Syncing strategies

May 3, 2009 by
Filed under: Communications, Linux, Phone, Windows 

Another problem has (mostly) been solved for me it seems. I’ve had quite a lot of problems the last few months with calendars and email and contacts being out of sync between workplaces and my private computers/cellphones etc. The problem has been that I’ve gotten a new contract and hence am relocated to another workplace. My employer has a stupid (ok, maybe not so stupid, but annoying me nonetheless) policy of not allowing any e-mail to internal addresses be forwarded or fetched from external networks. At the same time, my contracting has put a heavy load on the calendar and all of a sudden I understand everyones problems with syncing e-mail/contacts/calendars etc… it’s really a must.

Anyways, in short, I started out with 4 calendars (workplace1, workplace2, home1, home2(laptop) and cellphone) needing sync, and using Microsoft Exchange weirdo protocols was not an option (I’m not using Windows or Outlook at home anymore). This has later been extended to sync contacts and my two instances of thunderbird (not yet finished). So, in short:

  1. Workplace1 = Windows Vista with bluetooth
  2. Workplace2 = Microsoft Exchange server with limited access.
  3. Home1 = Ubuntu with thunderbird
  4. Home2 = Old Laptop, Windows XP with thunderbird, will likely migrate to Linux soon as well since I barely use it anymore due to the OS on it.
  5. Cellphone = LG KC910 with bluetooth and wifi.

First off, finding a sync strategy wasn’t easy. First, decide on where your “central repository” is, or rather which will be your main device. My current solution relies on cellphone (LG KC910) being the central repository since it’s the only common gadget at all locations. connection at workplace1 is directly over bluetooth to the KC910 using the LG sync application. The application is absolutely horrible, but it does it’s job (barely). Unfortunately LG relies on a proprietary bluetooth protocol for syncing so I have yet to find any decent replacement applications.

My big problem was finding a working solution at home, and I think I finally found it in Funambol (https://www.forge.funambol.org/DomainHome.html) which is a SyncML server. Basically, I got a server on my local network running Funambol, when I get home, connect to the local wifi, and sync with funambol (See http://www.mobyko.com/phoneinfo/lg/renoirkc910Info.do, a bit down for instructions). The funambol server then acts as a “central repository” when I’m at home containing all calendars etc. Thunderbird sessions on Home1 and Home2 uses the funambol addon (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/8616) to sync with the funambol server.

WARNING! So far I dont trust funambol to run on the public internet, for one part it seems to be sending passwords in cleartext, as well as data. I’d love to figure out a way to get it all encrypted using SSL/https, but I’m a complete newbie to Tomcat (base plattform for funambol) as well as java. As far as possible, try to use a closed/encrypted network for this unless you get https running imho.

A second note on Funambol is that I had some really funny Timezone problems when setting it up, all devices run the correct timezones, but for some reason my calendars winded up being winded 2 hours into the future at home, I got it fixed by setting all timezones in funambol for all devices manually, and then disabling the timezone handling in funambol… don’t ask me why it fixed it etc, I hate working with timezones 😉 .

All that said, I really think SyncML was a big saviour for me in the end, but I had a hard time finding a single word on it or anyone really recommending it. Bluetooth just needs to be …. well, better support, and everyone needs to agree on standards. Everyone (companies) seems to be running around doing their own thing, which means Linux has very good basic bluetooth support, but none of the higher layer stuff since it’s badly implemented or proprietary.

Comments

2 Comments on Syncing strategies

  1. Jacco van Koll on Wed, 21st Oct 2009 14:23
  2. Oskar,

    You could put up a apache2 proxy in front of funambol, which is handling the SSL/HTTPS stuff for you? This way, you bypass the fight with tomcat…..

    Jacco

  3. Oskar Andreasson on Thu, 22nd Oct 2009 08:03
  4. It’s a good idea imho, but would require quite a bit of work as well and adds complexity. In the end though, I winded up not using it very much either way though so it’s not the end of the world. The mobile can’t handle any complex calendar tasks which means it doesn’t work anyways so I’m kind of stuck with having to have access to a pc to know my calendar.

Tell me what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!