Advertisements

Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Domestic Schedule Bliss? There’s an iPad app for that in the Cloud

 

Anyone reading this that has a partner and family will probably understand my pain… My wife & I have a pretty busy schedule; work commitments and travel that are part of any modern IT consultant job, 2 young children and their highly complex schedule of social and school, nursery, classes add to that a widely distributed network of family and friends and their social events/weekend visiting and it gets pretty complex to keep track of.

As I’ve written about before my Outlook/BES Blackberry calendar is de-facto to me; I just don’t have the mental bandwidth to track everything and the bit of my brain that deals with remembering dates over a week away is either missing or faulty and multiple personal/work calendars just mess with my head.

My wife has performed a heroic task of maintaining a paper family calendar for years, but that forced me to also maintain it manually and often things were forgotten which has led to much confusion and mis-scheduling, especially when I have been away and there have been changes to my schedule.

image

We work in IT right? there has to be a technical solution to this pain? well yes, there is; however my wife found using a laptop or small screened mobile phone to manage a shared calendar too difficult whilst juggling 2 small children and always fell back to the paper calendar and lived with it’s limitations.

So, when an iPad was introduced and quickly adopted by everyone in the household as “good-enough” for everything from quick browsing of the web to TV guides, iPlayer, recipes, games I spotted an opportunity.

I was a bit skeptical about the iPad at first and didn’t think it would be much more than a nice toy, however it was used so much by all of the family because;

  • It switched on instantly (unlike a laptop)
  • the battery lasts literally forever so you don’t have to be tethered to power (unlike a laptop or iPhone)
  • Has a usable sized screen that you could read things without having to scroll/pan about (unlike a smartphone); and having 2 young kids it’s wipe-clean and reasonably robust (parents will understand Smile).

So with some fiddling we ended up at this solution

image

  • Google calendar acting as the central “hub” reference – accessible via a web browser from anywhere and with a good API that is used by sync applications across multiple platforms.
  • My Exchange-hosted calendar is automatically synced to my fat-Outlook client and to my Blackberry via the BES.
  • the Google calendar sync application runs in the background on my Blackberry and syncs with the shared Google Calendar.
  • The iPad application CalenGoo syncs with the Google Calendar so the calendar can always be viewed and edited from the iPad in a convenient home-use form-factor.
  • My wife’s new smartphone (which will either be a BIS Blackberry or iPhone will be able to sync with the Google calendar “hub” giving her a mobile and up to date editable copy of the calendar.

For us it works pretty well, if you have a similar problem I’d suggest you investigate it, one word of warning the BB/Gmail sync app won’t sync historical appointments from your calendar so be careful if you try to get around this with a manual import; you may end up with duplicate calendar entries (at least I did, and had to de-dupe them).

There are also Google calendar sync plug-ins for Outlook and other mail clients, but I was happy enough with doing it via my BB as that nearly always has a network connection and is kept constantly in-sync with my work calendar.

With all that sync’ing there is a latency of about an hour for changes to get replicated end-end which is more than enough for our family needs.

In terms of security my family or work schedule isn’t particularly sensitive but it’s tied down to usernames/passwords where relevant and transmission is over SSL, entries from our shared calendar get synced into my corporate calendar marked as ‘private’ – but there could be better support for a more granular model both ways here, Google calendar seems to have this concept but it doesn’t federate into into the Exchange/BB world {yet}.

Advertisements

3 responses to “Domestic Schedule Bliss? There’s an iPad app for that in the Cloud

  1. CCOSTAN November 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.. Always looking to use tech to balance family/work. If you travel quite a bit, you might want to take a look at TripIt which can also sync into Google Calendar. Makes for easy updating – when making reservations, you can just forward them to TripIt which parses the info and then syncs it out to the family. 😉

    Carlo.

    • vinf.net November 3, 2010 at 8:01 pm

      mmm, good tip – thanks! will check it out

  2. Pingback: That was 2010 so what next « Virtualization, Windows, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: