Rugged PDA Features – The Operating System

31 01 2012
There are now choices for Rugged PDA Operating Systems

There are now choices for Rugged PDA Operating Systems

There has been a lot of change, development and sheer rumour when it has come to Rugged PDA Operating Systems the past year and this blog aims to help users through where they stand on the subject!  I thought I’d do this one by way of popular questions we get asked about Mobile operating systems from technical ones to can I have Windows Mobile 7.0 Rugged PDA, which is probably a good one to start on!

Windows Mobile 7.0 doesn’t exist!

There I said it, it’s time to get used to the idea that Windows Mobile 7.0 has never, will never and does not exist in any shape or form!  In fact this is a slight fib because WM7 was penned in on the roadmap as the natural successor to WM6.5 however it was pulled very quickly and quietly when obvious decisions were made about the changing strategy Microsoft were about to take with their OS division.

What is Microsoft’s strategy on their mobile OS’s they seem to have 3 OS’s now?

That’s right.  Microsoft were losing the smart phone war against rivals like IOS (iPhone) and Blackberry and Android.  However the Smart phone market is very different from the Rugged Market and the OS needs to be very different to serve them effectively.  This is why Windows Phone 7 was released.  It is designed to be a highly up to date, feature and function packed OS giving users a great OS experience.  It changes quickly, wildly and is a nightmare to keep apps up to date on.  Add to this smart phone hardware also changes like the wind too which means this is a fast paced market.

The Rugged market remains with the same Windows CE and Windows Mobile OS’s but they have been renamed and strategically re-positioned to give people wanting a proper line of business OS that does not like change at all!  The new OS’s are currently called Windows Embedded 7.0 and Windows Embedded handheld 6.5 which is the one we’ll see in rugged PDA’s.

What OS Options are there and which are most popular?

Microsoft still dominates our market and up until about October last year there was only Microsoft with the odd Palm based Janam Device.  However this is changing wildly now as Pidion launched the first Android Rugged PDA last year with their BIP-6000, their semi rugged BM170 also due to be launched very soon and we have heard news of Skeye launching their Dart with Android on it too.

Android is here and it is growing.  You have to be very careful of it right now but we are seeing customers with solid in-house LINUX expertise lapping it up.

What is the latest Mobile OS from Microsoft that runs on Rugged PDA’s?

The latest OS’s are Windows Embedded 7.0 which is the old “CE” renamed, however Microsoft wants PDA’s to stay away from this so we still Windows CE 6.0 devices being launched today.  Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 is the latest OS that takes the reigns of the Windows Mobile thread of OS’s.  Many devices are actually running WEH 6.5 and not WM.65 they just don;t tell you due to the confusion and the fact you simply can;t tell as they are pretty much the same OS>

Why doesn’t Windows Phone 7 run on PDA’s?

Because it changes too much and too often.  It is designed for Smart phones where the OS has to keep up with all the latest trends and demands and changing hardware too.

Can I get a smart phone with Windows Mobile 6.5 on it?

Officially not any more, with the last of the HTC models now having gone end of line over 6 months ago.  There have been a lot of resellers cashing in on selling the stocks they have left and everything on Ebay is actually a fake by the way or 2nd hand but even these channels have seemed to have dried up now.

Are there any small Rugged PDA’s that run Windows Mobile 6.5

Yes, you need a “Semi rugged PDA” there are currently 2 to choose from the Pidion BM170 for those of you that want the PDA/Smart phone form factor with large screen and minimal keyboard or Motorola’s ES400 for the small screen, qwerty form factor.  Both are excellent devices, the BM170 is a far better supported and quality device in our opinions, we just have to look at the number of returns and warranty claims we have made to prove that!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Understanding The Rugged PDA – Main Features

30 01 2012
Rugged PDAs come in all shapes and sizes and their spec/features do too!

Rugged PDAs come in all shapes and sizes and their spec/features do too!

This week we’re going to be looking at the Rugged PDA again and thought we’d do an update to a popular series we did a while ago now which looks at all the features of a Rugged PDA, what they are and why you’d want them.  We’ll go through them 1 by 1 and use a blog article to talk about a specific feature a day.  Today we’re starting with a generic look at all the features you can choose from when looking at a Rugged PDA.

Main Features of a Rugged PDA

So there are a lot of different features a rugged handheld needs to have in order to fulfill the needs of various user types.  In order to fulfill as many uses as possible, these devices come in all shapes and sizes, and also have a specification and feature list that’s configurable, some even changeable. The main areas we’ll be looking at are:

  • Operating System – There are a few OS choices and we’ll talk about the OS’s you can choose in this article!
  • Processor, RAM, ROM and base spec – All the things that a good rugged PDA needs to be fast, efficient and robust.
  • LCD – Sizes, resolution, quality, all the options are discussed here?
  • Bar code Scanners – Are you really going to rely on that camera in your smart phone?
  • RFID Reader Options – Built in snap on or Bluetooth?
  • Cameras – Do you need one, how good is it?
  • Keyboards – Type, usability and choice.
  • 3G/GPRS/Phone capabilities – Will the PDA send data back whilst in the field? How fast, how robust?
  • Wireless networking – How well will it connect and remain connected to your WiFi network?
  • Bluetooth – Do you need to connect to other devices and just how good is BT these days?
  • Speciality Rugged PDA’s – Rugged Handhelds for special customers.
  • A chat about accessories – This can make all the difference

Why are we talking about the features?

Well whenever we sell a rugged PDA we tend to go through a similar process with customers and part of that process is that they always end up learning what they need, why and also appreciating the compromises they might need to make.  All Rugged devices are different, the features may be the same but they can also use different technology to get the same result and we wanted to make sure people are primed and knowledgable about this before they decide to buy.

We’ll kick off tomorrow with a look at the first element in the list above, the OS!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Pidon BM170 – Understanding the ULDR Menu

27 01 2012

So to round off this weeks technical series on the Pidion BM170 we’re taking a good look at the ULDR Menu.  I guess some people would call this the “boot” menu or Boot Loader but essentially it’s a small hidden menu where you can do a few things with any Pidion device that can be really useful.  This blog is good to go for all Pidions, so if you have a BIP-1300, 5000, 6000, or 7000 or even the older BM150R this is all good stuff for you too!

One word of warning before we delve in to this.  Fiddling in the ULDR menu can seriously damage a Rugged PDA, I mean actual hardware damage can be if you don;t know what you’re doing so whilst this blog will show you what you can do with it, you must consult with your reseller before doing anything.  We are happy to help too so just ask if you want some help.

Getting into the ULDR Menu

First we have to get the ULDR menu up.  You do this easily by performing a hard reset but this time instead of pressing the “OK” key you hold down the “Send” key for 5-10 seconds.  Instead of resetting or reloading the OS on the device, you’ll quickly see a DOS style menu pop up like the one below.

The Pidion BM170's ULDR Menu

The Pidion BM170′s ULDR Menu

What do the 5 sections do?

There are 5 menu items and we’ll talk about what each does here:

1. Download Image

You won’t really use this at all.  It allows you to download an OS image using various techniques.  However the best way to do this is to use the SD card method found in (5) below.

2. Delete Hive Registry

This does exactly what it says on the can, I can’t say I personally remember using this feature before.  It can screw your device up though if you’re not careful!

3. Format FlashDisk

This feature will format your FlashDisk or ProgramStore area.  It will basically delete and format the whole area. If you do this and then try to hard reset the device, it will still reset but you may be missing some essential patches and startup files.  This is good though if you really want to lock your device down and hard wire them to your own applications.

4. Nand Format and repartition

Now this is a useful feature because it allows you to fiddle with the Rugged PDA’s memory.  from here you can alter the ProgramStores size from the default setting of 55MB.  This is really useful if your apps are large and you want to try to cram everything into the persistent storage area of the device.  You can also reduce the size to if you just want to use the device in a more generic smartphone manner.  This will increase the ROM you have in the device.

Be warned that when doing this you will wipe the device totally and you will need to reload the OS again (See 5 below).

5. Image Reload

This allows you to re-image a device with a new OS.  We can’t give out OS images willy-nilly so its a feature we use here rather than the end users for licensing reasons, however you can re-image your device from here if you have the right OS and boot files.

We do get asked what the ULDR menu does a lot here, and whilst it is a useful tool, this blog is really to show you what can be done, rather than what you should be doing yourself so always consult with your reseller before attempting anything in this article.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Pidion BM170 – Hard Resetting and Cleaning Down Completely

26 01 2012

I’ve found myself doing a bit of a mini-tech blog on the Pidion BM170 so far this week!  So far we’ve looked at the Power button functionality, how to reset the BM170 and today we’ll be looking at how to clean the BM170 completely down.  This blog is good for all the Pidion devices, so if you’ve got a BIP-1300, 5000, 6000, 7000 or a BM150R, then this is all valid stuff for you too!

But we know how to hard reset the little semi rugged PDA now, from Mondays blog, whats all this about cleaning the device down?  I hear you say, well one of the tricks a rugged PDA has over its smartphone cousins is something called persistent storage.  This is usually a folder that can store all kinds of things in it from patches, persistent programs like bar code scanner apps but most importantly it can store your own solutions and apps making the device resistant to hard and soft resets.  It is an essential process to keep Rugged handhelds running in the field.

However this can also be your worst enemy when you’re trying to fault find or just want to get the device cleaned down right back to factory settings.

To do this you need to go and look at the “ProgramStore” folder.  Its right in the top-level of the devices folder structure and you will notice it has the little black icon marker on it.

The Pidion BM170 ProgramStore

The Pidion BM170 ProgramStore

Essentially this needs to be reset to the factory standard before you perform a hard reset.  Go back and ask your reseller for a copy of the original ProgramStore folder, or come talk to us and we’ll help.  We just need your serial number and the build on the device which is easy to find and we can send you the original ProgramStore folder for you device.

Copy this new folder to the device, overwriting the one that’s there, Hard reset the device and then it should be totally cleaned down for you. An alternative way of getting hold of the ProgramStore folder is to take a copy when you buy your devices.  Make sure the build number of the device’s ROM is the same as it’s likely you’ll need to keep a different copy for each build you h ave….thats life I’m afraid!

Just a quick word of warning about this.  If you play with this folder and delete stuff that the OS needs to rebuild itself, then you can potentially break the device so always get advice before fiddling with this folder on the Pidion BM170.

Tomorrow we’ll get technical and I’ll take a look at the ULDR menu and talk you through what it is and what it does.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Pidion BM170 – Altering the Power Button Behaviour

25 01 2012

One of the things we have been asking Pidion to change on their devices for ages was how the Power Button behaves on their devices and a few months ago they answered our customers prayers by providing a new full power button feature on their newer devices.  This FAQ works on the Pidion BM170, BIP-5000, BIP-6000 and the BIP-7000 too but we’re using the BM170 as the example on this one as it’s asked for most on this device.

Finding the Power Button App

Hidden in the depths of the settings you’ll find the power button set-up application.  It’s actually a new tab on the “Buttons” application which can be found in”

Windows Button -> Settings -> Personal ->Buttons -> Then click on the right tab twice and you get the power button screen as shown below.

We’ll talk you through the 3 options you have here

Power Control feature

This feature allows you to select from 3 options

  • Default – This means the button will just put the device into hibernate (Unattended) mode.  It will not do anything else with the device.
  • Set Sleep/Wakeup delay - This simply tells the device the delay you want to put on the hibernate and wake up of the device.  The power button will still only hibernate the device but if you want to put a delay on the button action so that a 2 or 3 second press is required rather than a quick press then select this option and put the desired time from the drop down menu.  This is useful to stop the device from waking up accidentally whilst in your pocket or tool box.
  • Deep Sleep - This now changes the power button so that a short press will hibernate it and a long press will actually turn the device off completely.  You get a little confirmation box pop up before the device actually switches off.

 Hold Control

This feature isn’t that obvious at first but it effects how the behave button behaves.

The hold button short press can be set to launch a whole load of things.

Just click the tabs in the Buttons application until you see the “Program Buttons” screen and you can select what this does.

For instance the hold button is ideal as a launch key for the camera application.  This replaces the old, fixed hold functionality of the button that basically just locks the Semi Rugged PDA into the Lock screen.  This functionality is still useful though and indeed hasn’t gone away.  It is now operational on a long key press of the Hold button.

The Hold Key

The Hold Key

This feature here sets the delay you want that to happen.

So setting this value to 5 seconds will mean in this example that a short press will put my device into the camera app, a 5 seconds long press will lock the device.  Hope that makes sense to everyone!

Wake Up Lock

This will automatically require you to unlock the device when it wakes up if selected.  If not then the device will wake up and the screen will be live just where you left it.  This is useful again if the device wakes up in a pocket, the screen will effectively be disabled so you can;t make any accidental phone calls.

Hope this helps people, as always don’t forget that we are the Number 1 Pidion experts here in the UK.  If you want any more help at all then just come and ask us and we’ll be happy to help.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

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