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Journey into sync

I’m fairly picky when it comes to how I manage my personal data.  I like a fair amount of separation between things but I want everthing accessible.  Quite a while ago I moved my domain (for email, etc) over to google apps.  I can’t really understand why anyone with less than 3 or 4 thousand users would run their own mail servers, but that is a post for another day.  Since I’ve been a user of google apps for a while I’ve been looking for a good way to manage my calendars.  I’ve never been totally happy with GoogleCalendar especially when compared with iCal.  I’ve used both spanning sync as well as busy sync, but I never got enough use out of them to warrant paying for them.  Throw in the addition of my iphone and I just wasn’t happy with how things were setup.

Recently I’ve overhauled everything and am pretty happy with the results.  I found NuevaSync, which is a (currently) free service that provides activesync services with google.  For those of you keeping score at home, activesync is the mobile sync protocol used to syncronize (ie push) mail, contacts and calendars.  It is licensed by Microsoft and is the backbone behind exchange.  This is obviously not ideal but currently it’s the only real sync protocol that the iphone supports.  SyncML is out there but isn’t supported and has some issue of it’s own.

NuevaSync will provide sync services for calendars and contacts (no email yet, but I don’t really want push email).  It’s reasonably painless to setup (you can actually do it all from your phone if you’d like).  Nicely you don’t have to give nuevasync your google password, they use the google auth token stuff that lets you authorize certain sites to have access to certain parts of your google account.  Setup is fairly straight forward, once you get everything setup between nuevasync and google you need to configure your phone.  Bear in mind that configuring activesync for either contacts or calendars will remove any existing calendars/contacts so make sure you backup everything before you start.

I went through and exported all of calendar entries from ical and did the same with my contacts.  You then configure your phone to use nuevasync as an exchange server.  They have excellent instructions and good self-debugging tools so it’s pretty straight forward.  I did run into a couple of perplexities.  First I use google apps, which nuevasync supports, but I also have a non-apps account on google that corresponds to my email address (for google reader, and a few other things that aren’t ‘appsified’ yet).  When I was in the process of authorizing nuevasync to my google account I was presented with 2 logins (with the same email).  I had to go through a little trail and error to find the right one.  The other problem I ran into was with contacts.  It seems that if you import your contacts without putting them into a group (mainly b/c the AtoG tool to export from addressbook completely loses all your group information) but once I moved them into a group it worked like a charm.

Now I can add events and contacts on my phone and they get synced up into google.  I’ve since added google via caldav to my iCal which lets me see my calendar in iCal.  This is actually working out pretty well since I can make my work calendar (on my laptop) my default calendar and simplify things with work.  I still need to find a way to sync contacts between AddressBook and google but I don’t add/change them all that often so an export may work for now.

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