CalDAVing my Calendars

With my iPhone, I now have access to view and update my personal calendar whenever I need it.  Previously, I relied on my work calendar to track the personal events that occur during normal business hours, e.g. dentist appointments.  Outside of work, I maintained a separate calendar on my personal laptop for tracking personal activities (outside of business hours) and recurring household events such as wedding anniversary and birthdays. However, unless I’m in front of a computer,  my personal calendar was generally inaccessible to me.  I needed a better solution for managing the various calendars that run my life.  With the help of the Internet, I’m able to setup a system that provides access to my personal calendar whether I’m working, at home, or on the road.

By using Google Calendar as a centralized repository,  I’m able to view and update my personal calendar from my iPhone, the iCal calendar on my laptop as well as the iCal calendar for work.  Both iPhone and Apple’s iCal calendar supports CalDAV, an Internet protocol for accessing and managing remote calendars.  Since Google Calendar also supports CalDAV, I’m able to subscribe to my Google Calendar from my CalDAV enabled clients.  Google provides some very helpful Web pages on connecting to Google Calendar from both iPhone and iCal.  I have also found useful resources in the Blogsphere.  The setup for connecting all 3 CalDAV clients including testing took less than 1/2 days.  Once I migrated my personal calendar onto Google Calendar, it was viewable from my iPhone as well as the iCal calendar on both my personal and work laptop.  Even better, when I add, update or delete an event from my Google Calendar using any of the 3 calendar clients, it automatically propagates to the other 2 calendars.

For really sensitive or personal events, I’m choosing to use a local calendar (doesn’t sync with Google Calendar) on my iPhone or the iCal calendar on my personal laptop.  The iPhone and iCal calendar are synchronized whenever I update my iPhone via iTunes.  Given I largely leverage Google Calendar for my personal calendar needs, this setup has worked very well for me so far.  The only noteworthy gotcha was the duplicate alerts on newly created events.  I soon realized that Google Calendar was assigning a default alert, in addition to the one set by the CalDAV client.  In my case, the remedy was to simply disable the default alert in Google Calendar.  Although I’m very happy with the current setup, I look forward to spending more time learning about CalDAV.  Given its flexibility, I anticipate it will make it possible to  interconnect my calendar with my friends and family members to ease planning of special events.

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Kicking Off My Digital Library Project

I thought that technology is suppose to make life easier?  I won’t deny that the iPhone (my latest toy) has provided me with conveniences that a couple years ago would have required that I carry along a mobile phone, digital camera, MP3 player, and laptop computer.  While I love my iPhone, I still use my MacBook Pro, iPod Nano, Canon HD camcorder, and Canon DSLR regularly, depending on the occasion.  With 3 devices that can take pictures and 2 that can capture videos, I’m having a hard time keeping track of everything.  What I really need is a simple and cost effective solution for organizing, editing, sharing, and archiving all my photos and videos.

In this blog, I’m kicking off my efforts (a personal project) to define and implement a single system for managing my digital library, one that I hope will make my life easier.    As with any IT like project, before embarking on the design, it’s important to understand the requirements.  It this case, it’s a matter of articulating my own needs upfront, so I can be sure that I’m successful and happy with the outcome.  I anticipate that each key requirement will require additional analysis (topics for future blogs) before I can fully define and settle on the priorities (must-haves and nice-to-haves) for this system.  For now, I just want to capture the high level requirements.

I need a system that can grow (scalable) with my needs.  Although I don’t foresee buying any new devices in the near-term, it’s important that this system can easily accommodate additional data sources.  For example, if my wife gets an iPhone, I will need a way to easily import and manage all her photos and videos as well.  As technology is constantly evolving, I will need a digital library solution that can withstand the test of time.  I anticipate there will be new medias (e.g. Blue-ray) or social platforms where I would like to publish or store my pictures.  It would be great if the system does not lock me in to a particular social platform or external media type.

I enjoy taking pictures and videos, and I have seen my digital library
grow exponentially in recent years.  However, I prefer not to invest the equivalent increment in time to manage my digital library.  I need a system that will make it easy to organize and edit my photos and videos.  I’m not a professional, so I do not need a fancy editing tool.  Nor do I want to spend a lot of time on editorial tasks.  Generally, I’m quite content with the “I’m Feeling Lucky” touch-ups provided in tools like Picasa.  While I have typically organized my photos and videos by dates or events, I would like to evaluate and assess the benefits of organizing by other means such as geo tags or facial recognition.

One of the great joy of taking pictures and videos is sharing them with my family and friends.  Currently, I share my pictures with my friends through social media Web sites such as FaceBook.  I also keep my photos from the past year online in my Picasa Web album.  While I have uploaded a couple video clips on YouTube,  I have largely deferred the editing  of my HD videos from the past year.  That will change, as I’m motivated by this project.  For my family (who are less technology savvy), I need this system to also facilitate with the creation of slide shows and home movies for re-play on the home theater or distribution via DVDs.   Occasionally, I do printouts as well.

I currently have my pictures and videos scattered across my Mac and PC, with back-ups on an external hard drive, CDs and DVDs.  One of the key driver for doing this project is my constant fear that one day my PC or Mac will crap out, or that my external hard drive will fail, or that the CDs where I back up my picture are no longer readable by new hardware.  What I need is a fault tolerant solution for backing up and preserving my digital library.  Since my PC is dated and I work largely on my Mac now, I would like to build my digital library around the software and services available on the Mac.  This means I will need a way to migrate and import the pictures and videos from my PC.

Well, I think this is a pretty good start on the requirements for building a system for managing my digital library.  I have identified my needs for organizing, editing, sharing, and archiving all my photos and videos.  Now, I just need a solution.  Any suggestions?