Tuesday, December 09, 2008

BusyBlog bashes CalDAV...or somebody

The controversy about supposed shortcomings of CalDAV takes another twisty turn with this post from BusyBlog. Cmon Swampers...someone explain this to me. Is this read-only iPhone problem the fault of CalDAV, or Google, or Apple? Seems like using a solution like BusySync gets around the problem altogether. Does this suggest the need for a standard beyond CalDAV? Maybe it exists already, and I'm not paying enough attention?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Google Calendar adds CalDAV support

Google updated Google Calendar, adding CalDAV support. +1 SwampDrain point for Google.

I'm looking forward to the day when everyone who should supports CalDAV.

UPDATE: The Spanning Sync blog claims that calendars synced with CalDAV become read-only on the iPhone. Yikes!! I hope the problem is just the way Google Calendar implements CalDAV...and not a problem with CalDAV itself.

Monday, December 01, 2008

TimeDriver, HourTown: Any experiences out there?

Found on the Web: TimeTrade, which bills itself as "the world leader in customer self-service appointment scheduling" offers TimeDriver, which has been in public beta since August. It supports the usual calendar formats -- Outlook and Google Calendar -- but I haven't heard any unusual buzz about it. I think it competes with HourTown.

Has anyone reading this blog been on the receiving end of any appointments scheduled by either of these services?

Monday, November 17, 2008

CalConnect is coming to Redmond

I just noticed with interest that the next meeting of CalConnect will occur, for the first time, at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, February 2-6, 2009. I hope this means that all calendar-software engineers at Microsoft will be in attendance, taking notes and contributing to greater calendar interoperability.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Any Windows Live Hotmail stories out there?

Windows Live Hotmail now sports "a revamped calendar that makes it easier to share calendars with others, subscribe to multiple calendars and use your calendar with Microsoft Outlook."

Anyone out there using it? I'm curious to know if it goes beyond publish-and-subscribe and offers new sync services with other Microsoft calendars.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The customer service problem with calendaring

All the calendaring tech in the world won't make your life simpler if the company trying to communicate event or reservation changes to you doesn't have its act together.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More than Microsoft

Steve Ballmer (rhetorically) asks his customers:
"Why can't we create calendars that automatically merge our schedules at work and home?"
Steve, please make sure the answer isn't an all-Microsoft solution.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

BidCal: Calendaring/eBay mashup

BidCal lets you monitor upcoming eBay auctions from within your calendar. It's from the makers of Calgoo.

I hope this isn't stressing Calgoo's calendar-sync server too much. Last night was the first time in months of use that we found it was down, at least for a few minutes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

eWeek puts calendar icon on cover, ignores calendaring

An ambitious eWeek October 13 cover story, "UC on the cheap," all about Unified Communications (a buzzword mainly at Microsoft), is the first trade pub in a while to feature a calendar icon on the cover. Unfortunately, the story itself focuses on VoIP and instant messaging, not calendaring. Bad enough calendar interoperability gets ignored by mobile phone vendors (the new Google Phone doesn't pretend to talk anything but Google Calendar); now an IT publication uses calendaring as part of sloganeering in an incomplete article.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Syncing two desktop calendars to Calgoo Hub

Those Calgoo folks are clever. They've included a way to sync more than one calendar with their Hub. They support Outlook and also their own free desktop calendar, named, not surprisingly, Calgoo Calendar.

Here's the cool part. I've already got a Calgoo Hub account. From their desktop calendar, I can browse the calendars in my Hub account and select which ones I want to sync to the desktop.

Why would I want to have the same desktop calendar in two places? Aside from the security that redundancy provides, there's another reason. The new Dell notebook I've just bought isn't powered on all day long. It tends to come out after hours when I'm chatting with River about upcoming events. So I'll have a Calgoo calendar on that notebook. But the other calendar will be on a desktop PC (yes, the same one that was running Sunbird) so if I need to add an event (or look one up) during the work day, I can quickly do that without having to wake up the Dell notebook. I just have to remember to sync to the Hub when I'm prepared to call it a work day.

Yes, I know it's more complicated than just storing one calendar up in the cloud and using Web access. But the way I see it, it's what this whole Microsoft "software+services" thing is all about. So far, it's working for me. (I'm sure that soon Microsoft will have it all figured out as well, if they don't already.)

But Microsoft remains the Windows-only solution. The Calgoo desktop Calendar is available not just for Windows, but for Mac OS X and Linux (Fedora Core 5 and Gentoo distributions) as well. I may have other observations about it after I've used it for a while. Ideally, I would like not to be locked into the Calgoo client, but for now, I'm glad to see it as a free Outlook alternative that does all I've asked of it.

UPDATE: I was able to sync a second set of events to the Hub, so while River still sees only the events she wants to, I can see an additional list of events that I want on my calendar, but since she doesn't subscribe to them, she doesn't see them. Just create a second calendar within Calgoo Calendar, sync it to the Hub, discover it with the second copy of Calgoo Calendar, and sync it from the Hub to that second desktop.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Buh-bye, Pocket PC

I'm kicking my Pocket PC to the curb. In its place I have a new Dell Inspiron 910, powered by the new Intel Atom chip. For sheer comfort I've ordered it with Windows XP, and then installed Mozilla Sunbird. I have the option to install BirdieSync if I wish to keep syncing this PC with the Pocket PC, but right now I'm content just to have the option. BirdieSync isn't available for Linux; that's the only reason why I didn't order the Inspiron 910 with Linux. (BirdieSync requires Microsoft's ActiveSync, and you can bet Microsoft won't be porting ActiveSync to Linux any time soon. I never liked ActiveSync anyway.)

Moving my Sunbird calendar data from another PC to the Inspiron 910 was a bit tricky. After hunting around I identified the file where Sunbird stores the calendar. It's got the non-intuitive name of storage.sdb. I copied it onto a jump drive and then replaced the new storage.sdb on the Inspiron 910 with the one from my PC. Viola, my calendar is there and it even knows the Calgoo URL where it should publish. All I have to do is enter my Calgoo name and password.

Next up: Installing a CalDAV server on that old Windows PC. Part of the next phase: Giving River a secure place to publish her calendar on our LAN.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Yahoo! Calendar supports CalDAV

Yahoo! updated its calendar, adding CalDAV support, and is hosting CalConnect XIII this week in Santa Clara. +1 SwampDrain point for Yahoo!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Quest for a thin CalDAV server

For some time I've talked about setting up a CalDAV server in my home. River won't share her calendar on any service outside the home (including Calgoo) because of her concerns about how secure and private the info is. I respect that.

The really expensive solution is to buy a Mac Mini plus Leopard Server but we're already talking a couple of thousand dollars just for that. So that's out.

I'm now looking into either buying a very cheap diskless PC and running OSAF's Cosmo on it, or installing Cosmo on a PC I already have and just leaving that PC on all the time. I may actually try the latter first to see how it all works. Ultimately I want the CalDAV server to just run 24x7 so it would be great to get one without a hard disk spinning all the time.

This month there's a new release (1.1.0) of the Cosmo server. The installation instructions are not for novices. But for pure LAN-based, widely-interoperable calendar-sharing messing about, it looks like the best game in town, nowhere near as challenging as installing Kerio's mail server or other solutions which might be overkill.

Please let me know if you've tried Cosmo 1.1.0 and what you've experienced.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Nokia's Intellisync going bye-bye

jkOnTheRun reports that "the venerable syncing solution from Intellisync will be shut down and no longer available." Nokia is now recommending a solution based around Windows ActiveSync.

Any Intellisync fans out there? Is Nokia's move to ActiveSync good, bad, or no change?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

iCalendar, CalDAV...then what? Part 2

After I received Alex Pline's email (posted here yesterday) I wrote to Lisa Dusseault, co-creator of CalDAV, and asked her for her thoughts. Here is her reply:

"Hi Scott,

"Alex is not wrong! iCalendar has interoperability issues and it's outmoded. However, those two issues aren't related. An XML-ized version of iCalendar risks having the same interoperability issues unless it's better specified. And even if it is, introducing xCal creates interoperability issues with the big deployed base of iCalendar users. Personally, I'm pretty pessimistic about changes like this being positive unless we have participation by Microsoft. However, if people want to push it forward, they can.

"Standards are made by the people who show up and do work. I hope Alex joins the CALSIFY mailing list or a similar list. He would be most welcome to endorse xCal and that might be part of moving xCal forward. The IETF is always extremely short of the type of contributors who manage issues lists and keep discussions on track."

Today while I was meeting with some other developers, another shortcoming of today's calendar-sharing technology became clear to me. Today, calendar-sharing usually involves email as a transport mechanism. For sending invitations, and RSVPs, these systems usually rely upon the store-and-forward protocol SMTP that underlies email.

Here's why that's a problem. I don't really care if my email takes a minute or two (or even longer) to arrive at its destination. But when I confirm that I've just accepted an invitation to enter a meeting, and if that meeting begins now or in a few minutes, I want that acceptance to appear everywhere it needs to right away, not in a few minutes.

This suggests to me that calendar sharing needs a more real-time protocol underneath it than SMTP. Maybe it needs to be based on something more akin to XMPP, the protocol underneath instant messaging.

Now it may be that iCalendar and CalDAV have all this thought through. Or, maybe not. I'm not an engineer. But put it together with Alex and Lisa's thoughts above, and you can see some of the places where calendar-sharing standards work needs to go next.

As for participation by Microsoft, there is at last some movement on that front. Check out Cameron Stillion's newly-posted comment on a post I made back on March 8. It speaks of Microsoft's "increased involvement" in CalConnect. I suspect I'll see more evidence of that at CalConnect XIII Oct. 6-10 in Santa Clara, California.

Got your own ideas of how to proceed? Send me your comments and emails.

Monday, September 29, 2008

iCalendar, CalDAV...then what? Part 1

I received an email last week that I will reproduce here in its entirety, then comment on in a subsequent post:

"Hi Scott-

"I've been a follower of your blog for a long time. I'm a technical lead for a software development team at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC and what I don't get is why do we, as a calendar community, continue to push improvements to iCal (such as cal dev), when the REAL problem is iCal (RFC 2445) itself? To me it seems like we are trying to improve in very small ways what amounts to a very, very outdated standard. I believe iCal should just be tossed and a much more contemporary calendar standard created based on some calendar-related XML vocabulary, perhaps specifically RDF so that calendar data would play nicely with the Semantic Web.

"We have developed a custom web based calendar application (now in its 4th year) that allows users to subscribe to events using iCal and SMTP as the transport mechanism. NASA has moved to a centralized exchange infrastructure which has helped, but still, creating iCal that plays nicely with both Entourage and Outlook clients is extremely difficult. Each client handles iCal a little differently (especially with respect to All Day Events) and who knows what JuJu Exchange does during the client1-server-cleint2 syncing process. Initially, we were hoping that xCal, an xml-ized version of iCal circa 2000 or so, was going to catch on, but evidently it died due to lack of agreement on the last 10% (recurrence etc).

"Anyway, I wonder why no one ever talks about the need for sweeping reform in this area, given that xml-based syndication has been so successful in the RSS related areas, despite it's checkered "standards" development history.

"Just some food for thought.

"BTW, feel free to use any of this for your blog. I was going to post it as a comment, but it's not really related to any particular post..."

Alex Pline
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate
NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pressure's on Microsoft to support CalDAV

One reason I'm so enthusiastic about the Oracle CalDAV support is that I think it puts much greater pressure on Microsoft to support CalDAV in Microsoft Exchange. Last year, Exchange customer Boeing was reported to have implemented a CalDAV plug-in for Exchange, but only for the free/busy component. Of course, this year Google added CalDAV support for Google Calendar. But Oracle's Beehive competes directly with Microsoft Exchange, so I would say this latest development significantly turns up the heat on Microsoft to get on board the CalDAV express.

Oracle helps drain the swamp

If you're part of an organization that happens to be a big customer of Oracle's, your calendar swamp-draining ship has come in. Oracle Beehive, a suite of group collaboration tools, includes a calendar server that fully supports CalDAV, which means it seamlessly works as a server for a growing variety of clients, including my fave, Sunbird. Of course there's also support for the ubiquitous Microsoft Outlook. If you're at Oracle OpenWorld this week in San Francisco, check out the Beehive demo for other cool features, such as integration with instant messaging that notifies those trying to reach you that you're in a meeting because it says so on your calendar. (They can still IM you anyway, of course.) At any rate, although it's a pricey solution, Oracle earns +2 SwampDrain points for potentially bringing much of big business and big government into a right proper calendar-sharing frame of mind, and for doing it without creating or requiring its own calendar client software, which keeps things simpler.

Monday, September 15, 2008

ifreebusy.com to close

Yesterday I received an email from Neil Jensen, creator of ifreebusy.com. He is closing down the service on October 15 because "it has never really evolved from its early state," Neil wrote. He recommends Tungle, Calgoo or iCalx as alternatives. Neil deserves credit for creating ifreebusy.com at just the right time to move this idea beyond talk as well as beyond proof of concept.

Friday, September 05, 2008

TimeBridge for Mac in wider testing

Timebridge is now testing a connector for Macs running iCal. I wouldn't go so far as to claim, as Timebridge does, that it's the "first scheduling application to integrate with Apple iCal," as Spanning Sync, Calgoo, and Google Calendar's own CalDAV support predate Timebridge for iCal. If someone can explain to me what's so special about Timebridge's Apple iCal "integration," I'd love to know.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Managing those recurring events

Jon Udell can't find calendar software that makes exceptions to recurring events easy to manage. Second memo to Palm: Want to get back into the game? This is what you should be doing.

PostPath hits the big time

Could a Cisco-powered calendar server be in your future? I hadn't even heard of PostPath, but now it's Cisco's alternative to Exchange. Has anyone used PostPath's free 12-user version? Is it free as in beer?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How will calendar beaming return?

Looking at this demo of Tapulous FriendBook, I can well imagine, but have no knowledge of, a similar app coming for calendar sharing directly between iPhones.

I think of the possibilities here like reviving the old Palm-style calendar-event beaming ritual that River and I found so useful, with the added benefit of automatically syncing the ritual with calendars in the cloud. [Memo to Palm: This is what you should be doing.]

The Tapulous perspective is the right one. Sync the personal devices with each other. Web sites tend to be headed the other way: Give subscribers to the event an ever-increasing list of calendar platforms (Outlook, Google, iCal, etc. etc.) to export the event to (or subscribe in). This perpetuates the calendar swamp (or silos, if you will) and creates a confusing user experience because who wants to scan that growing list of calendar platforms every time you want to add an event?

The Tapulous scenario represents one type of sharing -- between two individuals. The Web 2.0 calendar scenario is another type of sharing -- getting calendar data out of the Web 2.0 site and into some other calendar. We somehow need to integrate both scenarios in as simple a manner as possible, without locking ourselves into any one calendar platform. If the Web 2.0 sites don't agree upon a standard, then something like Tapulous will probably become a default platform in the long run. But then we're locked into the iPhone. Wouldn't Apple love that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How the swamp is getting swampier

Without naming names, I'm going to hurl a brick in the general direction of any or all Web 2.0 startups whose purpose is to let you schedule an appointment with someone else. This is not going to drain the swamp! In fact, quite the opposite.

Why? Because each one of those new services requires you to create a new account on some Web site somewhere, and each of these accounts has to be kept in sync with your own calendar somehow. Many people will simply not bother, and instead will have a new flood of reminder emails landing in their inboxes. The average person has, maybe, two or three online calendars today. When we have all these new services for your kid's teacher/mechanic/doctor/yoga instructor etc. etc. then the average person may have six or seven online calendars. I think that's a problem.

(I'm not even counting another whole class of Web 2.0 services that allow you or someone else to send you reminders, whether it's to do something, or take medicine, or pay taxes, move your car, or remember something else. These services also emit emails and text messages which probably don't end up displaying on your calendar. Maybe that's fine, but if like me you'd like it all to appear on your calendar, maybe it's not fine.)

Now, do I have a solution? I'm not sure. I'd like to see federation of these calendars, that's for sure. Something like Open ID for calendars. That way, these online calendars could all confer with each other without requiring customers to perform lots of syncs or manual import/exports. I'm not sure what's on the drawing board that would allow this, and I haven't been super impressed with Open ID both for its features and its adoption curve, so I'm afraid things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. And it's been hard enough to get calendars to simply publish and subscribe to each other, so what I'm asking for may be another exponential engineering effort.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Acer Linux laptop looks swampy

How can Acer ship a great-looking Linux-based notebook and load their own proprietary calendar on it? I got a look at this last week at LinuxWorld, and I don't get it. Not even iCal support! Why not use Sunbird? Does Mozilla want too much money for the binary version? I understand that customers can load their own applications, but calendars don't get widely deployed or standardized in consumer products that way. Acer gets -1 SwampDrain point.

Chandler 1.0 ships

Chandler 1.0 ships. Naturally, Scott Rosenberg has the details.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Google Calendar CalDAV shortcomings

Over at the SpanningSync blog, you can explore the various shortcomings of Google Calendar's new CalDAV calendar-sync feature.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Is MobileMe eating your calendar data?

Robert Scoble reports that MobileMe erased all his Outlook calendar data, but since he had done a separate sync between Outlook and Google Calendar, he was able to recover it.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Google Calendar gets direct CalDAV link to Apple iCal

Matt Sweeney sent me this tip: "Google calendar has recently added compatibility with CalDAV, so Google Calendar/iCal syncing is possible without any middleware." +1 SwampDrain point to Google. The short list of known issues is interesting reading. For example: "It's not possible to browse room availability or reserve conference rooms from within iCal. This feature is not supported by CalDAV."

Update: Further discussion about the ins and outs of this over at The Google Operating System blog.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Someone at Apple feels your pain

Someone at Apple, authorized to blog about "MobileMe status":
"It’s been a rocky road and we know the pain some people have been suffering."
Update: In subsequent blog posts, the author is identified as "David G."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Outlook Connector looks good, Sarah says

Sarah Perez gives a thumbs-up to the latest version of the Microsoft Outlook Connector public beta. If all your calendars come from Microsoft, it should be of interest.

MobileMe: Apple stumbles

Steve Gillmor says there are a few kinks in Apple's MobileMe, but the news seems worse than that. River couldn't make it work properly. Neither could David Pogue or Walt Mossberg. Apple stumbles, and calendar sync gets a black eye!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Calgoo switches to free & ad-supported

All Calgoo calendaring products are now free. If you use free Calgoo, ads will start appearing in your calendars. For some people I'm sure that will be a weird moment. But until someone matches Calgoo's features, Calgoo will probably get away with it.

River just told me that Apple is offering the MobileMe service free to iPhone owners for 60 days. Given the rough start MobileMe has had, that's about the right price. Time will tell if Apple can extract $99 a year for MobileMe. To me it's still overpriced.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The trend toward offline Web calendars continues

There's a report that "Gmail and Google Calendar will add offline support in approximately 6 weeks." The demo describes Google Calendar offering to let users edit up to three months of future calendar entries while not connected to the Internet.

Obviously this trend will continue. The big question is how quickly Google Calendar will work offline on the various mobile devices that support it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Should MobileMe support SyncML?

As I understand it, SyncML isn't really the most modern of calendar-sharing protocols. CalDAV is much better. Yet, Mass Asay agrees with Fabrizio Capobianco that it's a shame that the new Apple MobileMe doesn't support SyncML. I guess I'm really left wondering what opportunity was lost when Apple chose to support CalDAV and didn't support SyncML. Couldn't SyncML be added to the iPhone via a third-party extension? Sure, making it a plug-in is never as good as having it baked in, but how big a deal is this? Anyone?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Funambol plans its MobileMe alternative

Funambol is stepping up to the plate with an open-source alternative to MobileMe. Initially it will sync contacts, and later, calendars. Don't expect to see any demos in Apple stores, but early adopters will spread the word quickly if it's a good alternative.

Monday, June 09, 2008

SpanningSync vs. MobileMe

SpanningSync is the obvious calendar sync competitor to Apple's new MobileMe. It's $25 a year or $65 for a one-time purchase. Yesterday the company annnounced it had passed 20,000 paid subscribers.

My complaint? SpanningSync uses Google Calendar as its back end. Google's privacy policy is never likely to be as strong as Apple's.

Now, if SpanningSync were able to develop its own back end, undercut Apple's $99 MobileMe price because it's just syncing calendars, and provide a privacy policy as good or better than Apple's, then I'd probably have to buy an iPhone.

iPhone syncers: Does $99 a year work for you?

Does $99 a year work for you? That's what Apple's new over-the-air MobileMe calendar sync costs. Of course you're paying for a lot besides that, including 20GB of storage. For us who only want calendar sync, we'd like something a bit cheaper. Never buy more calendar sync than you have to, I always say!

So, will Apple allow cheaper competition to MobileMe?

Mobile Me to drain more Apple swamp -- at what cost?

This morning, Apple's demoing MobileMe with over-the-air iCal sync from any iPhone. Still waiting to hear what it will cost. I'm sure it won't be free.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Report: Mulberry does CalDAV best

Over a Zimbra's blog, Mike Morse writes:
"If you want strict [CalDAV] specification adherence in a cross-app & cross-platform thick-client: Our winner is Mulbery for Linux, Windows, & Mac. In addition to being a Swiss-army-knife of protocols, it’s also Open Source."
Sunbird, watch out!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Jon Udell's how-to-publish series; Sunbird flakiness

Jon Udell recently published a series of blog posts on how to publish your calendar on the Web for free. They're useful tutorials. So far, he's covered Outlook 2007, Google Calendar and Apple iCal. I guess I should do the Sunbird tutorial.

Does anyone else find Sunbird itself a bit flaky, though? I've seen some strange things...entries that don't show up until later, and then are hard to delete, unless you quit Sunbird and restart.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Event attendance data sharing

Okay calendar geeks, get ready for a deep-dive...

Brian Dear, founder and chairman of Eventful, wants a standard to allow all social networks to share who's attending a particular event. At today's Data Sharing Summit 2, which I'm atttending, he convened an unconference session to talk about it.

Microformats don't get there. It took 10 minutes to add hCal to Eventful. It hasn't changed the world. Who benefits from that hCal info today? What tools can recognize there's a page now that has hCal in it?

Brian is concerned about duplication of events in the Web. Go to any UGC (user-generated content) site listing events and you're likely to see duplicates of the same event. To sort through the ensuing madness, we need a unique identifier for an event. Duplicates can contain subtle inconsistencies, or the date and time may be off.

Then we move on to the attendance problem. If you say you're going to instance A of the event, how do others who RSVPd for instance B, C and D of the same event discover that they're all attending the same event? Also, how do we make sure every attendee is only counted once, even if their RSVP is replicated across Web sites or search engines?

Could a ping server be built to aggregate events, or to search to see if other instances of an event already exist? Eventful has more than 7 million future events in its database. If Eventful opened that up in a special way that's queryable by anybody, Eventful could issue a unique identifier. Yahoo's Max Engel, who was also at this session, notes that Digg already checks for duplication of news postings. Maybe Eventful could do the same thing for events.

Another issue coming up during this talk: Not enough blogging software generates consumable metadata about events. My TypePad blog generates lists of events I will be attending. But it can't be exported in hCal format. Brian mentions that Microsoft and Eventful built a cool plug-in for Windows Live that lets Windows Live Writer users create their own events or find existing events through integrated search of the Eventful.com Web site.

Facebook generates a lot of info about who is attending an event. Brian says there are no APIs that expose this to the outside world, or to services like Upcoming or Eventful. How can the Facebook surge of attendance data be incorporated into something more widely useful on the Web?

As for the unique identifier problem, there are developer challenges (what does an event namespace look like? Who owns the authoritative instance of an event?). A Digg-like search layer may be necessary that ranks all event data and ranks it by various criteria. That would also get around the problem of ping spam. But it would require someone like Eventful to extend what they do to crawl the entire Web to build that search layer for events.

Okay, now my brain hurts!

Calgoo Hub comes to Outlook 2003

I've fallen behind a bit on things I want to write about here. Today I happen to be attending the Data Sharing Summit 2 in Mountain View, and while I have a spare moment or two, I'll be posting a bit about some things I've seen lately.

First up is a recent email I received from Calgoo, Calgoo Hub Plugin for Outlook 2003. Andrzej Kowalski's email says:
"While there are a large number of Outlook 2003 users out there, the Outlook 2003 calendar does not support subscribing to Internet calendars and publishing calendars as does Sunbird, Outlook 2007 and Apple iCal. We wrote [the] Calgoo Hub plugin to add these capabilities to Outlook 2003 and further extend the accessibility of the Calgoo Hub platform."
And yes, it earns Calgoo another +1 SwampDrain point. Microsoft should have provided this capability for Outlook 2003 long ago, rather than insisting that all Outlook 2003 users upgrade to Outlook 2007.

Also, the Calgoo Connect sync service is now available for the Mac as well.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Which Outlook/Google Calendar sync is best?

Reader Catherine Adams writes me:
"I am working for a company where 50% of the people use Mac (Outlook Calendar) and the other 50% use macs. I am trying to create a common calendar that everyone can access. My initial thought was Google Calendar as this doesn't have any platform issues, however the PC users love their Outlook calendars and do not really want to have to change to a whole new calendar.

"Is there any way of syncing Google Calendar with PC Outlook, or iCal with PC Outlook.

"Basically I just want a single calendar, that everyone can edit and view but the PC users aren't going to budge from the Outlook calendars."
Here are some possibilities:
Did I miss any?

I've started the first Calendar Swamp poll to let everyone vote for their favorite Outlook-to-Google Calendar sync solution. Look in the sidebar of the Calendar Swamp blog for this poll. I'll leave this poll open until the end of June, by which time, probably there will be something new.

(This list doesn't include ways to publish or subscribe between calendars. We're talking about the ability to fully sync them -- respecting added, moved, or changed events.)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Google Calendar had a major outage

The SpanningSync blog reports that Google Calendar experienced a major outage in the past few days.

Since I don't rely upon Google Calendar, I wasn't aware of any problems. :)

Zimbra's CalDAV support gets a good review

Matt Asay: CalDav + Zimbra rocks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

FuseCal launches

ReadWriteWeb says:
"FuseCal lets you sync any calendar to any calendar, while also providing filters that let you limit the types of events that are included in the sync."
I haven't tried it since earlier days when it wasn't quite ready for prime time, but it's an innovative quasi-screen scraper/Web page calendar detector that looks promising. I'll be trying it out with Mozilla Sunbird in a few days to see if they play well together.

UPDATE: My quick check of FuseCal reveals that any FuseCal can import an .ics file to any compatible calendar, but only supports a limited set of calendars for subscribing to iCal feeds. Here's hoping they add Sunbird subscription support soon.

MailShadow to sync Outlook, Google Calendar

The New York Times reports:
"MailShadow is the first service that automatically brings together synchronization for mail, calendars and address books between [Outlook and Gmail]...There is a catch. MailShadow will be free for now, but the company may start charging customers in the future."
Yep, every calendar-sharing service has to make money. The ways and means often take time to reveal themselves.

Monday, March 24, 2008

BirdieSync works! Deleting Outlook 2003 did the trick

Well, it wasn't that simple. But almost.

It turns out I had two problems. One was that BirdieSync was trying to sync calendars from both Outlook and Sunbird. It didn't like that. By trial and error, I discovered how to unselect the Outlook calendar. But Active Sync still wasn't happy. At one point it demanded my Microsoft Office 2003 registration code. Since the PC in question had only a 60-day trial version of Office 2003 installed, this seemed like a ridiculous request. But the only way to make it go away that I could find was to remove the Office 2003 trial version from the PC using add/remove programs.

After that, synchronization proceeded! BirdieSync delivered calendar sync between Sunbird and Windows Mobile Calendar and earns a SwampDrain rating of +2. I can now update my calendar on Windows Mobile, and have selected events published to my wife River's Apple iCal calendar, or other calendars that I may deem appropriate.

Given the performance complaints I'm reading about Outlook 2007, I am extremely happy I didn't have to swallow that blue pill after all.

Somewhere in this calendar interoperability saga is something profound. Perhaps I can coin Mace's First Law of Calendar Interoperability: Never use more calendar, or more interoperability, than you absolutely need.

The second law probably would have something to say about how no truly liberating interoperability solution exists unless some crucial component of it is open source, but I'm not willing to codify that just yet.

Device-to-device over-the-air calendar sharing is now my only vista (no pun intended) remaining for this blog. At some point I'll be replacing my ancient Dell Axim with a Windows Mobile phone -- or perhaps an iPhone, I don't know -- and will give everything a fresh look at that time. For now, the journey's had its rewards, at long last!

Friday, March 21, 2008

BirdieSync installed but not working

Today I installed BirdieSync to sync my new Sunbird calendar with my Windows Mobile PDA. I had to click through some warnings about BirdieSync being untrusted and unsigned. Then I had to direct BirdieSync to the directory where Sunbird is installed. (I skipped all the stuff referring to Thunderbird, which I'm not running.)

Then, a bonus! BirdieSync lets me sync both my calendars to the PocketPC. It also let me select the default calendar where appointments and tasks I create on the PocketPC will be synchronized. Cool!

During the first synchronization, BirdieSync asks me to choose between "replace" and "combine." If I choose "combine" and if some similar elements are present on both the mobile and the PC, BirdieSync warns me it could potentially lead to duplicates if they are not absolutely identical.

However...I'm getting some sort of error: "Unable to establish a connection between the PC and the device."

Anyone out there know how to fix this? I'm thinking of reinstalling ActiveSync.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Calgoo Hub (beta): Calendar sharing takes a step forward

I've been in a funk for about two weeks, ever since I publicly killed my book project of five years. One thing I wrote, and believe fervently, is:
Most customers still only care about interoperability, not standards, and software companies have been playing the interoperability game as long as there's been software.
While I was trying to figure out if open standards were going to take over the world -- and woefully concluded that they won't -- from the beginning, Calendar Swamp had its laser-like focus on calendar interoperability. You the readers welcomed this focus, and finally, it looks like we're getting somewhere. And this lifts my spirits.

First, a correction to an earlier post: I have not written about Calgoo before. But I had heard about it from the outset and had in fact exchanged some emails with the company over the past two years. I recall reading this August 2006 CNet article where Calgoo was described as a way to view Google Calendar calendars when not connected to the Internet.

That was interesting, but not nearly as interesting as what Calgoo has become, billing itself now as "the world's first cross platform calendar sharing service." I confess I didn't pay much attention to Calgoo back when it seemed like just another way to connect Google Calendar to other calendars.

But Calgoo didn't stop there, and they now provide the first Google-free, Microsoft Outlook-free way to share a Windows calendar with the Mac OS X iCal calendar. Not to say they don't support Google and Microsoft calendars -- they do -- but they haven't stopped there. And this is good news for those of us trying to connect other calendars, and who are concerned that Google's terms of service leave us too exposed to privacy intrusion, and Microsoft's strategy dictates we use Outlook, which is definitely overkill if you're just trying to share simple calendars.

The new service I'm here to rave about is called Calgoo Hub (beta). Not everyone agrees with Calgoo's claim of "CalDAV support" but I'm here to report what it can do for me, and it's innovative enough to earn Calgoo Hub (beta) a SwampDrain score of +4.

Here's what I did this week. I installed Mozilla Sunbird on a Windows XP box. I registered for a Calgoo Hub account. I was able to publish my calendar to Calgoo Hub. I could invite my wife River to subscribe to my Calgoo Hub service using a time-honored obscured URL technique (not encrypted, but a hard-to-guess URL, similar to Google Calendar's method). She could then see my calendar on her Mac OS X iCal. Viola!

Because River doesn't want to see all my activities, just certain ones, I actually created two different calendars in Sunbird and published only one of them. This gets around the inability (so far) to publish events based upon some set of matching event tags, which to me is still the ultimate goal.

River can also invite me to events from within Mac OS X iCal. These appear as .ics file attachments. In Windows XP, I had to go into Control Panel|Folder Options in the File Types tab, scroll to the .ICS file type, then switch the file type from Microsoft Works (feh!) to Mozilla Sunbird, not off a pick-list but by browsing to the Sunbird .exe. It worked, and now all I have to do is click on the .ICS to have it entered into Sunbird. (I choose my local calendar so the event actually doesn't get shared back to River's calendar again, avoiding creating an infinite calendar loop.)

Ah, but what about Windows Mobile? Well that's still not solved yet, but I've found some new things to try. Mozilla plans to support sync from Sunbird to Windows Mobile, but it's not there yet. I need to publish both my Sunbird calendars to a single calendar on my PDA or phone, not just one, and right now I'm not sure how I'll do that easily. There are some things out there for me to try next, such as a Funambol plug-in, or perhaps BirdieSync or one of the other options described at MozillaZine.

I still want to be able to enter events on the PDA/phone and sync them back to Sunbird and into the proper calendars. I'll probably need proper event tagging or category-mapping on the PDA/phone sync to do that.

No matter. Calgoo, despite its name, is no longer shackled to Google Calendar. And the service is free. It supports Apple iCal, Sunbird, Outlook 2003/2007 and 30 Boxes. Calgoo Software CEO Andrzej Kowalski, with whom I've enjoyed a lively correspondence over the past few days, has been quite responsive to my questions. I'm enjoying having something that just works.

I'm sure more good things will come from Calgoo. For now, check it out. You, the readers of Calendar Swamp, are the finest calendar-sharing community on the planet. Please let Calgoo know how they could improve Calgoo Hub, and feel free to add your comments here as well.

Meanwhile, let's give some hearty thanks that diligent software developers are still working to drain this swamp. No Google required this time, just a little goo.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Berners-Lee: Killer Semantic Web app is a calendar mashup

Dan Farber quotes WWW creator Tim Berners-Lee:
"Imagine if two completely separate things--your bank statements and your calendar--spoke the same language and could share information with one another. You could drag one on top of the other and a whole bunch of dots would appear showing you when you spent your money."
I'm not holding my breath waiting for the Semantic Web, but once again it's interesting to see calendaring mashups as part of a proposed killer app. If calendaring interoperability is so sexy, why aren't we seeing more of it today?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

If free/busy is good enough for Eliot Spitzer, it's good enough for the rest of us

I don't know -- and don't want to know -- all the details about disgraced (now-ex) New York governor Eliot Spitzer's dalliances with a prostitution ring. But if one peruses some of the coverage, and digs into the online presence of some of the escort services mentioned, you don't have to dig too far to find escorts who post their up-to-the-minute calendars with various days marked "not available."

I relate this information not for salacious value, but to note that if businesses of questionable repute are using free/busy calendaring, this is a sure sign that the technology is progressing to a point where it certainly could do a lot more good for the rest of us -- those of us not engaged in questionable activities.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Microsoft Works: No, it doesn't (not for this)

Remember my hope that small/fast/simple Microsoft Works would be better at all this than big/slow/complicated Outlook? Not any more. I posted over at the newsgroup microsoft.public.pocketpc, and I discovered during the course of this conversation that Microsoft dropped calendar sync with Windows Mobile as of Microsoft Works 9.0. So there's no point pursuing that anymore.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Too many syncs in the kitchen

Robert Scoble writes:
"A Google engineer wrote me and said that they don’t recommend using Google’s Calendar Sync with other sync systems like Plaxo."
Digging into this, I understand why Google is recommending this, but it certainly is an interesting complication. Be careful about trying to sync your calendars by more than one method. I suppose that's always been true.

Friday, March 07, 2008

My Microsoft Works adventure

I've never set up Microsoft Works to work with my Pocket PC.

So I installed ActiveSync 4.5 on one of my XP machines. ActiveSync tells me:
"To synchronize E-mail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Notes with this computer, do the following: Disconnect the device, run Outlook..."
Fortunately I realized I didn't need to run Outlook, just Works.

Ah, but wait a minute. Works Help says:
"Start the Works Task Launcher."
It took a Google search before I realized I had to start the Task Launcher from the Start menu, not from within Works Calendar.


Then I click "Templates." My goodness what a lot of templates there! Lessee, where's the one I'm looking for...oh yeah, "Synchronization." Windows CE device synchronization. I start that...
"Works will now run the ActiveSync setup program to install the Works Synchronization files onto your Windows CE device. After the ActiveSync application downloading is complete, please turn off your Windows CE device and then turn it back on to complete the installation."
Followed by:
"Please check your mobile device screen to see if additional steps are necessary to complete this installation."
And indeed, there were some clicks to finish installation on the Pocket PC.

Of course, this fairly-ancient Pocket PC then tells me:
"The program you have installed may not display properly because it was designed for a previous version of Windows Mobile software [italics mine]."
I have to fight my way through a few more references to Outlook to get to:
"Welcome to the Pocket PC Sync Setup Wizard"
ActiveSync wants me to name the computer I'm syncing to. This part is familiar to me from previous ActiveSync adventures.

But wait, why is Calendar grayed out, but something called Appointments isn't???

Could it be that Calendar is an Outlook concept, but Appointments is a Works concept?

When I try to sync, nothing comes over in either direction. What am I doing wrong?

Do I have to set up a Mail profile in the Windows control panel?

I try that. I sync again. This time there's an error in ActiveSync:
"ActiveSync encountered a problem on the desktop. Support code: 85010014."
Anyone know what I should try next? How could I possibly have software that's too old? Is it the age of the Pocket PC? It's a Dell Axim running Windows Mobile 5.0.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

iPhone - Exchange integration: How praiseworthy?

In late June, we'll see the iPhone be able to sync calendars over the air with Exchange. Do you think Apple deserves a SwampDrain point for this? Or should they have done it from the get-go? I'd hope this is the last calendar-equipped gadget of its kind ever to be introduced with no legitimate way -- for nearly a year -- to provide over-the-air calendar publish-and-subscribe, much less sync.

WideLens offers reference calendar & connector

Things sure seem to be heating up lately in calendar land.

Alex Barnett writes:
"A couple of weeks back Bungee Labs released a reference calendaring application, called WideLens, designed to show off some of the power of the Bungee Connect platform...WideLens connects to Microsoft Exchange calendar, Google Calendar, Salesforce.com, Facebook, MySQL and iCalendar feeds, representing a variety of protocols and authentication schemes"
This is going to be of more interest to developers than to the rest of us, but it still sounds cool, and it's open source, available under a BSD license.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Google Calendar Sync arrives

Calendar Swamp reader Matt Sweeney just tipped me off: Google Calendar Sync is now available. Two-way sync between Outlook and Google Calendar earns Google +1 SwampDrain point. It looks like a great complement to the third-party service GooSync, which takes care of syncing Google Calendar with mobile phones.

Calendar sharing: Patent pending?

Some longtime readers may remember Microsoft's Cameron Stillion, who communicated with me prior to the launch of Office 12. What I didn't know until today is that Cameron has applied for a software patent, "Providing electronic distribution of filtered calendars." If you click on that last link, and enter the Publication number 20070143685, you'll be able to browse a wealth of information about the application. I wonder what CalConnect, or Google, or any number of other calendar-sharing organizations and businesses, have to say about the potential validity of this patent? Could we be headed for a calendar-sharing future that requires a royalty payment to Microsoft?

UPDATE 9/30/08: Cameron Stillion responds in a comment to this post.

Microsoft Works: Better sharing than Outlook?

Found at the Queen's University School of Medicine Web site, the page I just viewed was last updated October 4, 2006:
"Microsoft Works 8 / 2006 (http://www.microsoft.com/products/works/) believe it or not, has a better integrated calendar solution than Microsoft Outlook in many respects. If you currently own a copy of Microsoft Works 8 (2006), you can subscribe to iCalendar files in the "Works Calendar" and receive regular updates. We cannot confirm at this time whether or not it is possible to synchronize with your portable devices; however, we will be looking into this in the future."
Since then, Outlook 2007 came out, which lets you subscribe via iCal. Still...does anyone out there have experience sharing Microsoft Works calendars with others? How does it stack up?

Silverlight Calendar Control

Developer alert: Scott Guthrie at MIX08 mentioned a calendar control for Microsoft's Silverlight (competitor to Flash). I found one here. Maybe it will help someone make one calendar talk to another. If you find one running in the wild, drop me a line.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm queued up for beta Hosted Exchange

I'm going to try out the new Microsoft Online Hosted Exchange beta, but the new beta service, announced yesterday, has temporarily reached its limit of beta testers. I'm "in queue" and will share my experiences as this unfolds. There's a calendar-sharing aspect of Hosted Exchange, so it's worth watching. Meanwhile, if you've already tried it out, please comment here on what you're seeing.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

CalDAV not catching the wave?

CalDAV co-author Lisa Dusseault blogs:
"Were I to propose CalDAV today it would probably be CalAtom -- some things would be easier, some harder, but it would catch a wave instead of drifting in the tail of something that was never much of a popular wave. Oh well, we needed something then, and WebDAV gave the most leverage at the time."
I guess it remains to be seen if the CalDAV wave is large enough, if even the co-creator of it can disparage it so. There are certainly a lot of people still laboring mightily on implementing CalDAV in real products and services.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Microsoft gives blessing to an open-source calendar

Looking over yesterday's flurry of Microsoft-related announcements, I noticed that SpikeSource has Microsoft's blessing to service and support WebCalendar, an open-source calendar written in PHP, which SpikeSource now supports under Windows 2008. It's not clear whether SpikeSource also supports WebCalendar on Linux, but I suspect they do. It's a very small step forward, hardly swamp-draining, but it's something.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Review: Collaboration 2.0

While at CalConnect XI, I met David Coleman, co-author (with Stewart Levine) of Collaboration 2.0: Technology and Best Practices for Successful Collaboration in a Web 2.0 World (HappyAbout, January 2008, $29.95 paperback or $19.95 eBook). He then provided me with a review copy in eBook form.

I'm happy to report that the book doesn't simply urge that everyone adopt Gmail and Google Calendar and leave it at that. Instead, the book is a wide survey of competitive solutions and, of most interest to you, how to wire the calendars embedded in such solutions to each other.

Coleman brings years of expertise on groupware, and Levine's published works focus on helping groups work together. Another contributor was Coleman's Collaborative Strategies colleague Ann Marcus, who worked at InfoWorld in the 1990s at the same time I did.

I'm going to limit my review to the portion of the book dealing with calendar sharing. There's a lot of other info on all kinds of messaging, ranging from texting to avatars. I guess my view is calendar interoperability is a particular kind of messaging, structured a particular way, around events (and, increasingly, tasks). In Chapter 5, Coleman nails the problem:

"How many times has it take 12 different e-mails to set up a simple meeting or conference call with three to four people."
A few pages later, Coleman describes the ten distinct steps required for the meeting organizer to arrange one meeting. Clearly this has to change. Using a calendar-sharing service such as TimeBridge can cut this process to five steps. It's heartening to see such a calendar-sharing service featured in a book (for the first time?). Then Coleman compares TimeBridge to a U.K.-based service I was unfamiliar with called ikordo. ikordo mainly relies upon email as the final messenger to arrange meetings, which is probably a necessary evil since so many people don't use a calendar no matter what. There's an Outlook plug-in now in beta, plans to support Google Calendar, but no Apple iCal support planned as of yet.

Coleman also gives an overview of Tungle, a "meeting coordinator" Web site I've been aware of for a while but haven't mentioned here on Calendar Swamp.

Another option I wasn't aware of that Coleman dug up was iPolipo -- which since publication of Collaboration 2.0 has been renamed Jiffle. I took a quick look, and it seems to have a sophisticated free/busy service that lets you mark different portions of your calendar free depending on who's asking. I'm sure we're going to see a lot more of this kind of service.

Finally, there's a mention of Calgoo, which I've written about before in these pages.

Overall, kudos to David Coleman for taking the bull by the horns in the first calendar-sharing comparison of its kind. If you're serious about tracking this like I am, check out Collaboration 2.0 and subscribe to Coleman's blog.

UPDATE: Corrected URL for Jiffle. It's www.jifflenow.com.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Does Microsoft's new openness stop at Windows Mobile?

Lots of new developer stuff at Microsoft's interoperability Web site, but not a word that I can find on improving access to Windows Mobile data, past, present or future. That keeps the Windows Mobile data (such as calendaring) a most difficult nut to crack. Does anyone know any different?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Use Lotus Notes on Mac? Listen up

I got an email from Tim Goggin, who writes:
"We've just released PocketMac GoBetween for Lotus Notes, the first tool to allow Mac users to sync their Lotus Notes data to the almost 200 devices, handhelds and phones Apple supports natively. These devices include iPhones, Palm handhelds, Nokia devices and much more."
The cost is $24.95. And the list of supported phones on the Web site includes photos of each supported phone. That's pretty nice.

CalConnect: A progress report

As I said on Feb. 8, I was an invited guest to CalConnect Roundtable XI, the absolute worldwide nerve center of calendar interoperability efforts. A variety of organizations, including universities, vendors and service providers, tried out various implementations of CalDAV, realtime Internet scheduling connections between CalDAV and some other calendars, including via MAPI and ActiveSync, and something I had not been aware of, a developing free/busy URL standard. CalConnect isn't releasing details of which technologies were demonstrated at RoundTable XI implementing these standards and proto-standards, but I'm happy to report that some big names were on board. Today, CalConnect released a public slide deck (link updated 2/22/08) summarizing RoundTable XI and the group's progress. If you're interested in the details, check out the slide deck, and if you have any questions or feedback I might be able to address, please submit a comment to this post.

CalConnect needs help urgently in one area. This group needs more participants with security expertise. No one wants calendar systems to be plagued by the spam and malware that afflict email. If you have messaging security expertise, or know someone who does, please get in touch with CalConnect and help out on this critical work.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mac Leopard calendar sync issues

According to the Spanning Sync blog, Apple's Leopard update to Mac OS X last year introduced some calendar sync bugs. An OS X update (10.5.2) last week fixed some of these bugs but introduced others "which affect not only Spanning Sync but also applications like Plaxo, Entourage, BusySync, and .Mac itself." Apple's working on fixes. Meanwhile, Mac folks should continue to sync carefully.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Backpack adding group calendars

37Signals is adding group calendars to Backpack, its online "information organizer." The calendar feature currently costs $5 a month. There are also new privacy controls. It's not calendar-sharing nirvana, but it's another step forward, particularly for those using Backpack already.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

TimeBridge MyTime is a URL worth grabbing

TimeBridge has a new feature called MyTime which provides a simple URL for your free/busy information. Go for it now and claim a simple URL before others with your same name do so. I grabbed http://www.timebridge.com/mytime/scott. I've only wired it up to my Google Calendar for now, and since I don't use Google Calendar as my primary calendar, it won't really reflect my free/busy time, for now. But this one's worth watching, particularly as free/busy interoperability spreads across the calendar-o-sphere.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

GooSync's adding tasks, so Google Calendar's next

GooSync, the software that syncs Google Calendar with mobile phones and PDAs, just emailed its community that the company is seeking testers for a new task feature being beta-tested by GooSync later this month. This must mean Google Calendar will be getting tasks (completable events) shortly. Last month, I said Microsoft was expanding the calendar genre by adding tasks to Windows Mobile calendars, but upon investigation I had overlooked reports from April 2006 that tasks were already an unimplemented feature of Google Calendar. Bottom line, it's time to add tasks to our basic list of calendar-sharing must-haves.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Denmark's visionary free-busy sharing/calendar service

Infrastructure drives productivity. Railroads helped the North win the U.S. Civil War. The U.S. Interstate Highway System helped the U.S. become an industrial titan in the 20th century. The Internet, and email in particular, is making connected workforces more productive. But the point of Calendar Swamp all along has been to advocate for a new instructure, one of calendar sharing, that could make workers more productive by eliminating countless emails and phone calls currently required to determine when someone is free or busy, and arrange events that everyone involved can agree upon.

Enterprises have understood this for years, and typically lock themselves into Microsoft, Apple or IBM calendars exclusively in order to achieve a common calendar-sharing platform. But I knew it was only a matter of time before calendar-sharing rose to the level of national importance. Now, the Kingdom of Denmark has done just that.

For only $400,000, Denmark has built a Web site and connectors to popular online calendars that, conservatively, could save the country $10 million a year if the 816,000 public employees in Denmark used it to save one hour a year determining when others were free or busy for meetings. Needless to say, I think an hour a year savings is a conservative estimate. Some weeks, I feel like I could save an hour a week if calendar sharing or even just free/busy info sharing were ubiquitous.

This week, I was privileged to meet two Danish government officials -- Helle Birkedal Martinussen, Business Solution Architect with the Danish Ministry of the Environment, and Bitten Clausen, IT-Architect with the Ministry of Science's National IT and Telecom Agency. With them was Christian Orellana, CEO of Cabo Communications, the company that developed the Danes' new service, ekalender.dk.

We met at a meeting of CalConnect, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium, whose meetings are open to members-only but to which I and one other outsider were invited to attend this week with the understanding that we not disclose certain details of what we saw. I agreed to this and was honored to represent the worldwide Calendar Swamp community. I will have more to say about what I saw in a post next week. Longtime readers of Calendar Swamp will recognize CalConnect from the link to it provided from this blog, and from my 2006 IT Conversations podcast with Dave Thewlis.

For now, listen to my meeting with the previously-mentioned Danish visitors to CalConnect, Calendar Swamp Podcast #7, about 10 minutes in length, recorded on February 6, 2008. Something big is starting to happen, and those economies that jump on this bandwagon will be the winners.

ekalender.dk has limited services for English-language visitors, but check back there soon, Orellana told me. In the interest of providing more info to English speakers, particularly the more technical of you reading this, here are some excerpts from an informational flyer handed to me:

"Cooperation across organizations -- both within the public sector and between the public and private sectors involves, among other things, the task of setting up meetings. With participants from a variety of different organizations and calendaring platforms, the task of scheduling a meeting has proven very time consuming -- mainly due to the lack of free-busy information for the participants.

"To investigate the possibilities for better and more efficient ways of organizing meetings the ekalender.dk project was fostered in 2002...

"For quick and easy adaptation the system was built on existing technologies where applicable.

"Free-busy information is published to a shared repository at ekalender.dk using iCal/WebDAV and xCal/SOAP interfaces. (There is a strong use of XML for data exchange between public authorities in Denmark.)

"While Outlook natively supports free-busy lookup and publishing using iCal/WebDAV, server components for publishing free-busy information were developed for GroupWise, Lotus Domino, and Exchange (in the works).

"To assist users of server-based systems a rich web interface was developed allowing these users to schedule meetings using a web browser. (The web interface is widely used by Outlook users as well.)

"Besides calendaring services, ekalender.dk provides directory services to find subscribed users. The directory can be accessed via LDAP or by using the web interface.

"Preliminary support for server-based free-busy lookup for Gmail and Zimbra users was recently added.

"ekalender.dk is based on an Open Source platform [GPL] developed by Cabo Communications. The platform includes facilities for calendaring, address book, online documents, chat, etc.

"The source code is available at http://www.softwareborsen.dk/, as well as interfaces for Microsoft Outlook, IBM Lotus Notes and Novell Groupwise."

UPDATE: On this page, CalConnect has posted presentations from ekalendar.dk and from Cabo Communications.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Microsoft-Yahoo! calendars "don't combine well"

John Dvorak writes that the Yahoo! and Microsoft calendars "don't combine well." It's something I never really tested, because I was certain that would be my conclusion.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blog report: Exchange 2007 breaks some calendar sharing

The Boycott Novell blog reports that a reader whose IT department upgraded from Microsoft Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007 was no longer able to view the availability of attendees when trying to schedule a meeting from within Firefox or Konqueror running on Linux. This January 12 report states that "there's no word on when it will be fixed."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

BlackBerry gets free/busy

According to this, the BlackBerry platform will now support free/busy lookup from other people's calendars. Does this also mean it will support the free/busy features of the iCal standard, or is this just a BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry feature?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Meanwhile, Mobile Java remains at the starting gate

Remember when I complained that Mobile Java's relaunch wasn't paying attention to calendaring? Seven months later, nothing's improved. Searching through the agenda for Java Mobile & Embedded Developer Days, which starts tomorrow, I didn't find as much as a poster session about calendaring. This is a real shame. With Google's Android fork of mobile Java moving forward, all Java calendars will inevitably end up being replicated to the privacy-bending Google Calendar. Sorry to harp on it, but I think smart phone customers simply deserve more choices of calendar server and client software than Microsoft or Google, or their derivatives.

Chandler: A true who-done-it

It's an open-source calendaring project whose title was inspired in part by mystery writer Raymond Chandler. But now the Chandler project is in decline, and it's starting to look like a who-done-it murder mystery. Was it the decision to write it in the Python dynamic language that did it in? Some think so. Maybe it was too ambitious. I've always thought we should start simply with open source calendaring and build from there. At any rate, the Chandler folks deserve huge credit for promoting the CalDAV standard, which will be bearing more fruit soon. Anyway, rumors of Chandler's death could be premature. There's a lot of source code available if someone wants to try a revival the way Firefox emerged from Mozilla.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Microsoft's response to calendar competition

Microsoft is doing just what I expected them to eventually: try to counter competitive calendars by expanding its mobile calendars to embrace to-do lists. Nothing wrong with that, except it's classic embrace-and-extend: rather than continue to improve certain aspects of calendar sharing, especially between Windows Mobile and non-Microsoft solutions, try to establish a perception that such sharing is not the primary need of customers when the competitive calendar, such as Google Calendar, doesn't support to-do lists.

I'd like to be less cynical about this Microsoft move. Someone please help me!