Friday, May 18, 2007

Hello, Internet.

I've got a Samsung i730 PDA phone from Verizon. Since it's a Windows Mobile 5 phone, I have issues with ActiveSync 4.5, last version from Microsoft.

My issue seems to be more of a design problem, as I've looked in the options for ActiveSync both in my phone and in my PC client, and I can't find any way to change this behavior.

My problem is that my PDA is a phone, and as such it's by my side almost 24 hours a day. I keep lots of documents on my PDA, from simple text files to word documents and a couple Excel spreadsheets. I'm in IT where I work, so I have things like lists of passwords, IP addresses, miscellaneous crap that it's handy to have with me in my PDA phone so I don't have to run across campus every time I need to log in to someone else's computer, for example.

ActiveSync 4.5 running on Windows XP has an option to sync files to & from your device. If you choose this option, Windows XP creates a folder in your My Documents folder called " My Documents", with folders inside that correspond to the My Documents folder on your PDA. (So, if you've got a "Business" folder, there it is, etc.)

My PDA / ActiveSync seems to make pretty poor decisions particularly regarding deleted files. Let's say I have a Note on my PDA that I'm going to use on March 4. I create it on the device, and when I sync my PDA on March 5, it syncs my information and deletes my new file.

Wait, what? No, that's not supposed to happen. See what I'm talking about?

It seems like, for me, ActiveSync is not Sync at all, unless you're talking One-Way Sync. It assumes that whichever desktop PC I hook it up to is God, and happily overwrites files (regardless of creation or modification date) on my Pocket PC with the contents of my "PDA My Documents" folder in Windows XP.

The same thing happens if I have an established document that exists on both the desktop PC and my Pocket PC. If I delete said document (like a Note that I created back on March 4 that's not relevant anymore) on my PDA, which you'll remember is With Me Always, then sync with my desktop PC, the desktop happily moves its copy of the file back onto my PDA.

The most unnerving part of all this is that I've found hidden folders on my PDA named "FilesToBeDeleted". Now, this is just a guess, but if I delete a file on my PDA, wouldn't it make sense for my PDA to actually move that file into that folder, then upon the next ActiveSync, delete the file both on the PDA and the desktop?

ActiveSync just doesn't seem to work at all, in general. If it's going to be one-way sync only, desktop PC is God, then aren't I going to have to come up with some other method to sync important files from my work PC to my home, since it's not going to work just syncing with my PDA? That seems like the opposite of convenience to me, and it sure seems like dumping one rediculously common scenario (documents should sync 2-way based on creation date and last modified date from PDA to PC and PC to PDA) to implement what would seem to be a very rare scenario (only the documents on the PC matter, regardless of whether or not they've been edited on the PDA; if there are any changes, erase them, and if anything's missing on the PDA, put it back).

That's not the way my iPod works. If I open a podcast on my iPod and listen to half of it, then sync it to my PC, the same podcast episode on my PC records that I've listened to half the podcast already. During the same sync, if there are newly-created playlists on my iPod, they get synced to iTunes. (Since iPod can't delete files, the deletion question is moot.) Shouldn't Sync work that way? Isn't that what the word "sync" means? Kinda misleading to call it "ActiveSync", isn't it?

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