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Installing Google Calendar to the Desktop with Open Source

This morning, I’ve finally figured out why I so rarely get any real work done.. Because I’m always so busy trying to “fix things”!!

I guess it’s just part of the growing pains of technology, and getting your systems up and running.  Normally, whenever I start with a new computer, there’s some basics that I have to do to any machine, before I can be comfortable using it.  That includes installing some decent open source tools to be able to get my work done.  One of the reasons I prefer to use Open Source software as much as possible, is simply because I can then use it on any platform, and I don’t have to start learning a whole new interface… And with a zero cost to acquisition, the learning I put into installing and configuring the software repays itself, pretty quickly, once you’ve had to install and use the same piece of software on two or three computers… (if you’re reading this, and thinking two or three computers?? Just remember, being a techy, I’ve been using computers for ages, and as I’ve upgraded from an x386 to a 486, to Intel Pentium, to Macs, and Linux, and now am on pretty much everything (except Mac – gotta get myself a Mac again soon!!))

So anyways, Open Source software tends to be able to do the same job as closed source, but has the same interface on pretty much all the platforms, and usually, being open source, if a platform isn’t available, you can usually get the code, and make it work on your platform, if you want to.. I like having that freedom, and knowledge.. Not that I would necessarily do it, just yet – but one of these days, I’m going to get stuck in under the cover, and when I do, I want to make sure that I can contribute and give back to those who gave me so much benefit, and value early on when I started off using the tools to try to stay productive, and useful, with my work, using those tools..

So, for email, I’ve long been a firm advocate of Thunderbird.  Even on a Mac, back when I had the luxury of having one at my disposal, I used the default Mail App, and just had to get out of there, and get my dear lovely Thunderbird working on my desktop as quickly as humanly possible!!!! It’s just painful, when I think of the pain points, but not wanting to bash any software, and not remembering what the points of pain were, suffice it to say, it was something simple and easy enough for me to think, this really should be able to do this, and it couldn’t so I left behind the default Mail client.. (I’m sure Mac’s Mail app is constantly being updated and improved, but you just can’t beat open source for speed of deployment, and just getting the functionality faster, and sooner!!)

Anyways, I’ve used Thunderbird, for as long as I can remember – and the few times that I’ve “had” to use Outlook, or some MS equivalent, I just cringe, and long for the sanity that comes with the open source alternative..

Well, going back a few years, one feature that I thought would be really useful, would be to have a calendar, so enthusiastically I started using Google Calendar, excited that I could export my calendar, and publish it places – (I’m a techie who wants to know I can take my data with me and share it everywhere :)

So I figured, if I can export, and I can publish, I should be able to use it with a desktop client “somehow” – and the bane of being an early adopter is that you really don’t get to choose your apps, with just a point and click style approach – there’s usually some “coding” or integration that needs to happen, to make things work.  No problem – I’m a techie, I don’t have a problem with getting under the hood and making things work, after all that’s what I thrive on, the challenge of making systems do what they’re meant to, so that I can just get on with my life, without having to constantly tell everyone, or repeat stuff that should be easy to replicate, share or just make available.

But alas, the best Google Calendar could do, is let me import my external calendar, into my computer.  (Ok, as I’m writing this, I distinctly remember it being iCal format into iCal on a Mac – so I’m guessing this was quite a few years ago, pre-Lightning and Sunbird – the Mozilla Open Source counterparts for Calendaring).  There was no way that iCal would let me write something into this calendar that I could then sync with my online calendar.. Not that I was using multiple computers at the time (back then it was just a form of online backup in my mind)…

Eventually, with nothing really working quite right, I ended up just leaving it, and never really used calendaring at all, just because life wasn’t too complicated, or busy, and I didn’t need to see every little thing that I was working on, or keep track of, or be on time or as punctual back then…

Fast forward a few years, and a few countries later, and being back in London, and having discovered and now that I’m starting to regularly attend some interesting and cool events, conferences, networks, communities, and groups, I’m often and quite frequently asked about other events that I could suggest and recommend to others.. I guess being someone who’s quite interested in these things, I’m often discovering events through word of mouth, or just happen to know about the places to find things, like meetup.com or upcoming.org…

But I guess that’s not always the case.

So anyways, I was getting a touch annoyed, at just always finding events, or seeing events I wanted to add to my Google Calendar, and tired of Google Calendars lack of integration with Firefox, to be able to just clip an event, and tag it for my calendar, the way I can do for my bookmarks with Delicious, I thought I might be able to save some pain and hassle, by having at least a desktop based client that I can then later sync up with Google Calendar… And as I’m writing this I’m also getting an idea for something, which I’ll share in a second…

So anyways, I set up a bunch of calendars on my google account, which I’ve set up as public calendars…
If you happen to be interested in seeing them, before I’ve properly integrated them into this blog, you can check them out here for now:

For all events even vaguely Spiritual that might be of interest to me:
XML
, iCal, HTML

For all Talks and Workshops in London, that might inspire, or engage people working in New Media, Technology, Social Change, Innovation, Culture, or just generally anything else that I think might be interesting to attend:
XML, iCal, HTML

For all Networking Events, Unconference Events, MiniBars, MiniCamps, basically any “unstructured” event, where there’s an opportunity to meet people, connect and network, that I’m generally interested in knowing about. These can be related to Technology, Social Media, Web 2.0, New Media, Startups, Entrepreneur Stuff, Innovative Stuff, pretty much anything that I think is cool, and suited to the general ConsciousComms Community (more about ConsciousComms in the near future):
XML, iCal, HTML

And I’ve only have set these up, because I have found a simpler way of capturing the “events” to add to the calendar, because the pain of trying to add events to Google Calendar was just too great a burden to make me even start taking the first step towards getting the events onto public calendars in the first place..

It’s at this point, that I want to say a huge, huge, thank you to Jonny Reeves, a contributor to a blog called simply bfish.xaedalus.net for taking the time to write his excellent article on Integrating Google Calendar into Thunderbird using Lightning!!  Admittedly, I figured, that I should be able to just add Google Calendar to one of the Mozilla Calendar tools myself, and found the plugin for Gcal from the Mozilla extensions repository.  But if it weren’t for his article, I might have had to experiment with Thunderbird and Lightning, to make sure things worked, and then to figure out how to make it work.. If it weren’t for this well written and properly documented entry, I wouldn’t have been able to just make these tools just work, and get on with my work, so thank you Jonny!! I love that you’ve gone and done what I would have done, had I known it so long ago, and had the time to go through and document so clearly and simply what needs to be done… (It does make me wonder though how comes I didn’t use Google Cal integration with a desktop until now?!?)

I’m pretty sure that article alone will bring down the barrier to entry for so many competent technical users who might not have adopted the hybrid solution to get their systems working otherwise..  It’s nice when you see such clearly documented stuff, and having benefitted so greatly from it, I’ll be sure to remember to share things in as clear a manner as possible, in the near future around some of the things that I’m a bit of an expert on, and feel like there might be people who could be interested in having more help with..

For now, I just had to write this, to express my gratitude, and thanks to scribefire, I just had it pop up, and it let me start writing.. now I just need to catch up with all the other articles that I’ve been working on..

And as an afterthought… I’ll just share an idea that’s occurred to me.. based on the way delicious works – how about a product that lets you “clip” events, to a calendar??  Does anyone thing such an idea has legs?? If you could be at a web page, and just want to record the event, in a calendar format that you could easily share with others.. would you want to use something like that?? Obviously modelling the style of delicious, i.e. having plenty of tagging, networks, etc.. but having a uniquely “Farhan” spin to it.. if you’re interested drop me a note in the comments, or just let me know what you think of the idea through the blog’s comments… (and don’t worry, if you happen to post me your email address in your comment, I’ll make sure I don’t publish it..)

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2 Responses to “Installing Google Calendar to the Desktop with Open Source”

  1. Glad you found the article useful! It’s certainly the most popular how-to I’ve written ;)

  2. Interesting concept. I’ve found most calendars woefully inadequate. Or maybe I am woefully inadequate because none of them work as good as paper and pen!

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