Windows Mobile Smartphone

As of this afternoon, we've finally got our new Windows Mobile Smartphones hooked up to our Exchange server.  🙂

This is really cool, as I no longer have to plug it in to sync up the device with my Outlook installation.  I've got full access to my task list, contacts and calendar, which are updated on virtually a live basis.  (I actually created a new appointment in Outlook, picked up my phone, and it was already there.  Very nice!)

In addition, of course, I can access my work email from anywhere.  It's funny to me that this seems to be the number one selling point on these devices, and yet it's the last piece I was really interested in.  I try to leave my email at work, as I have my own email to deal with in off hours.  Regardless, it is nice that we didn't have to set it up where every email is pushed down to us as it comes in, but rather we can use "Pocket Outlook" to retrieve the email when we want to read it.  It's not quite POP3 email, though, as it does retrieve it to the phone regularly without me asking, but I don't get notified every time an email comes in.

The biggest win for me here so far is the task list and calendar being online.  Earlier this week, (while I was syncing manually,) I went to the dentist.  When it came time to set the next appointment, I could check my schedule 3 months out and see where I had an opening.  No more guessing!  And then I could add it right to the device and I'm done.  Gotta like that.  And then the tasks... I was out at dinner with my wife, and something she said reminded me of something I had to do at work... that wasn't on my list.  A minute later, it was linked into my task list, and I'm good to go.   This was the whole reason for I wanted one of these babies.  The great thing now is that as soon as I enter it, it's on the server and good to go.  So if I log in via my web portal, it's there.  If I'm on the Smartphone, it's there. 😉
I'm pretty stoked about this whole thing, and really impressed with the phone so far.  The carrier though... not so much...

I used my IT Contractor to set up the Exchange server intergration for the Smartphone.  (Word to those looking at Blackberry and shuddering over the cost of the Blackberry server... if you have an exchange server, you can set up Windows Mobile devices already, and the functionality is better!)  At any rate, we're working on the install, and I run into an issue with my digital certificate.  It's trusted under the private key for my mail server, but the Root CA for Verisign isn't installed on the SmartPhone.  Without that, the private (leaf) certificate can't be trusted, as it was issued by Verisign, and Verisign isn't a trusted authority.  (Crazy, as Verisign is only one of the biggest CA vendors, so why Telus doesn't have it installed by default is beyond me...)

My IT Contractor suggests that Telus's Tech Support department should be able to tell me how to get the Verisign Root CA onto my phone, and asks me to call Telus... which turned out to be a waste of time.  Here's my route through:

  • Call the Tech Support number in the box --> Get told that I'm a corporate customer (duh) and transferred to Corporate (General)
  • Corporate General is confused by my question and figures out that I need Tech Support --> They transfer me to the Corporate Tech Support department... in French... with no option to bail to an English menu
  • I hang up and call back
  • I request Corporate Tech Support.  They can't do that, so transfer me back to Corporate General again
  • I request Tech Support.  The CSR asks what the issue is, so she can tell Corporate Tech Support, then admits she doesn't understand a word of what I tell her
  • I finally get Corporate Tech Support (in English) and the guy is USELESS
  • After about 10 minutes of my telling him that I'm trying to sync wirelessly and reinstalling software on my PC isn't going to make that happen, he refers me to... get this... Microsoft!  I kid you not, he actually gave me Microsoft's phone number.

The short synopsis of the call to Telus is that I basically got told by they don't support the setup of the device, they just sell them.  Nice!  How these guys end up with every increasing stock prices seriously baffles me, as everyone I know despises the company, from the employees to the customers.
I get so frustrated with Tech Support departments where the tech has no clue how to use their own hardware/software.  (I recently had an issue with Symantec where, after 10 minutes of using their product, I was teaching their Tech Support guys how to use it!)  Why can't companies actually train their staff properly to support what they sell?  All this guy really needed to do was identify what the issue was... he didn't even know what a digital certificate was!  They sell these to Corporate users (hence the department name), so surely I can't be the only Exchange shop who has run into this issue?
At any rate, I was Googling the issue the whole time I was arguing with the "Tech Support" guy, and found this awesome tool which fixed my issue for me.  It basically extracts all the required components of the digital certificates that need to be installed on the client to allow the Mobile Device to link in to the server.

I should also say that my IT Contractor, after doing some research, has let me know that my Verisign cert wasn't actually installed properly, so I shouldn't have had to go to this length.  They have apparently fixed it now.  🙂

Now, for the funny part... Because I'd been syncing my contacts and calendar items via USB, it duplicated all of them when I switched it to the Exchange server!  I made an attempt at coding a duplicate removal in Outlook, but gave up on it.  (Ran fine on my local (non-Exchange) Outlook in tests, but came up short when I tried to run it live on my work install.)  So I had to manually edit my contacts and calendar items, but I'm all good now.

I love technology... when it works.  When it doesn't it can sure be frustrating though, but it make it all worthwhile when you finally get it right and it pays immediate dividends.

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