Trouble with Dates

I’ve been wanting to try and take advantage of the iCal program that is part of Mac OS X. My minimal calendaring needs were met in the past by simply using the calendar that is part of Microsoft’s Outlook mail program. Given that I’m minimizing use of that program, plus the ready availability of iCal, it seemed that a change was in order.

One of my key requirements is that I be able to share my calendar, via the web, and ideally be able to edit it with clients other than my Mac; say, using the Mozilla calendar.

So, late last night I found, installed and configured PHP iCalendar. This program nicely displays .ics calendar files, in all the standard views one would expect of a calendar program. Now I needed to look into how to get my .ics files to the server where I plan to host my calendar.

The first bad news came when I realized that despite claims of easy web publishing, iCal is limited to either a paid, Apple sponsored .mac service or to a webdav enabled web site. I can ftp to my web site, but I can’t webdav. Oh well, I’ll export the contents and then ftp the calendar file, in standard ics format, up to my web server.

So at this point things are looking pretty good. Small problem of having to manually export (vs. auto publish) my calendar, but I can automate publishing to my ISP using scheduled rsync or ftp/scp or perhaps using an Applescript action to automatically do the update when a calender is modified. But that can wait; let’s try to see how this solution plays with the Mozilla calendar.

First hitch: the calendar isn’t installed as a standard part of Mozilla. I found a mac version and it installed cleanly. After that I had little trouble configuring the calendar to access my phpcalendar service. I could both download current events as well as upload newly created events. Todo items could be added or marked complete, and all seemed to be working well.

Then it all fell apart. And, why am I surprised? The bundled Apple apps are simply not at the feature level of competing solutions from vendors dedicated to a particular problem space. The new safari, while fine to use, suffers from incomplete cookie handling compared to moz, plus an inability to save a group of tabs as one bookmark. The email program doesn’t measure up to moz either. iPhoto won’t handle my 30+Gbs of images. And so on. Well, I suspect iCal is similarly limited.

Now, having used mozcal to modify the calendar that iCal created, I now wanted to integrate those changes back into iCal. How to do that? First, let’s subscribe to the calendar remotely. Oh oh, can’t connect via ftp; only http will do. That means that w/out webdav access, editing will be out. Still, I suppose I could edit in the local copy and via my sync process have it show up in the remote copy. A tad awkward, but likely usable.

To make a long story short, it doesn’t work. Once a calendar has been modified bythe mozilla calendar program, iCal can no longer see the changes. I found a discussion on this topic which bears out my findings. Seems iCal isn’t quite capable of handling different, but RFC-compliant isc formats (such as mozcal emits).

So, for now I’ll just stick with Mozilla’s calendar and the phpiCal service. They work well together and hopefully a new version of Apple’s iCal will solve this incompatibility problem. I’ll still have to figure out how to edit from both mozcal and iCal, but that’s for another day.