Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Synchronizing WinMob PIM Data with Ubuntu - Post 1

Originally posted at Mobility Site in the X50 / X51 Forums/Tips and Tricks forum under the pseudonym, Jogga.

One of the shortcomings of Linux distributions is the difficulty of synchronizing PIM data with Microsoft Windows in general and Windows Mobile in particular, or so I thought! Actually, this perception is more a reflection of Windows than Linux, but as open-source mobile devices are still comparatively rare, syncing Windows devices with Linux distros is still the mobile equivalent of cross-platform nirvana. Notwithstanding the incompatibility issues, I still wanted to find a way of synchronizing all of my PCs and mobile devices and I recently came across a freeware application called, FinchSync by Markus Rahlff that promised to do just that.

Whilst the FinchSync setup is not particularly intuitive for the technically challenged (like me) and the documentation seems a little vague, after some hours of frustration, blind alleys and trawling the FinchSync forum, I have finally managed to synchronize my Axim X50 contacts, calendar and task data with Mozilla Thunderbird over my WLAN.

It's worth mentioning that I haven't managed to get a USB connection to work using Ubuntu (but I think that's mainly because I'm inept) and have only managed to sync over the wireless network. But hey, that's not bad, right?

Anyway, I thought that I'd share the process with you and hopefully help anyone interested in trying this to avoid mistakes. However, this is going to be a marathon post, so I'm going to break it into four sections:
  1. This brief introduction
  2. Server Side installation and configuration
  3. Client Side Installation and Configuration
  4. Troubleshooting Hints and Tips
My setup:
  • Axim X50 2003 Second Ed v 4.21.1008
  • Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic)
  • Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0.4 with Lightning Calendar 1.0b 1extension
  • DELL Inspiron 6400 (XP Pro) running the same Thunderbird setup as above
Setup Process


I recommend that you review (and cleanse) your contact data before attempting this setup and then backing up your address book. That way, if things go wrong (and they might!) you'll be able to restore your data quickly and easily. Use the Export function from the Address Book toolbar (Tools → Export...) and save your address book as a LDIF file on your hard drive (you'll thank me one day).

For some reason, the latest builds of Thunderbird use .sqlite file formats for calendar data and FinchSync can't read this format because there is no native java support! In order to synchronize your calendar, you'll need a .ics calendar file somewhere on your hard drive or network. I set up a folder in /home/[usr]/ (change [usr] to your user name) called mycalendars (so my file path is /home/jogga/mycalendars) and just built a new calendar in Thunderbird for the purpose (of syncing data), but, if you are an old hand with Thunderbird, you'll probably want to import your existing calendar into a new calendar file with the .ics file extension. To create a new calendar:
  • On the main toolbar, click File → New → Calendar...
  • Select the, On the network option and click Next
  • Select the iCalendar (ICS) option and, in the location dialog box, type: file:///[calendar location]/[Calendar Name].ics (my location path looks like this: file:///home/jogga/mycalendars/Private.ics) and click Next
  • Choose the calendar name, colour and email address and click Next
  • All being well, you should get a confirmation screen telling you that your calendar has been created (it should also appear on the sidebar): click Finish

That's the housekeeping taken care of: it gets a little tricky from here on, but nothing we can't handle!

If you can't wait for the next three posts, feel free to head on over to Mobility Site. While you're there, feel free to sign up and add input where you can.

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