iPad – Little known difference between UK and US…

Since I started using an iPad, one thing has been bugging me – the calendar. More specifically, what is shown as the first day of the week when you have the calendar in week or month view. Being brought up in the UK, for some reason I was always told that Sunday was the first day of the week. So, when I got my shiny new iPad and spotted that the week and month views start on a Monday, I set about trying to find how to change it.

Maybe it’s linked to the fact that my iPad calendar syncs with the one on my Mac via MobileMe? Ok, well in the iCal preferences on the Mac it shows Sunday as the start of the week.

iCal Settings

On the Mac, the first day of the week can be set as Sunday

Ok then, well maybe because the sync goes via MobileMe then it’s something to do with the settings on my MobileMe calendar?

MobileMe Calendar settings

MobileMe also lets you start the week on a Sunday

Nope, the settings in MobileMe also show the week as starting on a Sunday. Ok, let’s have a look at the settings on the iPad itself…

iPad Calendar settings

No obvious preference setting for the start of the week on the iPad

Ah right, while I was expecting to see an option for setting which day is displayed as the start of the week, but there’s…. nothing. How strange, does Apple let you configure this on other platforms but not on the iPad? Surely not. Well in fact you can configure which day is displayed as the first day of the week in the iPad’s week and month calendar views, but you’ll never guess how it’s done. Give up yet?

Well you have to go into Settings, then select General, then scroll down to International, then finally select Region Format. Next you have to change it from United Kingdom to United States….

Hang on a minute, run that by me again. Set the Region Format on my iPad to United States?? Yup, that’s right. Unfortunately when you do that then lots of other things take on US defaults such as contact details (States, ZIP Codes, a default country of United States), also telephone number and date formats in apps etc. So despite their world class expertise in usability, it looks like Apple have dropped the ball here, and I’ll be hoping that they’ll correct this ‘feature’ in a later release of iOS.

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Entourage and Google Calendar, (still) all sync’ed up

Spanning Sync 3Back in late 2008 I wrote a post about how I kept my Entourage and Google calendar in sync using a utility called Calgoo Connect. The process worked really well and the post generated quite a bit of interest from people who were in the same boat. A year and a half later and things have moved on, the most notable change being that Calgoo Connect for the Mac is no longer available. Not to worry though, if you still use Entourage and Google Calendar and you want to keep the two in step, then there s another way to do it using a neat utility called Spanning Sync.

Now the important thing to note here is that what we are doing here is taking your Entourage calendar and your Google calendar and effectively combining them into a single unified calendar. Unlike BusyCal (another great app I use) which lets you publish and subscribe to calendars so you can update them in multiple places, Spanning Sync keeps things neat by letting you ‘merge’ your Google and Entourage calendars into one. It’s actually a lot more powerful than that, but we’ll keep it simple for now. Like before, this method actually uses iCal on your Mac as a ‘conduit’ for the sync process, however you don’t need to be an iCal user of even open it up, except perhaps initially to check that everything is working ok. So, an overview of what  we’re looking at is as follows:

Calendar Sync Workflow

Keeping Entourage and Google Calendar in sync

Basically you keep Entourage and iCal in sync using functionality built in to Entourage itself, then you keep iCal and Google Calendar in sync using Spanning Sync. So how do we do that?

Well the fist step is to configure Entourage to talk to iCal by going in to the Preferences in Entourage and under General Preferences select the Sync Services heading just like in the picture below. Then it’s as simple as ticking the box that says ‘Synchronize events and tasks with iCal and MobileMe’. Don’t worry about MobileMe for now, if you don’t have a MobileMe account it will just be ignored.

Entourage Preferences

Getting Entourage and iCal to talk to each other

Ok at this point your Entourage calendar should be visible within iCal and you can check by launching iCal and under the Calendars heading on the left, make sure there is a check mark against the entry labeled Entourage. You should actually see any entries from your Entourage calendar showing up in your iCal calendar in whatever colour you’ve chosen (mine seems to default to purple). At this point you can forget about iCal and close it down again as the next step is to configure Spanning Sync.

Ok you’ve downloaded and installed Spanning Sync so at this point you need to tell it how to sync the Entourage calendar on your Mac with whichever calendar in Google you have chosen to sync with. Let’s assume you have already set up a Google calendar which you’ve called ‘Entourage’. Open Spanning Sync by going to the Apple menu and choosing System Preferences and then under the Other heading at the bottom of your System Preferences window choosing Spanning Sync. The first thing you need to do is tell Spanning Sync about your Google account by giving it your Google user name and password. Once you’ve done that it will go off and find your Google calendar(s). Now click on the Calendars tab in Spanning Sync and you should see a list of your iCal calendars on the left and your Google calendars on the right.You will see from my example below that I’ve got multiple calendars on both sides, and that my Entourage calendar in Google is actually called ‘Entourage (2)’.

Spanning Sync 1

Specifying which calendars to synchronize in Spanning Sync

Tick the box that says Sync Calendars then choose your Entourage calendar under the iCal Calendars heading. Now you can choose which Google calendar you want to synchronize with, so look for your Entourage calendar under the Google Calendars heading and choose that one. You should end up with something like the entry highlighted in blue in the picture above. Remember, because the two calendars you choose to will be synchronized, they effectively become a single calendar (which is actually what you want). Obviously you need to think about any entries you already have in the two calendars.

Spanning Sync gives you a lot of control over how the synchronization takes place. You can sync from your local calendar to Google, from Google to your local calendar or both ways (which is probably what you want). Here you also choose whether you want to sync alarms and items in the past. Once you’ve entered the settings you want, just click the Sync Now button and let Spanning Sync do its stuff. The final step is then to go back to the Account & Schedule tab in Spanning Sync and choose how often you want the calendars to sync, and that’s pretty much it. There are other options in Spanning Sync which you can explore, for example under the Advanced Settings tab you can elect to start over or overwrite one of your calendars if you’re having a problem. Personally I’ve never had to do this as Spanning Sync has just quietly got on with things, but if you do get stuck you can get help from Spanning Sync themselves or on the forum, or even just by Googling your problem.

Ok, the one thing you need to know is that unlike the old Calgoo Connect solution, Spanning Sync is shareware and so needs to be paid for. Essentially it works by registering your Gmail address as being enabled for synchronization and you have a choice of paying $25 annually or making a one-off payment of $65 for life which is what I chose to do (I’m not planning to ditch my Mac or Google calendar any time soon).

There you have it – your Entourage calendar should now be in perfect harmony whether your using it locally in Entourage on your Mac or via a browser in Google calendar. Spanning Sync will do other things, like sync calendars between multiple Macs as well as syncing contacts (although I figure Google knows enough about me already without knowing who all my contacts are as well). Yes there are other tools that may be free or that go about things differently, but Spanning Sync does what it does nicely and has been pretty much ‘set & forget’ for me. I have to admit that I don’t use Entourage 2008 much these days as I’ve gone back to using Mail.app (because of its unified inbox) and BusyCal (which gives you nice features over and above what iCal does), but Spanning Sync still fits in nicely with my BusyCal usage. I’ve also got MobileMe Sync running in the background, so my calendars are everywhere. I can even access my Entourage calendar via CalenGoo on my iPhone 3G!

I’m also hoping for great things when Microsoft release Outlook for the Mac as part of Office 2011 – could that be what makes me switch back to using a Microsoft mail client?

What’s in the dock?

Following my post on OS X uninstallers, Matt asked about what applications are in the dock in my screen shot. So here’s a quick run down of the extra apps I’ve got in the dock, plus what’s loaded and showing in the menu bar.

What_s What

The Dock (from left to right)

Path Finder – I use this instead of the default Mac OS X Finder for most of my file management on the Mac, mainly because I can open it with two panes visible and drag & drop between them, but it’s got a whole host of other file management goodies besides.

OtherInbox/Fluid – OtherInbox is great for managing my mail and an absolute must in the fight against spam (I wrote a separate post about it). Here I’ve got the web interface to it bundled as an application using Fluid, so I can quickly launch straight into it from the Dock.

NetNewsWire – the best way to keep on top of all those RSS news feeds. I’m a bit of a news junkie (hmmm, might even post about what feeds I follow at some point), and NetNewsWire makes it easy to get my daily fix, oh and it’s free.

Microsoft Messenger – After moving to the Mac I still had a lot of friends using Messenger, and the Microsoft client gave me the best compatibility even though it lacks some of the features of it’s Windows counterpart (like audio & video in the personal version). I do like Adium as an IM client, but for some reason keep going back to Messenger. Old habits die hard!

VMware Fusion – If there’s one indispensable app on my Mac, this is it. It’s neck and neck with Parallels when it comes to running Windows on your Mac, and I typically run three Windows VMs side by side during my working day. VMware has been rock solid and we use it at work so I can move VMs between machines if need be.

1Password – I keep all my logins. passwords and secure notes such as software licenses in 1Password. Browser integration makes it a snip to quickly and safely log in to web sites, plus with the iPhone app I’ve got all my passwords safely backed up on the phone.

Pages 09 – This was my first choice for word processing on the Mac, although I had to add MS Word later.

Word 2008 – I bought MS Office 2008 for the Mac simply because so many of my colleagues use Word on their Windows machines and this gave me the best compatibility for sharing those docs.

Excel 2008 – Not much of a number cruncher but have written a couple of complex spreadsheets in Excel 2007 for Windows which I use weekly and Numbers 09 had a few issues handling them, so Excel 09 was the natural choice. Even so, there’s still a couple of compatibility issues between Excel 07 and Excel 2008 – ahem, thank you Microsoft.

EyeTV – how else to get my daily fix of pulp TV without leaving my Mac? Bought an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid and this is the software that came with it. Works brilliantly and dead easy to use.

Spotify – The revolutionary music streaming service that everyone’s talking about. A good range of music to suit all tastes, and relatively unobtrusive adverts for the free service.

Last but not least, there’s an icon in the dock that lets me quickly connect to my Mac Mini (standard built-in OS X screen sharing stuff).

The Menu Bar (left to right)

Skitch – Superb for capturing screen shots and then editing/annotating them. All the text and arrows in the screen shot at the start of this post were done using Skitch. It also lets you easily upload and share the fruits of your labours.

Evernote – Great dumping ground for all those notes I would otherwise be scribbling on bits of paper, plus I can sync my notes between computers, and with an iPhone version I can sync notes to that too.

DropBox – Another great way to share files between computers, and even with friends. 2Gb of online storage for free!

OpenDNS Updater – I’m a great fan of the OpenDNS service, keeping me safe from dubious websites, phishing attacks etc. I even wrote a blog post about it a couple of months ago. The OpenDNS updater is a free little app that syncs your IP details with the OpenDNS service.

GMail Notifier – A handy way to keep tabs on new Google mail. This was Google’s own version, but I’ve since switched to the leaner GMail Notifr app.

Yahoo Widgets – A hangover from my Windows days, thousands of widgets to put on your desktop, and I like the fact that you can change the transparency of any widget.  I know OS X has the Dashboard for widgets, and with a little hack you can put Widgets on your desktop, so it’s horses for courses. (To be fair, I think Yahoo Widgets are on the way out as there’s fewer and fewer new widgets appearing these days).

Smart Reporter – A little menu bar app that monitors the SMART status of your drives – green is good. I’ve got four drives in this Mac Pro, so any early warning of an impending failure is a plus.

Mozy – Online backup tool (this is me and my backup paranoia again). Mozy offers a good balance of functionality and cost (just $4.95 a month for unlimited storage).

Little Snitch – I was actually quite happy with the built-in OS X firewall, but I got Little Snitch as part of a MacUpdate Promo Bundle. I installed it and found that it’s nice to have that little extra bit of control and information about what your firewall is up to.

iStat Menus – An assortment of useful menu bar indicators for various aspects of your system. Here I’m using the memory meter to keep an eye on how much of my 12Gb has been gobbled up by my VMware virtual machines.

MobileMe – Apple’s online service needs no introduction. I keep this in the menu bar simply to give me quick access to go and check up on it or force a quick sync.

On the desktop there are two Yahoo Widgets visible. The one on the right is the standard Yahoo Weather Widget that comes bundled with the app. You can see it here at around 50% transparency so it blends into the background. The one on the left is something called Neon Gauges which will give you a graphic representation of various aspects of your system. Here I’ve used circles to indicate CPU and disk usage and have blended them in with the shapes on the background wallpaper.

There you go, a lightning tour of what’s on my OS X desktop. Obviously I’ve done the rebuild since taking that snapshot, but I still use most of those apps, so hope this gives people a few ideas. This has given me a few ideas for other posts I might do in the future, like:

  • What news feeds I’ve got in NetNewsWire
  • What’s on my iPhone
  • A sum up of what’s in (and around) my Mac Pro

Entourage 3-way sync with MobileMe

3-way, easy peasy

3-way, easy peasy

So someone asked – how about doing a 3-way sync between Entourage on a Macbook Pro, Entourage on an iMac and iCal on the iPhone? Well I’ll try anything once, though in may case it’s a Mac Pro, a Mac Mini and my iPhone. Sure I’d love a new unibody Macbook Pro 17″ but I just couldn’t justify the expense… oh and I can’t afford it right now!

2-way syncing was already working between my Mac Pro and the iPhone, so it was simply a case of adding the Mac Mini to the mix. At this point I wasn’t using iCal, Entourage or MobileMe on the Mac Mini as it’s currently my ‘server’ in the loft. Still, the joys of screen sharing under OS X make this an easy thing to set up without actually having to climb into the loft, so I did the following on the Mac Mini.

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Open the MobileMe PrefPane
  3. Entered the same .mac account details I currently use on my iPhone and Mac Pro
  4. Selected ‘manual’ sync
  5. Selected just Calendar
  6. Clicked the Sync button

As this was the first time I’d synced the Mac Mini using MobileMe it popped up a warning, asking me if I wanted to merge events or replace them either on the Mac or on MobileMe. Obviously at this point I chose to ‘Replace data on computer‘ to make sure all the events I already had would be pushed on to the Mac Mini. That was it. After a couple of minutes I was looking at an exact replica of my calendar in iCal. Next I installed Office 2008 on the Mac Mini, and patched it up to the latest level (12.1.5). I then launched Entourage on the Mac Mini and in its Preferences I told it to sync via iCal. A couple more minutes and sure enough the Entourage calendar events from my picture-11Mac Pro/iPhone were showing on the Mac Mini. Having tested it works ok it would just be a case of setting the sync in MobileMe preferences to ‘automatic’.

Obviously the same limitations apply as I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, ie because you have to sync Entourage via iCal and MobileMe, you are limited to calendar features that they both understand, so ‘categories’ are out. Still, it works well enough.

I’m sure it would be pretty straightforward to add another Mac with either iCal or Entourage, or even a Windows PC running Outlook to this little arrangement (the key is in using the same MobileMe account). Trouble is, my life is complicated enough already!

iCal and Google Calendar getting snug… again

Mail, calendars and ToDo lists on the Mac seem to be becoming a hobby of mine, and thanks to the latest release of Calaboration (their spelling not mine!), there’s yet another way for Mac users to spread around some calendar goodness. Calaboration is the latest way for iCal users to view and edit one or more of their Google calendars from within iCal itself. Unfortunately Entourage is left whimpering outside in the cold in this episode (but for that there are other solutions).

Downloading and installing Calaboration is a simple affair, just go to the Google website, download it, unzip it and drag it into your Applications or Applications/Utilities folder. Something you’ll notice is that every time you run Calaboration you’ll be prompted for your Google username and password because unlike other utilities such as Google’s Gmail Notifier, Calaboration doesn’t seem to cache your credentials. Not really a problem as this is pretty much a ‘set it & forget it’ application anyway.

picture-12Once you’ve entered your details you’ll be presented with a list of your Google calandars and it’s simply a matter of ticking the ones you want to be accessible in iCal. Given that I’ve already been using Calgoo Connect to sync iCal with Google calendar I decided it was safest to create a new calendar in Google specifically for the purposes of trying this out. So I created a Google calendar called ‘Google Only’ and selected it in Calaboration as the calendar I was to access from iCal. One final step you need to do is to open Calaboration’s Preferences and tick the box that says Enable read-only calendars. It’s a way of getting round the permissions set in gCal thereby allowing you to add, edit and delete gCal entries in iCal. If you don’t tick the box then any changes made in iCal will generate an error.

Creating an event in Google calendar

When is a meeting not a meeting?

When is a meeting not a meeting?

So let’s try it out… I’ve run Calaboration and told iCal which Google calendar I want access to and now I have a Google heading in the iCal sidebar with ‘Google Only’ in it. I pop over to Google and create a new all day event in my ‘Google Only’ calendar. Going back to iCal I right-click on the ‘Google Only’ calendar heading and select Refresh and sure enough the new event is visible in iCal. So far so good. Next test is to edit the event in iCal and see what Google makes of it so I select the all day Google calendar event and decide to give it a start and finish time then save it. That goes off without a hitch but on syncing the event back to Google, it now decides that it’s a meeting invitation, putting a little question mark icon to the left of the event heading. It’s simple enough to get rid of this by opening the event in iCal and where it says ‘Are you coming‘ over on the right, just click Yes and save the event.

Creating a new gCal event in iCal
Creating a new event in iCal to go in your Google calendar is again pretty straightforward except you need select your Google calendar first in iCal’s sidebar before creating the event. This is because your Google calendar won’t show up in the pick-list of calendars when actually editing the event – that’s just the way it works. Again, once you’ve created the event in iCal and have let it sync, the event pops up in Google complete with the correct start time if you specified one. If you edit the event in iCal and change it from an all day event to one with a start time, then the quirk of it turning into a meeting invite happens again. The work around is the same as before, open the event in gCal and edit it to say you’re attending.

I tried creating, editing and deleting events in either iCal or gCal and apart from the quirk mentioned above, it all seemed to work well. If for example you add text to the Notes field in iCal, this will appear in the description field in Google. It also looks like you could add a location to the event in iCal and have it appear in Google Maps when you open it in Google calendar, although I didn’t investigate this option fully. One thing that doesn’t seem to get carried across is alarms. Despite setting a reminder in Google, or setting an alarm in iCal, that feature wouldn’t make it through to the other platform. Not a showstopper but a pain if like me you’re incredibly forgetful!

So, does Calaboration replace what Calgoo Connect does? Well no not really. You see Calaboration is a way of pulling one or more of your Google calendars through in to iCal and allowing you to edit those calendars on either platform. This means that your Google calendars appear in iCal in addition to any existing iCal calendars you might already have. So if all you have when you start is your default iCal calendar and your default Google calendar, then after setting up Calaboration you’ll still only see your default calendar in Google, but you’ll see both calendars in iCal.

Calgoo Connect on the other hand is about pairing calendars between iCal and Google, so in the same scenario you would choose to pair your default calendar on each platform meaning you have just one intergrated calendar that you can update in either location.

Which option is better? Well both are free and it’s horses for courses really, so it depends on whether you want multiple calendars or not. You might for example already use Google calendar for work and have iCal at home keeping track of your social life. If you want to keep these as two discrete calendars and to be able to see and edit your work calendar at home, then Calaboration will do that for you. If however you wanted just one combined work/social calendar that you update using either Google at work or iCal at home, then Calgoo Connect would be the way to go. Similarly, if you’re an Entourage user then Calaboration isn’t going to be much help because the Google calendars you add to iCal with it aren’t visible in Entourage – for that we need a patch from Microsoft that allows syncing of more than one calendar between Entourage and iCal. Another downside of Calaboration is that calendars it adds to iCal aren’t visible on the iPhone if you’re using MobileMe.

Now if only Apple would update iCal with some of Entourage’s features (categories in calendars, a decent ToDo List function… that syncs with the iPhone) then I’d be a happy man.

My (all things Apple) wish list

While I ponder whether or not the Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro was such a good purchase, I thought I might bore the world with my Apple/Mac wish list. So here (in no particular order) are the things I wish were different in my Mac-esque world:

  1. A Logitech webcam with a microphone that supports OS X Speech Recognition.
  2. A ‘watch folder(s)’ feature in iTunes.
  3. Better (more intelligent) integration of OS X ‘Spaces’ on dual-monitor setups.
  4. An iPhone with a user-changeable battery.
  5. iPhones available on any UK network.
  6. An AT&T client for OS X.
  7. A choice of reasonably priced USB/Firewire add-in cards for the Mac Pro.
  8. A second CPU upgrade option for Mac Pro users with (only) one 4-core processor.
  9. A Mac Mini with easily upgradeable RAM and that supports more than 2Gb.
  10. A Blu-Ray DVD upgrade for the Mac Pro.
  11. An end to the $1 = £1 exchange rate on technology products (OK, maybe I pushed the scope of this list a little bit).
  12. Outlook to MobileMe syncing in Windows, WITHOUT having to install iTunes.
  13. Colour-coded categories in iCal.
  14. Better control of Time Machine built-in to OS X (I know you can get 3rd party add-ons, but this really should be built-in).
  15. Better login support for mapping SMB shares, not this Login Items bodge.
  16. A proper tree view in Finder. (I use Mac Rage, but it’s not ideal).
  17. A two or even three button mouse made by Apple!
  18. An Apple wireless keyboard with the same key layout as the wired one.
  19. At least one eSATA port on the Mac Pro.
  20. And finally (for now)… an Apple PVR/Blu-Ray DVD Recorder that supports DiVX, mp3, DVBT, FreeSat, has HDMI 1.3a, etc., etc., …and the bank balance to buy such a monster!

Syncing Entourage 2008 with my iPhone via MobileMe

Yes I’ve complained enough in the past that Entourage 2008 is always the runner-up when it comes to Apple functionality, and getting calendar events from Entourage on to your iPhone via MobileMe reconfirms this.

iCal calendars

iCal calendars

You see MobileMe knows nothing about Entourage whatsoever, all it understands is iCal. BUT… if you want to add events to your Entourage calendar and then see them on MobileMe and thus on your iPhone, all you have to do is enable ‘Synchronize events and tasks with iCal and .Mac‘ in your Entourage 2008 preferences. It’s basic but it works by creating a new calendar in iCal, and anything you enter in Entourage’s calendar is automatically sync’ed through into a new Entourage calendar inside iCal. Now when the MobileMe sync process runs it sees this extra Entourage calendar in iCal and copies it’s contents (along with any other calendars you’ve created in iCal), across to the MobileMe web service. That in turn gets ‘pushed’ across to your iPhone.

The reverse is true in that if you create an event either on your iPhone or in iCal and you specify that it

iCal view

iCal view

belongs to the Entourage calendar, then the event will make it back to Entourage. Create the event on the default calendar on your iPhone or in MobileMe or in iCal and Entourage will never see it.

As I said, it’s basic but it works, however one other limitation is that iCal doesn’t understand the ‘categorize’ feature in Entourage. For example I can create an event in Entourage, categorize it as ‘Personal’ and it will appear in green on my Entourage calendar. However, when it’s pushed through to iCal that category data is lost and it appears using whatever colour you’ve assigned to the Entourage calendar in iCal, and that colour persists through MobileMe and on to your iPhone.

Entourage event on the iPhone

Entourage event on the iPhone

The upshot of all this is that if I want to colour-code events in iCal and on my iPhone, then the only way to do it is to use multiple iCal calendars and forget Entourage 2008. So I now have a ‘default’ iCal calendar coloured blue, and another iCal calendar called ‘Important’ that’s coloured red, as well as my Entourage calendar which is purple, as you can see. Thankfully Entourage isn’t stripped of all it’s features when sync’ing with iCal and MobileMe as any alarm/reminders you set on events in Entourage are carried through to iCal and from there to your iPhone via MobileMe.

So, if you’re an iPhone user who wants to stick with Entourage but use MobileMe (and an iPhone) as well, then you may lose some Entourage specific features but the basics are there. For things to change then Apple’s developers would have to spend time enhancing iCal to understand Entourage categories. Alternatively Microsoft would have to add code to Entourage to understand iCal’s separate calendars. Yeah right…