Thursday, November 29, 2007

How iPhone can drain my calendar swamp

As we get closer to the date of the iPhone SDK release, I've been thinking about just exactly what I'd like to see the iPhone be able to do to solve my family's calendar sharing problem.

I don't require full two-way syncing of iPhone calendar data with another calendar. My requirements aren't that strict, or complicated. Syncing is nice but technically it's more challenging than publish-and-subscribe, the very tech that lets most of you easily read Calendar Swamp.

Simply put, I would like to be able to have an iPhone publish its calendar -- securely, over the Internet -- to a private server. Virtual private network technology could do the job. The private server I want to have under my control. I'd even be willing to buy a Mac Mini to host this. But I don't want to store the published calendar on the Web. Such servers are vulnerable to data breaches, or Facebook-style privacy erosion and terms-of-service shenanigans.

I want to be able to query River's calendar to see her free/busy time. In return, River should be able to see my free/busy time. And no one else should ever be able to see any of it, for any reason, if we so choose.

I may have other, more public calendars, but they can wait. But at a time when I still wade through a lot of email to arrange meetings and such, it's worth a minute to discuss how I would prefer to invite and be invited by others to events in the scenario I'm describing.

The iPhone is the first handset I know of that can generate a calendar entry based on details it finds in an email. I've raved about this in the past as provided by Zimbra, and Google Calendar does it too. Calendars must be able to generate invitations that recipients can use in an automated fashion to begin entering the info in their own calendar. Requiring 100 percent manual reentry of info from an email into a calendar is a non-starter.

Sometimes, an iCal .ics file attached to the email does the job. Otherwise, if my calendar can generate an email that your email can then understand (like the iPhone, Zimbra, or Gmail) to generate the calendar entry with correct date, time and even location already filled out, that would be sufficient.

River isn't giving up her iPhone, so that has to be a part of the solution. If Apple and some combination of products and services can deliver what I need, I'll be happy to invest in the appropriate gear and services on my end.

Friday, November 23, 2007

How about a 2008 Calendar Swamp calendar?

Would anyone out there like to design the 2008 Calendar Swamp calendar? What better way to spread the gospel of interoperable calendars than to have our own. I'm thinking of offering a PDF through this blog that anyone could print out for free and display. If you have a knack for design and would like your work to be admired by the worldwide community of calendar swampers, please drop me a line at calendarswamp at gmail dot com.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My first calendar spam

I knew this day was coming. It's here. I just logged into my Yahoo Calendar and some spammer (on the BitTorrent_help Yahoo Group) figured out a way to place a spam calendar entry in my Yahoo calendar. Better yet, Bram Cohen, Mr. BitTorrent himself, announced in May 2005 that he was "shutting down this list" and that no further posting would be allowed! But I note that as of this morning, there are still 11,761 members of this group. Presumably every one of them could have received the same calendar spam. I unsubscribed from the group and advise others to do likewise.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pocket Outlook APIs found

I came across a blog post by Randy Byrne, Outlook Program Manager at Microsoft, and he answered my question about where to find the Pocket Outlook APIs. It's the Pocket Outlook Object Model, described on MSDN. So now I'm curious to know what sorts of software programmers have built with these hooks into Pocket Outlook. They employ COM, which as I understand it is the kind of programming that's not for the faint of heart.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Windows Live Calendar: No synch to Outlook or Windows Mobile, for now

Kip Kniskern, writing in a review of the new Windows Live Calendar:
"There's no synch feature, of any kind, except for shared calendars. Not being able to synch to Outlook or mobile devices is a showstopper. However we've heard they are working on this, so stay tuned."

If my phone could do anything

About 1:43 into this new video, Nick Sears, the co-founder of Android, the company Google bought to build its mobile phone platform, has this to say:
"If my phone could do anything, it would be that we would have a shared family calendar."
To which I would add the following: through the service provider of my choice, or even without requiring a service provider, and supporting instant over-the-air updating with calendars on any other mobile device, including the iPhone.

Meanwhile, there's the Open Handset Alliance, another puzzle piece.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Evolution, Sunbird, Samsung tales of woe

TumTumblr writes:
"How is it possible that Evolution and Sunbird, which are regularly called 'Outlook replacements', are not able to export their files into things like the .VCS format which Outlook recognize, or even into some (why-would-I-care) perhaps non-standard erroneous but Outlook-compatible file format? How is someone supposed to sync between the two, short of setting up Microsoft Exchange crap?"
and also has this to say:
"Samsung seems to utterly and utterly fail at usability, interopability (even with the standard of Contacts/Calendering/e-mail, Microsoft Outlook). Shame. They do the rest so well."
Let the drumbeats roll...

Which Microsoft APIs access Pocket Outlook?

Say a developer wanted to access Pocket Outlook on Windows Mobile to create something new, like an app that shares calendar data with other calendars. Where do they look?

I don't think much about this question not only because I'm not a developer, but also because I never heard anyone say they avail themselves of such a thing. However...

If Windows Mobile is an open platform, such an API has to be available. Steve Ballmer, of all people, made me rethink this during his October 23 speech at CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment in San Francisco. Quoting Steve (my emphasis in bold):
"We're investing very heavily in the device itself, and in the services around them as a platform. If you want to write a rich application, we have a version of .NET that runs on Windows Mobile phones that supports rich application development. If you want to write a thin client application, HTML, or AJAX, or eventually with our Silverlight technology which provides for rich media and video, those things will be available on this platform. We have rich APIs for things like forms and Web services, for location, for contact, calendar, messaging, maps, sound, graphics, all of that is available for third party innovation."
I attempted to learn more after Steve's speech from Microsoft's PR agency, but they didn't respond to my inquiry. Anyone reading this know what he's talking about?

Update: See my later post for the answer.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

OpenSocial: Yep, another puzzle piece

I've read a fair amount already about OpenSocial without needing to comment on it here, but this comment by Brian Kellner of NewsGator caught my eye:
"OpenSocial will be able to answer other questions, such as what kind of activities have been done on a platform or it may know about calendar events and be able to pass on that intelligence."