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Old March 31st, 2012, 10:17 AM   #1
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Angry #%&@@! Google Sync

A few days ago, I started experiencing occasional problems with my BlackBerry. It would appear to freeze up and become unresponsive, except that it did respond to the keyboard reboot command (alt - right shift - delete), so I knew it wasn't truly locked up.

Since I semi-retired to the boondocks, I don't have very many appointments anymore; so a calendar problem didn't occur to me. I thought it was because one of my clients sends me several very large pictures for his Web site every day, and I thought the comparatively slow EDGE data service I get at home was tying things up (although I must say, this is the fastest EDGE I've ever seen, probably because the tower's within walking distance).

Still, some of the raw pictures have file sizes in excess of 3 Mb (I crop, color-correct, and resample them before using them on the site), and he sometimes sends half a dozen at a time; so I suspected that they were bogging down my data connection.

So I disabled the automatic image downloads -- I need them on the computer, anyway, not the BlackBerry -- and thought that would solve the problem. It didn't. In fact, it got worse.

So I cast my suspicions at a particular call-filtering application that has caused occasional problems in the past, and uninstalled it. That didn't help, either.

Yesterday, the BlackBerry got unresponsive five times, and I decided enough was enough. I downloaded the OS from RIM and decided to reinstall it, thinking either something had gotten corrupted or that it had been infected by some BlackBerry bug. But to do the reinstall, I had to download the BlackBerry Desktop software, which took a few minutes.

While the software was downloading, the phone became unresponsive again, but this time I left it alone because I was chatting with a buddy of mine on Yahoo! Messenger. When I picked up the BlackBerry to connect it to the computer, it had an error message that the calendar app had become unresponsive and had been terminated. Other than that, the phone was responding normally again.

So I tried to look at the calendar, and every time I did, the BlackBerry got unresponsive. And when I tried to clear the calendar data using the Desktop software (there's not much in my calendar except birthdays any more), I was denied access because the filesystem was read-only.

Huh?

I scratched my beard for a while, which usually works when pondering things like this, and this time was no exception. I looked through my installed apps to try to find something that might be interfacing with my calendar somehow -- and there it was: Google Sync.

What the heck is Google Sync, I asked myself? I looked it up and learned that it basically synchronizes the calendar and contacts with my Gmail account. Well, okay, except that the BlackBerry does that automatically, anyway. Apparently I installed it (or maybe it installed itself as part of a package) when I installed some other Google apps.

The problem is that Google Sync doesn't get along well with the native BlackBerry wireless sync app (which has always worked flawlessly, in my experience). When the two of them are both enabled, duplicate appointments are created. How many? Well, as an example, I met my friend's fiance in August of 2011 and entered her birthday in my calendar. As of last night, there were 813 instances of her birthday.

Google Sync also seems to lock the BlackBerry calendar database so it can't be cleared. Once I uninstalled it, I was able to clear the calendar. I also logged into my Gmail account and deleted the entire calendar -- it was easier than manually deleting the tens of thousands of duplicate events -- and manually re-created it. Like I said, all I have are birthdays and such, so there aren't that many events to re-create.

I went back to the BlackBerry and re-enabled the native wireless sync for my Gmail calendar, scratched my beard a bit more, and voila' -- the native BlackBerry sync application had imported the dates to my BlackBerry calendar. And life is good again.

Now, why do I blame Google Sync for this problem?

Firstly, because it's a completely and utterly useless application. As far as I can tell, it does absolutely nothing that the BB doesn't already do on its own using its native apps. As far as I can tell, it exists merely as another opportunity for Google to get its logo in my face.

Secondly, because it conflicts with the native BB apps, and doesn't do anything to resolve this conflict. There should be some detection that the native BB app is also synchronizing the calendar, and at the least, a suitable warning should be generated.

Thirdly, because creating and storing duplicate appointments without a user prompt that there is a conflict is idiocy in any event.

Finally, because when I logged into my Gmail calendar, I could find no way to bulk-delete the duplicate appointments. As far as I could tell, my options were either to manually delete the tens of thousands of duplicates one-by-one, or to delete the entire calendar. An option to clear all appointments for a given day, or to multiple-select appointments, doesn't seem to exist (or at least I couldn't find one in the time I was willing to spend looking for it).

Quite frankly, the only reason I'm still using Google Calendar at all at this point is because my Ymail calendar doesn't sync at all with the BB. It used to, but Yahoo! changed something which made their calendar incompatible with the native BB sync app, and hasn't come up with its own workaround app yet. They say they're working with RIM to come up with one.

I know practically nothing about BlackBerry programming, but I'm seriously considering trying to build a Web app that consists of nothing but a Web-based calendar that will sync well with the BlackBerry, if no one else has done so already. I'll check SourceForge later on.

Now, just so Google doesn't take all the blame while RIM scoots away gleefully wagging its finger at Google, let me say this: If there's one thing about the BlackBerry that annoys me, it's that RIM has never included a simple calendar in their desktop software. They expect the user to either use Outlook (which I refuse to use because I think it's the king of bloated applications -- and I'm not a huge Microsoft fan in any case), or to use one of the few Web-based calendars that it has support for.

Would it really be that hard to include a blasted interface for the calendar in the BlackBerry Desktop software? It's just a lot easier for someone with older eyes and fingers to use a desktop calendar than to squint at and tap on the handheld itself. Would including a desktop interface for the device calendar really be that big a deal?

There. Now I feel better.

/rant

-Rich
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Last edited by RJM62; March 31st, 2012 at 10:21 AM.
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Old March 31st, 2012, 12:29 PM
Posted in reply to RJM62's post "#%&@@! Google Sync"
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RIM is dying.

Expect their code to get worse as they lose top-notch developers.

As far as the sync/de-duplication mess... Been there, done that, on every device since the first Palm phone on Verizon. It's the bane of synched calendaring.
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Old March 31st, 2012, 12:34 PM
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Re: #%&@@! Google Sync

Don't bother trying to develop a calendar program for Blackberry. RIM as a company probably won't even be around in another 5 years.
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Old March 31st, 2012, 12:36 PM
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Re: #%&@@! Google Sync

As an aside note, to my knowledge Blackberry does have an Exchange client that is independent of Outlook which I'm told by Blackberry users works reasonably well, if you are able to use an Exchange account. The iPhone/iPad exchange clients work flawlessly -we use Exchange OWA (web access support) but the native Exhange client functions as well as Outlook running on a PC.

Realize you are a Microsoft hater, just had to throw that out. I've tried web mail synch programs before and have never been happy with the speed or integration.
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Old March 31st, 2012, 12:56 PM
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Did you mean me for the "Microsoft hater"? I don't. I use OWA/ActiveSync constantly.

MSFT still has the best *integrated* mail/calendar out there.

A RIM device hooked to Exchange with Blackberry Enterprise Server is a virtually flawless solution for mail too.

Blackberry Personal through their server was also the only product I ever saw that accurately could be pointed at an Outlook Web Access server that had ActiveSync *disabled* and would still screen-scrape all the mail and calendar data from OWA flawlessly onto a mobile device. It was impossible to stop it if an IT group wanted control of the mobile devices.

The problem is, RIM the company stopped innovating and/or arguably innovated the wrong direction with Playbook. They're in a race to the bottom against themselves. It's sad really. They lost something or someone somewhere that kept them ahead of the pack.

Companies like Good.com didn't help them any. Made it possible for enterprise to drop the expensive BES server for a cross-platform solution that is also HIPAA compliant if configured correctly. Blackberry went from "only way to do this securely" to "niche player" on the Enterprise software side of things. Docs and Lawyers both get what they want on multiple mobile platforms with Good.

Next we see if Good being owned by Motorola destroys whatever magic they had...

For personal accounts, it's either Android/Google or Apple iOS/iCloud now. Blackberry devices are getting shut out, slowly.

Blackberry is now where Palm was at with hokey integration to major popular services a number of year's ago. HP is slowly integrating Palm's brain trust but not fast enough into their gadgets.
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Old March 31st, 2012, 01:14 PM
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Re: #%&@@! Google Sync

I think BlackBerries will be around for a while, although I think that RIM will eventually be taken over. There's still a huge Blackberry base, including many business and government users who have no desire to move to another platform (or for whom it would be too expensive / cumbersome to do so). So yes, the base will shrink, but I don't think it's going to disappear any time soon. RIM might also do something sensible for a change, such as come out with a few fancier phones with enough bells and whistles to satisfy those whose loyalty to BlackBerry is challenged by the envy of what the iPhone or Android can do.

I've never test-driven an iPhone (although I've played with a few) because I have little need for anything on a smartphone other than email, calendaring (and that less so than I used to), and a Web browser (more to test my own mobile sites on than for any other reason). Also, judging by my clients' and friends' feedback, the iPhone's email system doesn't hold a candle to the BlackBerry's. For me, email handling is second only to a phone's ability as, well, a phone, in terms of importance; so even rumors of email problems are a deal killer for me.

I have used Androids and have purchased a few for various people (employees when I had them, young relatives, etc.). Overall, I like Androids. Their email handling isn't bad at all (though it's not as good as BlackBerry's, in my opinion), the phones tend to be reasonably priced, and the user experience is pleasant.

In fact, I could see myself moving to Android if it weren't for the horrible battery life. I bought one for my 13-year-old goddaughter and she loves it -- except for the battery life. She can't get through a single day without a charge, and she rarely uses it as a phone. (She texts all day, but seldom makes or receives voice calls.) I typically get two days out of a charge on my BlackBerry -- and I use it as my primary phone these days.

I never had any calendar sync problems using the BB's native app. And I use to use the calendar very heavily. The exception was once when I upgraded the handheld. I used the Desktop Manager to do the upgrade, and it carried the calendar forward; but then it re-synched and duplicated all the appointments. The simple workaround to that is not to copy the calendar data when upgrading.

Sac, I don't exactly "hate" Microsoft. I give credit where credit's due, and some of their stuff is very good. Like Win7-64. Very good OS by any standards, and could be a great OS if it weren't so virus-prone. But I've never liked Office (especially Outlook), and I wouldn't even think of using a Microsoft Web server unless I had a specific need to do so. I measure uptime on my Linux servers in months and years.

-Rich
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Old March 31st, 2012, 01:21 PM
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Here's your tech blast from the past for the day, from my desk drawer.

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Old March 31st, 2012, 01:39 PM
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Re: #%&@@! Google Sync

Quote:
Originally Posted by denverpilot View Post
Did you mean me for the "Microsoft hater"? I don't. I use OWA/ActiveSync constantly.
No, I think we posted at the same time.
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Old March 31st, 2012, 01:45 PM
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As if on cue...

http://mobile.slashdot.org/story/12/...arly-everybody
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Old March 31st, 2012, 06:53 PM
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Re: #%&@@! Google Sync

I turn google sync off. I only sync once at the end of the day, manually.
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Old April 1st, 2012, 12:29 AM
Posted in reply to bbchien's post "Re: #%&@@! Google Sync"
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Re: #%&@@! Google Sync

Quote:
Originally Posted by bbchien View Post
I turn google sync off. I only sync once at the end of the day, manually.
I probably should sync manually, too. I have very few appointments these days, and people's birthdays don't change too often.

-Rich
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