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.

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?

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!

Converting DVD to Windows Mobile 6

A big fan of Spb Software House, today I decided to check out their Spb Mobile DVD application.

I have to confess that I’ve never really seen the point of converting DVDs to watch on small, pocket devices such as a Windows Mobile PDA/phone.

Until I tried it, of course! Wow! It’s so cool. I can now get entire movies crammed into 200 MB, stuffed in my pocket!

The application is simplicity itself to use:

  1. Insert DVD of choice
  2. Run Spb Mobile DVD to begin the wizard
  3. Select which movie chapter to watch
  4. Select your settings (format, screen size, screen ratio, etc.)
  5. Watch it convert (on my Core 2 Quad Q6600 it took only 18 mins for an 86 mins feature film)
  6. Copy the resulting .avi or .wmv file to your mobile device

I’m using the freeware TCPMP media player for watching the created .avi DivX video.

I think I’m going to have to try some other stuff that I’ve been sceptical about up until now.

Like drugs, the Conservative Party, doilies.

SPB Mobile Shell 2.0

Yay! for SPB Software House.

I wrote them an electronic mail message ages ago and said that I really liked their SPB Mobile Shell application but the one improvement that I’d like to see is a full screen grid where you can easily select contacts to telephone.

Guess what! They’ve only gone and done it in SPB Mobile Shell 2.0.

Look:

SPB Mobile Shell 2.0 contacts grid

Now, I’m not saying that they did it because of my email. But I did email them with a request. And they did it!

Now I can phone all my friends while driving without nearly crashing the car!

(That was a joke by the way, of course I don’t phone while driving.)