Is That a Desktop in Your Pocket?
Software that every tech person should use
May. 20, 2004 12:00 AM
Two new products from DDH Software take us one step further from our desktops, but is remote access really that useful?
DDH Software released two new programs recently, a Runtime for their venerable HandBase software and a truly new application, Mobile TS, which allows Palm users to connect to Windows PCs and control them from anywhere. I'll save the Mobile TS fireworks for last and start with the new version of HandBase, since my programming career started (and ended) with dBASE, one of the original database programs for microcomputers.
HandBase is the popular award-winning relational database program for Palm and Pocket PC handhelds. Like the old dBASE program, you can build just about any application with it in short order, and there are lots of applications and samples available to use in building your own programs. The latest version offers a new forms builder making it easier than ever to create data input forms, and a new synchronization scheme that can merge data every which way, making HanDBase more powerful and flexible than ever. The synchronization feature allows mobile data to easily become corporate or group data, and vice versa.
Here's an example using a project-management scenario. Completed items can be uploaded from individual handhelds to the group file using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or infrared. The entire project status can be downloaded to individuals the same way. Individual employees can even update each other, device to device. Project management becomes a continuous stream of information rather than a batch update.
One of the problems with the old dBASE was distributing an application to several users. Each of them had to have dBASE running on their machine. The same was true for HanDBase until the recently released RunTime builder solution. Now HanDBase programs don't need HanDBase in order to run on any Palm or Pocket PC device. The RunTime solution creates standalone programs that do almost everything HanDBase does, including the synching possibilities listed above. Web-based surveys, cataloging, and a host of other "many user" type programs become much easier to create and distribute with this new RunTime solution. Adding this and the new forms builder to HanDBase makes a complete application-building environment from DDH Software. All of these programs are available as "try before you buy" at their Web site at www.ddhsoftware.com.
Now for something completely different, but also from DDS Software and also available to try out: Mobile TS allows users, for the first time, to connect their Palm handhelds to Windows desktops and workstations via the Internet (see Figure 1). It uses Terminal Services or Remote Desktop capabilities built into many Microsoft Windows operating systems.
The download and install for Mobile TS went without a hitch, but I couldn't connect to my desktop machine. It turned out to be an "operator error." A knowledgable user on Mobil TS's Yahoo Group pointed me to the Microsoft site (www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/remotedesktop/). I followed the instructions to configure my desktop computer for remote access, and Kablamo! There, in glorious color on my Tungsten C was my Windows XP desktop (see Figure 2). It was oddly thrilling to be able to control my big computer with a handheld. This software is a natural for IC techs who need to check on banks of computers, start processes, restart them, etc. For the average businessperson it's a little more daunting since Windows is not designed to be displayed on a PalmTop. But once you get the hang of it, you can actually remotely control your data, applications, and network resources that are on your office computer, without being there.
For techies, Mobile TS uses RDP Protocol to securely (SSL encryption) and efficiently control computers remotely, via Internet or network connection. Since the introduction of Terminal Services with Windows NT4 Terminal Services edition, enterprises have been widely using Terminal Services for their thin-client solutions. No additional server software is required. For companies using OSs equipped with Terminal Services (like Windows 2000 Server, and Windows 2003 Server) and Remote Desktop (built into Windows XP Professional), there is no additional software to install on the server, no other communication software to pose a potential security threat or risk.
DDH Software says Mobile TS is "true thin-client architecture." Using Terminal Services allows for multiple concurrent sessions on a single server (if licensed) meaning a single workstation running Windows 2003 Server (or similar) could host dozens of handhelds, each accessing their own virtual desktops and applications, making the latest desktops or laptops unnecessary and increasing ROI within the company.
This may be true in a pinch. I did manage to bring up Outlook and Word using Mobile TS, but I must say I still prefer to use Palm-specific software for e-mail and word processing. That said, this is very exciting software that every tech person should use, and every tech-savvy businessperson should try out.
DDH Software, Inc.
3141 Fortune Way, Ste. 13
Wellington, FL 33414
24 Hour Toll Free: 1.877.334.4608 (U.S. only)
Fax: : +1.561.423.0120
HanDBase Sample Applications
Health care billing & procedures
HanDBase Synchonization Methods
Handheld(s) to handheld(s)
Handheld(s) to PC
Handheld(s) to central data server.