Mobile device syncing in Linux made easy

It's now time to connect your device. Once you've done so, both the device and your desktop should recognise the connection automatically. Your graphical manager should update to display the details of your connected device, and a link to your device will also be added to your desktop.

Both the KDE and Gnome applications can display the device status of the connection, using the System Information page in the KDE PDA manager, or the 'View Device Status' window accessible from the Gnome applet's right-click menu. If your device hasn't been detected, make sure the synce-sync-engine is running.

If SynCE has found your mobile device, its name will appear in the device settings window, and if the SynCE engine is running but the mobile still isn't detected, you should manually restart the ActiveSync application on your mobile device.

If the ActiveSync status is correct but your mobile device still hasn't been detected, the problem may be with your firewall. The firewall may seem like a strange candidate for mobile synchronisation troubleshooting, but the RNDIS mode running on the mobile is turning your phone into a temporary network device, and packets travel to and from your mobile just as they would a computer on your network. It's for this reason that a firewall configuration could be stopping packets getting to or from your mobile.

You can quickly check to see if packets are being blocked by looking at the contents of the messages log file. Type tail /var/log/messages' to see the last few lines of the file. If you see something like [UFW BLOCK INPUT]: IN=eth1 OUT= MAC=80:00:60... PROTO=TCP SPT=1104 DPT=990 in the output, packets aren't getting through. In that particular example, packets headed for port 990 (DPT=990) are being blocked by the UFW firewall.

The easiest solution is to simply turn the firewall off. This is a good idea if you're already behind a firewall tucked away in a router, for example, but not such a good idea if you aren't. Mandriva users can turn off their firewall from the Security page of the Mandriva Linux Control Centre. Click on the 'Set Up Your Personal Firewall' option and enable the 'Everything' checkbox.

Ubuntu users can do the same thing on the command line by typing sudo ufw disable on the commandline. If you'd rather keep your firewall up and functional, you need to enable the following TCP ports for SynCE to be able to contact your Windows Mobile device correctly: 990, 999, 5678, 5721 and 26675.

Step 4: Using the connection

Without any further configuration, Gnome users can now browse the filesystem of their mobile device by selecting 'Explore With Filemanager' from the applet's right-click menu. To do any data synchronisation, we need to create something called a 'partnership'. The KDE app will even ask you to create one before letting you use the rest of the application.

A partnership is used by the mobile device and your desktop to store the current status of any file synchronisation, as well as what data needs to be synchronised. It's a group of settings that define what data is shared between the two sources. You could, for instance, use a partnership to synchronise your address book and calendar. But you could also create one that will only install new applications. This is so you don't have to waste time waiting for certain operations to finish if you only want to install something.

Both the Gnome and KDE GUIs include the ability to create a new partnership, either by clicking on the Add button in the Partnership Manager or the Create button in the Gnome Partners list. You will need to enter a name for the partnership, and select the data you want to be synchronised. But the functionality behind the synchronisation is performed by a different process, and that's where OpenSync comes in. We now need to use OpenSync and the plugins we installed earlier to manage the data transaction between your mobile device and the desktop.