iCal sharing, Sunbird and Iceweasel

I’m now running Iceweasel ( and Sunbird 0.2.

I was using Firefox 1.5 and the Firefox iCal plugin for the last year or so. This works very nicely and allows everybody in Frogfoot to share calendars using WebDav (over HTTPS). I can manage my calendar from the office using Linux and from home on my Mac, actually from anywhere on the Internet. Really nice.

A few weeks ago there was a security issue with the version of Firefox I was running and the Debian Testing distro seems to have moved on to Iceweasel. Iceweasel is basically Firefox 2.0 without the Mozilla (non-free) artwork.

The Firefox 1.5 iCal plugin does not work with Firefox 2.0.. so the obvious answer is to use Sunbird, which is the standalone calendar app. in the range. One minor problem is that the Sunbird project people seem to all be brain-dead. All the current Sunbird versions don’t allow you to share iCal calendars. Version 0.3 is just totally clueless and overwrites the calendar files. The nightly builds (0.4a1 and 0.6a1) are a little more useful and at least detect that these is a problem (when multiple people write to the iCal file), but then just updates the local copy and marks the calendar as read-only.

It turns out Sunbird 0.2 is useful. It dates back to the same time the Firefox plugin was developed. Sunbird 0.2 at least checks that the iCal file on the web server has not changed before updating the calendar file. Dig around on the Mozilla FTP site to find it or use the link above.

I tested it for interoperability with my Mac (also using Sunbird 0.2) and with Firefox 1.5 with the iCal plugin. It all seems to work.

Now all I need to do is figure out some hack to sync the iCal files to may Mac’s iCal app. so I can sync the calendar data to my phone. This all because Apple iCal is too brain-dead to understand https.

I think this is a case where commercial software is setting the bar very low and the free software people are just not interested in leading the way. Pity.

On the topic of iCal, I really would like a tool to dump iCal files to text in a more human readable format and a tool to dump those iCal meeting invites (which Apple Mail sends) into something that displays nicely in Mutt.

PS. Before everybody tells me to just use Google Calendar… No thanks, I value my privacy. Do I want ads based on my daily live?.. No.

Update: 21 Jan 17:11….

All this syncing now works.

E61 Screenshot
This screenshot shows icons for, Wifi, Bluetooth, SIP registration, my (unused) IMAP mailbox and one future meeting.

I can manage the iCal calendar files with Sunbird 0.2 over https from Linux and Mac. On the Mac I have a little shell script that fetches all the .ics files for me using Lynx-ssl. I make these .ics files available with Apache running on the Mac so I can add these calendars in Apple iCal as a normal http URL (http://blah..), this is because Apple iCal is too lame to understand any other form of URL.

I hacked some of iSync’s XML config files to detect the E61. iSync then syncs all my contacts and calendars to the phone. All very nice.

I spent about 2 hours trying to figure out why iSync would not sync the calendar data. This was really not fun.. no errors, no log message output.. it just did not work… This was the popup message:

“Do you want to use iCal as your calendar application? Before you can synchronize your calendars, you need to open a calendar application that supports Mac OS X synchronization.”

It turns out you need at least one local (native) calendar in Apple iCal for iSync to work. All my calenders were “remote” calendars. It seems iSync wants the one local calendar so it knows what to do with events that get added on the phone. So to fix the problem I added a calendar called “Phone Imports”.

Some search engine bait to help other people with this issue:
iCal 2.0.4, iSync 2.3, Nokia E61, 10.4.8

3 thoughts on “iCal sharing, Sunbird and Iceweasel

  1. Well, I won’t tell you to use Google Calendar in this case… It doesn’t solve the problem. Sunbird can only read from GooCal, but can’t update it. My real issue is syncing with my PDA.

    The only luck I’ve had so far is syncing my PDA (windows mobile) with Outlook.

    The real problem is that most Web 2.0 companies don’t realise that most people are actually NOT online everywhere they go.

    I’m perplexed that no one has solved this most basic of productivity problems.

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