Windows CE 5.0 Netbook – not really a notebook?

Once I had Dell Axim X30 which was running on Windows for Pocket PC 2003. It had Word, Excel, web browser, POP3 email and media player. For this device I had to install MPEG player and Adobe reader to get it useful for my needs. However, batteries lasted only around 20 minutes and to get any files exchanged (or installed), I had to plug it with a real computer using a USB cable. This cable was a part of adapter even adapter wasn’t much needed when it was connected and charged from USB.

And for some time of heavy usage, those cables went broke. So I had to purchase extra USB cable and adapter for it. Another problem was in backup batteries. Those lasted only one day so if I wasn’t able to charge my Dell, I had lost all the files and installed programs in this device memory. At least it had 64MB RAM and 64MB ROM where it reinstalled Windows within seconds.

Meanwhile I used Dell D520 notebook to make SVG animations but this product had another problem. After two month of usage the power connector in motherboard got loose. And Dell software refused to charge the battery claiming “unknown power adapter installed”. PSNI hold it for a year removing all Dell’s service tags and afterwards Dell refused to service it. So, when in travel, I opened it myself trying somehow to fix this simple problem. But I wasn’t much able to reach the part of motherboard without any special Dell tools, so it stayed open in my back bag on rainy days until I got little bit money to go “servicios informatica”. There I found out that I had carried a useless piece of metal in my back bag over a month.

In last winter I was desperate to have some device and Netbooks, costing 250 EUROs from mobile operators sounded a good device. In those days they had 8.9″ screens with Windows XP home edition installed. But I never earned this 250 EURO’s to buy a such kind of device.

So, a year went when I was to earn some money again.

And Netbooks went bigger having now nearly 11″ screens and with Windows 7 installed to those and those devices where more expensive too.

So, I found a cheaper and smaller device costing around 100 pounds with 7″ screen and Windows CE in it. How bad can it be when Dell PDA was once suitable for my needs?

So, I ordered it from Spanish eBay site being delivered from UK to Spain. When I ordered it, there was some flash concern in my mind to specify the EU power adapter but then I though “Sure, Britt’s must have some brains, especially when they are selling over the Europe”. But this was again a wrong hope. It reached me with UK power adapter. And to make things worse, the power connector to device is again special one not supporting existing universal adapters for 9V.

There went my hope to use once foldable solar panels to charge it.

So, immediately when I got the product and opened it I run to the local market where I had previously seen Pakistanis selling any kind of adapters. But as they didn’t find anything that suits to my device, I just took a UK-EU converter for 2 Euros and went to local shopping center to try my new device as my library was in siesta.

When I connected it to the available power source all gaming machines nearby went dead but this wasn’t much worrying me. I was more worried that battery level was decreasing rather than increasing; tried desperately find some WiFi hotspots until a security guy comes to tell me that I’m not allowed to use their electricity. Then I was already sure that there isn’t any electricity and WiFi neaby; and told him so. He agreed that maybe the electricity here is disconnected.

So, I went to library. When I first connected it in TV room to the power source, the TV and all the lights went out. Sirens went on and library staff told me that they have separate WiFi room for my kind of notebook owners to use. So I went to that room and shut down all the lights and other persons computers there.

Quick run out to the city where Indian guys are running electronics shops to find an EU adapter for my Netbook.

But from those hundreds of adapters they had there, no one’s connector fitted to my device so I just purchased another EU-UK adapter for 5 Euros hoping that this one maybe do not shut down the electricity everywhere, where I could get it.

Finally I was able to open then my new device soon to find out, that cursor moves himself where it thinks and can’t much directed by touching touchpad.

Somehow library WiFi becomes unreachable when you try to login to MSN messenger or use mobile hotmail. Maybe it’s their websites problem or some kind of configuration/security issue.

The good thing is that browser can be configured as XP or PDA, but lot of websites optimized for real Windows just crashing it or are extremely slow. Same time using sites with Mobile mode, does not offer much functionality. For example, I could browse my profile and search new contacts others in Linked, but more important mails, groups, etc are totally missing.

I wasn’t able to open Google docs or access files stored in Microsoft SkyDrive, so “cloud computing” isn’t much an option with this device.

I would love to use Opera browser with it which I loved in my previous devices, but just launched Opera 10 for Windows Mobile or Opera 10 for Windows didn’t install to it. It should work, so Opera should just add Windows CE 5.0 to their compatibility list.

Same is with Adobe Flash player. Adobe Flash for Windows PDA installs’s but crashes with some component call error when trying to access Flash sites.

I tried to put my Vodaphone Mobile Broadband modem to USB bus but Windows 5 CE didn’t recognize it all. There went my hope to use Mobile Broadband with it in the places, where WiFi isn’t available.

Preinstalled FoxIt reader for PDF documents crashes when I tried to open my PDF files, so I tried to get Adobe PDF reader without any luck too.

Slow browsing is probably a memory problem, but you can’t add more memory for preinstalled 128MB. Manufacturer website claims that memory has configured to give the best performance?

Also there is problem with preinstalled 4GB SD memory. With one scrollbar you can configure it between program memory and file storage but it jus jumps back not giving any memory for your files at all.

So, first thing to do is to buy an external SD card. However, before stating to download any files to it you should clear browser cache. Specifying the size of browser cache somehow does not have any effect.

The Pocket Excel and Word are similar to PDA but somehow they have left now highly needed Spellchecker out of it.  I won’t be a surprise because my startup screen tells me “System initialising… Please waiting…”

When you use recent files to get something open in Excel, it loads it and then promts open dialog up to open it again.

For the media, it comes with Microsoft Media Player, MPEG player and Google Youtube player. Because I was unable to install Flash, I’m also unable to use my favorite media sites. It also had preinstalled Pop3 mail client, compression utility, solitaire and FreeCell.

Youtube player does not integrate with browser, so you need to use its limited interface instead. Somehow the search there shows only one result and the program stopped work at all after some usage asking a key. The key written in the bottom to my device doesn’t satisfy it, so probably it was just another demo. Interesting, when Word and Excel will stop to work?

You are unable to remove those preinstalled packages to get little bit more storage.

I tried to install some Microsoft Windows CE extra pack without any luck. Those won’t install either.

So, what I can do with it. Yahoo mail mobile version works fine however their web version crashes the browser. As mentioned before, I have lot of difficulties to access my hotmail account.

For web browsing, I can use sites with simple interface but have problem for example use forums designed for bigger screens.

And when your WiFi becomes unreachable forget to use buttons like “renew” or “connect”. Those does not connect you back to network and are timewasters to use. Mostly after 5 minutes of waiting, you will get Windows default IP adress, so just restart the device.

Same becomes when you want to connect to specific network where lot of networks are available, then just move your position and restart the device again.

It’s still better than using my much smaller PDA screen with touch screen keyboard and battery lasts longer. It charges over three hours but you can use up to few hours too.

It comes with USB cable but I have no idea what to do with it. It does not charge over the USB and computer does not show files stored in my Netbook memory as it happens when I connect mobile phone to USB bus.

So, I consider it as WiFi emergency device which I could also use to prepare my texts and spreadsheets like my PDA was. At least it has a keyboard where I could recommend learning the hotkeys to avoid the unnecessary use of touchpad. If I could somehow get the PDF reader and Adobe Flash player only work with it, or better… get my favorite Opera browser for it?

And finally it’s again a useless piece of metal in my backbag. When Orange WiFi hanged my device waiting nearly 20 minutes and it didn’t shut down, I pressed the reset button unaware that it’s resets the operating system as well. So, no Windows CE anymore on this device.

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