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Transferring data from Palm Desktop to Thunderbird Lightning...

Posted 03-23-2010 at 10:11 AM by Lufbery

I have a Sony Clie PEG T-415 PDA that I've used for years -- probably since 2001 or 2002. It still works perfectly, so I have no plans to retire it. The Clie is a Palm OS-based PDA. It uses Palm OS version 4.1 and came with Palm Desktop 4.0. I have since upgraded to Palm Desktop 4.1, but the differences between the versions are slight. The main point is that Palm Desktop is a great program and it is an indispensable adjunct to my Sony handheld.

The problem is that Palm Desktop is not just closed source, but also a closed system. It does not import or export calendar data in any sort of an open format -- and there are few Linux applications that can handle Palm Desktop native files. In particular, the Lightning calendar and task plug-in for Thunderbird will not import Palm files.

The perfect solution would be something like Apple's iCal application. It integrates seamlessly with the iPhone's calendar application, Google Calendar, and synthesizes the different calendars together. But for right now, iCal is only available on Macs, I don't have an iPhone (nor do I have plans to get one), I still really like my Sony, and Thunderbird with Lightening is really slick!

There are two final wrinkles: (1) I sync with Palm Desktop at work, and (2) my wife needs to work with the calendar too.

So I need a way to get data from my Palm-based handheld and Palm Desktop to Thunderbird and then share it with my wife.

First, there is apparently no easy way to sync between the handheld and, well, anything in Linux. Two programs show some promise in that regard, Jpilot and Korganizer. This web page (posted in Feb 2010) has some up-to-date information on syncing with those two programs.

However, I sync at work but want to copy the data to my home, Slackware, machines. So no syncing for me. Here's what I finally figured out:
  1. Install Jpilot from
  2. Export my calendar from Palm Desktop to a file.
  3. Import that file into Jpilot.
  4. Export it again as an .ics (icalendar) file.

At this point, I've got a complete calendar in an open file format that I can upload to Google Calendar, import to Korganizer, and/or import to Thunderbird. (Yay!)

I e-mailed the .ics file to my wife and she imported it into her Thunderbird/Lightening calendar too.

At this point we are all in sync.

But what happens when I or my wife add an event?

At this point I use Korganizer as the translator between Palm and Thunderbird.
  1. I have imported the full calendar into Korganizer
  2. When I add a new event in Palm Desktop, I save that even at a .vcs file and transfer it to my home machine.
  3. I import the .vcs file into Korganzier, which merges the new event with the existing calendar.
  4. I then export the whole, updated, calendar to an .ics file and import it into Thunderbird. Thunderbird will not import calendar items that are exactly the same as existing items, so only the new ones get imported.
  5. I then send an invitation to my wife for the new even through Thunderbird. When she accepts it, it is automatically added to her calendar.

This is a somewhat complicated process, but it takes less time to do than to read about it.

However, this is not the best overall solution for us. I'm looking into some different solutions.

I think the best solution would be to set up a local calendar server (running on the local host and sync with that. If I can set it up to sync with Google Calendar too, that would be great.

The important thing is that Jpilot is the perfect translation tool between Palm's closed format and the open ical format that everything else can use.

Stay tuned as a I dig more deeply into setting up a calendar server.
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  1. Old Comment
    I may be missing something, but I've read this a couple of times. I've seen no major issues syncing my palm TX to both my jpilot ('buntu) and my PD on Windoze. That being said, I'd suggest jpilot for both of your home machines with a twice daily rsync of your jpilot and hers. Then configure Jpilot to use T-bird for mail-to. No need for cloud calendar. Hope it helps.
    Posted 11-19-2010 at 06:35 PM by slingshotsuicide slingshotsuicide is offline


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