Goodbye to MobileMe…

.. and re-introducing Google Calendar (gCal).

gist:
After having benefited for 3+ months on the free ride with MobileMe on my first gen iPhone, I have found that what I really need the most is the bi (even tri)-directional sync between my iPhone, my iMac and my web-based calendar. I am now getting this for free – and it works!
.

Prerequisites

Jailbroken iPhone (1st or 2nd gen) ☑

Google Account ☑

Cydia Installer ☑

NemusSync ☑

Put your calendar faith with the Google cloud ☑

First step – align gCal with iCal

If you are anything like me, you will have used the local iCal on your Mac (or Outlook on Windows) as the main calendar with a locally stored calendar (especially after the introduction of MobileMe) – However this is about to change. In the set-up described below gCal will be the main calendar, and since gCal does not as a default come with a desktop application, you are going to have to turn your faith into the Google cloud ☼ (I’ll get back to making “local” calendars work again shortly). First of all I decided that I would have one main calendar and several “subscribed” calendar made available to iCal after I had done “the gCal switch”. I exported my main iCal calendar in the iCal format and then imported this into a new calendar in gCal – now all my important appointments were online – however… as for now I had only one main calendar – and it was only online. What I really needed was a calendar with both a “local” and online presence (now not even thinking about the iPhone). Enter gCal CalDav.

Enabeling instant (or near-instant) sync between gCal and iCal

In July 2008 Google introduced
CalDav
– the protocol that iCal uses to transmit data over the web, and this has made things a whole lot easier ☺. I decided to have my new main gCal import into my iCal…. sounds strange, right? Wrong… because using the CalDav integration I was now able to get all my “was-iCal, is now gCal” calendar information right back into iCal – but now with the added benefit that using CalDav enables an instant (almost) sync between my two calendars. This gives me the great opportunity to keep on using my favourite interface for handling my calendars (iCal) in connection with my favourite online cloud for holding my online calendar (gCal). Set-up information is available from
Google
.

Adding more calendars to gCal – and subscribing in iCal

Before the switch I had 5 different calendars in iCal for storing information such as birthdays, holidays and when my favorite football team is playing. Since I do not update these calendars frequently, I have decided to export each of these calendars to an iCal file, and re-importing them into gCal. I now subscribe to these calendars directly in iCal – but since I did not bother with setting up proper CalDav for these calendars, I will have to use gCal’s web interface to update information in these calendars (laziness….☭ – and because CalDav-enabled calendars does not look too good in the iCal interface when there are more than one…).

Enter iPhone

So now I have working sync between Desktop and WWW – however, what about mobility? I have of course also benefited from MobileMe and calendars on my iPhone – but this was also about to change to gCal. So… once again I had to clean up a calendar… in fact I emptied all iPhone calendars, removed the calendar update references in iPhone☛Settings ☛Mail, Contacts, Calendars; so now I had no calendars at all on my iPhone – not very good for productivity, but very good for not feeling guilty and over-worked! Since the price for my new-found none-guiltiness was missing everything. In order to get my iPhone to play nicely with gCal I turned to
NemusSync
. In short it allows over-the-air sync between iPhone and iCal (also on GPRS/EDGE connections).

Setting up NemusSync

Setting up NemusSync was almost a breeze. Locating the application in Cydia and installing it was no problem. Adding your google account information after launching NemusSync is also pretty straight forward, and after having done this you are presented with a list of gCal calendars – and you get to decide whether a calender should sync up/down, only up or ignored. The only two issues I stumbled upon where:

✖ Make sure that time zone settings are the same on both iPhone and gCal – and that goes for all calendars in gCal

✖ Make sure that after you have retrieved your gCal calendars that you save settings, select “Advanced” settings and set you main calendar as default calendar in NemusSync.

After you have completed the above steps, you are done with setting up gCal on your iPhone – it IS that simple ✔

To me the biggest catch in the scenario with using NemusSync described above is that you have to manually launch NemusSync and select “sync calendars” to actually sync your calendars!. There are
rumours
of an auto-sync solution, but I have not tested this – yet.

Conclusions

First a quick run-down of the pros and cons

Pros

The solution is free – and it works!

You get to keep the gCal web interface and feature richness which in my opinion is second to none.

Cons

Process is still “more manual” than the automated MobileMe set-up

Not a push but a pull setup on the iPhone (also even if the automated solution does in fact work)

There is a problem with syncing notifications (this is also true on MobileMe web interface)

There is no automated sync of contacts (though this is on the NemusSync roadmap)

My own opinion: There is no doubt that the solution described above completes my need for bi (or tri) directional sync between my calendars. There are of course some areas that could improve over time to further enhance the solution – but to me the solution is quite adequate – at least when looking at the price of MobileMe.

Feel free to comment

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