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A Witty Walk Through the Wireless Stacks…

A Witty Walk Through the Wireless Stacks…

Setting out to start programming a new wireless device is never easy. A lack of documentation and badly thought-out development environments, conspiring with a prepubescent developer community, ensure that the information you need is always somewhere else. But things are changing; as fast as authors can get the words down, publishers are rushing to fill the gaps and provide comprehensive and affordable guidance. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm they sometimes forget what they were trying to do, to the point that the cynical might accuse them of just trying to cash in on a technology trend.

For those starting out in Windows CE, and more specifically Pocket PC development, the choice is obvious. Pocket PC Game Programming from Prima Tech is the book of choice. Even if you never intend to write a game, or just don't like games, its step-by-step approach and clear explanations of how Microsoft has chosen to do things make it invaluable as a first step for any kind of development.

Programming Microsoft Windows CE, Second Edition, from Microsoft Press, is, on the other hand, a comprehensive and worthy guide that doesn't so much inspire you as guide the already inspired. Just as the manual for your car will tell you little about how to drive, it's comprehensive but un-illuminating. Much the same can be said for Windows CE 3.0 Application Programming, from PH PTR; for reference it's fine, but for learning you'll need another source.

Learning to program for the Symbian OS is difficult enough, but given the available documentation, it's remarkable anyone manages it. Professional Symbian Programming, from Wrox, is essential but terrible. The Symbian architecture is unlike other systems, and it's vital to understand how it all fits together. I'm sure that the information is in this thousand-plus page book, but I'm damned if I can find it.

Unfortunately books like Programming for the Series 60 Platform and Symbian OS, from Wiley, make constant references to the Wrox title, making you wonder at times why you purchased the latter. Even the combination won't give you everything you need to know to build an application on a Nokia 7650, with the Wrox title being out-of-date and the one from Wiley suggesting the wrong processor specification. Symbian OS Communications Programming, also from Wiley, is equally lacking in spirit, though it covers the subject well enough.

Wireless Java for Symbian Devices, again from Wiley, suffers particularly from the problems inherent in rushing to publication. Many of the wireless JSRs (the mechanism by which Java is extended) covering communications were not available at the time of writing, even though many mobile phone handsets now support them. Writing a book about Java communications before the APIs were available could not have been easy, and it shows in the padding, but the MIDP distribution and Socket programming are covered well enough.

While we're on the subject of Java, Micro Java Game Development, from Addison Wesley, fails to add much to the subject. Games development should be exciting, at least when it's being learned (before descending into the 24/7 slog that makes up professional games programming), and while covering several versions of Java, the book fails to instill enthusiasm, spending most of its time with the kind of text-based application already familiar to most computer programmers.

SyncML is, however, just not a very exciting subject. Perhaps someone will do something exciting with it, but not PH PTR with their SyncML: Synchronizing and Managing Your Mobile Data. They do try, using examples of doctors rushing to patients, and the information is all there along with pointers for how it could be used, which does inspire to some degree, but the subject matter betrays them. The same problem afflicts Wiley's Mobile Messaging Technologies and Services, comprehensive to the point of profundity; it covers SMS, EMS, and MMS in excruciating detail that will challenge the most technically inclined reader.

More Stories By Bill Ray

Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

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