A couple of weeks ago I got a HTC P3300 (codename Artemis) Windows Mobile 2005-based phone. This is a very nice device, but of course it needs tuning to fit your needs. Here is my quest’s log 🙂

Linux interaction
Being a Linux-only user I hit a very hard wall from the very begining. There was no way I could make it interact with my Linux laptop. I’ve tried out SynCE, USB and bluetooth connectivity, but to no result. The most I could do was to ping the phone from Linux, over USB, with manually set IP addresses, on both the laptop and phone, using the latest experimental kernel (2.6.24-rc2 at the time) + the rndis_host patch from SynCE.org. I’ve tried compiling all the latest tools on Slackware, using the default ones on Ubuntu and even tried a dedicated Linux distribution: Live Mobile Tools (nothing different btw, same null results). Very disappointing experience …

Fortunately we have another machine with Windows around so I had to borrow it to interact with the phone.

WM6 upgrade
Just recently HTC published the Windows Mobile 2006 upgrade for HTC P3300. But you only find this out after you open an account on e-Club section of the HTC site and register your device. The upgrade is completely free by the way.

Before executing the upgrade procedure I installed Outlook and using ActiveSync I synchronized the phone with the laptop, to have a backup for all my painfully inserted contacts (you can only send one contact at a time over bluetooth).

The upgrading process takes about half an hour, the device is returned to the bare state, and now you have a surprise. Synchronizing the device with the host you discover that only Favourites was actually backed up, everything else is lost. Why did this happen, I have no idea, but you can easily imagine what I wished M$ at that time…

To copy the contacts again I just removed the SIM card and put it back in the old phone, copied everything on it and imported all the contacts into the beast. It was a bit of mess with the contacts that had more than one phone number associated, but overall it was much faster than sending again the contacts one by one over BT.

Now, was the upgrade worth the trouble? Apart from a different image at boot and minor tweaks of the widgets, I haven’t noticed anything. Same old crap look and feel since my first ipaq H3800 five years ago.

Task manager
I was very surprised to see that there was no task manager available. You need one to easily kill the processes that remain in background when you actually want them to close. One solution is to go to Settings -> System -> Memory -> Running programs, but it is pretty annoying to do this every time your device starts misbehaving. One free tool that fills this need is tMan.

One other thing you can do is to go to Settings -> System -> Task Manager and check one of the “End programs by tapping X” or “End programs by tapping and holding X”, to your liking. This way you have the option to force the apps to actually close instead of going to background.

The CPU is rather slow on this device (200MHz only). It was probably a tradeoff at the time, between all the features (GSM, GPS, WiFi b/g, BT and so on), and you can feel the device responding too slow at times. Good news is that the CPU can go up to 260MHz or down to 100MHz. You can use a tool like XCPUScalar to do this. This tool does exactly what you want: manual frequency setting so you can either improve the responsiveness of the device or extremely save the battery life. Or, even smarter, you can let it choose the appropriate frequency as a function of CPU utilization. Nice tool!

File manager
The default file manager is quite dummy simple. You really really want to replace it with a smarter one. Let’s say the free, complete and very useful Total Commander.

Windows Mobile as USB Storage
Today I stumbled upon a nice piece of software that disables the default ActiveSync USB connection and replaces it with a USB Storage-compatible implementation. The program (WM5torage) is excellent and costs you only your email address (for forum registration; great forum btw). I’m finally happy to be able to interact with the phone from Linux. Well, it’s only the external memory card that is accessible, but at least this way I have always with me a 2GB “stick” :). Kudos to the developer.

GPS software
HTC has equipped the device with TomTom and the option to download one (1) city for free. I’ve tried TomTom but didn’t like it too much, so I’m now using MioMap 3.2 for general navigation.

Another nice addition is the Google Maps for mobile. It’s really impressive to enable the GPS in it and switch to satellite view to see the exact window of the building you are at… The downside with GM is that you permanently need a data connection otherwise the application produces an error message and exits. And while I am comfortable with it over WiFi, I’m not happy at all to use the GSM for data, especially since GM downloads really a lot (at least in satellite mode). I don’t understand why there is no switch in it to just use the cached data if there is no data link established. Ah, and it creates the cache in the main memory, having no option to put it on the external memory card instead…

Communication tools
MSN Messenger comes by default. But I don’t use MSN, so what should I do? IM+ is a nice tool (unfortunately not free) that solves all your instant messaging needs. Except for Skype that you have to install separately. Skype is all nice but I could not talk more than 10 seconds at a time, it kept disconnecting… But it was only once, so I cannot tell if this is really a problem of the mobile client or not.

Other tools
A real Linux fan will have to install PocketPutty to keep in touch with its beloved servers.

As replacements for the dummy IE I’ve tried out Opera for PocketPC, but found it as not worth the trouble/money, being no smarter than IE in all the relevant aspects. Minimo on the other hand is a full fledged browser, making the poor phone a really full fledged navigator. It comes with a price tough, it’s really big and starts veeery slowly. If you keep it loaded in memory then everything is fine, pages are rendered very fast and every JS works as it should. So for now I keep using the built-in IE for quick needs, and when in need I switch to Minimo.

I have to admit that M$ Reader is really good for reading eBooks, and you also have to install the full fledged Adobe Reader to be able to read PDFs as well (ClearVue -the PDF reader that comes with the phone- is pretty crappy).

I couldn’t find yet a free application that would tell me when is the birthday of a person in my contact list. M$ contacts app lets you associate a birth date, an anniversary and so on to a contact, but doesn’t do anything with this information.

One nice surprise was an ActiveSync option, to synchronize with an Exchange server. Curious, I’ve put there https://mmm.cern.ch/ and everything just worked. Excellent option for a warm backup and an easy way of editing the contacts / calendar / to do list.

HTC P3300 is a really nice piece of hardware. It’s successor, HTC Touch Cruise, promises a double everything (rom, ram, cpu speed). I would recommend it to anybody willing to spend a small fortune on a smart gadget. GPS is a strong point, WiFi is excelent (though it drains the battery pretty fast), FM reception is decent, camera is only good for putting a face to the contacts, the device is stable and WM6 is very good at providing the basic functionality for the device. You still need a lot of work to make it work as it should, but it’s a pleasant journey 🙂