Tech Talk: Everything but the Sync

Everything-but-the-Sync

A Story of Discovery and Elation

By Gary Michael Smith, New Orleans Chapter

The “3G” buzzword is all the rage. Based on the International Telecommunication Union family of standards, 3G is the fourth generation of mobile-phone standards and technology, superseding 2.5G and preceding 4G. iPhone gave 3G a home, but with all the bells and whistles of this handheld, it’s still not flawless. While the GPS navigation system actually works better than my own in-dash car system, a few issues prevent it from total perfection.

One positive characteristic is its ability to sync with a bluetooth car. As soon as I push the start button in my Camry hybrid, the phone automatically syncs with the car after some minor setup. Also, accessing the Internet and email transmission is so fast that I’m pretty sure I went back in time once or twice. Moreover, with my car’s iPod jack, I can stream Internet radio while cruising to Live365 or Pandora.

But all was not a bed of roses initially. My primary concern was with the incompatibility with my previous toy—uh, “professional communication tool.” I dearly loved my Treo. However, after 3+ years of steadily emailing videos shot with the phone, loading the calendar with dates, times, and places, and obsessively syncing the Treo with both my desktop and laptop while evacuating through multiple cities and states (thanks to Hurricane Katrina), it finally started crashing, which is nearly unheard of for Palm. Good excuse to buy one of those new and improved iPhones, even though I’d never taken the plunge with an earlier version.

There were a few catches, though. First, there were no $199 8GB 3Gs in the store—or in any store. That’s right. I was told that not only has the factory stopped shipping iPhones temporarily, but also when commerce continues, there is no guarantee how many will be shipped to individual outlets. Although I’m sure it was a sales pitch—albeit a convincing one—the fact remained that if and when the stores received iPhones, they feasibly could receive only one per store. “It’s happened before,” the sales person warned me.

Coincidentally, they had plenty of 16GB phones for an extra Franklin, which I refused to fall for, looking at this as a classic bait and switch. But I also realized it is what it is. So after fuming for about 30 seconds, I made the purchase.

The Hole

Examining the jet black cardboard box, I noticed something missing. “No charger?” I puzzled. I was told that all chargers had been pulled because of a recall. Seems the plug tines had an annoying habit of snapping off inside electrical outlets—something you don’t want to happen. “Come back Monday to get one,” I was advised. But it was going on a week now and the chargers were still not available; non-Apple chargers were also not available. As fate would have it, most stores stopped selling them because, well, they weren’t selling. Seems that for some crazy reason, folks opt for name brand only in this case.

The good news was that the store had plenty of car chargers. Moreover, unlike my beloved Treo, the sync cable actually charges as well. Pretty cool by any standards. But I still want my wall plug!

The Sync

Once home, every good data manager wants to sync the phone to a computer to protect data. Face it, anything can happen–from losing it, someone stealing it, or dropping it in toilet—although even in the latter case, I’d go after it. One thing former PDA users must understand, however, is if you’ve been using a Treo and have chosen to sync the handheld with the Palm Desktop instead of with Outlook, the iPhone will not recognize Palm.

Magnum PiPhone

After jacking around with the Treo, iPhone, and desktop software far more than my patience normally allows, I called my childhood friend-turned-federal-agent-turned-private-investigator, whom we’ll call “Dave.” He has lots of communications and surveillance toys. “The Missing Sync is what you need,” he advised. I thought he said it was free, but once on the Mark/Space website, I noticed that a single license download was $39.95, 5 pack for $169.79, 10 pack for $319.60, and 25 pack for $799.00.

IT Geek

I didn’t even want to pay $40 after having had to hand over an extra hundred just to get it. So I looked online and found tons of message boards and blogs from folks with the exact same reason. However, there were only questions. So I queried IT colleague and current Treo user Tom because I knew he just bought two iPhones for his daughters. “That’s easy,” he smirked. “Just reset Palm to sync with Outlook, sync your phone again to Outlook this time, then plug in your iPhone so iTunes can recognize and sync with Outlook.” Really—that’s it?

The Test

I followed my esteemed and learned colleague’s advice, uninstalling Palm and reinstalling it, waiting patiently for the option to change the sync option. Nothing. Did I miss it? It was late, and I went to bed, but the next morning brought renewed perspective and better luck. So now to the point of this article: How to get your iPhone to sync with Palm.

The Procedure

• First, you have to start by resetting your system to sync your handheld to MS Outlook instead of Palm Desktop. I first uninstalled Palm, then reinstalled it, waiting for the option to reset—or even just to set—to be presented. Never came up. I was about to uninstall and reinstall yet again but decided to just load the CD and let it run. Viola! The first screen gave five options, and I selected Change our synchronization method.

• In the next screen, I selected Use Microsoft Outlook to manage calendar, contacts, tasks, and notes.

• I then got a message saying that Palm Desktop is already set and offering the option to change that status, to which I responded “Of course”—or “Yes” in this case. The system took about seven seconds to install the conduits before congratulating me on a job well done!

• The next step is to download the current version of iTunes, which is what iPhone uses for syncing. Simply plugging in the iPhone activates the sync—however, not all the time. Sometimes you have to unplug and plug back in once or twice more. The key here is “patience” because it takes up to a minute sometimes for the computer to recognize that the iPhone has been plugged in and that it’s supposed to do something.

Syncing

Then there’s the problem of syncing. You may not always get the proper sync screen after plugging in the iPhone. For instance, you may end up with the iTunes screen with no option for syncing. In such cases, you can either wait a painfully long time by today’s technology standards, or you can simply unplug your iPhone and plug it in again—and wait until you get the screen that presents “DEVICES.” In some instances after getting the “DEVICES” screen, you can manually sync by clicking on the little plug icon, then clicking Sync.

Once iPhone is synced, remember that absolutely every entry from your Palm Desktop-handheld—as well as whatever you’ve previously put into your Treo—will be included, as will whatever you may have impatiently added to your iPhone before reading this article. So face it—there will be some cleanup. Then, you’re on your way, using Maps to plot your path as you drive into the sunset, watching films and TV shows, and listening to your iTunes or streaming radio—hopefully not simultaneously.

I did recently find myself quite the multitasker as I used my car GPS maps screen to find streets, a MapQuest printout for general instructions, and the iPhone Maps features for exact—and I mean accurate—visual and instructional guidance, all while continuously resetting the trip odometer. Ah, the wonders of technology!

Gary Michael Smith is a technical writer for Northrop Grumman in New Orleans. He can be reached by email at gms@garymichaelsmith.com