Duplicates on your Mac? Check Outlook!

They have been the bane of my life. Duplicate calendar entries and duplicated fields in my Contacts, all because I wanted to sync my important data between Outlook and my Mac. Things have certainly improved since I embarked on this quest, but a few stubborn calendar and contact items just kept coming back over and over again. No matter how much I ‘went back to square one’ or manually removed duplicate items in Google, iCal or Address Book, sure enough after the next sync they’d be back!

I just couldn’t figure it out. Everything in Outlook was exactly as it should be, yet Google and the Mac were seeing double. So, I went exploring again and to my surprise I finally found the culprit… Outlook!!

Outlook - All Appointments

Outlook - All Appointments

Now I’m using Outlook 2007 but I’m guessing that the same thing can happen in earlier versions. Let’s start with the calendar. When I’m in Outlook I always use one of three views – Day, Week or Month, and there’s not a duplicate in sight. However, when setting up a ‘work’ calendar in Outlook yesterday I started looking around for a way to change the default colour Outlook had chosen for the calendar. I went to the View menu, chose Current View then looked at my options. All Appointments caught my eye for some reason so I had a look. Great, a long list of everything that’s in my calendar and I mean everything! But – I could see duplicates. I flipped back to Month view and the duplicates disappeared, returned to All Appointments and there they were again, large as life.

In some cases I could see minor differences between entries, like ‘all day’ events that had different start/end times, other entries were identical as far as I could tell.  Even so, I didn’t figure out why my Outlook Month view was hiding these duplicates from me. Anyway, I deleted every duplicate I could find, sync’ed across to gCal and hey presto – the few duplicates that had persisted all along were finally gone!

I did the same for my Contacts. I found a view that showed ‘all fields’ for a contact and sure enough, the person had the same address stored in FOUR different places, all of which had been faithfully replicated across to Address Book on the Mac. Once I cleaned up this hidden data in Outlook, everything was fine.

What I haven’t managed to figure out is how calendar items and address book items got duplicated in the first place. Perhaps it was a result of my early attempts to sync my data with Google? Perhaps there’s something about how Outlook handles certain changes. In any case I’m just relieved that I’m finally seeing light at the end of my sync tunnel.

So my message is – don’t take it for granted that what you see using the standard views in Outlook is actually a true picture of what is there. If you’re suffering from duplicate entries in Google, on your Mac or even MobileMe after sync’ing with your PC, there’s a good chance that Outlook is hiding the truth!

Orange UK – O2’s best salesman?

Orange SPV C500

Orange SPV C500

When it comes to mobile phones, I always thought my needs were fairly straightforward. Two phone numbers so I can separate work and personal calls, and Windows Mobile so I can easily sync with Outlook where I’ve always maintained my calendar and contact lists. I don’t do email, video-calling, photography or anything else exotic, so that’s simple right?

Well I’ve been an Orange UK customer since 1997 and not long after that took advantage of their ‘Line 2’ offering – that’s two phone numbers on one handset/SIM card. The phone receives calls on both lines automatically, and by simply pressing and holding the # key I can choose which line I want to make calls on. It’s a great idea… but unfortunately one that never took off for some reason, probably because my ‘Line 2’ number costs me just £5 a month, far less lucrative for Orange than selling me a second handset and contract (which is what they’re now trying to do). Still, it works for me, and while the Windows Mobile 2003 OS on my trusty old SPV C500 phone isn’t brilliant, it gets the job done. Incidentally, the C500 was a cool handset in it’s day, trust me. These days, compared with all these ‘razr’ thin, touch screen, mp3 playing, video calling 5mp camera phones, it’s about as cool as walking into a bar with your fly open!

CalGoo

CalGoo

Anyway, since switching to the Mac I’ve been wondering what I should do about my Windows-centric calendaring. My problem is, it’s one of those things I’ve got set up in Windows that just works, so I’ve settled for the Mac being the ‘slave’ so to speak. Courstesy of Calgoo Connect I now sync my Outlook calendar across to Google’s gCal and from there on to iCal. It works a treat, I can add entries in Windows, on the Mac or on my phone and they all painlessly arrive everywhere else. Great! So where is this all going? Well a few months ago the asterisk key on my 3 year old phone stopped working. Perhaps not a major issue, but when you’re trying to join a conference call and you have to enter ‘*’ before and after your PIN code – that’s a major headache. Still, I was well overdue for a handset upgrade so I called Orange thinking I’d have a shiny new Windows Mobile handset before long…

Almost an hour later I was feeling like I’d been totally screwed over by them. You see while they still provide the Line 2 facility to those customers who signed up for it, they no longer offer it to new customers. Based on that premise, they don’t supply any new Windows Mobile handsets that support the feature, and their suggestions weren’t well thought out at all. So, if like me you’re an Orange UK customer who has a Windows Mobile handset and the ‘Line 2’ facility, prepare yourself because this is what they said…

Option One – Upgrade to a Blackberry handset. It’s not Windows Mobile but it does support Line 2. However, you MUST subscribe to Blackberry’s data service at an ADDITIONAL MONTHLY COST, regardless of whether you want it or not. It’s a condition of the contract. Personally I don’t want the service, and didn’t see why I should pay for it – as I said, I don’t do email on my phone.

Option Two – Split the Line 2 number out to a new contract and buy a second handset. I my case that would mean switching from paying £30 a month plus calls on one contract, to paying £45 a month plus calls on TWO contracts. I’d also have to pay £69 for a new HTC Touch Diamond Windows Mobile handset on my original contract, and a whopping £250 for another of the same handsets on the new second contract. I said I’d consider it if they gave me two new handsets for free. They said no. Ok, how about £69 for the two handsets. They said no again. I even went as far as saying I’d pay £69 for each new handset. They still said no. They were adamant that I’d have to pay almost £320 in total for the two handsets, and they weren’t going to budge.

HTC Touch Diamond

HTC Touch Diamond

I thought it entirely reasonable that if they were forcing me to have two handsets, then I should be allowed to have two the same. That way I wouldn’t have to install new software alongside the ActiveSync that I already have installed and working, plus if I had occasion to only have one handset on me, then it would still have all the features I needed. No, Orange didn’t think that was a reasonable expectation. In the end I just thought if they could hear themselves, they would realise how inconsiderate they were being.

In the end, they refused to make any concession whatsoever and I had no choice but to request a disconnection code for both phone lines. I hadn’t planed on leaving Orange UK, but if they are going to be that difficult then all I can do is to vote with my feet.

So, all this has left me wondering – where now? Maybe I’ll have to abandon my two phone numbers on one phone and join the poor souls who have to carry two handsets around. That being the case, there’s no reason not to go down the high street shop around. The new iPhone 3G looks mighty tempting as a ‘main’ handset, and I could make the Mac the centre of my calendaring universe. Problem is, I’m not yet comfortable with being able to recover my calendar and

iPhone 3G

iPhone 3G

address book on the Mac in the event of disaster. In Outlook 2007 I know exactly how to backup and recover the data files, I’ve even done it several times when reinstalling Windows. The Mac? Hmmmm, I know the principles, but somehow I feel that if I had to recover my calendar files to a new Mac, I’d need more than Time Machine to accomplish this. But then if the data is sync’ed to Google via Calgoo Connect – then I’m sorted, I just re-install the Calgoo software and sync it back!

The irony is that if I wanted an iPhone 3G now, I’d have to jump ship to O2. But if I were to hang on until later this year, Orange UK may be selling the iPhone if the rumours are true… 😉

PS – Calgoo Connect is available for Mac OS X and Windows, and it’s now free!

PPS – Yes I know there’s MobileMe, but it costs upwards of £60 a year, and it still doesn’t work properly.

In Ctrl of my Alt – finally

Back from a rather long holiday – did you miss me? 😉

Well Apple certainly has been busy since I’ve been away. They launched the new iPhone 3G and managed to screw it up by leaving new users unable to activate their phones in the O2 stores. And what about MobileMe? Refunds to users, free 31 day extensions, what are they up to?! Anyway, more on that later because I really just want to share a quick Synergy tip with you.

Synergy

Synergy

As you probably know, I’ve been using Synergy to share my PC keyboard & mouse with my Mac and it works really well. However, there was one thing that always caught me out and that’s how the Mac uses different keys for different things. As a long time Windows user, my biggest bugbear is how the Mac changes with the COPY/PASTE keys, insisting on using Cmd+ C or Cmd + V. This means that on my Synergy setup I had to do a finger-twisting Alt + C and Alt + V when on the Mac screen to copy and paste, then reverting to doing it ‘properly’ when back on the PC.

Not any more!

Let me first say that I didn’t ‘RTFM’ (well at least properly) when I started using Synergy, I just wanted to get

Next time... Read the manual!

Next time... Read the manual!

the keyboard/mouse sharing working. I eventually forgot about Synergy’s help files and the result was that I started looking at key remapping software for the Mac to try and swap the Ctrl and Alt keys round. While I did find some suitable programs, I shied away from actually installing any of them, scared off by the fact that they’re all kernel extensions that carry with them the warnings of kernel panics if things go wrong. I haven’t had a kernel panic yet (touch wood) and I didn’t intend to tempt fate just to remap a couple of keys.

So I eventually returned to browsing through the Synergy web site again and there it was… the answer – Synergy will remap keys for you! Yes, you can tell the Synergy ‘server’ (in my case my PC) to remap keys for selected screens, so for example when the Ctrl key is pressed on the server, it should be treated as the Alt key being pressed on the Mac. All that’s needed is to add a couple of lines to the Synergy config file (C:\Windows\synergy.sgc) on the server machine, like this:

section: screens
  homepc01:
    switchCorners = none
    switchCornerSize = 0
  homepc02:
    switchCorners = none
    switchCornerSize = 0
  laptop:
    switchCorners = none
    switchCornerSize = 0
  macpro:
    switchCorners = none
    switchCornerSize = 0
    ctrl = alt
    alt = ctrl
  susepc:
    switchCorners = none
    switchCornerSize = 0
end
section: links
  homepc01:
    left = homepc02
    right = macpro
    up = susepc
  homepc02:
    left = laptop
    right = homepc01
  ibmlaptop:
    right = homepc02
  macpro:
    left = homepc01
  susebox:
    right = homepc01
end
section: options
end

The two important lines are the ones shown in red. It tells the server that for the macpro the Ctrl key should map to the Alt key and vice versa.

It works a treat, no more hitting the wrong key combination when I’m using the Mac. Obviously if you’re more used to the Mac and you’re using it as your Synergy server, then you can do this the other way round and make the Windows keystrokes behave like the Mac ones. I’m just pleased that I finally got it working as I’m using the Mac more and more, and the Windows PCs less and less.

Back to work for now, but I’ll be having a rant about Orange UK soon, and counting my blessings for sticking with Calgoo and Google calendar rather than imersing myself in the mess that’s MobileMe. See you on the flipside.