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Author: Rick Moen
To: dng
Subject: Re: [DNG] calendars, contacts, to do lists
Quoting Hendrik Boom (hendrik@???):

> Radicale does look good.
> The one thing I haven't found is sync with Google calendar. It's
> mentioned over and over that Google doesn't talk CalDAV.
> Unfortunately the others I have to coordinate events with use
> Google calendar.

I understand. It's a genuine, real-world problem. I am not sure
offhand what the best solution to that is.

Possibly funny story: A couple of years ago, a guy on Steve Litt's LUG
discussion mailing list in central Florida (GoLUG) posted suggesting
that GoLUG maintain online calendar information about GoLUG's recurring
events, basically requesting that everyone's favourite workman,
somebody-but-not-me, provide that online service for him.

I've been around the block enough (er, Americanism for 'have enough
experience of the way the world works') that I was able to guess what he
_really_ meant, which is not what the request stated. He really wanted
GoLUG, i.e., somebody-but-not-me, to please maintain a subscribable
event calendar on Google Calendar.

Even though I correctly guessed the (unvoiced) qualifier, I decided it
was _much_ more worthwile to answer the question he asked, rather than
the one he meant. Since I'd been meaning to review the (historically
depressing) state of scheduling software (online as well as off, but
mainly online), I did a couple of days' work writing up pity
journalistic descriptions of the (mostly ghastly) software options,
starting with (variously horrible) groupware stuff. This was covered in
a series of mailing list postings to GoLUG's mailing list -- after which
I was pleased enough with the results to repost those with some extra
comments to Silicon Valley Linux User Group's main discussion list. In
the last couple of those, Radicale (and kin such as Baïkal) were heavily
featured -- with particular praise for how they produced highly superior
alternatives by _not trying to be the same as Google Calendar_.

That was what, in journalism jargon, was the 'through-line' of my
postings -- that, the reason scheduling software options on Linux were
so dreadful for so many years is... featuritis. The breakthrough
happened when a few people finally said 'Here's an idea: How about we
do only the parts of All That that really matter?' That's the main
reason Radicale (and, I'm sure, similar codebases) is utterly reliable,
_not_ a security basket-case, and literally able to support medium-heavy
traffic on a Raspberry Pi.

The legacy 'All That' problem, the featuritis, owed (of course) directly
to the harmful perception that feature-parity with either corporate-type
groupware or Google Calendar is a minimal requirement. Linux history is
litttered with variously unsatisfactory attempts to do that. In
particular, consider what's involved with Google Calendar: Users have
been convinced that the right client is a major HTML5 AJAX-capable Web
browser, and the right server is some mysterious, colossal, hosted,
proprietary engine run by Google. (The user is never in actual
posession of the user's data. Only Google has it -- by default.)

Implicit in that model is that all creation and editing of the
scheduling data is done via dynamic-HTML magic driven by Google's
mammoth Web server. And _that_ is the key thing that Radicale (and
similar)... dropped completely.

In the latter's model, no, you are _not_ outsourcing the creation of
your scheduling data to some strangers' software that you don't ever
have, don't have the least understanding of, and that never (by default)
leaves you in possession of your own data. (In fairness, it's totally
easy to tell Google Calendar to send you an iCalendar file for the
schedule you're interested in. But people on the whole never do. For
one thing, most people have no idea what can be done with an iCalendar
file except lob it onto Google Calendar (or stare at it in Mozilla
Lightning -- and _then_ lob it onto Google Calendar).

Radicale and kin network-store and mediate access to calendar/scheduling
and related data. They do not offer HTML-editor creation/editing of
any. They do not offer Web display of that data in nice pastels. And,
because they don't do those things, you can confortably run them on
Raspberry Pis. Brilliant.

People have gotten so used to Google Calendar that 95% of people's
reaction is: 'How is any of this possible without Web-editing stuff
hosted on Some Stranger's Web Site Running I Have No Idea What?'
4.99% say 'So... Mozilla Lightning, then?'

Maybe 0.01% know about any alternative. I don't know about much, myself,
to be honest. But I've at least considered the problem, and the first
place I'd look for an alternative to running the Lightning extension
installed inside Mozilla Thunderbird is: Orage. It's XFCE-derived...
but the dependency list is, on balance... OK.

Yeah, obscure to me, too. But have a look. Why it popped up from
specifically XFCE4 and AFAIK nobody else has something very comparable,
I really don't know. If you find out, please tell me. (Probably just
one dev somewhere decided to scratch an itch, and happened to say 'Let's
lean on a modest number of XFCE4 libs.')

I've been a fan of Mozilla Lightning since its early betwaare days and
was called Mozilla Sunbird, shipped as a XUL app hardired to a Mozilla
Gecko runtime engine. But, seriously, guys? Needing a whole
Gecko-based MUA (Mozilla Thunderbird) just to edit iCalendar files? The
world needs something more modest, and Orage is one such.

Anyway, I've done enough story-telling, so here are the links.
Predictably, the GoLUG guy had absolutely no comment, because the notion
of GoLUG hosting its own data on its own (RPi, even) scheduling server
was absolutely _not_ what he wanted, only what he'd requested.


(I admittedly flatter myself in calling that 'journalistic', given some
amount of mere link-salad within it, but I hope it will be of interest.)

Cheers,              "I am a member of a civilization (IAAMOAC).  Step back
Rick Moen            from anger.  Study how awful our ancestors had it, yet
rick@???  they struggled to get you here.  Repay them by appreciating
McQ! (4x80)          the civilization you inherited."           -- David Brin