May 25, 2008

Problem syncing Samsung SCH-i760 with Mobile Device Center on Windows Vista

Filed under: Software Blog — marcstober @ 8:05 pm

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I like my my new Windows Vista computer and my new Windows Mobile phone.

Alas, they don’t like each other.

The phone came with a USB cable and software for syncing files, etc. between it and a PC. This is one of the reasons I got a smartphone, and also so I could find new uses like installing new programs, syncing calendars, and general tinkering with a mobile device platform.

I had heard that Vista came with a new Windows Mobile Device Center, so I wasn’t so surprised when the link to install the ActiveSync software on the CD supplied with the phone was disabled. I figure Vista already had the software it needed, and it would just be plug-and-play.

Unfortunately not; and it was several hours and a few scary “blue screens” before everything was working.

When I connected the phone to the computer, the computer seemed to recognize a new device was connected at first. But, it didn’t open the Device Center, and when I opened the Device Center from the Start Menu (is it still called the Start Menu in Vista–it doesn’t say “start”?) it said “waiting to connected,” and didn’t find my phone.

After a quick Google I was able to download a new version of the Device Center from Microsoft, but installation didn’t go so well, apparently because I was logged on as a non-Administrator. Eventually, it just got hung at a screen that said “0 seconds” remaining. If I left it long enough, the computer would go to sleep and not wake up: the light on the computer stayed blue, but the monitor stayed asleep (orange), so I had to hold down the computer power button to force it off. Not something I want to do.

After logging in as administrator, I installed the device center, but when plugging in the phone got an error about a “malfunction” in the USB device. This is a pretty serious accusation – my new phone is broken, and it’s not just a software issue? Unlikely.

At this point I installed the ActiveSync software on my Windows XP laptop, where it just “worked.”

Somehow all of this caused an even more critical problem with my computer because it wouldn’t shut down or restart cleanly, hanging on the “Shutting Down” screen and eventually crashing with a blue screen. A blue screen crash, on my new Vista computer. The honeymoon is over. 🙂

So, I decided to run System Restore. I tried a couple restore points and the operation timed out. Eventually, I had to run the system restore from safe mode. Apparently this is a sort of best practice, but not some I was aware of.

Finally, I found some good information at forums. The end result was that I needed to uncheck “advanced network functionality” (in phone settings), perform a “hard reset” on device (although I’m not sure I really did this, because it didn’t go back to factory settings) and then I connected the phone again. The interesting thing is that this time, when the computer popped up a balloon “installing device driver” (as it has the very first time I installed it) is found a driver named “Samsung MITs USB Sync” instead of some sort of “RNDIS” driver.

So, I suspect there is some problem with this RNDIS driver with Vista; however I don’t think I need whatever advanced functionality this driver has for what I’m trying to do.

Syncing a PDA with a computer is a really typical use case for non-technical users, who don’t have time to deal with these issues; and it’s a use case that’s been around for years. It’s too bad they haven’t got all the bugs ironed out.

May 16, 2008

Last Day of Paternity Leave

Filed under: Personal Blog — marcstober @ 12:17 pm

Today is my last day of paternity leave. Thanks to a great employer who paid 60% of my salary while I was out, I was able to spend eight weeks away from the office, taking care of Max and being a stay-at-home dad.

I’m supposed to say what I liked best was the time to bond with Max, but what I really appreciated was the change in routine. I never set out to have a 9-to-5 job in an office. I set out to be creative, and make an economic contribution to society, and society seems to have said that working on a computer, at a desk, is where I do that best. I started my first full-time job in 1996 and haven’t taken much of a break since 2001, when I took a semester to finish grad school and move to Boston. In high school and college I was doing something different every year: I was a musician, then an artist; I could work with my hands, then with my intellect; I could travel the world. I knew I would grow up and settle down, but I never expected to get quite as settled as I’ve become. These eight weeks at home were a time to do something different, with the reward of spending more time with the kids, and not too much risk.

The Jewish holiday of Passover fell during my leave. This is when we remember that God freed us–emphasis on “us,” not some ancient people–from the slavery of the Egyptians. In recent years I’ve come to see the message of Passover as being that we are still slaves–hopefully not in the literal sense, but we are not completely free from economic forces, social issues, and our own limitations in accomplishing our potential to do good. I won’t say paternity leave is like forty years of wandering in the desert, but I did find the time to be freeing and it helped me reflect on these things.

I’d like to say I have all the answers about what I want to do as a father and a professional but eight weeks is not that long. I did learn to bake a pretty decent challah and figured out a recipe for pareve chocolate chip cookies without trans fat. I think I bonded just fine with Hannah without taking time off when she was born, but this time around we did spend time with both sets of grandparents that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. I’ll probably never be a professional child care worker, but if I had to stay home more with my own kids, I’d be very happy with that. I’ve hardly looked at a line of code in the past eight weeks, although I’ve continued to think a lot about software. I think there is some great challenge out there for me, but I haven’t quite found it yet.