Tag Archives: google

calendars for international travel

From my point of view, doing international business is one of the most enjoyable things you can do in a business career. And if you are going to spend around 90,000 hours of your life working, why not have fun.

I said this to someone during the week as I am planning a trip in November to London and Abu Dhabi. Which reminded me that planning the trip isn’t anywhere near as much fun. When I went to put the flights in my diary I realised they started in one time zone and finished in another. Bugger – I hadn’t been using my current setup last time I flew internationally for business. Traditionally I have had an excel spreadsheet showing meeting is each different time zone, and most of my travel was to Asia so it wasn’t a big deal.

But now I keep all my data in the cloud using Google Calendar synced to each of my devices, so I wanted a new solution that would be seamless, minimalist, ubiquitous and most of all, elegant. Frankly, I want my calendaring solution to “just work” no matter where I step off the plane.

Luckily for me though Google & Apple had had a think about this in the free products that I use.

1.  Under the General Settings for my Google Calendar, you can choose an additional time zone to display on the Calendar. This means I have an instant visual comparison of Melbourne and say Abu Dhabi. When I am talking to someone teeing up meetings, I can see their local time.



2.  When creating a new event entry in you Google Calendar, you can set a separate time zone for the beginning of an event and the end of event. This means that correct elapsed time will show for a flight, and I don’t have to deal with timezone weirdness in my calendar. Especially if I arrive yesterday.

Event Time Zone

3.  Under the Google Calendar settings, you can then swap the displayed time zones for your calendar. Which means my meeting which is currently displayed as happening at 1:30am Melbourne time, jumps up to 2:30pm in the afternoon London time.


4.  My Google Calendar syncs with my iPhone and every other device I have. Fortunately Apple’s iPhone supports multiple time zone attributes for events and therefore everything sycs and works the way it should. Under “Settings | Mail, Contact & Calendars | Time Zone Support” I can change my phone to make it think its operating in a different time zone. Any meetings I create whilst the phone is set to that time zone, will also be reflected in the correct time zone back in my Google Calendar. This means that when I step off the plane in London & Abu Dhabi, I change my time zone in the phone, and everything looks normal. Lunch is happening at lunch time.

Iphone Timesone

Be the way my friend who travels internationally far me frequently than me says the whole time zone issue does her head in, so when planning a trip, she adds plenty of slack because she assumes she will make mistakes. So I thought I’d share my solution with her, and write up my notes in-case anyone else feels that way.

Device Independence

Gogole GadgetsSometimes I wake up at 4:30am  in the morning and ponder over things. I don’t want to, I just can’t get back to sleep. On the weekend I was pondering over whether technology was making my life easier or harder. Certainly I seem to be working a lot more hours and have my fingers in a lot more pots than I use to, but I feel this probably isn’t so much caused by by technology, rather its something that technology allows me to do. Technology does however simplify some things and recently has started to make me “device independent”. That is I am no longer locked into “my computer” or “my phone”.

Take for instance, the concept of adding gadgets or to the home page of a search engine. The concept isn’t new, I just never saw the point of adding the weather or a clock gadget onto my desktop, despite how easy it was to do. But I realised that over the last year or so, I had built up a control panel of gadgets on Google, which accessed services I was using on my desktop, netbook, iPad and iPhone. For instance:


I need to track time between my projects, so I use a free web based product called Activity Tracker Plus. I can push the go button on a project, and it will record how long I spend, until I push the off button. Interestingly I can walk out the door and push the off button on my phone, rather than run back to the computer. I can also add notes to each entry. This makes life a lot easier for billing my time, or gaining insight into where my time is going.


For keeping track of what I need to do, I use a product called Remember the Milk. This allows you to create tasks with a wide variety of attributes such as due date, priority, category and location. It has interfaces optimised for the web, and a separate front end optimised for the iphone and another for the ipad. The back end data is stored somewhere out in the cloud and it syncs automatically to each device I use it on. I don’t like the name but am in love with the product.


The third main thing I have on my Control Panel is my Calendar. It is small view of my Google Calendar, which I can look at separately on the web, or on my desktop, iphone and ipad – where its all syncs automatically. This automatic background syncing is critical to me as I can’t be trusted to manually do it.


I use two different products to manage documents. When collaborating with others, I use Google Docs. This means that I can have a look at a spreadsheet anywhere I have a web browser. Alternatively If I’m just working on something myself and I want a bit more power, I use Open Office and store all my documents in Drop Box. Drop Box then Syncs these documents onto all my devices. My google based control panel gives me a view onto both types of documents.

So I realised that the reason I had finally started adding gadgets to my search engine, wasn’t so much because they were handy, but because they provided me with a view on the cloud based services that I use to make myself Device Independent. And of course the nice thing is that all these solutions are free, simple to deply and everything expect the time-sheets solution is scalable for a larger team. :)

Syncing Phones, Computers and the whole kit and kaboodle

So here’s the problem I noticed.

I was browsing Facebook on the weekend, and noticed a friend of mine had recently purchased one of the new 4G phones, the Samsung Epic 4G. He posted that he had finally managed to be able to transfer his contacts over.

A colleague that I am assisting make some acquisitions in London, had problems with the sync his laptop and iPhone, and managed to lose all his contacts and corrupt the database. He was most embarrassed as he had no backup solution and was having to slowly re-contact everyone.

Another colleague I had breakfast with last month was having difficulties with Mobile Me, the Mac specific  iPhone / Mac syncing solution that costs $99 per year. Every time he syncs, his contacts double up.

The basic mobile phone concept that most of us, who have had mobile phones since the early days, work with is “your phone is paired with a computer, and every once in a while you sync your contacts and calendar”. This worked well when we all had one computer, one mobile and a handful of contacts. But now that life is more complex, that solution just doesn’t cut it.

The Old Way

I regularly use one Windows desktop, one Windows netbook, one iphone, one iPad and occasionally login to my files using other peoples desktops. I have around 2,500 contacts and regularly check 9 different calendars. I’m not exactly a basic user, however my issues, and how I solved them appears to have a bit of currency with other people.

The reason the old solution doesn’t cut it is that:

  1. Its generally a manual process, so likely to not happen as regularly as I would like (due to my laziness).
  2. Its a lot more time consuming syncing multiple devices.
  3. You regualrly need to purchase additional software, especially in the windows mobile world, to sync contact systems and calendar with a variety of calendars, contacts systems and email systems.
  4. Its an individual solution, not a collaborative solution.
  5. With 2,500 contacts, failure is a lot more painful.

So because I am a technologist, a tight arse and lazy, I worked out a solution that works for all my devices, costs nothing and works automatically for both myself and other members of my family.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I created a GMAIL account on Google, which I used to manage my contacts, but I rarely use for email.
  2. I created a CALENDAR account on Google.
  3. Conceptually, I see the Google Accounts as the “source” for all my information.
  4. I then set-up each device I use to Sync to GMAIL and Google CALENDAR.

The New Way

The specific steps of doing this, will be the subject of next weeks post, but here’s the benefit of the new system.

  1. Syncing happens automatically. If I enter someone’s contact details into a web browser, they “automagically” appear on my phone and every other configured device later that day.
  2. Every piece of software I use on every single device has its own free piece of software to sync with Google.
  3. There is no charges from Google for this service, and the Mobile phone phone data charges is negligible ie its always been well under my cap as we are talking less than 1MB at most of data transfers a month).
  4. My wife’s calendar also syncs onto my phone and mine on hers, so we know what each other is up to for planning purposes.

I have been running this solution for around two years and never, ever had an issue.

  • If I lose my phone don’t lose any data.
  • I don’t have to worry about the technology, it just works.
  • Google, a multi-billion dollar company is doing my backups for free.
  • Its not some weird, edgy solution. Everyone wants to interface with Google.

Next week I will go through the configuration mechanics, but I thought it was best to get the idea out first.

The Rise of New Media

From the Churchill Club Event on  the  5th March 2009

That traditional media is in trouble is not news, with mastheads in the US closing almost every other day.  But after discussing “The Rise of New Media” with our panel, some great new insights were uncovered.

Our panel was:
Debra Allanson – CEO of Ish Media
James Kirby – Editor of the Eureka Report
Stephen Mayne – Founder Crikey and the Mayne Report

So What’s Changed?

  • Categories were very skill specific; There was TV, Movies and Journalism.  Now its all just content and small screen means mobile phones not TV.
  • The production focus has changed from broadcaster or distribution format;  to users and the appliance used to access the content.
  • Because a “connected, opportunistic crowd” is always reporting from the scene before traditional media, breaking news has been dramatically devalued.
  • Many more revenue models have opened up, its not just advertising funded anymore.
  • Editions (AM, PM , six o’clock news) are traditional media concepts that don’t map well into new media businesses.  Instead its a 24×7 constant stream.
  • Controlling redistribution of content has become impossibly difficult.
  • Software programmers are now an integral part of the team.
  • Search Engines have soaked up the lions share of online advertising as they provide a more targetted service than online media.  Connecting advertisiers with customers at the moment when the customer is interested in buying, not just when the customer is interested.

So What’s Still the Same?

  • Opportunistic members of crowds normally only get one event in there lifetime, so old fasioned story getting and news production still has to occur for effective new media properties.
  • The same skills are required to produce quality content, just the engagement mdoel tends to be shifting towards contract workers from anywhere around the globe, rather than local employees.
  • Quality opinion and analyis is still getting produced by the same experts.
  • Quality stories and tight video is still beign produced by the same experts.

So What’s on the Horizon?

  • The money is currently being made by selling new media properties to traditional media, not through operations.  Therefore simply surviving can be the most valuable asset at this stage.  But this is sure to change due to the variety of revenue models opening up and the collapse of  traditional media.
  • Despite the size of the web, there is still little competition in quality content.
  • Fee to Air TV, Cinema and Newspapers will continue to disintegrate.  Which will benefit new media models such as the internet and Cable TV.
  • Shadow Media will not go unregulated for ever.  There is sure to be problems which will cause knee jerk legislative reactions.
  • Content is still King.