Why is ActiveSync so slow?

I’ve probably said it before, I’ll say it again:

Why does Microsoft ActiveSync take such an inordinate length of time to synchronize Outlook 2003 with Outlook Mobile?

My Xda Orbit is currently doing an initial sync with Outlook. It has taken 75 minutes so far and it still says “Processing”.

My Psion Series 5mx or Series 7 on the other hand will do an initial sync in less than 10 minutes. Using software from the turn of the millennium!

Update #1: that’s the two hours mark now … still “Processing”.

Update #2: … and three hours passes … still “Processing”.

Update #3: … and four hours passes by. The really annoying thing is that there is no feedback other than “Processing”. The rest of ActiveSync is working fine, e.g. Explore and Connection Settings … but is it synchronizing with Outlook?

Update #4: I eventually cancelled the synchronization, deleted the ActiveSync profile on my O2 Xda Orbit and within Microsoft ActiveSync and then reconnected.  I then set it to sync only Tasks — that completed; then Tasks and Notes — that completed too; then Tasks, Notes and Contacts — that’s completed.  Just Calendar to do now, and I should be done. At last!

Scotty Pro solar battery charger

Scotty Pro - solar battery charger

I spotted this on I Want One Of Those. It’s the Scotty Pro solar charger from German company Solarc.

Pop this little solar charging beauty in direct sunlight for a few hours and it will charge up its rechargeable AA batteries enabling it to power up your mobile phone, games console, MP3 player, digital camera or any other USB-powered device, and it will run for up to 12 hours.

Of course it’s not always sunny (sadly) but that doesn’t matter, because you can stick a couple of standard AAs into your Scotty Pro, and it’ll charge up your devices just the same. Come rain or shine, the Scotty Pro is an indispensable power provider for a multitude of appliances when you’re out and about.

The Scotty comes with a mass of adaptors for mobiles, and a USB cable that will charge iPods, digital cameras, PDAs and any device with a USB port. Now you only need one charger when you’re on the move.

I’ve got the Scotty … amateur, I guess. I got it a few years ago with just the Psion 5/5mx adapter. Certainly, the other adapters would be a cool addition to my basic solar unit.

Powermonkey

An alternative might be Powermonkey and Powermonkey explorer, which appears to be the solar version.

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?

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.)