My recent move to Ubuntu over the long weekend has reminded me of a pet rant of mine, calendars. You’d think something so basic for every cross-section of users, from personal to every size business, would have an easy solution.
I’m a long time Palm Desktop user, long meaning I had one of the second generation Palm IIs back in the day, one of the first 3Com-branded ones. I have over 10,000 entries in my Palm calendar dating back to 1997. My address book is pretty big too, but not as vital to me.
For about a year, I’ve been trying to move to a more modern calendar, either online or installed. This process has caused me nothing but frustration with the state of calendar applications.
My requirements are pretty simple:
- I want to preserve my legacy data.
- Goto 1.
That’s all. I’ve stayed with Palm Desktop for years, even after I stopped carrying a Palm handheld. Why? Because it’s fast and dependable.
Seems pretty simple. I don’t care that it’s 10,000 odd records and over a 1 MB of entries. This shouldn’t be hard. Apparently, I’m asking too much though.
First off, I know Palm stores data in a proprietary format, which is a bummer. So, I bought an extension that dumps to iCal format for this. So, armed with my 1.8 MG ics file, off I went. Let’s examine my quest.
I prefer an installed calendar because: 1) they (should be) faster and 2) they should support more robust imp/export capabilities.
Let’s first rule out Outlook. I used Outlook in the past and didn’t care for it. I won’t ever use it again, if I have choice, which I will 🙂 I’m just not a fan. Let’s leave it at that. Yeah, I’m aware that Outlook does some cool stuff with calendars, but it’s still proprietary and only useful to a subset of users anyway. Don’t get me started on the mail features of Outlook, and don’t waste time trying to convince me how awesome it is. Deaf ears.
Initially, I thought I’d switch to iCal on my Macbook, which does just about everything I need for work, with a few notable exceptions. I could also sync to my iPhone, a huge benefit.
ICal imported the ics file just fine, although it took a while, but what a mess. I fiddled with it for a bit, but the amount of time required to cleanse the data was really high.
So I moved on to the Lightning, the Mozilla Sunbird calendar project add-on for Thunderbird, my email client of choice. Lightning also successfully imported the ics file, but man is it slow. Any action in the calendar took 15-30 seconds to complete, which is an eternity in computer/Intertubes time.
Moving on, I figured maybe Sunbird would be better, since there wouldn’t be any overhead for other features like mail. Not. Same story.
About a year elasped, and now I’m forced to find a replacement, since Palm Desktop won’t run on Ubuntu.
I tried the Evolution client that comes with the distro; it’s not bad. I handled the import well, and it’s not as slow as the other clients I’ve tried. Something about it just isn’t right for me.
So, I kept looking. Lightning is still a no-starter due to slowness. I didn’t even bother with Sunbird. I tried Zimbra Desktop, but couldn’t get it to run. I know I’m doing something wrong. But seriously though, if you have a snazzy wizard to install, why is it so hard to start the app, and why is it already running?
I also dug around to see if I could run Palm over WINE, but Google told me that was a rathole of bad news. So, I’m face now with two decent options: 1) run Evolution or 2) run Palm Desktop on the XP VM.
Neither is very good. I did find a few Palm-style apps for Gnome, but wow, did they look terrible. I guess there’s not much demand for connecting Palm devices to Linux.
Sure, so why not use an online calendar? It’s everywhere you want to be (with Intertubes). Rich and Paul use Google Calendar, so why not?
After a few tries, I determined that Google Calendar import is: 1) flakey and 2) restricted to no more than 500 entries per day, if that. Nice.
This is the part where I give up; why is this so hard?
Sure, most of this has to do with Palm’s proprietary format. I get that. It just seems like it should be easier to switch and take your data with you.
This has been a learning experience though. I’ve discovered you can’t export to iCal by date range from Palm using the extension I bought, bummer. I’ve also discovered that editing an iCal file is trickier than it looks, as is editing a CSV file.
Frankly, I just don’t want to invest more effort into something that should just work.
I’m blogigng this to get ideas about what I can do here, aside from Outlook. We went over that.
Thoughts? Sound off in comments.