Windows Mobile Device Center: A Step in the Right Direction

Sometimes, I decide to stop being a rebel. I follow the instructions, pretend OS X and Linux don't exist, and do as I'm told. I decided to take that role, that of someone who just doesn't care about the how or the why, and just wants things to work.

The first thing I did was take a look at the manual. I'm running Vista Business on my sacrificial Windows box. I noticed that the manual only mentioned Windows XP, and didn't I see a "Sync Center" in the control panel? After all, a lot of hardware broke with the update to Vista; no point in installing old, XP-centric drivers and risking breaking my system. I opened up the Sync Center, and saw "Set up sync partnership" as an option. Great! On the iPAQ, in the Bluetooth options, there was the ability to create an "ActiveSync" partnership. Clicking the help link on the Vista machine, I see that ActiveSync has been replaced by the Mobile Device Center on Vista.

I use the Bluetooth control panel to connect to the iPAQ; it works pretty well. According to the Vista help, from the iPAQ, I should be able to create an ActiveSync partnership, and it should show up in the Sync Center.

Except it doesn't.

Apparently, the Mobile Device Center, which is mentioned as being a part of Vista in the Windows Help, isn't actually included in Vista. It isn't even suggested to be downloaded. I found it on Microsoft's Windows Mobile site, downloaded, and installed it.

Setting it up was kind of painful. First, the help says that you have to connect first via USB, even if you are doing a Bluetooth sync. This is to launch the Mobile Device Center, as it's not placed in the Start menu by default! Then, once it's loaded, you have to choose the appropriate serial COM port to sync over. This is a serious failing of the sync process. To find the COM port, you have to open the Bluetooth devices control panel, find the assigned port, and then select it in the Mobile Device Center. This is a needless step which should be automatic. Also, once it is set up, I've seen the ports change on a reconnection. What was COM3 (incoming) and COM4 (outgoing) are now COM5 and COM6. Ugh.

I haven't tried actually syncing anything other than files, as I don't use Outlook and that's the only application supported. Not even Windows Mail, or the Windows Address Book can be synced.

Now that I've tried the "supported" way to connect and sync, and seen on how many levels there are serious issues, I'm going to try Missing Sync on OS X and see how it compares. The general vibe on the web is "it isn't great, but it's the only option", so I'm not too optimistic. At least it integrates with the OS X sync services, so it should work with many applications.