Witt's Twaddle

Sync data with Macs, iPhones using Google

Posted in Tech by Witt on March 3, 2010

Keep your contacts and calendars up to date in multiple places for free

If you have two or more Macs, or an iPhone or iPod touch, you’ll undoubtedly want to keep your contacts and calendars on all your devices in sync. One way to do so is to use Apple’s MobileMe service ($99 a year for individuals; $149 for the five-user Family Pack). With MobileMe properly configured on each of your devices, any change you make to contact or calendar data syncs almost instantly with the other devices (and, in the case of the iPhone, syncs over the air).

But what if you don’t want to pay for MobileMe, or if you simply prefer using the free Google Contacts and Google Calendars (both accessible from any Gmail account)? Google lets your iPhone or iPod touch connect to your Gmail account (either with a gmail.com address, or an address at your own domain via Google Apps) using Exchange ActiveSync, which provides over-the-air push e-mail, contact, and calendar data, just as MobileMe does. Meanwhile, Snow Leopard contains native support for Exchange 2007 servers in Mail, Address Book, and iCal, and Microsoft Entourage also supports Exchange accounts. So in theory, one should be able to store contact and calendar information in Google’s cloud, access it using your existing software, and configure all your devices in such a way that everything stays automatically in sync.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Although the iPhone and iPod touch work well with Google’s Exchange services, the same isn’t true of current desktop Mac software. You can sync your Google Contacts and Calendars with Address Book and iCal, respectively, but not using Exchange. As a result, syncing isn’t instantaneous or automatic. Likewise, Entourage can tie into OS X’s Sync Services to achieve syncing with Google Contacts and Calendars in a roundabout way, but setting up your Gmail account in Entourage as an Exchange account doesn’t work.

Nevertheless, you can replicate most of what MobileMe offers for contact and calendar syncing using Google’s services and Snow Leopard. The initial setup process is more complicated than with MobileMe, and you’ll have to adopt slightly different habits, but the end result should meet most people’s needs.

However, I do want to mention a few qualifications up front. First, the process I describe here is for syncing a single person’s data among multiple devices, not for syncing information among multiple users. Second, on an iPhone or iPod touch, this procedure uses Exchange, but the iPhone OS currently supports only one Exchange account per device. So, if you already use Exchange for another purpose (such as connecting to your corporate e-mail account), this solution won’t work. And third, although most contact and calendar data syncs between Mac applications and Google just fine, a few items (including Address Book groups and the “floating” time zone in iCal) do not.

Preliminary steps

Before changing your sync settings, you should perform a few preliminary steps.

First, be sure to back up your contact and calendar data so that if anything goes wrong, you can restore it to its previous state. To back up the contents of the OS X Address Book, open Address Book (in /Applications), choose File -> Export -> Address Book Archive, enter a name and choose a location for the exported data, and click Save. To back up your iCal calendars, open iCal (in /Applications), choose File -> Export -> iCal Archive, enter a name and choose a location for the exported data, and click Save. To back up your Entourage contacts and calendars, open Entourage, choose File -> Export, select Items To An Entourage Archive and then All Items. Also, in the Archive The Following Items Types section, select the Local Contacts and Local Calendar Events items (you can deselect the other checkboxes) and click the right arrow. Leave the No, Keep The Items In Entourage After They Are Archived option selected and click the right arrow again. Enter a name and choose a location for the exported data, and click Save. If you’re using an iPhone or iPod touch, attach it to your Mac using its USB cable or dock and allow it to sync before proceeding.

In addition, if you’re using Google Apps (for a custom domain name), make sure you’ve enabled Google Sync for your domain by following Google’s instructions.

Finally, if you are a MobileMe user, I suggest turning off MobileMe syncing for contact and calendar data, as that will simplify setup and troubleshooting. To do so on your Mac, open the MobileMe pane of System Preferences, click the Sync tab, and deselect the checkboxes for Contacts, Calendars, or both. On an iPhone or iPod touch, go to Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars, tap your MobileMe account, and turn Contacts, Calendars, or both off. When you do so, your device asks whether you want to keep or delete the existing contacts or calendars on your device. The safest option is to tap Keep On My iPhone, but due to the way Google stores information, this may result in some duplicated contacts or events. If you’re certain that the data on your Mac is correct, up-to-date, and backed up, you can reduce the chance of duplicates by tapping Delete From My iPhone.

Sync contacts with Address Book

To sync Address Book with Google Contacts’ My Contacts list, open Address Book, choose Address Book -> Preferences, click Accounts, select On My Mac in the Accounts list on the left, and then click the Account Information tab. Select the Synchronize With Google checkbox, and then click Configure. If you’re setting up Google syncing for the first time, an alert appears explaining about the synchronization process; read this and click Agree. Then, in the dialog box that appears, enter your Gmail address in the Google Account field and your password in the Password field, and click OK. You may see a warning that Address Book can’t verify the identity of the server; if so, click Continue.

Next, make sure the Sync menu (an icon with two arrows arranged in a circle) appears in your Mac’s menu bar. If not, open the MobileMe pane of System Preferences, click the Sync tab, and select the Show Status In Menu Bar checkbox at the bottom. Choose Sync Now from the Sync menu. During the initial sync, if the Conflict Resolver window appears, click Review Now, decide which version of each contact to use, and then click Sync Now. After the first sync, OS X should sync changes once per hour, although you can sync manually at any time by using the Sync Now command. (If hourly syncing is too infrequent, you might try the $25 Spanning Sync, which syncs every time you modify a contact, and as often as every 10 minutes otherwise.) Repeat this procedure with each Mac you want to sync.

Sync calendars with iCal

To sync iCal with Google Calendar, open iCal, choose iCal -> Preferences, click on Accounts, and click the plus (+) button. Choose Google from the Account Type pop-up menu, and enter your full e-mail address (whether ending in @gmail.com or your custom domain) in the Email Address field and your password in the Password field, and click on Create. You may see a warning that iCal can’t verify the identity of the server; if so, click Continue. Your primary Google calendar then appears in iCal. To sync additional Google calendars, click the Delegation tab in the Preferences window and select the Show checkbox for one or more calendars.

Note that this entire procedure syncs existing Google calendars with iCal, but not the other way around. To move your existing iCal data into Google Calendar, find one of your calendars in Google on the left side of the screen, click the Settings button beneath it, click Import Calendar next to the Create New Calendar button, and then in the dialog box that appears, click Browse, navigate to the iCal backup file you created earlier, and select it. In the Import Calendar dialog box, select the calendar to which you’d like to add the events (if you have more than one) from the Calendar pop-up menu and then click the Import button to bring your calendar info in.

By default, iCal syncs with Google Calendar every 15 minutes, but you can change the interval if you prefer. To do so, click on the Account Information tab in the Preferences window and choose a new value from the Refresh Calendars pop-up menu. As with contacts, repeat this procedure on each of your Macs.

Sync contacts and calendars with Entourage

If you use Entourage to store your contacts and calendars, you can’t sync directly with Google Contacts and Calendars, but you can sync indirectly. First, follow the procedure for setting up syncing with Address Book or iCal and Google Contacts or Calendars (even if your OS X Address Book or iCal is empty).

Then, in Entourage, choose Entourage -> Preferences, select Sync Services under General Preferences in the list on the left, select Synchronize Contacts With Address Book And MobileMe and/or Synchronize Events And Tasks With iCal And MobileMe, and then click OK. In the dialog box that appears, read the descriptions of the three options for your initial sync (Combine Information, Delete Entourage Information, or Delete Information From Macintosh Address Book, iCal, And MobileMe), select the one you want, and click OK. (In most cases, if you use only Entourage for contacts and calendars, the best choice is Delete Information From Macintosh Address Book, iCal, And MobileMe.)

Sync contacts and calendars with an iPhone or iPod touch

To sync your contacts and calendars, you must be using iPhone OS 3.0 or higher. Go to Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars and tap Add Account at the bottom of the Accounts list. Tap Microsoft Exchange, enter the full e-mail address associated with your Google account in the Username field and your password in the Password field; leave Domain blank. Tap Next. If an Unable To Verify Certificate message appears, tap Accept. In the Server field, enter m.google.com, and tap Next again. Make sure Contacts and Calendars are turned on (plus Mail, if you want to sync your Gmail e-mail) and tap Done. When prompted to choose how to handle existing data, tap Delete. Synchronization begins momentarily, and everything happens wirelessly.

Reblogged via Joe Kissell, Macworld.com

11:54pm 3 March 2010.

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Jailbreaking in the iPhone 3.0 era

Posted in Tech by Witt on March 2, 2010

In a few short years, Apple has established the iPhone as the mobile platform to beat. Each successive firmware update opens new, and often unmatched, features for users and developers to explore. Many of these features, however, find their roots outside Apple’s walled-garden approach to the iPhone, as the jailbreak community proves time and again to be an innovative environment for off-limits apps that demonstrate new ways to push the iPhone platform forward.

To be sure, the past year of Apple updates has altered the pre-3.0 iPhone jailbreaking landscape. The company’s iPhone 3.0 OS, together with its speedy, feature-enriched iPhone 3G S handset, has brought new software and hardware capabilities that somewhat mitigate the need for jailbreaking. But despite these advancements, as well as warnings that jailbreaking leads to security risks and potential copyright infringement, iPhone jailbreaking continues apace, evidenced by the growing variety of rogue apps available for jailbroken iPhones.

Central to that growth is ongoing developer and user frustration with Apple’s enigmatic app acceptability rules, as well as its deliberate hobbling of many application capabilities, such as Web browsing, background processing, voice services, and tethering (in the United States). Jailbreaking also allows users to unlock their iPhones from Apple’s exclusive AT&T wireless service contract, freeing them to use their phones on other cellular providers’ networks worldwide. These factors, as well as developers’ interest in pushing the limits of the iPhone’s evolving capabilities, make for a jailbreaking community that is as vibrant as ever.

iPhone OS 3.0: Apple unlocks some features, keeps rein on others

Apple’s iPhone OS 3.0 opened the iPhone to several features previously available only to jailbroken devices: copy/paste, MMS, push notification, voice recording, global search, HTTP streaming, and peer-to-peer networking. Apple’s June release of the iPhone 3G S extended the iPhone’s hardware capabilities to include an enhanced camera, integrated magnetic compass, video recording, augmented reality and navigation, and voice control.

There were other signs that Apple might begin lifting restrictions on previously forbidden application categories. Yet it took a very public investigation by the FCC following Apple’s hobbling of Skype and rejection of Google Voice for the iPhone to persuade Apple and AT&T torelent on VoIP telephony. And though apps such as Google Voice and Skype can now be used on the device, limitations still abound. Internet tethering, an intensely desired feature, is one high-profile example. Built into OS 3.0, the capability remains restricted in the United States by monopoly iPhone carrier AT&T.

Meanwhile, Apple has not altered its SDK restriction on interpreted code, which rules out Flash and Java applications (although Adobe purportedly has a Flash work-around), as well as Flash video playing inside the iPhone’s Safari Web browser. Web browsers themselves remain off limits as an app category, except for simple repackaging of the iPhone’s built-in Webkit HTML rendering engine.

Then there are certain iPhone capabilities that Apple still reserves for itself: background processing, video recording on pre-3G S devices, application launching, video output, lockscreen and wallpaper customization, interface skinning, GPS tracking, and remote control of an iPhone from your desktop computer (a la Apple’s Mac OS X Screen Sharing).

Each of these limitations provides incentive for the jailbreaking community to thrive.

Apple’s ongoing objections to iPhone jailbreaking

Apple’s company line on the kind of features jailbreakers seek remains steadfast: These features reduce battery life, slow performance, introduce security vulnerabilities, stress the 3G network, and increase Apple support costs. It is under the auspices of these objections that Apple routinely blocks apps it doesn’t like from its App Store. Some developers argue, however, that often such blocking happens more for competitive reasons than out of concern for iPhone users’ safety and productivity.

Still, many of Apple’s concerns have in fact materialized in jailbroken apps. Background processing does reduce battery life and overall performance, according to users, but these same consumers say the feature is worth the hit as long as they can control its application. Battery drain is also a key symptom of a particular jailbroken-iPhone worm infection. Jailbreaking proponents, however, point out that the worm can only infect phones that users haven’t properly secured by changing the default password. As for stressing the 3G network, most signs point toregional differences in AT&T cellular data capacity as the root cause of this issue, as opposed to anything that jailbreaking would exacerbate.

Performance issues aside, Apple has registered its formal opposition to jailbreaking under the cloak of copyright, claiming the act is illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This claim has been disputed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and open source Web browser developer Mozilla, which has called Apple’s restrictions both harmful to innovation and an improper application of DMCA rules. Apple has thus far taken no legal action against users who jailbreak their phones, nor against any jailbreak-enablers, including the iPhone Dev Team, which has managed to jailbreak every iPhone OS update to date.

Meanwhile, the EFF and Mozilla have asked the U.S. Copyright Office for an exemption specifically permitting installation of legal apps on iPhones. The Office listened to arguments on both sides in a May 2009 hearing, but has missed its own October projection for a decision and has yet to issue its opinion.

Jailbreaking encourages iPhone innovation

Long before Apple launched its iPhone App Store in 2008, jailbreak users could download apps from a variety of repositories at a time when Apple limited customers to the apps it delivered with the phone. In fact, some argue that jailbreaking was instrumental in educating Apple about the shortcomings of its built-in apps, prompting it to launch the iPhone App Store to give developers an opportunity to fill the gaps.

Since then, Apple has demonstrated a pattern of recognizing features of interest in popular jailbroken apps, then addressing users’ desires for those features with OS updates. iPhone OS 3.0 follow-up updates have included features such as video archiving and editing, Bluetooth-enabled voice control, desktop-based application reorganization, pop-up blocking, wireless ringtone downloads, and remote handset locking and erasing, all of which originated in jailbroken apps.

Jailbroken apps may also have played a part in persuading Apple to loosen restrictions on certain application programming techniques that were previously disallowed, such as exploitation of so-called private API functions. In addition to concessions on VoIP apps, Apple has approved live streaming video apps such as Ustream Live Broadcaster and iPhone development aidiSimulate, both of which use private APIs.

Apple’s capriciousness drives developers to jailbreak

The iPhone’s 140,000 apps (and counting) continue to enrich both Apple and independent iPhone developers. Yet Apple’s uneven App Store administration threatens to kill, or at least maim, the app cash cow, despite recent signs of flexibility from Apple. In November 2009, Apple drove away major iPhone developer Rogue Amoeba after repeatedly rejecting its Airfoil Speakers Touch 1.0.1 app update. Rogue CEO Paul Kafasis said in his corporate blog, “Rogue Amoeba no longer has any plans for additional iPhone applications, and updates to our existing iPhone applications will likely be rare. The iPhone platform had great promise, but that promise is not enough, so we’re focusing on the Mac.”

But if high-profile defections such as Rogue’s threaten to undermine the breadth or quality of apps on offer at the App Store, Jay Freeman’s Cydia store for jailbreak-iPhone apps continues to point the way forward. His Cydia Installer remains an organizing tool for frustrated developer creativity, linking to app repositories that have proved to be useful crystal balls for predicting future Apple iPhone OS enhancements.

“I definitely believe [Apple’s] decisions increase the demand for Cydia: Developers want to be able to improve on the base platform, and Apple doesn’t let them even come close to that,” says Freeman.

Of the jailbreak iPhone apps we listed last year, more than half still can’t be implemented on all native iPhones. Still thriving in Cydia, these apps and several new offerings show promise as future Apple enhancement prototypes. (See “21 apps Apple doesn’t want on your iPhone 3.0”).

Recent jailbreak apps of note include those that streamline background task management, such as Multifl0w, which helps users switch between multitasking apps in a way similar to how app switching is performed on Android handsets. Another popular category is personal Wi-Fi hotspot creation, as illustrated by MyWi. Several apps, such as QuickReply, exploit background processing to let users pop out of an app to, for example, reply to a message, then return to where they left off.

Security has become an important issue for iPhone users, both due to demonstrated vulnerabilities inadvertently created during jailbreaking and as a result of privacy liberties taken by traditional app vendors, such as Facebook. Firewall iP is an app that addresses this interest; it helps users stay in control of their data by alerting them to any unusual outbound data transmissions.

Apple iPhone sales—and jailbreaking—to continue

Despite numerous “end of jailbreaking” scares, the iPhone DevTeam and compatriots have so far always succeeded in sawing through any bars and locks Apple adds with each new OS release. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of these users are non-AT&T subscribers, which add to Apple’s bottom line, to AT&T’s chagrin.

The jailbreaking phenomenon also likely presages a similar movement in the nascent Apple iPad community. The iPad, what many see effectively as a giant iPod Touch, runs iPhone apps natively and may also be crackable by iPhone escape artists.

It’s safe to say that as long as Apple maintains its heavy-handed grip on “authorized” iPhone developers, jailbroken phones, and app stores such as Cydia, will continue to thrive, even after the iPad arrives.

This story, “Jailbreaking in the iPhone 3.0 era,” was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

Reblogged via Mel Beckman, InfoWorld.

5:10am, 2 March 2010.

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To Droid or Not to Droid, That is the Question

Posted in Tech by Witt on February 15, 2010

The past few weeks was virtually a fashion show of smartphones before me eyes. Reading all available reviews, forums, the pros and the cons. Hands-on testing except for the Android which I haven’t physically experienced yet.

Courtesy of gsmarena.com

Top of my list, iPhone 3GS. Having an iPod Touch for quite sometime is like experiencing the iPhone at 80%. Abbie has an iPhone 3G which she won in a blog contest and I get to hold it from time to time.

~ best touchscreen out there
~ billions of apps
~ sleek & stylish candybar design
~ topnotch Social Media device

~ sucky battery life
~ despite the added touch focus feature still mediocre camera
~ no flash, both camera & animation
~ zero multi-tasking

Courtesy of gsmarena.com

Second on my list, Google Nexus One. Design base by HTC. Powered by Android 2.1 OS.


~ ultra-fast processor
~ multitasking, finally
~ 5 megapixel camera with flash
~ expandable memory via microSD
~ Android OS, unlimited possibility
~ Flash animation seen in the future

~ alleged 3G network issues
~ touchscreen not as seamless as the iPhone’s
~ pilot release usually has bugs & glitches

Courtesy of gsmarena.com

Third choice, Motorola Droid (Milestone). Motorola’s first jump into the Android bandwagon.

~ huge touchscreen
~ 5 megapixel autofocus camera with dual-LED flash
~ expandable memory via microSD
~ Android OS, unlimited possibility
~ Android = multitasking
~ Flash annimation seen in the future

~ bulky built & design
~ not a fan of sliders

Courtesy of gsmarena.com

Fourth and final choice, Nokia E72. A nice update of the excellent E71.

~ 2nd Gen E71
~ 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash
~ expandable memory via microSD
~ great battery life
~ cheapest smartphone

~ no touchscreen
~ aging Symbian OS
~ expensive & limited apps
~ firmware upgrade?

I’m leaning towards the iPhone 3GS just because it’s a third generation device. The Android look stunning but it may have issues as a pilot unit. As for Nokia, they die young. For now, iPhone 3GS is my clear choice.

10:40pm, 15 February 2010.

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