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Page 1 of 1 in the Hardware category

Siemens Gigaset QuickSync on Vista x64

Posted in Hardware | Tools and Software | x64 at Saturday, 19 January 2008 16:12 W. Europe Standard Time

Siemens Gigaset SL 370I recently purchased the Siemens Gigaset SL 370 phone for home telecommunications. The SL 370 is Siemens' premier DECT phone with a form factor comparable to mobile phones. It has plenty of advanced features, the most appealing one being Bluetooth support for headsets and, more importantly, syncing abilities with Outlook contacts. That is, you can sync your Windows Vista Contacts folder or Outlook contacts wirelessly over a Bluetooth connection.

On the SL 370 product support site there's a download option for the Gigaset QuickSync software needed for synchronizing the contact stores on your computer and the handset device. The software version I'm using is the current version 2.0 which needs the .NET Framework 2.0 to run (which is a good thing, see below).

The SL 370 is a great piece of hardware, good sound quality, very light, well thought out and with outstanding battery life.

However, there are some issues with the QuickSync software with Outlook 2007:

Gigaset QuickSync refuses to run on x64 versions of Windows Vista

After launching QuickSync on Vista x64, Windows instantly shows the generic "Program stopped working" dialog.

Gigaset QuickSync stopped working

After clicking the "Debug" button Visual Studio starts up revealing that an assembly of the Gigaset QuickSync package refused to load. When the application's main executable (GigasetQuickSync.exe) tries loading PCABManager.dll a BadImageFormatException is thrown.

BadImageFormatException

As one can glimpse from the screenshot above the PCABManager.dll assembly is not strong named (PublicKeyToken=null), so I could leverage some of the .NET Framework SDK tools to make QuickSync behave on Vista x64.

Open up a Visual Studio Command Prompt and run corflags.exe on the GigasetQuickSync.exe and PCABManager.dll assemblies.

corflags /32bit+ GigasetQuickSync.exe
corflags /32bit+ PCABManager.dll

The 32-bitness flags should be set afterwards

>corflags GigasetQuickSync.exe
Microsoft (R) .NET Framework CorFlags Conversion Tool.  Version  3.5.21022.8
Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.

Version   : v2.0.50727
CLR Header: 2.5
PE        : PE32
CorFlags  : 1
ILONLY    : 1
32BIT     : 1
Signed    : 0

This resolves the load errors on Vista x64 as we now force the 32-bit .NET Framework runtime to load. More technical details can be found on Scott Hanselman's blog (about 50% into the post).

Deleted Outlook contacts sync back

Because the phone has only a limited number of contacts (250) there's a filter dialog that can be used to tell the Gigaset QuickSync software which contacts should not be transmitted to the handset. Note that QuickSync will only load contacts that have a telephone number, so the contact count might differ from what Outlook reports.

QuickSync Contact Filter Reports 198 Contacts

Outlook Reports 219 Contacts

Nice, but today flash memory is cheaper than ever before. Why did the SL 370 product designers choose to have only 250 contacts on a 120 € phone?

One (unresolved) problem I experience with the "syncing" ability is that if you delete an Outlook contact and re-sync the previously deleted contact will be recreated in Outlook. I suppose this is a known bug. One work-around is to delete all contacts on the phone before syncing.

Conclusion

The SL 370 is a great phone: I adore its flyweight, the clean UI, the great battery power and the rich set of options like turning down the ringtone volume at nighttime. The weaknesses on the Windows software side should be fixed in the next release of the QuickSync.

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The Woes Of Finding A High-Quality Sound Card For Vista x64

Posted in Hardware | Hi-Fi | x64 at Tuesday, 27 November 2007 20:59 W. Europe Standard Time

Sound card I am an audio enthusiast. My friends and I share a bit of a tendency listening to music, and the music should be reproduced clearly and in the best quality possible. For this very purpose I bought a mid-level Hi-Fi set a couple of years ago and connected it to my computer. At that time the machine was equipped with a crappy Sound Blaster sound card. The audio card was okay for the "high quality" Logitech speakers I used before I ordered amp and speakers. But after some hours of listening to the new Hi-Fi set I found that the Sound Blaster produced some kind of static sizzle, usually the instant before high amplitudes were sent over the wire. It was like my ears specialized in hearing these nasty glitches and listening to music became an agony. You might think that I'm nit-picking but actually listening to music wasn't the fun it used to be.

I started researching entry-level professional sound cards that are mostly used in studio recording environments. With the help of a newsgroup I soon found the Marc 2 for around 150 €, manufactured by Marian here in Leipzig, to be a decent choice. "Support your local heroes," I thought and went off purchasing the device. I have been very satisfied with the quality of this audio card, as it produces great sound without interfering noise from other PC components. Think of the hard drive is working background "sound carpet" you might have heard on machines that work with onboard or cheapo sound cards. (Try increasing the volume level to be really loud and listen carefully. Your speakers should remain silent.)

Now the time has come to build a new PC as my current machine is at least 4 years old and, as a matter of fact, my Windows Vista Ultimate installation DVD hasn't been touched for almost a year. Six months ago I started talking to Torsten what PC components to buy. Even more important, we were having lots of discussions about the operating system to use. Torsten is advocate of Vista x64, whereas I am used to 32-bit systems. (Because of my old hardware, where I don't have the option to switch to 64-bit.)

I eventually decided to go with Vista x64. Not only because of doing Torsten a favor :-), but with the prospect of a new machine and 4 GB RAM in mind there's essentially no other OS to choose from. (Okay, there's Linux and derivates, but I'm a Windows guy.)

During the hardware selection process, which based on Scott Hanselman's developer rig, I soon learned that the hardest part will be finding a decent sound card that supports Vista x64. Why? Because Marian simply doesn't support 64-bit systems. Heck, to this day they even fail to provide Vista 32-bit drivers for the Marc 2 I own. (I inquired, but didn't get an answer from the support staff.)

For the new sound card I have a set of simple requirements in mind, at least I thought they would be easy to fulfill by any hardware vendor in that space.

  • Jack Plug PCI card
  • 6,3 mm jack plug socket for analog output
  • Drivers for Vista x64 available
  • Works with the Windows volume control

The last requirement would prove to be the strictest. Most high-end audio hardware vendors use their own audio control panel for connecting IOs, managing the card's features and controlling the sound volume. That often means that the Windows volume control would be disabled for the card.

All applications relying on the Windows volume control APIs would be unable to do the things they do: Think of the built-in volume key on my keyboard or any remote control software. They all rely on the Windows multimedia APIs for volume control that are not available for cards with an "advanced" volume control panel. The "remote control software" part is especially important to me since I want to keep my IR controller working. I just have become used to the convenience of lying on my bed and controlling the video I'm watching.

I contacted every single vendor of professional sound cards for the requirements above:

Vendor/Product Price Windows Volume Control Compatible Comments Recommendation
Marian Marc 2 159 € Yes (on XP) No driver for Vista Not recommended
Marian TRACE ALPHA 169 € Maybe No driver for Vista x64 Not recommended
ESI MAYA 44 99 € No Audio control panel
Beta drivers (last updated in May 2007)
Not recommended
Terratec PHASE 22 74 € No Audio control panel Not recommended
M-AUDIO Delta Audiophile 2496 88 € No Audio control panel, but offering a SDK
Beta drivers under development
No 6,3 mm socket
Not recommended
M-AUDIO Delta Audiophile 192 158 € No Audio control panel, but offering a SDK
Beta drivers under development
Not recommended
ECHO MiaMIDI 149 € Yes Vista x64 release drivers available Recommended

MiaMIDI At least I found one professional sound device in the world that is capable of doing what I expect from a good sound card. When it arrives tomorrow, I will plug it in into its slot and see if it works as expected. Then, the real fun begins: setting up a new machine!

Hopefully this article helps you finding your sound card and saves you the time of going through the same time-consuming research process.

Page 1 of 1 in the Hardware category