I want to start this off by thanking the folks at CodeTwo for an absolutely elegant solution to the overly complex disaster area in the making for users of Apple’s iCloud solution to sync between iDevices and Microsoft Outlook. My tale of “Fear and Loathing in Sync City” follows.
I had been using MobileMe with Outlook 2010 for over a year. While Contacts synced between MobileMe and my PST file, MobileMe created its own Calendar, necessitating a kludgy manual process of copying items between thee Calendar in my PST file and the cloud based MobileMe calendar. While you can use MobileMe on its own as your Outlook Calendar, full functionality in Outlook (Outlook Today) other integration is missing. So I religiously copied calendar items back and forth. It was a real mess accepting appointments/meetings since after copying to MobileMe from Outlook, the originator received another confusing acceptance (which was non suppressible).
Apple had been sending gloom and doom reminders about the eminent demise of MobileMe and I was dreading the move from MobileMe to iCloud for a lot of reasons, but was particularly unhappy about the addition of another set of Contacts in a Cloud based folder and losing the ability to sync Contacts with my local PST file. I couldn’t accept another set of manual work arounds to keep things in sync so I procrastinated and ignored the invitations to move to iCloud.
I was even more apprehensive after checking fellow MVP Diane Poremsky’s assessment at http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/icloud-and-outlook-problems/ Diane further documents the issues at http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/icloud-outlook-problems-syncing-calendar/ and http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/icloud-outlook-problems-syncing-contacts/ – and on the bottom of the contacts sync problem page, there was a section of tools and a link to http://www.codetwo.com/sync-for-icloud/
Diane has a stellar reputation for only highlighting tools and procedures that work, so I didn’t feel the need to research the add-in or the company behind it, CodeTwo, aggressively. Upon visiting CodeTwo’s web site, it was obvious that they were a class act with a well designed site that included great documentation, videos, descriptions, and support links.
I really wondered if I was dreaming and if a simple elegant tool could solve the potential horror of Apple’s flawed implementation. Realizing that sooner or later I would have to move from MobileMe (the devil I knew) to iCloud (the devil I didn’t yet know), I decided sooner rather than later was the best approach (hopeful that I would beat the rush at the end of June when everyone left on MobileMe would apparently be forced to migrate).
I first made several backups of my PST files and stored them in various places. Then I exported my Calendar, Contacts, Notes, etc. to individual PST files and made copies of those in various places. That might have been overkill, but it made me feel better.
Surprisingly, the actual migration from MobileMe to iCloud was relatively painless. I did hold my breath while I watched Contacts disappear from my iPad (but they reappeared rapidly when the migration was completed). Migration was uneventful on my iPhone as well. I slowly exhaled as I started up Outlook. I saw the MobileMe calendar disappear and I saw the new iCloud calendar appear. And I verified I had my original Contacts and the new iCloud based contacts.
I then installed CodeTwo’s iCloud Sync. Configuration was as simple as documented and I set up two way sync. I ran a couple of tests from my iPad, iPhone and from Outlook and was (and still am) amazed at how seamless this sync up is. CodeTwo has a large number of screen shots and videos on their site, and I encourage readers to take a look. The between an entry in a local PST file and iCloud is in real time.
I literally finished typing Meet Ellen for Breakfast in the local PST based Calendar when iCloud Sync copied it to the Outlook Calendar stored in iCloud. I immediately checked my iPad and iPhone and the new appointment appeared there as well. CodeTwo documents that sync between Outlook and iCloud on devices depends on connection speed, etc., but in my experience, these devices are syncing nearly in real time.
I’m impressed. And I’m happy. I’ve got two more Windows 7 OS based computers to add to the mix and I’ll wait a while longer before attacking that. For now, I’ve got my main Windows PC and iCloud sync under my control, thanks to CodeTwo’s iCloud Sync.
Sort of. Thanks to Splashtop streamer and the iPad mobile client.
I was a little frustrated as all my existing RDP clients on my iPad (Logmein, VNC RDP, etc. would only show me a black desktop). I ask the Splashtop folks via Twitter if their product ($4.99 in the app store, at least for now) would work with Windows 8 and received a “yes”.
So, now I am up and running with Windows 8 on an iPad. Still experimenting, but at least I can see the Metro desktop and navigate.
I’ve recently written 5 posts about "do it yourself home security". Another piece of the puzzle I wanted to solve involved home automation, both for security and convenience. I’ve had some X10 lighting controls here for a while, but X10 is not 100% reliable and integration with a home network involves expensive third party software.
So I started looking around and doing some research on the other technologies like Z-Wave, UPB, Insteon, etc. One of the biggest issues I had with X10 (and Homeplug) was that I reside in a multi electric phase home where it was nearly impossible to send signals through home wiring (even when filtering power strips and UPS units were removed). Insteon had some interesting capabilities with dual band (RF and home wiring), phase coupler/access points and had some reasonably priced hardware. Another plus was that there are a few iPxxx free apps available to control Insteon enabled devices, both while at home and while away from home. I spent a fair amount of time at the Smarthome website deciding which components to order.
I ended up with an Insteon system that included a network control module, two access point/phase couplers, and several lamp/appliance control modules. I have web browser access for complete control from anywhere in the world, and I can set a schedule to turn lights on and off for security or convenience. I can dim lights for home theater use, and I can turn devices on and off from my iPxx devices from anywhere.
That comes in handy when I arrive home after dark, have armfuls of groceries and no spare hands or light switches. I simply turn on some lights from the car.
I’ll be adding a couple of posts his week with the details of the equipment and configuration.
In Part 3, I wrote about setting up dynamic DNS and port forwarding for my cameras and desktop controller as well as authentication for all exposed web servers. Once this is set up properly, camera output can be viewed in real time, any time I want to check in on what’s happening chez moi. If I were to get a motion detection email alert, I could immediately recheck camera output from all my cameras.
The Blue Iris web controller Windows software that I selected is viewable from any web browser. It detects mobile use and presents an iPxxx interface when I access it from my iPhone or iPad. I’ve added the URL to my bookmarks and to my Home screen on my iPxxx devices. Here is what I see from my iPad after I enter the proper credentials (since authentication was set up):
I can select an individual camera from the drop down menu or just tap a camera to see a larger view.
I added a bookmark for the Blue Iris web server and also added it to my iPad and iPhone Home Screens for easy and fast access.
If you’ve landed here on an iPad or iPhone (and I hope you like the experience) you may be wondering about the new and neat touch experience. Onswipe now powers this blog for iOS visitors. This is a different Onswipe experience than the WordPress plugin released a while back that can be activated for wordpress.com users and installed as a plugin on self hosted WordPress blogs. I’m using a much fuller publishing platform with more user customizable options.
If you are not using an iOS device, the image above shows how the site is displayed on an iPad.