Google Mail, Calendars and Apple iPhone

A while back I wrote about a neat little app called NuevaSync which pretty much handled all that was needed to get iCal, Google Calendars and mail working seamlessly together. Today I want to share a different way of doing things.

It all started when NuevaSync wanted to charge money. I decided I didn’t want an account and started looking at alternatives. For a long time now I have been running my email through Google servers, and setting up an ‘MX’ record with my domain hosting company to send all company mail through GMail. This is brilliant – I get a domain based email address with all the power of Gmail behind it… and I can collect mail through IMAP on my phone, laptop, desktop or through a web browser. Lovely.

However, calendars have always been a bit of a problem. Until recently, NuevaSync took the hard work out of things, but I needed a new way of doing things.

When you use an iPhone to collect mail and link to calendars you have to add an account to the device. It is superbly easy to just go with the ‘Google’ option as it is already pre-defined and all you do is enter your username and password. It works a treat, but there are some drawbacks – for example, when you want to delete mail it only allows you to archive it instead. Calendars only gave you one main calendar, and I run several. SO what to do?

First of all, *don’t* set ‘Google’ as the new account. I choose the ‘Other’ option and fill in the details manually. It’s pretty simple stuff, but it only gives me Mail and Notes. In order to add a calendar I have to go through the same process a second time but select calendar account as the option. Apart from that small inconvenience, everything works really well.

I can now get my calendar through the iCal app on my phone or laptop, collect email through the mail app on either device, or of course use any computer and connect through the web.

Adding events on any device pushes them to all others within a few minutes, and as you’d expect, editing and deleting are just as easy.

So, no need for NuevaSync anymore… it’s all built right in.

iPhone and Google calendars, sync Google and iPhone, Nuevasync

It is really not pleasant when you read that your iPhone will sync with Google calendars, and that iPhone software version 3.0 will allow you to have up o 25 calendars at a time, to find out that it actually doesn’t work as you think it might.

The instructions from our friends at Google are simple enough – use MS Exchange, add in your account details and you are good to go… but must first enable mobile devices in your Google dashboard (obviously this doesn’t apply to a personal Google account, only a business or academic one). In the instructions it lovingly tells you all will be well, but doesn’t mention what to do if all is decidedly unwell.

Every time I have tried to do this, I have managed to get my main default calendar only. It doesn’t matter if it is iPhone 2.0 or 3.0… still the same. And still the frustration mounts!

Having upgraded to version 3.0 today, I was fired up and ready to try a final time. Not easily put off when facing defeat, I tried for three hours, all to no avail. What a waste of time. I then read some other blogs and came across a third party service – – and since it is free, decided to try it.

Lo and behold, after typing in the right details to Nuevasync, my iPhone shows ALL of my calendars, not just the general one. Glory be!

Now, if Nuevasync can do this, I’m pretty sure it is possible for Google to do it. I don’t see why we need a third party in the loop here, but for goodness sake, nobody let Nuevasync go out of business!

I now get to see all of my calendars in iCal on my phone, can add events and they sync to the main google calendar, add others, and have others add to my diary (yup, it’s a preference setting for work based calendars)… it ALL works as it should.

If you are as frustrated as I was, go to the Nuevasync web site, sign up for a free account and edit the settings. You’ll be running in about three minutes where before you were plodding.

Just be a little careful with your contacts and email though – if you enable these through Nuevasync, you *will* lose everything off your phone when the first sync happens. Be sure that you have got everything you need backed up, or in Google… or both!

Bluetooth pairing for car and iPhone, Audi GSM phone system

It was with some amusement recently that I found out I could pair my iPhone with my car, given that the dealership had sold me a cradle for my old phone when I bought the car some years back. In fact, Bluetooth pairing had only ever been a few seconds away, despite the cost of a cradle, which only fitted one phone and therefore ensured I didn’t upgrade that phone!

It turns out that in the Audi system at least, Bluetooth is built in to the system if you have got a dash mounted GSM preparation, or a centre armrest version… as long as you buy the car with GSM phone preparation, it should work.

All you do to get your iPhone connected is switch bluetooth on and let it look for devices. The Audi appears in the list very quickly, and you enter the default password (1234 in most cases). Once done the phone will work through the phone system, allowing you to make and receive calls hands free and with no need for cables or cradles.

There is a delay in the system copying your phone book to the car, and in my case with over 400 entries it took simply ages – I believe three days went by before it finally completed. Voice dialling and voice control is not activated which is no big loss; the Audi system is pretty unreliable if you are driving at anything like normal speeds as it mis-hears almost everything you say. Using a multi-function wheel you can easily scroll through your contacts (which get displayed in your driver’s information panel in the centre of your dashboard) and make the call that you need. When the phone rings with an incoming call you simply press a button to answer it.

It couldn’t be simpler… but it took three years to find and only then through a chance conversation with the salesman who got my new car sorted (Stansted Audi, name of Bert Wildman).

I wish I had known before. In short, don’t buy a cradle unless you crave voice dialling features, use bluetooth instead.

BETT show 2009

Cleveratom at BETT 09
Cleveratom at BETT 09

Cleveratom will once again be attending the BETT show, partnering with City College Norwich in the new technologes zone, on stands U120 and U130.

This year we will be showcasing some tools we have developed:

  • Thought Park – a superb new learning platform built entirely to support social constructivist learning. It is being used in Primary schools and secondary schools, supporting the roll out of the new Diplomas. It is also the engine underneath the excellent ‘’ software that City College students will be using at the show.
  • Spoke – an innovative tool for engaging people in dialogue online. At it’s most simple it is a questionnaire tool but it is able to be much more than that. You can create any scenario that you want to find information out about and invite anyone to participate. It is currently being used in Primary schools and secondary schools to support Personalised Learning, and in secondary schools to engage pupils in self and peer assessment. It is also being used as a target setting and self assessment tool. One size fits all? Not anymore!

Ask us also about ‘Mobistick’ which is a lovely web based system for collecting SMS messages from anyone. Simply provide the number and invite people to text and you can collect feedback no matter where you are or what you are doing. It also allows you to run simple polls too. We use it when presenting at conferences to allow the audience to ask a question or make a comment. It is also used by schools to engag parents in dialogue, and by conference centres to provide as a service for their clients.

We’ll be delighted to talk about any of these, and much more besides, but you can find out more by going to the cleveratom website. I am pleased to say I will be working with Stephen Heppell once again, giving presentations on his stand in the main hall, and I hope that this show will be the busiest yet. It is likely to be the last at Olympia, too… or so the rumours go. It is all moving to Docklands if we are to believe the whispers!

In the mean time, see you at Olympia – click this link and it will take you to our online Christmas card and a couple of images of the new stand so you know what you are looking for when you get there!

Google voice search for iPhone

picture of iPhone
picture of iPhone

Google have recently released the voice search application for the iPhone as a free download from the app store (for you non-iPhone users, this is a place where you go to get the latest applications and games… lots of them free, including this one). The promotional video is quite exciting to watch, and the results are simply stunning. Imagine – you speak a search term into the Google search engine and it responds in seconds flat to give you a location aware set of results. Search for films and you get cinema listings for your location. Search for conversions from farenheit to centigrade, and once again the power of Google leaps into action to deliver almost instantaneous results.

So how does it work in practice for those of us not blessed with a North American accent? In a word, poorly!

Ok, to be fair, I am keeping my voice down and probably not speaking too clearly, but even so I searched for ‘Hal MacLean’ three times, and only one returned anything close to what I said. Mostly I get things like ‘how to clean’, ‘How McCain’, ‘Al Mclean’ (the closest), ‘Harold Mclain’ (arguably closer still), ‘How Much Rain’ and goodness knows how many other variations. What I didn’t get, not even once, was the correct results returned. I even tried in an American accent, and Australian, too. Neither seemed to work.

So I tried other people, including Matthew Eaves to get equally odd results (mac tv, macky’s dc, etc).

Not that I am disappointed in any of this.

In fact I rather enjoy using it for the fun it gives, but more importantly for all of the other apps it comes bundled with, including Mail, Calendar, Docs (you can only read, not write them or edit those you have started), RSS Reader, News, Notebook, Photos, Translate, Maps (why??), You Tube (again… why?) and Earth (I say yet again… why…?)

Apart from the fact that the last apps already exist on the phone, and some hae limited functionality, this is a fun collection to have access too.

The only thing I’d say is that you either need to have a north american friend on hand to speak the search terms (I’ve yet to find anyone willing to test this), or you have to accept that you’ll get some wild results and chuckle at what turns up. Just don’t rely on it finding what you want without reverting to typing out the query! I expect in time that this will get more and more refined, and I for one would find it really useful if it worked! C’mon Google… you can do it!