15 January 2009

One view of Contacts, everywhere

I've been working through cleaning up my Gmail Contacts entries the last few days. Google released an extension of their mobile application suite which does a basic but workmanlike bi-directional sync between the webbish Gmail Contacts information, and my Blackberry's internal store from the mobile device's point of view. Thanks, Gmail team at Google.

I had looked in to writing a 'third party control' synchronization tool, so that I could have an authoritative store safely behind the firewalls, and in a CentOS LDAP backend. Google publishes the needed API; RIM is less open, but the API and a device simulator is available as well behind some Export Control disclaimers, identity harvesting, and such. In the FOSS world, the fruit from the barry project is maturing nicely as well, but tackling cracking open the datastore blobs (which RIM manipulates with some Java code in their implementation and SDK) is somewhat tricky and it is not for the timid.

I write this having 'bricked' the phone a couple nights ago, and had to fall back to restoring from a backup image.

You _do_ take and test Level 0 backups at least weekly, right?
Blackberry Curve 8320

Just as I thanked Google, RIM also deserves 'kudos' for continuing to roll out fixes, and feature set upgrades on the phone chassis; it has added video movie capture, dictation ('voicenote') from them, and as it has a sufficiently 'open' API, I have been able to easily add applications from Google mobile, Remember the Milk, and Jott all co-existing on that chassis. Add Google Docs, and drop.io tools, for mobile productivity completeness.

High recommendation for a high end approach to their portable devices, but the trackball retention ring on my unit is cracked and the dirty trackball issue others mentioned is also there. Apple probably had it right early on, choosing the touch screen approach which the iPhone uses. But Apple and ATT think they can profit maximize with an exclusivity (i.e., non Free and non-discriminatory access to the platform) deal in the US; They are free to their opinion, of course, but not with my support.

Back to the matter at hand, the Blackberry and the Gmail Contacts sync works sufficiently well that I'll leave it running; I need to learn a bit about how to do edits and sync in stages, rather than doing all ACDs ('Adds, Changes, and Deletes') in a single pass, so that I don't end up with 2, then 4, then 8 slightly different records shuttling back and forth. The proper sequence is probably: Edit to a single record first and sync; Delete the strays and sync. Add's seem not to be a problem.

Apple emac PPC all in oneOnce I have the process down, I'll still have to face that LDAP and third party local control [CentOS from the office] issue. I'll probably pick up an Apple Mini based on the Intel processors for some other development needs, and so I can retire my trusty PPC eMac, which will not handle the OS/X 10.5 OS level. The later OS/X versions have markedly beter LDAP and synchronization tools, and unlike RIM, Apple is pretty clear about the need to 'keep up' with the hardware franchise in order to get later enhancements.