Windows Mobile 2003 SE and the Toshiba e800 — Almost Ready for Primetime

June 10, 2004

I’ve been ignoring the Windows Mobile 2003 SE (what, were they all out of short catchy names? Was Windows Mobile 2004 just too obvious?) update, even though it’s been available for the Toshiba e800/e805 for two or three weeks now. 

When it first came out, it appeared to have too many unresolved issues, and I just didn’t have time to live on the bleeding edge with it.  In real simple terms, it put the e800’s display in VGA mode (640 x 480, or 480 x 640, depending on how you hold it) all the time, but it also made all legacy programs (programs that aren’t SE-aware) run full-screen by quadrupling pixels—in other words, it made 320 x 240 programs 640 x 480 by using 4 pixels for every one.  The net effect of this is that everything ran more or less like the original e800 in quarter-vga (320 x 240) mode.  Which kind of defeats the purpose if your main reason for having the e800 is to run a couple of programs in full VGA mode.

If time doesn’t heal all wounds, it at least manages to scab over a lot of them…

Ducking back into Brighthand’s e800 forum (the best source I’ve found for e800 information), someone has put together a simple hack to enable legacy programs that are able to run VGA to run in VGA under SE.

There are primarily two programs that I care about running in VGA mode—Mobipocket Reader, and Netfront.  Both of these worked fine in VGA mode on the original OS, although you ended up putting up with very tiny fonts for other programs (Inbox is a particular pain in this regard) or switching back and forth between display modes to use different programs.

Now with the resolution hack above, and a little hack to fix some other issues in Netfront’s dialogs, I can have my cake and eat it too.  Mobipocket and Netfront are running in VGA, and I don’t have to go blind trying to check my mail. A substantial improvement indeed.

There are still some issues with specific programs, although many vendors are now releasing or beta-testing SE-aware versions, so be sure to check the forum for specific problems before you make the jump, but for me, SE is a welcome change—at least checking my e-mail doesn’t make me want to go to the optometrist any more…

If you’re going to upgrade (note – the official US version of the update isn’t out at the time I write this, but the European WLAN version (not the bluetooth version) seems to work fine on my US e805), be sure to follow the instructions carefully.  The general process is to make sure you’re running the latest ActiveSync, back up (this will effectively do a hard reset), install two flash updates, establish a new ActiveSync identity and reinstall and resynch.  The whole process, including hacking Mobipocket and Netfront took me less than an hour.

Mac users—this is a Windows-only procedure at this point; you’ll need to use Windows to install the flash updates and do the VGA hacks at the very least.  I’ve not tried PocketMac with the updated e805 yet, so I don’t know if there will be any issues there or not.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed and will report back.

Update: It seems to work fine with PocketMac Pro 3.3

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4 Responses to “Windows Mobile 2003 SE and the Toshiba e800 — Almost Ready for Primetime”

  1. jose lopez on July 13th, 2004 10:38 am

    Extremely useful information, thanks!  Too bad I found it too late. Everybody on the internet tells you that WM 2003 SE supports VGA, 480×640 but nobody, not Toshiba or even Microsoft explain that once upgraded to that OS, your e800 is put permanently in VGA mode.  I liked the ability to change screen resolutions (through MyVGA for instance).  You should be able to do that in WM 2003 SE just as you do from Desktop in Windows 98, 2000, etc.  Should I be hacking all applications now as opposed to one app providing screen adjustment???

  2. Chuck Lawson on July 13th, 2004 2:55 pm

    If you want everything to stay in VGA resolution, you could either stay with the old edition, or there is also a hack in the e800 forum at Brighthand that pushes everything to VGA under SE.

    But the thing I like about it (and apparently most people who have stayed with SE like also) is that I don’t want everything in one resolution (some stuff just sucks in VGA), and I pretty much want each thing in one resolution or the other any time I use it.  For instance, I prefer Inbox in 320 x 240, always, and MobiPocket Reader and Netfront in 640 x 480 always.  By hacking the programs that I want in hi-rez, I can have each program in the resolution I want, all the time, without ever having to switch back and forth, as I did with MyVGA.

    I’ve also attached screen orientation (landscape, portrait) to a hardware button, so I can flip it with a touch of a thumb, and I’m a happy guy—two button pushes and I’m reading my mail in 320 x 240 portrait, two more and I’m reading a book in 640 x 480 landscape.

  3. jose lopez on July 15th, 2004 6:52 am

    Actually if you think about it: a) QVGA apps work quite well and conserve their looks under SE’s VGA through pixel-doubling in both directions; b) If you want VGA-aware apps, you can hack some with good results, I’m sure apps will start to be re-written.  But I predict this re-writing will be slow, a great amount of users prefer a bigger leap, like a WinMob 2005.  And yes, just pressing one button (in my Toshiba e800) changes screen orientation on the fly in any app.  That’s good!

  4. Aragonit on July 30th, 2004 6:57 pm

    I saw some pics of the e800 in REAL VGA mode, and so I bought it… Big mistake, it’s slow, buggy, and with the WM2003SE the clear-type pixels are doubled too!!!! so it looks all smudged.

    I just yearn to get my old WinCE2002 Cassiopeia back 🙁

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