sync

Tag: sync

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Facebook Sync Revisited

Back in September last year I posted about a great program I use to sync my Facebook friends with Address Book in Mac OS X. And I thought I’d revisit the topic this year for all you iPhone users out there, because of a great feature in the Facebook app for the iPhone, you might (as some of my friends were) be unaware of…

If you open the Facebook app on your iPhone and select the friends section it will open up a list of your friends, but hidden away in the top left hand corner or here:

Facebook App Sync Option

You will see the option to “Sync”, which means exactly what you might imagine… YES! Finally you don’t have to take photos of each of your friends for your iPhone contacts, you can just have Facebook pull down the most recent version of their profile picture:

Facebook App Sync OptionsFirst you need to turn it on and then select if you want it to replace existing photos, which means it will replace any photos you already have and do this each time you sync, which as you can see I’ve selected (as I like the variety that results each time I sync) or don’t if you prefer.

And then just sit back and let it do it’s thing.

Cool. And hassle free. (After all, would you have ever got round to adding all those photos anyway?)

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Dropbox

Using Dropbox to share Word Templates

So. Dropbox is my favourite file sharing tool. One of the things I use it for, and you can too, is to share Microsoft Word Templates. On Mac this is relatively easy and you can use the following instructions.

I have a file in my dropbox called masters and within that a file named Microsoft Templates or though you can name it whatever you want. So if you want to share your masters folders across multiple accounts, follow the instructions below (for Microsoft Office for Mac 2008):

1. Open up Word and then select preferences:

Word Preferences2. Then select File Locations:

Word 2008 File Locations

3. Then select Workgroup Templates (this allows you to separate personal local templates and word templates you want to share):

Select Workgroup File Word 2008And once you’ve selected the folder in your dropbox you can begin centralising your word templates! Excellent.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

3 Years of Calendar Syncing Bliss

Spanning Sync v3.0

So. Spanning Sync turned 3 last week and as I’ve been using their service to sync calendars between my many computers since it was in early beta that means I’ve had 3 years of calendar syncing bliss.

Don’t get me wrong there have been problems; as software moves through early betas there always are… but overall the service has been an incredibly good fit for my needs, infinitely superior to google’s offering.

I eulogised them in an earlier blog post, Contact Sync, but if you’ve not got round to giving their service a go and you need to sort out your calendars then I highly recommend you check them out.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

It’s the little details

It’s the little details about Apple’s products that make them so great. I’ve been using Address Book for years. I store all my contacts in it, some 987 people and companies at last count. But Apple’s not perfect and for years I had to cobble together solutions from one place or another to ensure that my contacts were synced with my mobile, especially as because of the American focus of Apple they were particularly slow to realise the scope and penetration of mobiles in the European market and add native support in iSync for new models as they were released. Fortunately the developer and open-source community has always made up for this gap and I’ve been able, with a little hacking and manipulation, to keep my phone’s contacts synced for the last five years or so.

Syncing calendars has always been much harder and before I traded my Nokia N73 (never have I used a more robust phone, although I have to confess in it’s second life with one of my friends was short lived (it died under the heel of a stiletto – RIP)) in for an iPhone I generally ignored my calendar applications and relied instead on iCal for my daily schedule, after all my laptop generally comes with me as frequently as my phone, so not the end of the world. However, since the syncing of the iPhone was so good, I have moved on to relying on my phone…

This has however not been without consequences. I rely upon my calendar alarms to remind me of most of my appointments, if it is not alarmed, with a busy schedule I often don’t see some appointments that come without reminders, even when I’m staring straight at them. Over the last year one area that this has effected is my remembering of birthdays, when I relied on iCal I was required to be more observant, now I’m less so, and as Address Book’s automatic generation of the birthday calendar creates effectively a read-only event from the perspective of the calendar I’ve not been able to add reminders for myself. This is clearly a little detail too far for Apple… :-(

Fortunately tonight I stumbled across the following solution, courtesy of the forums over at MacRumours and in particular the skill of Andrew Bussman who wrote the following AppleScript:

Code:
tell application "iCal"
	tell calendar "Birthdays"
		set all_events to every event
		repeat with this_event in all_events
			tell this_event
				delete every sound alarm
				make new sound alarm at end with properties {trigger interval:-21600, sound name:"Basso"}
			end tell
		end repeat
	end tell
end tell

Which when you compile and run in AppleScript Editor adds an alarm to all your birthdays! It’s great and simple solution to the problem of adding alarms to your birthday’s calendar. Once run in a few seconds it adds a reminder to all your birthdays. I imagine the only problem will be that you’d have to run it again once you add any additional birthdays. I think Andrew has proved it should be a relatively easy process why can’t Apple solve this?

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Never rely on one backup solution

So continuing my posts on my virus stricken computer drama, see the earlier posts “Poking a hornets nest” and “Dropboxing my way out of a crisis” I had decided after the crisis with iSure (which we had been paying £8.30 a month for the privilege of using and had replaced with a free 2gb dropbox account) to see if we could place the accounts files in the dropbox.

Unfortunately it became clear after a day or so that this solution would not work. As the accounts files (Quickbooks Pro if you need to know) were accessed from two different computers very quickly duplicates started to appear. So it was off hunting for another solution. Fortunately I had one up my belt. I’d been using Mozy since it first went into beta on the Mac and I thought it’d be ideal for this.

So again taking advantage of another free package, some 2gb before you need to pay, I installed it on the accounts computer and went back to sharing the file over the company network. So dropbox might have failed in my enterprise to handle these particular files (I suspected it might, but c’est la vie) but Mozy came through for me and provided a quick and easy solution to my problem.

In most of my personal dealings I use Mozy’s free service to backup the libraries of my MBP, whilst using dropbox to manage my files (I have a lot of files so I am using the 50gb account for that) as a type of replacement NAS as my one of my good friends @tsmarsh termed it. And I have to say it’s worked well for me so far and helped me out of a few sticky situations, so I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a peace of mind.

The benefit to these services when used free is that you can recommend them to your friends and family and get a little extra space each time someone takes up your referral, meaning it can satisfy a great deal of your needs without you having to spend a dime. All in all using this solution for my client has led them to a saving of £99.60, which in a recession the pennies truly count.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Facebook Logo

Facebook Sync

As I’m in the middle of cleaning up my address book, I thought I’d also re-sync with Facebook (yes it’s possible!).

A new version of AddressBookSync is now available courtesy of Dan Auclair. The short and sweet of it is that it lets you link your friends from Facebook with contacts in your Apple Address Book, which I have to say is pretty neat.

It even lets you match Facebook friends with contacts in your Address Book when the names differ, which is great improvement from the earlier version I was using. All in all it lets you sync: Profile Pictures, Birthdays and Profile URLs. Unfortunately Facebook doesn’t let you sync email or telephone records. :-(

Enjoy!

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Contact Sync

Spanning Sync v3.0

Though I’m trying out Google’s sync capabilities in my latest installation its not my sync tool of choice as I’ve been syncing comprehensively since I got my iPhone. I had to find a suitable solution for managing all my contacts (986 and counting) so approximately a year ago I stumbled upon Spanning Sync, which has been taking care of my contacts and calendars ever since.

As Google’s contact API has developed, slowly I must say (why can’t most companies understand this is perhaps one of the simplest problems for them to solve that would rid their consumers of daily irritation?) it has improved and improved, but I have to say it still has some way to go. Anyway despite this being  a critical product my impatience got the better of me earlier this year and I decided to try out the beta of version 3.

Now this should have been fine, but I was one of an unfortunate number of users that ran into a duplication bug that I just haven’t been able to shrug completely from my MBP, iMac, Mac Mini and thereby my iPhone. Now I don’t think I lost too many numbers and time machine on my iMac managed me to rescue those that I had, but it has left my contacts addresses pretty messed up.

See what I mean! 3 Addresses
See what I mean! 3 Duplicate Addresses! Argh!!!

I finally bit the bullet late this evening, after finding my mother’s address duplicated twelve times and bought a relatively new product released by the spanning sync team – their contact and calendar cleaning software. And I have to say it runs like a dream. Now I reckon it will take a good deal of passes to properly weed out these problems across all my machines, but finally I won’t be editing them manually again. Phew.

The interface for Spanning Sync Contact Cleaner is simple and straightforward:

Contact Cleaner Interface

It usefully highlights some of the problems that the google contact API has and presumably most similar contact sync systems. How can BSc be a bad suffix? How about Sir or Lady being bad prefixes? Come on. Real world here. We might not all know a Lord or Lady, but I find it particularly useful to at least be able to add a persons qualification to the end of their name, especially when I’m dealing with a professional.

It is however eminently handy to be able remove blank spaces from the end of words, to change people to companies and vice-versa when it detects an error, as well as removing duplicates properly (why Apple couldn’t have built a better system into address book for this I’m not sure). Anyway once you start to bulk up with contacts all of these problems become tiny irritants for sufferer of OCD like myself and a mostly automated system is very helpful.

At the end of all of this it might occur to any Mac Fanboys out there to ask, why not just use MobileMe? Well. I don’t like to be forced to only use Apple stuff and I’ve tended to find their software, which whilst better than Windows in almost every conceivable way, not that polished in comparison to tools specifically designed for the purpose. Plus $99 a year. Really? After I just spent £2k on a laptop, leased for 2 years, and you want me to pay extra. No thanks!

Oh I nearly forgot to say that there is a $5 discount if you’re already a subscriber to Spanning Sync proper! Excellent. All in all $14.99 isn’t a great price to pay to save a couple of OCD hours tonight spring cleaning and I’m sure it’ll save many more hours in the future…

PS – My results –

95 Duplicated Addresses Removed

10 Duplicated Phone Numbers Removed

23 Duplicated Contacts Merged

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Essential Communication Tools

When setting up a new system as well as setting up a standard email program such as Apple Mail or Thunderbird I also setup a couple of other essential communication tools, mostly to help me keep in touch with the user, in this case Glyn, but also to maximise the number of methods by which that user can communicate with the world.

Which Email program?

To be honest since 10.3 I’ve used Apple’s Mail as my principal email client, prior to this I used Eudora and I have, to be honest, occasionally dabbled with other programs such as Microsoft Entourage; but the email client I generally recommend to switchers is Thunderbird.

The reason for this is because when I am brought into consult at a small firm I generally find them running un-patched versions of Outlook Express, which is in my experience is the easiest and quickest root to viral infection in the Windows world, in these situations I replace it with Thunderbird, which being free adds no additional cost burden. So when we come to switching it seems best to go with Thunderbird to minimise the amount of adjustment the user requires.

However, as Apple has improved Mail, or more importantly improved it’s integration with the Address Book and iCal adding great usability functions like data detectors, (essential time savers once a user becomes more savvy) it has become an increasingly attractive client. Thunderbird 2 still uses its own address book rather than the system wide one offered by Apple, and although version 3 now offers integration it feels like it has been in beta forever.

The ability to sync Apple’s integrated address book with google mail accounts (including google apps accounts) in Snow Leopard has proved to be a great additional benefit for small businesses, especially as you can hack this to provide a locally available address book to all users in a company by using a single master default email such as info@foo.com to sync addresses to, which is great for small businesses. (if you’re running 10.5 this tutorial will show you how to hack this feature to make it available for you).

Google Sync from Apple Address Book
Just tick the box to activate Google Sync

So after a quick discussion with Glyn as to these pros and cons we decided to setup his email with the Apple Mail program, which ran smoothly, although I think it is a shame that you can’t select the type of mail service you are connecting to when you enter the initial details as this would cut down the setup time significantly whilst you wait for it to determine if there is a mail server present at the address you have given. It would also be great if you could tell Mail that it was a google apps account so it would pre-fill the imap and smtp details for you (come on Apple should be easy enough to do!).

Other tools communication tools…

It is really important for a small business to be reachable by as many methods as possible, as we have moved into an era of increased connectivity it is important that they adapt to this so that they can reach the broadest possible audience.

The first tool I always start with is Skype. Although I tend to use this less and less since the advent of Google Talk, I still find that many of my clients use the program on a daily basis. As Slingsby Interiors didn’t already have a skype account, Glyn and I downloaded the latest client and within minutes had managed to bag slingsbyinteriors as a name, surprisingly easy to do for most small businesses.

Then we moved on to setting up Google Talk, for which I always use a great little open source program called Adium, which is compatible with just about every protocol you can imagine from: AIM, MSN, Jabber to Yahoo to name just a few, meaning you only have to install the one program. As well as integrating with the built-in Address Book it offers tabbed browsing of conversations and all important growl notifications.

After a quick series guide around each of these programs, Glyn is up and running and ready to communicate with the world and more importantly after I installed skype on the PC in the 1st floor office he no longer has to run upstairs or use the intercom when he wants to ask Kay in accounts a quick question!

UPDATE –

Apparently you can bypass the automatic mail setup by holding down the option key after you’ve entered your email address and password, changing the button to continue and allowing you to continue as you normally would. For more see macosxhints.com

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk