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Targeting PocketPCs With Mono? 90

Posted by timothy
from the kissing-disease dept.
That's What She Said writes "I am a long time Mac user and, as most people like me, I have some particular problems with Microsoft technologies. I need to develop applications for the PocketPC platform (Windows CE and Windows Mobile), some simple data collection applications for barcode-enabled portable data terminals. Every device manufacturer on the market offer SDK's for .NET, so I believe this is the way to go. I already tried Microsoft Visual Studio and I am having serious problems using the IDE. I simply don't understand it quite well. My programming experience comes from PHP and JavaScript, where all I needed was a simple text editor and to keep my work as tidy as I could. So, it seems that a full-fledged IDE is kind of scary to me or Visual Studio is not very good for beginners. I also want to keep my costs low and free alternatives are welcome." Read on for a bit more (below) on why TWSS is thinking about Mono as a development environment, and is seeking advice.
That's What She Said continues: "Through some research, I've found that my options are quite narrow. Rapid development environments are available, but cost way too much or have some terrible limitations. Also, I have not found many forums on PocketPC development that really have useful information. Google isn't helping. Some directions would be good.

I have been looking at Mono for some time and MonoDevelop seems a hell of a lot simpler to use. I even started playing with it. It runs fine on my Mac.

I tried Google again to find some information on writing .NET Compact Framework applications with MonoDevelop, but I didn't find anything. It seems Mono implements the Compact Framework, but there's not much more information about this. Except for one blog post from 2006, I didn't find anything else.

So, I ask: is it possible? Is anyone doing this with any success? Is there any problem I should know beforehand?"
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Targeting PocketPCs With Mono?

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  • Unhelpful... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by locokamil (850008) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:46PM (#23409460) Homepage
    I know this is going to come off as unhelpful, but if you're going to be developing projects of any complexity on Microsoft platforms, you're going to have to deal with Visual Studio sooner or later. Suck it up and learn it -- it's not as horrible as it looks at first glance, and in time, you may even come to like it (heresy on Slashdot, I know).
    • I liked the VB6 IDE. I hated the Visual Studio.NET IDE. I think they went way too far in trying to make it flexible and it felt out-of-control. In the first version, at least, too many visual elements would continually shift around as you changed modes. Eclipse works in a similar way, but is far cleaner and more obvious in its approach. I think it's actually much harder to learn Visual Studio these days than it used to be.
      • VS.NET was pretty bad. VS2005 was far better. VS2008 is excellent (the changes from VS2005 were small and noticeable).

        The VB6 IDE is terrible, and I don't see why anyone would prefer it to ANYTHING.
        • I think it's very natural for a product to evolve and get better. It's not really the norm with Microsoft, but it sure is expected.

          One thing I noticed, though, is that every new version of Visual Studio is incompatible with some previous technologies:

          * If you want to write apps for Windows CE 4.2 or PocketPC 2002 with .Net CF 1.1, you need VS 2003;

          * If you want to write apps for Windows CE 5.0 or Windows Mobile 5.0, you need VS2005, but you can't use it to write apps for the older versions of CE/Mobil
    • by pembo13 (770295)
      This is simply not true: CodeGear RAD Studio exists for those who want to develop with Microsoft's technologies
  • Qt (Score:3, Interesting)

    by musikit (716987) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:47PM (#23409466)
    i don't understand how you say your a mac fan but have decided to steer away from a tool that would help you the most.

    Qt has ports for windows, windows ce, mac, and linux.

    if you develop nicely enough you can make the app in a mixed dev environment and just do final testing and deployment onto windows ce. who knows since the qt port is cocoa and iphone uses cocoa you could end up with a single app for all platforms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lpontiac (173839)

      if you develop nicely enough you can make the app in a mixed dev environment and just do final testing and deployment onto windows ce.


      If you care about your user interface, you should get the application up and running on a real device ASAP and always use it as your guide. Emulators are very handy for when you're doing a rapid compile-run-code cycle during the early stage of developing a particular feature, and debugging.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pjt33 (739471)
        Definitely. My experience with Java (using IBM's J9 on PocketPC) is that a MemoryImageSource which repaints in milliseconds on a "real" computer takes more than a second on my PocketPC. That's not the kind of thing you want to find out in the final stages of testing.
  • Just Bite the Bullet (Score:3, Informative)

    by SScorpio (595836) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:54PM (#23409578)
    Sharpdevelop supposedly supports the .NET Compact Framework: http://www.sharpdevelop.com/OpenSource/SD/Default.aspx [sharpdevelop.com]

    You can also find tutorials to help get you started here: http://netcf2.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

    The only issue using Sharpdevelop is that I don't believe that you can use the Microsoft PocketPC emulator which means you have to keep compiling, uploading, and remote debugging your code.

    Visual Studio includes the emulator and would be a good tool for you to learn. The jump from using notepad to a full IDE programming suite can be intimidating at first but it will really help your career as a programmer.
    • Compiling, uploading and testing on the PocketPC is not a problem and would be needed anyway...

      Because I'd be using a device with a specially designed keyboard, a barcode reader and some other niceties (or problems, depending on how you look at it), I have to test everything on the PocketPC to be sure.

      I am looking at these links right now. I'll get back later when I digest all the information.
  • Going after those PocketPC's with no energy like that. Wait a few weeks til they're healthy, for pity's sake!!
  • No (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm a Windows CE developer, and I doubt this would work very well, even if it is possible. Part of the point of using Visual Studio is testing your software and your deployment on the emulator beforehand so that you don't end up bricking an actual device and having to do a hard reset. Mind you, if you aren't comfortable using an IDE, I'm guessing testing and deployment aren't high on your list of priorities...

    There are some alternatives:

    • - You can use the free eMbedded Visual Tools 4.0 to write the softw
    • The other alternative is cegcc [sourceforge.net]. It should be fairly easy to create a Mac hosted cegcc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lpontiac (173839)

      Part of the point of using Visual Studio is testing your software and your deployment on the emulator beforehand so that you don't end up bricking an actual device and having to do a hard reset.


      If you can fix it with a hard reset it's not a brick.
    • by MBC1977 (978793)
      "But really, if you're writing serious software for Windows CE, you're going to have to loose your inhibitions and learn to use Visual Studio."

      No, he's going to have to LOSE (not LOOSE) his inhibitions. Sorry to nit-pick, but my stats homework is kickin my ass right now and I need to vent (10 Monster "BFGs" are also running through me right now, so that could be a factor too).
  • Debugger (Score:2, Informative)

    by MrCoke (445461)
    How do people debug using MonoDevelop or mono in general ? The debugger in MonoDevelop is already missing/broken for a loooooooooong time. And no, writing to the console doesn't count.
  • by techmuse (160085) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:04PM (#23409692)
    ...kissing or otherwise sharing saliva, or by exchanging IP datagrams with another infected PocketPC. A PocketPC with Mono should be allowed to sleep for 4-6 weeks, and will eventually recover when the virus runs out of resources. Although a standard virus scanner may detect Mono, once infected, the system can not be purged, even through a reboot. However, since the virus is self-terminating, regular performance will eventually be restored.
  • MonoDevelop is, as far as I can tell, as similar to Visual Studio as they can possibly make it, so if you don't like Visual Studio I'm not sure this is going to get you anywhere. But you don't have to use Visual Studio to develop for .NET, even if you're running Windows. You can use whatever text editor you want and then invoke the compiler (csc.exe) on the command line if that's what you're more comfortable doing.

    Personally, I have found Visual Studio to be the single Microsoft product I actually like -- t
    • I agree. He says MonoDevelop is good, but Visual Studio isn't. That doesn't make any sense. I wouldn't say this to mhutch himself, but it really seems like MonoDevelop is trying to be Visual Studio (which is quite a good thing, IMO).

      Visual Studio is one of the very few good Microsoft projects.
      • I didn't say it's good. I am still playing with it. But it seemed far simpler and accessible to me.

        Now, I think SharpDevelop looks like a copy of VS. MonoDevelop is quite different, from what I saw.
        • Now, I think SharpDevelop looks like a copy of VS. MonoDevelop is quite different, from what I saw.

          MonoDevelop is the better fork of SharpDevelop. They both are endeavoring to hold down Visual Studio and bloodily rip it off.
  • I've used Visual Studio to develop a handheld app (using C# and the .Net Compact Framework v1.1) and two things struck me immediately:
    (a) C# on handhelds is really, really slow. We're talking a perceptible lag when switching between screens; I had to rewrite the automatically generated code to speed up form loading.
    (b) Visual Studio (2003/2005 both) is even slower. It always seemed to take at least 2 seconds to respond to clicks, and as for startup time, I was fooled several times into thinking that my
    • I wonder which model Symbol you are using? We develop apps with Compact Framework on Dell and HP devices all the time and have not experienced what you describe. We also use SQL CE as the database. We have roughly 1300 devices in the field and no speed complaints. We do NOT have barcode scanners on these devices, and that may be a key difference. We use the 2.0 version of the framework.

      I've found C# on the devices to be no problem at all. Another post mentioned that they too used the barcode scanner and tha
      • I was using CF 1.1 (2.0 is said to be faster, but it wasn't available at the time). As for (b), I'm talking about the IDE itself. I just opened the project in Visual Studio 2005, and it still is horribly laggy. Other developers I work with see the same issues, so it's not just my machine. I'm glad to hear your experience is different; my project used SQL CE as the database, and a simple join seems to take forever.
    • by Shados (741919)
      I've made barcode apps for Symbol scanners in Compact Framework 2, (never tried 1.1), and even though the pocketPcs we had sucked balls, the apps were incredibly snappy (they were very complex as far as pocketPC apps go, too). I also never had issues with VS2005 (2003 was awful) as far as speed go, even though I have tons of plugins dragging it down (At my last job I was using Vista with all bells and whistles on on a machine with only 1 gig of RAM, and it was still snappy!!). What kind of code did you rewr
      • The code that needed to be rewritten was the code generated by the UI design tool - I forget what it's called. I had one form with a tab control on it, and each page has multiple controls on it; it took over four seconds to load. I moved the code around so that the controls for only the visible tab were instantiated as needed, instead of having all the controls on all the tabs instantiated when the form was created. That brought the time down to under a second, which still sucked, but was usable.
  • I develop barcoding applications in .NET and life sucks.

    So let me give you a few pointers:
    1. Visual Studio is your (only) friend most of the time, so live with it.

    2. Use the barcode scanning C APIs and p/invoke them, or write in C. Most of the barcode vendors .NET APIs lag behind and suck balls. If you are targeting multiple device manufacturers, that is. It's especially helpful since then you don't need to bundle every one of their .NET DLLs with the application.
  • I don't know if mono runs on Windows CE or Mobil.

    Mono is more of a framework. Sure it's got an IDE associated with it, but it's primarily an open source version of .net.

    You could potentially write something for Mono and port it over to .net, but to have that intermediate step would probably slow you down. If you're on windows use .net. If you're on Linux(or other unix OSes) use Mono. Simple as that.
    • by Whitemice (139408)

      You could potentially write something for Mono and port it over to .net, but to have that intermediate step would probably slow you down.
      There is *no* intermediate step. Mono implements the CLR; if I create an app in Monodevelop I can drag the exe/dll over to a Windows machine with .NET... and it runs. There is no porting required.

  • Use Tcl ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xet7 (943634)
    You could use Tcl on PocketPC: http://wiki.tcl.tk/8688 [wiki.tcl.tk]
  • Of course, the FIRST thing I'd suggest to a texteditor+PHP+Javascript programmer Mac user who thinks an IDE is scary is to develop for a not-quite-complete platform (::cough debugger until recently cough::), with an half baked (but with potential...still half baked for now) semi-unsupported IDE, for a port/clone of a framework where even the official version is hard to get info on... yes.....

    Anyway, while I feel its stupid, most barcode scanners pocket PCs have built in tools/features/whatever that lets the
  • by leftie (667677) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:10PM (#23411446)
    Here's a link O'Reilly's "Head First C#."

    http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/9780596514822/ [oreilly.com]

    Best C#/Visual Studio book from what's in my opinion the best series of teaching books around right now.

    Here's the link to free download of Visual C# Express.
    http://www.microsoft.com/express/vcsharp/ [microsoft.com]

    That's not a trial. It's a free reduced feature version of Visual Studio 2008.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You can't compile for Window Mobile with the free Express edition, so that's not going to be of much use in this situation. I'm sure the book is good, though...
      • You can't compile for Window Mobile with the free Express edition, so that's not going to be of much use in this situation. I'm sure the book is good, though...
        He's a PHP developer. It's going to take him a good long time to write C# code that doesn't suck anyway.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Not really... I didn't make myself clear in the first place.

          Most of experience in programming come from PHP, because that's the language that I really used to write something useful. I used to work with web site development, and I can say I wrote some very nice custom designed content management systems (very simple ones, but still I think they're nice). Just so you know, I know what a class is and I can write OO code.

          I started with BASIC on a Commodore 64 in 1986, when I was 9 years old. I used Visual
    • I can't mod, but someone, please, mod the parent with somenthing like insightful or interesting.

      I already knew about the Express editions not working with PocketPC development, but this link to the Visual C# Express page saved my life.

      On that page, there's a link to the Beginner Developer Learning Center [microsoft.com]. The tutorials are quite good and are serving me well.

      Maybe I should get the courage and dive head first in Visual Studio.
    • by ksheff (2406)
      But you need the professional version of Visual Studio to create CE apps.
  • I am a long time Mac user and, as most people like me, I have some particular problems with Microsoft technologies.

    Do you realize how this parses? "Because most people like me, I have problems with Microsoft technologies." Possible conclusions:

    A) Problems with your native language portend problems with any complicated subject.
    B) It was a serendipitously insightful comment.
    B) It was a Freudian slip from a Mac snob.
    D) Anyone who tries to read something into it has too much time on his hands.

    • You just made me LOL with something I wrote...

      Let's try to get this right:

      "I am a long time Mac user and, like most Mac users, I have some particular problems with Microsoft technologies."

      Is it any better?

      Now, if you like me better now, I think my over-inflated-mac-user-ego will be satisfied.

      You nailed it: english is not my native language.

      Someone, please mod parent +5 Funny...
      • You nailed it: english is not my native language.

        Actually, I considered the possibility that English wasn't your native language, and based on everything else you wrote, I decided you were a native English speaker. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been so picky. So, congratulations on fooling me, and armed with this new knowledge you will fool even more people :-)
        • As you can see, I really didn't understand you were being picky. I found your post rather amusing, seriously...

          And I have to thank you, for pointing out one of my mistakes when I decided to ask the /. crowd these questions.
  • Visual Studio is just great. If you wish to do something decent on MSFT platforms VS will be your only choice. Download the WM SDK and jump right to it. To create a simple GUI-enabled 'Hello World' application will take you no more than 5'. Also forget about VB, J++, C++ or whatever. C# is what u need.
  • Should be doable (Score:4, Informative)

    by ShmuelP (5675) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:11PM (#23412626)
    A few years and two PDAs ago, I coded a C# app for my Pocket PC (WM 2003SE) using both the app and my Linux PC.

    I used a port of the DotGNU project as an on-board compiler [sourceforge.net], and I think that I used Mono on Linux. (It may have been DotGNU, I don't recall.)

    I believe that I ripped the DLLs comprising the compact framework off the device, and then used that to compile when on Linux. I think that there was a switch to turn off linking against the system DLLs, and I just linked against the DLLs from the device. Once the exe was built, I was able to run it on Linux using mono (since they had implemented WinForms, I could just run it straight), or I would simply copy the exe to the device via an SD card and then I could run it from there.

    I never finished developing the app, so I never got around to figuring out how to package a CAB, but that should be trivial. I know that there are Linux apps to create CAB files, so it should just be a question of finding one buildable on the Mac and figuring out what to put into the manifest.
    • by ksheff (2406)
      The CE CAB file format is slightly different than the normal CAB format used by the desktop versions of Windows, so what is produced by those linux apps won't work on a CE device.
  • Thanks for those who posted serious answers, even if I accidentally ego-tripped, as try_anything pointed out.

    I am following the links, reading carefully and looking for more information.

    It seems I'll have to deal with my shortcomings and learn how to use Visual Studio. At least, most of you told me that's the wiser thing to do.

    I'll keep looking back here, searching for good answers, but I have some links to follow now.
    • ... If you spend some time with it you'll even come to love Visual Studio, particularly the debugger is worth getting to know. Knowing how to use a debugger separates the professionals from the amateurs, and the Visual Studio debugger is the best there is. If you're using C#, you can even use edit-and-continue efficiently (there is edit-and-continue for C++ also, but it's too limited to be very useful, YMMV).

      BTW I'm also a mac user, but I do most of my development on windows because of how good Visual Studi
  • I would think that as a Mac guy, you would prefer developing for the iPhone.

    I'm developing a product for their new iPhone SDK and so far it's going better than I'd dared hope in terms of my learning the environment easily and getting up to speed. The first week was pretty baffling and then it started to come together and by the third week I was feeling very comfortable.

    I was using a conventional text editor before I started using Xcode and I can say xcode seems to be pretty easy to learn, straightforward an
    • Is there an iPhone with Barcode Scanner? I believe that was one of his requirements. Also you can't begin to compare an iPhone to a Symbol device for sheer survivability. Kind of like comparing a Soviet Tank and an Italian sportscar. They both are good at what they do, but what they do is very different...

      For a consumer device, the iPhone is the gold standard. Of course you have to lay out more gold than I as a consumer am willing to part with, but that's just me... From a purely tech perspective it's very
      • Darn, I missed the fact that it was for a barcode scanning system. I think some people are hard at work getting iPhone to do its own barcode scanning, so perhaps that will be possible in the future, but it's still not a ruggedized device like a Symbol.

        It's actually quite amusing that Apple itself uses those Symbol devices or something very like them in their infamous chic retail stores. Must drive Steve nuts since they are impressive devices but look more like something the Army would buy than an iPhone.

        W
      • It seems very likely that with the SDK, producing an application allowing the use of the built in camera to decipher barcodes would be entirely feasible. Not that I'm saying that the iPhone would solve his problem, but it would still be a neat application.
  • by jspraul (146079)
    See mention of successfully porting Mono to CE here:

    "How do I serve webpages from NETCF?"
    http://www.danielmoth.com/Blog/2005/02/how-do-i-serve-webpages-from-netcf.html [danielmoth.com]

    "2. [...]
    c) Port the ASP.NET MONO implementation (not aware of any *public* project that has achieved it, but there are some guys that have done it (ended up at ~1300KB) and if they want to go public with it I am sure they will - I cannot say anything else, I'm afraid)"

    If your app really is that simple and cost is that much of an issue Embedde
  • (trying to be sarcastic) Why so many Mac users "have some particular problems with Microsoft technologies" ? :)) It looks more and more like disability :) Maybe health insurance industry can do something to help suffering people.

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