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Syncing: How can it be this difficult?

OK, prepare for a rant.

I’ve been looking at ways to sync data across multiple systems. Basically I’m looking for something that can sync contacts, calendars and tasks across multiple devices. Ideally, this would be between a couple of desktop systems and my Android phone (preferably with a web interface for the rare occasions I’m without either). I don’t need to sync email due to using IMAP and the excellent clients available for it nowadays (personally I use Thunderbird 3.1 and K9 Mail).

Now I bet you’re screaming at me: “Why don’t you just use Google Contacts/Calendar/Tasks?”. Well currently I am, but in my ongoing quest to replace as many of these things with Free Software implementations, I was wondering what else I could use. Basically, the answer is that there isn’t anything that satisfies my requirements. There are lots of solutions which will do part of this, but nothing that will do everything. Having said that, I’m not against putting multiple components together to make a system that suits me better – in fact this is probably the best way to go about it. Probably the best project I’ve looked into is Davical, which seems to have the calendaring down, but web interfaces and Android support are a problem.

I guess what I’m really wondering is why isnt’ there some nice web application I can install that does all of the above, has connectors for popular platforms (i.e. Thunderbird and Android) and is Open Source? I mean really? I don’t know why this isn’t solved yet! How difficult is it, compared to say web apps like WordPress or Drupal? (I’m kinda hoping that I’ve missed something like this and some helpful person will step out of the Internet woodwork and point me in the right direction).

Of course if I come up with a solution I’ll be happy to share it. If anyone has any tips, please comment below.

Category: Rants
  • Morris Nye says:

    I use a pen. And a diary. Yes, it’s an extra physical device, but it has the added advantage of the syncing method requiring nothing more than yourself.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm
  • CiaranG says:

    You can do this with:

    1. Server: Egroupware
    2. Android: Funambol client (SyncML client)
    3. Thunderbird: SyncColab plugin (CalDav client)

    I had a fully functional contacts and calendar sync up and running with that setup. However:

    1. Egroupware: Nice, my experience was that the “community edition” was a buggy and neglected shadow of the properietary version. I don’t want to use software that’s just pretending to be FOSS.
    2. SyncColab – a bit buggy

    Another option is ‘Funambol all the way down’. There is a server, and there are clients for most things. The server didn’t look like much fun to install though.

    I would much prefer to use davical – the lack of CalDAV support on Android is the only problem. My plan is to write my own Android CalDAV client – firstly to have the CalDAV support, and secondly because the UI for any existing calendar doesn’t suit me at all.

    February 21, 2011 at 11:25 pm
  • Rob Connolly says:

    Yeah, I’m not too enamoured of Egroupware either. I also looked at Funambol, but as you said it looks like a real pain to install. Davical support for Android would be awesome. I’d happily use any FOSS app that could interface with it, but I think the best solution would be to try and help out with the work going on at: http://wiki.davical.org/w/CalDAV_Clients/Android as they appear to be making some progress.

    EDIT: I just found an app called aCal, which is due to be Open Sourced later this month (current version is $2.00 to help support application development). Might be worth a look.

    March 3, 2011 at 4:24 pm
  • Rob Connolly says:

    Personally, I prefer a quill and parchment, but you just can’t get good peacock feathers these days. You also have the same problem in that you need a small team of monks to transcribe all your notes. :-)

    March 3, 2011 at 4:27 pm

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