Apple forces bad user experience on Funambol

I installed Funambol on an iOS device to test it and all went well… until I tried to sync the pictures. I was greeted with the request to allow Funambol to access my location, request that I promptly denied. Why on the planet would Funambol want to know where I am? Smelling that Apple may have to do with this, I asked Funambol developers who confirmed that this is due to the nature of the ALAsset API from Apple.  Apparently I’m not the only one to think that iOS ALAssetsLibrary is broken.

What is broken is not only the user experience, but also the bad habit that Apple is spreading: users should pay attention to the permissions they grant to apps and deny to run those that make unreasonable requests. Mobile phones are computers and everybody should keep in mind that apps have access to personal data stored on the phone. Everybody should check that apps have permission only to access the minimum necessary to operate. Are you installing an app to sync addressbook and pictures? The app should ask permission to read/write addressbook and pictures. Not to read location!

How to configure Funambol synchronization on Meego 1.2 tablets

Once you get a new device, the first thing to do is to put it into a usable state by transferring the addressbook and calendar. This is the bare minimum, followed by bookmarks and passwords (Meego people: please, put Firefox on Meego, instead of Chromium).

While there is a Sync application in Meego, powered by syncevolution, the user interface doesn’t allow to configure Funambol or a custom server. You can still do it from command line though. Here is how:

start the terminal application and enter the following (as user!):

$ syncevolution –configure –sync-property “username=123456” –sync-property “password=!@#ABcd1234” funambol

Put your username and password, of course and if you don’t have one, get it now for free on my.funambol.com. That’s it, you can run the first sync:

$ syncevolution –sync refresh-from-server funambol addressbook calendar

That’s it. Contacts and calendar are now on my tablet. The email client still needs lots of work but it seems to be doing the bare minumum.

I’m not sure it’s possible and how to sync notes/todo. Any suggestion?

More details about configuring syncevolution.

It’s time to change

My adventure with Funambol ended. Since January 2008 I’ve been working with an amazing company managing an amazing community. I’m proud to have helped the company increase its download number about 30% every quarter and also am glad to have seen the number of active servers skyrocket. I’m glad to have contributed back to the community with some money with the Funambol sniper programs. I’ve immersed and learned a lot about the mobile world, understanding the challenges that the free software community faces in this environment. I made new friends and I’ve enjoyed every day here.

There are things that I wish I’ve done differently or pushed more aggressively to be done, but so is life: I learned from the mistakes and I definitely feel good about all I did. Now it’s time to change. So long, Funambol and good luck to all.

Getting Funambol 8.5 on Ubuntu Lucid LTS

Ubuntu4.10 and Funambol running in VirtualBox
Ubuntu 10.04 and Funambol running in a VirtualBox

I wanted to make sure that newest Ubuntu 10.04 being a Long Time Support one would be capable of running the newest Funambol DS Server version 8.5. I can confirm: not a problem there. I downloaded the 32bit .bin package from Funambol Forge, issued the install command with sudo sh funambol-8.5.0.bin and I was ready to sync with Gnome Evolution and my Nokia E71 in a breeze.  While I was at it, I have created a VirtualBox appliance that you can download and use for an even faster test drive (username: funambol, password: fun2test). It’s a massive 1.3gb download: if you find it useful, I may use some help to make a torrent file. Since this virtual appliance doesn’t have an X server, you need to run the Funambol Admin Tool (for  Windows or GNU/Linux) from your desktop machine. Have fun.

How To Read Open Document Format ODF documents on Symbian

My previous post on the topic generated quite a discussion about Open Document Format (aka ISO 26300) documents on mobile platforms. My argument was that ODF support on most mobile platforms is still poor compared to the proprietary counterparts. From the discussion that happened on identi.ca I learned about a quite decent Symbian reader for ODF files, called Office Reader. I tested it using Funambol email push and sync client on my Nokia E71 and the results are quite good. You can see from the screenshots below (taken from a pretty complex ODT test file) that the text rendered correctly.  I’m confident that I would be able to get an idea of the attached document and, if it was a press release, for example, I think I would OfficeReader would present enough information to approve it or not. This is the  if you want to compare to the mobile version. I’ve tested also a couple of ODP presentations and spreadsheets: they are rendered good enough to get an idea of what kind of document it is, but not as well as the text file.

I downloaded and installed OfficeReader directly from the phone’s browser, but of course all other options are valid. Check the FAQ if you can’t install or run it (I had to allow your phone’s operating system to run unsigned apps).

PS I took the screenshots with the free software Screenshot application (GPL license but the install screen says ‘freeware -not to be sold’ ?!?).

It’s all about Contacts: who do you know?

When it comes to doing anything, finding a job, an apartment or a used car, what counts most is who you know. In the old times it was the size of your rolodex, now it’s the size of you digital addressbook. Being so powerful, it’s no wonder that everybody out there wants it: Facebook, Plaxo, Vodafone, AT&T … all want YOUR addressbook because who you know says a lot about who you are, what you like. Also the FBI likes to know that 🙂

It’s good to notice the quantity of efforts from the free software community revolving around your social capital. After my disappointment with the pretty lame addressbook in Thunderbird 3, I was amazed to learn about MozillaLabs Contacts. It’s a Firefox extension that makes the browser aware of your online contacts and friend lists. Why should you care? Because your addressbook is yours and you shouldn’t be sharing it with everybody only to invite them to join yet-another-social-networking-site. As Michael Hanson puts it in his blog post

This information is also special, because it represents the boundary between “my data” and “your privacy”. When you disclose your friends’ email addresses on a website (maybe you want to invite them to a cool new site you just joined), you are trusting the website to keep that address private. […] The disclosure of your friends’ contact information is an important step: we think you should be in control of it.

Contacts also uses the Portable Contacts definition internally. I aggregate and keep all my contacts in sync with Funambol, so I’m thinking that the best way for me to use Contacts would be if I could have it grab the addressbook from Funambol server. How hard would it be to add a Portable Contacts representation of the contacts stored in Funambol? If anybody is interested, I can sponsor the investigation of the issue and the development with Code Sniper grants.