Windows 7 synhronizing….

Windows 7 wallpaper from PC Plus

I installed Windows 7 Professional (32-bit) on my main desktop PC the other week, having been using the Release Candidate on and off on both my main PC and one of our laptops for a good few months.

What an improvement over Windows XP (of which I have been a fan for many a year); and a tremendous improvement over Windows Vista (which I used for all of 1 week before upgrading my laptop to the Release Candidate and then Windows 7 Professional).

I’ve now installed it on one desktop and two laptops and each time the process was simplicity itself. The installer correctly identified all my hardware and installed the latest drivers for everything (apart from my Creative X-Fi soundcard the drivers for which I installed myself). From start to finish in less than an hour is pretty impressive.

However, despite the shiny finish and the months of beta testing by the public there are still a few rough edges, which will be hopefully corrected in a forthcoming upgrade. Like this typo in the Windows 7 Sync Center (sic):

Windows Mobile-based device
Synhronizing….

Windows Mobile-based device Synhronizing....

Social networks

Workgroup list of 3 computers

Now, there’s a happy sight: all 3 main computers at Potting Shed HQ happily talking to one another on the local area network.

The two laptops (Gareth-laptop and Jane-laptop) are both running Windows 7 Release Candidate (build 7100), the desktop (Study) is still running Windows XP SP3.

At first my laptop wouldn’t appear in the list of workgroup PCs on the study PC, and vice versa — although each could ping the other and connect successfully by entering the UNC address (e.g. \\computername\foldername). I wondered if it was an issue with the NodeType setting in the registry.

As soon as I changed the NodeType setting on the XP machine it was picked up on my laptop. It could very well be co-incidence but I’m not complaining.

A reboot of all three PCs certainly didn’t do any harm.

So … I wish I could have categorically reported what I did to make it work, but as with so many things in life it appears that all I had to do was switch it off and switch it back on again.

For humans, I believe, they call that ‘sleep’. I’m retiring to bed now to switch myself off for the duration of the night.

Are you listening Reuben and Joshua? 😉

Windows Mobile 6.1 broke my life!

O2 Xda Zest

About 3-4 weeks ago my beloved O2 Xda Orbit phone started to act erratically, randomly switching itself off according to its own unfathomable set of rules. It was okay when plugged in, but it was getting increasingly impractical pulling an extension cable along Market Street when I went out for lunch.

I figured that resetting the Xda Orbit to factory settings was what it needed and spent an evening reinstalling everything. To no avail. It would still randomly switch itself o…

Zest

I put up with it over a weekend and telephoned O2 the following Monday morning and ordered a very similar device, the O2 Xda Zest; a rebranded Asus Crystal.

There was so much that I liked about the Xda Orbit: the built-in GPS, WiFi, GPRS Web browsing, FM radio and I could synchronize it with my PCs at both home and work. The Xda Zest seemed to offer much the same, only with a much improved screen (proper VGA 480 x 640 pixels) and a much, much faster CPU.

Except the FM radio.

And, as I discovered to my cost, synchronizing with two PCs!

Windows Mobile 6.1 flaw

You see, I naively followed the assumption that the next version of something would be a little better than the previous version of that something. That’s how advertising has reeled me in so often during these last 30+ years.

“Ooh! look! A new one. It must be better. I want it!”

Isn’t that how it usually works?

Seemingly no-one told the Windows Mobile team that. Because it seems that there was a fundamental flaw in Windows Mobile 6.1: it wouldn’t synchronize with two PCs! Even though that’s one of its key features.

Which seems a bit like buying a new car, getting it home and discovering that it drives on A-roads but not your local streets. You can use it at work, but not at home.

Getting Nothing Done (GND)

Which for many people wouldn’t be a problem, but for the last 3 years that’s been the backbone of my organization system. No matter where I’ve been, at work, at home, out-and-about, I’ve always had a full picture of my appointments, commitments, contacts, tasks and priorities.

When I worked from home, in the parish, things were in many ways easier: I had one PC with which I synchronized my Psion 5mx. It was an almost flawless system. But the introduction of a second base, my office, added a new level of complexity. Windows Mobile 6.0 (just about) handled it admirably using ActiveSync (though quite often more correctly spelled ‘ActiveSink’!). Windows Mobile 6.1, however, has let me down quite spectacularly. And not just me, as a quick Web search will prove.

For the last 3 weeks or so, however, I’ve been at sixes and sevens. Thankfully, because I’ve been backing up my Outlook PST files more often than usual, I’ve not actually lost any data but on more than one occasion I’ve ended up with a lot (a LOT) of duplicated data which is just as time-consuming to deal with.

And all the while not entirely sure of the whole picture of my life, which is rather unsettling for someone who is usually so on top of things.

What to do?

So where do I go now? How do I recover my sense of being-on-top-of-things?

  1. Sync my Psion with both

    I tried that, but again the Psion wasn’t really designed to be synchronized with more than one PC. I get errors, so have to re-sync from scratch and end up either duplicating data or reintroducing data that I’ve already deleted on one of the platforms.

  2. Google Calendar

    I’ve tried to synchronize my Outlook calendar with Google Calendar using Google’s own Google Calendar Sync. But it didn’t synchronize all my events, and what about my tasks?

    I’m going to try out XTNDConnect PC to synchronize Outlook with Google Calendar and see how that works; I’ve already tried it synchronizing Outlook with Windows Mobile 6.1 but it duplicated everything!

    Outlook 2007 will allow me to subscribe to an iCalendar feed, such as that offered by Google Calendar, which is great for when I’m at my desktop — but what about when I’m out-and-about with my my phone (or Psion)?

  3. Remember the Milk

    I then tried Remember the Milk to synchronize my Windows Mobile Pocket Outlook tasks with this online task application. But I have over 100 tasks and it didn’t copy over the categories.

    One “inbox” task list of 120 tasks really wasn’t useful.

  4. Psion

    At the moment I’m currently synchronizing both work and home calendars with different Agenda files on my Psion. It’s not ideal but at least I still have all my data in one place.

  5. Hosted Microsoft Exchange

    I have also been considering buying a hosted Microsoft Exchange account. That way — I guess — I could access all my data from work, home or on the move on my phone or via the Web. But I don’t have any experience of Exchange so would welcome people’s comments/thoughts.

It’s been a frustrating time, but I am willing to move on and use something else … I’ve just not found the right solution yet.

Custom labels for removable drives

Registry Editor

I found a great tip in PC Plus this month (April 2009 edition) in an article about Registry hacks that allows you to give meaningful names to your removable drives in Windows; (UPDATED 10 January 2010) I’ve tried it with both Windows XP and Windows 7, so on those grounds I would imagine that it should also work with Windows Vista.

The issue

I’ve got a SanDisk multi-card reader attached to my PC via USB, and by default it displays four Removable Disk icons in My Computer with the generic label “Removable Disk (X:)” where X is the letter assigned to the drive.

Devices with Removable Storage

The problem is that I can never remember which drive is which. Is Q: for SD cards? Which drive is assigned to Compact Flash cards?

This Registry hack allows you to customize the label.

The hack

  1. Make sure you create a System Restore point before you start, just in case!
  2. Start RegEdit (Start > Run…, type regedit, click OK)
  3. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Explorer
  4. Within the Explorer key create a new key called DriveIcons
  5. Within that create a new key with the drive letter you want to customize, e.g. Q
  6. Within that create a new key called DefaultLabel
  7. Double-click this key’s (Default) value entry and give it the name you want, e.g. Compact Flash, and click OK
  8. Refresh your Explorer window to see the change.
  9. Repeat for as many removable drives as you need to customize.

Devices with Removable Storage, and customized labels

Now that’s much easier.

.reg file

Of course, if you don’t fancy poking around in the Windows Registry you can create a plain text file in Notepad (or another plain text editor) and create the settings there. An example file is below.

Simply change the letters of the DriveIcons and the @ values.

Then save the file as driveicons.reg, and double-click it to merge the values into the Registry.

Then remember to press F5 to refresh your Explorer window to see the changes.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\Q]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\Q\DefaultLabel]
@="Compact Flash"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\R]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\R\DefaultLabel]
@="xD Picture Card"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\S]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\S\DefaultLabel]
@="Secure Digital"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\T]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\T\DefaultLabel]
@="Sony Memory Stick"

PsiWin 2.3.3 under Windows 7 Ultimate

Windows 7 Ultimate running PsiWin 2.3.3

Let’s hear it for Psion. Not only did they make first class PDAs, which still have a massive community of user going nuts over, but their PC connectivity software PsiWin — which they stopped developing at version 2.3.3 (copyright 1997-2001) — still works perfectly even under the beta version of Windows 7 Ultimate edition.