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Using PDAs as a PC Control Panel? 11

Chase asks: "Has anyone ever used an old PDA as a control panel for a larger headless system? I was planning on installing a computer in my car to do a variety of things and I happen to have a few old PDAs laying around gathering dust. (HP320LX, HP360LX, PalmPilot Pro). The general idea here is that you could power the PDA from the car and use a null modem cable to create a connection between the PDA and the headless computer. I have a matrix oribital display and compatible number pad, but the PDA touch screen with buttons and back light seems like it would be much cooler."
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Using PDAs as a PC Control Panel?

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  • Terminal server... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    M$ terminal server, with the citrix metaframe client on a iPAQ could work quite nicely - especially if you simply used an wireless network card at each end.

    You could probably manage the same with Linux - not sure if the iPAQ ditribution supports wireless cards though...
    • If you aren't totally anti-microsoft, you can even use a PocketPC w/ terminal server client on it. The next version of PocketPC (2002) will be out next month, has terminal server client included. []

      Very cool stuff, maybe just a glimpse into the future (MS and otherwise). Again, a good possibility especially if you want an out of box solution fairly cheap.
  • I tried using a Palm as a terminal for a Sun once (for a laught); this was exactly what you described - a vt100 terminal emulator via a serial line. It worked, but not very well. In fact, it pretty much sucked. You really need to write yourself a custom menu-driven interface so you can make use of the touchscreen. Simplest way to do this might be if you can get a web browser/server pair running over that line.

    Alternatively: get your app to work by writing files on both client and server and use standard hotsynch. This means you could (eg) manage an mp3 playlist offline, then slot your palm in the car, click the synch button, and hey presto, you're there.

    However you have a bigger problem - no power to your controller. Your batteries will run down pretty quick. (another advantage of hotsynch versus an active serial connection). If you can go to a Palm V then you could rig it to recharge from the car.
  • for my in car computer (release date: real soon now TM), i'm planning on using a ti-85 calculator with a grey link cable (rs-232), but a pda has high potential to be cooler (but i've allready got a ti-85)

  • Of course (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xunker ( 6905 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @11:10AM (#2263471) Homepage Journal
    Yes, it's possible, and I;ve done it in various ways over the years. You have a multitude of ways of doing it, so stand back.

    One is using terminal emulation. I'm sure you're already thought of this, though it kind of negates the coolness of having a touch-screen.

    Second is using a telepresence package like VNC or PC-Anyhwere. This will either require eithernet-enabled palmtops or for you to fave the host machine be a dial-up PPP server for the paltop; this is because VNC is IP based, and you need to give the paltop an IP. There are VNC clients available for CE, PalmOS and EPOC32.

    Third is like the above in that you need to set up a PPP link, or ethernet between the two, but in this case the idea is using a web browser on the palmtop to conrtol the PC. This allows only very limited control, but it would look spiffy because you could form the UI (web page) into anything you want. But you will need to write scripts on teh host machine that will execute all teh commands when you click a link on the palmtop.

    Fourth and final is making a custom control program that either worhs through IP or serial. The program can just send the text commands to the host PC, and interpret the results in the contrxt of the program, making the coolest UI you want. It's a lot like using the web page approach but with more flexibility, but with a lot more effort too. And I'm not sure if GCC is available for WinCE yet, so yo'd have to pay a few hundred bucks for the VB/VC++ WinCE toolkit.

    WHew. Well, that's my exhaustive list of possibilities.
  • There's palmVNC out there

    Don't know if it runs on a Pro, though. It needs the palmOS IP stack.
  • I ran a BeOS based MP3 jukebox in my office. I hooked up a tiny, old Compaq b&w handheld running WinCE 1.0 via serial port. I ran the handheld's terminal emulator, logged into BeOS through the serial port and controlled the jukebox with a CLI-mode controller for the MP3 player.

    If I wanted to get fancy, I could have connected the jukebox and the handheld with a crossover cable, loaded IE for WinCE and ran a webserver-based MP3 controller on BeOS. Then I'd have a nifty, graphical touch screen MP3 controller. This latter solution would be especially sweet if you hook up a 3Com Audrey instead of the Compaq handheld.

  • Try Palmamp (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kris_J ( 10111 ) on Friday September 07, 2001 @06:52PM (#2265608) Homepage Journal
    This page [] should give you a good set of info and links.
  • I've used my epods [] as a console for a SUN Enterprise 6500 [] server with 10 CPU, 10 GB mem. Very nice, but I'd recommend adding a USB keyboard - handwriting recognition and vi editor don't mix ...

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