Saturday, March 29, 2008

Google Calendar had a major outage

The SpanningSync blog reports that Google Calendar experienced a major outage in the past few days.

Since I don't rely upon Google Calendar, I wasn't aware of any problems. :)

Zimbra's CalDAV support gets a good review

Matt Asay: CalDav + Zimbra rocks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

FuseCal launches

ReadWriteWeb says:
"FuseCal lets you sync any calendar to any calendar, while also providing filters that let you limit the types of events that are included in the sync."
I haven't tried it since earlier days when it wasn't quite ready for prime time, but it's an innovative quasi-screen scraper/Web page calendar detector that looks promising. I'll be trying it out with Mozilla Sunbird in a few days to see if they play well together.

UPDATE: My quick check of FuseCal reveals that any FuseCal can import an .ics file to any compatible calendar, but only supports a limited set of calendars for subscribing to iCal feeds. Here's hoping they add Sunbird subscription support soon.

MailShadow to sync Outlook, Google Calendar

The New York Times reports:
"MailShadow is the first service that automatically brings together synchronization for mail, calendars and address books between [Outlook and Gmail]...There is a catch. MailShadow will be free for now, but the company may start charging customers in the future."
Yep, every calendar-sharing service has to make money. The ways and means often take time to reveal themselves.

Monday, March 24, 2008

BirdieSync works! Deleting Outlook 2003 did the trick

Well, it wasn't that simple. But almost.

It turns out I had two problems. One was that BirdieSync was trying to sync calendars from both Outlook and Sunbird. It didn't like that. By trial and error, I discovered how to unselect the Outlook calendar. But Active Sync still wasn't happy. At one point it demanded my Microsoft Office 2003 registration code. Since the PC in question had only a 60-day trial version of Office 2003 installed, this seemed like a ridiculous request. But the only way to make it go away that I could find was to remove the Office 2003 trial version from the PC using add/remove programs.

After that, synchronization proceeded! BirdieSync delivered calendar sync between Sunbird and Windows Mobile Calendar and earns a SwampDrain rating of +2. I can now update my calendar on Windows Mobile, and have selected events published to my wife River's Apple iCal calendar, or other calendars that I may deem appropriate.

Given the performance complaints I'm reading about Outlook 2007, I am extremely happy I didn't have to swallow that blue pill after all.

Somewhere in this calendar interoperability saga is something profound. Perhaps I can coin Mace's First Law of Calendar Interoperability: Never use more calendar, or more interoperability, than you absolutely need.

The second law probably would have something to say about how no truly liberating interoperability solution exists unless some crucial component of it is open source, but I'm not willing to codify that just yet.

Device-to-device over-the-air calendar sharing is now my only vista (no pun intended) remaining for this blog. At some point I'll be replacing my ancient Dell Axim with a Windows Mobile phone -- or perhaps an iPhone, I don't know -- and will give everything a fresh look at that time. For now, the journey's had its rewards, at long last!

Friday, March 21, 2008

BirdieSync installed but not working

Today I installed BirdieSync to sync my new Sunbird calendar with my Windows Mobile PDA. I had to click through some warnings about BirdieSync being untrusted and unsigned. Then I had to direct BirdieSync to the directory where Sunbird is installed. (I skipped all the stuff referring to Thunderbird, which I'm not running.)

Then, a bonus! BirdieSync lets me sync both my calendars to the PocketPC. It also let me select the default calendar where appointments and tasks I create on the PocketPC will be synchronized. Cool!

During the first synchronization, BirdieSync asks me to choose between "replace" and "combine." If I choose "combine" and if some similar elements are present on both the mobile and the PC, BirdieSync warns me it could potentially lead to duplicates if they are not absolutely identical.

However...I'm getting some sort of error: "Unable to establish a connection between the PC and the device."

Anyone out there know how to fix this? I'm thinking of reinstalling ActiveSync.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Calgoo Hub (beta): Calendar sharing takes a step forward

I've been in a funk for about two weeks, ever since I publicly killed my book project of five years. One thing I wrote, and believe fervently, is:
Most customers still only care about interoperability, not standards, and software companies have been playing the interoperability game as long as there's been software.
While I was trying to figure out if open standards were going to take over the world -- and woefully concluded that they won't -- from the beginning, Calendar Swamp had its laser-like focus on calendar interoperability. You the readers welcomed this focus, and finally, it looks like we're getting somewhere. And this lifts my spirits.

First, a correction to an earlier post: I have not written about Calgoo before. But I had heard about it from the outset and had in fact exchanged some emails with the company over the past two years. I recall reading this August 2006 CNet article where Calgoo was described as a way to view Google Calendar calendars when not connected to the Internet.

That was interesting, but not nearly as interesting as what Calgoo has become, billing itself now as "the world's first cross platform calendar sharing service." I confess I didn't pay much attention to Calgoo back when it seemed like just another way to connect Google Calendar to other calendars.

But Calgoo didn't stop there, and they now provide the first Google-free, Microsoft Outlook-free way to share a Windows calendar with the Mac OS X iCal calendar. Not to say they don't support Google and Microsoft calendars -- they do -- but they haven't stopped there. And this is good news for those of us trying to connect other calendars, and who are concerned that Google's terms of service leave us too exposed to privacy intrusion, and Microsoft's strategy dictates we use Outlook, which is definitely overkill if you're just trying to share simple calendars.

The new service I'm here to rave about is called Calgoo Hub (beta). Not everyone agrees with Calgoo's claim of "CalDAV support" but I'm here to report what it can do for me, and it's innovative enough to earn Calgoo Hub (beta) a SwampDrain score of +4.

Here's what I did this week. I installed Mozilla Sunbird on a Windows XP box. I registered for a Calgoo Hub account. I was able to publish my calendar to Calgoo Hub. I could invite my wife River to subscribe to my Calgoo Hub service using a time-honored obscured URL technique (not encrypted, but a hard-to-guess URL, similar to Google Calendar's method). She could then see my calendar on her Mac OS X iCal. Viola!

Because River doesn't want to see all my activities, just certain ones, I actually created two different calendars in Sunbird and published only one of them. This gets around the inability (so far) to publish events based upon some set of matching event tags, which to me is still the ultimate goal.

River can also invite me to events from within Mac OS X iCal. These appear as .ics file attachments. In Windows XP, I had to go into Control Panel|Folder Options in the File Types tab, scroll to the .ICS file type, then switch the file type from Microsoft Works (feh!) to Mozilla Sunbird, not off a pick-list but by browsing to the Sunbird .exe. It worked, and now all I have to do is click on the .ICS to have it entered into Sunbird. (I choose my local calendar so the event actually doesn't get shared back to River's calendar again, avoiding creating an infinite calendar loop.)

Ah, but what about Windows Mobile? Well that's still not solved yet, but I've found some new things to try. Mozilla plans to support sync from Sunbird to Windows Mobile, but it's not there yet. I need to publish both my Sunbird calendars to a single calendar on my PDA or phone, not just one, and right now I'm not sure how I'll do that easily. There are some things out there for me to try next, such as a Funambol plug-in, or perhaps BirdieSync or one of the other options described at MozillaZine.

I still want to be able to enter events on the PDA/phone and sync them back to Sunbird and into the proper calendars. I'll probably need proper event tagging or category-mapping on the PDA/phone sync to do that.

No matter. Calgoo, despite its name, is no longer shackled to Google Calendar. And the service is free. It supports Apple iCal, Sunbird, Outlook 2003/2007 and 30 Boxes. Calgoo Software CEO Andrzej Kowalski, with whom I've enjoyed a lively correspondence over the past few days, has been quite responsive to my questions. I'm enjoying having something that just works.

I'm sure more good things will come from Calgoo. For now, check it out. You, the readers of Calendar Swamp, are the finest calendar-sharing community on the planet. Please let Calgoo know how they could improve Calgoo Hub, and feel free to add your comments here as well.

Meanwhile, let's give some hearty thanks that diligent software developers are still working to drain this swamp. No Google required this time, just a little goo.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Berners-Lee: Killer Semantic Web app is a calendar mashup

Dan Farber quotes WWW creator Tim Berners-Lee:
"Imagine if two completely separate things--your bank statements and your calendar--spoke the same language and could share information with one another. You could drag one on top of the other and a whole bunch of dots would appear showing you when you spent your money."
I'm not holding my breath waiting for the Semantic Web, but once again it's interesting to see calendaring mashups as part of a proposed killer app. If calendaring interoperability is so sexy, why aren't we seeing more of it today?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

If free/busy is good enough for Eliot Spitzer, it's good enough for the rest of us

I don't know -- and don't want to know -- all the details about disgraced (now-ex) New York governor Eliot Spitzer's dalliances with a prostitution ring. But if one peruses some of the coverage, and digs into the online presence of some of the escort services mentioned, you don't have to dig too far to find escorts who post their up-to-the-minute calendars with various days marked "not available."

I relate this information not for salacious value, but to note that if businesses of questionable repute are using free/busy calendaring, this is a sure sign that the technology is progressing to a point where it certainly could do a lot more good for the rest of us -- those of us not engaged in questionable activities.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Microsoft Works: No, it doesn't (not for this)

Remember my hope that small/fast/simple Microsoft Works would be better at all this than big/slow/complicated Outlook? Not any more. I posted over at the newsgroup microsoft.public.pocketpc, and I discovered during the course of this conversation that Microsoft dropped calendar sync with Windows Mobile as of Microsoft Works 9.0. So there's no point pursuing that anymore.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Too many syncs in the kitchen

Robert Scoble writes:
"A Google engineer wrote me and said that they don’t recommend using Google’s Calendar Sync with other sync systems like Plaxo."
Digging into this, I understand why Google is recommending this, but it certainly is an interesting complication. Be careful about trying to sync your calendars by more than one method. I suppose that's always been true.

Friday, March 07, 2008

My Microsoft Works adventure

I've never set up Microsoft Works to work with my Pocket PC.

So I installed ActiveSync 4.5 on one of my XP machines. ActiveSync tells me:
"To synchronize E-mail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Notes with this computer, do the following: Disconnect the device, run Outlook..."
Fortunately I realized I didn't need to run Outlook, just Works.

Ah, but wait a minute. Works Help says:
"Start the Works Task Launcher."
It took a Google search before I realized I had to start the Task Launcher from the Start menu, not from within Works Calendar.


Then I click "Templates." My goodness what a lot of templates there! Lessee, where's the one I'm looking for...oh yeah, "Synchronization." Windows CE device synchronization. I start that...
"Works will now run the ActiveSync setup program to install the Works Synchronization files onto your Windows CE device. After the ActiveSync application downloading is complete, please turn off your Windows CE device and then turn it back on to complete the installation."
Followed by:
"Please check your mobile device screen to see if additional steps are necessary to complete this installation."
And indeed, there were some clicks to finish installation on the Pocket PC.

Of course, this fairly-ancient Pocket PC then tells me:
"The program you have installed may not display properly because it was designed for a previous version of Windows Mobile software [italics mine]."
I have to fight my way through a few more references to Outlook to get to:
"Welcome to the Pocket PC Sync Setup Wizard"
ActiveSync wants me to name the computer I'm syncing to. This part is familiar to me from previous ActiveSync adventures.

But wait, why is Calendar grayed out, but something called Appointments isn't???

Could it be that Calendar is an Outlook concept, but Appointments is a Works concept?

When I try to sync, nothing comes over in either direction. What am I doing wrong?

Do I have to set up a Mail profile in the Windows control panel?

I try that. I sync again. This time there's an error in ActiveSync:
"ActiveSync encountered a problem on the desktop. Support code: 85010014."
Anyone know what I should try next? How could I possibly have software that's too old? Is it the age of the Pocket PC? It's a Dell Axim running Windows Mobile 5.0.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

iPhone - Exchange integration: How praiseworthy?

In late June, we'll see the iPhone be able to sync calendars over the air with Exchange. Do you think Apple deserves a SwampDrain point for this? Or should they have done it from the get-go? I'd hope this is the last calendar-equipped gadget of its kind ever to be introduced with no legitimate way -- for nearly a year -- to provide over-the-air calendar publish-and-subscribe, much less sync.

WideLens offers reference calendar & connector

Things sure seem to be heating up lately in calendar land.

Alex Barnett writes:
"A couple of weeks back Bungee Labs released a reference calendaring application, called WideLens, designed to show off some of the power of the Bungee Connect platform...WideLens connects to Microsoft Exchange calendar, Google Calendar,, Facebook, MySQL and iCalendar feeds, representing a variety of protocols and authentication schemes"
This is going to be of more interest to developers than to the rest of us, but it still sounds cool, and it's open source, available under a BSD license.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Google Calendar Sync arrives

Calendar Swamp reader Matt Sweeney just tipped me off: Google Calendar Sync is now available. Two-way sync between Outlook and Google Calendar earns Google +1 SwampDrain point. It looks like a great complement to the third-party service GooSync, which takes care of syncing Google Calendar with mobile phones.

Calendar sharing: Patent pending?

Some longtime readers may remember Microsoft's Cameron Stillion, who communicated with me prior to the launch of Office 12. What I didn't know until today is that Cameron has applied for a software patent, "Providing electronic distribution of filtered calendars." If you click on that last link, and enter the Publication number 20070143685, you'll be able to browse a wealth of information about the application. I wonder what CalConnect, or Google, or any number of other calendar-sharing organizations and businesses, have to say about the potential validity of this patent? Could we be headed for a calendar-sharing future that requires a royalty payment to Microsoft?

UPDATE 9/30/08: Cameron Stillion responds in a comment to this post.

Microsoft Works: Better sharing than Outlook?

Found at the Queen's University School of Medicine Web site, the page I just viewed was last updated October 4, 2006:
"Microsoft Works 8 / 2006 ( believe it or not, has a better integrated calendar solution than Microsoft Outlook in many respects. If you currently own a copy of Microsoft Works 8 (2006), you can subscribe to iCalendar files in the "Works Calendar" and receive regular updates. We cannot confirm at this time whether or not it is possible to synchronize with your portable devices; however, we will be looking into this in the future."
Since then, Outlook 2007 came out, which lets you subscribe via iCal. Still...does anyone out there have experience sharing Microsoft Works calendars with others? How does it stack up?

Silverlight Calendar Control

Developer alert: Scott Guthrie at MIX08 mentioned a calendar control for Microsoft's Silverlight (competitor to Flash). I found one here. Maybe it will help someone make one calendar talk to another. If you find one running in the wild, drop me a line.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm queued up for beta Hosted Exchange

I'm going to try out the new Microsoft Online Hosted Exchange beta, but the new beta service, announced yesterday, has temporarily reached its limit of beta testers. I'm "in queue" and will share my experiences as this unfolds. There's a calendar-sharing aspect of Hosted Exchange, so it's worth watching. Meanwhile, if you've already tried it out, please comment here on what you're seeing.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

CalDAV not catching the wave?

CalDAV co-author Lisa Dusseault blogs:
"Were I to propose CalDAV today it would probably be CalAtom -- some things would be easier, some harder, but it would catch a wave instead of drifting in the tail of something that was never much of a popular wave. Oh well, we needed something then, and WebDAV gave the most leverage at the time."
I guess it remains to be seen if the CalDAV wave is large enough, if even the co-creator of it can disparage it so. There are certainly a lot of people still laboring mightily on implementing CalDAV in real products and services.