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 AXGate 1.1   
Price: FREEWARE Discount for resalers FREEWARE
Information Download Buy
AXGate overview
AXGate profiles and usage
ZIP Install (700k)
SFX Install (650k)
CAB file (1.8M)
ZIP (Raw files no install)

AXGate overview

The point: Script unsafe ActiveX in HTML pages opened in Pocket Internet Explorer without compromising the device security.

Note about the downloads: All they contain also newObjects ActiveX Pack1 family to give you rich set of components to use with AXGate. See "What to download" in the end of the page for more details. 

What's new?

Version 1.1. of AXGate supports better Windows Mobile 2003 SE and Windows Mobile 2005. Now the dialogs displayed are sized to the screen and support the soft buttons (see the screen shots below). Rotating the screen while one of the AXGate dialogs is opened is supported as well.

Related products and tools
ActiveX Pack1 family
About 30 components for CE and desktop. Links to some of its parts:
Core - file system, collections, scripting etc.
 NetStreams - networking
SQLite COM - SQL database
SQLite3 COM - Advanced SQL databse
HashCryptStream - cryptography components


CE App manager Inovker
You may need this for your Pocket PC installations.
NDL
newObjects Development Library - combined documentation for all the components produced by newObjects [ ].

The ActiveX Gateway (AXGate) is a specific solution for Pocket Internet Explorer (PIE) that overcomes the limitations for the ActiveX scripting in it. If you ever tried perhaps you already know about the problem - PIE silently disallows any unsafe ActiveX usage in the HTML pages. In many cases it is quite convenient to build some small applications or parts of applications as HTML pages with some scripts in them. Obviously depending on the functionality intended such pages will need some way to save or read data from local files, data bases or even access other system resources such as registry and network. Even many of the utility ActiveX which have no unsafe functionality are rarely marked as safe because they are initially planned for server side usage (ASP for example) or as components for development tools such as eVB/VB and others.

So, AXGate provides a simple but powerful solution that allows HTML pages to perform complex operations in HTML pages. This may be extremely useful for corporate and utility applications that are part of bigger systems. For example very often you may need relatively small module working on a pocket device for information collection and some simple queries over the data kept on the device. Even if most of the work is done on a server or a desktop PC (after synchronization for example) sometimes having part of the functionality on a handheld is a must. AXGate gives you a very simple way to implement this. AXGate also integrates with newObjects ActiveX Pack1 family. This in turn gives you over 50 ActiveX ranging from file access, networking, cryptography to fully featured embedded database engine. 

With AXGate is even possible to implement a corporate WEB site that serves small applications that work on the device and make them capable of sending/requesting data to/from the server by form submit or in the background (through NetStreams for instance). Thus the opportunities are here - it is up to you to decide if HTML pages with AXGate fit your needs or you need something bigger such NSBasic, C++ or ALP to implement more complex solution.

Requirements

AXGate is for Windows Mobile 2003 and later (also referred as Pocket PC 2003 in many places and non-oficial conversations). It is for PIE and will not run with the full Internet Explorer even if the processor type is the same (The PIE and IE provide a bit different interfaces to the ActiveX). Unfortunately Pocket PC 2002 lacks some features and this trick is not possible there. For Pocket PC 2002 something can be done in theory but it wont run the way developers expect and will require big deal of accommodations which is non-practical for older old OS version.

How it works?

In contrast to the security manager as we know it on the desktop IE an full IE for Windows CE.NET AXGate works not on a per-object basis. Instead it uses profiles which list a number of objects that can be created through it. The authentication/permission request is done when the page activates the profile. If a single profile is enough for all the work the page does, no matter how many objects are created from it the user will be asked just once (if user interaction is configured) or authentication will be done when the profile is activated only (if password protection method is configured for the profile). Thus the access to the components is in packets of classes grouped together by means of their functionality and potential impact over the system security. 

The profiles are kept in a configuration file named AXGate.cfg which must be in the same directory where the AXGate.dll resides. There are several standard profiles listing components from our popular DLLs such as newObjects ActiveX Pack1 and NetStreams. The download packages in the header of this page contain these DLL in order to provide you with fully functional solution with working samples (note that there are some additional external samples in VBScript - you may need the VB runtimes from Microsoft in order to run them).

You can create your own profiles as needed. The standard profiles can be used as base or examples, but we do not recommend changing them. We are trying to establish something like a standard with them in order to allow wider usage of the AXGate features. Another reason to not change them is their design - we carefully estimated the functionality included and its security impact so they are consistent as they are. Also using your own profiles (especially for company specific applications) will minimize the security risks in case of wrong profile configuration. This means that even if you made a mistake in the profile and that mistake may lead to risky situations the attacker will need to know the name of your profile - additional precaution is always a good idea today. see more about the profiles in NDL and a little overview for the first time users here.

Aside of the COM classes list AXGate supports several useful features such as creation of pre-configured objects. For example the LogFile profile contains a class named "Log" which is not just a COM class listed there but a section that specifies certain file on the device. When the page creates the object "Log" it receives a SFStream object attached to that file. This allows sandbox techniques. The standard profiles implement them to allow even untrusted applications save/read data from your local file system, but only to certain file or OLE storage. This allows extended functionality to be used with online pages without risk to harm the entire device.

 

Samples

There are several samples included in the packages. They are all for PIE (the sample pages will not work on PPC2002 or full IE). You can see how you can do a lot of work from a page. Special attention deserve:

Using SQLite3 COM which demonstrates true SQL database functionality inside a WEB page.
Fetch HTTP examples which demonstrate how to implement networking features with NetStreams. I.e. the code works in a HTML page but that does not mean that you are limited to what the browser offers you, through NetStreams you can use TCP/IP directly and use the page only like an user interface.
DataCollect example demonstrating the sandbox usage. 
IRDA devices lookup demonstrates how to use the IRDA capabilities - the devices discovery part (see the NetStreams documentation in NDL for more information)

Request for opinion!

This solution is for Pocket PC/Pocket IE only. However it seems reasonable to expect some benefit of similar or extended solutions supporting not only PIE but also the full Internet Explorer and desktops. Let say some kind of sandbox technique that will allow complex work to be done on HTML pages. Making possible to access the local resources in a restricted way but still making possible to do things impossible without usage of unsafe ActiveX seems to be interesting. Of course, this is not the way one will build a big and complex product, yet running applications online and allowing them store data locally is quite tempting as technique employed for some of their parts. With all the networking today there are many cases in which certain employees will work detached from the main office or the network. Doing everything online involves too much spending - for all the active time. If it is possible to do part of this work offline it will lower the costs considerably. AXGate demonstrates one more way to do so and it is quite simple. May be extending the idea to something more flexible will be interesting? We will be glad to hear your opinions, needs and thoughts. There are certain technical specifics and certain needs - finding out the balance between them and the actual needs may lead to something useful.  

Licensing

AXGate is FREEWARE! You may include it with your solutions, build custom applications that include it as long as the copyright markings are not stripped. For your convenience there is a raw download package that containing the files without installation. Use it to obtain the AXGate DLL, the AXPack1 family DLL and the standard configuration if you want to include them in your installations. Most often the real-world applications wont need all the AXPack1 DLL - check which modules are actually needed and exclude the unused DLL from your application's distributive.

Documentation

The full AXGate documentation is included in NDL (newObjects Development Library). It is an Windows HTML help file that contains the documentation for all the products and components we develop. We hope that this approach is more convenient than having the documentation spread in many small help files, having it in a single file enables you to follow links to other components without need to search and download additional files. You can download it here. The documentation library is updated frequently (usually on two months basis). You can also use the online version of NDL - here.

What to download?

The list of the downloads is in the top of the page. The ZIPped and SFX install packages contain the AXGate and the AXPack1 family for Pocket PC. They have a tiny desktop setup that enables you to unpack them and install through ActiveSync. The CAB package is for download and install directly on the Pocket PC.

The Raw files ZIP contains the AXGate and AXPack1 family binaries. It is intended for the phase when you want to pack your work in some kind of re-distribution package. From the raw files archive you can get all the binaries you actually use and put them in your application's package. Note that it is not very likely that any application would actually use all of them. For instance there is no point in using SQLite COM and SQLite3 COM which are two different database engines - usually you will choose one of them. So, if you want to reduce the size of the package see which files are not needed and skip them from your application's package.



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