Sunday, March 27, 2005
Posted by Vladimir Nestorovich in "SPONSORED ARTICLES" @ 08:00 AM
Problem #1. I didn't expect it would take THAT much time...
Suppose, for example, that your solution has many, if not hundreds, of identical Pocket PC devices in service. All of these devices are supposed to be used in the same way, and have identical software and settings configurations. It takes a lot of time to configure all the necessary registry settings and to deploy desired applications to a device that must be configured from the ground up. When needing to configure a new device, reconfigure an older one, or reconfigure the entire set of devices one must perform all the same operations (like installing programs, changing registry, adding files, etc.) on all these devices. This often requires careful attention to details, a good memory and, last but not least, specified skills and knowledge. All of this means that the procedure could take from 10 to 30 minutes for a single device. Therefore when you need to configure an entire set of devices, the entire process could take several weeks. And, even then, you may not be sure that you made no mistakes and did it completely right for every device.
That's the first time you may think you have gone wrong somewhere.
Problem #2. They keep on getting out of order all the time...
Ok, you have finally deployed your solution and provided every single location (store, cafe, restaurant, library, etc) of your corporate chain with your devices. Your employees are trained to work with the devices. Great! Now, let's suppose one of your devices, equipped with your application and used in another city, crashes. Your main application deployed on the device doesn't work and it needs repair -- fast. Meanwhile, you are suffering a loss, and your business is standing idle... It costs you a lot of time (and nerves!) just to get back to normal operation. You could waste a lot of time travelling to that particular location and restoring the crashed device’s functionality or you could try solving the problem by phone, or you could employ a certified specialist to go there and fix the problem... Then the same thing happens once again in another city. And again, and again...
That's the moment you regret your desire to be “trendy”.
Problem #3. I feel like I bought them a nice toy...
Yes, you will never be sure that your enterprise devices are all used exactly as you would like them to be. A Pocket PC is really a great tool with a lot of powerful features. There are tons of ways it can be used. And there's a lot of temptation!.. Maybe your employees are like children, maybe they WILL load music and listen to it from their enterprise Pocket PC devices. Of course they WILL play games. Of course they WILL install their own applications of dubious origin. Of course they will do a lot of “innocent” things that one day will seriously slow down the main application (in the best case scenario), or destroy the whole device (in the worst case).
That's the moment you understand that the whole idea was a hell-bent adventure.
Cheer up! There's no need to drop the idea to provide your business with a mobile-based solution. But first it may be helpful to foresee possible difficulties and take one or two additional steps.
Kiosk Mode. That's step one!
Problem #3 above involves improper usage of your device has been solved for many years by means of a mode called kiosk mode. We say that an application runs in kiosk mode if:
- - The application runs in full screen mode to prevent switching to other applications using either the Start menu or the Smart Minimize (X) button
- The hardware buttons of the device are disabled to prevent switching to other applications
- The application is always automatically started after soft-reset
- Other ways are used to prevent switching to other applications
The most effective applications that provide kiosk mode for enterprise devices are developed by Spb Software House.
Spb Kiosk Engine
Spb Kiosk Engine is a tool that will take your Pocket PC application and will convert it to kiosk mode. After installing Spb Kiosk Engine on your desktop PC you will get Spb Kiosk Engine Builder. This is a desktop PC program where you enter your settings and it will generate a Pocket PC installer that will provide kiosk mode for your specific application.
Spb Kiosk Engine Builder provides the following options to customize: unlock code, lock code, path to your application that will be kept in kiosk mode and an option of whether to hide the command bar or not.
The unlock code is needed to switch kiosk mode off. This code should be entered using hardware keys. The lock code is used to lock the device back.
Spb Kiosk Engine works with almost all types of Pocket PC applications including eVC++ programs, eVB programs and .NET CF programs.
You can read more about Spb Kiosk Engine and download a 15-days trial version from the Spb Software House Web site.
Spb Kiosk Explorer
Spb Kiosk Explorer is Pocket Internet Explorer running in kiosk mode. Spb Kiosk Explorer Builder allows you to customize a lot of different options: the start page, you can hide any of the Pocket Internet Explorer toolbar buttons and menus; you can hide the command bar completely and even disable the SIP auto pop-up.
Spb Kiosk Explorer is helpful for people who develop enterprise Pocket PC based solutions with a web interface. These can be either web solutions for wireless devices or local Pocket PC solutions that use Pocket Internet Explorer as an interface.
Using Spb Kiosk Explorer you can restrict user access to only particular websites, which will prevent using the Internet for personal purposes. It is even more useful if you pay for traffic. To do that you can remove the View menu to prevent opening the address bar, and remove the favorites button. After that the user will be able to use only links on your pages and will not be able to open any unauthorized page.
Another reason to use Spb Kiosk Explorer is in order to use all of the Pocket PC’s 240x320 screen area. The Pocket PC screen is not big enough to throw away 16% of screen area to the Start menu and command bar if you don’t need them.
You can read more about Spb Kiosk Explorer and download a 15-days trial version from the Spb Sofware House Web site.
Spb Kiosk Terminal
Using a thin client is an interesting approach to building mobile enterprise solutions. The one downside is that this solution will work only for people who use their devices along with access to a fast wireless network. If a wireless network is available, however, then this approach can save a lot of money. Instead of writing a Pocket PC application that synchronizes data with a legacy system you can just change the interface of the existing solution so that it is better displayed on a 240x320 screen. Then use Terminal Service Client to provide remote access to this application from your wireless mobile devices.
But often you may need to run Terminal Service Client in kiosk mode. This allows the use of the entire 240x320 screen area and will prevent the user from switching to other applications. You can do all this with Spb Kiosk Terminal. Except when running Terminal Service Client in kiosk mode it also provides the auto-connect feature. This means that the device will always be connected to the server. You can see how such a solution could make device maintenance much more simple and cost effective.
You can read more about Spb Kiosk Terminal and download a 15-days trial version from the Spb Software House Web site.
Device Cloning. That's step two!
Instead of boring, unreliable and slow one-by-one device configuring, you can clone them! If you use Spb Clone, you will have to configure only one device and clone it to all the other devices. The entire process is performed automatically, all software is installed accurately and configured, free of errors, with a minimum of human intervention and as quickly as possible.
Your employees will never report damaged software. With Spb Clone, just create several storage cards that have clone images of a configured Pocket PC, and provide your employees with these cards. In any software crash, your employee can hard-reset the device and plug the card in. The clone image will be restored automatically.
Spb Clone features
- - One device is configured, the rest are clones
- The average device cloning time is about 3 minutes
- Data security (password protection supplied by AES algorithm (Rijndael))
- Self-extracting and self-executing image file on an SD card
- Assigned location of the target clone image files
- Providing individual names and IP addresses for clones
Spb Clone & Spb Kiosk. A perfect combination
It's really a perfect and irreplaceable combination for those enterprise solutions that include a lot of Pocket PC devices. Without the assistance of these must have applications successful deployment, usage and support of a Pocket PC-based business solution becomes a risky endeavor. But think twice: can you really afford such risk?
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The above article is a paid advertisement for Spb Software House and does not necessarily represent the views of Pocket PC Thoughts.