Sunday, April 3, 2011

Converting Palm Calendar to iPod

4/8/11: Stop the blog presses, I eventually concluded there were too many problems and other issues with the data conversion I tried (some details below). I exported the partially messed-up data I had from Google Calendar, then imported that into a different Google account. Next I deleted the (original) linked iPod-Google Calendar from each end, and remade my Google Calendar from scratch, using selective Windows Copy and Paste operations between the two Google Calendar accounts using different browsers (and occasionally copying text from Palm Desktop), doing various modifications along the way. The result is a much cleaner set of events, without historical event record baggage (and any associated performance hit when syncing).

If you have a need to keep your historical events and/or you sync more than just your own calendar, good luck -- based on my experience, you are going to need it, if you hope to have your data "properly" converted.
5/20/11: It turns out you may need good luck even to sync your own calendar (see below), although my problem with deleting events may have been fixed with my upgrade from iOS 4.2.1 to 4.3.5. Some pre-4.3.5 version higher than 4.2.1 may have fixed it, but I have no idea which one, if so.


I UNDID WHAT I COULD FROM THE ***DATA CONVERSION*** DESCRIBED BELOW:

After reviewing this thread http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Calendar/thread?tid=2952265980c1b13d&hl=en (82 replies to original query as of 4/3/11) and http://www.google.com/support/mobile/bin/answer.py?answer=138740 (read all tabs on that page, currently Setup/Sync Calendars/Known Issues), I used PdbConverter (http://www.shredzone.org/projects/pdbconverter/wiki), whose author kindly made it available for free. The process involves converting your Palm DateBook.mdb file to an iCalendar file, then uploading that to a Google Calendar account and synching that with your iPod's Calendar app.

Years ago I synched my Palm Calendar with PC MeetingMaker, but after multiple instances of data corruption (some apparently related to Daylight Saving Time), I gave up that synching. My Palm Calendar data has long been maintained and accessed solely by me, manually. I hope I encounter few, if any, data glitches from the synching that I'll now be doing with Google Calendar. (4/8/11: So much for that hope.)

I generally don't keep or care about historical records on my Palm Calendar. According to my recollection, I had deleted many (all?) of the non-repeating historical ones on the Palm prior to this conversion, intending to reduce unimportant data baggage. However, when I made one last pre-conversion backup of my Palm data to my PC using Palm's HotSync Manager, I think I forgot to change the settings to Handheld overwrites Desktop, so the default of Synchronize the files applied, horribly effectively undoing my deletion of historical records.

I never had any need to use Palm Categories (e.g., Business, Personal) for Calendar records, so that simplified my data conversion.

In some of my other app research, someone suggested simply using Google's free calendar app. I want as much of my iPod functionality to be available even when I'm not online, so I rejected that option.

IPOD/GOOGLE CALENDAR OBSERVATIONS:
  • Calendar search is available at the top of the List view. Both the List view entries and search results are limited to records going back one year (as I see from repeating events); see http://discussions.info.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2667000. I largely use the Calendar for future events, so that search limitation probably won't hamper my usage.
  • Google Calendar apparently defaulted all my converted events to send me e-mail 10 minutes beforehand. I quickly changed my settings to put a stop to that, and to other unwanted e-mail notifications.
  • When logging into this gmail account using the Google app, I was asked whether to allow the app to use 10 more MB on my iPod, to which I agreed. That was presumably related to the calendar conversion.
  • If you turn off the iPod when Calendar is running as the foreground application, when you turn the iPod back on, regardless of whether you are in the List/Day/Month view, you will be taken to today's date (and the current time) (4/9/11: This behavior does not seem consistent; I don't know what the deal is.). That does not happen if you close the Calendar and reopen it later, even if you turn the iPod off in between. If I am looking at a future (or past) date, that unstoppable go-to-today behavior is counterintuitive and undesirable -- it means I have to do more work to get back to that date, which I may not have finished dealing with when I turned the iPod off. There is already a Today button which can accomplish the same thing but only at the user's request (tap). The obvious workaround is to always close the Calendar before turning off the iPod, but we shouldn't have to do or remember that.
  • To keep data cleaner (e.g., to avoid spurious results in searches), delete repeating events through Google Calendar, which allows deletion of All events in the series. The iPod Calendar can only Delete This Event Only ( = Google's Only this instance) or Delete All Future Events ( = Google's All following). I had tried to limit repeating events to one month in the past on the iPod in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Calendars > Sync, but that doesn't seem to have applied to the initial retrieval of calendar data from Google. Depending on your intended change, you might also want to modify repeating events through Google Calendar.
  • Although on the iPod, you cannot enter an Xth Y-day of the month repeating event, e.g., the first Friday of the month, you can do so in Google Calendar and let that sync with your iPod
    (5/7/11: Some subsequent iPod modification of such an event apparently caused it to later show on the iPod under Repeat > Custom as "Every month on the (null) Friday", which in practice meant EVERY Friday, so this workaround isn't perfect. I almost never use my Google Calendar except for the add/delete "tricks" I write about in this blog entry, so I'm pretty certain the problem originated from iPod event modification(s). I can't reproduce this problem now with a new event and a few simple test modifications, though. I'll likely keep using this technique, since the apparent potential downside is limited.).
    Don't overlook using Google Calendar's strengths; the iPod can "understand" more options than it allows you to use natively. Perhaps more options will be available in future iOS versions.
  • 5/16/11: Ugh, that makes twice (!) today that about a month's worth of past events (back to 4/11/11) which I had previously deleted from the iPod abruptly reappeared, and had to be deleted for a second and third time. This bad behavior might be reproduced by flicking backwards in the List view too quickly (?) -- I know I have a tendency to do that. The associated Google Calendar account showed a 4/12/11 instance of a repeating event, which was apparently resurrected each time.  The 2nd time the iPod calendar went wacko on me I also found two more instances of a different repeating event on 4/22/11 and 4/23/11 in Google Calendar. Anyway, I delete the bad events wherever they are found, and hope for better behavior in the future. When I get more time I will search to see if others have experienced similar problems, and if there is a recommended solution. I switched Calendars > Sync to the minimum of 2 weeks back instead of the 1 Month Back which it had been set on. I also got rid of a rarely-used Google Mail account which I had recently added for Mail only -- maybe that was interfering with the other Google account which I am using via Exchange for Contacts and Calendar? Perhaps not allowing "over the air" syncing to finish before exiting Calendar causes problems?
    5/20/11: Argh, once again, many of the same events have returned on the iPod from the land of the already-deleted, dating from 4/12/11. Four events similarly returned on the Google Calendar side, dating from 4/12/11.
    (Man, I miss my Palm Calendar!)
    6/2/11: Yet again, events dating from 4/12/11 which I'd previously deleted have reappeared. I was just deleting events from 6/2/11 and 6/3/11 when the event List temporarily displayed only those two days, I got this bad sinking feeling, and bam, long-deleted events were back again, yet again.
    8/27/11: I am cautiously optimistic that my earlier deleted events are finally staying deleted. I deleted them on the iPod very patiently (i.e., I waited for the "throbber" icon to stop rotating after every delete operation before starting the next one, to avoid possible data processing "race condition" errors), and they actually seem to be truly gone now. Perhaps it was a bug in iOS 4.2.1? I was only able to upgrade to 4.3.5 earlier this month; maybe that fixed this problem.
    10/7/11: Ugh, cautiously was the right adverb for optimistic. Quite a number of my previously deleted events from as far back as 4/2011 are back again. Maybe iOS 5 will fix this, but I am not sanguine about such prospects.

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