Monday, October 18, 2004

Why doesn't Palm get it?

Look, I'm not going to claim that iCalendar is the absolute best calendar data format there is. It has issues and problems just like other Internet quasi-standards. But it's what we've got, and I just don't understand why some vendors don't at least provide partial support for it!

Case in point: PalmSource. Since the split, they are the "owners" of Palm Desktop, as near as I can tell. iCalendar has been in existence since around 1998, yet Palm Desktop still cannot open, import or export iCalendar files. They can handle vCalendar files, to a point, but not iCalendar. Since opening iCalendar files would be a major boon- several sites post iCalendar versions of sports schedules, holidays, and the like, I decided to write them to ask for this enhancement.

First, finding where to write was a hassle - I ended up posting a bug report (Palm Desktop does not open iCalendar files) and also sending an e-mail to an address I found somewhere on their site, or PalmOne's; I can't even find that again! Second, all I've received since July was an acknowledgement e-mail basically restating my request!

It's not like it's rocket science for them either! They can open iCalendar files in e-mail in the PalmOS (but I don't browse with my PDA!), so they must have the code to handle it. Also, I didn't really ask for the whole iCalendar enchilada, anyway. All I asked was that they support iCalendar to the degree that they support vCalendar- I want to be able to open an iCalendar file with fixed events and add them to my calendar. This would be a very minimal set of iCalendar components and properties - in fact, I bet if you took a vCalendar file, added METHOD: PUBLISH, maybe a DTSTAMP, and changed the VERSION to 2.0 it would work.

So, Palm, what's the hold up? Not enough programmers to do a 5 minute change that would save hundreds of hours of customer time? Maybe it's more important to support cameraphone and MP3 operation than people who might want to actually use PIM features that you sell? Have you forgotten your roots? And even if I'm wrong, write me and tell me so! - the case ID number at PalmOne support is 200672; I can't find the bug report on your site, so you'll have to look for it yourselves.

UPDATE: When I posted about adding a METHOD: and DTSTAMP: above - that would solve output from Palm Desktop to iCalendar. I tested it by exporting a file to vCalendar and making those modifications, then sending it to my Lotus Notes account at work, and it was indeed usable. Going from iCalendar into Palm Desktop would be slightly more difficult - their code would have to ignore any iCalendar things it couldn't deal with, which is easy enough, but there might be incompatible versions of things like RRULE: for recurring instances that have to be handled. Even so, they have the code to do it in the Palm OS, so they don't have to invent it from scratch.

UPDATE #2: on 10/25/2004 I received a Palm customer support satisfaction survey about this problem which showed "Close date: 10/19/2004", the day after the original post. Of course, I told them I wasn't satisfied, since all they had done so far was restate my problem. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

More rants on the lack of calendaring for the Internet

In the course of posting to a calendaring mailing-list, it hit me - it's been somewhere between 10 and 14 years that I've been around office/calendaring software, and we still cannot reliably schedule meetings between two organizations that use different software, let alone use a tool to schedule an appointment with the dentist, the barber, a real estate showing, or any of the other things one wants to schedule!

There is a group trying to come out with a simplification of the iCalendar (RFC2445) and iTIP (RFC2446) protocols to allow this to happen. Hope we get it worked out.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Play That Funky Music - But When?

Ever try looking up the touring schedule of a favorite band, or the game schedule of your favorite sports team, on the Web? What a hodge-podge of calendaring information. Some list dates and locations only, some include the time. Some are simple lists, others are arranged visually like a calendar. In some cases, you can click on the item to do other things or get a better description of things, but in almost no case can you click on the item and add it to your own calendar. This would be such a natural thing for them to do for their customers, and we'd all really appreciate it, too; but I guess there isn't enough profit in it.

Still, I am working on something like that in my spare time, which I hope to spread around to various bands and such. It will be XML-based probably, and will allow each item to have a link that downloads a calendar item into whatever calendar you use on your computer. I haven't worked out all of the details for what to do if you use a web-based calendar tool, but it should be similar. If it catches on, or at least if the concept catches on, someday soon we'll be able to add that concert by the Nine-or-Tenors to our calendar when we buy the tickets, and we'll be on our way to having our schedules improved in the way that e-mail and/or IM have improved our communications (without the spam I hope).