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THOUGHT: To synchronize or not to synchronize? For sure but how?
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 11.12.03 - 15:09:28 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 8839x
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Well, this topic is hitting me around once or twice a quarter - minimum. It's about synchronizing all your devices to have everything up to date and it's a multi-device question. And it's a pain, every time I think about...
Why it is hitting me again? Because of my new Notebook I got yesterday but it covers multi facets: Desktops, Notebooks, Pocket PCs and Smartphones. And all I'm writing about now is for consumers, freelancers, etc - I'm not talking about corporate environments where you might use Microsoft Exchange or other solutions.

First of all I have to explain that my PC is running 24 hours, 7 days a week thanks to a reliable DSL provider which gives me access with 1024/256 KBit without any disconnects after 24 hours or other annoying stuff - so my PC is "always on" and even if it doesn't have a fixed IP address you can use services like to get a subdomain matched to your current PC IP. DSL is one of the strong growing technologies in the IP environment and I'm not the only one anymore who is always on - I'm sure.
On the other hand I'm not 24/7 in my office but "sometimes" at home, at my girlfriend, on the road or abroad where I have my Notebook, my Pocket PC and/or my Smartphone with me.

Desktop and Notebook
Now the jackpot question is how to get my PC, which is my master device, and my Notebook, which is my client device, synced in terms of Outlook Contacts, Appointments and E-Mails? Honestly I don't know. There is no solution (at least I haven't found one) which lets me sync both in an easy to use and convenient way. Either I copy and paste the Outlook pst file from my Desktop to my Notebook (and back after the trip) or I access my Desktop via Terminal Service Client only, to work on the Desktop, not on the Notebook and to read, reply and forward E-Mails from the Desktop instead of using my Notebook. In fact my Notebook becomes a dumb (and expensive) Webpad instead of being a powerful device.
This is so annoying and I really wonder why Microsoft still haven't released anything smart to get a Desktop and a Notebook PC synchronized in terms of Outlook! I'm not the only one who is using this combination (or am I?) and I always wonder how others manage these problems?

What I would like to see is a kind of ActiveSync service between my Desktop and Notebook which would allow me to synchronize both PCs via IP (Internet or LAN, doesn't matter) - doesn't matter if I'm using a GPRS, Modem or Broadband connections - out of my car, my girlfriends home or hotel. But there is no serious way to get it managed without copying the pst file back and forth all the time (and well, my Outlook pst is 2.5 GB now and I have no intention to do this via a slow and expensive GPRS connection just because there is one new mail on my Desktop PC!).

So the question to Microsoft is: Do you really believe everybody (consumers as well as freelances) is running an Exchange server at home? Is it so hard for you to make a convenient "consumer" solution available? What's your future plans here to make it customers easier?

The question to you - my visitors is: How do you manage this problem since I'm sure many of you have the same configuration and not everybody is running an Exchange server - right?

Desktop and Mobile Devices
The second questions is about getting my Pocket PCs and Smartphones synchronized while I'm not at home and again - I don't see why it isn't supported! Finally - and I was working on it for a long time - we got the integrated devices. A PDA is a cellphone now and a cellphone became a PDA. Both are connected - yes, finally! But again I'm in trouble with synchronization.

My PC is still connected to the Internet and receives its E-Mails, appointment invitations, vCards, etc. but how can I get it synchronized to my mobile devices? Not at all! As I wrote above I would like to see a kind of ActiveSync for PCs and while I'm talking about ActiveSync I wonder why it is that dumb that it can't be accessed from outside the PC environment as well? Again, my PC is connected and receives its E-Mails, ActiveSync is running proper but I have to wait to get both - the PC and the Pocket PC and the Smartphone - synchronized until I'm back in the office in the evening/morning or I have to access my E-Mail accounts separately though POP3/IMAP4. If I'm a lucky coder I might be able to get the Pocket PC tweaked to synchronize it Over The Air as well but no luck to tweak Smartphones today. Why doesn't ActiveSync includes an option to synchronize via wireless networks such as GPRS or public HotSpots? Why does I have to wait until I'm back in my office again?

Again my question to Microsoft: Why is this feature left? Do you really believe everybody is running an Exchange 2003 server at home? Don't you see a market necessity for it?

And again the question to you: How do you get your devices synchronized while you are on a trip and you have your PC running as well. Would you like to get it synchronized as well or do you think it's not that important?

Well, I'm going now to Google the web again, maybe I've overseen a solution (and no, I don't want pay for a 3rd party service which might keeps my data for me to synchronize it though any proprietary solutions - I have a powerful PC at home, a powerful notebook in my back and powerful Pocket PCs/Smartphones in my pocket. I "simply" need a powerful software solution which works locally on my PC and mobile devices). And yes - I'm going to install LapLink again on my PC just to copy one file back and forth... :-(

Cheers ~ Arne


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Posted by MoJim on 11.12.03 - 16:17:23

Clap clap clap! Yes, you are not alone!

I have the same problems with my PC, notebooks and PocketPC PhoneEdition and when I bought my PocketPC I thought it would be supported!

If only anyone from M$ would read your thoughts above and would comment it but I don't expect to get an answer. I spoke with some guys on a conference and they clearly haven't seen what I was talking about! :-(

Posted by Steven -fyiguy- Hughes on 11.12.03 - 17:00:36

This is something that many people are looking for and I have asked people at Microsoft if any products would enable this besides setting up your own personal Exchange 2003 Server for the individual user with multiple devices, and I got the typical response of "great feedback and we will look into it..."

I really hope they do look into it, I would be nice to purchase a "Personal Outlook/Exchange server that would web enable your desktop via a secure login to be accessed and shared among many mobile devices...

The only current solution besides creating your own 2003 Exchange server in the house is to sign up for a hosted Exchange Server 2003 account that would allow you to do this on any web enabled device. Don Sorcinelli wrote some great articles on doing just this.

Exchange Server 2003: Is a Hosted Exchange 2003 Solution the Answer to Your Outlook Woes?

Hosted Exchange Server 2003, Part I - Outlook Data Access Everywhere and Anywhere

Hosted Exchange Server 2003, Part II - Exchange Server 2003 and Your Phone

You can read all 3 of them here:


Posted by Arne Hess on 11.12.03 - 17:30:12

Same question here... WHat if yo don't have Exchange? Is that the only solution?

I hope in the near future... Microsoft will have a solution to it and treat synchronization between a PC and a Notebook or Tablet PC as a priority.

I have gotten to sync my Pocket PC and my Smartphone to my PC wirelessly... via a GSM connection... but not GPRS... I had to use CSD better known as dial up. It works but it isn't really pretty.  A faster connection would have still been better.

I have been able to do it via Remote ActiveSync using a 56K CF modem... but still that doesn't really give you te reality of true mobile connectivity...

I guess the best way and what we all have been waitin for would be the capability to ActiveSync via Wi-Fi Hotspot or GPRS... or EDGE.

I know the competition will be listening to this... so who will be first to implement such solutions?

Mabuhay! ~ Carlo

Posted by Frank McPherson on 11.12.03 - 17:52:49

Arne, I think we've been asking for some form of server sync for the last three years or more! smile

I have implemented a solution at home for email by using Mercury/32 and setting it up as an IMAP mail server. That at least allows me to centralize my email on one server and then access that email from any client PC on my home network where I have Windows PCs, Mac OS X, and Pocket PCs. Now if I switch between client machiens I can access the same email. Mercury/32 is free and very easy to set up for home users.

The one problem with my implementation of Mercury/32 is that it is behind my firewall so I can't get to it from an Internet connection. Now I could open ports and implement Dynamic DNS since I use a cable modem. What I settled on is a bit of brute force by forwarding a copy of every email I get to an account at Fastmail. ( I can access the Fastmail account from any Pocket PC or Smartphone I am using, it supports SSL for security, and provides an SMTP server using the IMAP server userid and password, just as Inbox on Pocket PC likes. I've been using this combination of Mercury/32 and Fastmail for several months now, and it works good for me.

Posted by Jim Sparkman on 11.12.03 - 18:02:41


Take a look at:


- Jim

Posted by Arne Hess on 11.12.03 - 18:14:20

@Steven: All this external Exchange stuff is nice BUT can Exchange work as a POP3 client as well and download E-Mails from different providers? No, it can't because it is the mail server. The reason for this feature is simple: I'm running several E-Mail accounts on several domains like,,, and even some private domains I'm not going to talk here. So overall I might have 5 - 8 E-Mail accounts on different domains.

What such a solution have to provide is downloading it from the mail servers and make it available through different sources like Outlook, PPC/SMP Inbox, Web/WAP interface, etc. Mostly everything Exchange provides but unfortunately it doesn't provide downloading E-Mails from other servers (as far as I know).

@Carlo: Sorry but I did CSD ActiveSync synchronization in the late 90s! We have a new century, Microsoft is propagating a connected world, is releasing connected devices but miss the small part in between - synchronization! Dialing into my PC (which is connected by DSL) with 9.6 k (while the device supports GPRS up to something around 50 k) is a little bit lame; isn't it?

@Steven: Oh man, don't remember me! :-( Yes - we did and we see the result... ;-) I even asked this year's MVP summit again... Well, you see the result - I'm still going nuts to find a solution.

And yes - it's even more important today then 3 years ago: our Pocket PCs have GPRS build-in, we have Smartphones, we used to have Notebooks which also includes Wi-Fi adapters now and we can access the Internet near everywhere thanks to public HotSpots and Bluetooth enabled Notebooks and cellphones.

Also the workarounds you've described above are good ones but still workaround. Let us face it: We have powerful PCs at home today which are even more powerful then servers 5 years ago, the connection to the Internet we use is at least as fast as corporates had 5 years ago, our Notebooks are fully equipped and we have mobile devices nobody was dreaming about when the first Palm Pilot was released 100 years ago.

I have a total storage here of around 160 GB and all the data like mails, contacts, appointments, etc are stored on a machine. Why the bloody hell I have to start now to outsource it?

@Jim: Sounds like a solution! :-D That's what I will give a shot now! :-D

Posted by Arne Hess on 11.12.03 - 20:41:49

@Jim: This SynchPST is what I was looking for. Had a 5 minutes test sync only and already bought it! This 39.95 bucks was a low brainer for me! Thanks for the link; haven't seen it before... Pretty cool! :-)

Posted by ChrisSpera on 12.12.03 - 00:56:59

I would also like to see Microsoft rework ActiveSync so that I can have more than one device connected to a PC at a time.  I have 3 Pocket PC's right now, and foresee myself getting a SmartPhone in the future.  I would like to be able to keep all of them current without syncing one, disconnecting it, connecting the second, syncing it, disconnecting it, etc.  That gets to be very old, very quickly.

Thanks also for the link to SyncPST. I will be looking into that as well...

Kind Regards,

Christopher Spera

Posted by Lutz on 12.12.03 - 02:11:01


there are plenty of code snippets around that show you how you can have unlimited ActiveSync partners at the same time (including email, which is the really tricky part). Basically just sensing who is connecting and then adjusting the registry accordingly. HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftWindows CE ServicesPartners 


Have you ever thought about using Lotus Notes ? Notes is doing replication since ages, and nowadays is also supporting PocketPCS, IMAP etc.

Posted by Arne Hess on 12.12.03 - 08:12:33

@Arne: Yes it is quite lame! Only if HSCSD is still supported... but some Telcos even droped HSCSD in favor of GPRS... so we're back to square 1 with the oldest possible way of connecting via GSM phone... CSD.

But as lame as it is... it does work pretty well... if you have the patience and the money to burn.

Mabuhay! ~ Carlo

Posted by Andreas on 12.12.03 - 08:50:51

Arne, check also

for OSA

Posted by Stephan Schmidt ( on 12.12.03 - 12:06:44

I'm also use Syncpst ( and I'm very happy with this solution.

Posted by Arne Hess on 12.12.03 - 12:25:40

@Lutz: Are you kidding!? ;-) I'm glad not to use Lotus Notes anymore... But yes, your are right - Microsoft should definitely have a look into Lotus Notes to see what others do better!

@Stephan: Yes, SyncPST is a fine piece of software but only one part of the overall solution.

Posted by Jim Sparkman on 13.12.03 - 18:38:00

I'm glad I could help out.  SynchPST is a great solution and gets better all the time, as it seems the company is committed to the product.

Posted by Blair Wright on 02.01.04 - 13:23:03

Also check out  intelligent contact management and sync over the web from the guy that started Napster.

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