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There is a radiant darkness upon us

Sync, Sync, Sync

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[With apologies to Cabaret Voltaire]

I want to synchronise my Thunderbird address book between work and home and my Palm Vx. I also want to synchronise Google Calendar with Sunbird and my aging Palm. This is for two reasons; to synchronise and simultaneously back the data up. I feel nervous and exposed, like an Oracle DBA relying on nightly exports.

One option was to repeatedly export/import the data between applications but that is far too time consuming and I am lazy.

I noted with interest, Matt’s recent experiences with Plaxo but decided that the name sounded too much like Sage & Onion stuffing. Also, the Plaxo Thunderbird plug-in doesn’t currently support multiple address books.

Then I happened across EngTech’s superb blog and this excellent article which describes how to use ScheduleWorld as a synchronisation hub (using SyncML) to synchronise anything to anything in any direction and put an end to all human suffering (well almost).

I signed up for a free ScheduleWorld account (the login page looks strangely reminiscent of Google) and successfully synchronised ScheduleWorld with Google Calendar.

Then I downloaded the Calendar Sync4j extension for Thunderbird 1.5 and synchronised an appointment (‘MUFC v Celtic’) from the Thunderbird Calendar to ScheduleWorld onto Google (and all the way back again).

The I remembered what I was actually supposed to be doing and configured Thunderbird to access the ScheduleWorld LDAP server. This worked once I read the documentation properly and used the numeric ID (instead of the email account).

This is not truly synchronisation in the old sense of propreitary conduits and commercial products. This is purely storing data on a server with an open, standard (LDAP) interface manipulated using various client applications to perform, err, synchronisation.

Now Thunderbird could retrieve contact details from ScheduleWorld. Unfortunately, Thunderbird currently has no SyncML support embedded so Thunderbird is unable to modify the address book. However, I was able to export addreses to LDIF format, import to the ScheduleWorld server and manage (clean) the data using the ScheduleWorld Web interface.

ScheduleWorld doesn’t currently support bisexual bi-directional synchronisation with Gmail contacts which would be the ‘killer app’ and the icing on the cake but if/when the Google API allows it, even this may be possible.

The only disadvantages in this blissful state of nirvana is the fact that the Palm is now an legacy application, an islolated silo and I will erase the entire contents of my Palm address book. Consequently, I will forget to send Great Auntie Agatha a Christmas card including my traditional round-up of the year together with a delightful family photograph.

This is because Great Auntie Agatha doesn’t have an email address and her details solely resided on the Palm. Great Auntie Agatha will then pass away peacefully in her sleep next May. All my relatives will be rich beyond their wildest dreams while I will receive absolutely nothing after this Christmas card debacle.

I will then be forced to pursue legal action against ‘EngTech’ and the brilliant author of ‘ScheduleWorld’ so if someone could furnish me with their real names and addresses, I would be eternally grateful.

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