Switching to Linux Day 4: Syncing Outlook to gCalendar

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Back to work today.

Over the past 2 days, I’ve established this laptop’s pwnage as a gaming machine (it pwns). But how does it, and more importantly, how does Linux hold up in an environment that has been more or less the domain of Microsoft (the office workplace)?

Pretty well, actually.

Today, I got my laptop’s calendar sync’d up with my Outlook calendar on my desktop. Check it:screenshot

This involved two steps, and uses gCalendar as an intermediary.

  1. Collect underp—  I mean link Evolution Calendar (Linux native) to gCal (easy!)
  2. Install Google’s Outlook/gCal sync software
  3. Profit!

In more detail, along with instructions on getting onto a VPN,

Step 1: Collect Underpants

Linking the Evolution Calendar to google’s Calendar app was surprisingly easy. I googled “sync ubuntu evolution with google calendar” and found this site. His instructions may be a little antiquated because I had to adjust them slightly.

calendarSo first you need to get your iCal link from google calendar. Log into google calendar, locate your gmail address under “My Calendars” and click on the little down-arrow next to it. (In my example here, it’s the magenta-shaded one) This will pop-up a small list; select “Calendar Settings”.

calendar-2On the next screen, scroll all the way down to the bottom until you see different calendar formats listed.

Right click on “iCal” and click “Copy link location”. (In my screen cap inset, it is the green option in the “Private Address” block). This link contains the direct URL for your calendar’s iCal plugin. (I’m not a Mac user, but I think Mac users can sync their own iCalendar with gCalendar this way.)

Now, you’re one shell command away. Open up a terminal window and type:

/usr/lib/evolution-webcal/evolution-webcal PASTE_YOUR_URL_HERE

(Bryan’s original instructions had that command in a different location — this was where it was on my system. If that command does not work for you and you know you have Evolution installed, type: “locate evolution-webcal” in a terminal window, and look for the most likely candidate.)

That’s it! Evolution will popup a brief question or two to customize the time-zone of it and how often to update it, but you’re done!

Step 2: ??????

This was the tricky part. I found a couple companies that offer services for linking up your Outlook and gCalendars, but they were questionable (one of them cost money). I finally found code written by The Google itself called Google Calendar Sync. It’s free, it’s small, and it doesn’t tie you to any company (anymore than Google already owns your soul, of course).

Download that, install it on your computer that has outlook (or alternately, on ALL computers that you run outlook on!), and answer a couple brief questions. You’ll have to provide it with your account credentials for Google apps, but since the code was developed by Google, I wouldn’t think you need to worry there. I have both Evolution and Outlook sync’ing every 60 minutes with gCal, “2-way” (meaning they get and put events onto gCal).

After doing that, I did a forced-sync on my office computer by right-clicking on the gCal icon in my system-tray and selecting “Sync.” It took about 2 minutes for it to upload all the details of my 140+ calendar events (upcoming ones only, fortunately). Within 5 minutes, Escherichia (the laptop) already showed bolded numbers for the days that have appointments. Expanding the “Appointments” title showed me the details of those appointments. Awesome!

Step 3: Profit!

So now, every time I add new appointments to my Outlook calendar at work, they will automatically synchronize with Escherichia, provided it is online.

VPN Connection

Another surprisingly easy feature.

First off, I had already installed the “VPN Connection Manager (PPP Generic)” via Add/Remove…, (found by searching “VPN” in the “Internet” category, and then selecting the highest-popularity item that looked like what I wanted — 4-stars in this case).

To connect to the VPN, I first selected the IUE Wireless connection from my connection manager. Once that synchronized and went active, I clicked on the Connection Manager again and looked at the “VPN Connections” item, selecting “Configure VPN…”. The next screen looked a little scary (as in: there was lots of stuff on there a layperson would probably stare blankly at), but all I needed to enter was “vpn.iue.edu” for the VPN host. (I asked one of our IT guys for that address — YMMV)

Once that was configured, I clicked back in there and selected “IUE VPN” from the VPN list. It prompted me for my account credentials, I put them in and clicked ok, and I’m on!

Super-awesome!

I haven’t set up a VPN connection in Windows before, but I can’t imagine it’s any easier than this was.

Other News

I took one of our cars in to the mechanic today and it’s not economically reparable; among the many things that need fixed include three big ones: rear-breaks need to be replaced completely (Rotors and Pads), the power-steering line is leaky (the reason I took it in in the first place), and the turn signals aren’t working. Those three things alone will cost ~$800 to fix. Everything altogether would cost $2193 to fix. 🙁

We’re just going  to sell it to the mechanic for a small sum, he’ll strip out the parts he needs and sell the rest off for scrap. It’s about 16 years old, so this isn’t a HUGE surprise.

So tomorrow I will be biking to work, unless it rains. In some ways, I guess this is a good thing — I finally have enough impetus to make this switch. We will probably get another car eventually, but probably not until this fall at the earliest.

0 Responses

  1. Dan Sanger

    The underpants Gnomes would be pleased.

  2. I too have been amazed at how easy VPN connections are to set up in the newer versions of Ubuntu.

    I’ve tried doing the whole linking gCal (which owns my life) to evolution, but eventually just went back to using the run of the mill gCal web interface. I do use Gnome-Do for quickly adding items to my calendar, and sometimes use Prism to just leave a copy of it open on a secondary desktop.

    Good luck with transitioning to one less car. Last summer our second car died and I began bike commuting regularly, or car sharing with my wife (especially during the winter months.) It’s a challenge but thankfully Richmond is small enough that getting around by bike isn’t impossible. We started off thinking we’d get another car, and we still might some day, but at this point we’ve gotten pretty comfortable with being a one car household.

  3. gCal desktop integration was SUPER easy — if you use it that much, there’s no reason NOT to do it, IMHO. It’s mighty convenient.

    I just grabbed gnome-do — thatnks for the headsup! any way to bind it to a keyboard a la keyboard shortcuts?

    We kind of new this day would come, I was just hoping to make it through the summer so we can get a slightly bigger cash reserve saved up. But I’ve been meaning to start biking again ANYWAYS so perhaps this is a good opportunity to start!

  4. Gnome do should default to to pull it up, and is _usually_ mapped to the Windows key, although with a linux-specific laptop you might not have one! I ran into a similar problem, since my win-key is awkwardly placed, so I’ve got it mapped to . If you go to preferences, then to the keyboard tab you’ll see where you can re-map it.

  5. Hmm… I’ve already got my “Super” (windows) key mapped to the applications menu.

    Is there a way I can change that to a different key?

  6. Ahhhh … I had included in my previous comment that I had re-mapped to “ctrl+alt+space” instead of “super+space”. I now realize that it seems I’m somewhat of a doofus though, because the way I had designated those keys probably just got mistaken for HTML code by wordpress … oops!

    If you go to the gnome-do preferences, then to the keyboard tab you’ll see where you can re-map it. Just double-click on the existing super+space shortcut and you should be able to remap it to any key combo you like.

    I’ve gotten rather addicted to gnome-do’s easy application launching and file finding – I hardly ever use the applications menu or nautilus any more.

  7. […] if you recall, we’ve discussed before about linking the Evolution calendar to Google Calendar. That was my original intent, but in the back of my mind I recalled that gMail has recently made […]