Thursday, December 31, 2009

Getting categorial about the iPhone calendar

Following up on the update to my last post, the native iPhone calendar can assign new events to a category, but only if that category is created by iCal for the Mac (or presumably Outlook) and then synched to the iPhone. If you don't use either iCal for the Mac or Outlook, no categories on the iPhone. I wonder if the rumored Apple tablet will allow category creation independently? That in itself wouldn't be enough to get me to buy a tablet, however. I just want the iPhone calendar to do it without a mind-meld with either Outlook or iCal for the Mac.

Update: Well I stand corrected! After doing a few more syncs, I was able to bring multiple calendars onto the iPhone and now can create new events using any of those calendars. This works because Google Sync is mimicking the Exchange (Outlook) protocol on its end. So it works! Categories rock!! (Just they originally did on the Palm calendar.) And yes, Windows Mobile was playing catchup.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nuevasync does handheld tricks with multiple Google calendars

Kudos to Nuevasync to close out the year and match the kudos I gave the company at the start of 2009. This time, Nuevasync allows Windows Mobile calendar users to assign a Google calendar to a category in their WinMo calendar, making it easy to manage multiple Google calendars in the (Windows) palm of one's hand. Let's see the iPhone do that! (It can't: the iPhone native calendar doesn't have categories.) The new Nuevasync service is $25 a year -- a fair price.

Score one for Windows Mobile ... after a verry long drought!

Update: It's true, as a commenter to this post says, that the iPhone can merge multiple Google calendars into one iPhone calendar. But the new Nuevasync also lets mobile users assign events to a particular category which then feeds back into respective category, and the native iPhone calendar (still) can't do that.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

State of the Swamp, 2010

There's still so much swamp to be drained.

Latest case in point: I'm preparing to attend my first Consumer Electronics Show in five years. For years, CES and similar trade shows have provided a Web-based event planner to add show activities to a personalized calendar. After selecting their events, attendees have a choice to export this calendar, purportedly to iCal format.

This I did today. But like so many other supposed iCal files, this one can't be properly imported into standard iCal-compliant calendars such as Google Calendar or Mozilla.

At least at the beginning of 2010, we have a new diagnostic tool, the iCalendar Validator. Running my exported CES file through the Validator reveals that the file scored 75 out of 100 points, accompanied by this warning: "This calendar has major problems; many applications will reject this calendar."

I would guess that one application will accept the calendar just fine: Microsoft Outlook. But looking at the text of the CES calendar, the beginning states "BEGIN:VCALENDAR BEGIN:VCALENDAR VERSION:2.0."

vCal is an older, less forgiving version of the iCal standard. It's been the topic of a long comment thread here. It's sad that organizations of the stature and importance of the Consumer Electronics Association (producers of CES) are still using vCal, and worse that it gets billed as iCal when only Outlook iCal is likely to be speaking that dialect.

I wonder if it's possible to use simple search-and-replace commands in Notepad to make the CES calendar work in Google Calendar. I'm going to try. But all the time, I will be wondering, after this year of cloud computing, how come the top U.S. technology show doesn't support the top cloud calendar format?

Update: If one views the source code of the CES Web site, it's obvious that it is created using the /Microsoft format. The incompatibility culprit here is Microsoft!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Calendar as marketing tool

You know those free printed calendars we come across this time of the year? Now they're going online. Tylenol has one at, and it's strictly a marketing vehicle. Every week or so there's a coupon to print out. It only shows one month at a time. And of course there's no true sharing with any other calendar service or software, just some ways to spam the calendar to others via email, Facebook and the like.

I hope the next marketer to try this discovers iCal feeds!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Droid calendar search: FAIL (Android too)

I looked at a Motorola Droid this morning, and it shares the same flaw as Google's Android operating system: you can't search through your mobile calendar!

The press coverage of the Droid completely overlooks the native calendar. As usual, calendaring is the immensely practical application that gets no attention. Nevertheless, previous mobile phone platforms -- BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone -- at least let you search the calendar. Why not Droid? Why not Android?

The best my local Verizon store manager could say was, watch for other native calendars to be developed for the Droid.

But how realistic is that? Even if someone else offers an improved native calendar, could it be brought up from the Android home page instead of the default Android calendar?

I couldn't believe the one reviewer who said Droid has "superior in-device search" to the iPhone.

The market does need alternatives to the iPhone, to keep Apple on its toes. Droid isn't that alternative -- not from a calendaring angle.

I don't blame Motorola or Verizon. This is their release of Google's platform. That's what really amazes me about all this. Google is THE SEARCH COMPANY. It has no excuse to NOT offer search of its Android calendar.

Even when Google's providing device access to its cloud-based Google Calendar, Google comes up short. I wrote back on July, even on the iPhone, the Web version of Google Calendar is not searchable, unlike its desktop counterpart. That is still the case today.

A robust native calendar is essential. I've experienced enough recent outages of Google Calendar to remind me that the cloud is best used as a sync point for calendars -- but 24x7 calendaring is best served up right on the phone or other mobile device.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

GooSync sinks free version

The free version of GooSync is discontinued as of today. My SwampDrain sensibilities are unhappy and take back one (-1) of the two points awarded back in 2007. Although, in fairness, I haven't used GooSync since I abandoned all flavors of Outlook.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Apology of the week

Microsoft apologizes and says it was able to recover "most, if not all" the lost calendar data for users of its Sidekick service.

No dollar amount has been given on the damage done to cloud calendaring. But hey, Google Calendar continues to have some downtime, but soldiers on anyway.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How to get events into social networks

With the proliferation of social networks, services to help publish events across them are a good idea. Calendar Review notes one such service, Active Data Calendar.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sync between iPhone calendar and Google Calendar

I'm not sure how I missed it before, but I've now successfully used CalDAV sync between my iPhone and my Google Calendar. However, when I add an event on the iPhone, I don't appear to have a way to direct the event to a particular calendar defined in my Google Calendar. I'm not sure if this is a limitation of CalDAV or not. Does anyone know?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yahoo! Calendar syncs with iPhone

New from Yahoo!: Sync your Yahoo! Calendar with the iPhone. No desktop Apple iCal required (never did figure out how to dispense with it in the case of Google Calendar). I've got to check this out, as soon as I can find the time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

FuseCal goes dark

Synchronizing calendars is a tough problem -- tougher than mere interoperability, tougher than simply publish-and-subscribe. Those who undertake to do it successfully probably deserve the highest number of SwampDrain points that this mere blog could possibly bestow.

Thus it is with a heavy heart that I must report the shuttering last month of FuseCal. During my busy summer, it escaped my notice. Obviously each calendar service must make its numbers to survive, and when one doesn't, it reflects upon the sorry state of the continuing lack of interoperability between calendars, the continuing complexity of calendar interoperability, and the lack of a clarion call from consumers for easy calendar interactions -- whether in the cloud, on desktops, or in our pockets.

The passage of FuseCal also takes with it into limbo the assets of iFreeBusy, which set out to solve a simpler problem: that of providing an easy place to post one's free and busy information.

Now it falls back upon CalConnect to continue to hammer out calendar interoperability standards which can become the basis for more progress and innovation in this area.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Searching calendars on the iPhone

Basically, if you want to search your calendar on the iPhone, you'd better be using the native calendar app. Why? Because other calendars you can run on the phone -- such as Google Calendar -- incredibly don't provide a way to search the calendar! I couldn't believe this when I first discovered it. After all, it's trivial to search your Google Calendar on a regular Web browser via the prominent "search my calendars" button at the top. But Google Calendar as it runs on the iPhone has no such feature.

Now in fairness, Apple only added this ability to the native iPhone calendar with the recent release of the iPhone 3.0 software that came with my iPhone 3 GS. So it's not like the iPhone could do this at all before that. But given the immense popularity of the iPhone, it's critical that Google add this feature to the iPhone implementation of its own calendar. After all, Google is a search company!

We'll probably see Google and other cloud calendar providers fix their iPhone implementations before it becomes easy to sync the native iPhone calendar directly to their cloud calendars, for reasons explained previously here.

Friday, July 03, 2009

DAViCAL: Another open-source CalDAV server

A new open-source CalDAV server is making progress: DAViCAL now implements CalConnect's Freebusy Read URL. Written by New Zealander Andrew McMillan, DAViCAL "is a create a straightforward CalDAV server for shared groupware calendaring. The project is written in PHP and uses a PostgreSQL database for backend storage."

Another opportunity for someone to write a cookbook to allow mere mortals to install and operate a low-cost CalDAV-compatible calendar-sharing server at home or elsewhere. Any takers? I may get around to running it and writing it myself.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

VueMinder: Another route around Outlook calendaring?

What the Windows world needs is for a good, modern, interoperable and share-friendly calendar program to challenge Outlook successfully enough that emerging calendar-sync services support it. This will also provide a credible threat to Outlook since Outlook has no competition to speak of. Courtesy of Calendar Review, VueMinder is my latest candidate.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bump: Watch it and weep

Calendar sharing used to be a lot easier when River and I both had Palm-based PDAs. We would beam events back and forth with abandon! Then we both left Palm behind and our own calendar swamp was born.

Now, for reasons I explain elsewhere, I am buying an iPhone. If you read my top 10 list of reasons, you won't see "calendar sharing" as one of them. Yes, Apple is improving the iPhone calendar, allowing users to initiate meeting requests from the phone itself. But seeing someone else's calendar still requires a third-party Web service, and if like us you want to keep a local copy of the calendar (not on Google Gears), you'll need Apple iCal or Microsoft Outlook on a Mac or PC respectively.

Here's the weepy part: for iPhone users, contact sharing is now as simple as the old Palm PDA beaming was, thanks to Bump Technologies:

Bump is free, so it will probably be ubiquitous on iPhones.

But the makers of Bump cannot add calendar sharing to the service because, unlike what is possible with iPhone contacts, Apple has not published the APIs to allow such sharing when it comes to calendars. Here's the official statement from David Lieb, co-founder and president of Bump Technologies, responding to an email from me:

"We'd love to support calendar event sharing with Bump, but, at least right now with OS 2.2.1, Apple doesn't give apps access to calendar events. We could create a web interface and hack our way around it, but we like to keep things simple and intuitive for our users. Perhaps things will change in future Apple OS releases. As we port Bump to other platforms, this is definitely something we'll want to support."

As I reported earlier here, the iPhone OS 3.0 -- which Bump and all developers are under NDA and cannot disclose details about -- does not include the calendar APIs. Which is a damn shame.

Maybe a groundswell of demand for calendar bumping will follow the widespread adoption of Bump for contact sharing.

May it be so!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Outlook now syncs to Google Apps

Apple and Google, Apple and Google...will Microsoft ever have another innovative calendar-sharing announcement to make?

Meanwhile, here's Google's latest: create events in Outlook and instantly sync them to Google Apps. (If you pay for Google Apps Premier or have a corporate license.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Spanning Sync announces Spanning Tools for Mac

Today Spanning Sync, the Google Calendar/Apple iCal calendar (and contacts) sync tool, announced the public beta of Spanning Tools for Mac, "a suite of utilities that analyzes, reports, and fixes dozens of problems with iCal, Address Book, and Apple Sync Services — problems ranging from the obvious, such as duplicated calendar events, to the subtle, such as invalid calendar dates."

It's great to see such a utility, one which may be required at varous intersections between different makes of calendar.

Fedora to promote calendar sharing with Exchange

Dana Blankenhorn reports that Red Hat's Fedora 11 will support calendar sharing with Microsoft Exchange.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tool to Meet

From Calendar Review: "I found a calendar website for making appointments in a new way. People do not need any accounts and passwords, and still it is completely private. See"

Because it doesn't integrate with existing calendars, I wonder how useful this is. Probably it depends upon whether your calendar can detect meetings being proposed or scheduled inside your email. iCal for Mac does this, as does Zimbra.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Google Wave tips calendar sharing to the cloud

Some of you may already think shared calendaring is a cloud-only activity, but I submit that lots of folks still maintain their calendar on a PC or handheld device, and struggle (as I do) to try to share it with others. One reason this habit persists is just inertia; another is that the cloud calendars by and large do not really provide a great deal more function than the standalone ones. Cloud calendars such as Tungle start to change that by making it possible to "paint" one's availability on a grid of times, effortlessly shared with other Tungle users.

But Google Wave seems to me to add something really exciting to all software, that is the ability to "play back" the history of any online collaboration, and it would seem natural to me to have a shared calendar where I could do exactly that, following the steps that may have led up to a particular event being agreed upon by various participants. That's just one example of what something like Google Wave can provide. So I'm left believing that whether or not Google has invented a standard way to do this (as they hope) or not, all shared calendars will eventually have this capability, so that you would not only have the schedule, but a history of how the schedule came to be.

The Google Wave demo at I/O this week didn't specifically reference calendaring, but the very first use case was a dialogue between two users trying to agree to attend some event together, so I don't have to think very hard to come up with "waves" whose end product is a shared calendar entry.

The immediate impact on calendar sharing is negligible, but the long-term impact is profound. Maybe I've drunk too much Google Kool-Aid at this point, but any calendar sharing solution that ignores this kind of collaboration ultimately does so at its peril. And having Google do it first probably means it will end up getting done the same way across the Web, and that would be a good thing, whatever my reservations about Google's own privacy policies.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tasks now in Google Calendar

It took a year and three months to happen since I blogged about it, but Google Calendar finally added tasks. Yet another reason to insist on tasks as a standard feature in any online calendar, since at some point, someone's going to want to share it with a Google Calendar user.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

4.9 hours per workweek

4.9 hours per workweek -- that's how much time business professionals spend to arrange, on average, seven meetings. MediaPost has the details about the study that found this. Seventeen percent of all meetings are rescheduled, which is one place where some services such as Tungle have some area for improvement, as detailed in my most recent podcast.

The study that produced these findings is sponsored by Swiss-based Doodle, a company started in 2007 as yet another would-be go-to place on the Web to arrange meetings.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Revolutionary calendaring

Dilbert creator Scott Adams: "I think the biggest software revolution of the future is that the calendar will be the organizing filter for most of the information flowing into your life."

Podcast #10: Tungle

On April 22 I had a phone conversation with Mark Gingras, founder & CEO of Tungle. Listen to Calendar Swamp podcast #10 (33:46, 54MB).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Podcast #9: TimeBridge

On April 3 I met with Yori Nelken, founder & CEO of TimeBridge, and John Stormer, TimeBridge vice president of marketing. Listen to Calendar Swamp podcast #9 (58:17, 54MB).

Friday, April 17, 2009

AirSet update

AirSet did a relaunch recently:

In my continuing quest for calendar-sharing nirvana, I visited AirSet and recorded CalendarSwamp podcast #8 (1:10:38, 66MB).

AirSet does more than share calendars now, branching out to share Web pages and documents. There's also a cool Firefox plug-in, the AirSet Connector, that lets AirSet users do the kind of smart cut-and-paste to a calendar that Microsoft demoed, but never delivered in a product.

More about smart cut-and-paste calendar options in my next podcast.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

1,000 new iPhone APIs, but nothing for calendaring

Apple will publish 1,000 new APIs for the iPhone, but calendaring won't be one of them. Fabrizio Capobianco is outraged. I'll add my outrage. If Apple were to publish this API, we would get better calendaring options on the iPhone.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Inside the Facebook silo

Occasionally I peer into some new calendaring data silo. (There are so many!) Earlier this week, TechCrunch surveyed SocialCalendar and FriendEvent, calendaring apps inside of Facebook. If you and everyone you need to share with are never separated from Facebook, maybe these work for you? As for the rest of us, it looks like another data silo.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Welcome to NY Times readers

My "calendar users' bill of rights" premiered this morning in the New York Times online small business section. I've got more work to do on it, but thanks to David Strom, it's part of a larger conversation taking place on the Web.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The rise of calendar aggregators

Surely one piece of the puzzle called calendar sharing is aggregating many calendars into one. Jon Udell is working on one such calendar aggregator, his elmcity project, and one of his readers also brings a wiki-like aggregator, Calagator, to his attention. FuseCal and Upcoming also play in this area. Read Jon's post and comments on the post.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Funambol MobileWe

Funambol MobileWe
Originally uploaded by scottmace2005
This week Fabrizio Capobianco of Funambol gave me a demo of the Funambol alternative (bound to be superior, by the way) to MobileMe, first announced last year. This is intended to be made available by mobile phone operators (although some of what it provides, with a different front end, is also in beta testing over at

This is interesting work that brings multivendor calendar sharing into the cloud, and helps provide an alternative to Apple and Google. Although I'm not so sure I want to have my mobile phone operator at the center of my life, any more than I want Apple or Google there. At any rate, choice is good.

Here is a screen shot Funambol provided of the generic Funambol Portal. Imagine the Funamobol logo replaced by Verizon or Sprint and you get the idea.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Meridex responds to report of Calgoo Hub woes

Michael Lui, formerly of Calgoo and now with Meridex, sent me an email in response to my post earlier today about Calgoo Hub's problems. The email said in part:

"I want to assure you that during our transition to Meridex, none of the technical infrastructure was affected. The current downtime is a direct result of the unexpected extra traffic and attention we have been getting, and we are looking at expanding and adding servers to help the the load. However, as that was happening we ran into all sorts of technical issues related to expanding, such as replication and load balancing. Not a pretty situation ;-)

"Yes, our Calgoo Hub service is definitely going through a rough patch right now. We are not as prepared as we should have been, but we are confident that we will resolve it shortly."

So we'll see if Calgoo Hub returns to form. Meanwhile, I'm keeping my main calendar on Google Calendar, have installed Google Gears, and subscribed to the calendar from Sunbird to have a local copy of it that isn't dependent upon beta software such as the Gears/Gcal combo.

Changes at Calgoo, not for the better

Calgoo Software was sold last month to Meridex Software Corp. and the sale looks like it has taken its toll on Calgoo operations. River has been unable to connect to the Calgoo Hub service from Apple iCal for the past few days. I've got an inquiry into my former contact there; no response yet. For now, it may be time for me to move off of Calgoo...and probably also time to again try -- at least temporarily -- Google Calendar (and its new offline access).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Google Calendar offline gotcha

TechCrunch notes that offline access to Google Calendar is now generally available via Google Gears -- but that entries made online become read-only when offline. Fortunately, one can still add new calendar entries. But still, room for improvement!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Arranging meetings via the Web, without online registration

Earlier today, Doug Kaye tweeted: "Is there a good online service for scheduling multi-person meetings and calls that doesn't require everyone to register?" Later on that day, he tweeted about two good possibilities: When is Good and Meet-O-Matic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Elevate America? The missing agenda item

For Microsoft to claim that our economy can be turned around by teaching "computer fundamentals," and then listing word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, Web design, and database as those fundamentals...hey, what about calendaring and scheduling? Once again it gets the bum's rush on the short list (just like the way phone companies & phone makers ignore and neglect the calendaring apps they ship) . Too bad, because as I've said, managing our time is a key to economic turnaround.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sunbird development halts

Mozilla is halting work on further enhancements to Sunbird. I saw that one coming. The question is, which modular open source calendar will carry on? Or will we have to settle for an integrated calendar/email client, such as Lightning or Mulberry?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Towards valid iCalendar feeds

Bravo to all concerned on the start of a project to create tests to make sure that iCalendar feeds are validated, the same way that RSS feeds are validated. Valid RSS led to much greater adoption of RSS. The same can happen for iCal.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Read-only offline Google Calendar

TechCrunch: "The new offline [Google] calendar application doesn’t allow you to create, edit or delete events."

Harumph. Beta software!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Doc knocks Apple iCal, MobileMe

I don't want to turn this blog into an Apple-bashing service, but when someone as respected as Doc Searls says this, you know that Apple has work to do:
"iCal has been improved minimally since its introduction years ago, and screws up coordinating with the iPhone (for example, by failing to associate the colors of calendars in iCal with the same calendars on the phone, and in fact randomly changing them on the phone with every sync — and failing to use the phone to tell the computer which time zone the user is in, which would be handy)."
UPDATE: Cringely took a timely swipe at Microsoft that made me think of this post.

FuseCal acquires iFreeBusy

Public Display, providers of FuseCal, a calendar syncing service I wrote about last year, has acquired and will continue to run the service, which had been set to shut down last year.

This is great news. Calendar interoperability needs stable and inexpensive (even free) free/busy services upon which to innovate. It's great that this can happen building upon Neil Jensen's pioneering ifreebusy service.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

iPhone calendar sync without iTunes, or a Mac

Some time ago Calendar Swamp reader Jeff Widman asked if I had heard of Nuevasync. I hadn't, but I subscribed to the Nuevasync blog and began educating myself about this free service for syncing iPhone info, including the calendar, with Google Calendar and Google Contacts/Gmail. Now Widman has written a positive review of Nuevasync at TechCrunch IT, and I've started recommending it for those cases where someone has an iPhone but is running iTunes for Windows. I run iTunes for Windows, but only for music; I've always found its sync abilities lacking compared to iTunes for Mac and many other solutions. And this morning David Strom contacted me for a New York Times story he's writing on calendar interop for small businesses. For you iPhone-with-Windows folks out there, this is the deal.

For you Mac folks, I'd certainly recommend Nuevasync over MobileMe -- I can't believe Apple's still charging for it! Meanwhile, Nuevasync appears to have the jump on Spanning Sync and BusySync, because only Nuevasync takes the desktop Mac out of the equation in getting from the iPhone to Google and possibly other places in the future. +1 SwampDrain point for NuevaSync.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New year, new agenda

This year is already 20 days old, but since its start I've had a new agenda for this blog. The problems of calendars not working together are now well-documented, here and elsewhere. New calendars continue to appear and continue not to interoperate with other calendars. Interoperability continues to mean different things to different people:
  • Can I read my calendar without being at my computer?*
  • Can I read your calendar without being at your computer?
  • Can I receive updates easily from other calendars, public and private?
  • Can I update any such calendar remotely?
  • Can I "sync" two calendars such that all changes made on one calendar are made on the other calendar, and that conflicts are resolved in a straightforward manner?
  • Can I easily combine two calendars into one, or separate one calendar into two, and route them accordingly?
  • If the calendar is maintained in the "cloud," do I have trust in that image of my calendar, such that the security and privacy of that information is assured?
This year, in 2009, I am dedicated to a systematic exploration of these questions. It's more than giving out SwampDrain points for jobs well or poorly done, though that may still happen from time to time.

Lastly, how can these questions be made part of a national dialogue about the productivity of America? It's all well and good to expand the use of broadband Internet communications to more parts of the country, but I remain convinced that providing a solid, interoperable calendaring infrastructure could raise our productivity more than any mere DSL, cable or WiMax hookup. Is anyone from the Obama administration listening?

* - "Computer" is any device where you enter your calendar info. That could be a phone, an iPod Touch, or some other calendar-enabled appliance.