Fixing ActiveSync woes with Outlook 2007

Microsoft ActiveSync

Now here’s a remarkable (even blogable) thing: my slow Windows Mobile to Outlook ActiveSync synchronization woes now appear to be a thing of the past. But not before running into some difficulties.

After I upgraded from Microsoft Outlook 2003 to Microsoft Outlook 2007 ActiveSync point-blank refused to connect to my beloved O2 Xda Orbit.

Not only had I upgraded Outlook itself, I’d also moved from the older “Outlook 97-2002” PST file format to the newer “Outlook 2003-2007” format. I didn’t even realise that I had been working with the older format. That must go back to my upgrade from Outlook 2000 to 2003.

My usual solutions did nothing to help:

  • Remove the Windows Mobile 6 device from the cradle and then reseat it.
  • Reboot the Windows Mobile 6 device.
  • Reboot the Windows XP device.
  • Run scanpst.exe on my Outlook.pst file.

I went for a solution-hunt on Google, and discovered that disabling the advanced nework functionality might just do the trick. And you know what: it did.

What I did

  1. Click Start > Settings
  2. Click on the Connections tab, and you see this:

Windows Mobile 6 Settings

  1. Double-tap the “USB to PC” icon
  2. Now untick the only option available: “Enable advanced network functionality”.
  3. Click OK button (top right).

Windows Mobile 6 USB to PC settings

Now everything seems to be running faster and more responsive on my O2 Xda Orbit (not just connecting to ActiveSync but accessing menus, calendar data, contacts, applications start faster), and it connects to ActiveSync first time, even straight after a system reboot. Previously it would always object, and I’d need to remove it from the cradle and leave it until after the system had completely booted up.

But …

The only thing is that I’m not entirely sure what “advanced network functionality” is. I’m not sure what I’ve disabled, what I’m missing out on … any ideas?

Reinstalling Windows XP Professional SP3: Operation PC Forgiveness 2008

Screenshot of Windows XP

This week I’ve been enjoying a holiday at home with Jane: a chance to enjoy peace and quiet together for the last time before the children arrive, and to reinstall Windows XP on my main desktop PC. That’s been the main reason for my lack of recent blogging, and not laziness — oh no! Not that. No way!

Slowdown to upgrade

It’s a common problem with Windows: it gradually slows down over time. I install and uninstall all sorts of software on it, I use it every day for everything from checking emails to coding, photo editing to video creation. I’m not surprised it slows down over time.

But this time it was getting really bad. At times it wouldn’t boot properly (hardware driver conflicts I think). There was a serious issue with my sound card: if I played a Flash movie (e.g. YouTube) while listening to an MP3, for example, it would send my audio player crazy when I closed the browser window, playing any non-Flash audio two or three times too fast. It made everything sound like the Chipmunks had formed a metal band!

I also wanted to upgrade a couple of major pieces of software:

as well as various hardware drivers:

It was clearly time for Operation PC Forgiveness 2008.

Backup

On Monday and Tuesday I backed up everything. I used Second Copy 7.1 to copy the contents of each partition one-by-one to my external harddrive (Freecom 500GB).

I’ve tried various other applications over the years that take either images of the partition, or backup to a proprietary format, or first compress the files before storing them in a zip file, but in the end I’ve returned to a simple 1:1 copy on an external drive. That way I can access these files at any time from any PC without having to first install any 3rd party applications.

Second Copy

Second Copy allows you to create backup profiles that can be run either individually or within groups. So I have groups for:

  • Applications (e.g. Microsoft Money files, Microsoft OneNote data, WeBuilder settings, Windows Boot.ini file, Second Copy profiles, etc.
  • Outlook PST files, backups and stuff
  • WeBuilder reinstallation
  • Ultimate Backup to external hard drive

There are a few backups that I do manually, for example Firefox bookmarks and anything else that needs to be exported.

Screenshot of Second Copy

This way I can make sure that all my personalized settings have been backed-up before I run the “Ultimate” backup group profiles and copy it all to my external drive.

A couple of things that I always do when doing a reinstallation are:

  • Install and take a print out of all my installed applications using Installed Program Printer.
  • Take a screenshot of desktop (for location of icons).
  • Take a screenshot of Start Menu (for labels and icons).
  • Take a screenshot of the Firefox add-ons that I have installed.
  • Backup Programs folders within Start menu (both All Users and my username profiles). This way I can see how I organized my Start menu.

Reinstall Windows XP

With the backup complete it was time to bite the bullet and reformat my C drive. I have 12 partitions on my hard drives so wiping C simply takes out Windows and programs, all my data, images, videos, music, etc. are safely stored on the other partitions (and now also backed-up).

One thing that I forgot to do before I set the Windows XP installation CD loose on C: was to deauthorize iTunes. D’oh!

Essentials for a Windows XP reinstall:

  • Windows XP with SP3 and IE7 slipstreamed into it.
  • Latest hardware drivers, already downloaded and saved to another partition, external drive or CD-ROM.
  • TweakGuides Tweaking Companion for XP to follow advice on best order to install drivers, and various system tweaks to improve performance.
  • Notebook and pen (to write down everything you do, error messages, settings, passwords, etc.).
  • Laptop (or other PC) for looking up advice, error messages, etc. on the Web.

Reinstalling XP and hardware drivers took a couple of hours. Reinstalling the rest of my software took the best part of a day and a half. I have almost all my applications stored on another partition (I:) and categorized which makes it very efficient to reinstall:

Screenshot of Install partition

Reorganize All Programs within the Start menu

Once I’ve installed the bulk of my applications, run Windows (or Microsoft) Update a couple of times to make sure that Windows and Office are up-to-date, and done a cursory defrag I always reorganize the Start menu.

This is how the All Programs part of my Start menu looked after I’d installed most of the applications that I use regularly:

Start menu with three columns of programs

That’s three columns with around 85 entries. Even though I’ve done a “sort by name” on the list it’s still a mess! What it needs is some categorization to group similar applications together.

All users

I generally start with the “All Users” folder (right-click START and select “Explore All Users”). I then create a number of new top-level folders to act as my main categories. These are generally the folders that I begin with:

  • Accessories
  • Bible
  • CDRW
  • Fonts
  • Games
  • Graphics
  • Internet
  • Labels
  • Mindmaps
  • Money
  • Multimedia
  • Office
  • PDF
  • Printers
  • Programming
  • Scanner
  • Startup
  • System
  • Windows Mobile
  • WinZip

All Users Start Menu Programs

As it happens, these are also the main category labels that I use on my Install partition (I:). Keeping a one-to-one relationship between the start menu and the install partition makes it really easy to find installers should I need to perform an upgrade or reinstall.

Having a limited taxonomy makes it really easy to find any application that I have installed: all my graphics applications can be found under Graphics, office applications under Office, etc. It sounds obvious but I’ve seen too many users wasting precious time hunting through an unordered list of 60+ applications.

Sort the rest

Having created these new folders, I then move the remaining installation folders and icons into them before performing the rest of the clean-up on the Start menu itself, creating any sub-folders as necessary. For example, within Internet I always create:

  • Browsers
  • Email
  • Firewall
  • FTP
  • Instant Messenger
  • RSS
  • Server
  • Twitter
  • VoIP
  • Web Building

I prefer to use generic terms such as “Instant Messenger” and “Firewall” than “Windows Live Messenger” and “ZoneLabs ZoneAlarm Pro” as I find it easier to find them this way, it also doesn’t lock me into a particular application as I can use the same folder structure regardless of the applications that I have installed.

I also use this arrangement on my PC at work and on my laptop so it allows me to have different applications installed but use the same organizational structure.

Start menu lite

While it usually takes me about 30-45 minutes to sort out my Start menu at the start it must save me hours each month when looking for applications.

My new, slimmed down start menu then looks a bit like this:

Start menu

Now I have a clean installation of XP, with (almost) all my software installed and I can find things on my Start menu. Now I can get on and do something productive!

Error’d: Attention required

Microsoft ActiveSync - Notes: attention required.

What a tremendous error message I received the other day while trying to synchronize Outlook with my O2 Xda Orbit (running Windows Mobile 6). In the status column opposite the Notes icon I got the message: Attention required.

Above it, against my profile (Home) written in red the same message: Attention required. But this one was a link.

So I clicked it. And got a pop-up window with the meaningful message: Notes: attention required.

Kind of wish I hadn’t bothered now! Still, at least I gave it some attention.

There’s some folks I know who could really do with that alert window — actually, not so much for them but those around them!

iPhone launch

O2 Xda Orbit

So … it would appear that the new Apple iPhone 3G was launched today. (That’s obviously not a photo of the new Apple iPhone 3G above, or even the old one. That’s my O2 Xda Orbit running Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.)

I didn’t know that until today. Until I started reading folks’ posts (called tweets) on my Twitter stream, and watching videos on Qik.

It would appear that the Worldwide Apple Cult™ managed to keep that news well and truly hidden from me. Well done!

Our man in Milton Keynes

Documentally … well, documented the day fabulously well. From getting up to arriving at the Apple store in Milton Keynes, standing in line, being served, going to the Apple store loo (!), and at one point even had one of the Apple assistants holding the camera while he unwrapped the Apple iPhone packaging — the man’s a genius!

Okay, I’ll qualify that last sentence. He’s not a genius simply for unwrapping a box. That could have been done by a simpleton.

No, there was an inclusiveness in that Apple adventure today in his Qik videos, that reflected something of the excitement and camera-derie (sic) of the day.

I watched a couple of other videos on Qik today, of folks standing in other queues, outside other Apple stores, in other towns and … well, they were probably about as embarrassing to watch as they were to make: no-one wanted to speak with the poor fella with the camera.

This is my favourite Qik post — cutting to the chase — this is the moment that the boxed Apple iPhone 3G became Christian’s. I love the cheer! The Apple Cult™ as one.

What’s new?

So, what’s all the fuss about? The new Apple iPhone 3G has:

  • 3G network connectivity so you can surf the Web
  • Built-in Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Install 3rd party applications
  • ‘Push’ email, contacts and calendars with Microsoft Exchange

Wow! Cool! I can see you’re already impressed.

My Microsoft Windows 6 powered O2 Xda Orbit mobile phone has had three of those facilities for … well, since I bought it in April 2007, and I don’t want the fourth: Push email. I’m happy to synchronize it with Microsoft Outlook 2003.

Meanwhile, back in St Andrews …

My colleague Kevin came into work today with — can you guess?

That’s right, it was a new Apple iPhone 3G. Oh, sorry, did I not tell you? Apparently the new model was launched today.

He got the last one in St Andrews. Of course, when I say “the last one” I also mean the eighth one in St Andrews.

He wasn’t even intending on getting one. He just happened to pass The Carphone Warehouse on Market Street and decided to join the small queue that was already forming.

A few minutes later the manager emerged from the store and said,

Good morning potential customers of St Andrews in Fife. Thank you for your patience. I can announce to you, the consuming public of this Royal and Ancient Burgh, that we have a grand total of eight new Apple iPhone 3Gs.

So if I may, I shall ask the first eight customers who have formed this orderly and polite queue outside the shop window of my shop to kindly step inside and off with the rest of you, to your daily routines.

My best wishes to you should you quest further afield in search of this technological wonder which, if you ask me, has three out of four of the built-in functions of the O2 Xda Orbit a telephone that came onto the market over one earth calendar year ago.

And that was it. Those eight lucky fellas got their hands on a shiny new Apple iPhone 3G.

Well, seven of them did. The guy at the front of the queue, who’d been there since 5:00 am and who had been thoughtful enough to bring with him a wicker chair unfortunately hadn’t been thoughtful enough to bring with him his wallet!

I think the official and international response to that is: D’oh!

… and finally

This coverage of the launch, which happe… what do you mean the launch of what?! This coverage of the launch of a new kind of chocolate washing powder in New York City was brought to my attention by the splendid Sizemore:

… and rudely

And for those of you who like to read rude words on the internet, like ‘bum’ and ‘squelch’, there is always Maddox’s review.

This was brought to my attention by a visiting consultant today. And I thought I spent too much time on the internet!

The paragraph that made me laugh the most was:

[The iPhone is] not three devices in one any more than my laptop is you morons. Using Jobs’ loose definition of what constitutes a separate device, technically my laptop can be considered 8 devices in one:

  1. A clock
  2. A calculator
  3. An “Internet communications device”
  4. A phone (I can make voice calls with my modem)
  5. A pornographic media storage device
  6. A video player
  7. A word processor
  8. And an “iPod” (see below)