« How to ensure inline HTML in Blogsphere works! | Main| The day of restores ... Windows Mobile also needed a restore... »

How to spend an evening - with the ultra crappy "Windows Mobile Device Center"

Tags: Vista Windows Mobile Device Center
The software industry never cease to impress me, in both positive and negative ways. Some software just delivers; easy to install, no errors, stable, doesn't consume all your memory, and sometimes it even look good! Windows Home Server is an example of such software in my opinion. Other software is the opposite, and unfortunately Windows Mobile Device Center is such a tool.

Read on to see why...
What is Windows Mobile Device Center then? It is the successor of ActiveSync, which is the tool responsible for synchronization between your machine and your mobile device. This tool is typically installed when you want to synchronize data on your cellular phone with your PC.

First out, It was very hard to install. Almost NOTHING happened as it was supposed to. Vista complained, the firewall didn't complain (and that was the problem ), and the WMDC had to be reinstalled about 20 times before I finally got connection between the phone and the PC. What do you do when you experience unexpected results? You turn to Google, Microsoft Developer Network, TechNet and other knowledge bases. Hundreds of similar experiences, with almost always no exact answers. The answers are typically "reinstall WMDC", "delete the sync. partnership between the phone and the PC", "Disable USB-to-PC setting",  "reinstall this and reinstall that" ... up and down. I bet I have used hundreds of hours of my life during my life searching for answers to questions that a bunch of other people also experience.

I guess I was lucky to get the tool up and running after all. Everything worked for a couple of days, and today I received "Sync Failed", with the following details;

Synchronization could not be completed. See

Try to go to the url above, and what do you see?? The homepage of WMDC. No error details, no idea on how to solve the problem! Well, the code "72544" obviously means something, so the next idea is of course to search Google with search terms like "WMDC 72544" and alike. Amazing how many people that have some issues along the "72544"-track don't you think? Unfortunately I couldn't find anything that actually described what was wrong, nor could I find a remedy for my problem. It turns out that the Event log also contains traces of the problems, where the "RapiMgr" constantly get event code 6 and 8 and obviously has some problem connecting to the desktop. But hey, this did actually work yesterday!!! What on earth has triggered WMDC to go haywire today??? I guess I burned another 3-4 hours today, trying to fix WMDC, without luck ...

What was my solution then? Luckily I have Windows Home Server, which automatically create nightly backups of my machine. I manually took a copy of the files I had changed today, and then I performed a full restore of my system disc from WHS! It took around 1/2 hour to complete, and now WMDC is up and running again.

How can WMDC be better then? First of all, the software must be able to give precise error messages. I understand that communication software is complicated business, and that one piece of software is layered on top of another - and another - and another.... Software is also often very dependent of the functionality and quality of the services from the layers below, and often the errors occurring in the lower layers, may not surface to the top as very understandable messages. However Microsoft, you have often programmed the lower layers as well, since we are talking about TCP/IP stacks, network layer APIs etc. These are often services of the operating system! I therefore believe Microsoft is in the absolute best position to enhance the error messages!
While I am on the error messages; "72544" probably means something to someone. Don't write "See this url" for more details, if you don't mean it! This is just frustrating and completely misleading!!

If I could decide (!), I would implement an error and message ID scheme, that uniquely identified every message in the system. Take a look at IBM iSeries (AS/400 ...). All messages have a code, which uniquely defines the message, and thus can be reported, discussed etc. If you have a list of codes, they comes in the sequence they occurred, so you can track the sequence too, You don't want to see such codes you say? Ok, hide them, but make it possible to reveal them for anybody interested in them. I see that Windows 7 has a new approach for all those popup-windows in our lower right corner. You will have the ability to hide those messages, but they will of course be logged. Perhaps we're coming somewhere!

Let's home the next version is better - isn't it always?

Post A Comment