You're far away from the office when your pager tells you that the Windows NT mail server on the seventh floor has crashed. So you whip your hand-held PC out of your pocket, use your cellular modem to log in to the remote-control software on the server, and reboot it - all without moving an inch and without lugging a heavy notebook computer. Or at least that's the fantasyThe reality is a bit more painful. Because even though Symantec's pcAnywhere CE is as good a product as the desktop version of this well-known remote-control software, the platform the company chose for it is hardly mature. Hand-held PCs are still playthings - glorified contact managers with screens too small for serious work.
Like the programs bundled with Windows CE, pcAnywhere CE is a custom version of the desktop product. The beta version came with the host and remote modules.
Installation was a snap. My NEC hand-held (not yet released in Australia) already had an established "partnership" with my desktop, so I could run the pcAnywhere CE setup on the desktop and then have the setup install the remote portion on the hand-held PC using a direct serial connection. (A partnership is a custom Explorer-like interface installed on the desktop for file transfer and synchronisation tasks via a serial cable to a hand-held PC.)Once pcAnywhere was installed and configured, I tested two connections: direct serial-cable session and a dial-in connection using the hand-held's PC Card modem. It's easy to configure and use. For example, defining a connection is as simple as telling the software what medium I wanted to use to connect (cable, modem, and so on), then setting up a log-in name and password. The interface look is almost identical to the full version. Each type of connection is an icon with its own properties, allowing multiple types of connections to multiple PcAnywhere hosts - but not at the same time.
Although making a connection was easy, using the connection was hardly a walk in the park. I keep my desktop screen resolution at 800 by 600 most of the time, for example, and though pcAnywhere CE provides a variety of tools to help navigate the screen from the hand-held PC, it was still painful.
When I scaled the screen to fit the screen of the hand-held, I couldn't read any of the icons or text. Some icons and menus were too small to even tap on with the pen pointer. And turning scaling off means that I had to use the scroll bars or the ezScroll feature (which lets you scroll by dragging the pointer).
I tried reading some of my e-mail and launching a browser to surf the World Wide Web. Talk about a painful experience. To read a six-line e-mail message, I had to scroll back and forth until I got dizzy. Surfing the Web proved to be a complete waste of time.
In the desktop and CE editions, pcAnywhere also supports Windows NT. An NT administrator can easily manage one or more servers remotely. This is now possible with this version of pcAnywhere - but you have to be a masochist to do that to yourself.
It was the hand-held itself, and not Symantec, that caused these difficulties. pcAnywhere performed flawlessly. If you have a notebook computer, I recommend you carry it with a standard version of pcAnywhere for remote control and remote access.
Review: pcAnywhere CE
pcAnywhere CE is a thinner version of Symantec's remote-control software that looks and functions as well as the desktop version. But using it on a hand-held PC is too painful.
Pros: Easy to install and configure; has a number of features that try hard to enhance viewing and ease the manipulation of objects on the desktop.
Cons: None in the software.
Price: Host and remote versions: $US79.95 remote only: $US39.95 (remote-only version requires a full version of pcAnywhere 7.5 or later as the host). Australian pricing not available at time of publicationPlatforms: Remote: Windows CE on a hand- held PC; host: pcAnywhere on Windows 95 or Windows NT.
Shipping: April 1997
Tel 02 9850 1000ÊFax (02) 9850 1001