I ma no expert on smartcards (we use Common Access Cards, or CAC, at work). Recently, I wqaas having issues with ActiveClient reading my card, which told me I had mistyped my pin twice. Once more, and it would lock out my card. So I went and asked a coworker how long the timeout is. He told me there is no timeout – the card count is reset with a successful login.
Worried, I went to my Linux box and logged into webmail with my card, successfully. Afterwards, ActiveClient on the other machine saw the card fine.
I had a chance yesterday to retest this behavior when another coworker was having similar issues with his card. He had tried at two different machines to log in with his smartcard, and each time, it was unable to read his card (I did not see the exact error message, but it was not an incorrect PIN entry). So I offered to let him try on my Linux box (I am the only one using Linux as a workstation), and he was quite surprised to be able to log into webmail from there. Afterwards, his card worked fine on ActiveClient Windows machines, which was a relief to him, since he had assumed a trip to the ID card office (and a long wait) were in store for him.
I surmise that something on his card got a little scrambled and the Windows ActiveClient could not read what it needed. The PCSC client, however, not only worked without flaw, it also seemed to clear whatever was bugging ActiveClient.
So, if this happens again, I hopefully will be able to spare someone else a trip to the ID card office.