Thursday, December 29, 2005

iPod iCal education curve

Comment spotted on The Unofficial Apple Weblog: "My iPod keeps spitting out the wrong times for my iCal reminders...can anyone tell me how to turn off iCal on the iPod?" UPDATE: I don't sync my iPod hardly at all, but River tells me it's simple to turn off calendar sync between a Mac and an iPod while the iPod is connected to the Mac. I posted an appropriate tip at TUOW. Could there be a learning curve for iCal on iPod? With millions of iPods already out there, Either the iPod calendar isn't that tough to figure out, or almost nobody's using it. (As for me, I won't use it as long as it's read-only.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

CalDAV standard approaches release

Lisa Dusseault: "We're getting very, very close with CalDAV."

I recorded an episode of Opening Move with Lisa earlier this month at ApacheCon. Look for it in January.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

A public ping server for events

Brian Dear is calling on all event Web sites to publish to a common public ping server for events. I second the notion. Anyone who can successfully take this forward might see a nice little payday down the road, if the recent sale of the ping server for blogs is a good precedent, and I think it is.

The benefits of creating such a common public ping server for general calendar interoperability could be a big win for calendar publishers and subscribers.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

MacFixIt says some iCal calendars are disappearing

From MacFixIt:
"A growing number of users are reporting an issue where calendars disappear from iCal -- though individual meetings may still be viewable. It appears that many users experiencing this problem are using Mark/Space's Missing Sync software, which will synchronize some natively unsupported Palm devices with iCal."
There's no comment from Mark/Space in this report, nor any mention of the report on Mark/Space's Web site.

Whether there's a serious problem here or not, it points out the continuing need for simpler calendar synchronization solutions, with fewer moving parts.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Outlook 2003 to iCal: It works!

Well, today for the first time I've successfully sent calendar invitations from Outlook to iCal. I'm still not happy with the general state of things, but I'll explain more during the next Calendar Swamp podcast, which I'll record soon.

UPDATE: By the way, iCal to Outlook 2003 is still broken on my PC.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Calendars as a general case? Not so fast

Dan Farber: "As is generally the case with software, calendars are tethered to specific platforms, which makes it difficult to ensure interoperability."

Not so fast. Look at these data types in software which are already generally interoperable:
  • Email
  • Rich text files
  • Comma-delimited data
  • Tab-delimited data
  • MP3 audio files
  • RSS feeds & aggregators
  • CAD formats
  • PDF files
  • HTML
  • AVI video files
While more can be done in all the above areas, and in compound document interoperability, I object to sweeping generalizations that perpetuate the very acute interoperability problems that have vexed computer-based calendars ever since IBM's mainframe-based PROFS ceased to be the de facto standard.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Apple needs to do more too

How delightful to read John Welch's critique of Apple's calendaring effort, which could be better:

"While things like iCal, and Web client-only systems may work for a select few, in a modern enterprise it's not going to play. Things like delegation, public folders, real handheld support, instant messaging integration and the rest are not 'highfalutin' options anymore."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Missing Sync 5.0 marries Palm OS, Mac OS X Tiger

It's good to see the new Missing Sync for Palm 5.0, which should smoooth calendar synchronization between Palm OS devices and Macintosh OS X Tiger.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

When 2.0: Let the mergers begin!

Too many Web 2.0 calendar services already? Let the mergers begin, at When 2.0, December 6, at Stanford University.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Waiting for Google Calendar

Someone named Chris launched a blog devoted to the still-unannounced Google Calendar. The most interesting thing revealed so far is the fact that is already a valid URL (with, so far, nothing else interesting about it). Google Base rumors indicate Chris has good timing.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Discovering SchoolBell

SchoolTool is a project to develop a common global school administration infrastructure that is freely available under an Open Source licence. Today I discovered that one component of SchoolTool is SchoolBell, a free, open source web application to allow groups and organizations to coordinate the sharing of calendars, including iCal support. I found out about SchoolBell by listening to this IT Conversations podcast.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Microsoft's own calendars don't sync

Ex-Microsoft employee Mark Jen, quoted by Forbes: "MSN e-mail should talk to Office Calendar contacts and share appointments from Office with friends and family on the Web. But then MSN could cannibalize Office."

When Microsoft's own calendars don't sync with each other, we've got a long way to go.

Mysterious iCal success

Inexplicably, my copy of Outlook 2003 now exports iCal .ics files correctly. Maybe I had to be surrounded by a critical mass of Microsoft employees to solve this problem; it started working while I was in the press room at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference.

Zimbra: More open-source calendaring

Kevin Yank writes: "Zimbra, an extensible open-source client/server system for managing email, contacts, and Microsoft Exchange and Gmail rewritten in Java using open source technology… all free, cross-browser, and cross-platform." It runs on top of various open source software such as MySQL. This project will be worth watching.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

iTunes 5 lets iPod sync with Outlook

Apple: "iTunes 5 now also supports contacts syncing via Outlook or contacts and calendar syncing via Outlook Express for the PC." My copy of Outlook Express doesn't have calendaring at all. Is this a mix-up?

Take the CalConnect survey

Quoting CalConnect:

"The Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium has identified a need for more interoperability and data exchange between event calendars in the future. This survey is an initial effort to categorize the current state of event calendaring. It endeavors to find out what types of event calendars are in use, the features that are important and what type of systems are used to host and run event calendars. Once collected, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium will aggregate and analyze the responses. This information will then be used to help establish more event calendar technical standards as well as further clarify interoperability needs."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

All about vCal

The top result for a "vCal" search on Google is the page "vCard and vCalendar." It's owned by The Internet Mail Consortium, which has a snail-mail address in Santa Cruz, California. What brought this to mind was a page I found today that describes, a free conference call service. Here's the interesting part:

"After you've configured your conference call, you can invite people directly from within's interface, at which point generates an email invitation to each person you've entered...the email invitations come with vCal file attached that the recipient can drop into iCal or Outlook to add to her calendar."

Hmm, if only I could create vCal files. But from within Outlook 2003, trying to save an appointment as vCal or iCal yields the message, "The operation failed."

I still have Palm Desktop, but the "export vCal" option is grayed out. I'm happy for FreeConference though, if in fact what they have works as described.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Good news: AirSet adds Palm sync support

Walt Mossberg this week reviewed Trumba and AirSet. Of the two, only AirSet supports synching calendars with the Palm OS as well as Outlook and iCal. The Palm support is new so I'll give AirSet a Swampdrain factor of +2. Why not a higher score? After all, AirSet is a free service. It's because calendar synchonization should not require any of us to store all our calendars on an intermediary computer. The end-to-end nature of the Internet demands nothing less. But the new feature set of AirSet is another step forward.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

x2v: An XHTML-to-iCal tool

Via Kevin Marks, I found out about Brian Suda’s x2v calendar parsing tool. Kevin used it to provide a calendar page for Gnomedex back in June. I wonder how hard it would be to wrestle XHTML into vCalendar - and solve my Outlook import problems?

Hunting for two-calendar blogs

I'm hunting for two-calendar blogs. One calendar would be the usual way to access blog archives. The other would access events -- certainly future events, but maybe present and past events as well?

It doesn't make sense to have a single calendar to access both blog archives and events, does it?

If you've seen anyone who's implemented a two-calendar blog, drop us a line.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 adds support for groups added support for groups yesterday. Details here. Says Ed Vielmetti: "nicely enough the calendar comes out as RSS or iCal."

Outlook 2003: For iCal import, use Gregorian instead of Lunar?!

Well, as promised, I installed Outlook 2003, but it still can't import my .ics files (generated by Apple's iCal). I guess Trumba's business model is safe even from Outlook 2003, and Microsoft's Gnomedex demo is still just a starting point for them.

At least I received an interesting error message:

"Microsoft Office Outlook cannot import vCalendar file. This error can appear if you have attempted to save a recurring Lunar appointment in iCalendar format. To avoid this error, set the appointment option to Gregorian instead of Lunar."

Huh? Can anyone explain this? After digging around the Outlook 2003 help system, as well as the Web, I could not.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Monket Calendar needs a maintainer

Stephen O'Grady and others praise Monket Calendar, a cool open source application that generates calendars for the Web, but it needs a maintainer while its creator travels the world for a year.

Friday, August 26, 2005

PHP iCalendar

PHP iCalendar is a PHP-based iCal file viewer/parser to display iCals in a Web browser. Something else I should try out.

VTCalendar: Open-source iCal server

From "This gem comes courtesy of Virginia Tech. With VTCalendar you can manage your calendar on your own server. You can even divide your calendar into sub calendars by category and subscribe to your calendar(s) via iCal."
Swampdrain factor: +1. This may fulfill the important requirement for free iCal hosting as I mentioned in a pre-Swamp IMJ post.

Mediabee: "Family Calendaring Simplified"

River found this: Mediabee is Windows software with calendaring and a lot more. Product claim includes putting appointments and reminder "on any number of cell phones." No Swampdrain factor for this until I've learned some more. Meanwhile, there's a Mediabee Weblog, The Family Calendar Blog: "Family Calendaring Simplified."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Advice to Apple

Apple Insider reports about this Apple job posting for an iCal engineer:

"someone eager to take iCal to the next level and increase it's [sic]integration with other applications in Mac OS X"
Hey Apple, how about increasing calendar integration with the (still) dominant platform, Windows and Outlook? And hire a proofreader!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Palm and Apple refilling the swamp

Rob Pegraro in the Washington Post writes:

"Between Apple and Palm, somebody needs to put some effort into updating their synchronization software"

A combination of recent moves and/or inaction by Apple and Palm have actually made this situation worse than before Apple's Tiger OS shipped, for which I give both companies a Swampdrain factor of -2.

More on Outlook & iCalendar

Clearly even Outlook 2002 supports some form of RFC 2445, which defines the iCalendar format. But despite blanket statements like this, from Shared Plan:

"iCalendar, defined in the IETF's RFC 2455, is supported by Outlook, Apple's
iCal®, Mozilla Sunbird, and several other calendar applications."

Interoperability problems persist. As a security measure, my copy of Outlook is not configured to send mail, only to receive it. (I use other mail programs to send, and receive Outlook mail only in limited circumstances.) But Outlook 2002's inability to open an .ics file is indicative that there are still interoperability problems. And ultimately, I need to be able to sync my Pocket PC with any mail client or service, not just with Outlook.

Outlook 2002 to Outlook 2003

As readers/listeners to Calendar Swamp know, I'm running Microsoft Outlook 2002 which came with the Dell Axim Pocket PC I won in a raffle last year. After reading story after story like this and talking to lots of folks, I've decided to spend $79 to purchase Outlook 2003 solely on the asumption it can open iCal .ics files. Outlook 2002 sure can't! The upgrade is coming from Amazon with something else that's on advance order, so round about September 1, I hope to install the upgrade and get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Building the 'event sphere'

If calendar interoperability really is going to happen, it'll probably be in part because of the work of people like Brian Dear oF EVDB, a startup service that lets anyone publish event information, then subscribe to it, in a structured way. I talked with Brian last month for Opening Move. Not a solution for individual-to-individual calendar sync, but definitely a nice step in the right direction, and the price is right (free). I give EVDB a Swampdrain Factor of +2.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Yahoo! calendar API: Don't hold your breath

With Yahoo! committed to eventually opening up all its APIs to developers, I wondered when the calendar API would be published. Not very soon, apparently. At OSCON, I asked Jeffrey McManus, director of the Yahoo Developer Network, and he says Yahoo! is currently rewriting both its calendar and its mail services. After that, APIs for both will be released. So no Swampdrain rating yet here either.

Google uses Oracle Calendar

With all the rumors about Google developing its own calendaring service, I've never read what calendar the company uses internally. This morning at OSCON, I got to ask Chris DiBona of Google. He says it's called Corporate Time and works with Oracle. (Later, I Googled Corporate Time and found it had been acquired by Oracle and renamed Oracle Calendar.) No Swampdrain rating to give here; just information to balance against rumor.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Trumba and Creative Manager Pro: Two ASP solutions

This morning on IMJ I alluded to the calendar interoperability solutions that require you to pay a monthly fee to some application service provider (ASP). I give these solutions a blanket Swampdrain score of 0 (neither good nor bad). A truly drained Calendar Swamp would provide this interoperability for no money, because a widely adopted standard exists. Solutions that required a one-time payment would be less ideal, but at least they wouldn't have reoccuring charges. At any rate, if you're a home user, you should check out Trumba, and if you're a business user, particularly an advertising agency, look at Creative Manager Pro. But these iCal/Outlook calendar synchronization services will cost you: For Trumba, $39 a year; for Creative Manager Pro, cost is at a minimum, $39 per user per month with a five-user minimum (at least, according to this article).

Monday, August 01, 2005

Missing Sync for Windows Mobile 2.0 ships

Missing Sync from Mark/Space is software we considered and rejected to sync iCal to Outlook, but I think we're going to have to give it a second look. The previous version couldn't handle synching Palm devices to the Mac, but a recent Tiger update completely broke River's Palm updating anyway, so now she's carrying her schedule around on her phone only. And version 2.0 of Missing Sync for Windows Mobile 2.0 is now shipping. No Swampdrain rating until I've done a further evaluation and figured out just what all the moving parts are. Here's The Register's brief story on the new release.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Matt chooses Groupcal; limits of Plaxo

Matthew Mullenweg, creator of WordPress, has also been looking for calendar interoperability. He settled on Groupcal. Groupcal won't do it for me because it requires an Exchange server. I want Exchange-free synching between Outlook and iCal. Plaxo got mentioned too in his comments. But Plaxo apparently only syncs Outlook client to Outlook client. While that may eliminate the need to have Exchange to share Outlook calendars, I didn't like Plaxo's privacy policies when I looked at them a while back; I recall getting spammed by Plaxo when I responded to someone's request to update my contact info in their Plaxo account.

Hula calendar server 1.0 due by September

Hula, Novell's open source calendar and mail server, is due for its 1.0 release in late August or early September. For details about Hula, check out the recent LUG Radio podcast interview with Dave Camp. Novell welcomes help as any open source committer would; I still wonder if interoperability with Outlook and iCal are on the radar for 1.0 or future releases.

Bluetooth sync; Office 2003 XML thoughts

Over at IMJ, I've been talking this morning about Bluetooth. I've now reached a stage of interest to the Swamp. The Bluetooth Configuration Wizard is something one runs on a PC to prepare it to share data with devices such as phones and PDAs running Bluetooth. The juiciest service is called "PIM Item Transfer," described thusly:

Allow remote Bluetooth devices to exchange business cards with this computer. Accept Personal Information Manager (PIM) items such as calendar items, contacts, notes and messages from remote Bluetooth devices.

The wizard can save Calendar items off Bluetooth either as Outlook calendar items, or as files in the Bluetooth Exchange Folder. Oh if only these items were stored in XML, that could be easily transformed into iCal or Mozilla calendar items! Synchronization support is limited to Outlook only.

Which reminds me, on a recent Gillmor Gang podcast, Jon Udell pointed out that Microsoft Office 2003 can store much of its data in XML format. I wonder if that facilitates XML-powered calendar interoperability, or if anybody has tried to build some further integration from Office 2003 to the iCal world.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Kerio MailServer 6.1 adds iCal support

Products like Kerio Mailserver probably wouldn't have much of a chance of prospering if Outlook calendars just synched with iCal. But they don't, so this makes the announcement of new iCal synchronization support in Kerio worth a Swampdrain factor of +1.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Open Exchange certified for Red Hat

Open Exchange, an open source collaboration server that integrates iCal with Outlook and several other calendaring systems, is now certified for use on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Swampdrain factor: +1.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rearden Commerce: Another interesting puzzle piece

Rearden Commerce is the first service provider to act as a front end to various services, and to automatically populate desktop calendars with a variety of appointments customers can schedule with those services. Think everything from airline reservations to haircuts.

After a presentation this morning at Burton Group's Catalyst conference, I asked Rearden CEO Patrick Grady if the services he's built could be used to sync calendars between endpoints (two customers) without an intermediary.

Grady's answer was, not really, unless one of the two customers was a Rearden customer (in other words, a service provider) whose calendar was stored on a server such as Exchange or Notes.

Oh well. It's another interesting puzzle piece. At least I got to put the issue of calendar interoperability in front of a room full of very smart IT managers. I give Rearden Commerce a Swampfactor of +1. (+5-good, -5-not good)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Calendar Swamp podcast #5, 7/9/05

Lowering the boom on Outlook Web Access; extending iCal to manage tasks; Ta-Da and other list management sites; whether to expand calendar interoperability to include tasks; Microsoft's RSS demo at Gnomedex featuring Outlook displaying iCal calendars; Bluetooth mice; how custom PC orders shorten warranties and endanger rebates. Anime review: Paranoia Agent. Listen.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

MindManager demo

I'm revising Swampdrain Factor to use 0 as a neutral score, 5 as a good score and -5 as a bad score. Yesterday's score of 6 for the Microsoft RSS calendar demo is hereby revised to a score of +1.

MindManager, demoed this morning at Gnomedex, may be a cool way to design projects visually, but it introduces Yet Another Calendar that doesn't seem to interoperate with any other calendars. It shares tasks with Outlook, but it doesn't appear to share meetings? I hope this isn't true. But if it is, I give MindManager a Swampfactor of -5. (+5-good, -5-not good)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Microsoft RSS calendar demo

With this post I'll introduce a new rating system: The Swampdrain Factor. A Swampdrain Factor of +5 means the particular development means the Swamp is being drained a bit through some innovation or best practice. A Swampdrain Factor of 0 means the Swamp is staying about the same level. And a Swamp Factor of -5 means the Swamp is rising through FUD or some innovation that doesn't lend itself to interoperability.

The Microsoft RSS calendar demo at Gnomedex has a Swampdrain Factor of +1. It opens interoperability a crack, provided Microsoft makes freely available the 200 lines of C# code they just showed that let Outlook users view an .ics calendar file, delivered as an RSS enclosure, side by side with an Outlook 2003 calendar. If this code doesn't become freely available, I'll lower the rating to a 0 until someone provides it in open-source form. (Microsoft releasing some of its RSS extension work under a Creative Commons license is a promising move.)

How would a technology get a Swampdrain Factor of 5? It would have to provide a true sync between two or more heterogenous calendars, automatically adding, moving, and changing appointments in a single calendar, presenting users with conflicts for resolutions, and all users to subscribe to these adds, moves and changes...using RSS or another syndication service.

OPML editor + RSS = Interoperable calendars?

At Gnomedex, Dave Winer says RSS could be used to build interoperable calendars, and that OPML could do it a bit more richly. Looking at his demo of The OPML Editor this morning, I had the thought: Hmm, calendars are lists of appointments and people. Maybe it wouldn't be that hard to get any calendar into a outline or even a simple list. Of course, once you have people and appointments, you quickly get into relational database development, so maybe it's not that simple. Still, it's amazing what's been done with the simplest tools, such as HTML.

Now Up-To-Date 5.0 for Macintosh released

June 21 press release: "Now Software today introduced Now Up-to-Date & Contact 5 for Macintosh, a major update to its cross platform calendar and contact management solutions." The Windows version is still at version 4.5.2.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Instant Calendar Swamp podcasts

If you're listening to the first four Calendar Swamp podcasts, just posted here, and wonder why they're titled The Gray Box, that's because I originally published all four podcasts under that name. Going forward, it's all about the Calendar Swamp. But the anime reviews and other tech digressions will continue on future podcasts.

Calendar Swamp podcast #4, 6/6/05

The calendars proliferate on River's iCal; searching for the Windows iCal client; trying to synch up the two; Now Up-To-Date; Meeting Maker; Plucker changes name to Sunrise, drops Mac version. Anime reviews: Haibane-Renmei, Read or Die, and R.O.D. the TV Series. Listen.

Calendar swamp podcast #3, 5/27/05

Synchronizing contacts on a Motorola V180 mobile phone with the Macintosh address book; the small set of USB connectors that made it possible; why not to do calendaring on the V180; exporting iCal calendars to the iPod when synching doesn't work; success with using the Plucker offline Web page reader/RSS aggregator with a Macintosh; who's really making money from podcasting. Scott grumbles about Norton Internet Security shutting off access from a new PC to the rest of his home network's workgroup. Listen.

Calendar Swamp podcast #2, 5/20/05

Ditching Safari for Firefox on the Macintosh. In search of a nice, small Bluetooth trackball. The Logitech cordless trackball that wasn't entirely cordless. The mystery of the new HP Pavilion that stopped recognizing Scott's Windows workgroup. Listen.

Calendar swamp podcast #1, 5/18/05

Interoperability headaches with iCal, the iPod, Palm Desktop OS for the Mac, and the Sony Clie. Anime review: Haibane-Renmei. Listen.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Calendar swamp is born

When you're up to your necks in appointment alligators, it's hard to remember the original job was to drain the calendar swamp.