With a wince, the Rat

Packet Rat
R. Fink


With a wince, the Rat
is rewired, reconnected, perhaps reborn by NT


Readers know all about the Rat’s technolust for power-sucking, megahertz-pumping
multiprocessor machines that run hydrodynamic simulations in the background while
recompiling his latest set of homebrew drivers.


But now and then something small makes the cyberrodent drool. This time it’s the
newest road warrior toy: a featherweight PC running Microsoft Windows CE.


The whiskered one has long regarded WinCE as the most aptly named of all Windows
operating systems. Previous versions of the mobile OS did make him wince.


Anyone who can touch-type C++ code at 20 lines a minute fumes at having to regress to
hunt-and-peck Chiclet keys.


But recent events caused the furry one to give WinCE another whack. While in Boston a
few weeks ago for the Visual C++ developers conference, the wirebiter found himself
digitally naked. His 10-pound-plus notebook suddenly decided to turn itself into a highly
scalable paperweight, depriving him of e-mail and Web access.


The Rat began suffering from full-blown Internet withdrawal. Usually he can cure such
afflictions with an IMPAC credit card and a discretionary budget, so he went looking for
something to reconnect him to his lifeline.


Problem was, he was in Boston—on foot, unwired and unable to wait for a next-day
delivery. The staff at the local computer shops looked at him like the giant rat he is
when he started asking about General Services Administration Information Technology
Schedule prices.


What’s more, none of their display systems even had an Internet hookup. “The
nerve!” spat the Rat.


He was nearly in a coma when he returned empty-pawed to the Visual C++ conference. It
had been four whole hours since the cyberrodent had last checked his servers’ uptime.


Truly desperate, he bumped into a fellow coder carrying what looked like a remarkably
small device from NEC Computer Systems. After hiding the coder’s unconscious body in
a stairwell, the Rat booted up the MobilePro 800. It was running WinCE.


Just before collapsing in despair again, he spotted the yellow feature sticker glued
above the device’s touch-type keyboard. Miraculously, the unit was equipped with an
internal V.90 modem and Point-to-Point Protocol dialer. And it was brand-new.


The furry one followed the scent of shrinkwrap to the back of a WinCE programming
session where someone was selling brand-new thin clients. Scraping tips off tables in the
hotel restaurant, the Rat procured the software and headed for the nearest RJ-11 port to
get a fix. Within minutes, he had re-established his connection to the digital universe.


It was, as Elmer Fudd might say, the beginning of a beautiful fwendship. The rodent can
now dispense a few compliments to Microsoft Corp. reps among rants about his Windows NT
problems. He finds himself extolling the MobilePro’s virtues to co-workers, Metro
passengers and the cashier at the corner convenience store.


The kicker, of course, is that Microsoft is turning WinCE into a client for Windows
Terminal Server and the terminal service in Windows 2000. So the seduction begins again.
Microsoft is plying the Rat with sexy hardware to lure him back into the NT camp.


It might just work—until he figures out how to burn the Linux Kool Desktop
Environment onto the MobilePro’s ROM.   n


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com


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