Palm Pre sync

Dear Lazyweb,

I have a Mac, and I have a Pre, and I would like my Mac's address book and calendar to be bidirectionally synchronized with my phone.

You'd think this would be a no-brainer.

Palm's recommended solution to this is, "Give up on using desktop applications, and use Google Mail and Google Calendar instead". The Pre can sync to those.

Another solution is Missing Sync, which I had been using with my Palm Treos and Centro since 2005 or so.

However, I've been using Missing Sync for Pre since the phone was released, and it is a categorical piece of shit. I have yet to get it to sync twice in a row without error. There have been three betas, and I reported extensive debug logs to them in each beta, with no response. I finally got a response after I complained to 'sales' instead of 'support', and then two days later, the trial period expired. So now I can't even go through the motions of trying out their obviously-unlikely-to-work boilerplate response that comes down to, "your call is very important to us, delete all your contacts and calendars, reboot, and try again".

I mailed them saying, "I'd like to try your suggestion, but you ignored me for so long that now it has expired. How do I reset the timer?" They replied, "You can't. Pay us money, and if we can't fix the problem, you can ask for a refund."

Well, I think "fuck that" is the only possible response.

I spent a while trying to figure out how to reset the timer and failed. Deleting /Library/Preferences/.MSWebOSInstall makes the Missing Sync installer willing to run again, but there's some other file somewhere that the app itself is consulting, because it still knows.

I would prefer not to give my contacts and calendars to Google, because I don't trust them.

(I don't care if you trust them. I don't care if you think that's stupid. I'm not interested in discussing that with you. At all.)

Do I have any other options? I see that Pre can sync with Exchange. Is there an Exchange clone I can run on my Mac that will bridge between the Pre and iCal/AddressBook?

Failing that, and assuming that I do knuckle under to Skynet and allow Google to have all of my contacts and calendars, is it possible to bidirectionally sync contacts and calendars and between my Mac desktop and the Google hivemind without actually using Gmail for email at all? That is, using it just as a data store for my address book?

Tags: , , ,

26 Responses:

  1. greyhame says:

    I'm afraid I only have an answer for the last-resort scenario, but according to Ars Technica and Lifehacker the answer is yes (though there appears to be some fiddling needed for Address Book). You still have to have a gmail account, but it can just sit there being a spamcatcher.

  2. philhagen says:

    I've been using BusySync for a n-way calendar syncing across 2 iPhones (via CalDAV), 2 iCals, 2 Google Calendar accounts, and an Entourage/iCal hybrid on the work laptop. It's a little convoluted to set up, but basically, you just tell BusySync to sync your various iCal calendars to their own GCals. Then you can share calendars between GCals (if needed), and use CalDAV to get live over-the-air sync to the mobiles. Given that the Pre does GCal natively, you could probably skip this step.
    They don't have contact sync, but have said that it's "in the works." I realize this may be a dealbreaker, but after testing around ten different calendar sync solutions, this concoction was enough of a panacea that I was happy to call my core requirements met.

    hope that helps. I could write a lot more about the precise solution if you want.


    • telecart says:

      If he's not trying to sync more than his computer and phone, BusySync is overkill.

      The Address Book and iCal sync very well to Google, and Google syncs very well to the Palm Pre. That's it, no BusySync required - unless he has the sort of set up you describe, which becomes complicated.

      • yozlet says:

        Seconded. Furthermore, in response to the question at the end of the post: You can just use GMail as a contact manager/store without directing your mail there.

        • philhagen says:

          Fair enough, and definitely agree that BusySync may be far more than is needed. Just wanted to put the fact that a solutions does exist out there, and for $25, the solution is well-done, and becomes someone else's support problem. In terms of total time spent, and ease of use, it was a pretty cheap purchase.

          Personally, I hate the Calaboration solution, as it requires one login instances to Google per calendar, and syncing from the desktop to the mobile via sync services makes that calendar "read only" on the mobile. I used it for a while, but it was a bit too hacky for repeated daily use.

          Also, without having a Pre myself, I am not sure of the built-in capabilities. Sounds like they are more robust than the iPhone, which would be nice.

          • telecart says:

            They're the same as with the iPhone. Don't sync from iCal to the iPhone if you want it read/write. Sync iCal to gCal, and sync from the iPhone to gCal. No need for desktop syncing of the calendar at all.

  3. vordark says:

    Do I have any other options? I see that Pre can sync with Exchange. Is there an Exchange clone I can run on my Mac that will bridge between the Pre and iCal/AddressBook?

    I'm hearing from my Pre-obsessed friend that syncing with Exchange only barely works, and I can't imagine that a clone would do any better. From the research he has done, gmail/etc. is the only viable option, which forced him to surrender to Skynet if he wanted all the goodness.

    If you do find a solution you like that doesn't involve using Google, please post an update as always because my friend hates what he has to do now and his level of "bullshit tolerance" seems comparable to yours.

    • noweb4u says:

      I have absolutely no problems using exchange, besides the whole "it's exchange" issue. Feature/Functionwise it works great.

  4. allartburns says:

    That's how I use google to sync my Mac to my Android -- it's a pure conduit, and nothing else.

    I also restrict the contact list that I sync with Google to people that I actually want to contact from my phone and have a different calendar group for items I sync with my phone.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, it's pretty much like that.

      • fieldsnyc says:

        The Missing Sync for Blackberry is similarly braindead. Version 1 sort of worked, and then version 2 was a complete disaster and their support was useless. I am never giving them any money again.

  5. maxf says:

    If you feel like continue hacking or "reverse engineering" the installer, you can try strace, ktrace,dtrace, dtruss or as a last resort lsof to check what other system resources the installer is accessing.

  6. yan_1976 says:

    Do I have any other options?
    yes. iPhone. sorry couldn't resist.

  7. jahiel says:

    If Exchange really is a viable option, you may be happy with Intermedia. I use them for a few clients via a reseller account, and it's the least painful interaction with Microsoft software I've ever had. Here's a link to their standard SOHO retail pricing:

  8. rane500 says:

    I have no idea if it will be even slightly relevant or not, but here's what that piece of garbage MissingSync left in my system. Hopefully something similar is hiding on yours that could help you reset their timer.

    Oh, and I don't trust Google either. Period. Not only that, but when I did investigate syncing my iPhone Google wanted to act as my primary holder of record. No thank you, GTFO.



    /Users/username/Library/Application Support/Missing Sync for Windows Mobile/Bookmark Data/

    /Users/username/Library/Application Support/SyncServices/Local/clientdata/

    /Users/username/Library/Application Support/The APE/


  9. baconmonkey says:

    either you've put The Fear in enough people, or you just deleted the "but google is so awesome" posts.

    I was actually kinda looking forward to the wreckage.

  10. valentwine says:

    If you come to terms with Skynet, you can use Spanning Sync to synchronize Google's contact and calendaring system with your Mac. I've used it for several years and it just sits in the background and does what it's supposed to do with a minimum of bitching. I even run it alongside MobileMe on a Mac and it gets everything synchronized between Google and MobileMe. It also does nothing at all with your email, so yes, you can just use it as a datastore for your address book and calendar.

  11. dr_memory says:

    Failing that, and assuming that I do knuckle under to Skynet and allow Google to have all of my contacts and calendars, is it possible to bidirectionally sync contacts and calendars and between my Mac desktop and the Google hivemind without actually using Gmail for email at all? That is, using it just as a data store for my address book?

    For calendar, the answer is an unequivocal yes: google calendar exports a CalDAV interface, which iCal on the mac can sync to OTA. You'll need a "google account" to do it, but there's no requirement that you ever use a gmail account for anything, ever. (A "google account" and a "gmail account" are similar but not entirely equivalent things: every gmail account is a google account, but not vice-versa.) If you have a google login of '' for using anything like google reader or google code etc, that is sufficient to create syncable calendars with.

    Contacts sync is a little trickier right now: the google contact manager doesn't AFAIK export any kind of LDAP interface, which is the only means of syncing to external contact DBs in 10.5. Products like Spanning Sync "solve" this by making you give them your google login credentials and then sucking in your info on a regular basis to do the syncing themselves: personally I'd sooner gargle glass. The Addressbook in 10.6 will allegedly support OTA sync to ActiveSync (Exchange, more or less) servers, which google already supports, so once Snow Leopard ships this should all get a lot less painful. (Or at least the pain will shift to other, as-yet-discovered vistas of annoyance.)

    There's also this thing, but I have never been brave enough to even consider trying it. Angels fear to tread, etc...

  12. vanbeast says:

    Assuming that Exchange support works (which as other commenters point out, maybe it doesn't), Zimbra can pretend to be Exchange.

    I don't know if it's available in their open source edition, but I do know that its Exchange emulation Works Good™ with windows mobile devices.

    And I understand that you don't have a windows mobile device. I'm just sayin', it might be an option.

    • artkiver says:

      Zimbra only properly pretends to be exchange if you pay -more- than exchange in licensing costs, and even then, does it very very poorly. Same for other exchange clones. Openchange has a snowball's chance in hell of being a -true- open sores exchange alternative someday but it's so far from baked I shouldn't even be mentioning it.

      The fact that running exchange/clones is even on the table for jamie's consideration to this problem ...

      Well, enjoy fitting that square peg into a round hole and hating technology.

      Imma just sit here and rofl.

      • vanbeast says:

        Huh, okay. Like I said, my experience was that it worked pretty well for windows mobile devices in the environment in which I last used it. I'm open to the idea that we got lucky.

        Fundamentally I agree with you.

      • notpeter says:

        Yeah, it kind of sucks that Zimbra Mobile isn't included in the open source edition and only as an addon to the per-mailbox licensed Network Edition. I haven't run into exchange compatibility issues, but our desktop users don't use Outlook/Entourage, just plain old IMAP. The mac users use the Zimbra Sync connector for Calendar/Addressbook sync.

        None of my users have a Pre (yet), but Zimbra sync to iPhone and Symbian devices has "just worked" with only a few minor hiccups. Overkill and non-free, yes, but, one of Zimbra's Hosting Partners seems to offer hosted 2GB Zimbra mailboxes with Zimbra Mobile for $50/yr. For a $1 setup you can trial it for 30days to see how well it works with your Pre & Mac. No experience with, but they seem legit.