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Browsing the Web on MS Smartphone (WM Standard) devices & Review of Opera Mini 4 beta

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Menneisyys

Menneisyys

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(Note that this is a two-part article. As it was only a week after the first version of this article being published that I’ve exceeded the 64 kchar limit and several posts have been posted to this thread in the meantime, you will need to scroll down quite a bit to find Part II. Sorry for the inconvenience!)

In my recently-published, well-known Windows Mobile Web Browsing Bible I’ve elaborated on how Pocket PC’s can be used to browse the Web. Please make sure you DO read the review even if you don’t have a Pocket PC. You will learn a LOT from there and, in addition, I do NOT elaborate on many questions like Web standards compliance or additional Opera Mini features in here. In the current review, I “only” elaborate on questions ONLY concerning the MS Smartphone platform. The only exception is the review of Opera Mini 4, which is a generic one and can be used by Pocket PC users as well. Finally, in addition, as so many times in the past, I present you some genuine Registry hacks fixing annoyances / bugs in both IEM and Opera Mobile never before published.

Now, it’s time to review
  • how you can do the same on MS Smartphone (Windows Mobile Standard) devices (SP for short); what browsers you should use, what bugs you should be aware of etc.
  • the brand new and REALLY NICE, HIGHLY recommended Opera Mini 4 platform. This section will be of interest to not only SP users, but also those of the “big brother”, the Pocket PC – and, for that matter, any Java-capable mobile phone.
As you’ll see, on the SP platform, there’re far fewer really usable browsers and there are (currently, before NSIcom fixes the bugs with the current CrEme version) absolutely no Java and, if you don't apply the Flash "hack", real Flash support. This, fortunately, makes one’s life far easier – generally, you only have four browsers to select from: IEM, Opera Mobile, Opera Mini or the really promising newcomer, jB5. The two Operas are, as you may have already guessed, generally superior to the built-in Internet Explorer Mobile.

However, let’s start with the latter as it comes built into the operating system of all SP devices.

1.1 Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM)

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Unfortunately, the SP version of the built-in IEM, even as of Windows Mobile 6 Standard (that is, the latest SP operating system version), is considerably inferior to the Pocket PC (PPC) version shipped with WM6. For example,
  • while the PPC version of IEM has received file uploading capabilities some two years ago (with the initial release of WM5), not even the latest, just-released, WM6 version of IEM is capable of the same as can be seen in HERE (showing the results of my traditional file upload test page – see the previously linked page for more info on what the screenshot should show). Note that the SP version of Opera Mobile has no problems with file uploading (1 2 3 4)
  • it also has major problems with some HTTP / scripting constructs never having caused any problems to the Pocket PC brother; most importantly, it has problems with posting to Smartphone Thoughts and Pocket PC Thoughts forums from IEM. (The PPC port of IEM has no problems with posting to these sites; neither do Opera Mobile and Opera Mini on the SP platform.) Interestingly, this is NOT a problem on several models (even including WM6 ones) - and, in some occasions, it even worked on my Vox. I don't know why - it probably depends on the size of the message. Also see for example Mike Temporale's posts and links in THIS thread.
  • it doesn’t support tabs and, as you may have guessed, none of the known, Pocket PC-only PIE / IEM enhancers (PIEPlus, Spb Pocket Plus, ftxPBrowser etc.) work - except for MultiIE, which only delivers a fraction of its Pocket PC features.
  • just as on the Pocket PC, you can’t make use of the hardware buttons (except for the “Back” button) AND the dialpad buttons (except for the 2/4/6/8 buttons for page scrolls) of your Smartphone. In this respect, both Opera Mini and Mobile are better. Fortunately, the most common functionalities are accessible, in general, with two or three (depending on whether you start from full screen mode) key presses. Fortunately, there are some registry hacks that - at least to a certain degree - fix this, which I’ll later, in a subsequent section, elaborate on.
  • download-wise, it’s really different from the Pocket PC IEM: it’s only CAB files that can be downloaded (if at all – see later), nothing else. This is in stark contrast with both the PPC version and Opera Mobile on the platform, which uses the same, vastly superior download-specific code as the PPC version. You must do some manual, extensive Registry editing to fix this problem - and, even then, you will need to do this for each file type you'd like to see downloaded. I too address this issue in a later section.
Note that isn’t not only files that have no local, associated programs to operate on are refused to be downloaded, but EVERYTHING, even registered and, by default, supported file types like ZIP and PDF files (fortunately, Office files are supported if your device does contain Office Mobile – an example of an XLS file is HERE).

Some examples of these cases:
  • non-associated RAR files (for example THIS). Upon trying to download files like these, you get THIS error message (unlike with Opera Mobile).
  • PDF files with the, on the HTC Vox, associated, built-in Adobe Reader LE. An example PDF file is HERE
  • ZIP files, like THIS, associated with Resco File Explorer.
Furthermore, the old problem with CAB files served as of unknown type is present in this version too. For example, while THIS CAB file is server as binary and, therefore, offered for download, THIS one, which is returned as of unknown (text/plain) type, results in the well-known, useless textual representation (while Opera Mobile downloads it just fine). The CAB problem has always been a major problem with the PPC version as well, as is also explained in the Download Bible.

Note that I’ve also had downloading problems on my WM5 HTC s310 (Oxygen) upon trying to download a 2.5M Byte CAB file (the Smartphone version of Opera Mobile HERE) via an EDGE connection. No matter where I tried to store it (the device had about 10M free built-in storage), the transfer would stall at 300-600 kbytes (I’ve tried to download the file several times), while, under exactly the same circumstances (the same network coverage, the same file etc), my WM5 HTC Wizard Pocket PC downloaded the file without problems. I haven’t encountered similar problems on my WM6 HTC Vox (s710). I don’t know whether this was a temporary problem or generally a problem with WM5 SP IEM’s over slow(er) connections and large® binary (in this case, CAB) files. Just keep this in mind if you have similar problems.

As far as the WM6-specific fixes are concerned, the WM6 SP version of IEM, fortunately, supports iframes as can be seen in HERE. (It’s suffering from the same width problem as with the PPC version, though – even in Single column mode. This isn’t an issue on Opera Mobile and Mini.)

All in all, I do not really recommend IEM for regular Web browsing on SP’s if you don't apply the above-mentioned (and below-explained) registry hacks. Go for either Opera Mobile (which is, as far as the new, 8.65 beta is concerned, free until Oct. 1. Of course, being free until October doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support the company – do purchase for example their 8.60 version to support their continuous efforts to give us the BEST Pocket PC, Smartphone and, in my opinion, desktop Windows browsers) or the absolutely free and excellent Opera Mini.

1.1.1 Fixing the binary file download problem

The difference between the SP and the PPC version of IEM is pretty simple. While the latter doesn't require a given file type to be registered in the local Registry to be downloaded, the former does, and also requires a specific flag (the fifth "bit" in EditFlags) to be set to one.

This is why "unknown" file types like RAR or known file types that don't have the EditFlags value are refused to download. You can, fortunately, fix it. In here, I describe both the manual and the automatic, much easier way of doing this. The former includes heavy Registry editing, but might prove useful in cases you'd like to allow for downloading more file types than the automatic way offers.

1.1.1.1 Manually enabling downloading a given file type

Let's assume you want to enable ZIP file downloading. To do this, first, you have to fire up a registry editor (I recommend that of Resco - it's well worth the price). Incidentally, if you've read my past EditFlags-related remarks & explanations (for example HERE), you know the uppermost "bit" has a special download-related meaning. If it’s 1 as in HERE, the file will ONLY be downloaded to the main memory and you’re not presented the usual download screen where you can also set the target – instead, the download will start at once. That is, make double sure you don't set it to 1!

Was it complicated? Certainly it was! Rejoice: now comes the much easier / safer, automatic way! If you're a newbie to Windows Mobile (and/or Registry editing), you will want to prefer THIS registry import file I’ve created for you. It sets the PDF, ZIP and EXE download associations. Note that the latter assumes you’ve installed Resco Explorer and PDF requires the Adobe Reader LE 2.1 (for example, the one shipped with the Vox). You will - after installing Resco Explorer, along with its Registry support - just click the file once you've transferred it to your PDA. After (re)starting IEM, the changes will be visible - and the files downloaded.

Finally, should you need support for even more (not just PDF, ZIP and EXE, but also rar, doc, mpeg, mpg, mp3 and avi) file types, you will want to check out THIS MoDaCo thread (the CAB file installer by rcperez). All you need is running the PIEPlugin.cab file (note that the Download Plugin for PIE Updated.zip file contains the same PIEPlugin.cab also separately downloadable file) linked in the first post. You won't even need to have a Registry Editor. (Note that there are some, similar threads for only one extension type: ZIP, EXE. However, make sure you prefer rcperez's hack.) Note that you may want to stick with my registry import scripts if you don't want the pre-WM6 scripts to mess up for example the PDF associations (as it creates its own PDF file type registry record and forces the old association to be removed), making it impossible to load a PDF document by just clicking it from File Explorer.

1.1.2 Adding more functionality to the phone dialpad

MS Smartphones have something that (most) traditional Pocket PC's don't have: a phonepad: consisting of 10 numeric keys, the # and the * buttons. Knowing the most common functionality a Web browser user wants to have access to (quick scroll up/down, to the top/bottom of the page; reloading; - with multi-document browsers - switching to the previous / next tab; quickly switching between the different rendering and layout modes; quickly changing the character size / zoom percentage), many of this functionality can be quickly accessed by making use of the 12 extra buttons.

As has already been pointed out, IEM only makes use of the '2' and '8' keys by default. These two buttons can be used to do page scrolls, as opposed to the link scrolls accessible on the D-pad, combined with fast scrolling introduced in later WM5 AKU's, should you continuously depress the D-pad. You can, fortunately, assign (some) functionality to all the other remaining ten buttons.

Unfortunately, there are far fewer functions you can assign to the buttons, but even this is definitely a step forward. Let's have a complete list of the functionalities that can be accessed (note that I'll explain the numbers later, when discussing how the Registry should be modded):

Functionality (Registry values):
1 - Page Up (default under (later?) WM5 / WM6)
2 - Page Down (default under (later?) WM5 / WM6)
3 - Top of page
4 - Bottom of page
5 - Page Left in non-one column view / modes
6 - Page Right in non-one column view / modes
7 - Page FULL left in non-one column view / modes
8 - Page FULL right in non-one column view / modes
9 - Default Layout
10 - Desktop Layout
11 - One Column Layout
12 - Full Screen Toggle
13 - Show Pictures Toggle

As can clearly be seen, there're no goodies like "Refresh" in here. However, even then it's pretty much useful.

Now, let's see what these numbers are for. To understand their meaning, I elaborate on how the Registry stores the keypad button - functionality pairs.

In the Registry, it's the [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ Software\ Microsoft\ Internet Explorer\ KeyMaps] key that stores values (NOT subkeys!) connecting keys with functionalities. In general, it's done in the following way: the value name's the keycode and the value of the value is one of the above-listed functionalities.

The keycodes are as follows (that is, the Registry value names):
48: 0
49: 1
50: 2
51: 3
52: 4
53: 5
54: 6
55: 7
56: 8
57: 9
119: *
120: #

I've created a registry import file that assigns most the available functionality (except for "Page FULL right in non-one column view / modes"). All you need to do is importing it (with, say, Resco Registry Explorer) and (re)starting IEM. The effects will be seen at once. The registry import file is available HERE and has the following key assignment:

0: full screen (12)
1: Show Pictures Toggle (13)
2: Page Up (1)
3: top of page (3)
4: Page Left in non-one column view / modes (5)
5: Page FULL left in non-one column view / modes (7)
6: Page Right in non-one column view / modes (6)
7: default layout (9)
8: Page Down (2)
9: bottom of page (4)
*: Desktop Layout (10)
#: One Column Layout (11)

For more (not mandatory) info, also see THIS, THIS, THIS and THIS.

1.1.3 MultiIE

The well-known Pocket PC IEM enhancer, MultiIE, is also compatible with (WM5+ only; sorry, no pre-WM5 compliance) MS Smartphones. The standard WM5 installer works on both Pocket PC’s and Smartphones. Let’s see how it compares to the Pocket PC version!

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Unfortunately, it’s far inferior, feature-wise, to the Pocket PC version. Basically, you can only expect it to add multi-tab functionality.

1.1.3.1 Differences between the Pocket PC and the Smartphone version

1.1.3.1.1 Goodies missing - a generic overview

It’s fully impossible to save images in the SP version. The same stands for the excellent, additional features offered by, for example, address bar macros. They are ALL missing from the SP version, which is, more or less, only lets for multi tabs, softkey-based D-pad scroll mode and full screen switching, HTML saving and source viewing and keeping backlight on.

There are a LOT of features just not accessible in the SP version. In addition to basic functionality like the already-mentioned ability to open a link in another tab, the lack of saving images or saving full Web pages (as opposed to only saving plain HTML files without in-line images and, preferably, CSS/JS files), a whole set of other features are also missing: for example, address bar macroing, the excellent location-based services offered by the PPC version, the ability to quickly reformat a Web page through online Web compression / reformatting services like Skweezer etc. Fortunately, at least “Keep Backlight On” works.

1.1.3.1.2 Setting dialogs

Unfortunately, a lot of menu options accessible on the PPC are just not accessible in the SP version. For example, assigning shortcut buttons to MultiIE functions (PPC screenshots: 1 2) isn’t even offered by the SP version. On the Screen tab, it’s not possible to switch off the, on the Smartphone, useless (because you can’t tap them on a touchscreen-less device) corner icons (PPC SP).

1.1.3.1.3 Impossible to open a link in a new tab

While it’s available in the SP version of Opera Mobile (where you just traverse the focus to the link you’d like to open but, instead of pressing Action, press the right softkey and select “1 Open in new window), it’s not possible to dynamically set where (in what tab) a new link should be opened to. This, of course, is also possible in the PPC version of MultiIE as can be seen in HERE.

You can surely try to redefine the default functionality in the Open link: Tap default action to, say, Open in new back window as can be seen in HERE, but it won’t work at all (and won’t stick). This means you can NOT open links in another tab in any way without opening a new tab in Menu / 9 MultiIE / 3 Open New Window and, in there, select the link you want to display in this tab.

1.1.3.2 Compared to Opera Mobile…

The inability to open a link in a new window, as has already been pointed out, is a big problem with MultiIE – as opposed to OpMob.

Switching between open tabs also requires significantly more button presses than in Opera Mobile. In the latter, you only need to press ‘2’ once to bring up the list of open tabs, where, after selecting the right one to switch to, you only need to press Action once. In MultiIE, you need to press Menu / 9 MultiIE and, if there are not more than 3 open tabs (in Portrait mode on QVGA devices; on 176*220 ones, even two open tabs will result in the same), select the tab at the top. If there’re more tabs open (QVGA screenshot with 4 tabs) or, you’re in Landscape, there will be another level of redirection (1 Windows), making it necessary to issue another keypress.

There is, however, something MultiIE is better at: saving web pages do work. Unfortunately, you can’t fine tune what should be saved – unlike in the PPC version, where not only the page HTML itself, but also all the related resources (by selecting a full save instead of the HTML-only).

1.1.3.3 Other bugs & problems

In addition to the already-mentioned ones (for example, the Open link: Tap default action settings’s not being sticky) it has several other bugs. For example, it sometimes hides the tabs (1 2) on QVGA devices (but not on 176*220 ones). This might particularly be a case with pages using frames, after maximizing one of these frames using Expand Frame (left softkey); for example, the MultiIE page itself.

The menus may be a bit messed up (but still usable) on QVGA devices because of the too large fonts. On low-res 176*220 ones, they’re OK (screenshots: 176*220: 1 2 3; QVGA: 1 2)

While the tabs can be re-displayed after a screen rotation (if the particular device supports rotating the screen – for example, the Vox does), rotating back to the original rotation will result in not using the entire screen estate. This won’t be an issue if you NEVER rotate the screen but stay in either Portrait or Landscape all the time.

As far as the options dialog screens are concerned, the “Plugin” dialog is also different: first, as it is lacking a scrollbar, you don’t see anything under Presets / Shown on open more menu on both 176*220 and QVGA Portrait phones. On QVGA Landscape ones, however, the scrollbar is displayed and you can scroll down, revealing the lowermost GUI widgets. Not that it’d be of any use: NONE of the features work in here. That is, you can’t even set the User-Agent to be used to “disguise” your browser as a full desktop Windows browser. This is also a very bad disadvantage, compared to how it behaves on the Pocket PC.

Still in this dialog, the address bar search configuration (PPC screenshots: 1 2) don’t work either: an “Option not available in alpha” is displayed.

1.1.3.4 Tips & tricks

By default, to view the source of a Web page, it tries to use \Windows\notes.exe, which doesn’t exist on any MS Smartphones.

Unfortunately (if you have a phone with a built-in keyboard – non-QWERTY phones don’t have this program!), if you redefine this link to \Windows\TextNotes.exe as can be seen in HERE, Menu / 9 MultiIE / 6(+) Page Tools / 3 View Source will not work either.

Therefore, if you have a Windows Mobile 6 Standard phone (which come with Office Mobile built-in), you’ll want to prefer Word Mobile (\Windows\pword.exe) to view the sources. To make this word, configure MultiIE to use it as the default viewer. With that, watching sources will work just fine:

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1.1.3.5 Verdict

All in all, don’t expect much of the current version of MultiIE for Smartphone. It’s WAY worse, WAY harder to use and definitely more buggy than the Pocket PC version. The Smartphone version of Opera Mobile is far better thought-out (support for dialpad buttons; menu-based link / image context menu support etc., making it far easier to, for example, open a link in a new tab instead of the current one; far faster to switch tabs; allows for saving images etc.). If you, however, absolutely need to stick to IEM and do need a multitab solution for it with some goodies (for example, Opera Mobile still doesn’t support saving pages; MultiIE does; the same stands for quickly swapping between the three scrolling modes, should you want to exclusively use the D-pad for scrolling and leave the 2/8 phone buttons alone), currently, MultiIE is the only way to go.

1.2 Opera Mobile

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(a QVGA screenshot; note that, as with IEM and Opera Mini, Opera Mobile is perfectly usable on low-resolution, 176*220 Smartphones too)

Currently, this really excellent browser is even more usable on the Smartphone than on most Pocket PC (that is, Pocket PC’s without a dialpad on the face of the phone – an example of PPC models with a dialpad is the ASUS P525) because of the functionality shortcuts assigned to these buttons. As has been pointed out in the Web Browsing Bible (which is a good read even for people that don’t own a Pocket PC), currently, it’s not possible to assign any otherwise assignable functionality – for example, page up/down, jump to beginning of page etc. – to Pocket PC hardware button. The situation is entirely different with the Smartphone platform.

This is all topped with the traditional Opera Mobile strengths: speed, standards compliance, being multi-tabbed (of course, tabs aren’t displayed in the SP version; however, it’s very easy to quickly (!) switch between loaded pages), no binary download-related problems, upload support etc.


There are some minor (!) bugs with the SP version, as opposed to the PPC one. These are in no way as bad as the problems with IEM, though.
  • The standard Smartphone "Back" button doesn't work in the cache setting text input field, which makes it impossible to change the value (other than adding, say, a new number in front of it, which is NOT recommended in any way for a reason I elaborate on later). The "Delete" key on built-in QWERTY keyboards (when they exist), on the other hand, do work. This is a minor problem on models with no built-in QWERTY thumb/keyboard. Tested on both the Vox (has a QWERTY keyboard) and the Oxygen (no keyboard). Note that you can always manually edit (with a file explorer tool) the Size value in the [Disk Cache] section of \Application Data\ Opera\ opera.ini if you want to change this value.
  • If your device runs WM6 (but NOT a previous operating systems - it's working just great on my WM5 AKU3 HTC Oxygen / s310!) and you want to use Opera Mobile as the default browser to, say, open links arriving in e-mails, the file associations won’t work with these URL’s as can be seen in HERE. The problem with the old PPC version 8.60 was the same, but the explanation and solution was completely different; this is why the old registry script (see THIS article) I’ve created for the latter doesn’t help with the Smartphone version.

    Fortunately, after playing with the new, WM6 Registry, I pinpointed the problem and was able to come up with a real fix (yes, I was the first to fix this bug!). Just import THIS registry file (if you've installed Opera in the main storage; if it's on the storage card, use THIS instead) and voila: everything will be OK. (Just for the record: under WM6, as opposed to earlier operating systems (where this key didn't exist at all and the system used the traditional http association), HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ Software\ Microsoft\ Shell\ Rai\ :DEFBROWSER \ 1 must contain the full executable path of the default browser, as opposed to its name (without the path) only. Two screenshots showing this, with the new contents (assuming Opera is installed in the main storage): 1 2.)

    It's very important that this fix should also be used on the Pocket PC platform if you have WM6!

    (Note that, after my finding out the trick above, I've been told other people (for example, John Burn HERE) have also been succeeded in finding the solution for the problem. I really ask eveyone to publish their fixes not only in one, model-specific forum not really visited by non-owners of the same model, but also in generic ones. Generic ones include, for example, the forum of Opera Mobile: after having found out the fix, the first thing I've done was posting an announcement in there so that all Opera Mobile users are notified. This way, everyone suffering from the bug notices the fix being available right away and noone tries to reinvent the wheel. I belonged to the latter category: it took me about half an hour to find the fix. Should I have known of the fix already being existing, I wouldn't have wasted time on finding what the problem is caused by.)
  • Has some minor problems with image handling. When the browser is presented with more than, say, 7-8 images in a page, it may not download them all (or, for that matter, any of them). Give a try to THIS page to see this in effect - on my QVGA Vox, it didn't render any images. The situation was pretty similar on the old(er) Oxygen (with other pages). Note that a forced reload the page, in general (but not always!), helps.
  • When you manually enter a URL into the "Go to" text input field on the Vox keyboard, you can't enter a string longer than the screen estate size (give a try to entering, say, the above link!) This problem can only be fixed by trying to visit the part that can still be entered and, then, returning to Action / Go to, finding the first part of the URL already entered and going on with entering the latter part(s). Dunno if this problem is caused by the OS or Opera Mobile.
  • If you define a HUGE cache (to bring down data usage costs), the responsiveness of the browser REALLY decreases. For example, on my Vox, I had a cache with about ~10M files (in the main storage). With that, Opera takes over a minute (!) to start and, after loading a new page (WITHOUT images!) about 10-15 seconds to flush it to the cache, during which you can't for example scroll up/down to go on reading. That is, you need to stick with the default 2M cache to get rid of these problems.
  • If there is little RAM memory left, the Smartphone dialpad keys (2, 6, 9 etc.) stop working. Instead of their default functionality, they result in reloading pages / moving elsewhere. In these situations, an error message like "Due to RAM memory shortage, the requested action couldn't be done." could be shown.
Again and again, this is more of nitpicking – Opera Mobile for the MS Smartphone still stays THE best Smartphone Web browser. For example, it still supports even saving images (in the Image mode – see the explanation in the usage chart).

Probably the only really annoying bug is the fact that, as of 8.65 beta released on 06/01/2007 and usable until October this year, it only remembers HTTP proxy servers during the first page request after starting; the other requests are directly sent to the HTTP server. To test this, give it a working (for example, at the time of writing, 82.204.47.120:8080 was one of them) proxy address in \Application Data\ Opera\ opera.ini (as is explained in the Toonel-related section) and, then, after restarting Opera, go to WhatIsMyIP.com. Upon the first invocation, you’ll see the proxy’s address as the originating address. Upon later invocations (for example, after just refreshing the page), however, it’ll switch to direct access – and the IP address it displays will also reflect this.

This, unfortunately, means currently you won’t be able to local proxy-based bandwidth usage reduction solutions like Toonel with Opera Mobile. Neither will you be able to use external proxies to either conceal your real IP or get outside of a corporate network.

Note that some of the rendering bugs common with the PPC version are here; for example, the Register bug. The Register (in the examples, I show examples of THIS article) can’t be browsed without zooming out and/or switching to Landscape mode on QVGA screens. This is, of course, using the fit to screen mode (as opposed to the Desktop mode) when browsing The Register. Screenshots: 1 2; a 176*220 screenshot HERE. The Pocket PC version has the similar problem (QVGA screenshot).

In addition to the subtle differences like the image scrolling mode (to allow for saving images on the Smartphone), there is another notable difference between the SP and the PPC version of Opera Mobile 8.65. The PPC version has three display modes as can also be seen in HERE: Desktop, Fit to screen and Single column. Of these, efectively, only two (desktop view and, in general, one-column view) is used on QVGA devices (it’s only on VGA models that there is a real “Fit to screen” mode), but all the three are listed. If you select Fit to screen on a QVGA device, it will, effectively, show everything in one-column mode only (that is, the columns of will be kept). This is clearly visible in THIS screenshot. The only difference between the two modes, on a QVGA PPC, is that if you use your device in the Landscape orientation, then, if you stick to the Single column mode, it will only use 240 pixels of the sligltly less than 320 pixels of the horizontal screen estate. This means you will want to exclusively use Fit to screen on a QVGA Pocket PC. (Again, VGA Pocket PC's are entirely different. Compare the above screenshot to THIS, showing the effect of Fit to screen in landscape mode. As can be seen, there is no unused screen estate, as opposed to the Single column mode.)

The SP version, on the other hand, only has two modes: Desktop and Fit to screen as can be seen in HERE (QVGA screenshot) and HERE (176*220 screenshot). They, however, work exactly the same as the QVGA Pocket PC version, regardless of whether you select Fit to screen or Single column on the latter. Effectively, Fit to screen, Landscape screen estate usage-wise, is the same as the same Fit to screen on the PPC, which can clearly be seen in THIS QVGA SP screenshot, showing THIS MoDaCo Smartphone forum. As can be seen, it uses the entire horizontal screen estate, just like the PPC version in the, on QVGA devices, preferable Fit to Screen mode.

Two other screenshots of the same MoDaCo forum: 176*220 SP, QVGA SP Portrait (the latter being exactly the same on QVGA PPC.)

Note that there will be exceptions from this "everything is displayed as one-column only" rule: not all webpages will be rendered as one-column. For example, one example of this is THIS Finnish stock exchange page, which is rendered as a two-dimensional table on both PPC's and SP's, using even the Single column mode on the former.

To show what happens with this page, I've made several screenshots:
QVGA SP in Portrait (the same in Landscape)
176*220 SP (in, of course, Portrait only) - yes, as can be seen, even in this really low-resolution model the chart is two-dimensional. Note that the "Opera Mobile for Smartphone doesn't load all the images" bug is certainly visible in this screenshot - it didn't load the images (of which only the "Image" placeholder is visible) not after a forced reloading, unlike with the QVGA SP version, which did load them after a forced reload (but not when first accessing the page).
QVGA PPC Fit to screen and PPC One column mode

Again, as can be seen, ALL the tested devices (QVGA and 176*220 SP's and a QVGA PPC in BOTH the Fit to screen and Single column modes) rendered the chart using real, two-dimensional fit to screen mode and did NOT try to force each column into its own row.

1.3 Opera Mini 4.x

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(VGA PPC screenshot running under the Intent midlet manager (hence the non-used command bar at the bottom); a QVGA Smartphone screenshot HERE)

I’ve often reported on Opera Mini, which, as of the current 4.x series beta, has become a serious contender to even native Windows Mobile Web browsers, particularly on the touch screen-less Smartphone platform, where the lacking features of Opera Mini (for example, lack of context menus or copy / paste capabilities) aren’t a problem because of the lack of the touch screen. (That is, you couldn’t use these features on IEM either – it’s only Opera Mobile, with its excellent link / image context menus even on the SP platform, that still offers a bit more functionality than Opera Mini.)

Should you want to know how Opera Mini can be deployed in current midlet managers (the article explains the IBM J9 and the Intent Tao case; the Esmertec case is really-really similar), you will want to read the related section HERE, in the “A step-by-step Tutorial on setting up Opera Mini” section. Note that the direct link takes you to version 3; to get the version 4 beta, you will want to follow the instructions HERE.

1.3.1 What’s new with the brand new, 4.x Opera Mini series?

Nokia’s having pioneered the quick zoom functionality in their excellent S60 series 3 Web browser, Windows Mobile browsers quickly followed suit: first, NetFront in the second Technical Preview of their forthcoming 3.4; then, Microsoft in their (beta-stage and still far from being finished) DeepFish.

Opera, the, in my opinion, by far the finest (give a try to their desktop browser, particularly if you have an (W)SXGA+ or (W)UXGA screen – you’ll love it!) browser developer company, soon followed suit. In addition to announcing the forthcoming Opera 9, which is a native Windows Mobile application, with similar capabilities, they have also added full page view & quick zoom capabilities to the brand new series of Opera Mini, their Java Midlet-based, small, but still VERY powerful multiplatform browser.

Just visit THIS page (the SWF file, should you want to directly download it, is HERE) and see what Opera has come up with. It’s indeed very cool, isn’t it? All this in a VERY small package (90 kbytes), with almost unmeasurable runtime (dynamic RAM) memory consumption. Compare this to the memory consumption of traditional Web browsers – yes, they consume orders of magnitude more memory. Note that there are a some other, cool videos on Opera’s homepage running the browser in reality – those videos are far more instructive than my static screenshots.

This browser, as has also been pointed out in the Web Browser Bible, runs great on Windows Mobile, on both Pocket PC’s and MS Smartphones, in both common factory-default midlet environments, the Intent (the industry standard on almost all WM5-based PPC and SP phones, except for the Esmertec-based HP iPAQ hx6915) and the Esmertec (shipped with many natively WM6 phones like the HTC Vox / S710) midlet managers.

It’s by far the best J2ME (Java midlet) browser: other Midlet-based browsers are far worse in every respect. For example, jBrowser can’t even display middle-sized pages like the PPCMag blog page, the PPCT main page as can be seen in HERE and, for smaller pages, it will never finish loading.

As has already been pointed out, the best new feature the new version offers is Zoom-in / full page view functionality. Its “let’s crunch the text into the viewable screen estate” works just great – much better than I’ve expected or what most of the other browsers do.

You’ll REALLY love the new page view functionality if you want to check out for example

THIS is the desktop rendition of the Finnish stock exchange in a tabular form. Now, let’s take a look at them in the default, pre-series 4 one-column mode:

Posted Image

and this is how the new, full page layout mode renders it (zoomed in):

Posted Image

and zoomed out, showing the entire page:

Posted Image

A big difference in usability and readability, isn’t it?

Of course, in most cases, if you don’t want to browse tabular data like this, you won’t necessarily need the new mode. Then, you may safely stay with the old, one-column mode.

In addition to providing a page view & zoom-in mode, the Opera folks have come out with something unprecedented in the Windows Mobile world: smart text finding. Let me show you an example with an XDA-Developers thread:

In THIS screenshot, I’ve just started browsing and, therefore, the selection frame is in the upper left corner. Now, let’s press the Down key several times (or, even better, 8 for much quicker navigation downwards). As soon as I’ve reached the body of the text, the selection was automatically (!) scrolled to the right so that no screen estate remains unused on the left side of the screen as can be seen in HERE. Pretty smart, eh?

Now, let’s press Action to read it. As can indeed be seen, the text is very intelligently flowed in a way that no horizontal scrolling is necessary. It’s also really-really superior to how most other browsers handle non-one column modes. Thumbs up Opera, you’re indeed the BEST Web browser developers out there – and this is stated by somebody that knows a LOT about Web technologies and protocols!

1.3.2 Shortcuts

Opera Mini is pretty much similar to Opera Mobile in that it makes extensive use of the phonepad (dialpad) common on all SP models (and, as has already been stated, also available on some PPC models). Unfortunately, the default hotkeys are different, which you, if you often switch between the two browsers, will find pretty inconvenient. (But, then, just edit \Application Data\ Opera\ input.ini to make it similar to the Opera Mini shortcuts. See my other, Opera Mobile-related articles on how this can be accomplished.)

Please see section 1.5 (Shortcuts) to see what shortcuts the two browsers (and, in addition, IEM) offers. They REALLY make browsing MUCH faster – it’s really worth using the dialpad to access them.

1.3.3 Bugs, annoyances in Opera Mini 4.0 beta

The new, 4.0 series being in beta state, it has some, in most cases (if you DO use a compatible Midlet environment), non fatal bugs / annoyances not present in previous versions:
  • Big minimal font size (as opposed to the current 3.1.* version) and (comparatively) huge gaps between rows. A lot of people have complained about this; in my opinion, this doesn’t hamper the usability of the client.
  • Cookies are not necessarily kept (as opposed to the current 3.1.* version – you may end up having to logging into your account much more frequently than with the 3.x series)
  • You may encounter crashes on Pocket PC’s and on Smartphones running other Midlet managers than that of Esmertec. On my Vox, using the factory-shipped Esmertec midlet environment, I haven’t encountered ANY crash over the last month of active (!) usage. See for example THIS XDA-Dev thread on PPC users’ reporting shutdowns / crashes. Most (if not all) of these users use the Intent midlet manager (which, again, is also the default midlet manager on many Smartphones.)

    Let me, again, emphasize that while on my brand new WM6 HTC Vox (s710), using the Esmertec Jeodek 20070115.1.1 midlet environment, I have never encountered any Opera Mini 4.0 beta crash (while having been using it at least 2-3 hours a day!), other midlet environments may behave differently. For example, the Intent midlet manager common on most WM5 Smartphones AND Pocket PC's is known to frequently crash on OpMini4 users - it did once on me too when I (quickly) tested OpMini 4 on my HTC Universal (the latter running the 10/1/7/554 / 20060502 version of the Intent manager.) Should you encounter crashes like this, consider switching to either the IBM J9 midlet manager (according to holg HERE, it works just great with Opera Mini 4) or look around in the XDA-Developers forums for help in getting the, again, stable and reliable Esmertec Midlet manager. (I don't know whether it's separately sold; I seriously doubt it.)
  • The full page layout takes a LOT of memory. If you stay with the one-column mode, unless you load HUGE pages (say, hundreds of kilobytes originally), you, in general, will be able to make use of all the 30 page slots without having to reload any of these pages. If you, on the other hand, switch to the original page (as opposed to the one-column one) layout view, this will be reduced to two or three concurrent pages at most, regardless of the size of the original pages. If you often switch back to already loaded, just-browsed pages and don’t want to reload them because of the time / bandwidth requirements, you will want to stick to the traditional, one-column mode.
Note that the two versions can easily co-exist with each other. That is, if the first three problems become annoying, you can just switch back to the old versions. Unfortunately, as the favorite lists aren’t shared between the two versions, favorites that you add / edit in one version won’t be visible in the other.

1.3.4 Other (non-4.x-specific) problems

There’re still some problems with Opera Mini that may be a showstopper for you.
  • It’s still unable to render ANY kind of italic text (see for example THIS for a more thorough elaboration and my demos showing displaying italic text is indeed possible on Smartphones, regardless of the midlet manager in use). This is a MAJOR pain the back. I’ve already contacted the Opera folks on this matter; hope they fix this problem.
  • Binary download support-wise (as it’s using the IEM engine to do the “dirty” stuff; that is, to download files off the Web), it’s suffering from exactly the same problems as IEM:
  • CAB files with text MIME type are just rendered as text (like THIS); bigger ones (like THIS 1.5M CAB file) result in an out of memory error
  • non-CAB files with (correct) binary MIME type (like THIS PDF file) are correctly passed to IEM. Unfortunately, as the execution is fully supervised by IEM, you won’t be able to download any of these files because of the well-known problem already outlined in the IEM section.
  • Finally, CAB files with the binary MIME type (like THIS) are both correctly recognized by OpMini and, then, correctly downloaded by IEM.
And, of course, the other minor annoyances / restrictions (no file upload, no any kind of access to the IEM / Opera Mobile favorites, no URL copying etc.) – you can see them all in the original Web Browser Bible.

1.3.5 Verdict

Currently, while Opera Mini 4 is at beta stage (as is also emphasized in the documents), it’s already highly recommended if you have a SP model.

1.3.6 More information

Opera Mini 4.0 wishlist thread

Opera Mini forum

1.4 jB5

Posted Image
(another screenshot, now with an image)

Now, this is a really promising browser! While decidedly slower than even IEM and lacks highly useful features like FastBack (upon pressing Back, rendering the page from the local memory cache and NOT downloading it again, unlike both jB5 and NetFront) and does NOT offer multiple document capabilities (unlike the two Operas), it’s (as of the current, tested version, 5.0.56) already pretty powerful (for example, it's the only Smartphone Web browser to offer page saving (which is, incidentally, implicitly possible with Opera Mobile if you're ready to find the given file in the cache) and in-page text search: see it in action: 1 2 3) - much more usable than, say, the next-to-useless Minimo. What is more, it's free.

As it's in beta stage and will surely receive an ever better version, I do not thoroughly review and compare its features / standards compliance to the alternatives because the info would be outdated VERY soon. I will, however, definitely review it as soon as it gets into final (or Release Candidate). Make sure you check it out and get your free copy - if you can put up with the somewhat slower page loading / scrolling speed and the lack of multi-tabs / FastBack, you may like it very much.

(The article continues below)

Edited by Menneisyys, 02 August 2007 - 10:37 AM.

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holg

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A very nice article, as always. Thank you.

The Opera Mini depends strongly on the used midlet runner and you did not say anything about the IBM J9 midlet environment, so i will do this:

Here are comparison screenshots of IBM J9 and esmertec. Big screen versus cleartype if you just see this pictures.

Posted ImagePosted Image

But for me there are more advantages for ibm.
  • First of all there is a solution how to start an midlet directly by shortcut, like in tao. by just adding parameter -Xjam:run=1 to start first midlet in the list. NeoTheOne a member of german forum PPC-Welt measured that J9 could start the midlet in 5 seconds and tao in 17 seconds on HTC Prophet. For esmertec i couldn't find a solution how to start a midlet directly.
  • Second you have to press OK once to allow network usage on j9. on esmertec it is OK - up - OK.
  • Third advantage is that j9 has a tweak to use proxy in midlets. For some mobile operator (like mine) you need a proxy to connect the internet:
    "\<Installdir>\emulator.exe" "-Xj9arg:-Dhttp.proxyHost=<proxyip>" "-Xj9arg:-Dhttp.proxyPort=<proxyport>" "-Xjam:run=1"
    ... and that even on platforms, where the built-in Tao couldn't use a proxy -> WM2003 PPC and SP.
NeoTheOne figured out these tweaks. Thanks and props to him! He also stated out, that you can use copy and paste on PPC platform with J9.

I would like to test Tao on the HTC Vox ... does anybody know if this is possible?

EDIT: Forgot to mention, that Opera Mini doesn't crash either on j9
EDIT2: Minor changes for readability and accessibility

Edited by holg, 10 July 2007 - 03:53 PM.

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Menneisyys

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Thanks for the excellent post, I'll link it from future iterations / updates of my guide!

I haven't discussed J9 because all current Smartphones come with an, in general, excellent midlet runner built-in.

I'll investigate how and whether you can create direct links to Esmertec midlets.

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dijital

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Opera mini does'nt crash on smartphones? it crashes about 50% of the time i use it on my samsung i320, i still love it though :)

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Menneisyys

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Opera mini does'nt crash on smartphones? it crashes about 50% of the time i use it on my samsung i320, i still love it though :)


Try using another midlet manager - for example, the above-mentioned J9.

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Menneisyys

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Original article updated (see the „UPDATE“ section at the end).

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Menneisyys

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Another generic update posted. Note that I'll add some IEM registry hacking and the review of Minimo too in a future update.

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Menneisyys

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I would like to test Tao on the HTC Vox ... does anybody know if this is possible?


Yup, XDA-Dev hs the installer CAB file of Tao.

I don't, however, think it's worth checking out - it seems it's the Tao midlet manager that most people have crashing problems with.

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UPDATE: Article heavily updated: added the two REALLY useful IEM Registry hack sections; added the jB5 section.

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UPDATE (07/11/2007): Another heavy update: added the Flash hacking section.

Edited by Menneisyys, 12 July 2007 - 07:36 AM.

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(This is Part II of the article, continued from the thread starter post.)

1.5 Additional technologies

In this section, I elaborate on the Toonel, Java applet and Flash support on Smartphones. Again and again, CHECK out the original Windows Mobile Web Browsing Bible for more info on them. In here, I only give you strictly Smartphone-related information, not generic one you might want to also know.

1.5.1 Flash

Unfortunately, unlike on the desktop, where there is a more or less solid and compatible (albeit pretty slow) official Flash implementation from Adobe (ex-Macromedia; from now on, I only refer to it as “Adobe”) itself (and the alternative, albeit a bit worse and much more CPU-hungry player integrated into NetFront), Smartphone users have always been left in the cold. Much as Adobe has been addressed several petitions (see for example THIS one at MoDaCo), the Smartphone still haven’t received a real Flash player.

There is some light on the horizon, though. Adobe is working on Flash Lite (current version: 2.1), which is already accessible HERE. (If you don’t have an account, make sure you check in “No, I will create one now” as the bottom so that you can register. Registering can be done quickly; only after that will you be able to access the downloads. Note that, should you not want unwanted Adobe mails, you don’t need to check in any of the “I’m a developer / content creator” radio buttons – you can safely set all of them to “No” instead of the default “Yes” – you’ll still be provided access for the download).

Both IEM and Opera Mobile supports this plug-in (see screenshots below). Note that it doesn’t run MOST currently available Flash animations. For example, most games out there won’t run (unlike under the Pocket PC version). Some examples of them are Bomberman and Play with fire (this is what you’ll be shown: 1 2; IEM screenshot).

1.5.1.1 Hacking REAL Flash on Smartphones

I’ve tried to "hack" Flash Lite (overwriting \Program Files\Adobe\ flashlite.dll with the original, “full” \Windows\ Macromedia\ flash.dll). However, the checking for being a genuine Flash Lite animation is done in another DLL (daxplayer.dll); therefore, this hack doesn’t work.

Fortunately, other hackers had better luck. XDA-Developers forum member jockyw2001 has managed to hack the REAL Flash player onto the SP.


Posted Image
(IEM playing back a YouTube video in One Column mode on the HTC Vox)

(other screenshots: Opera Mobile on the Vox doing the same in Desktop mode with 50% zoom, with the SPHelper cursor for controlling the on-screen controls; the same on my 176*220 Oxygen, with 25% zoom)

His thread is HERE (you will NOT need to read it to complete the steps below!) Note that you MUST apply the hacks on an application unlocked phone - it won't work on locked phones. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to unlock your phone (see for example THIS article for some links). Also note that the hack worked just great on both my WM6 QVGA HTC Vox (s710) and WM5 AKU3 176*220 HTC Oxygen (s310). Some people, however, reported problems with other models (see the above-linked thread). I'm pretty sure it's because they have messed up something that the plug-in doesn't work on their devices.

First, get THIS file (it's a slightly rearranged version of jockyw2001's original. For example, I've collected the registry import files into one file and separated the files into directories named after the steps you need to do). UnRAR it with, say, WinRAR. Now, do the following:
  • If you've already installed Resco File Explorer (along with its registry plug-in) and at least once started the latter, copy All.reg from Step 1 - Registry import to anywhere on your SP and click it from File Explorer. It will be imported into the Registry.
  • Go to the root directory of your SP and to the Step 2 - Windows directory copy directory on your desktop computer. Copy the Windows directory on your SP.
  • Go to the Step 3 - flash6 directory on your desktop and the \Windows\Macromedia directory on your SP. Overwrite flash.dll on your SP with the one on your desktop.
  • Go to Step 4 - regserv and copy regsvrce.exe anywhere on your SP. From inside File Explorer (on your SP), execute it to register Flash. To do this, enter \Windows\Macromedia\flash.dll in the Full pathname... text input field (176*220 screenshot). (To make this easier (to avoid entering the path on the phonepad / keyboard of your phone), I recommend for example Pocket Controller on the desktop. If you can’t use Ctrl-V to paste to there (the case with the version 5.06 + HTC Vox combo, but NOT with the Oxygen), use ViTO’s excellent CopyPaste on the Smartphone to copy the contents of the clipboard to the input field.)

    Then, just press OK and “Yesin the confirmation dialog. After some 2-3 seconds, you’ll hear another bell. Now, start regsvrc.exe again; you’ll immediately see a confirmation (success) dialog (176*220 screenshot).
  • On the desktop, go to Step 5 - Flash7 and copy flash.dll to \Windows\Macromedia on your SP in order to overwrite the in step 3 copied Flash 6 version with the new, Flash 7 one.
  • Now you can start enjoying REAL Flash content!
Note that the above tutorial explains how you can install Flash in the main storage. Should you want to install Flash on your storage card (to save 1.5 Mbytes of main storage, which is a real must on Smartphones with less than 128M built-in Flash ROM), do the following (it's pretty much the same as with the previous case, except for the registry file you'll need to import and the paths you need to use; I used the bold typeface to emphasize the differences):
  • import THIS registry file (it's NOT the same as Step 1 - Registry import\All.reg! Do NOT import the latter!)
  • Go to the \Windows directory of your SP and to the Step 2 - Windows directory copy\Windows directory on your desktop computer. Copy everything BUT the Macromedia subdirectory to your SP (that is, do NOT copy the latter, only the AppMgr subdirectory and the two files, Macromedia Flash Player ActiveX.unload and nmsrapix.dll, in \Windows.)
  • On your SP, change the current directory to your storage card - that is, it should be \Storage Card. Create a subdirectory named Windows there and copy the Macromedia subdirectory in there (so that, finally, flash.dll will be under \Storage Card\Windows\Macromedia)
  • Go to the Step 3 - flash6 directory on your desktop and the \Storage Card\Windows\Macromedia directory on your SP. Overwrite flash.dll on your SP with the one on your desktop.
  • Go to Step 4 - regserv and copy regsvrce.exe anywhere on your SP. From inside File Explorer (on your SP), execute it to register Flash. To do this, enter \Storage Card\Windows\Macromedia\flash.dll in the Full pathname... text input field and go on as explained in the main storage-centric tutorial.
  • On the desktop, go to Step 5 - Flash7 and copy flash.dll to \Storage Card\Windows\Macromedia on your SP in order to overwrite the in step 3 copied Flash 6 version with the new, Flash 7 one.
The plug-in works great (additional screenshot); you’ll need a cursor emulator like SPHelper to click labels / buttons like in THIS screenshot.

Note that both IEM and Opera Mobile are able to make use of the plug-in. The two programs have somewhat different strengths and weaknesses.

First, IEM can't make use the up/down arrow keys; that is, if you would like to, say, play a game depending on these two directions, they will be unplayable. In these cases, you MUST use Opera Mobile. Second, as far as playing back YouTube videos is concerned, while IEM (unlike on the Pocket PC – it’s pretty strange the SP version of IEM is better in this respect) you will want to prefer Opera Mobile because it’s slightly faster at playback. You will still want to overclock your phone - if it’s a TI OMAP-based one, with OMAPClock.

Under Opera Mobile (as opposed to IEM), in the default mode, the flash plug-in size will be really tiny as can be seen in HERE. (Therefore, you’ll want to switch to Desktop mode and use a Zoom level of, on QVGA machines, in general, 50%, and, on 176*220 models, 25%) Unfortunately, you will still have problems with scrolling down / right – in the default, link scrolling mode, you will only see the top left part of the page and won’t be able to scroll anywhere (not even clicking the scrollbars with SPHelper). To fix this (and to scroll down to the Flash animation), you MUST switch to Image (scrolling) mode. With Opera Mobile, the up/down arrows do work, unlike with IEM, as can also be seen in THIS screenshot (otherwise, I couldn’t have been able to go down).

1.5.2 Toonel

Toonel, the transparent compressor proxy, is a GREAT way to save data usage costs. If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, you really should check it out by, first, reading my related article & tutorial HERE. I’ve published several articles and tips on Toonel; the just-linked one is the one to start with.

While, it seems, it’s not possible to make the native Windows Mobile version work, the Java versions does work on Smartphones.

As far as the native Windows Mobile version is concerned, according to the folks HERE (thanks for the link to the Toonel folks; it's Russian - Babel "translation" HERE), some people managed to make the native (.NET CF) version of Toonel run. I haven’t succeeded in this on either of my Oxygen or Vox.

Fortunately, the Java version works. In general, you’ll only need the (brand new) CrEme 4.12 (download the TI OMAP version of the 4.1 series if you have a TI OMAP-based Smartphone) and THIS JAR file (version 0.45 - do NOT use version 0.50!). Install CrEme (you can do this on the storage card too – then, however, you’ll need to modify the link file I give you), copy the JAR file to the root directory of your handheld (you can, actually, copy it anywhere – but, then, you’ll need to modify the link file I will give you soon) and, then, copy THIS link file to \Windows\Start Menu. Then, just click the latter to start Toonel in the background. Upon start, you should see THIS screen. If you see THIS (note the bind() failed message!), it shows Toonel is already running.

Note that the CrEme process takes quite a lot of memory (but, fortunately, little CPU time – about 1-2% - when inactive) as can be seen in HERE. Beware of this fact – the operating system may kill the CrEme (Toonel) process in the background, particularly if you start other, memory-intensive programs. Then, you will just need to restart the proxy by clicking the startup script.

As, currently, the SP version of Opera Mobile (as with old 8.60 Pocket PC builds) doesn’t have internal support for entering proxy servers, you must enter the proxy information in the config file by hand. However, as with the old PPC betas, you can easily configure the proxy server by just editing \Application Data\ Opera\ opera.ini and adding the following section:

[Proxy]
Use HTTP=1
HTTP server=127.0.0.1:8080
Enable HTTP 1.1 for proxy=1


A screenshot of the Web admin interface of the locally running Toonel on my Vox:

Posted Image

As can clearly be seen, there was about 80% (fourfold!) bandwidth usage saving during the active session. This alone makes Toonel really worthy if yours is not an unlimited data plan.

A quick visit to WhatIsMyIP also shows it’s through the Toonel server that you’re connected (85.25.148.242 is one of the IP’s of the Toonel servers).

It’s VERY important to remember that, currently (as of 07/10/2007), the SP version of Opera Mobile does NOT reliably support proxy servers. Therefore, if you absolutely must use Toonel (or ANY external proxy server), you MUST use IEM and forget Opera Mobile.

As IEM, as with the PPC version, also depends on the operating-system level proxy settings (unlike other browsers), you must also configure the system to access the Net differently than before. That is, do the following:
  • in IEM, go to Menu / 9 Tools / 3 Options / Connections, untick “Automatically detect settings” and select “Work” in the list as can be seen in HERE
  • in the system-level Settings, go to 6 Connections / 6 Proxy, press Action on New and create a new record as can be seen in THIS screenshot (as can be seen in HERE, just leave “Type” on “HTTP”). You can name the proxy setting anything; in here, I’ve called it ‘t’. That is, all you need to do is setting “The Internet” to “Connects from”, “Work” to “Connects to” and entering “127.0.0.1:8080” in “Proxy (name:port)”.
Note that, after this, you will need to configure your other programs also using the system-level settings to use Toonel instead of a direct connection. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to configure the built-in Messaging to use the built-in POP3 proxy support of Toonel (as opposed to the Pocket PC Messaging). Also, remember that, should you have the built-in Live (or MSN) Messenger, defining the proxy will also render them useless.

Unfortunately, it seems it’s not possible to make these programs work with a proxy defined in the above way. That is, you will need to delete the proxy every time you want to access your mail. It seems there are no other ways of disabling it - for example, setting the source / target networks to something else doesn’t work.

Again, keep in mind that you can have Toonel activated for IEM (that is, using a system-level proxy setting) AND still access your mail (both compressed, via Toonel, and uncompressed) via other, Smartphone-compliant mailer clients; for example, FlexMail. With the latter, you can safely use the compression offered by Toonel too and the mails downloaded just OK.

1.5.3 Java applets

While the IEM plug-in of the just-released CrEme 4.12 (the only Java Virtual Machine to be compatible with the Smartphone AND have an applet plug-in) can be registered, it doesn’t seem to be working, unlike on the Pocket PC.

Neither the applet-based Radar Weather test nor the local demo applet (Cube) shipped with the system work: the JVM plug-in just keeps showing "loading applet". Example screenshots: 1 2 (Vox); 3 (Oxygen).

1.6 Keyboard shortcuts

I’ve compiled a chart of the three SP Web browsers showing how a given functionality can be accessed. As can be seen, in general, Opera Mini requires the least button presses to do something (assuming IEM and Opera Mobile run in full-screen mode, which also means double initial softkey presses instead of just a single one to access something in menus only – that is, not having a direct dialpad shortcut).

Keep in mind that, if you extensively use the dialpad (for example, to directly enter the number of the menu item you’d like to activate – these numbers are shown in all menus and I also reproduce them here), you can navigate MUCH faster than using the D-pad to scroll up/down a menu.

You can find the chart here - make sure you check it out, you’ll find it REALLY useful!

2. Non-working or not recommended browsers

2.1 Thunderhawk 2.0


Unfortunately, this browser wasn’t updated for WM5. This means neither the SP2003 (1 2) nor the SP2002 version (these are the two versions available for download) can be installed on WM5/WM6 SP models. All in all, forget about it for the time being.

2.2 NetFront 3.4 Technical Preview 008

NetFront is a well-known browser, which, as of the Technical Preview (TP) versions of the forthcoming, 3.4 version, also received (still a bit flaky) Smartphone support. (No, don’t expect version 3.3, the currently avaailable non-preview, commercial version to run on the Smartphone – it can’t be installed).

Posted Image
(a 176*220 screenshot; the same device scrolling through a stock exchange list in Normal (desktop) display (rendering) mode)

(Note that most of these are all non-full screen screenshots. I used them to prove the screenshots have indeed been taken on a Smartphone. In reality, especially on 176*220 devices, you will want to stick to full screen mode to maximize the screen estate available for browsing).

Note that, currently, the last TP version is 008. You will, however, want to prefer the earlier, 007 version (see review HERE) accessible for example HERE because version 008 is far more restrictive and the two versions have the same expiration date.

The main difference between the PPC and the SP version is that you can’t navigate to the address bar of the latter using any keys (or any menu). This means you must use a cursor emulator like SPHelper to click the address bar; that is, to transfer the focus there.

It’s very important that, after you load the program, it’s only the command bar (the two softkeys) that will change, nothing else, as can be seen in HERE. To bring up the standard Netfront GUI (with the address bar), you will need to navigate to Menu / View / Full Screen. It’s then that you will be presented the standard NF GUI and start working / browsing via, say, going to Menu / File / Bookmark (or Operation / 6 Bookmark) or, with SPHelper (or any other cursor emulator), activating the address bar.

Note that while you can’t navigate to the tabs (if you do open more than one tabs) using the D-pad, you can easily access them via Menu / 1 Window for both switching to and closing.

Unfortunately, the restrictions of the PPC version also apply here; most importantly, the inability to redefine keys / buttons to quickly access any kind of functionality. This is especially annoying with the Smartphone version, where you have tons of easily accessible buttons, which are heavily used by all major, highly-recommended Web browsers (Opera Mobile, IEM (particularly after hacking the Registry) and Opera Mini but not jB5 as yet). In here, you can’t even use page scroll using the touchpad. In addition, not even the Smartphone “back” button works (which does work in both Opera Mobile and IEM) to quickly return to the previous page.

Interestingly, while there certainly is Flash support on the Smartphone (example screenshot HERE), YouTube, as opposed to the PPC version, doesn’t work. Remember that you need to activate Flash manually and also remember that it will chew through your battery if you navigate to any Flash-enabled web page – yes, it’s still very weak, battery usage-wise. The Access folks should immediately look into this problem.

All in all, while it’s certainly usable, it’s, on the Smartphone platform, not as convenient (and battery-friendly, for example, Flash-wise) as Opera Mobile or IEM. Only use it if you REALLY want to stick to NetFront and you can put up with the restrictions (not directly accessible address bar, sub-par Flash support etc).

2.3 Webby

Unfortunately, it doesn’t run either. While it can be installed, it refuses to run (1 2 3).

2.4 Minimo 0.2

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Posted Image
(the latter is a 176*220 screenshot; as can be seen, only the last, Menu (…) icon is invisible; however, transferring the focus to it will also work. Too bad it turned out to be pretty unreliable on my WM5 AKU3 s310 (Oxygen)– even more so than on my QVGA Vox. For example, it didn’t even finish loading the SPT homepage as can be seen in the above screenshot.)

While it can be installed on SP’s, on this platform it’s far from perfect and, in general, useless, for the following reasons:
  • it has HUGE memory usage (the biggest problem with the 0.2 version on the Pocket PC platform too). After loading, it consumes about 12Mbytes and, when you load additional pages, this decreases even more, leaving little (if any) RAM memory
  • accessing the icons (to, for example, bring up the address bar) at the bottom can only be done using the right softkey. This, on the other hand, first, iterates through ALL the links in the page (yes, ALL of them), and only after this moves down to the bottom icons. A mouse emulator like SPHelper doesn’t help (to directly click the icons at the bottom) – Minimo just doesn’t sense the mouse clicks (that is, left softkey presses)
  • the browser often crashes (mostly if you run out of memory) and is generally slowish
All in all, I don’t recommend it. Also see for example THIS and THIS for more info / user opinions.

Note that the other available version, Minimo 0.16, isn’t installable on Smartphones at all.

UPDATE (later the same day):
  • in THIS thread, MoDaCo forum member holg posted something definitely worth reading - it, for example, explains how you can directly start Opera Mini from the alternative, by me, often-discussed midlet runner environment, the IBM J9. It also shows how external proxies can be used with this environment.
  • SPT frontpage
UPDATE (07/11/2007): Article heavily updated: added the two IEM Registry hack sections; added the jB5 section.

UPDATE (07/11/2007): Another heavy update: added the Flash hacking section.

UPDATE (07/13/2007): Yet another heavy update: added the Opera Mobile WM6 registry fix section.

UPDATE (07/14/2007): Changes to the NetFront section. Thanks to AximSite / HowardForums forum member player911 for his remarks!

UPDATE (07/18/2007): Upon popular demand, I've added a section on installing the Flash hack on a storage card.

Edited by Menneisyys, 19 July 2007 - 08:03 AM.

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UPDATE (07/13/2007): Yet another heavy update: added the Opera Mobile WM6 registry fix section.

UPDATE (07/14/2007): Changes to the NetFront section. Thanks to AximSite / HowardForums forum member player911 for his remarks!

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UPDATE (07/18/2007): Upon popular demand, I've added a section on installing the Flash hack on a storage card.

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UPDATE (08/02/2007): Just added a new section on MultiIE in the IEM-related chapter. Worth a read!

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UPDATE (08/31/2007) : Opera Mini 4 beta 2 out; the FULL review has been posted to these forums: PPCT, AximSite, XDA-Developers - 1, XDA-Developers - 2 FirstLoox, BrightHand, HowardForums, SPT, MoDaCo, Opera Mini forums.

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... and that even on platforms, where the built-in Tao couldn't use a proxy -> WM2003 PPC and SP.


You mean on newer, WM5+ devices (with newer TAO versions)?

I've played a LOT with the proxy settings of Tao, both the 10.1 (WM5 SP) and the 11.1 (PPC) series, also applying the Registrty hacks described at http://www.modaco.co...co-t253768.html . Without any success.

This is pretty strange as the thread above is written for the Tornado, which is a WM5 device with Tao. I don't know why it's working with them and refuses to work with us (on other WM5+ devices, with both 10 and 11 series Tao Midlet managers).

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I would like to test Tao on the HTC Vox ... does anybody know if this is possible?


It is, but only slightly older, 10.1-series TAO's are available. See http://4pda.ru/forum...ne.by.dFine.cab

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UPDATE (10/20/2007): I've published a review of Opera Mobile 8.65 Final (PPC/SP), Picsel 1.0.5 (PPC/SP) and the brand new Spb Pocket Plus 4.0 (PPC). A new version of jb5 (PPC/SP) has been released and a brand new, albeit very simple IEM add-in Web Viewer for WM5 (PPC). Also, I’ve linked in some of my recent reviews of some new (not very important) Web browsers: TeaShark (PPC/SP) and UCWEB (PPC/SP). Finally, I've published some genuine, never-before-published tips and tricks on utilizing the Pocket PC hardware application buttons to control Opera Mini and Opera Mobile. It's a MUST for any serious Pocket PC user - you'll LOVE my new tips & tricks. See THIS. Cross-posted to: PPCT, AximSite, XDA-Developers - 1, XDA-Developers - 2, FirstLoox, BrightHand, HowardForums, SPT, MoDaCo.

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UPDATE (11/12/2007): the final version of Opera Mini 4 has been released. I've written a VERY thorough tutorial on installing and using it; it's available HERE; cross-posted to PPCT, AximSite, XDA-Developers -1, XDA-Developers -2, FirstLoox, BrightHand, HowardForums - 1, HowardForums - 2, SPT, MoDaCo, official Opera Mini forum. Note that it also links in my brand new MIDlet Bible, which will be a god-send anyone wanting to run this EXCELLENT browser on his or her handset.

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