how the worst C64 emulator, ComeBack64ce, should be used) and, of course, the Smartphone-based PocketHobbitSP2003. In the case of the Spectrum, fortunately, there is only one really recommended emulator, which greatly simplifies the discussion.
This means I put particular emphasis on the most recommended Spectrum emulator, UnrealSpeccyPPC, unlike the other two non-disqualified titles (PocketClive and SpectrumAnyWhere), let alone the two titles (the comparatively new, but with the arrival of UnrealSpeccyPPC, already-outdated PocketSpeccy and the very old (the last version was released in 1999), Handheld PC-specific SinclairSpectrumEmulator), which I haven't included in the Chart. Of course, as far as the MS Smartphone platform is concerned, I also put particular emphasis on the most recommended MS Smartphone emulator, FuseSP. This, of course, doesn't mean I completely ignore the two non-disqualified Pocket PC-specific titles (PocketClive and SpectrumAnyWhere) - I've very thoroughly compared them to the rest in the Chart. It's just that, in the textual tutorial below, I don't elaborate on how you can for example load programs. In the Chart, you'll find most of the needed information though.
First, let's elaborate on whether it's at all worth emulating ZX Spectrum (or, of course, one of its more advanced, Russian clones).
It was some 20 days ago that I published my last installment of Gaming news. Letâ€™s see what happened in the meantime and what should you immediately go purchase before the rebate is over.
First, three EXCELLENT games (two of them even having a MS Smartphone version!) for half the price today.
The Commodore 64 (C64) is the most successful home computer ever manufactured. This also shows in the number of the software products (mainly games) released for the system.
Fortunately, Windows Mobile, both the traditional Pocket PC and the touch screen-less Smartphone version, has pretty good Commodore 64 emulators.
In this roundup, I elaborate on them all on both platforms. I also present a small gift to the entire QVGA (320*240) MS Smartphone community: a C64 emulator, hacked by me, which does make use of the entire QVGA screen, as opposed to the pre-hacked state. And, of course, the roundup itself is also a nice present: as with all my other emulation-related articles, nowhere else will you find a better, more thorough article on all these subjects, I think ;)
1.1 Is Windows Mobile-based C64 emulation worth the trouble at all?
First, the device has a plethora of good (!) games. While the same games typically exist on other platforms (back in the eighties, games were released for several computer and/on gaming console platforms at the same time), the C64 had a more game-friendly hardware when compared to most home computers (and even some dedicated gaming consoles) of that time.
This means for example the C64 version of the classic game "Uridium" is orders of magnitude better than, for example, the very slow and in no way spectacular (not even mentioning its also sub-par sound / music) ZX Spectrum version. With other games, the differences may not be so apparent (after all, Uridium used the superfast character mode on the C64, unlike on the ZX Spectrum, where it needed to do some heavy bitmap moving), but, generally, if you can, say, only choose from a ZX Spectrum, an Apple II, an Amstrad CPC and a C64 port, check out the latter first for the best possible graphics / sound. (The only exception is the high-resolution mode of the Amstrad CPC, which results in particularly text-based adventures' delivering a much better gaming experience. Unfortunately, as PocketCaprice doesn't support the high-resolution mode on VGA devices, this advantage is non-existing on our mobile platform.)
Second, as opposed to emulating the Amiga, Windows Mobile-based C64 emulators have no speed problems at all - not even on very slow handhelds. While it's impossible to play most Amiga games on even the fastest Windows Mobile devices without stuttering sound, C64 games run on even on lowest-end, 7-year-old models without problems. This also includes today's TI OMAP-based models, of course.
Supporting low-end hardware, fortunately, also means support for even low-end, low-resolution (176*220) MS Smartphones. As the Smartphone platform has way fewer games than its big brother, the Pocket PC, emulation becomes even more important. While, fortunately, there are some really excellent gaming console emulators for MS Smartphones (even 176*220 ones) - for example, Masterall's emulator masterpieces and SmartGear, home computers are generally not emulated on the platform (that is, there are no for example Atari ST or Amiga emulators for the MS Smartphone). The lack of (home computer) emulators and native games makes it very important for any MS Smartphone user to have access to a plethora of C64 games, which are, with many titles, perfectly emulated even on low-end, cheap mobiles.
1.1.1 When to stick to emulating another platform?
Ever wanted to know how you can use low-res (176*220) titles on your hi-res (240*320) QVGA Smartphone?
If you have a QVGA Smartphone like the HTC Vox / s710, you know well enough that most existing games and other graphics-based Smartphone apps (Windows Mobile 6 Standard) out there only use a postage-stamp sized screen area. An example of this is PDAMillâ€™s Flux Challenge, which, being designed for the traditional low-res (176*220) Smartphone resolution, only uses part of the available QVGA screen estate:
There were no widely known solutions for the problem. Some developers announced support for QVGA devices (for example, that of Cell Doom â€“ see announcement HERE), but the most (including PDAMill) didnâ€™t.
Fortunately, an excellent White Russian coder has come up with a generic solution, which not only makes it possible to run MANY (but not all!) games at full screen, but, in cases, also lets for using real (!) QVGA resolution with some titles (for example, emulators).
Go to this MoDaCo thread and download the ZIP file attached to the first post. Youâ€™ll need to register as a forum user if you arenâ€™t able to access it. If you donâ€™t want to bother with it, Iâ€™ve also uploaded the file to my database back-end; itâ€™s HERE.
After this, just unZIP it and start GxQvga Patcher.exe. Should you encounter an error message complaining about the lack of the .NET Framework 2, you will need to download it HERE (note that some stated it only requires 1.1. I havenâ€™t checked whether theyâ€™re right. The latter is accessible HERE.)
Lately, I've become absolutely intrigued by mobile power solutions. One novel type of mobile power solution is the 3-in-1 charging system. These systems allow you to recharge your Windows Mobile device at home, in your automobile and while traveling. The team at Boxwave dropped me an E-mail to inform me of their VersaCharger PRO, an improved version of their 3-in-1 charging system.
The VersaCharger PRO has a sleek design and supports AC (wall outlet) and DC (cigarette lighter adapter) recharging options.
To emulate the platform, youâ€™ll need the free (!) CastCE. As opposed to, say, PocketUAE (the Amiga emulator for Windows Mobile), it offers almost flawless (except for some minor glitches like the lack of hi-res support on VGA Pocket PCâ€™s) emulation.
Is it worth at all?
Iâ€™d say yes! While the Amiga is definitely better suited for gaming (particularly when it comes to audio), its emulation on Windows Mobile is pretty bad, particularly sound-wise. Therefore, if youâ€™re looking for playing an Amiga classic not (necessarily) existing on other, emulable platforms (or, at a much lower quality â€“ see for example Stunt Car Racer, which had the best port on the Amiga and the Atari ST), giving a try to the ST isnâ€™t a bad idea. It might offer the best emulation capabilities and/or gaming experience.
Of course, with most multiplatform titles, always try preferring console ports (most importantly, 16 bit (!) consoles of the late eighties: Segaâ€™s Genesis / Mega Drive or NECâ€™s TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine) for superior emulation & gaming quality.
UPDATE (08/25/2007): version 0.9 out with many new features, enhancements & bugfixes! See THIS.
(end of update)
The Amstrad CPC home computer, while, internationally, definitely not as successful as the Commodore 64 or the Sinclair ZX Spectrum , the two most important, competing home computer platforms, may still be worth emulating. At least, to bring up memories if you was a CPC user back into the eighties.
To emulate the platform under Windows Mobile (as opposed to the desktop operating systems, where there are a plethora of emulators), your only choice is PocketCaprice, port of caprice32, a (comparatively) incapable newcomer to the CPC emulation scene.
(another screenshot showing the DOS screen on a VGA device, after listing the directory of a mounted disk)
Is it worth bothering?
If youâ€™re looking for a generic gaming platform, Iâ€™d say no.
The CPC could only gain the market leading position in France, and, apart for the superior screen resolution & modes, was technically definitely inferior than the C64. This also means games written (or, in most cases, ported from the Sinclair Spectrum) are, in most cases, far inferior to their C64 (or, when it does exist, say, Segaâ€™s Genesis / Mega Drive or NECâ€™s TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine) counterparts, particularly animation speed and sound / music-wise. A perfect example of the difference between the graphics scrolling / speed and sound/music capabilities of the C64 and the CPC is, say, the two Turrican versions running on the two devices. The C64 has excellent music and scrolling without problems; the CPC doesnâ€™t even have in-game music and much blockier scrolling.
There are very few exceptions to this rule; for example, text-based adventure games taking advantage of the 640-pixel wide screen (as opposed to the 256 / 320 pixels of the competing 8-bit platforms). These games, however, arenâ€™t really worth playing in the emulator either because the emulator doesnâ€™t emulate high-resolution modes correctly on a VGA Pocket PCâ€™s - it downscales images to 320 pixels wide. This means youâ€™ll want to stick to emulators of other platforms (or, with Magnetic Scrolls titles, game interpreters) to play games relying on the 640-column video mode.
Some other, remarkable games for the platform are Hewson's (all 8-bit fans know who they are and what they are famous for!) Cybernoid II (linked from HERE; also see THIS; itâ€™s one of the, unfortunately, very few CPC games with excellent in-game music), Switchblade (linked from HERE; also see THIS on the vastly inferior ZX Spectrum version) and Get Dexter (linked from HERE).
Getting, installing, using
TekSoft, one of the most excellent newcomers to the Windows Mobile developer scene but already being Bluetooth experts (see for example their excellent BlueMouse and BlueMusic applications), have just announced in THIS thread that it's, unfortunately, not possible to "hack" the Microsoft Bluetooth implementation of Windows Mobile to "capture" speech packets and record them:
"We had another attempt of making PhoneREC possible - by intercepting the voice flowing through the BT driver when a Bluetooth headset is connected:
1) when a call is established, the software would have enabled voice routing to Bluetooth headset
2) if a headset was not present, it would have been emulated (to be able to use the device without headsets with phonerec too)
3) voice data over Bluetooth would have been in the form of SCO packets
4) our software would have intercepted the SCO packets, extract the voice data, record it to a file, and play it on the device's speaker (so no need of using the headset to hear the other party in the call)
Unfortunately this failed too, as the SCO packets are handled in the hardware, so we found no way of capturing those from a software program.
The only remaining option is to use a custom made wired headset with PhoneREC. This works and assures high fidelity sound for both parties, but the phoneREC user can only record the phone call by using the special wired headset."
This is certainly very bad news for anyone not having a call recording-capable model.
For the time being, you have only few choices if you want to record your phone conversations. These are as follows:
Now that Iâ€™ve reviewed emulating most desktop gaming consoles (DO check them out if you haven't already done so, they're all HERE - you won't find a better source of information on all these questions ANYWHERE else; no wonder they've all have been made sticky the official Emulators forum at MobilitySite / AximSite by Michu, author of the Emupage, himself and some even had the honor of being frontpaged at Pocket PC Thoughts and Just another Mobile Monday!), I found it necessary to review how handheld gaming consoles can be emulated on Windows Mobile.
Note that I do NOT review how the Nintendo Game Boy (GB ), Game Boy Color (GBC) and Game Boy Advance (GBA) platforms need to be emulated. The reason for this is very simple: Masterall, one of the biggest players in the Pocket PC and Smartphone emulation scene, has just released another, very cool GBA emulator, GBACE, and is continually working on it. Also, the other â€œbig nameâ€ with (currently) GB / GBC (no GBA) emulation, SmartGear, is continuously improved. As soon as they reach a semi-final state, I publish a FULL roundup of all Nintendo handhelds. In the meantime, if you need GBA emulator, use either Sunbugâ€™s PocketGBA or the above-mentioned GBACE.
Note that the first chapter, the one on the Sega Game Gear (GG for short), also discusses a 8-bit, not really advanced (but sill better than the NES) desktop console of the eighties, the Sega Master System (SMS). Some Game Gear games are just Sega Master System titles (with decreased resolution â€“ to see the resolution difference between the original SMS titles and that of GG, compare the SMS screenshots in the reviews below to this GG screenshot); in cases, increased color depth and, in VERY few cases, stereo music as opposed to the mono music of the Master System) in a portable, small cartridge format.
1. Sega Game Gear (and the Sega Master System)
There are three really usable emulators (and one outdated & non-working):
1.1 SmartGear 0.25
(Note that the current version, 0.25, already supports full-screen mode on VGA devices too. In this screenshot, Iâ€™ve only used the 150% mode so that the task- and command bar are also visible. Using full screen mode (which you will want to stick to because itâ€™s blazingly fast on ALL VGA devices), I couldnâ€™t have made them visible.)
Just Another Mobile Monday, a great generic blog on Windows Mobile, has just posted a great Smartphone-related link collection. It's well worth checking out if you're interested in the platform.
Hewlett-Packardâ€™s calculator series, while in no way as popular or standardized as the emulators of Texas Instruments (please see THIS for the one and only COMPLETE overview of emulating the latter calculators on Windows Mobile), indeed have their place under the sun. What is more, they have way better emulators under Windows Mobile that TI.
Note that, as with the above-linked TI article, you may want to read this roundup and actively follow the for example Wiki links. Higher-end HP calculators (as with those of TI) can easily be better than any native calculator and/or unit converter on Windows Mobile (WM for short), let them be traditional touchscreen-enabled Pocket PC's (Windows Mobile 6 Professional / Classic models) or no-touchscreen Smartphones (Windows Mobile 6 Standard) devices. Furthermore, which should also be taken into account, the majority of these emulators can freely be used (as opposed to mostly commercial native WM calculators) â€“ with the highest-end HP models even when you donâ€™t actively own the original calculator. I provide you with all the necessary manual links so that you can easily find out more information on a given model â€“ that is, you donâ€™t even need to own the (original) manuals. Hats off to HP (as opposed to TI) for being so generous and providing the ROM image of their best calculators and allowing for using them even if you donâ€™t own the original calculator!
As usual with most of my roundups, you simply won't find a better, more thorough source of the subject. This is particularly true of my first-hand information on MS Smartphone (Windows Mobile 6 Standard) compliance. That is, if you're lucky enough to have a newer, high-resolution (QVGA) Smartphone and look for a decent calculator compatible with your device, make sure you read this article - you won't find "hacking" tips like these anywhere else.
Letâ€™s start with the most popular 48/49 series, which many consider even better than the top-of-the-line Texas Instruments calculator series, the TI-89.
1. Emulating HP-38G/39/40G/48GX/48SX/49G
The HP-48 and HP-49 series are no doubt the best calculators ever manufactured by HP. They are not only graphing calculators, but also support CAS (read THIS for more info on this very subject). Should you want, in addition to, say, the Wiki pages, a guide to the different models and their target audience, also check out hpcalc.orgâ€™s Calculator Buying Guide.
Also note that, in 2000, HP ACO allowed the use of the HP38, 39, 40, 48, 49 ROM's even if you're not an owner of this calculator type (see for example THIS for references); that is, you are free to use this emulator even if you donâ€™t have the original calculator(s). This is great news, particularly given that the manuals of the calculators are also available online.
Fortunately, the Pocket PC emulation of all these models is very strong (no bugs, hi-res VGA support, object export/import supported on Windows Mobile too etc.), as opposed to that of TI calculators.
WM6 & Microsoft Bluetooth A2DP (stereo Bluetooth headphones) quality: Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Everyone into A2DP and stereo, wireless Bluetooth headphones knows the Microsoft Bluetooth stack, quality-wise, used to be WAY worse than that of competing products (Widcomm / Broadcom on Windows Mobile; Nokia and other products on other platforms). Iâ€™ve thoroughly elaborated on this issue in the Comparison & thorough compliance report of three stereo Bluetooth headphones: Nokia HS-12W, Plantronics Pulsar 590 and 260 and previous articles. Note that you WILL want to read at least this article - it may answer a LOT of your A2DP-related questions.
Fortunately, there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Upon seeing THIS XDA-Dev thread (linked from THIS thread at MoDaCo), Iâ€™ve made some very thorough tests with the new, WM6 Bluetooth implementation and was VERY pleased with the results.
Yes, the new WM6 (as far as REAL, official WM6 versions are concerned and NOT illegal, â€œcookedâ€ ROMâ€™s, some of which still having the pre-WM6, low-quality A2DP implementation) indeed delivers a vast quality increase.
Listening to any music with singing was pretty much impossible with the MS BT stack back in the WM5 days (with an incompatible pair of headphones; donâ€™t forget that, as has also been pointed out in my already-linked article, the A2DP implementation of WM5 delivers excellent results with already compatible A2DP headphones like the Nokia HS-12W); now, with WM6, the sound quality is pretty much close to that of the Widcomm (Broadcom) BT stack. Itâ€™s only audiophiles (like me) that will notice the VERY slightly lower sound quality with the new, WM6 implementation; ordinary people not really.
Again, the sound quality of the new A2DP implementation is orders of magnitude better (again, I only speak about incompatible headphones, NOT about compatible ones like the already-mentioned Nokia HS-12W! Keep this in mind when I speak about the bad sound quality of pre-WM6 A2DP implementation) than that of ANY WM5-based Pocket PCâ€™s or Smartphones. This means you can, finally, dump Widcomm hacks or Widcomm-based handhelds in favor of new, WM6-based phones.
What about pre-WM6 Windows Mobile models?
After Microsoft introduced A2DP support in January 2006 with WM5 AKU2, the vast majority (exceptions include, for example, the HTC Wizard, which has never officially received any A2DP support) of new models (and operating system upgrades for existing ones) coming with the Microsoft BT stack (that is, all WM5 models except for Acerâ€™s and HPâ€™s models and the Fujitsu-Siemens T830 phone) have been released with A2DP support.
The A2DP sound quality of WM5 AKU2 devices was terrible. It was only with VERY few headphones models (for example, the already-mentioned Nokia HS-12W) that it delivered good sound quality. The vast majority of existing A2DP stereo headphones models (for example, the Plantronics Pulsar 590 and 260) were plain useless with the stack.
Due to both popular demand and some EXCELLENT new Smartphone models pretty much comparable to even Pocket PC's, I've decided to put special attention to MS Smartphone (Windows Mobile (6) Standard) devices in the future.
This means a LOT of never-before published tips, tricks, hacks, tutorials on Smartphones, with special emphasis on "hacking" Pocket PC programs / games onto the Smartphone.
Iâ€™ve reviewed ViTO SoundExplorer, the big brother (and, to some degree, a predecessor) of VITO Technologyâ€™s new title in the Windows Mobile Audio Recording Bible, the definite resource of EVERYTHING audio recording-related. In the meantime, ViTO has also come out a specialized version of SoundExplorer, targetting the folks that would prefer making quick voice notes (or, for that matter, record any kind of audio at high quality) and / or record phone calls.
While most Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC Phone Edition (in the new, WM6 parlance, â€œWindows Mobile Professionalâ€; from now on, I refer to them as â€œPPC PEâ€ devices) models arenâ€™t capable of making quality phone call recordings, some (not very common) PPC PE models have no problems at recording.
With the â€œlittle brotherâ€, the MS Smartphone (WM6 Standard) platform, the situation is far better about the half of the current models allow for recording phone calls, even the pretty new, cheap and recommended HTC Oxygen (aka Orange SPV C100, HTC S310). Unfortunately, some other models, for example, the otherwise HIGHLY recommended HTC Vox (aka HTC S710, Orange SPV E650) do NOT support call recording. (Just ignore if somebody states the opposite â€“ unfortunately, many people just donâ€™t know what they speak about when talking about call recording quality. My measurements are VERY reliable as I do all of them on MY devices and, therefore, my info isnâ€™t based on hearsay.)
Please see the article Windows Mobile device manufacturers & Microsoft, we DO need phone recording capabilities!, paying special attention to following the links; particularly the PPCT one â€“ it explains EVERYTHING about all these questions.
Other call recording apps
Up until recently, the only really useful call recorder application had been the free PMRecorder. While having its share of problems (the need for using a third-party tool to convert its output to be playable with any other tool; the need to manually start it before automatic call recording and the fact that it runs as a process, which can easily result in its purging from memory; the lack of sophisticated audio codecs like MP3 or Speex), itâ€™s an excellent and reliable tool really worth checking out; particularly if youâ€™re into free and/or Smartphone-compliant apps.
Then came the beta versions of the forthcoming Resco Audio Recorder 4, which, while keeping (and, Speex-wise, even enhancing) its really great codecs, added call (auto)recording support. Itâ€™s a really excellent app well worth giving a try. Its three major problems are only the following:
- no Smartphone-compliance as of yet (YES, Iâ€™ve tried even on my WM6 QVGA HTC Vox)
- its MP3 encoder is really bad and should never be used
- the Speex encoder (the best encoder for voice storage, memory usage / quality-wise) uses a lot of CPU time. This means you MUST overclock your slower (for example, 195/200 MHz TI OMAP-based) devices so that it can work OK. And, even at running your TI OMAP device at 273 MHz, you will encounter occassional stuttering when playing back the recording.
Finally arrived AudioNotes 1.3, which, while keeping its excellent MP3 encoder (itâ€™s capable of making really QUALITY recordings even at 64 kbps, unlike Resco Audio Recorder, which is unable to make quality recordings at any bit speed), added the necessary framework (autostart, storing caller / callee ID / number, the date etc) needed for call recording.
Get it from HERE. Note that the PPC (PE) and the Smartphone versions are exactly the same and are interchangeable. Install, start.
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