Displaying your windows mobile device on a bigger screen via VNC

Some time ago I was tasked with creating some training sessions for staff using smartphones running WM6. So I could both record procedures from the smartphone using a flash-video creation software, and demo things on a big screen live in front of the class, I setup my phone with VNC which allowed me to do both.

I needed to create and deliver several training sessions for PDAs covering the following topics:

  • Connection to the wireless network and config of proxies etc for internet access
  • Synching with the exchange server and related calendaring and email
  • Transferring files back and forth to the device

As well as a few other items which came up on the day.

You’ll need a VNC server (not client) on the windows mobile device. I ended up downloading Pocket VNC Server and running that, with a regular VNC client connection from the laptop.

Once the service is running you have to figure out which IP each device is listening on, then initiate a client vnc connection from the PC to the mobile device. After this you can use the PDA and the PC  (eg projector or big screen) will display what is happening on the PDA in a window, which can be recorded or screenshot as required.

There are two ways to get a VNC session to the PDA – either via an activesync connection (I used a USB cable, possibly you could use ActiveSync via bluetooth if you’re adventurous), or via a local wireless LAN. I wasted a lot of time trying to setup a Bluetooth PAN (Personal Area Network) between my laptop and the PDA so I could connect via a small private subnet, but couldn’t get it working. <rant>I remain convinced that most of bluetooth networking is junk and not yet much good for enterprise use</rant>.

Option 1: Activesync (Cabled)

Activesync is actually the easiest way to get an IP connection. It wasn’t documented anywhere obvious, but once you have an activesync connection established, the two devices (host PC/laptop, PDA) should have the following IPs:

  • – Host PC
  • – PDA

As long as you’re not going to be messing with the activesync connection and don’t want to walk around or move far from the PC, this is fine to use. Its actually preferable in that you’re not at the mercy of a wireless connection for your presentation. Having the wireless drop out or go flaky when you’re trying to demonstrate something to a room full of people is not what you want.

Option 2: Wireless

This method could be used either in AP or ad-hoc config. As there was a good wireless signal from one of our campus access points in the room, I went with the AP option. I also allowed each device to DHCP an address: somewhat risky in case the leases changed for some reason but it worked out ok. A more leak-proof method would have been to hardwire the IP’s to something static while still using the wireless network.

I used a well known freeware tool called VXUtil to determine the ip address of my PDA to use for connection to the VNC server.

Pros: You can walk around the room, you can demonstrate the full range of exchange/activesync settings, you can demonstrate internet connectivity. (I’ve demo’d google earth on the pda on a big screen via this method – it can be a bit of a slideshow over VNC, but it gets the point across).

Cons: Wireless can have random connection issues. You cant demonstrate setup of a wireless connection on the PDA since its already using one. Even if your setup doesn’t involve disabling and re-enabling wireless, You’ll probably end up disconnecting yourself anyway. (Windows mobile networking is fun like that).

Option 3: Both Wireless and Activesync, or: Heres one we prepared earlier.

To get this done, You can use any live screen recording software, or even take screenshots of the steps in your demo. I used an app for windows (camtasia) since we had a license for it, but there are likely suitable programs for linux as well (provided you can get your networking going with or without activesync).

Pros: Its rock solid. Networking is taken out of the picture so you shouldn’t have a problem.

Cons: You have to have it all pre-prepared, if you want to deviate from the prepared material you have to augment your presentation with either option 1 or 2.

That’s about it. Get the VPN server installed, get some form of networking up, connect to it from the PC, and you’re good. Its a little slow but a lot better than trying to get a room full of people to see what’s going on by holding your 320×240 PDA screen above your head…


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