Windows Mobile and ActiveSync

ActiveSync is a wonderful thing — unless something goes wrong.  In the maddening manner of most Microsoft error messages, you get the functional equivalent of “something went wrong” with no other detail — and worse, an error message that appears to be telling you something:

“Critical communications services have failed to start.  Try resetting the mobile device, and then connect again.”

This might lead you to conclude that the issue is on your mobile device, when in fact, it appears to mean nothing of the sort:  it appears to actually mean, “ActiveSync didn’t receive any communications from the device” which is just as likely, if not more likely, to be a problem on the PC side.

ActiveSync communicates on these ports:

TCP from Mobile Device to PC:  990, 999, 5678, 5721, 26675
UDP from PC to Mobile Device:  5679

So you can start troubleshooting by making sure these are open and available on the PC.  (If you have a “personal firewall” on the PC, start there.)

In my case, I finally traced it to Winsock2 corruption, as explained here.  Something I’d installed or deinstalled apparently managed to leave a wake of destruction.

The solution was to open a command window and execute “netsh winsock reset”, then reboot.


Crashing ATI software: atievxx.exe and the installer

After installing new drivers for an old ATI All-In-Wonder, every time the system booted up, atievxx.exe would crash. Annoying, but not tragic, and I lived with it for a while. Cleaning out the old drivers didn’t help, nor did reinstalling the OS. On the chance that it was a hardware problem with the card, I went ahead and replaced it with a newer model, new drivers and everything… and still, that atievxx.exe crash.

I finally tracked it down to a conflict with UltraVNC’s “video hook” driver. Who knew? Curiously, without its video hook driver, UltraVNC is a bit of a slug, so I replaced it with RealVNC, which I’ve been using on other systems with dual-monitor setups for a while.

On another system, I installed the operating system from scratch, and the next step was to install the drivers… But the installation program locked up the system. After trying permutations of everything (there weren’t many permutations of software to try) I resorted to ATI support — who mostly sent me form letters about where to find the latest drivers and asked if my power supply was adequate. Intriguingly, the drivers worked fine if I let Windows install them with the “found new hardware” wizard, but the ATI installer choked no matter what I did.

The problem? A Lucent winmodem sitting in one of the PCI slots. As far as I know, it works perfectly well, but it’s been disconnected for a long time, and god knows why the ATI installer doesn’t like it (or vice versa) but there it is.