End-to-End Calendaring “Solution”

My post asking for calendaring suggestions resulted in a lot of feedback, but no solutions that accomplished the goals I was looking for:

  1. Sync between desktop computers and handheld.
  2. Web access for viewing and entering/editing.
  3. Public view of combined free-busy state.

There is a solution that does all of this, but is isn’t one I’m willing to use at the moment. Here are the tools involved:

  • Hosted Exchange account which provides Outlook Web Access
  • BlackBerry Enterprise Server
  • Microsoft Entourage
  • Apple iSync
  • Apple iCal
  • Apple Address Book
  • PHP iCalendar (or Google Calendar)
  • FTP iCal or similar program to FTP iCalendars to my web server
  • Script I’d have to write to combine multiple iCalendars into a single iCalendar, replacing all events with a simple “Busy” subject (I’ve basically got this written – needed it previously)

It would work like this: The BlackBerry and Microsoft Entourage talk directly to the hosted Exchange account. On my Macs, Apple iCal and Address Book send and receive information to Entourage via iSync (which Entourage then sends back to Exchange)1. An automated process would export the iCalendars from iCal and push them to my server. A script on my server would read these iCalendars and combine them into a single “free-busy” iCalendar which can be displayed by PHP iCalendar or Google Calendar.

So this :scare: works :/scare: , but is horribly complex and inelegant. It also has a ~$200/year additional price tag for the hosted Exchange account. If the solution were a little cleaner, I might think harder about it but at the moment the setup complexity and cost are prohibitive.

One piece of the puzzle that would still be missing is the ability to let people request/schedule appointments though the free/busy web interface (though I could probably script that too), but I can do without that for now.

Feedback welcome…

  1. Thanks to Ethan for figuring out this part of the puzzle. [back]


I think I’ve got some pretty basic calendaring needs. I want to be able to access (view/add/edit) my calendar data from any computer including my handheld (using the native handheld app and sync, not a web interface – at least for now) and I want to publish a simple free/busy view of my workday schedule publicly.

I’ve looked at a number of options, but before tainting the discussion I thought I’d ask for suggestions.


Around the web

I credit Brent and the excellent NetNewsWire for iPhone for my newfound ability to (almost) keep up with my feeds again.

Surrendering To Google Calendar

I surrender! I tried to make Google Calendar work the way I want to work, but it just won’t. Instead of fighting against it, I’m reversing course and doing my best to work with it. What I Wanted A little while back, I decided that I needed to start archiving data by year1. I still…

2006 in Review

Welcome to my second annual year in review post. January – Scott and I attend MacWorld and are madly trying to get FeedLounge ready for launch. I finish my digital photo frame and run into the first of what will be several hardware issues in ’06. February – Tasks Pro™ 1.6 and Tasks 2.7 are…

Redundant E-mail

I wrote about setting up redundant e-mail services a few months ago. Since then, FastMail1 has had some ups and downs with another rough patch and then rolling out their own replicated systems to help avoid future problems. I’m still with FastMail. The combination of laziness on my part (I’m really quite happy with the…


So yeah, the whole “pull the hard drives out of the machine and drive them somewhere to have folks try to salvage the data from them” thing has definitely put a monkeywrench in my plans for this week. It’s now unlikely I’ll get my new releases of Tasks Pro™ and Tasks out this week, among…

Google Calendar Thoughts

I’m still pining away for “over the air” (OTA) sync for my BlackBerry and I’ve been thinking more about Google Calendar as a result. Google Calendar is interesting to me because it is basically what I would have built (minus some of the SMS features) had I decided to build a calendaring system. Everything is…

SyncML = Failure

Knowing I’m an interested party, Brett1 sent me a link to the article on LifeHacker that explains how to use ScheduleWorld as a sync hub for your PIM data. It all looks really good, including supporting over the air (OTA) sync of BlackBerry devices. I tested the sync with Google Calendar and it worked. So…

Single-User Zimbra Hosting

In the comments on my redundant e-mail service post, Avi Flax brought up Zimbra as a potential alternative to a hosted Exchange account (for e-mail, calendaring, etc.). Kevin Henrikson was kind enough to stop by and clarify a few things for us: Zimbra has support for Blackberry over-the-air sync as an add-on in our most…

Redundant E-mail?

FastMail1, my e-mail provider which I have recommended in the past, has been having a bit of trouble the last few days. Luckily for me, I haven’t been affected at all by these issues, but those who have are not happy. As far as I can tell, all hosted services go through something like this…


There have been a number of interesting suggestions on my post yesterday that attempt to solve the handheld-desktop sync and provide a web view of my calendars. However, many of these do not include editing via the web interface and none of them include a public free-busy only view1 for my work week that combines…

Leopard Thoughts

Apple’s WWDC keynote announcements yesterday about Leopard have been talked about pretty much everywhere, but there are a few things I wanted to touch on: ToDos I was asked, so I’ll answer. I don’t see the ToDos and Notes implementation in Mail.app as a competitor to Tasks. My target audience is generally “folks who want…

Around the web

Salon.com | Conceding on climate change GolfWeb.com – The Masters Tournament Longer Augusta still a challenge to all-comers GolfWeb.com – The Masters Tournament Cool Couples comes close to glory GolfWeb.com – The Masters Tournament Mickelson makes it look easy at the Masters Patience – heh: The good news is that the pitching will undoubtedly get…

iCalendar Plugin for Outlook?

Does anyone know of an iCalendar plugin for Outlook? My searches haven’t turned up anything. UPDATE: ‘Subscribing to an iCalendar’ means: you enter the URL of the iCalendar into your calendaring software and specify a refresh schedule. Then your calendaring software goes and looks for new data to update the iCalendar on that schedule. It’s…