So 2 weeks ago I finally got my first smartphone. I had been waiting since January for the Palm Pre but when I realised that it seems like it never will be released in Sweden I bought my second alternative, the HTC Hero. First of all, for you who doesn’t know about the HTC Hero, it runs on Googles OS for mobile handsets, Android. That means that anyone who wants are free to program applications, modify the OS and your smartphone isn’t restricted. And for me running mostly Ubuntu at home, of course the whole idea of using a free OS appeals to me. But since I have really good experience of Palms products over the years I prefered their Pre. Anyway, here is my first guide of what I have struggled with and found out these past 2 weeks.
For me, the most important aspects of a smartphone are:
The contact list
Getting directions from the GPS
Reading and sending email
Multitasking, running several applications at a time
Good connectivity between applications. For example, contact list should be able to speak with the email-, sms-, phone- and facebook-app.
In this post, I will tell you about importing contacts and calendars.
I wanted to import contacts from several places. My old Nokia phone, my Palm Tungsten and my iPod Touch. I had some trouble, with all the contacts disappearing from the Hero a couple of times before I was finished. Here is my guide for succeeding.
The Hero contact application has 3 different types of contacts. Phone, Google and SIM. The contacts you can either sync with your Google-account or a PC with for example Microsoft Outlook. The problem is when you sync with for example Google, the phone doesn’t always keep the contacts you want it to keep. And the app leaves a lot of wanted improvements that hopefully will come in Android 2.0. Here is how I solved my contacts:
First of all, I decided to only use “Google-contacts”. Now everything works but the downside is that you cannot have given name and a surname for each contact. So for all my future contacts, I am careful to choose “Google” as the contact type when I add another one. For unfortunately, you don’t have the option to change the contact type afterwards.
So for a start, I went to the Contact application on the Hero, choosed Groups, pressed the “Menu”-button and then “Sync Groups”. There you can if you have synced it with your google account see all available groups. Uncheck “All contacts” because if you sync that group you will get all who you have ever sent or received a email from. I checked “My contacts” and then exported my old contacts from all different places and imported them to http://contacts.google.com. Because I’m impatient, I wanted to force a sync instantly afterwards so to do that, enter “Settings — Data synchronization — Google” and uncheck and check Contacts. It then takes a while but then you have all your contacts on your phone. To connect all contacts to facebook, enter the contacts app, “Updates and events” and the phone will automatically (if you have your facebook account all set up) link your friends. Really nice to get photos and birthdays in the contact list.
If you end up halfway with a weird contact list on the Phone but correct on Google Contacts, I recommend erasing all contacts on the phone and then perform another sync. But at all time, be sure to have backups on your contacts by exporting them from Google Contacts before you do something like this. To erase all contacts, enter “Settings – Applications — Manage Applications — Contacts Storage” and press “Clear data”.
This was quite a hassle, not as “easy” as importing contacts. Like contacts my weapon of choice this time was Google and their Calendar solution. The trick was to get everything on the net nice and clean, erase everything on the phone and perform a full sync. The problem is that if you like me, didn’t use Google Calendar before, to import all events from the past 8 years without having Google Calendar crashing on you. My previous calendars I had on iPod Touch so I synced it with iTunes and Microsoft Outlook. From there, I exported them ics-format. The advantage with the ics-format is what every event in your calendar has a unique ID so if you import the same file to Google Calendar several times, you will not end up with lots of duplicates of your events, instead the events will correctly replace each other.
Then it was time for import. I had 5 calendars, ie. ics-files which I wanted to import. 4 of them where no problem since they where quite small. I created new calendars which I imported them to and everything went smoothly. But the last and biggest one turned out to be a problem. So to solve this, I had to split it up into 10 files. The easiest way to do this is to open it in a text editor, cut and paste and save each file in uft8. Each ics-file should start with all the information in the original file which you find before the events start (an event starts with “BEGIN:VEVENT and ends with “END:VEVENT”). For one of my files it looks like this:
PRODID:-//Evolvera AB\, //TimeEdit//EN
So just copy the text-block in your file that looks like this into a new file, cut a couple of events and end the file with “END:VCALENDAR”. If you still have problems with importing the file, try dividing them up into more files. I ended up dividing my biggest file into 10 smaller ones. Just be sure to always save the file as UTF8. And as a last piece of advice, Google has a limit for how many events you can import per day (about 3000) so if you are importing lots of events, you can have to wait until the next day before you can continue.
If you after the full sync where left with a broken calendar, then like with contacts, enter settings and remove everything and try again. And in the Calendar applications, press the “Menu”-button, “Calendars” and there you can choose which you want to show and sync. Maybe you like me have 1 or 2 dummy calendars there, these you don’t want to input events into by mistake because then by next sync you will probably lose them.
Now with these steps and the initial phone setup that starts when you launch the Hero the first time, we have all our events and contacts where they should be. For me, that’s the most important part of the setup.
In my next entry I will tell you about the more fun parts. All the cool stuff you can do when you have a handset with internet and GPS always available that runs linux.