Posted by: reformedmusings | November 20, 2010

Mobile calendar synced to Thunderbird – revisited

I discussed  a way to sync Mozilla Thunderbird with the mobile calendar on your phone in this previous post. That has worked for me for over two years. This week, however, eliminated their free basic service in favor of a $15 annual subscription basic service. Nuevasync gave their existing free service users a 5-day trial which ends after this weekend.

Nuevasync has worked well and been pretty reliable for me. They’ve made a number of capability improvements behind the scenes. For $15, the basic service isn’t a bad deal, and I in no way begrudge Nuevasync’s decision to eliminate the free service. They never promised that it would be free forever. I wish them the best in this new venture, but I decided to look for a free solution that didn’t involve an intermediate server.

I explored a number of free options to sync my phone to my Google calendar, which is the only reason that I have a Google calendar. Thunderbird syncs to my Google calendar using the excellent Provider for Google Calendar extension to feed my Lightning calendar (see my previous post for how to set that up). So, I really don’t need a desktop solution for syncing, just an Over-the-Air (OTA) sync to Google calendar.

I looked at several alternatives. I examined the open source Funambol, but it also uses an intermediate server plus requires the installation of a client on my phone, which isn’t ideal. I actually tried OggSync. They have a free version as well as a more capable for-pay Pro version. It doesn’t use an intermediate server but requires installing a client on the phone. Everything seemed to go smoothly at first. However, my answers to the initial synchronization questions produced an unexpected result. All my calendar event categories on my phone were turned into separate calendars for Google. Nuevasync did this as well, but then it merged them together when syncing. OggSync will do that if you use the Pro version, but not the free version. The free version has some excellent capabilities, but was a non-starter because I couldn’t find a way to clear the setup files and start over even after reading all their FAQs and instructions. During testing, OggSync also insisted on duplicating 10 of my events every time. I never discovered why, because the rest of the calendar synced fine.

Then I discovered that Google itself now supports synchronization through ActiveSync by emulating an Exchange server. This is what Nuevasync does. I favor this approach because it doesn’t required a new client on the phone. So, I deleted the current Exchange server setup from my phone, created the new one following Google’s instructions, and synced. The server successfully compared the two calendars and didn’t make any changes to either. I worked great from the beginning. Google will also sync contacts and email, but I don’t need that. I wish that they synced tasks, but they don’t so far.

So, now my phone’s calendar, which is my primary source calendar, syncs directly to Google OTA using ActiveSync, and then to Thunderbird’s Lightning calendar via Provider for Google Calendar. Sweet.


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