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Diary of a Homepage
Part 22 (August 2012 - September 2012)

Part 1 (February - June 1996) || Part 2 (June - September 1996) || Part 3 (October 1996 - March 1997) || Part 4 (April 1997 - December 1997) || Part 5 (January 1998 - December 1998) || Part 6 (January - December 1999) || Part 7 (January 2000 - December 2001) || Part 8 (January 2002 - June 2003) || Part 9 (June 2003 - August 2003) || Part 10 (August 2003 - April 2007) || Part 11 (May 2007 - September 2007) || Part 12 (October 2007 -December 2007) || Part 13 (January 2008 - August 2008) || Part 14 (September 2008 -> June 2009) || Part 15 (July 2009 -> August 2009) || Part 16 (September 2009 -> December 2009) || Part 17  (January 2010 -> October 2010 ) || Part 18 (November 2010 - December 2010) || Part 19 (January 2011 - September 2011) || Part 20 (October 2011 - March 2012) || Part 21 (April 2012 - July 2012) || Part 22 (August 2012 - September 2012 ) || Part 23 (October 2012 - December 2012) || Part 24 (January 2013 - December 2013) || Part 25 (January 2014 - December 2014 || Part 26 (January 2015 - December 2015 || Part 27 (January 2016 - October 2016) || Part 28 (November 2016 -> ) || Back to the home page

1 August 2012

Fixing a Bug in AddressBookTab 1.4.2 with Thunderbird 14.0 - NOTE Does not work in Thunderbird 15 but there is now version 1.5 which fixes the problem in TB 15.0

AddressBookTab prevents the display of the contact pane in your address book with Thunderbird 14, both in a tab and in the original display. Namely, when you highlight a contact in your address book, the contact pane will not display the contact's information, it will remain blank. This is a problem but a correction has been provided by a user (ck55) at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/thunderbird/addon/addressbooktab/reviews/368387/ and I have modified the procedure for Ubuntu Linux to use the gnome archive manager instead of the free windows program 7-zip.

1) Open the addressbooktab-1.4.2-tb.xpi you downloaded with the archive manager (right click on the .xpi and chose open with Archive Manager) and go to /chrome/
2) Open AddressBookTab.jar by double clicking
3) go to /content/
4) and open AddressBookTab.js (double clicking opens in the gedit Text Editor), leaving the archive manager open
5) find line 16
var generatedName = realCard.generateName(gPrefs.getIntPref("mail.addr_book.lastnamefirst"));
6) replace it with
try {
lastnamefirst = gPrefs.getIntPref("mail.addr_book.lastnamefirst");
} catch(err) {
lastnamefirst = 0;
}
var generatedName = realCard.generateName(lastnamefirst);

7) Save the AddressBookTab.js file from gedit - the archive manager will then ask if you want to update the archive which you do.
8) Close everything down in the reverse order to opening them.
9) Remove the old AddressBookTab 1.4.2 addon and Restart Thunderbird
10) Install the modified addressbooktab-1.4.2-tb.xpi in thunderbird

This seems to cure the problem completely and I have installed the modified version in 4 machines so far. Hopefully a new version1.4.3 will be produced shortly and it will then replace my modified version at the next version update.

2 August 2012

Another look at Contacts and their synchronisation to Thunderbird.

I have once more been looking at the synchronisation of contacts, calendars and tasks between machines. My master address book started life in Microsoft Outlook which has a rich set of fields. It is now in Thunderbird and is kept in synchronise between machines running Thunderbird by an extension called Synckolab. I am also running an extension called MoreFunctionsForAddressBook which supports some additional fields beyond those in the basic Thunderbird address book of which the only important one is Categories. Categories was used in my Contact list in Outlook and is very useful - it is in fact supported within Thunderbird but just nor displayed or used although the import from Outlook brought my Categories in. SyncKolab also synchronises Categories so I have not lost anything of importance.

One would think that it would be easy to keep a number of address books in synchronisation - Microsoft went a long way with ActiveSync between a couple of Windows machines and PDAs - it was very reliable and effective but proprietary although it seems to be employed by Blackberry. The best I have found for Thunderbird is the SyncKolab extension which uses either a Kolab server or an IMAP mailbox - it is easy to get an IMAP mailbox but they are normally not free although a lot of 'webmail' accounts probably use a standard IMAP mailbox which could be exploited.

There are also Kolab clients available for other machines and email clients. At present I have a Blackberry which I get to appreciate more and more however it is never going to enjoy the support of an iPhone or Android. The way forwards for me looks like the Android and I was fascinated to see that it is now possible to run Android on some Netbooks which I hoped would enable me to explore address book synchronisation without having to invest in a new Android phone at a time when they are evolving so rapidly. Note: There are More Thoughts on Synchronisation below

Android-X86

Whilst looking into the future for smart phones, I discovered that there is an Android LiveUSB which will run on some Netbooks and laptops. See http://www.android-x86.org/releases/build-20110828 for the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) version, the version on most current smart phones. There is also a first cut at Android 4.04 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which has a known problem in that it has no Ethernet or in my case Wifi connectivity. There is no specific build for the MSI Wind 100 but both of the versions for the EeePC version seem run on the MSI Wind U100 enough to see what Android is like but not well enough to check fully if the Kolab-Android connector works. Under Gingerbread it logs in and discovers the IMAP folders but every transfer gives errors although I have seen a couple of items show up in the IMAP folder but that was out of 950! This may not be a problem with Kolab-Android as the synchronise to Google Contacts does not work either in X-86 Gingerbread. More seems to work in X-86 Android 4 and here the inbuilt editor works and saves contacts but without any network connectivity it is impossible to check the synchronisation.

Keyboard Mapping x86 => Android Action Android-X86 2.3 Gingerbread

left-mouse-btn => android-tap
right-mouse-btn => android-BACK
mid-mouse-btn => android-MENU
HOME key => android-HOME
END key => android-power-btn
ESC key => android-BACK
Super Key => android-MENU

Impressions of Android from using Android-X86

It is difficult to assess fully as it is designed for very specific hardware and the application store is inhibited unless you have a machine satisfying (certified) for running android. Android X-86 has to 'fudge' many issues to run without a touch screen and does it in a different manner for 2.3 and 4.0. The version for 4 seems much better integrated with a Netbook and makes more use of the mouse although Networks (ie Internet) and the camera do not work - otherwise it seems in many ways to be better than Ubuntu Linux, which. I did not expect.

Kolab Connector to sync Android Contacts

There is an equivalent to SyncKolab for Android phones which is described at http://code.google.com/p/kolab-android/wiki/Documentation. The way Contacts are handled is quite different to usual. KolabDroid is a synchronisation provider. That means, that there is no icon to launch an app. Instead install it then configure it under "Settings" -> "Accounts & synchronise" and set up a synchronise schedule or carry out a manual synchronise.

As a synchronisation provider, KolabDroid keeps your contacts and calendar events isolated from your other accounts. (Google, Exchange, etc.) and local contacts set up for the phone. No data will be leaked into your other accounts. The built in Contact Editor is not able to edit non-standard contacts. This seems to be inherited from the original Android code, it does not correctly interpret non-native contacts. While there are provisions in Google's code for the Contact Manager to allow synchronisation providers to supply a template top control which fields can be edited there is currently no way to attach them. KolabDroid have therefore implemented an alternative editor which can be chosen instead of the Contact Manager and, if you only have Kolab Contacts, it can be set as default - this supports most common fields.

Summary

In summary it looks as if I will be able to integrate an Android phone into the address book synchronisation I am using with SyncKolab and Thunderbird and SyncKolab or Google Ca lender will handle handle synchronising contacts to the phone. So there is a viable way ahead when/if I replace the Blackberry.

7th August 2012

gContactSync for use in Syncronising Blackberry and Thunderbird Contacts

gContactSync is an add-on (extension) that synchronizes contacts between Google (Gmail) and Thunderbird, and also supports importing contacts from Facebook, Twitter, and more. You can synchronize multiple accounts with multiple address books, and it fully supports regular and hosted Google Accounts. By default, it synchronizes the first four e-mail addresses, the first screen name and number of each type in Google and every attribute in Thunderbird (not all of these are visible in Gmail, however). It adds several fields to Thunderbird for e-mail addresses, screen names, and numbers. Anything that is not synchronized should be preserved. (Note - not always in Thunderbird following a reset which reloads from the server)

Preparation - Backing up

Tidy up your other extensions prior to tests.

I disabled in Thunderbird the add-ins (extensions) which might have interactions namely:

Install gContactSync

I installed gContactSync version 0.3.5 in the initial stages and latter switched to the newest alpha at the time which was 0.4.0a5

Initial Tests with version 0.3.5

At first I ran tests using the new and unused gmail with empty contacts and an existing address book which had copies of my existing contacts list. This gave a lot of problems and only a small proportion of the contact would sync and there were hundreds of error messages. I have emailed in the log. However when I did it the other way on a fresh copy of the profile and an old gmail contacts using the default settings it brought down my existing gmail contacts fine. They did not have the postal addresses so I then set that 'experimental' box and did a forced download by right clicking address book -> Reset - (Replace from server) logged out and back in and a manual sync everything was fine. I set up for a manual rather than automatic sync so I can see the results

I have been re-reading http://www.pirules.org/blog/ which is far more than a blog as it has the various bits of information that help one work out why some things which seem a little idiosyncratic at first sight are actually a good idea and others are work-rounds for shortfalls and bugs in the Google APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). It also stresses the need to Reset (Clear address book and replace from Server) after some changes and this seems to have been what cleared all the error messages.

I then re-enabled all the extensions and they seem to still work in harmony although the contact editor now has a lot of tabs as both gContactSync and MoreFunctionsForAddressBook add their own tabs.

One outstanding anomaly is that when I synchronise with a new contact (or one that has been copied in) it does not end up in 'My Contacts' in gmail contacts but in 'Other Contacts' and likewise deleted contacts are also transferred to 'other contacts' from Thunderbird so editing is best done on my Blackberry. This seems to be a known feature rather than a bug.

Another is that contacts without a email address will not synchronise - the program description implies they should have a dummy email address added by gContactSync to get round a Thunderbird problem with address lists items without email addresses causing a freeze/crash.

Note see below for more Comprehensive Tests of gContactSync version 0.4.0a5 which largely supercede the early tests here and provide workrounds to the anamolies found here.

Using Lightning with Google Calendars - Provider for Google Calendar

If you need both read and write access to a Google Calendar the best way is to install the Provider for Google Calendar from addons.mozilla.org.

Get the extension from addons.mozilla.org: Download the file by right-clicking on the link and choose save-as. Then in Thunderbird with Lightning installed, choose Extras/Tools > Addons and click on the install button. Point it to the downloaded file and install the extension.

To access your calendar data, you need to retrieve your private XML URL from the Google Calendar UI.

1. Open your Google Calendar
2. Click "Settings - Calendars"
3. Click on the Calendar you would like to use in Lightning
4. Click on the private XML button and copy the link that is shown.

The private link will look something like: https://www.google.com/calendar/feeds/username%40gmail.com/private-1ba218e6a25bfc32b25a4eb3f9ee6d96/basic

After installing the 'Provider for Google Calendars' extension you can create a new calendar by File -> New -> Calendar and choose "On the network". Then pick "Google Calendar" and paste or enter the URL to your calendar and check the cache box. Click "next" and choose a name and color. Click "next" and a popup appears in which you have to enter your login (with or without the @gmail.com part) and password and choose whether you want Lightning/Sunbird to save your password. Choosing "next" creates the calendar and provides you with two-way access to the google-calendar. There will be a new toolbar item in Calendar view called Synchronise which synchronises your Google Calendars.

 

11th August 2012

Blackberry Bold 9700 (Draft Page Content)

Introduction

This is now a dedicated page on the Global Communications and Computing - the Blackberry Bold 9700 Smartphone - it is best to jump to that page which will have the latest updates and information from now on but the original has been retained for continuity. [ Click to Expand and see the original ]

21st August 2012

Thoughts on Synchronising Computers and PDAs

I am looking for a way be able to use the most appropriate machine for a job and have the results available for use elsewhere. We currently have a number of desktops, laptops and netbooks (running Linux) with Thunderbird/Lightning with Contacts, Calendars and Tasks shared through SyncKolab which uses an IMAP server and we currently use IMAP mailboxes so, when required email can also be accessed and sent from any machine.

This does not however solve the larger problem of use of phones, PDAs and Smart Phones where the best we have been able to do has been to bluetooth (or email) contacts in vcard format.

I have recently obtained a Blackberry and initially transferred my address book and calendar via a tortuous route - TB -> Outlook Express -> Outlook -> Blackberry Desktop Synchronisation software with reasonable success and also brought in some further phone numbers via a SIM card. The Google Sync App is currently available for the Blackberry and does a reasonable job of synchronising the Address Book and Calendar on the Blackberry with a Gmail Account I opened for the purpose. The loop has been closed for calendars as there is an extension which makes Google Calendars available in Thunderbird (whilst on line).

What has become obvious is that the preferred mechanism for adding and updating Contact information and Calendar entries is the Blackberry which is always to hand and always turned on and I believe that is always going to be the case - one will use the Smart Phone, PDA or Tablet in ones pocket or hands at the time. This then needs to be synchronised with ones 'fixed' infrastructure. The Google system is the best and most universally available at present although Google now seem to be even less worthy of trust than Microsoft used to be and that is saying something. One therefore needs a reliable 'offline accessible system either end and must not depend on a cloud service outside ones control completely. In addition a cloud based system is not appropriate all the time when mobile and certainly not abroad when data costs can be very high. gContactSync is potentially the a perfect way to get from Google to my other machines for Contacts and can also be used to Sync between Thunderbird address books on lots of different machines.

My existing synchronisation SyncKolab has been used for several years between Thunderbird on my various Linux machines and I have I have much more control as it uses an IMAP mailbox on an ISP I pay for and can easily be moved to a different IMAP server. It also synchronises Calendars and Tasks which gContactSync can not yet do so I will retain it for the medium term and continue to use it to Synchronise the main address book - Personal Addresses. gContactSync will be used to synchronise an independent address book used for sharing between my PDAs and selected of my Linux machines at least until I have used gContactSync for a reasonable period of time.

This needs more thought as it does not bring out the importance of keeping address books and calendars in step

22nd August 2012

More gContactSync Testing

This is the continuation of my earlier investigations see above.

I set up an extra Thunderbird profile for these tests with two additional address books and the intention was to test using synchronisation between these two folders rather than separate machines. I used the 'spare' gmail account I had set up earlier for this purpose. This technique works very well. The initial test used the version 0.3.5 which is better developed. I started off by creating the two address books then added the two new accounts to them. I turned off all the fancy things with phone numbers in the preferences windows so I kept as close to Thunderbird as possible.

I have turned on Address Synchronisation - this is off by default on version 0.3.5 as there were and still are various differences in the way Thunderbird and Google store addresses. Thunderbird stores what are know as structured addresses, which are the individual components of an address (street, city, state, zip code, country, etc.) while Gmail originally only stored a formatted address which contained the entire address in a single field. Google now automatically converts addresses between these two formats, but it did not when version 0.3 was released hence it was turned it off by default. Version 0.4 has it on by default.

I had a lot of problems with version 0.3.5 so after the initial tests I installed the latest version which is still an alpha - 0.4.0a5 but a fairly well tested one. I installed 'over-the-top' of the earlier version. This seems much more consistent so I will describe only the results of testing the 4.0a5 version.

The basic test was to create a new Contact and make sure it was transferred then fill in all the standard and extra fields and see that they were all transferred correctly - that is not always the whole story as the changes also have to be detected so the test really needs to be done field by field. Many of the fields are common between Google Contacts and Thunderbird addresses but some are not consistent and more likely to give problems. These include Phone numbers and Addresses. There are also a set of extended fields in Thunderbird some of which can only been seen and changed by Extensions such as MoreFunctionsForAddressBook and some are added by gContactSync and these also needed to be investigated.

So I should first describe my set up as there may be interactions that I have to sort out. I am using Thunderbird 14 with the Lightening Extensions to give Calendars and Tasks - an almost universal set up. In addition I have several Extensions which are to do with address books:

Unexpected results in the initial tests

  1. New Contacts have to be synced before they are added locally to My Contacts then synced again.
  2. Address Line 2 is a real problem. It shows a conflict if it is changed and updating of everything on that card is blocked. A workaround is to force synchronisation in the case of a conflict to be from the server to local which at least allows other changes to be propagated even if the second address field does not sync or see below for better solution.
  3. Contacts without a email address will not synchronise - the program description implies they should have a dummy email address added by gContactSync to get round a Thunderbird problem with address lists items without email addresses causing a freeze/crash but this does not occur if the field starts with a text string or is cleared locally. Clearing the field in Google Contacts leads correctly to the dummy address being created.

Summary of supported fields and synchronisation results using gContactSync (and SyncKolab) TB to TB and Blackberry to Google using Google Sync

The initial table has been extended to include a comparison with SyncKolab and similar results with Google Sync for Blackberry to investigate wider integration of address books

y = supported or sync works . N or n = Not Supported or sync fails. h = hidden field. C = Column can be displayed. S = Cards can be searched for this field.

Some shortfalls and consequences of Workrounds in the various programs are highlighted.

Field
Basic TB
MFFAB gC'Sync SyncG' SyncK'
BB
BB G' Sync
First Name
y
y
y
y
y
Last Name
y
y
y
y
y
Display Name
y
C
S
C
y
y
Prefer Display (Tick)
y
y
N
Nickname
y
C
y
y
y
y
Email
y
C
S
C
y
y
y
y
Additional Email
y
C
C
y
y
y
y
Screenname
y
C
y
y
Prefered Format
y
y
y
Allow Remote
y
y
N
Work
y
C
C
y
y
y
y
Work 2 (BB field)
             
n
 
y
y
Home
y
C
C
y
y
y
y
Home 2 (BB field)
             
n
 
y
y
Fax
y
C
C
y
y
y
y
Pager
y
C
C
y
y
y
y
Mobile
y
C
C
y
y
y
y
Mobile 2 (BB field)
             
 
y
y
Home Address
y
C
y
y
y
y
Home Address 2
y
N/Y
y
y
merged into Home Address
Home City
y
C
S
y
y
y
y
Home State
y
C
y
y
y
y
Home Zip
y
C
y
y
y
y
Home Country
y
C
S
y
y
y
y
Home Web Page
y
C
y
y
y
y
Birthdate
y
S
y
y
y
y
Title
y
C
C
y
y
y
y

Department

y
C
C
y
y
y
y
Organisation
y
C
C
S
y
y
y
y
Work Address
y
C
y
y
y
y
Work Address 2
y
N/Y
y
y
merged into Work Address
Work City
y
C
S
y
y
y
y
Work State
y
C
y
y
y
y
Work Zip
y
C
y
y
y
y
Work Country
y
C
S
y
y
y
y
Work Web Page
y
C
y
y
y
Custom 1
y
C
S
y
y
User1
n
Custom 2
y
C
S

y

y
User2
n
Custom 3
y
C
S
Y/N
y
User3
n
Custom 4
y
C
S
Y/N
y
User4
n
Notes
y
S
y
y
y
y
Photograph
y
y
y
y
n
Categories
h
y
S
N/Y
y
y
n
Anniversary
y
Y
y
y
n
Additional Emails (5)
y
N
N
Spouse name
y
N
N
Card Mod date
y
?
N
Extra Fields (10)
y
N
N
Phone 6 and 7
y
Y
N
Additional Emails (2)
y
Y
N
Additional Screennames (5)
y
Y
N
People (4)
y
Y
N
Other Phone (BB field)
y
y

The above are the results of actual tests rather than what the manuals say should happen. Most have been 'Round Trip tests. By 'Round Trip' I mean that I create or edit, say, a contact on machine 1 (or address book 1), Synchronise twice to make sure that there are no problems of alternating changes. Synchronise on machine 2 (or address book 2), again twice for luck, make a minor change in the comment field to force the change to be propagated back to the first machine and check that everything is what one expects. The fields marked N/Y and Y/N are because I have used a fudge to allow synchronisation of Home Address2 and Work Address 2 between machines running Thunderbird to preserve a large number of my adresses which have a second line (~170 in 1000) - see below.

There are options to synchronise 10 extra properties which are fields that gContactSync should sync with other Thunderbird clients. These fields are not visible in Gmail; only gContactSync sees these fields and knows what to do with them. The names must be valid fields in Thunderbird. It's main purpose is for users who synchronize a single Gmail account across several computers (such as businesses who synchronize business contacts to their employees' PCs). In version 3 they were on a tab which has been removed in version 0.4. The feature is still there but it requires editing preferences in the Thunderbird Config Editor to change the fields that are synchronized.

Synchronising the Categories field

I have used this facility to enable me to synchronise the categories field rather than one of the presets by, in Thunderbird ->

Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced -> General tab and click Configuration Editor, read warning and ignore, then continue and Search for extensions.gcontactsync.extended and right click -> modify and change the extended6 value to Categories - this loses something I have never heard.

Summary of other configuration changes made to gContactSync.

gContactSync -> Preferences ->Main -> Clear Automatic Sync (When Mobile and for testing)

gContactSync -> Preferences ->Main -> Clear Add Phone Number Fields (Keep TB standards)

gContactSync -> Preferences ->Interface -> Clear Rename Phone Column Labels (Keep TB standards)

gContactSync -> Preferences ->Interface -> Clear Add the new fields to Column labels (Keep TB standards)

Solving the Address 2 field problem (at a cost)

The address problems occur because the fields used by Thunderbird and by Google Contacts do not match. Google now supports 'fixed' fields like Thunderbird but it supports 7 and Thunderbird 6 but one field (the second Thunderbird address field has no equivalent). Google Contacts instead has a first address field which supports multiple lines. This gives a problem as the second address field tends to get lost during transfers between machines running TB or during a reset which reloads everything from the Google Server. gContactSync has a facility to sync fields which do not exist in Google Contacts between machines using Thunderbird and there are ten of these extended fields which are unfortunately all preset to useful functions such as 'preferred email format' and the 4 Custom fields. I have decided that preserving my information in Private Address 2 and Work Address 2 is more important than Custom 3 and Custom 4 that I do not use at present so my fix is:

Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced -> General tab and click Configuration Editor and read warning then continue and Search for extensions.gcontactsync.extended and right click -> modify and change extended9 value to HomeAddress2 from Custom3 and extended10 value from Custom4 to Workaddress2

This change allows the second address fields to be synchronised between Thunderbird address books but not in a way accessible to Google Contacts and at the additional expense of loss of synchronisation of Custom 3 and Custom 4 - I do not use them but that might be a problem to others. I have put a posting in the conference suggesting more such fields are amde available

Cleaning up old Thunderbird Address Books

My Thunderbird address books have a long and chequered history. They started life at least twelve years ago as address books in Microsoft Outlook and have suffered a number of syncing programs including Microsoft Active Sync. I have two main address books, the root one formed the basis of that synchronised with the Blackberry and was transfered to the Blackberry via an LDIF export, import into Microsoft Outlook Express then into Outlook 2003 (2003 does not read LDIF or import from TB directly) then was transfered to the Blackberry using the Blackberry Desktop Software which Syncs Outlook 2003 and the Blackberry. It was then Synchronised and Backed up using Google Sync to Google Contacts and is now back on in TB via gContactSync. The amazing thing is that it mostly works but not entirely. I have eventually located where the problem is - somewhere along the line all the contacts without an email address have had a [No Email address found] string added to the first email field which prevent gContactSync from working as it can not add its random dummy email address to the field which is required to make TB lists work reliably and they need to be in My Contacts list. So problem 1 is how to clear all those fields. Clearing them from within TB does not seem to work for an unknown reason although clearing in Google does or in the blackberry and synchronising does. Either way hand crafting 500 cards is silly.

The second problem is that the original address book has a large number of invalid Birthdays and Anniversaries. The fields seem to need either a sensible date or be blank otherwise it causes errors in Google (Birthdays) or gContactSync (Anniversaries) which show in the error log and prevent transfers to the server. This seemed to the easier of my problems problem so I addressed it first by this proceedure which can probably be refined using the forced loading up and down options:

This seems to leave me with clean data which has the same number of entries on the server and the error log was clear . I then repeated the exercise to clear all the email fields which had a message like [No email address]. I found I have a number of comment fields which had characters which gave errors when importing which also had to be sorted in as much as a number of my notes fields had characters that could not be read and the fields had been replaced by an err:501 or err:509 - fortunately they all seemed to have come from even older inward transfers from H95 and HP200 PDAs and those that had not been tidied up could be mostly be junked. I found that the new cards uploaded fine but that they still had to be added online to My Contacts and then a reset before everything was completely sorted and the dummy address were present on all cards.

Testing of new cards and cards transferred from other Address Books and how to get card into Google My Contacts Group

When one creates a new card or drags one across from another address book and synchronises the card appears in Google in the other 'group'. If one adds it to the My Contacts list in TB before the first synchronisation it still ony ends up in 'other'. If however one does a synchronisation as soon as you have created a new card or draged one across from another address book and before adding to any lists and then drags the contact into My Contacts list in TB it correctly transfers to My Contacts in Google on the next synchronisation. Trying to get round an initial mistake and not synchronising at the correct time by deleting the card from the local list, syncing then try to add it back does not work and it does not show in the list until after a restart of TB as there must be a shadow of the entry in the list.

Duplicate Email addresses

Another strange anomoly was that that I was short of about 10 cards in the My Contacts list even after a reset. I finally found them and they all had duplicate email addresses elsewhere in the address book - when these were removed everything was set up

Conclusions on gContactSync

gContactSync works surprisingly well once one has a clean address book - almost all my problems were not caused by gContactSync itself but by the data fields in my original address books - it is possible that better error checking and handling could be included. I will, however, continue to Use SyncKolab in Parallel as I do not like to be dependent on Google for such an important function and because it also synchronises my calendars and tasks. If I did not have an IMAP mailbox available gContactSync would be the obvious choice for Thunderbird Contacts and the Provider for Gmail Calendar add-in for Calendars. There are a few quirks and some need for configuration to preserve and access some fields but that is a small price. I do however find it worrying that the only pieces of software to carry out a very important task are both written and supported by single developers working in their own time whilst Google is withdrawing such support as it provided from its competitors such as Blackberry.

2nd September 2012

Gmail Tips

These are some tips I have found on how to make the best of Gmail, in particular for Contacts.

Export all or part of your Gmail address book:

Restore or Import Contacts from a CSV File

To import Gmail contacts from another program, account or restore your contacts from a backup CSV copy after synchronization went awry, for example:

Gmail should automatically detect duplicates and merge these entries based on matching email addresses. If a contact has been updated, Gmail will add the new information; for example, you will get an address book entry with two addresses, both the old and the new.

Importing Gmail Contacts into Mozilla Thunderbird

To export your address book from Gmail and import it into Mozilla Thunderbird:

You will now find a folder named "gmail-to-outlook" with all imported contactsIn your Mozilla Thunderbird address book.

Gmail and Backups

Gmail keeps automatically created backup snapshots for your Gmail address book for up to 30 days. Restoring your entire Gmail contacts to the state in which it was at any point within that time is easy. To recover the state of your Gmail contacts from any point in the last 30 days:

Preserve Recently Added Contacts when doing a Gmail Address Book Restoration

Export the contacts you have added or changed after the point to which you will restore your Gmail address book by:

After restoring your Gmail contacts to a previous state (see above) recover the entries you have saved:

9th September 2012

Another Google Contacts to Thunderbird Synchronisation Add-in from h.ogi

I have found another Synchronising tool for Gmail to Thunderbird but it does not seem quite so well developed or to offer better solutions to any of the gContactSync or SyncKolab problems so I have not investigated it further - for completeness see http://hogiblog.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/synchronizing-google-contacts-and.html for details. Again it is a one man band production and bug fixes and updates seem to be sporadic. Reading the blog is however interesting and gives some extra insights into the difficulties of marrying Google to Thunderbird when they have a different philosophy and fields and makes one realise that the approaches used by gContactSync are much more sensible than one initially realises. Some quite small fixes could make this another real runner.

12th September 2012

Sources of Developer information on Google Contacts APIs

https://developers.google.com/google-apps/contacts/v3/ which links to what seems to be the area of interest https://developers.google.com/gdata/docs/2.0/elements but also see restrictions in the Structured Postal Address fields at https://developers.google.com/google-apps/contacts/v3/reference#extraRestrictionsOnSomeElements and some extensions in following sections of the reference guide.

 

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