Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Mac/PocketPC Synchronization

As regular readers know, I am a pocket computer nut. My collection includes an iPaq 1935, a Palm Tungsten T, a Sharp Zaurus 5500, and an old Newton MessagePad 2100. I also have a Sony-Ericsson T610 cellphone with an organizer that supports Bluetooth for synchronization, and an iPod - those two devices can carry contact and calendar info, too. All these devices have their pluses and minuses, but the ones I use regularly are the ones that I can use iSync to keep going - generally leaving the Newton and Zaurus out of the everyday list. Though the Zaurus is a full Linux system, which comes in handy.

Anyhow, one of the challenges for me is to keep the devices in proper sync, and also sync to my Dell laptop, on which I use Outlook 2003 talking to my Exchange server. The common factor for me is the iPaq, which is the pocket computer I use most. Syncing it with Windows is easy - but the Mac side needs a little help. Until recently, I was a PocketMac user. PocketMac has been reviewed in an earlier entry last fall - it's a pretty good answer to the problem, but quirky and subject to misbehavior whenever Apple tweaks their OS. Part of that may be due to the design. PocketMac is a very full-featured sync package, with iSync and stand-alone support, support built-in for pass-thru networking, and AvantGo conduit support, along with support for custom plug-ins. It does a lot, and does it pretty well. But the latest OS update glitches left me wanting to try the new kid on the block - Mark:Space's Missing Sync for PocketPC. All Missing Sync does is basically provide a straight USB device connection for iSync support purposes. If you want to do an AvantGo sync, you have to configure pass-thru networking separately. I was able to get it for a steep discount ($20), so I gave it a try. Simply put, it does what it says - no more, no less. It doesn't sync as quickly as PocketMac, but it provides more reliable results in the iSync environment. It also provides better support for browsing the PocketPC filesystem, and an equally kluged re-installer for Windows-based installer apps.

The one weakness is that Missing Sync has occasional trouble handling the dual sync between the Mac Address Book and Windows Outlook. They own up to it in the release notes, and are working on the issue. I haven't noticed much of a problem in that regard thus far - certainly no more than PocketMac gave me. The Missing Sync license terms are also somewhat more generous, too. Mark:Space allows installation on two Macintoshes, so if you use iSync to keep your home and office Macs on the same page, for instance, then you can install Missing Sync on both. Definitely a plus in my book, and quite useful.

Which sync app will I use on a regular basis? Probably Missing Sync - the iSync integration is real slick and (IMHO) a little better than PocketMac offers right now. But I wouldn't count out PocketMac. The developer has historically done a real good job addressing concerns, and the current 3.x version is a quantum leap over the earlier versions. And they're usually first with support for new MacOS versions. The jury's still out on this one, I'd say.

Now if only someone could build iSync conduits for the Zaurus and Newton...

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