Hardware

TechRepublic Tutorial: Expand your support with Remote Display Control for Pocket PC

Use Microsofts PowerToys download to train Pocket PC users more easily


As handheld devices take their place in the corporate world, there is an increased need to train users and offer technical support. One of the tools used for such purposes is Remote Display Control. This application can display actions on a Pocket PC, including user input, remotely on the display of a desktop or laptop personal computer. This is a great tool for demonstrating the power of the Pocket PC to a large audience. It also allows developers to test their applications for the Pocket PC on a larger screen. Remote Display Control uses TCP/IP, and it can work with ActiveSync® connections via Ethernet or dial-up. I’ll explain how this PowerToy can come in handy for PC support professionals and walk you through some setup scenarios so you can get started using Remote Display Control.

Who can benefit
Software developers, tech support staff, sales and marketing representatives, and training providers would all benefit from this technology. As a developer, I find it much easier to use the mouse and keyboard when I test Pocket PC applications. There are plenty of emulators available for programmers, but it's much nicer to test the applications on the real thing.

Help desk and/or tech support staff who have the capability to control desktops remotely using systems management server (SMS), virtual network computing (VNC), or XP’s Remote Desktop may also assist users further by troubleshooting their handheld devices using Remote Display Control.

People in sales, marketing, or technical training can remotely connect to the Pocket PC device using Remote Display Control and combine that with projectors to run demos, presentations, and training sessions. Recently, a sales person showed up at my company for a presentation having only his Pocket PC. He connected via USB cable to the presentation computer and activated Remote Desktop. He then copied his PowerPoint file from the device and started the slideshow side-by-side. He went back and forth between PowerPoint and the remote display to produce an interactive presentation.

Before we start
Let’s have a quick look at the system requirements and setup procedures. Remote Display Control works on any platform running Windows CE version 2.11 or later. To get the version of your Windows CE device, go to Start | Settings | About. You can update your device only through system updates obtained from your Pocket PC vendor. The Microsoft Active Sync software must be version 3.1 or higher. To find your current version, go to Start | Programs and click Active Sync. Next go to Help | About. I just updated mine and it reads version 3.6 (Build 2148). To update Active Sync go to the Pocket PC Web site and then get the latest version from the download section. For TCP/IP, you will need to have a configured Ethernet network card (wired or wireless).

Getting the setup file
The Remote Display Control application (Cerdisp by the code name) can be downloaded separately from the Pocket PC Web site and is part of the Pocket PC PowerToys collection. To get the file, follow the PowerToys Link under the Microsoft Downloads section. You may need to scroll down the page to get to the Remote Display Control for Pocket PC section. Click Download and save the “remoteDSP.exe” file on your desktop.

Installing Remote Display Control
Turn your device on and place it in the cradle. Wait for the Active Sync icon to become green, then wait for any synchronization to complete. Now start the installation by double-clicking the file you just saved on your desktop named “remoteDSP.exe.” Click Next at the welcoming screen and then accept the default installation directory. Click the Finish button to exit the installation.

Understanding the connection process
It's important to understand the three-step process required to achieve basic connectivity between the desktop and your handheld device. You begin by loading the remote display application on the desktop, continue by initiating the connection from your Pocket PC, and then take over from the desktop. This process is valid for all types of connectivity, whether it is direct cable or network adapter.

There are two main methods to connect your device. One method is Active Sync via USB or serial cables, which will enable a connection between the device and desktop. The other method is TCP/IP via Ethernet, which will connect the device to a LAN. Traditionally, Active Sync means connecting via USB or serial cables to a desktop. However, with the introduction of Active Sync 3.5, synchronization via Ethernet is becoming popular.

Running the remote display application
Finally, you get to the fun part. The following are step-by-step instructions for the Active Sync connection. To begin, simply launch the application on the desktop. From the Start menu go to Programs | Remote Display Control and click on Remote Display Control Host. Now you need to switch to the Pocket PC main desktop, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A


Use the stylus on the device to tap on Start | Programs | Cerdisp (see Figure B).

Figure B


Click OK to clear the welcome screen. The next screen provides you with a number of options. At this point, just click Connect and leave Hostname as PPP_PEER and tap OK. Now you should be able to see the device's screen on the desktop. Take a test drive by using your mouse and navigating through the menus. In applications that require input, such as Microsoft Pocket Word, you may use the desktop’s keyboard to type.

Remote Display connectivity in detail
Next, I’ll explore how to connect using the TCP connection before looking at the various options available to Remote Display on the handheld, as well as on the desktop.

Connecting via Ethernet to your LAN using TCP/IP
This method may sound intimidating at first, but if you have a good TCP connection, then enabling Remote Display Control is just as easy as through USB or serial cables. You begin by ensuring you have installed the Remote Display Control host on the desktop. Then launch the desktop host by clicking Start | Programs | Remote Display Control | Remote Display Control Host. Switch to the device and with the stylus tap on Start | Programs | Cerdisp. Choose OK to clear the About screen. At this point, you need to type the name of the intended desktop, which is the TCP network host name.

Tip
For those who don't know the computer name, here’s how to get it. If you have Windows 2000 or XP, go to Start | Settings | Control Panel and click System. Click the Computer Name tab. Write down the part of the computer name before the first dot in the name if the domain is displayed. For example, the computer name is john if the displayed name is john.techrepublic.net. If you have Windows 9x, you'd instead go to Start | Settings | Control Panel | Network Neighborhood. Click the Computer Identification tab and read the computer name from there.

Remote Display Control options on the Pocket PC
On the connect screen there will be a number of buttons, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C


The Hide button will place a Cerdisp icon on the taskbar and keep it resident in memory. Clicking the icon will bring the startup form in view. You may experience a bit of disappointment after clicking the Settings button because you'll only find one option to change the refresh rate for sending display updates. The default of 100 ms is intended to produce 10 frames per second. However, in my experience I noticed that the real refresh rate is somewhat less than five frames per second, with many frames being dropped. Nevertheless, I rarely need to lower or accelerate the refresh rate. Running a processor-intensive application on the device may benefit from a lower refresh rate, however, since Cerdisp uses a great deal of processor resources.

Remote Display Control options on the desktop
For the desktop options, the most useful preference is the Zoom. For those of you using resolutions higher than 800 by 600, you will appreciate the Zoom 2X. The shortcut key is [Alt]Z, followed by the number two. The 3X zoom is quite a stretch, and I hardly see anyone needing it. Intermediate zoom options might have been more suitable. For those making presentations, consider Zoom 2X.

The other option on the desktop version of the Remote Display is Send All Mouse Move, which can be found under the Tools menu. By default, the Remote Display application sends only keyboard input and mouse clicks to the receiving handheld. If you are running on your device applications that also require mouse moves, you must toggle this option as shown in Figure D.

Figure D


As a side note, I tried running the Cubicle Chaos game on the desktop. It was obvious that the Remote Display Control was not built for such an exercise, and I felt bound to use the Pocket PC directly until I could repair my damaged average score.

Tip
For those involved in troubleshooting devices that make frequent use of Cerdisp, keep in mind that the desktop version number must match the client version number. Make sure to compare the version number from Help | About on your desktop to the welcome screen of the Cerdisp on the device.

Guide to wireless LAN connections
If you're considering connecting your Pocket PC to your LAN using Ethernet, I'd recommend choosing wireless technology. To do so, you'll need a wireless access point and a compatible network card. The network card, most likely compact flash style, will be inserted into the expansion pack for your Pocket PC. Installing the network drivers is done via the Active Sync.

Use the network card’s utility to verify that you obtained an IP address and that you can ping the desktop computer, which will run the Remote Display Control host. Figure E is a screenshot of the utility provided with the SMC compact flash network card used for this article.

Figure E


End notes
Finally, for those using Bluetooth technology to synchronize, keep in mind that the methods to connect the two devices are similar to USB connections. I am not aware at this time of any incompatibilities or conflicts with other uses of Bluetooth technology, such as remote printing or remote headphones. If you are using Pocket PC 2000, it is recommended to download and install Service Pack 1. Users of Compaq iPaqs are encouraged to an update from Compaq’s Web site for a customized version.

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