Synchronizing PDAs

I do wish that Microsoft ActiveSync (released in 2006) synchronized my O2 Xda Orbit (Windows Mobile 6) with Outlook 2003 as quickly as Psion PsiWin 2.3.3 (released in 2001) synchronizes Outlook with my Psion Series 5mx, or Psion Series 7.

I can sync my Psion with Outlook from scratch in about 5 minutes, a simple update of a couple of dates and ActiveSync has taken 20 minutes so far …

Has it ActiveSunk?

O2 Xda Orbit desktop cradle

O2 Xda Orbit phone in cradle

When I first got my O2 Xda Orbit I decided to get a desktop cradle so that my shiny new phone could sit upright, alert and ready for me to answer a call rather than slumped lazily on its back.

However, I struggled to find one that was guaranteed to work with an Xda Orbit, and any that claimed to didn’t back it up with photographic evidence — they only had photos of the HTC P3300 sitting comfortably in its new desktop home.

Keep it in the family

It would appear that the Xda Orbit is a variant of the HTC Artemis; other models in this family are:

  • Dopod P800
  • Dopod P800W
  • HTC P3300
  • MDA compact III
  • Orange SPV M650
  • Xda Orbit

but some users claimed that the location of the USB port on the base of these machines was slightly different from model to model and so while the cradle might work for one machine it wouldn’t work for another. I don’t know whether this is true or not.

What I bought

In the end, having read quite a few reviews, I took someone’s advice (and a gamble) and ordered what claimed to be a “O2 Xda Orbit desktop cradle” from Discount Sat Nav on eBay for about £4.99 + P&P. Bargain!

And to my delight it worked! … as demonstrated by the photograph above. In fact, I now have two: one for home, the other for work.

It would appear that there are two models available: one with a spare battery charger or one without. Mine also came with a USB cable and an A/C adapter cable for quicker charging.

Where to buy

Here are the locations that I’ve found that sell this kind of cradle:

  • eBay UK (from £4.99 + P&P)
  • GPS for Less (£13.98 + P&P)
  • BoxWave (from US $32.95 + P&P)

I hope that’s helpful to someone.

Bah!

O2 Xda Orbit phone

I’ve been using my ‘repaired’ O2 Xda Orbit for a little under 24 hours now.

I’ve had to do a soft reset twice now. Both times after using Pocket e-Sword Bible software.

Bah!

I think I would have been happier sticking with a Nokia. Or a paper cup and a length of string.

Double bah! Oh well, only 16 months left on my contract.

Error’d: Psion synchronization dialog

Ah, yes. Here’s my favourite user-unfriendly Windows dialog.

This is what you get when you try to synchronize Microsoft Outlook with a Psion 5mx using Psion’s very own PsiWin 2.3.3 and have deleted quite a few of the entries before synchronization:

Synchronizer dialog box

For those of you who can’t read tiny, compressed images of text, it says:

Synchronizer

The Synchronizer has detected 63 missing or deleted items in the Psion. Do you wish to continue and delete the corresponding items?

Click No to retain the items on the other machine.

Click Yes to delete the items on the other machine.

Click Cancel to stop synchronization.

Note: If you have deleted the same item on both machines, it cannot be replaced.

There are a number of reasons that I consider this a terrible dialog box:

  1. Don’t make me think!

    I cannot tell at a glance what I’m supposed to do, without having to read all the text and then work out what on earth it all means. In other words, it’s not intuitive.

    (Following Mike’s comment) What I want is a dialog that I can look at and immediately understand what is being asked of me. I can then spend my time valuably deciding on whether I want to keep that potentially-important data or not. Rather than spending valuable time simply trying to comprehend the text on the dialog box!

  2. Too much text

    Closely related to the previous point: there is too much text. Images would have really helped here; images with the number of missing/deleted items beneath it, perhaps?

  3. Badly labelled buttons

    The text tells me to “Click No to retain the items”, “Click Yes to delete” or “Click Cancel to stop the synchronization”. Why not just label the buttons: Keep items, Delete items, and Stop?

  4. Which machine?!

    The first instruction in the dialog says “Click No to retain the items on the other machine”.

    Which machine?!

    Every time I encounter this dialog I have to stop and work it out, and it always takes me ages: okay, so there are 63 items missing or deleted on the Psion, so the “other machine” must be the PC … right? … right??! So do I want them also to be deleted on the PC? Why could they not just have said: “Click No to keep the items on the PC”?

Confirmation

Once you get past that dialog and decide that yes, you do indeed want to delete the items permanently on both PC and Psion you’re then given the option to back out:

Psion confirmation dialog 2

Confirmation

About to permanently remove items from both PC and Psion.

Are you sure?

The options now, at least, are a more intuitive yes or no. It’s just a shame that you have to practically melt your brain answering the previous question to get there!

Sadly PsiWin is no longer in development — version 2.3.3 (build 149) came out in 2001, and still works with Windows XP, and up-to-and-including Office 2007 — so there is no opportunity to campaign to improve these dialog boxes.

Unless someone is handy with a hex editor … anyone?

Update

Following Mike’s helpful comment below, which made me explain myself a little better I’ve mocked up the following dialogs using Microsoft Visio:

Mock-up of Psion sync dialog box

I have created two here, which (I hope) makes it clear which machines are being referred to and what to do. At a quick glance I can tell on which machine the data is missing or deleted and on which machine’s data I’m being asked to decide. The buttons are also better labelled.

(Error’d entries on this blog are named after the popular Worse Than Failure feature.)

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!