Calendar Syncing

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 

Like many people, I have to use Outlook. It is by far not my favorite email or calendar system; I use Mulberry personally because it does not suck at all and it has a cool calendar I can use offline. I haven’t quite figured out my own webdav server, so I use Google Calendar to keep track of shared events with my girlfriends and others in my life. And everyone can use Google calendar and it does not suck either, so there’s no reason not to.

But it does create a sync issue. One which can be solved with free software and services by the following fine providers:

I end up using Google as my shared hub, sort of. Technically is the hub, but it’s invisible to everyone but me. To get there I use the Funambol outlook plug-in to sync my outlook calendar with (following these directions). It is not able to sync directly to Google yet because Google has to do it their way. Fortunately the clever man behind scheduleworld has that figured out. I also sync contacts using funambol to scheduleworld, but Google borked the contact API and so they don’t make it to Google Contacts from scheduleworld any more: scheduleworld does have an LDAP server though.

On the well-designed side, I use gcal daemon to sync my Mulberry calendars with Google (my directions here). I also subscribe to the scheduleworld LDAP server from Mulberry so I can access my outlook contacts from mulberry.

Now, oddly, Outlook’s contact databases are painfully borked and the local address book and global address books do not collaborate at all. Stupid. Unfortunately neither does Mulberry offer an option to sync the local address book to one or more remote LDAP directories, which would be very useful. I think there is still an odd disconnect on the part of developers who tend to work stationary and assume everyone has an always-on connection with very rare moments of disconnect, but as someone who gets on at least 4 planes a week can attest: this is not always the case. Even Mulberry, which is the only IMAP client I’ve found that supports a workable disconnected mode, does not make frequently disconnected mode trivial to use – neither to keep IMAP mailboxes in sync nor to provide off-line lookup of LDAP databases.

But Cyrus is responsive and I am optimistic we might, someday, have a good solution. If not, Adobe Air is pointing the way toward a viable seamless connected/disconnected (or periodically disconnected) world. I think this will become increasingly essential as the world goes to frequently interrupted wireless connectivity. Currently we tolerate wireless (WAN) interruptions because we have to, but that rules out far too much of what we’d like to be able to do and solutions thus far are generaly ad-hoc. We need an imperfect WAN connected world that is perceptively as relaible as a wired one.

Posted at 13:41:05 UTC

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