Tag Archives: iphone

Syncing Mechanics for Google, the iPhone & Windows

Last week I talked about how I had come up with a better solution for syncing my calendar and contacts information across a variety of devices, including my windows based computers, iPhone and iPad. But I didn’t go into the actual mechanics. So without further ado, here’s the how to do it.

Windows (on the desktop and on the netbook)

To get my Google contacts automatically synced with the Thunderbird email client that I use, I downloaded the free Zindus “Google and Zimbra contact sync” for Thunderbird. Its simplicity itself to install. Inside Thunderbird you click tools, add-ons then install then select the downloaded file. You then configure it inside Thunderbird, by selecting Tools | Zindus (its a new option that has appeared), and adding your Google Mail account and password. The two systems then keep themselves sync’ed without any interference.

Two points to note.

1. I discovered whilst writing this that Zindus was written by a friend of mine in Richmond (well done Leni!)

2. Double ups of information generally occur as people switch jobs, and email addresses. Google Mail has a lovely tool to find the “double-ups” and fix them up for you.

The second area where I want to Sync with Google is with my calendar. I use a product called Lighting, which integrates with Thunderbird. I downloaded the free Google Calendar Provider and installed it the same way I installed Zindus above. By selecting Tools | Add Ons | Install inside Thunderbird.

When you run Lighting, click the calendar icon in Thunderbird, you can then create a Google Calendar “feed” to be displayed. To create the Calendar feed select File | New | Calendar. You then select Google Calendar and enter the Calendar location. The Calendar location can be found by going to your Google Calendar in a web browser, selecting Settings | Calendar Details and pressing the XML button for the private address. Cut and past this address into Lighting and Voila! Your Google Calendar and Lightning Calendar will automatically sync with each other.

The lovely thing is I can repeat this same setup on every device I may touch, and they will all automatically sync without getting confused as Google is always the “source”.

I can also go to my Google account and see my up-to-date calendar, contacts and send email if I drop into an internet cafe.

Although I don’t use Microsoft Outlook, the same principle works there as well. There is a great article here on how to set it up with links to the free software.

On the iPhone and iPad

Both the iPhone and iPad are pretty much identical to setup. Its a two step process. The first step is to add your Google Account, the second step is to tell the device which calendars you want synced – I have 9.

To setup your Google account you go to settings on the device and add, here’s a tricky bit, a Microsoft Exchange Account (not the listed Google Mail account). This means you will access Google via an exchange server Google has licensed, which gives you the functionality you need to sync lots of accounts. The process is explained in detail, with pictures, here. With this one stroke you can setup eMail, Contacts and Calendar. Its also likely that you will delete any existing contacts you have on the device, but that’s pretty much a good thing at this stage. Just take a backup of your contacts first in a basic format such as csv (a comma delimited text file) and import these into your Google Contacts when you are done.

Miraculously, Contacts will start appearing on your iPhone in batches. In my case downloading the 2,500 or so contacts normally takes a number of hours. I don’t know why it takes this long, but I don’t care. All I know is that it works.

The second thing you will want to do is add additional calendars to Sync. On the iPhone and iPad, each calendar comes in its own colour and I can turn them on or off, depending on whether I want to see the big picture or just focus on one thing. Why I have multiple calendars, is something I have written about before, but won’t go into here.

Instructions for setting up multiple calendars to Sync are published here by Google. Basically you just goto http://m.google.com/sync , login and select the calendars. The trick is to use the web browser on the device you want to sync as the Google Sync website recognises which device you are using to access it, and configures the available options automatically.

This doesn’t just work for the iPhone and iPad, the Google Sync website also has instructions on how to make the hole thing happen with Android, Blackberry, iPhone’s Nokia’s and others.

There was only a tiny bit of fiddling to get the whole kit and kaboodle working, but now that its done, it just works. So much so that I regularly find myself surprised when other people mention that they are having issues. Hope you find it useful too.

connecting social media

Bloody Social Media!

Having decided to have a crack at the Twitter thing I have run into the problem that my day can now be chewed up managing content online.

My main poetic activities now seem to be writing quick posts on what I am upto in LinkedIn then Facebook then  Twitter, or writing in depth articles for Digital Bottom Line which I store with other stuff at a wordpress blog called One Sock.

Since (according to my father in law) I am lazy swine, I decided to streamline things a little and thought I’d share the results.  The following solution allows me to enter content just once and then have the other systems pick it up and publish it.

iPhone to Twitter

Since I am out and about alot, I need to send Tweets from my iPhone.  I checked around to see what others were using and noticed that Tweetie seemed to get a run from the poeple I thought were early adopters of technology.  So I downloaded Tweetie from the Apple AppStore (note the hyperlink here is to the App Store) which is a free piece of software.  Now I’m not locked to a computer to when Twittering, which is important as mostly interesting stuff happens when I am outside the office.

Twitter to Facebook

Facebook has an Application that will automatically suck your Twitter updates into Facebook  Its at http://apps.facebook.com/twitter/ and seems to happen almost instantaneously.  If you click the Application button in the bottom left hand corner you can add it that way.  So each Twitter is automatically recreated in your Facebook profile.

Twitter to WordPress Blog

WordPress has quite a number of Twitter widget’s available.  I chose Twitter for WordPress as I wanted the twitter feed to be placed in my sidebar, not as a blog posting.  This is because I wanted Twitter to pick up my blog posts, and I didn’t want to create a circle of new twitter’s being picked up as new twitters. (could be fun though to watch a loop sending twitter, facebook and wordpress mad).

Blog to Twitter

I came across a website called Twitterfeed which is a free service that picks up blogs (or any rss feed) and posts them to Twitter.  Its pretty cool as its automatically creates an entry with title, opening words and a tinyurl version of the web address.  The only challenge with it is that you need an OpenID to log into Twitterfeed with.  This is free but potentially a bit confusing to setup.

Blog to Facebook

My blog posts don’t go directly to Facebook.  They do however get picked up by Twitter (see above) then Facebook picks up the Twitter notification.  ie because of my previous actions, my blog gets automatically posted to Facebook (via Twitter).

Blog to Linkedin

Linkedin now has a whole group of applications that you can plug into your profile.  Amongst the “connect your blog” applications is  My Blog at WordPress.com which you simply turn on, then enter the address of your blog. 

Twitter to LinkedIn

Because my status updates in Twitter and Facebook are normally of a much more personal nature (eg yesterday evening I mentioned I cooked up Kangaroo with a macadamia nut salad) I haven’t attempted to connect Twitter to LinkedIn.   At this stage its easiest if I keep LinkedIn as a business only tool.  However there does seem to be plenty of solutions for this as well.

My way is not the only way.  There are clearly heaps of ways of making this connectivity happen, with lots of gadgets that will do the same thing in slightly different ways.  The above pieces are just the first ones I tried that I could get to work.  Because I am lazy its unlikely that I will come up with a better solution since these ones seems to work fine.

Message for the  Father-in-law : I reckon I’m good/clever lazy not bad/stupid lazy.

iPhone apps make sense

This afternoon I popped into a corner coffee shop in the city to have coffee with a friend of mine. She was, in her own words, “super excited” as she had just launched (yesterday) her first iPhone application.

She of course hassled me to download it, but apparently it wanted to download via the internet, not via a GSM network, so I thought I couldn’t get it.

Surprise, surprise though, the café we were in had a free WiFi connection, so I had no excuse. I suspect that I was fixed up, but I was pleased with the outcome anyway.

Her iPhone application is called Drink and was simply fascinating. It wasn’t just some silly game, but a useful tool that took advantage of the natural attributes of the iPhone.

Not too many applications do this; normally they are just an idea dumbly ported to as many platforms as the developers can find.

Anyway my friend Michelle publishes decks of cards with titles such as Bar Secrets Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane. Her company Shopping Secrets now has heaps of titles, for cities all over the world. It’s likely that you’ve seen them on a book store counter or own a deck yourself.

Her format is basically 52 cards, each on a different interesting bar she has picked out. But that’s not what’s important here; what’s important is her innovation.

She could have just provided an iPhone version of her cards, but instead she integrated it with other applications on the phone.

  1. With a press of a button, you can add a bar to your contacts, then give them a call.
  2. With a flick of a finger, you can enable the GPS function which will tell you which bars are closest to you and their distance (useful at 1am in the morning).
  3. With a wipe of an unsteady finger, her application will use Google Maps to give you graphical directions from your current location to the bar in question (we all know why that’s going to be handy at 3am!).

This completely changes her business. She is now in a position where via the Apples iTunes store she can sell to millions of people in every country in the world, and regularly give them updates. She is no longer constrained by existing distribution channels.

The platform of course is easily reusable so all her other titles (24) can easily be uploaded.

The more I think a about it, the more I like the iPhone model. All that information easily available in a simple, interactive mobile device.

Makes you wonder why Australian organisations aren’t jumping all over it to push out their brand. For instance:

  • Australian Universities could be building apps that have clever models for calculating statistics or trigonometry.
  • Engineering firms could push out “ready reckoners”.
  • Accounting firms could be publishing out financial calculators.
  • Parking firms could offer GPS linked parking guides (that let you know how many places are currently available, and how to get there).

Anyway, Michelle’s Drink application really impressed as it took advantage of the attributes of the platform. Two words, “useful” and “smart”. And since I bought the application, she felt obliged to pay for the coffee. Not sure if everyone can access that deal though :)

If you have iTunes installed, click here to get the ap.

mobile drinking

This afternoon I popped into a corner coffee shop in the city to have coffee with a friend of mine. She was, in her own words, “super excited” as she had just launched (yesterday) her first iPhone application.

She of course hassled me to download it, but apparently it wanted to download via the internet, not via a GSM network, so I thought I couldn’t get it.

Surprise, surprise though, the café we were in had a free WiFi connection, so I had no excuse. I suspect that I was fixed up, but I was pleased with the outcome anyway.

Her iPhone application is called Drink and was simply fascinating. It wasn’t just some silly game, but a useful tool that took advantage of the natural attributes of the iPhone.

Not too many applications do this; normally they are just an idea dumbly ported to as many platforms as the developers can find.

Anyway my friend Michelle publishes decks of cards with titles such as Bar Secrets Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane. Her company Shopping Secrets now has heaps of titles, for cities all over the world. It’s likely that you’ve seen them on a book store counter or own a deck yourself.

Her format is basically 52 cards, each on a different interesting bar she has picked out. But that’s not what’s important here; what’s important is her innovation.

She could have just provided an iPhone version of her cards, but instead she integrated it with other applications on the phone.

  1. With a press of a button, you can add a bar to your contacts, then give them a call.
  2. With a flick of a finger, you can enable the GPS function which will tell you which bars are closest to you and their distance (useful at 1am in the morning).
  3. With a wipe of an unsteady finger, her application will use Google Maps to give you graphical directions from your current location to the bar in question (we all know why that’s going to be handy at 3am!).

This completely changes her business. She is now in a position where via the Apples iTunes store she can sell to millions of people in every country in the world, and regularly give them updates. She is no longer constrained by existing distribution channels.

The platform of course is easily reusable so all her other titles (24) can easily be uploaded.

The more I think a about it, the more I like the iPhone model. All that information easily available in a simple, interactive mobile device.

Makes you wonder why Australian organisations aren’t jumping all over it to push out their brand. For instance:

  • Australian Universities could be building apps that have clever models for calculating statistics or trigonometry.
  • Engineering firms could push out “ready reckoners”.
  • Accounting firms could be publishing out financial calculators.
  • Parking firms could offer GPS linked parking guides (that let you know how many places are currently available, and how to get there).

Anyway, Michelle’s Drink application really impressed as it took advantage of the attributes of the platform. Two words, “useful” and “smart”. And since I bought the application, she felt obliged to pay for the coffee. Not sure if everyone can access that deal though :)

If you have iTunes installed, click here to get the ap.

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=296494896&mt=8

Finding Free Time

A couple of weeks ago I had a panel at the Churchill Club talking about the differences between Exporters and Global Operators. One of the speakers was Simon Baker (he was great), recently of REA Group who had bought multiple on-line real estate operations while building REA into a global player.

Anyway Simon and I agreed to catch up a week or so after the event to chat about the Churchill Club member offerings. Fixing an exact date with Simon’s assistant proved to be a little difficult though. Simon had left an environment at REA Group where he was supported by lots of technology (read run his diary), and now operated in an environment where his assistant needed to have a chat with him first to confirm availability.

So I said, “why don’t you just use Google Calendar?”, and she said, “Brendan you are brilliant” – or that’s what I heard anyway.

Since moving my IT infrastructure over to be web based, I have been using Google Calendar as my calendaring system. What I like about Google Calendar is:

1. You can own one or more more calendars in your account which you view through a web browser.
2. You can natively view other people’s calendars or even public calendars in your account.
3. You can keep your calendar private or authorize others (or the public) to view or even edit your calendar, making it great for collaborating.
4. It can seamlessly sync to other devices, including Outlook, Thunderbird and even my iPhone, making it 24/7 solution.
5. Because it uses web 2.0 technology, the calendar is quick to respond to changes you make.
6. Its supported by Google, not a pimply IT geek. Which means it doesn’t end in tears and missing appointments.
7. Its free.

Inside my Google Calendar, I have:
– My own calendar (which my wife has the right to edit)
– A calendar I own for each of my kids, so I know where they are/where they are supposed to be :) .
– Visibility (and the right to edit) into my wife’s Google calendar. So I can enter in “date night” if I feel up to it. My wife uses a closed diary system at work but the detail of her day doesn’t interest me anyway. She uses her Google calendar just for the stuff that is of interest to me such as “I will be late home because we are having drinks after work”
– Public calendars such as “Victorian Parliament Sitting Days”. So I don’t try to book time with Ministers when they are guaranteed to be unavailable.
– A separate calendar I own with information of interest – eg when business partners are away.

Depending on what view I want, I then make calendars visible or invisible. Because I want this information on the move and have an iPhone, I use Nuevasync to synchronize my phone with the calendar. My wife has an HTC touch phone which uses Windows Mobile 6 as the operating system so she uses Goosync to synchronize the information.

I generally don’t sync the calendar with my email client because I always have a phone with me. However I have done this in the past but the sync process with Microsoft Outlook tended to slow things down and pissed me off (alot). Because of that experienced though I know there are good sync options for both Outlook (my old email client) and Thunderbird (my new email client). A quick search shows that syncing to a Mac isn’t a problem either with plenty of solutions on offer.

This concept of using Google as your backend, isn’t just for small business either. Serena Software of California has just transferred all its staff over to the enterprise version of Google Calendar and GMAIL. It was forking out around US$500,000 in licence fees to Microsoft. The new costs from using this solution are around $40,000 a year.

But for a small operation, using Google Calendars is a powerful but free solution. I hope Simon’s assistant convinces him.

Moving email into the cloud

Last week I advised that I had decided to try out a netbook as a replacement for my dying notebook. And to make things a little more interesting, try it with a Linux based operating system rather than my usual Microsoft Windows. (Note – The notebook has now died – bugger)

The rationale is to substantially reduce my costs (say 80%) and force me to be a better collaborator (because I can’t really store that much locally).

So first up is moving over my email since its the tool I use the most. Over the last couple of years I have amassed a couple of Gigabytes (Gb) of email and I want to take it with me. I feel there is nothing wrong with being a hoarder when it comes to data. Storage is meaninglessly cheap.

Previously I have been using trusty old Outlook with a number of different POP 3 mailboxes. Pop 3 is the basic type of mailbox available on the internet. With POP3 you point your email client to your mailbox, enter your password and download your email. No rocket science here and no issues. Unless of course you want to do something a bit cleverer.

If you do, then its time to look at IMAP. IMAP keeps your email on the mail server. When you look at your email, you download a local copy (header first, then the rest when you open it). This is incredibly handy, because it means amongst other things, you can look at your email from more than one computer. Because of this, I chose to move all my emails over to IMAP email. Luckily, my hosting provider offers the ability to connect to my mailboxes with either POP3 or IMAP.

So changing my email over took 5 steps.

1. Checked I had details of all my email accounts; Username, password and servername.
2. With my old notebook, I went into the Account settings and deleted my mailboxes (Not the old emails, just the connection to the mailboxes).
3. I then went back to the account settings, and recreated the email accounts, but this time as IMAP mailboxes.
4. I then checked to make sure the new accounts worked by sending an email to each.
5. I then transferred (dragged and dropped) all my folders full of emails into the inbox of each relevant IMAP account (this wasn’t quick mind you – I’m talking hours on a fast connection).

Voila, I now have IMAP email accounts which:

1. Keeps all my messages on the mail server so backups get done by others on a nightly basis.
2. Ensures my email client doesn’t store a copy of the emails permanently unless I want it to. And thus doesn’t chew up storage space.
3. Allows me to access my email without synchronisation issues from the three different computers I regularly use.
4. I can allow my bookkeeper to simultaneously access the IMAP email account that keeps event registration information in it.
5. Happily connects to the webmail systems I use so I can check my email accounts at an internet chafe if I desire.

The next step was to access my email on the new netbook. Since the netbook was running a linux distribution, Microsoft Outlook wasn’t an option. Instead I chose Thunderbird (free), which is a familiar looking email client that comes from the same people that make the Firefox Web Browser. Thunderbird comes in both Windows and Linux flavours was incredibly easy to setup, however getting onto my notebook was a nightmare, which I will deal with later.

On the netbook, I set up the new email accounts, the 8 Mailboxes as IMAP Accounts.

I can now access all my email, including sent emails, from my netbook, my desktop PC and even my iPhone. Life is sweet.

Next week alook at the other applications I setup and the rationale.