Connecting to the world with Windows CE

Brien Posey explains how to connect Windows CE to the Internet, how to access the Internet through your LAN, and how to get the speed that a LAN connection can provide.

Although Windows CE has been around for a few years, it's just within the last few months that it's started becoming popular. This increased popularity is due partially to the fact that the tiny computers that run Windows CE are becoming more powerful. As with any operating system, however, the practicality of Windows CE will depend ultimately upon its ability to connect to other resources. In this article, we'll explain how to connect Windows CE to the Internet. Then, we'll explain how to connect to your local area network. Finally, we'll put it all together and show you how to access the Internet through your LAN and get the speed that a LAN connection can offer.

Before we begin
Before we begin, I should mention that not all Windows CE machines are created equal. For the purposes of this article, we'll use a Hewlett-Packard Jornada 680. The Jornada 680 contains an internal 56K modem and accepts PCMCIA network cards. Many Windows CE machines require add-on modems, and they won’t accept a network card. On other types of machines, the steps that are required to connect to outside resources may not be exactly like the ones we've outlined here, but they should be similar.

Configuring your dialer
Neither your Web browser nor your Inbox functions independently. Both depend upon a connection being established by your dialer. The dialer requires you to enter a phone number and some basic TCP/IP information. Then, it will allow you to call your ISP, and it will negotiate your Internet connection.

When you begin configuring your dialer, you'll be asked for a profile name. The dialer can save different profiles based on the location from which you're dialing. For example, you might have one profile for dialing from home that disables call waiting before you dial. You could have another profile that dials 9 to access an outside line at the office.

Once you've established an initial profile, you can set up a dial-up session. You begin by specifying the name of the session. For example, you might call it Internet. On most Windows CE machines, you'll have the choice of using a typical configuration or a custom configuration. For the purposes of this drill down, we'll assume that you're using the advanced configuration option.

The first thing that you'll be asked for is the telephone number. Enter the phone number of your ISP and click the Next button. At this point, you'll have a choice of using a server-assigned IP address or a user-defined IP address. Most ISPs (Internet service providers) use server-assigned IP addresses. You also may have a choice of using a SLIP or a PPP connection. The majority of ISPs use PPP. Unless your ISP requires it, don't use the SLIP option. When you've set your IP address and connection options, click Next.

At this point, you'll be prompted to enter IP addresses for your DNS and WINS servers. Most ISPs also assign DNS addresses automatically. However, if you have a preferred DNS or WINS server, you can enter the address manually—whether or not your ISP likes to assign addresses. Click Done to complete the dialer configuration process.

Configuring your Web browser
So far, you've configured your dialer to attach to the Internet. If you try to dial your ISP with the dialer, you'll be prompted for your username and password, and then you’ll be connected to the Internet. However, before you can browse the Web, you must configure your Web browser.

Like the dialer, the Web browser allows you to choose between typical and Advanced configuration. If you select the Advanced configuration option, the first thing that you'll be prompted to enter is the Proxy Server information. Unless you plan on accessing the Internet through a LAN connection, don't enable the Proxy Server. We'll discuss it more later on. Click Next to continue.

The next window that you'll see allows you to set your browser's home page and default search page. The home page is the page that will be accessed automatically each time you launch your browser. The search page is the page that the browser will default to if you decide to search the Web. Click Next when you've configured these options.

At this point, you'll see the option to enable Auto Dial. Auto Dial automatically dials up and connects to the Internet every time that you launch your Web browser. It can also be set to disconnect you automatically if you leave your machine idle for a given length of time. We prefer not to use this feature because you'll often want to view a local HTML document without having the inconvenience of your browser’s trying to connect to the Internet every time. When you've filled in the appropriate options, click the Next button.

The next part of the wizard allows you to control the way that your browser displays Web pages. You can set the browser either to display or hide graphics, play sounds or not, and shrink the page to fit the window or leave it full size. Remember that some browsers aren't capable of displaying graphics and you may not always have this option. Click Next to continue.

The final stage of the wizard allows you to control your security and cache settings. As you may know, when you access a Web page, the contents of the page are stored in a cache directory on your PC. If you access the page later, access is generally faster because the page is cached and doesn't have to be downloaded again.

Since Windows CE machines have a limited amount of memory, you can disable the cache completely. We recommend enabling the cache but setting the browser to empty the cache when exiting. The default cache size is 10 percent of your total storage space. If it isn't enough, you can always increase it.

The security portion of this dialog box allows you to enable or disable cookies. Unless you have a special security requirement, we recommend that you accept cookies. You also can click the Security Settings button to reveal other security settings. These settings allow you to choose the types of secure connections that you'll allow. When you've finished with your cache and security settings, click Done to complete the wizard. The Web browser is now ready to use.

Updated browser
Depending on how new your Windows CE machine is, you may not necessarily have the newest browser. You can always download a new browser free of charge from the Microsoft Web site .

Configuring your Inbox
As with the Web browser, you can select either a typical or an advanced configuration for your Inbox. If you select the Advanced option, a wizard will launch. The first question that this wizard asks you is what type of mail server you plan to use. Usually, it will be a POP3 server. After selecting the POP3 server, click the Next button.

At this point, you'll be prompted for some standard information that could be a bit frightening to someone who’s setting up e-mail for the first time. First, you must enter the IP address of your mail server, followed by your e-mail user ID. The e-mail user ID is the name that you want others to see on messages that they receive from you. If you're unsure of the IP address of your mail server, you can ask your ISP, or you can ping it from another PC. For example, at a DOS prompt, you'd enter something like PING MAILROOM.XPRESSIONS.COM.

The information that you've entered so far will allow you to receive mail, but if you want to send mail, you must fill in the optional information. The first bit of information is the Windows NT Domain Name. You don't have to enter anything here unless you're accessing e-mail on your local network. However, you have to enter the IP address of the SMTP host that’s responsible for sending the messages. Usually, it’ll have the same address as the POP3 server does. You must enter your e-mail address in the space provided. Click Next to continue.

The next window that you see asks for some information about your personal preferences, including how often to check for new mail and when to disconnect. You can use any values that you want, but if you're unsure of what to use, you're usually safe with the defaults. Click Next to continue.

The last window that you'll see asks whether you want to retrieve only message headers or the full text. You also can decide if you want to download file attachments and meeting requests. If you decide to download files, remember that, on a palmtop, this task can be very time consuming and potentially can run the machine out of memory. Click Done to end the wizard.

Before you try to use your Inbox, remember that mail servers usually require a separate password from the one that your ISP requires for the initial login. You can configure this password by opening the Inbox and selecting the Options command from the Services menu. When you see the Options properties sheet, select the desired service from the Services tab and click the Properties button. Next, you'll see a summary of your Inbox configuration and a place to fill in a username and password. On some machines, this password is already filled in. Just remember that the automatic password can't be trusted. It's best to replace the automatically generated password so that you know yours is correct.

Attaching to your network through a serial port
One of the most popular ways of connecting a Windows CE device to your network is via a serial port. Install the Windows CE Services CD on your PC. Then, attach the serial cable between the two machines and adjust the port speed. Next, select the Mobile Devices command from the Microsoft Windows CE Services menu on your PC. Select the PC Link command from your Windows CE machine's Communications menu. This action will begin the synchronization process.

When communication has been established, you'll be prompted for a password on the PC if the CE machine is set to use an initial password. After entering the password (if necessary), you'll be asked whether you want to synchronize or browse. Synchronization works differently on different types of machines, but it usually involves synchronizing mail messages, contacts, appointments, and some files. The Browse Only option allows you to transfer files between the two machines or to work with files on the remote machine.

Attaching to your network through a network card
Several palmtop models support the use of a standard PCMCIA network card. The catch, however, is that you're limited to using a network card that comes with Windows CE drivers. A few cards on the market come with these drivers. Such cards are often designed to consume less battery power than a standard card. The HP Jornada comes with NE2000 drivers built in. Therefore, any NE2000-compatible PCMCIA card will work. Just remember that it’s advisable to use the network card only when you’re connected to an AC power source because network cards tend to consume battery power quickly.

The first time that you insert the network card, Windows CE should recognize the card and ask you to assign an IP address to the card. You can use a static IP address, or if you plan on connecting to a DHCP server, you can use a dynamic address. As you might expect, this dialog box also allows you to enter a subnet mask and default gateway. The card's properties sheet also contains a Name Servers tab, which allows you to provide DNS and WINS server addresses, if necessary.

To use your network card, reboot your machine and go to Control Panel. Next, select the Network icon to access the Network Configuration properties sheet. This properties sheet is divided into two tabs. The Adapters tab allows you to configure your network card. You should verify that your TCP/IP settings are still correct. If they are, go to the Network Configuration properties sheet's Identification tab. On this tab, you can enter the necessary credentials for connecting to your network. These credentials include your username and password and the name of the Windows NT domain that you plan to use for authentication.

Now, return to Control Panel and click the Communications icon. You must change the computer name before you can attach to the network. In some cases, you may have to select the network card from the Communications properties sheet's PC Connection tab. Now, reboot your Windows CE machine. Now, you should be able to access your network. You may notice the absence of the Network Neighborhood icon. The easiest way to access a network resource is through its UNC. For example, you might go to the Run prompt and enter \\SERVER_NAME\SHARE_NAME\, which will allow you to browse the share.

Attaching to the Internet through a network link
We mentioned that the method of attaching to the Internet may differ if you're plugged up to your LAN. If you're using a standard TCP/IP configuration on your network and have a wide-open gateway to the Internet, you're set to go. However, if you're using a Proxy Server for a firewall, you'll need to enable the Proxy Server settings that we discussed earlier. Simply select the Use Proxy Server check box. Then, you must enter the name of your Proxy Server and a port number. Usually, port 80 is used for Web traffic.

An operating system is only as good as the tasks that it will let you perform. An important aspect of any operating system is connectivity. In this article, we’ve discussed methods for connecting your Windows CE device to foreign resources through a serial port, dial-up connection and a network connection.

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail . (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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