Calendar Nirvana

Posted on: 15 March 2009

Back in January I treated myself to a new mobile phone. Of course I looked at the iPhone, but there were three big drawbacks:

  1. the price
  2. they're getting kinda common (1 million sold in the UK!)
  3. you can't use it as a 3G modem

That last one was the real killer (although the first one was pretty much a killer too!). I'd decided I wanted a touchscreen phone, so a bit of research led me to the Samsung Pixon, and I found a good contract deal on T-Mobile. I was already a T-Mobile Pay As You Go customer, so thought they might be willing to offer some sort of deal on the phone if I upgraded to a contract with them. Thanks to the wonders of T-Mobile's marketing wizards, I managed to get down to two options:

  1. buy the new phone direct from T-Mobile for £190, and lose my existing phone number
  2. buy the new phone from another online retailer for £99, still with T-Mobile, on the same contract, and keep my existing phone number

After giving it not much thought at all, three days later I had my shiny phone. The phone itself is amazing, and I have no regrets about choosing it over the iPhone. But the part that's impressed me most is the calendar. I've had calendars on my phone for years now, but the tiny screen and phone keypad have made them all pretty much unusable. The Pixon's enormous screen and full-screen qwerty keyboard mean that checking your calendar and adding new entries is almost as easy as using a proper PC for the job. The only stumbling block was synchronisation to my desktop calendar.

I'm too cheap to buy Outlook, so use the rather excellent Thunderbird for my email, with the equally excellent Lightning calendar plugin. Some poking around in the Pixon menus led me to a rather obscure and technical-looking application called "Synchronise". Unfortunately this gave no real clue what you could synchronise with, other than "a server", which doesn't narrow things down too much.

A little more digging has got me to calendar nirvana. The Thunderbird Google Calendar add-on integrates a Google calendar into Thunderbird. The quite wonderfully named Goosync then provides a SyncML interface to a Google calendar (and contacts and tasks if you like), which turns out to be what the unintuitive "Synchronise" application is for. The free version of Goosync will only sync 30 days worth of calendar entries, but the premium version is only £20 for a year, and will sync your whole calendar - much more useful. It's good to be able to try the free service first though, to check if it works as advertised.

So now I'm there - a full desktop calendar which synchronises with a useable calendar on my phone. Joy! (Maybe I should get out more...)