Friday, April 1, 2011

"Converting" Palm Contacts to iPod

In my Palm Contacts, I generally only kept basic information on a small set of people and organizations with whom I connected more frequently. I transferred that data to my iPod primarily by using the iPod's Exchange account capabilities in its Mail, Contacts, Calendars area, using a gmail account as a contacts conduit. I don't actually use that gmail account to e-mail anyone; its primary utility to me is to provide a web interface into, and to serve as a backup repository for, my iPod contacts.

As I had done with my Palm Tasks, I used my PC to transfer some data using copy and paste between Palm Desktop and gmail's web interface. I entered some data on the iPod, through which I could enter, e.g., a person's Chinese character name as "Nickname" using "Add Field". Gmail's Add dropdown list allows you to add a nickname (or other fields, e.g., Title and Company), but I couldn't conveniently add Chinese characters from my PC.

Google now provides the capability of restoring contact data from within the past 30 days, which could certainly be useful if, e.g., you mistakenly delete some:
Thanks, Google! You're an even better backup buddy now!

Miscellaneous notes about the process follow.  Any item here may no longer be relevant in the future, and it's always possible I misremembered or misrecorded something, but maybe these will be helpful. I only rechecked some of these before adding them here.
  • "Google Sync for iOS devices is still in beta" (as of 4/2/11), per Google's note under the "Known Issues" tab on (same link as given above). Prospective users of this method should read
  • Do not double-click on a Windows .vcf file (a Contacts transfer avenue out of Palm Desktop that I investigated, but in the end did not use) that contains lots of records, as you will be forced to manually close each one of them.
  • The order of phones entered in gmail is significant. The iPod's order is work/work/home/mobile/pager; the default type for input is mobile.
  • "Other" or "Main" as a phone type from gmail will not sync to the iPod as phone.
  • 3 different phones and 2 different e-mails seemed to be the most that would come over from gmail for a given contact via a sync operation.
  • iPod entry does not allow for 2+ home phone numbers or 3+ generic work numbers.
  • Gmail defaults to sorting by first name, but you can change that to last name (which would match the iPod).
  • Gmail data entry work/home distinction of e-mail gets lost in the sync to the iPod.
  • It doesn't seem possible to turn off synching (with the idea of only periodically re-enabling such temporarily) without losing all contacts stored on the iPod, so there will be ongoing synching and concurrent battery-draining (except when in Airplane Mode). Even though I quite rarely update my iPod Contacts, at least I'm protected from forgetting to sync, and consequently finding my iPod and gmail contacts out of sync (but see important 7/31/11 note below).
4/3/11: jmcrsb wrote "from palm desktop v6.2.1 exporting all the contacts as Vcard format allowed nearly perfect import into gmail contacts" in this Google discussion thread, but I'm already done with my Contacts "conversion".

I misunderstood exactly which iPod contacts get synced to Google. I have occasionally entered new contacts from scratch on the iPod. I mistakenly thought that that contact data was syncing to Google, but it wasn't. The reason I was confused is because if I had originally entered a contact on Google, then iPod updates to that contact's data would get synced to Google. However, totally new entries on the iPod get no link to the Google account, UNLESS they are entered under the Exchange group under Contacts, which I didn't do.
(8/28/11: If you press and hold on, e.g., a phone number in an e-mail message, you are prompted with a choice to Create New Contact or Add to Existing Contact. Following along with what I wrote above, Create New Contact will only add the entry on the iPod, not on Google. So for my purposes for new contacts, it's better to copy the phone number text and paste it in while manually creating the new contact under the Exchange group.)

As I have mentioned in other blog entries, my iPod has a hardware problem; I have no regularly reliable way of backing up my iPod's contact data through my PC's iTunes connection, so instead rely on Google for such backup. To correct this just-discovered data problem, I manually created duplicates of these iPod-entered contacts, some in my Google account, and some on the iPod but this time under the Exchange group under Contacts. That gave me the Google backup that I mistakenly thought I was already getting.

Then I deleted the original data for each of those contacts, data which was only on my iPod. In some cases, I no longer needed a contact's data to be on the iPod, so those I simply deleted without first duplicating them on Google. I had one contact entry which is merely one of my own e-mail accounts, which I don't need or want synced elsewhere, and it serves as a little reminder to me about where to enter new contacts on the iPod when I want them backed up to Google.

Presuming you sync your iPod Contacts to Google as I describe above, then when you lack WiFi access to the Internet, I strongly recommend you switch the iPod to Airplane Mode before accessing Contacts. Twice when away from home (and consequently away from my usual WiFi) I failed to do that, and my iPod seemed to have gone into continuous overdrive trying to find WiFi access, presumably in order to synchronize my Contacts data with Google's. The iPod got hotter than I remember it ever getting on any other occasion (8/22/11: Hmm, queueing up multiple podcasts to load at one time also heats the iPod up significantly.). In one case, I completely powered down the iPod until I could get it to WiFi access again, although other solutions might also have been able to get it to cool down.

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