Android: Google contacts and thunderbird

I have recently, maybe a bit delayed, got my hands on an android smartphone. My old regular mobile phone stopped working so I decided to take the step and embrace the new big thing so I got myself a Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro. However things were not as smooth as expected.

The ugly:

The first impression was that the phone asked me for a google account. I inserted mine without a second thought although later that second thought came to me and I started thinking scenarios of what would happen if I had no google account. That was an ugly introduction google thank you very much. Before even getting to use it as a phone I started connecting to many social service like facebook, linkedin and skype. It took no time to clutter my contacts with a mess with people from all these services and also see that people that I had only contacted via email were there to give them a call as the google account had already synced my contacts.

The things went out of control when I wanted to use the PC companion to get contacts from an old phone. Unfortunately for me my old phone would not operate at all so I had to use an even older Nokia phone that did not support en mass dispatch of all my contacts to the new phone via bluetooth. In order to get the contacts from it (and thus the valuable phone numbers to make the phone usable – it had only profiles and emails to contact so far…) I had to install the OVI suite as well. So I started cluttering my computer as well. Finally PC companion decided to recognize the Nokia phone as connected and copy all the contacts from it. Then I was shocked. There was no option of sending these contacts directly to the phone and make it as easy and clear as possible. Instead it asked me whether to add these contacts to the google contacts OR replace the google contacts with the current ones. Of course I chose add because losing all my google contacts over the phone contacts seemed to be a ridiculous idea.

So the phone was inoperable. That is because although Android tried so hard to merge the same people into a single account and make the contacts look really nice it miserably failed. And this is because I am Greek and we Greek people use multiple ways to have our names written in latin characters.This resulted in some contacts to have even four different instances! And this is where I realized that this was ugly and I had to do something about it.

The bad:

My solution was simple. Remove all the useless accounts from the contact sync (use only google) and now that all my contacts were there I could easily spent a few hours merging them (and deleting obsolete ones) and consede that I would have all my contacts in google. I spent an afternoon doing that but then I did something foolish, and that was because till this day when I thought of phone contacts I thought of something local, only in the phone. So wrong, this is not the phone anymore it is my google account. So as I wanted a fresh start I deleted all contacts on the phone to copy the new ones. MAJOR MISTAKE.. When the sync took place everything on google contacts was deleted except for a couple of contacts that I had altered before erasing everything on the phone. The sync worked fine but I got a lot frustrated as I had to do this all over again.

U mad?

The good:

So here we come to the final sollution. Soon enough I realised that if everything was to be used with the google contacts it meant that my new mail comrades should be updated there too, so that I would be fully functional on the phone as well. But I use thunderbird for my mail thus the sync is not automated at all. There was a rant at that point of the profanity of the lack of a global standard of the contact format but I settled my self with using a thunderbird plug in and stop sulking about the situation. Introducing Google Contacts! It is a simple add-on that creates an address book for each one of the gmail accounts that you have imported on thunderbird and syncs there all the contacts. This is unifying enough for me. There is a minor issue though because the contacts that did not have mail at all (only phone number) did not appear on the lists but only on the general list of all contacts, not a big issue though as I don;t plan to use thunderbirds to make calls anytime soon. Thus I was able to backup all contacts on the hard drive in a .ldif file using thunderbird and now all this will be synced thourgh the net and that I won’t have to worry again.

Verdict:

Apart from forcing me to unify everything under it, google achieved to make me have a single place to keep my contacts. This is something that I did not feel the need to have so far but now that I see it happen I realise its potential. However the ranting will continue!

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From Opera mail to Thunderbird

It has been more almost a year that I have been using Opera mail for my email needs. I must say that it is one of the best desktop mail implementations that I have used. However I wanted to have calendar and to do lists as well and Opera is not providing that in a convenient way.

Thus I was thinking of using Thunderbird (which I used before). I was thinking about the migration for weeks. There were features in Opera that I did not like to sacrifice. One of them is Opera Contacts. The way Opera lets you organize your contacts and view your mails by contact is something that I found very useful from time to time. Also using these little faces for each contact allowed me to identify the significance and the origin of a mail in a glimpse and that is something that I am going to miss. Plus it made my mail way more pleasant.

Till now I used calendar and to do lists using Rainlendar. Rainlendar is a really subtle program that used to decorate my empty desktop but I must admit it is not a good one to keep track of a to do list and calendar inputs. I never felt I was in control with it although using it is really straight forward. Thus I migrated my calendar and to do lists to Thunderbird. There the calendar is a bliss. Maybe it is not as good as Microsoft’s Outlook solution which might be the best in the domain but still really good. A note should be done here, I don’t want to use Outlook, I don’t feel confortable with it.

My first obstacle during the tranfer were the contacts. The Opera exports the contacts in .adr format which is an Opera specific format. It cannot be imported to Thunderbird directly (which is a same) and I had to use a converter found on here. The converter gets .adr files and exports .tab or .cvs (tab separated or comma separated contacts). Although the converter seems to be old (it mentions Opera 7) it worked just fine with my Opera 11.50 contacts. The problem with that is that any data I had on the contacts were lost apart from the name and the address. As Thunderbird contacts have many more fields available it did not bother me much. After a couple of hours most of my contacts were in good shape.

In an attempt to get those small faces that Opera uses I installed the Display Contact Photo Thunderbird add-on. However this only got me to have some more images to use that will be displayed only when I was to write a new mail. Not as helpful as I wanted it to be but I kept it.

In a second attempt to get the contacts on the side and trying to get access to the mails of single contact easily I tried to install Contacts Sidebar Thunderbird add-on only to find out that it is not compatible with Thunderbird 6… To cheer me up a bit I got a wood looking theme for the Thunderbird which I really liked.

However, there are still a couple of issues that I am going to try to resolve. These are the text wrapping of my mails that will render them more readable. This is a features that I have seen in mails that I receive. I suspect that it has something to do with Microsoft’s Outlook but I believe that there should be something that can be done about it in Thunderbird.

That is the good part of using Thunderbird. There is almost an add-on for anything that you can think off. However this may lead to a really slow experience using the application. so one must be careful.

Finally, Opera seems a bit barren now that I removed the mail from it. However it still has the feeds that I get there. I really like this browser and I plan to continue using it as it completely serves my needs.