Best Practice Ezine #111 Vista and Mobile Devices

Windows Vista for Mobile Devices

You can not help but notice the rise in both the number and the range of mobile computing devices.  The advent of Vista is a classic opportunity to review your plans for the best combination of mobile phone and mobile computer.  Microsoft has announced the release of all editions of Vista on January 30th 2007, therefore time to start planning your next step.

Topics for Vista on Mobile Devices

Plan like a general

To win the battle with mobile devices, think like a great general and plan your campaign as if you were:  Eisenhower, Caesar, Napoleon, Wellington or Alexander the Great.  Avoid the mistakes of second rate generals who employ the strategies of the last war (XP) instead of analyzing the new factors present in the current campaign (Vista).  Above all, I want to make it clear this will be your battle, I have no  mobile product that I am trying to sell you. 

One thing about generals is that they think at the strategic level, for example, concern your self with the broad decision whether to go for a Tablet PC or a laptop; but delegate the choice between the xyz and the zxx graphics card to a salesman, junior or even a forum.

Range of Devices

The phrase ‘Mobile device‘ belies a whole family of portable computers, this is the range of device that I am talking about:
Dedicated Mobile Phone, Smart Phone, Palm PC, PDA, Tablet PC, UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer) and of course the full-size Laptop.   Apart from the dedicated phones, most of the actual computers have offerings that run the Vista Operating system.  As a rule of thumb, if a device runs XP then it will run Vista.  For example, Tablet PC 2005 can be upgraded to Vista.

Tablet and Touch Technology advances the mobile PC use of pen, and touch as input modes.  Windows Vista has not one but three parallel stacks for Tablet PCs Windows Forms, COM and the new Windows Presentation Foundation. One practical advantage of the new object model is that it is now easier to design a screen that works in either landscape or portrait orientation.

My greatest desire is to make you think about your future requirements.  Thinking is hard.  There is no gain without pain.  One driving force is that ignorance makes us outdated and the resulting inefficiency is expensive, we need to invest in computer hardware to stay at the top of our profession.

Where do you need a Mobile Device?

Let us start with the question; ‘Where will you truly need your own computer?’  At which locations will you do battle with a phone or a computer?  In a hotel or on a train, surely not in the car, but probably at home and at work?  I say your own device, because in some places you could use other people’s devices, even if you have to pay e.g. internet cafe.

Key question, do I need another computer for when I am away from home or out of the office?

Which Computing Tasks
What tasks will you actually do on your mobile device?  Phoning friends, reading documents, surfing the internet, listening to music, taking pictures or running slide shows?  Make a list of your regular computer jobs.  By checking your tasks, it should become obvious what sort of computer screen you require.  Another key decision focuses on writing; whether you feel comfortable with a stylus, or prefer to type your documents and hence require a traditional keyboard.  Regarding the phone, do you want to dial a standard phone network with a handset, or will you improvise with VoIP using a laptop’s WiFi access?

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Personality Qualities

If you are naturally gadget orientated, then my advice is scale back your impulsive nature, choose only what you really need, rather than pay extra for stuff that is merely for impressing your friends.  Do you really need the most expensive Vista Ultimate on your Laptop AND on your Tablet PC? Or could you save money and run Vista Business edition on your Laptop and the Home Premium version on your Tablet PC.  Will a good laptop remove the need to buy replacement home desktop computer.  Must you buy a UMPC and a Palm Top?

On the other hand if you are naturally reluctant to spend, then open your mind to the new capabilities that Vista will bring.  Don’t make a mistake similar to my clanger of 15 years ago.  The salesman said, ‘For an extra $25 you can have a CD player’, I thought I don’t need one of those new fangled devices.  I bitterly regretted the decision for the next 3 years.  I know I should have corrected the mistake by buying a CD player and fitted it, but somehow I never got around to the task.  If you are naturally reticent to spend, avoid the Home Basic version and instead splash out on the Home Premium edition that delivers Aero Graphics and the Media Center.

Time for a philosophical discussion, do you require multiple gismos for example a mobile phone, a Ultra Mobile PC and a laptop, or will you seek one gadget that will service all your requirements, for example a combined Pocket Phone and Tablet PC.  What is your philosophy for gadgets, one device that does everything, or a dedicated device for each task?

Upgrade XP v Buy new hardware with Vista

What mobile equipment do you have already?  Can your old devices be retrained and their operating systems upgraded, or are you looking to buy in some new hardware.  If you are thinking of upgrading from XP to Vista, then download Microsoft’s Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor.  It will report which programs will work with Vista, and even suggest which components can be upgraded to get the most out of Vista.

Vista has at least five versions; however, they can be divided into those that support Aero Graphics and Non Aero Graphics versions. This is a choice that I will constantly return, because if you make the decision to go for Aero then you must make sure that you buy a graphics card to support Vista’s new glassy, classy GUI.  You need a DirectX 9-class graphics processor that supports WDDM and Pixel Shader 2.0.

In my opinion the non-Aero Graphics versions of Vista are designed for third world countries where they may have been donated really old machines that cannot support Aero Graphics, but by upgrading to the Basic Home version of Vista they gain the other advantages, for example security and networking.

One of my regrets is when I was younger and when I had 20/20 vision and nimble fingers, not getting into the habit of building my own computers.  This self-build notion is not so much driven by a desire to save money, but so that I could repair and upgrade the machines easily.  Perhaps this talk of building your own computer may plant an idea in your mind.

Whether building your own device or buying new computer, check Microsoft’s site for recommended chipsets; remember with Vista there are both 32 and 64-bit versions.  As for memory, Microsoft say 1GB RAM, Guy says go for 2GB or RAM on Vista.

A good deal for Vista?

For those who need to buy a new computer but cannot wait for Vista, Microsoft has worked out a deal with computer manufacturers who plan to sell PCs preloaded with Windows XP. The scheme offers an Express Upgrade to Windows Vista at a discount.  Actually, the deal also works with Office 2003 software –> Office 2007.  Microsoft says, ‘Upgrades will be offered at a 50 percent discount from the boxed product upgrade price, plus the cost of shipping and handling’. What that statement means in terms of cash money, I have no idea, but it sounds like a sweetener to make sure Vista gets off to a flying start, therefore it could be a good deal for you.  The scheme started in October 2006 and runs until March 2007. Microsoft obviously make lots of money, however, they occasionally do offer good deals if you know where to find them. For prices check out the likes of HP, Dell, Fujitsu, Sony, Toshiba and Gateway.

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Intelligence, Research and Emulators

The heart of any battle is intelligence.  For years we have poked fun at salesmen, but now that salesmen have been replaced by shop assistants who know less than we do, we miss their salesman’s patter and expertise.  These days we have to turn to other sources of product intelligence.  If you are proposing to buy, not only seek reviews on the proposed system, but also seek a hardware emulator that you can download or try online.  For example in your browser’s Search, type or paste ‘Ultra-Mobile PC emulator’.  At Microsoft’s site you can then download the UMPC emulator and test the devices resolution and capabilities to see if it’s worth buying. 

I would like to clarify the situation with UMPC, emulation and Vista.  The good news is that UMPC supports both an upgrade to Vista from XP and a new installation of Vista.  The bad news is that the present UMPC emulator does not run satisfactorily on Vista RC2.  No problem, just test the UMPC on XP.

Incidentally, I have discovered a whole range of free computer emulation software on the internet.  Mobile devices are particularly suitable for emulation, for example try: in your browser’s Search: ‘Device Emulator 1.0 with Windows Mobile’

How to overcome problems with Vista on old hardware
Hardware and software incompatibility is cyclic.  After 5 years with XP, people say, ‘Hardware incompatibility, what are you talking about there is no hardware incompatibility with XP’.  However, old timers will remember back to when XP or Windows 95 was the new kid on the block.  Veterans of the previous upgrade have bitter memories and boring horror stories of latency and hanging caused by trying to run the new operating system on old hardware.

The point to keep in mind is ‘How could the old hardware know what the new software required?’  Fortunately, there is an answer, only buy hardware that is on the HCL (Hardware Compatibility List) alternatively seek a logo, but not just any Vista logo make sure it says ‘Premium’. 

Marketing people have a knack of making even a ‘Basic’ logo look enticing, but Guy says, unless you don’t mind missing out on features such as Aero Graphics avoid products with the ‘Basic’ Vista Logo.  The idea of products with Premium (or Basic) Logos is companies have submitted their hardware to Microsoft who have tested it, if necessary asked for modifications, retested and passed it as working with Vista.

Vista RC2
All that we have seen up until November 2006 is Vista RC2.  Remember RC2 is not the real deal, show stopping glitches will need to be fixed by the final release of Vista.  Also bear in mind that reviews of Vista which criticise device latency and programs hanging are more a damnation of the device used for testing than the Vista operating system.

Vista’s New Features

Good security is unobtrusive, so it is with Vista’s protection from hackers and viruses.  Unlike XP, Vista was built from scratch with security at the forefront of each design decision, as a result not only will Vista be inherently more secure when its launched, it will be harder for hackers to gain entry and easier for the security experts to hook in their products to provide protection in the years to come. 

In Vista, the User Account Control (UAC) manager enforces that every program, even those of the administrator, runs with minimal privileges. What happens in the case of the administrator is that when a program needs extra privileges, the User Account Control manager intercepts the request and warns that a program requests extra privileges.  The UAC waits for confirmation the Administrator to click ‘OK’ before completing the action.

Another new security initiative in Vista is Windows Service Hardening.  The idea is to restrict the scope of Windows Services and thus improve security.  Windows Services no longer have limitless rights and scope, instead each has only the rights needed to do its job.  In the past, hackers have attacked the operating system via Windows Services. In Vista these hackers are in for a surprise, even if they were able to successfully hi-jack a service such as Telnet or SMTP, the new ‘hardening’ means they have no scope for their nefarious deeds.

Allied to windows service hardening, is registry restriction. The idea is that normally, Vista only exposes a subset of the registry to a program or service.  However the administrator can still see the whole registry with regedit.

This theme of Vista allowing programs to do their job, but nothing extra extends to IE7.  Vista’s new browser runs with much reduced privileges, while it can still to its job as a browser, it provides no back doors for hackers to exploit.  Now I don’t want you to think that increased security reduces functionality for legitimate tasks, because it does not.  In the case of IE7 the pure browsing abilities have been enhanced, for example, anti-phishing features which really do identify and block access to rogue sites pretending to be banks.

I am only scratching the surface of security, if you want to know more seek out Microsoft’s 50 page white paper on Vista Security.  All that we generals need to know is that Vista is the most secure Microsoft operating system available.  Other systems may more secure now, but once Microsoft gets the bit between their teeth they excel in that field.  I will stick my neck out and predict that in 5 years everyone will be saying, Microsoft now have the most secure operating system.  That system maybe son-of-Vista, or Vista with SP5, but Microsoft seemed determined to achieve the premier security position.

In terms of networking Vista improves upon XP with the new Native WiFi (NWF).  In practice this means a better network manager which seeks to transfer the Vista device from one network to another automatically.  If that strategy fails, then you get a better interface and smarter tools to troubleshoot connection problems.

Vista brings numerous small improvements for mobile devices, take shutting down as an example.  Vista has new APIs that shutdown applications automatically and stop them hanging.  In XP if you tell a machine to shutdown, it may refuse because certain programs have open process.  On a desktop this is no big deal, but on a laptop you may not realize the machine is still active and consequently, when you return an hour later the battery has been drained because the ill-behaved programs refuse to close.  Vista warns such stubborn programs with EndSession message and then carries on with the forced shutdown.

Laptop Battery and Aero Graphics
I keep returning to the Aero Graphics, they are superb but there is one problem on a laptop the extra power drains the battery more quickly.  Aero Graphics reduces battery life from say 3hrs with XP to 2hrs with Vista.  Therefore rather than spending ‘dead money’ on a second battery for Vista on the old laptop, you may be better upgrading to a modern laptop with longer battery life.

Start YOUR research with the Ultra-Mobile PC

Begin the quest to discover the best mobile device(s) for YOU, by checking out the Ultra-Mobile PC.  I am not on commission, but I selected Ultra-Mobile PC, because it’s a modern device and it will provide a reference point.  My reasoning is that this device will help you build a picture of what mobile device suits you, for example, screen size and whether you like a stylus or want a keyboard.  Get your emulation software by Searching for UMPC Download.

Mobile Device – Checklist

  • Places you need a mobile device
  • Tasks for you mobile
  • Keyboard or stylus
  • One mobile device, or several
  • Upgrade or buy new
  • Type of mobile, Tablet PC UMPC or Laptop
  • One battery or two
  • Version of Vista (Ultimate, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise [Home Basic])
  • Premium Logo for Vista

Get links by typing these strings in your Browser’s search

  • Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor
  • Windows Vista Premium Ready PC
  • UMPC Download

Will and Guy Humour

As is often the case, Will and Guy have a relevant joke, Mobile Phone, incidentally if you have a similar or better joke then send it to me and I will publish with a credit to you.

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