Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Way to go, ActiveSync 3.0!


By Dan Huber

ActiveSync is the synchronization software you use to connect your Windows CE device to your desktop or laptop computer. ActiveSync was the name of Microsoft's synchronization technology, and the software itself was formerly known as Windows CE Services. It was also known to be problematic. With Microsoft's new 3.0 release, much of that has changed.

"I must say, ActiveSync is looking mighty impressive."

ActiveSync is now the latest iteration in what Microsoft feels is their most recent and greatest solution to providing you and your PDA with easy synchronization of your PIM data as well as installation and removal of software.

Windows CE Services

My personal involvement in Windows CE doesn't date back to the days of Windows CE 1.0, so I can't comment on the earliest versions of Microsoft's synchronization software. I came on the scene for Windows CE Services 2.0. To me, Windows CE Services didn't seem like much more than a context-sensitive Windows Explorer window that contained a few commands that were part of the Mobile Devices folder of your computer.

In the Mobile Devices folder, you would find selections such as Application Manager, the portion of Windows CE Services that allows you to add and remove software that has been installed using that particular desktop. You could also initiate a manual synchronization task or open the Communications portion of Windows CE Services to adjust the settings used to connect to your device. There were also backup/restore utilities used to protect your device's data. A tray icon was used to give you fast access to your connection settings, to allow you to force synchronization, and to open your "Mobile Devices" folder, which was the primary navigation tool for your device.

The good, the bad, the ugly

Windows CE Services was really only a partial synchronization solution between your desktop and your device (it had essentially no extras), yet it seemed that for such a small program, it was littered with bugs and glitches. Although it was not a disaster, it was by no means flawless. Windows CE Services was plagued with tricky installation problems on NT workstations, often tampering with Dial-Up Networking and randomly attempting to dial your ISP. It also only allowed either a connection to the device or the Internet, but not both, and tying up COM ports.

In all honesty, I didn't find it too troublesome with my own system. To get past the "one connection only" bug, I downloaded and installed Dial-Up Networking version 1.3 for Windows 95. Doing this patched up that problem and allowed me to simultaneously connect to the Internet and my device. Another of Windows CE Services' longest standing problems was that annoying prompt to dial your ISP. Prior to Internet Explorer 5.0, you had to either put up with that nag or configure Internet Explorer to connect via a LAN rather than through a modem.