My phone, my calendar

I’d like to preface this post by saying I have no qualms with Microsoft Exchange per se. It’s actually a pretty amazing tool, especially when it’s integrated with Sharepoint. The problem is that it doesn’t work so well with third-party clients (or indeed, Microsoft’s own Entourage client). I have an Exchange account at work, and I’d love to be able to use it.

Here’s the problem: I can’t. There are plenty of clients that will handle the e-mail with an IMAP connection, but nothing that could properly be called an Exchange client. (Evolution used to work, until Exchange 2007 came out. Since then, I’ve had no luck with either the old-style (via OWA) or the MAPI plugin.) Fortunately, Google also has a pretty slick service, so I finally just set my e-mail to forward to my GMail account.

GMail worked great. Almost any device can connect to both e-mail and calendar because it uses standard standards. Most of my incoming mail goes straight there, and the rest gets POPed off once an hour (I’m not sure if it’s an Exchange “feature” or just the way our servers are configured, but mail sent from the Exchange server goes to my Exchange account, even when sent to id@employer.edu, not id@exchange.employer.edu).

Only one problem remained: sometime people would want to schedule meetings with me, and they’d look at my Exchange calendar thinking it was accurate. I wasn’t about try to maintain my calendar twice, but my Google calendar was far more accessible. Enter my phone.

The N900 has support for Exchange accounts via its Mail for Exchange (MfE) settings. I simply set MfE to sync my Exchange calendar to my phone’s calendar (I don’t have it sync e-mail because GMail already handles that). That’s step 1. When last I checked, Google did not have a native calendar app for Maemo, but there is this nifty little program called Erminig. I also set Erminig to sync with my phone’s calendar. That’s step 2.

With these two steps completed, my calendars stay in sync. Now I can continue using my Google calendar, but my Exchange calendar remains accurate. The sync is bi-directional, too — if I schedule a meeting in Exchange, it’ll show up on my Google calendar, which means I’ll see the notification. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well this has worked.

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