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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WiHappy Alpha Version

WiHappy allows you to use your WiFi connection to keep your device up to date with your Exchange server, thus eliminating GPRS costs when you are at home, at work or any where you have a preferred WiFi network available.

* Automatically ActiveSync with a server over WiFi

This current version we have released basically only has one single feature, but I find it very useful and have it running constantly on my phone. Future versions of WiHappy enable your device to get on any open wireless network fully automatically. You will no longer have to use WiFiFoFum to find an open network and then use WZC to connect to it. WiHappy will do it all for you. It will even periodically wake up and try to go on any open networks it sees - to update your device with the latest email and RSS feeds. Also it will vibrate when an internet connection is available - so if you are just sitting in a cafe and you feel it vibrate you can surf the web if you would like to use the given opportunity. Your device is doing the work and you can take advantage of the internet when it finds you! That is the future! Just now it is much simpler than that.

In Europe and especially in the UK, GPRS data charges are extremely expensive. We don't currently have unlimited data plans like in USA so when we develop GPRS applications we put effort into making the data communications as efficient as possible.

I have started to use push email found in the AKU 2 update to the i-mate SP5 phone (only recently since Anti Virus software on our server was preventing it from working). Learn more about push email (aka Direct Push) in Windows Mobiles here. It is very cool and gives you instant notifications about new email when you are travelling. The problem is that it can be very expensive to have it on all the time so I have been thinking of ways to limit the cost. Well most of us have free WiFi at home and perhaps work, so why not take advantage of those internet connections to keep our device up to date. Why should all the email go over the GPRS connection when we are also paying our ISP for our broadband connection? Also when we are at home we are probably using our desktop or laptop as our email client so we don't necessarily require instant notifications to our phone. The push email feature is costing us money and our battery is draining faster when we are in range of an open WiFi network, why?

Enter WiHappy!

WiHappy allows you to use your WiFi connection to keep your device up to date with your Exchange server, thus eliminating GPRS costs when you are at home, at work or any where you have a preferred WiFi network available.

WiFi on the i-mate SP5 powers off when the phone is not being used (to save power). So if ActiveSync is set to periodically sync with a server it will do so over GPRS, it will not power on WiFi and use that.

WiHappy will power on WiFi, attempt to connect to a WiFi network, and then if successful it will do an ActiveSync over the WiFi connection. It does this at a user defined period - I choose every 10 minutes. It will only power on WiFi if you are in a GSM cell where a working WiFi network has been seen before. If you are in a GSM cell where WiFi has never been used WiHappy will change the ActiveSync server configuration back to either "As Items Arrive" (Push email) or "Every x minutes" (periodic sync) and in this case the GPRS connection will be used. Or if you don't have a GPRS connection it will only use WiFi.

I will soon be publishing graphs of cost and battery life savings when WiHappy is enabled, compared with pure GPRS operation.

Here is an alpha version (Requires CF 2.0 and its for WM5 smartphone only) of one of the components of WiHappy which is called WiFiSync - since it is the part which will automatically ActiveSync over WiFi. Basically it lets you sync your email by WiFi at a set time period so you can receive notifications about new emails just like you would with SMS, or GPRS. Its best to have active sync set to sync manually and disable any GPRS connections. You need to set your phone to turn off wifi after the lcd goes off after 10 seconds (in the wifi settings). Now when you run WiFiSync it will wait for the time specified, wake the device up, connect to a preffered wifi access point, active sync and get new mail, then sleep again and continue this cycle. So if you are at home or work (where you have configured wifi) it will give you new email notifications just as it would if you were using a GPRS connection and an ActiveSync timed schedule or "As Items Arrive".

The next step is to make it connect to any network when it wakes up, rather than just preferred ones. Then as you walk around the city you can keep up to date with your email for free!

* Smartphone Windows Mobile 5.0
* ActiveSync to Exchange
* A GPRS connection (not essential)
* .NET Compact Framework 2.0 SP1
* A preferred WiFi network

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