Some Pocket PC Networking Tips

Network Tool
Multi IP Configs

What a Network tool!!!

As happy as I have been with all other features and advantages of the Pocket PC, the ones that have both surprised me and given me the most utility are the networking tools and capabilities.

The foundation of my setup is the Kingston CIO10T Compact Flash Ethernet card.  It's provided daily use for almost two years without a hiccup.  For anyone new to CE networking, I strongly reccomend only cards that a NE2000 compatable.  Other cards and drivers may add a bit of speed, the NE2000 means drivers are going to be available on virtually every platform and with OS upgrades well into the future, something that some big name card manufacturers have failed to follow through with and left may users of previous CE versions with the need to buy new cards for use with newer PDAs.

In addition, being a klutz plus one who regularly looses things, I have learned to be careful about the cable connection.  A card that requires a special connector cable may cost almost as much as the card inself to replace just that cable.  The same is true for the connector... i.e. an XJack is neat, but I would rather have something that will survive if i reach the end of the wire without realizing it.  The Kingston and other cards that have a solid RJ-45 connector provide peace of mind.

vxUtil and vxHPC from are my primary software tools for networking.  Those links will explain what they offer, but my conviction comes from the confines of some very small network closets where working with a laptop is laughable.  On the occasion of redesigning and rebuilding my home network after a recent lightning strike, the Jornada plus vxUtil saved me at least two full work days over working with a laptop.

Super Sync!

Syncing with a serial, ir or usb connection is convenient, but if there is a lot to transfer or if you would like to use the connection to copy a large file to or from the PPC, you will become acutely aware of the speed limits of the above connect options.

Syncing over an ethernet connection, either with a wired network card or using a wireless card will wean most people from their cradle for good.

There are a few ethernet sync "gotcha's" that most people will have to encounter... the most common are;

1 - You MUST first establishe an activesync "partnership" using usb, serial or ir communications before an ethernet connection is possible.

2 - "Allow Ethernet Connections" must be enabled in the PC's activesync setup.

3 - An Ethernet activesync connection must always be "initiated" by the PPC using Start/Connections/Activesync.  In other words, when you make an ethernet connection with the PPC it will not automatically activate activesync in the same manner that connecting a ppc to a pc with a serial or usb connection will.

Before you press "Connect" confirm that "Network Connection" and the name of the sync computer is showing.

4 - On "2000" PPC's you MUST take additional steps so that it can "find" your sync computer because the 2000 PPC's do not announce themselves to the WINS communication on the network.  There are several different issues and solutions.

On a larger network that provides WINS servers and includes the WINS ip addresses when it assigns ip's automatically, there will be no problems.  On smaller networks such as home networks there are normally no WINS servers present, so 2000 ppc's will need help to find their sync computer... there are three options;

a - Use manual ip assignments and place the ip of your activesync computer in the PPC's WINS field

b - Create a TCPIP HOST entry on your PPC using a registry editor.  The following is a sample.  Note that you will have to convert the activesync computer's ip address to hex values. (the address shown is which should be enough information to derive the hex for most internal networks without needing a calculator ;-)


c - Install PocketHosts and include an entry that contains the windows computer name of your activesync computer (or computers) and their ip addresses.  This program will populate the above entries for you.


The Symbol Compact Flash wireless card is, IMHO, the best of only a handful of CF typeII 802.11b options for the Jornada, new or old.  While my original experience with this card was horrible to the point where it generated multiple hard resets with total data wiped, the replacement card that Symbol inally determ,ined was necessary has been working without a hitch for over a year.  On the bright side, I have been completely educated in the skill of backup and restores.

It's been a dream since... longer range than my laptop card, reliable and very light on the power consumption.  In comparisons to other cards in other ppc's I regularly have long connect browsing/email sessions of over an hour with the total battery impact being between 1/8th and 1/4 so that there is never a trepidation about inserting the card with respect to ending up with a dead battery.

If you are new to this, spend some time at news:// and news:// and ask for advice.  My primary advice would be to take your first wireless steps using a wireless "Access Point" rather than starting with "Ad Hoc" and, above all turn off any and all wireless encryption on both the AP and the PPC until things are working!

My system has evolved, but is currently configured as;

                          /     \--pc3
                        / /-hub/--pc4
                       / /     \--pc5
                      \ \--Media Computer
                       \                    /--PocketPC-Wifi
All the above devices, including the Lucent, get their dhcp ip's from the NetGear Router.  The Lucent AP is configured to pass dhcp requests and responses directly through.

Who's @ fault!??!

Reviewing the beginner posts on the public forums, one can't help but notice that there can be a lot of problems getting started with PPC-WiFi connections... based on over two years of experience, it's become obvious that compatibility problems can be almost anywhere. Here are a few that I have observed.

Associating the Symbol CF card with an Open Access Point but an unknown SSID

To "associate" the Symbol CF card with an "open" Access Point when you don't know it's SSID;
  • Insert the card
  • Go to the Symbol Utility (Icon at bottom of Today screen)
  • Set encryption to "none"
  • Select mode
  • Blank the SSID field
  • Confirm "infrastructure"
  • Tap "Apply"



    The card will then "associate" with the strongest unencrypted AP.  It will display the SSID, but it's "iffy" that it will retain it in the "pulldown" list for future use.

    If encryption is incorrect, no signal will display in the "signal" tab, but the Access Point will show under AP tab.

    The "AP" tab will show all AP's (included encrypted AP's) in range and the "signal" column will show the signal of all AP's that are broadcasting their ID's.

    You can "specify" an AP to associate with by tap/hold on that AP entry... for example, you need to associate with a weaker AP that has access you need.

    If you don't work fast... dhcp will timeout... remove and re-insert, then re-blank ssid field.

    The Symbol interface has some other quirks as well;

    The encryption key is split... for 40(64) bit it's five hex characters but the center character is split between the two fields.  For example, if your hex key is "01 23 45 67 89"  you enter it as "01234" "56789"

    Tip... use a "rememberable" hex key (as the example above is rememberable) rather than an ASCII key that you need to convert to enter when hex is required as it is in the Symbol utility.

    Set power at minimum and disable auto power save.

    Disable suspend

    You "generally" want to disable long preamble headers

    vxUtil is a more reliable way to determine if an ip has been assigned...  the ipconfig tab will display, but there may be a long delay even after the ip has been assigned.  If you get and IP but the DHCP fields don't populate, remove the card and press the reset button.

    Don't use any driver version below 3.18... the latest drivers will not work with the PPC 2000 os.

    AdHoc is not "standardized..." there is a very real possibility that Symbol's AdHoc mode will not work with other card manufacturer's cards, so test, but don't kill yourself.

    For AdHoc, everyone enters the same ID (it's the ESSID but entered in the same field)  As always here, it's case sensitive.

    Realism with respect to Range and Speed

    With respect to range and speed, there are a number of issues at play here but using an infrastructure/access point setup rather than adhoc has multiple advantages.

    An "Access Point" allows you to find an optimal location for the AP plus the possibility of using an external antenna which makes life a bit more roamable.

    Despite the claims, a 30-60' radius around an Access Point with no external antenna may be more realistic.  I spent a a few days coming up with an optimal location for my AP that gives me about a 100' usable radius with no external antenna and was surprised to find that putting it up high actually lowered the range (apparently because of slant distance.)

    Additionally, wall material, reflecting surfaces, antenna orientation mix into the equation as well.  For example, sheetrock and wood stud walls will have minimum impact on wifi signals, concrete walls with steel mesh will stop a high percentage of the signal and a metal exterior will stop almost all of it.  Vegetation will be variable... full trees and shrubs soaked by rain will stop a lot more than bare dry trees in the middle of winter.

    If you are going to stick with adhoc and use a usb unit on the desktop, pop for a long usb cable or extension and experiment with placing it in different locations... for example, on a window sill.

    Our local Austin, Texas wireless group, has a number of tips on the range subject.

    Hardware Tools

    Just like the Model-T mechanics of the past needed tools, if you work on networks, they are just as important.  If you are moble, the smaller the tool, the better.

    Obviously, having a network card in the server or patch room is essential, but a minimal cable thats always there is important as well.  The double twisted pair cables that come with 3Com pcmcia connectors is best... and all of 3Com pcmcia connectors have been parted into a short section on the pcmcia end and the rest used for small standard RJ45 mobile cable.

    An RJ45 coupler should be in the kit as well in case you need an extension without the stress and weight that stiff standard cable will add to the connection.

    It's not necessary to carry a separate full crossover cable.  Make up a minimal "Crossover" cable solution as shown in this image that will allow you to establish a PPC ethernet connection to a laptop or other pc without the need for a hub, switch or router.  The mini cable, coupler and any standard ethernet cable makes a crossover cable.

    Here's the standard "XOver" wiring;

    or/w  1 3  bl/w
    or    2 6  gr
    bl/w  3 1  or/w
    bl    4 4  bl
    gr/w  5 5  gr/w
    gr    6 2  or
    br/w  7 7  br/w
    br    8 8  br

    Dealing with the DHCP Blues

    The Pocket PC OS believes in simple users... since Microsoft believes that you are only going to attach to a single network, they provide only one network configuration option... a real pain in the ass if you encounter a circumstance of needing to connect to a fixed ip network when your norm is DHCP automatic assignment of ip addresses.

    If you switch between networks that do and don't assign IP's or have different circumstances such as needing a hard coded Wins server address, the following might be of interest.

    I use a NE2000 compatible wired network card and Poking around in the PPC Registry keys I found the entries;




    There were no apparent parameters for the first entry but the current parameters were in the second (20001) entry

    On a hunch, I exported the key;


    and edited it with PNOTEPAD by changing _all_ occurances (there were several) of "NE20001" to "NE20002" and then imported the back into the registry. That generates a third "NE2000..." registry entry.

    When I then returned to the network settings, there were two NE2000 Compatable entries.

    I then returned to the registry and edited the "Display Names" so that one said "NE2000 Auto Assign" and the other said "NE2000 ICS" then configured each accordingly.

    OK, next blockade was how to select and set the one that I wanted.  That turns out to be the entry at;


    "Route" entry which was "NE20001" and when I changed this entry to "NE20002" the system selected the new entry (with the fixed IP)  the next time the card was inserted.


    It appears that the ability for accessing and using multiple network configurations is built in to the Pocket PC os, but the critical piece that is missing is the ability to change that "Route" entry from a the network configuration screen or a utility such as a power toy or PalmTweak.  For the moment, I am handling it by using a registry editor to edit the above entry but a power toy or palm tweak would be nicer.

    Obviously with different wifi and network connections, you will need to determine the key name for the ethernet device you will be using to connect and edit accordingly... as with all registry tweaks, you are on your own and at your own risk.

    Troubleshooting Network connections.

    First, before any other steps, download and install vxUtil. This tool is invaluable in determining your current situation as well as offering a series of tools that will quickly answer almost any question relating to network or internet connection problems.

    With respect to "wireless" remember that once you have a wireless connection established between any two devices, from that point on all issues are no different than wired ethernet connections made with network cards and network cable.

    Wireless WEP (encryption) is part of establishing a connection.  Since WEP provides it's own set of problems and complications, you should always attempt to establish a working wireless connection with WEP completely disabled on all devices until you have a fully functional connection that does everything you need.  Once that is established, you can then return and impliment WEP.

    Here are a series of suggested tips and steps to deal with the most common problems.

    To determine the ip of any PC on the network that you will need to know, start DOS and issue the command;


    This command should work with almost all computers, including Linux and Unix workstations.  Another utility found in windows is;


    From the DOS prompt, the command PING is a valuable tool.  For example, once you know the ip of your pocketpc, you can go to any PC on the network that it is connected to and issue the command;


    where "" is the ip of your pocket pc and if you have a network connection, your pocket pc will respond.  Conversely, using vxUtil, you can ping any computer on the network with your pocket pc.

    Further, on a PC that has a working connection to the internet, you can "ping" directly to url addresses that you do not know the ip address of.  For example;


    The result of a successful ping will contain the ip address of the url address that you pinged.  This ip address source will soon be a valuable tool, so remember this.

    If you are unable to browse the internet and think you have a working connection to the internet, start vxUtil on your PPC and ping the numeric address that you obtained from the above process.  If the ping gets a response, switch to PIE and enter the numeric address in the address line.  If the page loads, try the named address of the site (such as in the address line.  If that fails, you do not have a valid address for a DNS (Domain Name Server)  vxUtil will tell you what the current DNS addresses are.

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