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Exchange ActiveSync and trying to go without a Smartphone
Posted on 2-Feb-2005 11:50 by M Freitas | Tags Filed under: Blog

Exchange ActiveSync and trying to go without a Smartphone
In the last two weeks I have been testing and tweaking Exchange ActiveSync. For a start I have installed a Microsoft Windows 2003 Server under Microsoft Virtual PC 2004. On this server I have Microsoft Exchange 2003 and POPcon. POPCon is set to pull all messages in the POP3 server account hosted by my ISP and post into my local domain accounts setup on this server. The setup works really well, and I have e-mail messages from all domains I manage coming without a hitch to my Inbox. At this point I have to say thanks to Darryl for his help with some of the configuration issues I had.

Make sure the Certificate Authority is installed on the server, so that you can issue a certificate for your own use. This will allow the use of the port 443 (https) for connections and access all your e-mails, contacts and calendar over the Internet through a secure connection. This is also needed for the next step, the ActiveSync.

What I really like is the full access to my PIM information through a web interface. Exchange OWA (Outlook Web Access) is really functional and I'm enjoying it - although I have all this data (except the e-mails) on my Windows Mobile devices (a GSM/GPRS Windows Mobile Smartphone connected to Vodafone NZ, a HP Pocket PC and a Harrier Pocket PC Phone Edition CDMA EV-DO connected to Telecom NZ - review here) - all of then syncing to the same Exchange account.

Once I had this working I just had to configure ActiveSync for each device to synchronise with a server. This was easy, and I also entered information to have always up-to-date synchronisation set. It's simple: enter the smtp address of your mobile device, and a SMS will be sent to notify it of any new e-mail.

It's really cool - when it works. I've found that in a 24 hours period I only get 3 notifications - even though I had 100 e-mail messages arriving in my Inbox. This is not always up-to-date, but sometimes up-to-date. It looks like there's a throttle mechanism to reduce the number of times a SMS is sent, and how many times the device connects to the network for synchronisation.

I can understand the restriction in the volume of SMS, but this is valid only in the US, where (believe it or not) users still pay to receive SMS! Anyway, I have used Intellisync before and that is really up-to-the minute update. I'm still working through this though.

However, a major blow to my testing happened today. I have noticed that my Pocket PC Phone Edition was going through a full battery charge in eight hours. That's pretty bad performance, so I decided to hard reset it and start fresh. It worked well, and now battery lasts a few days. I have an idea that a specific software was causing this. Now, guess what? My Smartphone just died last night. No battery, flat, it won't even restart anymore. I have to send it for repairs. I noticed that a couple of times it was just stuck in some network operation, and I thinking the blame is on the Smartphone version of that same software eating the battery on my Pocket PC Phone Edition.

So, now I can't test much more on my Exchange ActiveSync because my Smartphone is dead, and the Pocket PC Phone Edition (a CDMA EV-DO version) is connected to a network that charges for email-to-SMS gateway access.

I'm using the Pocket PC Phone Edition (which I think is a great phone) but I still want to have the Smartphone fixed - because of the GSM roaming capabilities and because my phone number has been the same for six or so years. Of course the GPRS speed is terrible when compared with the CDMA EV-DO network, so it's all a question of balance really.

I am currently testing a proxy compression server on my Pocket PC Phone Edition. Looks good for web browsing and POP access. The service is being beta tested around here and we'll talk about it sometime soon.

I hope to get my Smartphone back soon, but knowing that Accord (the repair shop for i-mate here in New Zealand) sends everything to Auckland, I can't count on my Smartphone back before two weeks (no I don't think they have a faster turnaround, and this will be a warranty repair).

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