This problem points out some broadly interesting quirks in Windows XP's handling of USB ports in general. So read on, even if a Palm isn't your gizmo of choice.
Palm's kit connects its handhelds to a computer's USB port. If a PC doesn't have USB, an adapter enables a USB-to-serial connection. In theory, this means you can update your Palm with your email program, calendar and other applications.
However, as an anonymous Palm technical support specialist put it in an email, "The currently shipping PalmConnect USB kit drivers may not function under Windows 2000 and XP." Users are directed to Palm Support. This page links to a Palm Knowledge Library article stating, "The previously released Windows 2000 USB drivers allow for synchronisation to Windows XP Home edition. You may need to reinstall the Palm USB drivers after upgrading to Windows XP."
Even after following these directions, however, XP users report maddening "gotchas":
1. Disconnect. For connections to succeed, users must unplug the Palm adapter from the PC before shutting down. It must not be plugged in again until after XP has completely booted up.
2. Disable. Another support specialist (or perhaps the same one) sends out advice that Palm's Hotsync Manager software should be configured to close whenever the Palm Desktop isn't running.
3. Don't Standby. After XP wakes from Standby, Hotsync fails even if the above steps are taken.
When I inquired about these problems, Palm spokeswoman Jennifer Stryd responded that the company had recently posted "an XP-specific version of their drivers for the PalmConnect USB Kit". This new driver is here. If you download it, be sure to read and follow the installation instructions linked to the page.
Unfortunately, this didn't eliminate all the problems for my tester. The Palm synched once after the new driver had been freshly installed. But it's still necessary to unplug the adapter before rebooting and to replug it afterward. The Palm software then has to be manually reconfigured from COM1 to COM4 (a phantom port) to connect.
I'd like to hear from readers who've found ways to resolve these and other problems.
Send tips to Livingston. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.