gmail

Exchange Calendar to iCal to gCal Blues...

Let's set-up this problem... I am on a Mac desktop.  I have iCal up and running which pulls calendars down from both my (soon to be expired) .me account, and from work's exchange server.

Side note -- explaining how to set-up iCal to sync with exchange is not part of this article as I've no wish to re-live the pain of interacting with (any) Microsoft product unless absolutely necessary.

Since I've nearly completed by migration from .me to Google, the last element of the move was to get my calendars in-sync with each other.

Under my gMail account, I have a calendar linked to my gMail address.  However, I cannot sync my iCal from my desktop up to Google in a way that the calendars that I've subscribed to on iCal are automagically transferred to gCal.

I can, however, sync my gMail calendar down to my iCal but it seems that the transfer is only one-way -- I can get stuff down from gCal but I can't send calendars (created outside the mshallop@gmail.com account) up to gCal.

I googled the issue -- and I see where Google does offer a sync-tool for exchange to gCal -- but you have to be on Windows to use it.  There's also some middleware that your IT office can install on the exchange side -- but the chances of IT installing anything "outside the box" on the corporate servers are pretty much nil.

I read through several Android forums -- (I've got another article coming out in a day or two about the experiences of dumping my iPhone-4 for the Thunderbolt) -- where I discovered that I'm far from being the only person to have this issue.  One of the recommended solutions I did see on the forums was the integration/installation/use of a Mac-based application called BusyCal.

I initially downloaded and installed the trial versions of both BusyCal and BusySync - and that was because I didn't immediately understand that BusyCal is a superset of BusySync by providing the same functionality as BusySync along with a desktop application designed to replace iCal on the desktop.

Using the trial version - which limits you to 30-days of unrestricted use - I pretty much immediately got the sync results I desired once I plugged in my gMail account information.  The application grabbed my calendar from .me, exchange and gCal and synced it so that everything now appears on gCal, and in the desktop application.

If I log into gCal through the web interface, I see everything which is nice for when I'm not at my work desktop where BusyCal is installed.  And, bonus, since my new Android  phone is linked to my gMail account, getting all my calendars down to my phone's calendar application was automatically accomplished.

One of the features I really like on the BusyCal desktop is that they show you the weather for the day for your area.  It's a very nice add-on feature when you're working in San Francisco where the weather is, at best, flaky.

As you can see from the screenie, the BusyCal application also tracks to-do lists - a feature I don't personally use: I have Bugzilla for that - but I know a lot of folks rely on.

Well worth the $50 for the application to have something that simply works -- no more duplicate entries, no more alt-tab'ing between applications to see pieces of calendar -- everything is consolidated into a unified view via a solid and intuitive UX.

Dumping Me-Dot-Com...

I've been using Apple machines as my primary and preferred desktop since my cherry iMac in the early 2000's.  I then bought a cube, the 12" aluminum iBook, followed by a mac mini, then a white iMac and, today, I work off an iMac 24" I7.  I've had a iPod and iPhone since generation 1 and I acquired the first iPad when it was available. While I'm not a slavering fanboi of Apple - I still maintain that they're generally overpriced - I use Apple and their products because, well, simply, they work.  They do what you want, when you want it, and they don't interrupt your daily work flow with lots of silly, unnecessary questions or confirmations.

Well, let me revise that.  Apple, as a generality, mostly works.

One of the other things I was an early-adopter for was the .mac account, now known as the .me (or dot-me) account.  This account, for only $99/year, allows you to keep your personal data in-sync across all Apple hardware (and some PC) products.  This is the part that mostly works.

What annoys me the most about the whole .me experience is that you're paying for something which is freely offered elsewhere.  That, and the address book part of sync really doesn't work.  (If it did, there wouldn't be apps in the AppStore dedicated to cleaning out your address book.  Yes, I've bought and tried those.  They mostly work in that they manage to eradicate about 90% of the problems in my address book.  One release even went so far as to introduce new problems - but that's another story.

And the address book glitches always seem to pop-up at the worst possible time: I need to call the IT-liaison because my production server went down and address-book is now showing me the last 10-years of his phone numbers (apparently, it's really hard to get stuff perma-deleted...) displayed in a bewildering array of information.

Plus, it's really aggravating to have to part with a hundred bucks a year.  I mean, a hundred bucks a year isn't a lot, but at one time, it's pretty significant.  And, if you don't think so, let me ship you the two teenagers that are living with me right now and you can feed them for a few months, and then you can tell me what you think.

So, despite my inner-paranoia over google's predilection towards harvesting, storing and re-selling my data, I got a daily-use (as opposed to my throw-away) email account and went over to my dot-me account and set-up mail forwarding and vacation mail notices.  Which means, that if you've emailed me in the last month or so, you received an auto-response from me stating that me email address has changed - please make a note.

Snicker.  Update your address book.

This move was prompted by my new company's heavy usage of google tools.  Having tasted the kool-aid, I had no other choice but to submit, slurping down the sugary mixture by the ubergallon.

How-to's on converting your Mac-life over to Google have been done to death and won't  be repeated here.  The point is that Google mail works (and, if you've not looked at mailplane, and you're using gmail, you should!), the associated tools work - everything works.  When you combine all that with a Dropbox account, you've got the complete me-dot-com feature set.

For free.

Other than giving-up the .me domain, which I don't view as that much of a status symbol - not compared to .mac - I really don't understand the value-add prop of a dot-me account that you can't get elsewhere....