Author Topic: Compaq iPaq H3800 Win CE 3.0 advice  (Read 791 times)

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Online edy

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Compaq iPaq H3800 Win CE 3.0 advice
« on: September 01, 2018, 08:58:33 am »
Hey folks,

I have an old iPaq H3800 Pocket PC which I want to do something with. It's got Win CE 3.0 ROM 1.20.21 ENG. It has a charging base with a docking cable that is split at the end into USB and serial. You can see I attached an image of it. As far as computer now I am using Linux mostly but have access to older Windows machines or could VirtualBox them in case I have to use some old Windows software to connect to the iPaq.

So my question is, can I do anything useful or add additional software to the device? Will Linux or Windows connect to the file system through that USB cable or do I need an older computer with Serial port? There are some basic programs installed but I do not know if there is an archive somewhere with other apps. I do not have the original CD (actually I may have it hidden somewhere in storage and will have to dig it out).

I know there are sites showing how to install Linux on it. I don't want to brick the device and not sure if I can find all the files needed. Even if I did install Linux, what would it offer me? There does not seem to be anything other than Bluetooth connectivity and even then I am not sure for what purpose. Other than Syncing to some desktop windows software to let you work on the go, it does not appear to have any way to update anything until you dock it again (at which time I presume it syncs and sends all queued messages and updates the schedule and so on).

I've had a lot more success repurposing old BlackBerry's because at least with WiFi I can access media, streaming radio and do some other stuff with GPS and camera and voice memos. Plus it easily mounts as a USB drive when plugged in so I can transfer files easily on and off. But the iPaq I don't know.

Any advice or help or links to some old programs for this thing would be appreciated! I hate to see an old device sitting around collecting dust. Thanks!
« Last Edit: September 02, 2018, 04:19:12 pm by edy »
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Online edy

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Re: Compaq iPaq H3800 Win CE 3.0 advice
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2018, 12:13:59 am »
I looked into linux on the iPaq and it seems to be abandoned and there are a number of hoops to jump to get access to the device to place the bootloader. Seems like it can easily brick the device and the site doesn't seem to have any downloads:

https://web.archive.org/web/20100723110955/http://familiar.handhelds.org/

I'll have to do some more research and see what kind of connectivity and apps can be added. If I can get a better supported linux with actual verified download site so I am not as worried about bricking I may go that route although I'd like to see what options I have first with Windows CE.


[EDIT:   Just wanted to add one more thing I just discovered....]


Without creating a new post (to avoid causing the thread to appear at the top of the newly updated list), just wanted to update this last post quickly. I discovered the iPaq has an SDCARD slot on the top, and I was able to insert a card with some JPG's on it and it loaded smaller ones (640x480) but struggled with anything larger. It was loading in the IE browser built-in... which means I could theoretically transfer some old files to the thing, view old webpages (offline) and some other rudimentary simple documents.

The BIGGEST deal-breaker now at this point (sadly which I just found out) is that the BATTERY IS DEAD. As soon as I take it off the charging stand, it starts to die... maybe lasts 10-20 seconds and then you can see it fading into oblivion. So as far as I'm concerned, it is DEAD and with all the other issues like abandoned software, abandoned Linux distro, and ridiculously high cost for any sort of battery replacement. It is just not worth the hassle. I can leave it plugged in next to the bed and make it act like an alarm-clock or something.

Any old used smartphone at this point will have much higher functionality... e.g. some older Blackberry or Android phones that accept microSD cards, have WiFi connectivity,  and can connect directly through USB and mount as an external drive will be cheaper than the battery replacement alone on this device. Oh well! Worth a try!
« Last Edit: September 03, 2018, 07:06:34 am by edy »
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Online Halcyon

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Re: Compaq iPaq H3800 Win CE 3.0 advice
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2018, 08:26:11 pm »
I have about 6 of these devices sitting in a cupboard. Not sure what to do with them other than collect them. Back in "the day" I used iPaq's / PocketPCs quite a lot. Some models had SIM card slots and doubled as phones (although the battery life was terrible with radios switched on). But to answer a few of your questions...

So my question is, can I do anything useful or add additional software to the device?

You can certainly install software. With a bit of Googling you might be able to find some old Abandonware sites which cater for Windows CE devices.

Will Linux or Windows connect to the file system through that USB cable or do I need an older computer with Serial port?

I don't think you could access the on-board memory directly via a drive letter like you can with modern smart phones (excluding Apple). You could either copy data to the device via a CF/SD memory card or sync to a PC using Microsoft ActiveSync which was freely available (and still is, although it's not updated or used anymore except on legacy devices). The split DB9/USB cable does the same thing, it just offers you a choice depending on what I/O ports your machine had back then. ActiveSync supported both. Apart from increased transfer speed on USB, it didn't offer you anything extra.

Even if I did install Linux, what would it offer me? There does not seem to be anything other than Bluetooth connectivity and even then I am not sure for what purpose. Other than Syncing to some desktop windows software to let you work on the go, it does not appear to have any way to update anything until you dock it again (at which time I presume it syncs and sends all queued messages and updates the schedule and so on).

Installing Linux would probably achieve very little, in fact most popular flavours probably won't run on it at all since those earlier units used a 'Digital' StrongARM processor. You are right, the iPaq's were designed to "take work with you". There was limited (or no) online connectivity while out and away from your desktop PC. Back in those days even if you did have a SIM card installed or have your device paired to your mobile phone, mobile data was expensive and slow. You might use it to send/receive e-mail and maybe check the occasional website but that's about it. Bluetooth was primarily used for data transfer between other mobile devices or laptop computers, it was basically a replacement to IrDA. You could however share your internet connection with your desktop PC at home while it was docked.


All things considered, there really isn't anything useful you could do with it apart from maybe a cool looking retro desk toy/calendar/clock (take it to work and see how many people ask what the hell it is). It's just a bit of old gear with nostalgic value for some.
 

Online Berni

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Re: Compaq iPaq H3800 Win CE 3.0 advice
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2018, 09:06:58 pm »
I do still have a HTC Universal running WM6.0 that has a card full of apps.

That iPaq is likely a bit too much on the old side. You will need ActiveSync to connect to it over USB but the drivers should work even on modern PCs. As for making it do something useful that's another matter. You can get it online trough USB as it will forward network traffic trough ActiveSync but to get it standalone online you likely need one of those weird WiFi CF cards (If it even works with your OS). You can get these things to act like a USB thumb drive with some extra software, but speaking of software a lot of it probably won't run on a OS this old. But at the very least its a ARM CPU since most machine code EXEs are compiled for ARM.

Due to the old OS there is likely also no .net framework, some apps use it and it makes writing your own software for it really easy as its basically the same as making a .net PC app. More modern Windows Mobile devices are more usable in modern times since they have 3G, WiFi, large software collections etc.

About the most useful thing i can think of it is to install a retro emulator on it and run games. With the old CPU in it i wouldn't expect it to run any GBA or SNES games at a playable speed, but it can most certainly run GameBoy Color and NES games (Since i did that on a even slower WM device with a TI OMAP CPU)
 


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