Where did I last synchronize my Psion?

Hard case from Proporta for the Psion PDA.

Over the last couple of months, whenever I have taken out my Psion Series 5mx in public there has always been someone who oohs and ahhs over it and asks if this will be the next big thing. They’re often quite surprised when I say that it was manufactured over seven years ago in 1999.

I use my Psion every day. For me it has everything I need: Agenda, Tasks and Contacts which I can synchronize with Microsoft Outlook; a word processor, a database, the ability to send and receive e-mails, and a host of other useful extras: MP3 player, UK map, street maps, dictionary, encyclopedia and a cut-down version of the Internet Movie Database (I kid you not) … and it has a decent and usable keyboard, unlike some modern PDAs. (I’m a believer in using the right tool for the job.)

There was only one thing, however, that was annoying me about my Psion: I could never remember which PC I’d last synchronized it with. Was it my home PC or my work PC?

That was until I came up with this simple, but elegant solution. I protect my trusty Psion in a Grey Pod Hardcase from Proporta, which was designed and injection moulded from crash-helmet grade ABS plastic, which has a wee pocket on the inside of the lid which I presume is to store business cards, or SD cards, or the like.

Open Psion case showing a card that says WORK.

I use this little pocket to store two things: a small stash of business cards and another card on which I’ve written “Work” at one end and “Home” at the other. So now, whenever I synchronize the Psion with a PC I turn the card round to indicate where it was last synchronized.

Simple, huh!

Will PsiWin 2.3.3 sync with Outlook 2007?

Psion Synchronizer

Here’s the question that I know you’ve all be asking yourselves: will PsiWin 2.3.3 synchronize with Microsoft Outlook 2007?

Microsoft Office 2007 Beta 2 expires in nine days time on Friday 2 February so I thought it was high time that I checked to see if the fairly ancient Psion software of PsiWin 2.3.3 — released around October 2000 — would still allow me to synchronize my Psion PDAs with this shiny new version of Microsoft Outlook (my choice of PIM software).

Office 2007 genius

As I’ve said elsewhere I love the new design and improved functionality of Office 2007. The new Ribbon toolbar is a genius innovation which should make creating documents much, much easier for a good proportion of Office users who don’t care much for hunting through bewildering menu options and settings, they just want to get their document written and formatted easily and quickly. It’s just a shame that the Ribbon doesn’t extend to all areas of Outlook 2007 or Publisher 2007.

USB-to-Serial

You can tell how old school the Psion is: it still uses an RS-232 serial cable to connect to the computer. However, I don’t have a serial port on my laptop — not many new laptops do these days. They are so last century!! So I have a USB-to-serial converter cable which creates a new COM port (COM 5) which the PsiWin software treats as a real serial port (cunning stuff!).

As an aside, a lot of Psion users have e-mailed me asking why their USB-to-Serial converter cables don’t work. Here’s the advice I’ve had:

Many cheap adapters doesn’t have all the signals required for PsiWin to be able to establish a link.
If it’s any consolation, it probably doesn’t work with Palms either… I generally sort them in two categories, those based on the FTDI chipset, and rubbish… If by chance your adapter does have all the pins enabled you could try to switch off the FIFO buffer on the serial port as this may also cause some problems. (Somewhere in the Control Panel.)

For others it depended on when the drivers were installed:

Installing was trouble free, but getting PsiWin to see the converter was another thing entirely. My memory is clearer on this issue.

  1. Uninstall PsiWin and make sure that all traces are removed by using the RegCleaner.
  2. Install the USB to Serial converter
  3. then install PsiWin.
  4. PsiWin will now see the new serial port.

As I had installed the USB to Serial converter over PsiWin, and not as I describe above it took me an evening of uninstalls, regcleans and installs until PsiWin saw the new serial port. Since then the connection has worked flawlessly.

So now you know!

Back to the Office

So I installed Office 2007 Beta 2 on my laptop, plugged in my USB-to-Serial cable, installed the drivers, installed PsiWin 2.3.3 and tried to connect (using COM 5 — added by the USB-to-serial port software) and … it connected. Phew! First hurdle jumped. Now, would it sync?

What can I say? It did it straight away, no questions asked, not a problem: calendar items, Contacts and Tasks all copied effortlessly from my Psion 5mx into a clean Outlook installation. That’s what I like to see. Software that’s over six years old still functioning as it was designed to; good, solid, robust software from the software engineers at Psion. If only they were still manufacturing PDAs, I’d love to see what they could come up with now.

Fantastic! Looks like I’ll be upgrading to Microsoft Office 2007 then. Just as soon as I can afford to: the UK price is seemingly going to be 57% higher than that in the USA, for the same products!

First class repair service from POS Ltd

Psion 7 on my desk

Good news

This morning I took delivery of my Psion Series 7Book, returning as it did from POS Ltd in London almost two months after I sent it for repair. It seems traditional in some quarters at such times as these to complain bitterly about such poor service and vow never to use them again. But you know, it just wasn’t like that.

I’ve used POS on a number of occasions mostly for repairs and occasionally to buy reconditioned machines and accessories and each time I’ve found them to be excellent, on average taking about three days to receive my machine, fix it and return it to me as good as new. So this recent repair was a little under par for them.

Good grief!

The problem was that I’d damaged the screen in a little sitting-my-Psion-under-an-open-window-during-a-storm accident. I sent the Psion to POS who repaired the screen forthwith, my insurance company happily obliged with paying for the repair (minus a fifty quid excess) and all was well.

Until testing.

The screen failed the test. Indeed, from what I gather from a useful conversation with Gareth at POS, all their screens failed testing. So it was off to Germany for a new batch of screens. And Germany isn’t very close. Disappointing of course, but I had my Psion Series 5mx as a spare (also repaired by POS a few years back!).

Good customer service

What made it all the more bearable, however, was that I had people at the end of the phone to whom I could easily chat about what was going on. Gareth and Delroy at POS were great: approachable, friendly and very helpful. They understood that I wanted my Psion back as soon as possible and to be fair they did everything that they could to do so … just as soon as the new batch of screens came in, which was understandably beyond their control.

My only criticism is that it would have been nice if, once they knew of the delay, they had contacted me rather than my having to phone them every four weeks to get an update. But when I did call they were understanding, courteous, attentive and most importantly honestly told me what was going on. I really appreciated that. I felt valued.

When I spoke with Gareth early last week he said that they were expecting the new batch to come in later that day and he promised that I’d get my Psion back by the end of the week. And I would have had I actually had the decency to be in mid-morning on Friday, rather than selfishly being at work. Hence the P739 and this morning’s visit to the sorting office.

Good as new

And now I have it back in my grasp. And it’s looking good as new: new screen, new casing, new keyboard. And they threw in two new backup batteries for the trouble. Not exactly a bargain repair at £250 but given that I use my Psion every day there was no option but to have it repaired. And in my opinion POS are the best.

So thank you POS once again for great service, a first class repair and for being a thoroughly professional and friendly company. It makes such a difference from many of the faceless, impersonal PC companies I’ve had to deal with through the years. Keep up the good work.

A slow, but good, day

Coloured lights from passing cars.
When I typed the word “slow” into stock.xchng this is what I got: an image of fast cars travelling at night!

At last things are improving at Saunders HQ, certainly in terms of my health. My dizziness has almost completely gone and yet I still seem to have about a month’s worth of anti-dizzy pills left, and I had to go back to the chemist today to collect my last seven tablets as they didn’t have enough when I filled my script on Friday (check me out with my pharmaceutical terms!). Are they like antibiotics, do I have to complete the course?

Late this morning I walked into Anstruther. I wanted to see how I was doing on the road to recovery but had to make do with the road to Anstruther! (Boom! boom!) I returned pretty worn out and slept for much of the afternoon. On my bean bag. On the floor in my study. I had intended to sit and read for a bit, and managed about a paragraph before dropping off.

During my amble into town I visited the Anstruther Post Office for the first time (most of these shops are closed when I return from work) and posted my Psion Series 7Book to POS with a kind letter asking them to wave their magic, technological wand over it and make it better. I now officially have never owned a Psion that I’ve not sent to POS to fix. (If that was too many double negatives for you: I have now sent every Psion I’ve ever owned to POS to fix.) I should be more careful in future.

The rest of my day has been spent:

  • sleeping
  • reinstalling Windows XP on my PC
  • evicting flies and wasps from the house
  • grinning that we’ve now sold Kadesh (more details tomorrow)
  • reading about Search Engine Optimization and the Rule of St Benedict (not in the same book!)
  • copying thousands of files from backup DVDs to my new 300 GB hard drive
  • stroking Spot (the cat) whom we got back yesterday … and who cost us £735 for that last episode!
  • viewing a(nother) house with Jane
  • sticking my head in next door’s cement mixer and speaking like Darth Vader
  • getting better

and now I’m off to do that sleeping thing again.

Don’t give a storm a window of opportunity

Storm clouds

Here’s a top tip for you: if you are going to leave your Velux (roof) window open overnight in your study while there is a torrential storm raging outside don’t leave your Psion Series 7 sitting beneath it on your desk because by the morning it will have stopped working properly.

It’s also not a great idea to leave your laptop there either. Or your telephone. Or PC monitor. Or books. Or … indeed maybe we ought just to agree that it’s a good rule to close the window at night.

I’d left the Psion to dry out during the day today but the keyboard is now being completely random, even after a hard reset. Looks like I’ll be getting in touch with POS Ltd in the morning again, who are the masters of Psion repairs. Yet another expense we could do without.