Tag Archives: 3GS

iPhone How-to : calendar sync with Google Calendar via caldav

if you’ve read my earlier post, my choice to sync my personal Google calendar with my iPhone 3GS is to use caldav. The other option is activesync (MS Exchange), which I used prior to OS3.0 on my iPhone 3G. To understand why, do read my earlier post here.

This post will specifically guide you, step by step, to be able to get your Google based calendar on your iPhone (with OS3.0+). The calendar app on the iPhone will be the default app, nothing additional you’ll need from the app store.

I will create another post to show you how to add other calendars to your iPhone, e.g. your spouse’s or your kid’s calendars.

  1. first, you’ll need your email address… which would be something like “myemail@gmail.com”
    or “myemail@mysuperdomain.com” if you are on Google Apps
  2. next, you’ll need to compose your own “server string”… it looks something like this
    https://www.google.com:443/calendar/dav/myemail@gmail.com/user
  3. pretty much just simply replace the section “myemail@gmail.com” with your Google based email address, be it with “gmail.com” or “whatever.com”
  4. If you’ve got email setup on your iPhone already, you can just email the “Server string” to yourself, which you can copy and paste later… or just type it out carefully on the phone
  5. next, pick up your iPhone,  go into “Settings” -> “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” -> “Add Account…” -> “Other” -> “Add CalDAV Account”
  6. here’s what you put in
    Server : paste or slowly thumb in the “server string” from above (customized with your own email address of course). When you move to the next field, it’s normal for the “server” to only show “www.google.com”, so don’t worry about it.
    User Name : your full email address, e.g. “myemail@whateverdomain.com”
    Password : the password to the account you put in above
    Description : what ever you’d like to call it, doesn’t matter what you put, it’s for your own identification
  7. click “next” when done
  8. If all went well, you’ll be taken back to the “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” screen… if you had a typo in the “Server”, “User Name” or “Password” field.. then you’ll be stuck here. Just fix the typo and try again
  9. Validation…. Launch the “Calendar” app
  10. check and see if your calendar items are showing up, or if you have multiple calendars and it’s hard to validate you can select to see only one calendar
  11. in the “Calendar” app, on the top left, tap the “Calendars” button
  12. you’ll be presented with the list of Calendars you have configured, select the one you want to check
  13. You should now see only the entries belonging to that calendar

have fun =)

PPTP over cellular network with iPhone 3GS

ever since I upgraded my iPhone to OS3.0, I’ve been having trouble trying to get PPTP VPN to work. Never had the time to seriously look at it until now.

My VPN end point is a Linksys WRT54GL running with DD-WRT. I know that PPTP service works there as I can connect with my notebook, even with my 3G dongle.

Initial findings pointed towards the support for encryption on the DD-WRT implementation, and it has to be forced to “none” on the iPhone. Even that didn’t work.

With the release of OS 3.1, I started to tether my notebook to the iPhone, and through that, the PPTP will fail. That stumped me! Initially I thought could be due to the NAT implementation to enable tethering.

With trial and errors, I found out that over a WIFI connection, PPTP connection will work. Did I forget to mention that CISCO based IPSEC VPN to my office network works nicely over cellular and WIFI? That really baffled me. So, there’s something that’s in place that only works for IPSEC over cellular.

Finally, I came across some forum postings that lead me to the solution. There are many other people with similar issues in Canada and USA, and for some, they are able to tweak their APN on the phone to a different one and it worked for them. Of course they needed to be on different data subscription etc… for that to work.

I’m in Singapore, and my cellular provider is SingTel. I whipped out my iPhone 3GS and compared it’s APN settings to my 3G dongle for my notebook. Wallah! they are different, even though they are both with SingTel. I swapped in the new APN settings on to the iPhone, and PPTP started to work.

So, for all those in Singapore and on SingTel with similar needs and issues, the solution is to change the APN from “e-ideas” to “internet”. And here’s SingTel’s official instructions. BTW, these instructions are generic for all data devices.

For everyone else, what I realize from this is that some services/ports are controlled by the service provider. So, just by changing the APN won’t work if you don’t have access to the relevant APN.

If you need some guide on how to set your APN on your iPhone, the official Apple guide is found here.

*update 2009 Oct 09* after changing the APN, the “tethering” feature disappears. But if I reset the “Cellular Network” settings, “tethering” comes back. Got to figure out how to enable both.

iPhone Calendar sync with Google – comparison between activesync & caldav

If you haven’t realized it from my previous post, I am a fan of Google. So, besides syncing my iPhone contacts with Google, I also sync my Calendar.

I don’t have a Mac (YET), and I don’t have a copy of Microsoft Outlook, so I pretty much don’t have anything I can sync with on my Vista Desktop and XP netbook. Without Google, all I can do is backup my calendar to iTunes.

So, prior to OS3.0, I have setup my iPhone to do over-the-air activesync just for my calendar. It worked great and I loved it. What really surprised me that it also took care of subscribed calendars. e.g. My wife shares her Google calendar with me, and that also syncs to my phone; I also subscribe to a public holiday calendar for Singapore, and that syncs to my phone as well.

What impresses me is that once you have more than 1 calendar sync to the phone, all the items will get color coded. E.g. my calendar items will show up with a blue dot, my wife’s an orange dot, etc… On top of that I have permissions (set in Google Calendar) to add/delete/modify my wife’s calendar and I can do all those on the iPhone as well. There’s an option for me to choose which calendar an item is for when creating it.

When I was just surfing around on what’s new and what people are doing, I came across the new feature of the iPhone OS 3.0 and also supported by Google. That feature is caldav sync, as opposed to activesync. So, what’s the differences?

In short, very few differences. I’ll list the few I know

  1. Activesync – just need to setup your main account, and everything that is subscribed to in the Google Calendar interface will show up automatically
  2. Caldav – each calendar must be added for it to show up in iPhone, so this is more tedious.
  3. The advantage here is that activesync and caldav can both be used at the same time! A lot of people will likely sync their calendar with the office calendar via activesync. By using caldav, you can then also add on your personal calendar from Google. Lot’s of feedback I read in forums is that people are really pleased to be able to have both their work and personal calendars in the iPhone AT THE SAME TIME, and still kept separate. This is one of the biggest advantage, the marriage of both protocols.
  4. One thing that is important for me is reminders. In Google Calendar, you can set to receive multiple reminders for an item. E.g. for important events, I like to set pop-up reminders 10hrs, 1hr and 15mins before the event time. The activesync protocol only allows one of the reminders to go through to the phone, however caldav will sync all through. So, my phone will alert me at all the set reminders. Now, this is of a huge advantage for me.

As you probably guess, I’ve dropped activesync totally and now using caldav. Just a note though, when I started using caldav, in my appointments, I can start to specify “second alerts”, which is great! However, if you have more than 2 alerts/reminders for an item, you’ll only see the first and last one. I have items with 3 reminders, and all 3 will pop up in the phone in due time, I just can’t see the settings of the middle one in the phone. But that’s only a minor issue, as I would not change the alerts, but if I need to, just need to log on to Google Calendar to change it.

I’ll just keep things short (relatively) for this post, may post a how-to setup caldav post in the future. The guides I found only managed to get me half way. Had to figure out the rest of it myself by trial and error.

iPhone Contacts Sync with Google – comparison via iTunes and over-the-air activesync

Traditionally, one would sync a mobile/smart phone’s address book with a proprietary software (e.g. Palm Desktop), or via some conduit with Microsoft Outlook. In the recent years syncing with Outlook seems more popular as it’s more widely supported and it was my preferred way to transfer contacts from a phone from manufacturer A to another phone from manufacturer B. e.g. I once transferred from my Nokia N82 to a Samsung i600, then from the i600 to my iPhone 3G.

Recently I changed jobs and no longer have access to MS Outlook (it was on my work notebook), so I started searching for alternatives. Here are the options I have (in the Windows world)

  • via iTunes – sync with Google
  • via iTunes – sync with Windows Vista Contacts (or Windows Address Book on Windows XP)
  • over-the-air – sync with Google using Activesync protocol

I have been a fan of Google, and been using Gmail for years.  Little did I know, I have been shifting towards cloud computing without planning for it. This seems to be the all new popular shift the industry is heading towards. A lot of what we know now will eventually be hosted in the Internet cloud.

I decided that syncing with my Google account will likely be the best option. One advantage will be that I’ll never have to really worry about backing up my Gmail account. It’s something I trust Google to take care of. I also expect to see more support on syncing the contacts and calendar with more devices. So, this should protect future change of devices. In the worse case, I can export contacts as CSV files to be imported to other PIM tools.

Going off track a little, I tested out syncing with my Vista Contacts. Just to see what it does. The good side is that it can sync contact photos, which Google does not support. But the bad side is that when you delete contacts from the iPhone, they remain in Vista Contacts.

The real test started first with syncing via iTunes. Let me start off with what I started the test with

  • on the iPhone – I have my full set of contatcs with phone numbers, some email addresses, etc.
  • in my Google Contacts – I have some email addresses Gmail auto saved into the contacts.

I put in the config in Tunes to sync contacts with Google. Then I let it rip. The initial sync took about 10mins (I have about 1200 contacts in the phone).

When it was done, I looked through Google contacts and everything was uploaded nicely. I had some contacts with numerous phone numbers and all showed up well. Even some has custom phone types, e.g. I have a contact with a “home kitchen” as a phone type. Google accepted it as well. I was pleased.

Syncing with iTunes over a few days proved the updates and sync are working nicely.

Then, I decided to try out syncing over-the-air. It would be nice not having to remember to plug the phone to sync every other day. Any updates to the contacts will sync within minutes with “push”.

On the iPhone, I went to settings -> mail, contacts, calendars -> add account -> Microsoft Exchange. Went through the account creation wizard, and picked to only sync Contacts, keeping mail and calendar off. (side note, the server you want to connect to is m.google.com)

It prompted that all contacts in the phone will be wiped out (this was pre OS3.0). I know that my contacts are already well sync with Google already so I could confidently hit yes.

My contacts on the phone became blank, and then the over-the-air sync started. I could see contacts starting to be populated. If you scroll right to the bottom of the contacts, you could see the total count of contacts in the phone. In under 10 mins, I could see all my contacts downloaded.

Verification : the number of contacts were right, all contacts were downloaded. Then I picked up some names and check… looked fine. Until I hit some special contacts with a lot of numbers and email addresses… not everything was downloaded. Some numbers and email addresses were missing. Double checking in the Gmail interface, they were still on Google. So the sync was not perfect. After searching around, I found that it was a limitation of the activesync protocol.

You can read the actual post here. But here’s the essence of the issue. It’s not an iPhone nor Google issue. It’s a limitation of the activesync protocol.

Activesync only allows the following per contact

  • up to 3 email addresses
  • 2 Home numbers
  • 1 Home Fax
  • 1 Mobile
  • 1 Pager
  • 3 Work (which one will be labeled as ‘Company Main’)
  • 1 Work fax

So, if you have contacts with 2 Mobile (type) numbers, only one will show up after the sync. You won’t lose the other number, but it will stay at the original source. If you have custom phone types, they won’t show up either. So, this did not work for me.

One more shortcoming when using activesync is that the phone types becomes limited. The list that I used to be able to choose in the iPhone becomes limited to that listed above. It would make sense to conclude that it’s due to the limitations of activesync.

Other than the above though, the sync worked pretty well. The push updates went well and I was pleased with that as well. But since I have needs beyond just a few numbers and email addresses, I prefer to sync via iTunes.

On the 11th July, I picked up my new iPhone 3GS from my service provider, Singtel. Out of the box, I put in my SIM card, quickly configured activesync, and BAM! my contacts came in over the air. Even before I paid for it my contacts are ready for use. That was one proud geek moment :D. But when I got home, did a restore from my 3G backup, I reverted back to sync via iTunes instead.

So, in conclusion, syncing of your iPhone contacts with Google has 2 methods. You just need to pick the option most suitable for you. If all your contacts have very minimal numbers and email address, and you have a mobile data plan, go with over-the-air. Otherwise, sync via iTunes should be preferred. At when during moments where you’ve lost your contacts somehow, or you’ve picked up a new iPhone, you can turn on activesync until you can get back to your computer to sync.