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Serial Dilemma. What are your options without a Serial Cable?

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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 7:13 PM
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As many Handheld PC users are enjoying productivity from legacy devices, the number of readily available sources to find spare parts is decreasing. One of the most fundamental pieces of the Handheld PC kit is a means to perform synchronisation. But what happens as the reserves of these legacy serial cables dries up, and the serial port itself becomes but a memory on the computing landscape?

Chris explores the options available to H/PC users who are starting out with a Handheld PC, and for those just looking to future proof their investment.

Have your say here on the forums

Read: Serial Dilemma
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wallythacker Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 7:45 PM
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AS has been a crapshoot for me since day 1. It's as predictable as the weather.

Is it possible to make an AS template pack available for download? It would have instructions and generic registry entries that can be imported and then edited, both for the hpc and desktop.

There are people with no serial ports, hpc cable, and no ways or means to add IR to their desktop.


Edited by wallythacker 2005-08-12 7:47 PM
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 7:50 PM
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Not unless you want HPC:Factor (there by me) dictating to people how to organise, manage and sync their H/PC's.
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abyssknight Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 7:58 PM
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Well, I don't see why you couldn't extract the CAB files and drop them onto a CF via a CF reader which is cheap and readily availiable. As long as you can get the prism cab and a prism wifi card, you're good to go, no?
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 8:15 PM
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Er... no
No serial no LAN sync. Hence my final solution.
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wallythacker Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 8:29 PM
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But without a serial cable or IR there's no initial sync, hence no need for a backup solution, right?

If everything is stored in the registry on both devices or uses files that can be hand created then why can't I create a post-sync condition?

Edited by wallythacker 2005-08-12 8:37 PM
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 8:51 PM
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The sync cache is create ad-hoc in binary mode by ActiveSync, without it you can create the connection conduit, but not actually initialise a sync.
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wallythacker Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 11:03 PM
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So one must first sync over a cable or IR, without exception, in order to create the partnership.

Very restrictive. Based on the above I can see people ditching an otherwise fine hpc rather than buying adapters or hunting for cables. Good for me I guess, bad for the community.
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torch Page Icon Posted 2005-08-12 11:16 PM
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What about IR ?
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-08-13 6:39 AM
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Did any of you actually read my editorial?
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2005-08-13 9:41 AM
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"Not unless you want HPC:Factor (there by me) dictating to people how to organise, manage and sync their H/PC's."--better you than me

Of course, I read your article; I read all your stuff, and attentively. Since I synch either by IR or wireless card, my serial cable has been used about three times, so I don't worry about its condition. It's the strong link--so to speak--of my system. I worry much more, say, about the screen burning out.

But for those venturing on ebay, and buying J's without the serial cable, obviously, your article points out the potential trouble. But will later versions of AS always insist on a serial-made partnership? Probably not, since fewer and fewer laptops come with a serial port.

And that, I think, is the true dilemma: having all your HPC hardware at hand and still to no avail. You could have a serial cable and STILL not be able to make the proper partnership. Psion users are already scrambling to fix this, using USB-Serial adapters (not all of which work with a Psion), and the IR-synching of a Psion makes AS look STREAMLINED.

The serial cable dilemma is part of the larger problem of using equipment considered obsolete by everyone except the actual users.

(Is is possible to self-construct a proprietary J serial cable? I'm looking at mine and it looks daunting.)

Thanks for a thoughtful piece, Chris,
Jake
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Wessex_nut Page Icon Posted 2005-08-13 12:24 PM
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The serial problem for Desktops and laptops really isn't that much of a problem, if you are willing to say "goodbye" to the high street shops and spend a little cash.

Reading your aticle reminds me what my father has in his desktop. My fathers requirement was 2 serial ports and a parallel port at the time he upgraded both computers (mine and his) to P4 2.4ghz computers, ironically, obsolete now. Fate turns out that he A) got the wrong motherboard and B) when he got the right motherboard, he had only 1 serial port anyway!
Whereas yours truely had a P4 motherboard with 2 serial ports. Even now, I was lucky to have a Centrino laptop with one serial port (The parallel port I really don't need to use that often, only on occasions when I had a Cannon BubbleJet BJC-70).

So the solution is that my father got a PCI card, known as "Brain Box". It adds a parallel port and 2 serial ports to your computer. It only takes up 1 PCI slot and I think Windows fully supports it. I'll have to ask my father (Known as Dodgey Rogdey to his Plessy coleuges during the 80's - before they went bust!)

The other solution which I almost forgot about, was a PCMCIA card. These tend to come in many flavours, by that, there is 1 port, 2 port or I am lead to believe, more ports. The good news is that some also work with any CE2 or above (IIRC - I know I saw one in RS that supports CE3) devices. So it'll be quite cool to use one of these cards and hook on a mouse, another PDA, a printer/plotter (Hmmm, a HP7475A anyone? its sitting under my bed!) and what else you can think of. The downside is the expense.


Of course, we aren't the only ones in this situation. A lot of industrial users and retail users still use the serial port today, in Consumer cases (where your users "joe blogs" resuide), then sadly, they don't need it. USB has killed almost everything, it is sad to say. And for consumer PCs, there isn't a lot of serial options left.

From RS (Available at http://rswww.com/), for the PCI card, the stock number is 514-0995. As for the PCMCIA Card (PCMCIA to avoid confusion), the stock number is 365-5263


I hope these are some use
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-08-13 12:33 PM
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All the options I discuss in the article are alternatives to using a serial cable, and all allow you to create partnerships.

AS4 still maintains support for Serial cable connection - but retrospectivly is has little option, as the IR and BT layer use virtual COM to connect, removing support for physical serial ports would be like removing support for LAN but leaving TCP/IP connectivity... oh wait... they did that in AS4 anyway!

I will have to look into how the binary files are constructed, may be they can be created with a RAPI call or by forcing something into a procedure in one of the lib's. That's one for Chiark and Snappy!
If you're not fussed about the actual sync part of the deal, and just want to drag file from the host to the H/PC, then you don't even need the cache stuff - which may well be all that some need.
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takwu Page Icon Posted 2005-08-13 3:04 PM
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C:Amie, I hear ya. I did actually find your article interesting and read it all

I am lucky enough to have never needed to use the serial port for partnership/sync. All of my CE devices, even the oldest Casio E125, have USB sync. But now my question is, will the current USB drivers work in Windows Vista? Both my Smartbook and Mio SmartPhone rely on external USB drivers (not built in Windows or AS). I think the MP900 does too. Altho future AS will prolly come with drivers for my phone (as it's popular enough), my Smartbook might not be in the same boat
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-08-13 4:09 PM
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Wes,

The PCMCIA Serial card from Socket may be an option, I am not sure to be completly honest so wasn't a good dea to head down the route.
If you can get CE to mount it up, may be you can sync over it.

Plessy as in Plessy or as in GEC Plessy?
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