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On Microsoft's Embedded DevCon Keynote 106

Posted by simoniker
from the embed-this dept.
An anonymous reader writes "WindowsForDevices reports on the keynote talk at Microsoft's Windows Embedded DevCon (developer conference) taking place this week in San Diego. The story includes some interesting comments and highlights from the talk. Don't miss the cool bit about the ARM7-based 'SPOT' development platform that runs a tiny version of the .NET Compact Framework -- Microsoft is demoing a robot that's run by SPOT. There's also a pointer to an online video demo of a project to create a digital picture frame using Win CE."
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On Microsoft's Embedded DevCon Keynote

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  • WinCE (Score:2, Funny)

    by mrpuffypants (444598) *
    I can't wait to buy my copy of WinCE so that I can build a picture frame out of it, seeing that my only other options are:

    1) Buy one at a store for $2
    2) Build the same damn thing with Linux for FREE!!!!!1

    Believe me, nobody else looks forward to running virus patches on his fucking Picture Frame than I do!
    • Re:WinCE (Score:2, Funny)

      by 3) profit!!! (773340)
      How are you going to get a virus on your picture frame by running WinCE? Sure, Linux is cheaper, but the security doesn't matter as long as the picture frame isn't connected to anything else.
      • Re:WinCE (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bersl2 (689221)
        The point the grandparent post should be making is that using WinCE for a picture frame is a waste of money and is thoroughly not noteworthy.
    • by antic (29198)
      Oh, and predictably, I'm getting a banner ad from Microsoft on Slashdot advertising Windows Embedded, on each page load too... Very convenient!
      • That's what finaly convinced me to tell firefox not to load slashdot's adds, except it still does, it just doesn't display them. Hopefully the bug is fixed by the time I get a new ver of ff (it's in 0.8). I would like to save the bandwith as well if possible. I'm in the boonies where 28.8 is a minor miracle of speed when I get it.

        Mycroft
    • WinCE that bad? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nten (709128) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:59PM (#9577435)
      I don't have any WinCE experience(VXworks, custom schedulers, and Integrity mostly), but one of my coworkers, whose opinion I generally respect uses CE for all his moonlighting contract jobs and he calls it rocksolid, easy to use, etc. etc. He's got lots of embedded experience, mostly safety critical, and he considers it a truly useful tool.

      I can't ignore it outright, because he really does know what he's doing, he's written his own schedulers and memory managers for projects for 8051s and whatnot, so he's not just saying "oh, this looks easy I'll use this". But I'm also hesitant to believe that M$ has made something reliable enough to run embedded hard real-time.

      Anyone want to enlighten me further?
      • Re:WinCE that bad? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RalphTWaP (447267) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @09:56PM (#9578029)
        No source considers WinCE to be a hard real-time OS. There are realtime extensions to embedded windows (WinCE and XPe) available, and some even sound pretty promising from a technical standpoint, but the bottom line is that with a non-deterministic scheduler, it's not real-time. Usually predictable, sure. Probably fast enough, of course; however, without the extensions (and perhaps in some situations with them, the technical articles I've seen were still pretty vague in spots) it's not an RTOS, and please... if anyone is going to use it behind some bit of critical hardware, put the stickers on the outside so I'll be able to avoid trusting my life to it *smirks*
      • Re:WinCE that bad? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:17PM (#9578425)

        Anyone want to enlighten me further?


        I can't imagine how one could praise WinCE so highly. It's not hard realtime. This isn't a negative, just a fact. It just means that it is not a flexible as some other alternatives. It has NO flexibility as far as scheduler and memory management are concerned. The API is loosely based on the Win32 API, which sucks especially for this purpose, and sucks doubly because 90% of the parameters to the bloated API calls are ignored anyway. IPC options suck: thread message queues (a la WPARAM/LPARAM) and shared memory. The scheduler is capable of only 32 processes (again I consider a bitmap scheduler great if it's an option, but when you realize that WinCE drivers and BSPs are built ASSUMING this is a constant it is quite bad). There is essentially no memory protection since it is trivial and plausible that any process will enter Ring 0 even by accident. The scheduler is dead nuts simple. This is not necessarily a bad thing, until you realize that changing it is not trivial without practically rewriting most of the kernel (as the device driver model assumes the scheduler and memory model) and furthermore the OS is such a bloated piece of shit considering how simplistic the components are.

        Oh yeah, there is NO standards compliance, and I'm not talking about any one in particular. I'm just looking for some basic ROAD MAP from Microsoft. It would be nice if Microsoft at least developed their own standard and abstractions that would mean that so many fundamental things wouldn't change from one release to the next. Couple this with the fact that even the basic C runtime support is sorely lacking.

        As for rock solid, you are at the mercy of whoever wrote your BSP. I have seen a number and the quality varies widely. The one constant thing is they all reinvent the wheel for missing facilities and interfaces. I have seen very few WinCE implementations that proved themselves to be rock solid.

        Let me just say that while WinCE may be OK for some limited uses, its no QNX or vxWorks and that's sad since Microsoft had the chance to develop something that would bring something new to the table.

        Your coworker is probably quite smart. If his customers do not know any better, then I say good for him!
        • "The scheduler is capable of only 32 processes (again I consider a bitmap scheduler great if it's an option, but when you realize that WinCE drivers and BSPs are built ASSUMING this is a constant it is quite bad)."

          This has not been the case since Windows CE 4.0.

          • And of course EVERY vendor out there upgraded the moment MS said jump right? think again. There are still ones out there evaluating 4.0. And when they finally do move you will be lucky if they ever release an update for your old hardware... only the new stuff get it.
      • Well, they didn't call it "wince" for nothing.

        wince: v. To flinch, as in pain or distress.

      • WinCE IS hard RT (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Great, two completely wrong posts get modded "4 - Insightful". Figures.

        CE can do hard and soft real-time. Don't take my word for it - take Dedicated Systems Experts' [dedicated-systems.com] word for it (remember, we're talking 3.0/4.x/5.0 here, not 2.0 - huge difference), or OMAC [windowsfordevices.com] (via WindowsForDevices).

        You are nobody, both sources are respected, cross-vendor, cross-platform experts.
  • SPOT (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:33PM (#9577296)
    M$ is demoing a robot that's run by SPOT. See SPOT run. Run SPOT, run!
    • Re:SPOT (Score:2, Funny)

      by torpor (458)
      See SPOT.

      See SPOT Blue Screen!?

      Blue Screen, SPOT, Blue Screen?!


      ... sorry, haven't gotten over that 'language is music' thing from the other day, just had to type that out to see what it would be like to say ... ;)
  • BSOD (Score:3, Funny)

    by maelstrom (638) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:34PM (#9577304) Homepage Journal
    Look how cool embedded windows can be:

    Blue Screen of Death Gallery [daimyo.org]

  • Windows XP Embedded (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dante (3418) * on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:40PM (#9577342) Journal
    I noticed a couple comments on Windows XP Embedded on that website, has anyone else had issues trying to keep embeded secure? You can't run windows update or SUS and service packs don't work. And Cannon won't support any anti-virus software.

    In my opinion Windows XP Embedded is the largest boondogle I've ever come across.

    Is there a way to keep these boxes(cancer) secure?

    • by smithmc (451373) * on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:44PM (#9577362) Journal

      I noticed a couple comments on Windows XP Embedded on that website, has anyone else had issues trying to keep embeded secure? You can't run windows update or SUS and service packs don't work. And Cannon won't support any anti-virus software.

      No biggie - just don't ever connect your device to, well, anything, and you'll have no problems!

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Many embedded products don't have any need for connectivity so unless you build your virus into the system, it's not a problem.
    • by howlinmonkey (548055) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:56PM (#9577423)
      I don't know if you mean Cannon or Canon. If you do mean the EFI based RIPs for Canon ColorPASS controllers, you can run McAfee VirusScan 7.0 on their XPe based controllers.

      As for security updates, EFI has just started a program for keeping more up to date with Hotfixes and Service Packs. Just today I got an update from Canon with information on a forthcoming CD bundle with the latest patches for their entire Windows based product line. Granted, they will be a little behind because they have to do a full test suite to make sure their software functions with the patch or a modified version thereof. Your printers should be bedhind a firewall with all external access blocked to protect from the majority of these baddies, if possible.

      Contact your local servicing Canon dealer for additional information on the anti-virus and security update issues.

      Yes, I do work as an analyst for a Canon dealer ;)
      • by Dante (3418) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @08:14PM (#9577496) Journal
        Yes I do mean the colorpass, and no the vendor nor canon have been very helpful. Canon does not support *ANY* anti-virus software other then McAffee. Our corporate standard is Symantec. Canon up to this point has be as useful as cattle prod in a swimming pool. Christ I can keep 400 plus workstations secure, with less effort than one *embeded device* And to Canons credit it should not be their problem. Any microsoft product should at least be able to use Microsoft update and or SUS.

        "Your printers should be bedhind a firewall with all external access blocked to protect from the majority of these baddies, if possible."

        No kidding really?

        Firewalls are a good first defence at best you should never rely on them to be more then a speedbump. Never ever rely primarly on firewall for security.

        Yes, I do work as an analyst for a Canon dealer ;)

        Look as a administrator I help set policy and make the majority of decisions on what products to get. First question I ask now is "does it run Windows XP embeded? They say yes. And I say: Oh I'm sorry I don't want that on my network. Come back when it runs somthing else.

        • If you use Symantec for antivirus, just mount the admin shares and scan them after hours. Not as good as realtime, but most of the major virus vectors aren't running on these controllers (IE and LookOut), so it is arguable whether real time scanning is necessary. I have even had a major customer test their Symantec software on the NT based controllers, and they were able to run it with no problems. We offered to assist them because of the number of machines they had, in spite of Canon's recommendations. We
    • by mrpuffypants (444598) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [stnapyffuprm]> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @08:11PM (#9577481)
      The company that I work for right now is experiencing the EXACT problem that you are referring to: WinXPe forgoes all support from the OS maker (MS) and puts it right on the OEM/Embedded device maker.

      While this makes sense for many devices that could be loaded with WinXPe this is a bitch and a half for anybody using it in a pseudo-desktop system use. The people on-site can't run WindowsUpdate and just get the patches, they have to come directly from the maker and be customized for that version of that kernel on that hardware.

      In fact, right as I type this I'm watching a patch for Korgo/Sasser deploy to a fleet of about 1000 WinXPe powered devices. Thanks to office politics and people that have such a massive hard-on for Microsoft we are using XPe for a purpose that could be solved (LITERALLY) with a big hard drive, wget, and Apache.

      Instead, we have a box that has to have XPe on it which, of course, comes with all of its wonderful 'features' that we never need, should never have to deal with, and only cause us headaches.

      However, I DO get overtime for sitting here making sure that this update goes through, so cheers to that! Thanks Microsoft!
    • XP Embedded?

      Is there a flash device large enough to hold that OS and still leave room for other apps?

      (It's an honest question, this truly isn't a troll.

    • by Brandybuck (704397) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @09:07PM (#9577765) Homepage Journal
      My company is using WXPe for an upcoming realtime embedded medical diagnostic system. We're solving this by basically rolling our own MSI/Installshield bundles for each and every patch, vulnerability and virus definition. We're in the third round of estimating this product and I made a note to the VP that the product WILL REQUIRE a full time employee to handle rolling out patches.

      My company really doesn't know what it's getting into. Our old product was LynxOS based, and we NEVER once had to issue an OS related patch, and I think we had a total of three critical patches for the ten year lifetime of the product.
      • Alright, now this scares me:

        My company is using WXPe for an upcoming realtime embedded medical diagnostic system. We're solving this by basically rolling our own MSI/Installshield bundles for each and every patch, vulnerability and virus definition.

        Call me crazy, but I'm not comfortable with medical equipment needing this kind of support? Was that x-ray machine scanned for viruses before you used it?...

        • by Brandybuck (704397) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:25PM (#9578456) Homepage Journal
          As near as I can tell, every medical diagnostic system currently manufactured by GE, Philips and Siemens runs Windows. The only exceptions are for systems developed by other companies (such as Agilent) before being aquired by one of those big three.

          That's not because Windows is an appropriate operating system for those devices, but rather because GE, Philips and Siemens have grown so large and process-bound that they can no longer make appropriate technical decisions. In the product I previously talked about, the decision to use Windows was made by people outside of engineering.
          • Sorry, no. GE's CT Sim software runs on Solaris. Their CT and MR scanners (the consoles) run Irix (and now Linux).

            Now, if you think Windows is bad, have you ever examined the default install of Irix (say 6.5.12)? Jesus wept.
            • But what about the review stations attached to CT and MRI? And are these systems GE's most recent products? And were they development by GE itself? I work for another of the big three, and while we have some non-Windows products, all new systems must use Windows, even if it's only in the UI.
              • Review stations attached to CT and MRI? Do you mean PACS workstations based on Centricity or the consoles that control the modality? The PACS workstations are MS Windows-base. We used to have Solaris-based review stations ("Advantage Windows") but those are being phased out. The PACS backend is till Solaris-based. In fact the DICOM server middle-end Macs are being replaced by Sun blades.

                The CT Sim software was not developed by GE. They bought it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wow, now there are 2 things that Windows is actually good for: playing solitare, and running digital picture frames!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:45PM (#9577373)
    "Microsoft's Embedded DevCon Keynote"

    Should be

    "Microsoft's 'In Bed With Donkey Kong' Note."
  • Windows CE == POS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by k4_pacific (736911) <k4_pacific@noSpAM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:46PM (#9577376) Homepage Journal
    I work for a company that does Point of Sale software and we looked at Windows CE. The company that built some of our hardware (I won't give their name, let's just say its Not Columbia Records) sent us a CE image and a little boot utility that copied the image into memory off the hard disk and kicked it off. It booted up okay, and reminded me of a really bad version of Windows 95. (Heck, Windows 95 is a bad version of Windows 95, but this was worse). Particularly amusing was that apparently it had been expected to be used with flash memory rather than a real hard disk, so copying files took a long time as there was no head movement optimization.

    The disk goes Clcklklklklklklklklklklklklklk for about 3 minutes to copy the 6 MB image.

    Also, if there were bad sectors on the drive, it would corrupt the root directory and you'd have to reformat the drive and start over. This was especially bad for us as most of the hard disks on our customer's systems are inches away from a cash drawer that flies open then gets slammed shut constantly.

    Needless to say, the customer we were evaluating this for is still running MS-DOS.
    • Sure it wasnt Embedded NT, since I've heard something that resembles it called BassPoiNT in the past that runs that OS on it. BTW, NCR has deep business related roots with IBM so you will get strange hardware at this level of money - that's why they're now a "solutions company". They still make PC's, but most of them arent PC-4/Decision Mate V weirdness anymore(the cards go on the inside these days if you arent doing laptops) for the ones us mere mortals can get somewhere close to new.
    • Going to have to talk to them about their HD support, then. A museum in Seattle is using CE-based devices with an integral HD, and their HD speeds are more than satisfactory. Perhaps hardware issues, or driver issues, but the fault lays squarely with them, and not CE.
  • Looks like there will be more and more devices like ATM's getting hit with the latest virus. I can see it now 5 killed due to exploit in Windows Automotive breaking system. Your brakes have been updated. You must restart for them to work.
  • by phoxix (161744) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @07:48PM (#9577396)
    Windows + .Net for a simple picture frame ?

    wtf ? do they not teach the concept of KISS in school anymore ?

    I think the likes of TRON [vector.co.jp] will be around for quite sometime ...

    Sunny Dubey
    • without .Net you'll never get the Goatse guy downloading new pics for you.
    • wtf ? do they not teach the concept of KISS in school anymore ?

      It IS simple, just not in the way you're thinking. Sure the device is more complex - but its simpler to use 'cos Windows is used in lots of other places and people are already familiar with it. The complexity has been shifted out of the mind of the programmer (who would otherwise have to learn PFOS, Picture Frame OS in addition to every other platform) and into the device.
  • how bout wireless? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Szentigrade (790685) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @08:14PM (#9577495)
    Now all it needs is wireless capability and we can transmit photos from the PC in minutes!
  • The ability to load pictures onto a digital frame, then have them stolen by script kiddies, so that the picture of me and my friends shows up on every p2p network. w00t. Though you have to admit "My picture frame has a virus" sounds funny.
  • SPOT notes (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @08:26PM (#9577572)
    1) Term for a bug report is now "you missed a spot" report.

    2) Name was inspired by Microsoft's spotty security record.

    3) Virus writers are now hard at work at viruses that hit the SPOT.

    4) Geeks everywhere will deny the spot even exists.

    5) Locomotives will adapt this embedded technology through the TrainSPOTting initiative.

    6) The MONO folks will be creating a GNOME-based port. No word yet on what they'll call it but rumor has it that it'll start with a "G"
  • Could the jukebox in this picture [windowsfordevices.com] possibly be the one on this site [mini-itx.com]?
  • MS Robots (Score:2, Funny)

    by niktesla (761443)
    Microsoft is demoing a robot that's run by SPOT

    Microsoft. Robots...Hmmm...

    • Microsoft Robots as seen in the new film I Robot...(The stolen name is fitting!)
    • You'll be awed at the effect a simple virus can have on your docile home robots!
    • Amaze your fiends with the advanced techonolgy of Clippy, the world's first automated help paperclip!
    • Your robot running too fast? No problem, just install Windows 9000 and your machine will be reduced to a quivering heap of junk!
    • Bill's personal Army of Blue Screen of Death
  • Gates' Ideas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by concordeonetwo (644570) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @09:12PM (#9577798)
    I always wondered why Gates thinks certain technologies and products are going to be big. Tablet PCs for example while is a great concept, it is severly limited by todays technology (Poor handwriting reconition, short battery life, etc). And yet, Gates has put his money down on it 3 times (Pen Services for DOS, Pen Services for Windows 95, Windows XP Tablet Edition). Compare him to Steve Jobs, who has had good sucess since he has returned to Apple (iPod, iTunes, iPod Mini, Airport Express/Extreme and iMac) Its probably just their philosophies.
    • Have you used Tablets with SP2 installed? The handwritting recognition is par none.
    • Compare him to Steve Jobs, who has had good sucess since he has returned to Apple (iPod, iTunes, iPod Mini, Airport Express/Extreme and iMac) Its probably just their philosophies.

      Of course it is.

      Jobs has always been about developing products for the individual user. Gates (at least for the last fifteen to twenty years) has been about developing products for the corporation. It's why Apple is easily morphing their product line into a more consumer-oriented one while Microsoft struggles on that front (e.g.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @09:15PM (#9577814)

    Microsoft is demoing a robot that's run by SPOT.

    Wow! That's some cutting edge stuff. Thank Bill we have Windows CE.

    What? What's that you say? We've already done robots? Ah. *ahem*

    There's also a pointer to an online video demo of a project to create a digital picture frame using Win CE.

    Now there you go! Some real future tech. A picture...that hangs on the wall....that changes! Fantastic!

    What? They've already done that too? Without CE? You mean that's possible? *ahem*

    Ok, nevermind then.

  • by MMHere (145618) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @09:43PM (#9577960)
    All I can say about hearing that MS has a serious Windows Automotive [windowsfordevices.com] department going is...

    You had better have a good firewall in your garage for those times when your car says to you we're home, would you like me to go online and fetch your calendar updates?

    It's one thing for an unfirewalled windoze 98 box to be hacked and compromised by a remote attacker. It's quite another to have your vehicle compromised unbeknownst to you--

    I don't think I want my car "crashing" its OS while I'm at the wheel, unrelated to any driving choices/mistakes I may have made. I can see it now--

    "Honest Officer! I think my car must have caught the Download.Ject [microsoft.com] virus this morning!" I didn't drive into that bridge abutment on my own! Honest!!" The officer replies--

    "Sir, didn't you listen to the latest Microsoft warning? You should never use your steering wheel / joystick to surf to 'unsafe' websites with IE! Now I have to write you a Stupid-Ticket."

    But seriously...

    How concerned are other developers about MS style code being let loose in a critical system like an automobile? I mean, running a PDA or a desktop printer is one thing. When they crash, people aren't so likely to DIE! A malfunctioning four ton Ford Excursion, on the other hand, is something I'd really rather not encounter.

  • by loraksus (171574) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:12PM (#9578123) Homepage
    Stupid binary clock written for CF.net. It was rather fun / simple to program simple stuff for it, I think it would be significantly less fun if one had to program a real app for it. The source code has a bunch of code for checking the status of power, etc, so you might find it helpful if you are designing an app like that.

    Install cabs [comcast.net]

    Source [comcast.net]

    That said, my palm m105 was a lot more stable than my current pocket pc, which is a toshiba.
    Toshiba pocket pc support sucks ass by the way, AVOID BUYING TOSHIBA PDAS AT ALL COSTS!!

    • I agree, they are crapolo, not even a mobilepc2003 update for e740 which they could do but wont so they sell more new e750s.

      Though some people now say PDAs are dieing since new mobiles have PDA features/video/cam/notes etc... memory cards.... all in an easier to hold package.

      • Well, that update was a major bitching point for many people - especially since they promised it, and then renegged.
        I had a warranty on my e335 and when it broke, Office Despot sent me an e450 - only caveat, broken charger (from a brand new unit), and toshiba support didn't have any chargers or other parts (cradle, etc) for the e4xx or e800 in stock - and don't expect to for another MONTH.
        The damn supervisor pretty much hung up on me after saying there was nothing he could do. It's nice that e335 charger wo
    • Wow. That looks *way* longer than it should be.

      I'm not familiar with .NET, but in VB 6 you can have control arrays, which would avoid you all those pages of setting every control by hand.

      And even if arrays aren't possible for some strange reason, couldn't you just have made a function that returns an image object? Say, in VB 6 this would have been along the lines of:

      Public Function GetImage(n as Long) as Image
      Select Case n
      Case 1: Set GetImage = Image1
      Case 2: Set GetImage = Image2
  • Anything like this [ceiva.com]?

    Built with vxWorks, I believe. Just saw one today at the local Coffee Bean. Cool toy, though I wouldn't be likely to shell out any $$ for it ...

  • A sad WinCE story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ras (84108) <russell-slashdot@@@stuart...id...au> on Thursday July 01, 2004 @01:29AM (#9578914) Homepage

    My company was looking some embedded hardware with some specific capabilities. It took a while, but last year the hardware arrived. Since I was the first user, I was offered the choice of WinCE or Linux. I personally prefer to develop under Linux, but in this case I thought it was best to go with whichever one the hardware manufacturer was most comfortable with, and that was CE.

    They supplied prototype hardware. This was just the CPU manufacturers reference design, which they laid up and hand soldered. A contractor recommended by Microsoft then produced a "basic" CE image, and we were away. So far so good. The next step was design and delivery of produce production boards. These were just the reference design with unwanted bits removed, and the form factor adjusted accordingly. Again, they put a "basic" CE image on it, and it all worked.

    The final step was to put the "real" CE image on the device. The major differences between this and the basic seemed to me to be be little details, like persisting the registry to flash, making the CF card work, making the buttons work, making USB work with 2.0 devices, making power off work and so on. The job went to the same Microsoft contractor, who promised delivery in a week or so.

    That was in January. Lots of phone calls later, and me finally threating to cancel the deal forced them (the manufacturer) to take drastic steps: they made the contractor's staff work in their offices, so they could monitor the work being done and the progress being made.

    That was two months ago. Meanwhile the situation was explained to Microsoft, but they insisted the if their nominated contractor couldn't get CE going nobody could.

    More threats from me, and the manufacturer contacted another manufacturer in Germany who was using CE with the same reference design. They found who did their CE image, and ask them to do the same job. That was a month ago. Nobody has delivered. Nobody has raised any queries over the hardware design. And I, an embedded programmer by trade, and sitting here mystified by how hard it appears to be to get CE to go.

    At the same time I have written my own apps to run on this thing. It is written in C# (which is what Microsoft recommended). I prefer Java as it runs well under Linux - but Microsoft does not supply a Java VM for CE - surprise, surprise! The back end of these apps (the server part) runs on Linux. So I had to make C# run under Linux. I choose PNet (as opposed to Mono) for reasons I won't discuss here.

    The contrast between the two efforts could not be more stark. Microsoft CE.Net mostly worked from the start, although it wasn't obvious how to do some things and it did have one of two bugs. Moving beyond that point - figuring out how things work, and fixing the bugs ranged from very hard to impossible - for all the usual reasons. Microsoft's documentation was good, but when it fell short there is no backup - no source, no helpful online community, and no one willing to fix bugs. Granted I didn't go looking for someone looking to do these things for money.

    PNet, in contrast, didn't work well when I first got it. It took me a day just to figure out how to make the thing go. But progress after that was rapid. I found bugs, I fixed them and posted the patches. Not a lot of doco other than the source, but if I got stuck I asked what seems to be a thriving and friendly online community.

    It goes without saying that the PNet stuff is now rock solid for me. The Microsoft stuff is about where it was when we first started - very close but no cigar, and it seems no one has any idea how to make it progress beyond that.

    I now wonder if this experience is atypical, or if I just made the wrong choice at the beginning. I am sure I would of have got Linux going by now - at the cost of a lot more effort on my part. But a little voice inside my head keeps saying - if it is this hard to make CE go, why does everybody keep using it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 01, 2004 @04:36AM (#9579691)
    I've been an embedded developer working on WinCE and PPC OS/Drivers for that past 2 years. WinCE is basically crap. The build times for the OS are 20mins+, even on a P4 2.8. The release directory has over 1Gb of data (I kid you not!), which eventually gets thrown away or squished down to about 30Mb. Actually working with WinCE is a pain, when stuff works it is great, very little setup and it just goes. When something breaks you struggle through documentation that is inadequate or plain wrong. Watching it on a debugger is no help either, because you just watch your program counter disappear down a black box of MS binary only assembly, and die somewhere.

    I have to agree with another poster above, MS gets you maybe 60-80% of the way there fast and painlessly, the rest is a total nightmare. OSS stuff is often painful for the first couple of days, but once you grok the code you can do what you like without too many issues.
  • Given that my iPaq crashes at least once a day, I'm bound to choose Windows for embedded applications, aren't I?

    Not.
  • It's kind of neat that Microsoft finally have something available for MMU-less devices too.
  • Ive been thinking, I wonder how hard it would be to take an old laptop's LCD panel out of the laptop and make it into a Digital Picture Frame?

    I hear its easy...

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder

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