Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Evolution – Synchronizing my iPaq

Yesterday I posted about moving away from Thunderbird in order to have a more integrated system for calendaring, e-mail, tasks and projects. One missing element was the ability to synchronize Evolution with my iPaq 3850. It was one of those experiments that I attempted over the last couple of years and which failed. However, I did gain some more experience with Linux and perhaps someone found a working solution. And there was someone. Jan Prinsloo wrote a solution for Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. That was the starting point for another attempt.

First, I needed to ‘translate’ the package requirements to Ubuntu Linux. In Synaptic I used the search phrases ‘synce’ and ‘multisync’. For synce I selected the following packages:


For multisync it boiled down to:


After that I plugged in the iPaq with a USB cable (you can use the cradle, of course). On the commandline I used

$ dmesg

to see where the device was connected. In my case it was ttyUSB0.

Setting up the device
From here I followed Jan Prinsloo’s instructions. First, I entered the following on the commandline:

$ sudo synce-serial-config ttyUSB0

In a second console I entered, as regular user:

$ dccm

Then, going back to the first console (though it isn’t really necessary):

$ sudo synce-serial-start

The next suggestion was to use ‘pstatus’ to find information about the device, but that instruction didn’t work.

The next step was to enter:

$sudo synce-matchmaker create

I got a message that a dependency was not met and a question whether I wanted to fix it. Another problem solved. Once it worked matchmaker told me there were no free partnership slots on the iPaq, as both had been in use with Windows boxes before. I then attempted:

$ sudo synce-matchmaker

which resulted in a brief overview of alternate instructions instead of ‘create’ (‘status’ and ‘replace’). With this it was easy to replace one of the two slots with a new partnership:

$sudo synce-matchmaker replace 2

Setting up synchronization
Multisync was the next stop in the experiment. By clicking on “New” you can create a new synchronization pair. There are two plugins I needed to set:

    (1) Ximian Evolution 2
    (2) SynCE plugin

The first plugin allows to select which items need to be synchronized (Calendar, Adressbook and Tasks). And then ….. (drumroll)….. it was time to click “Sync”. It worked, it really, totally worked. The Evolution calendar was filled with all the appointments on my iPaq.

Is it really working?
One of the things I did learn over the years is not to get excited too soon. Will it continue working after a first succesful run? Will it really synchronize my appointments that I enter on the PDA and/or in the desktop calendar?

I went back to the PDA and opened my default program for my appointments. I use Pocket Informant 2007 because it is more feature rich than the default Outlook-derivative. Pocket Informant was still there, but all my appointments were gone. Nothing left. And the program had become unbearably slow. Was I screwed? Just to be sure I fired up Pocket Outlook and all appointments were there. Weird. As far as I know, Pocket Informant is simply a shell around the default Pocket Outlook databases.

The second problem was keeping all appointments synchronized. After playing a couple of hours with new and old appointments I don’t have a 100% score yet. I could nail it down to a few causes:

    (1) items entered in Evolution with categories will not be synchronized with the PDA, and
    (2) items entered with additional notes will also not be synchronized.

At least, not all of them. Just something I need to keep a close eye on.

Connecting the device always requires two commandline instructions:

    (1) $ sudo synce-serial-start
    (2) $ dccm

This isn’t the most userfriendly solution, but not really complicated as well. I connected and disconnected the iPaq multiple times and experienced no problems whatsoever. All my Pidgin contacts (that were imported in Evolution) are now part of the contacts list on the PDA.

In conclusion, it is possible to connect an iPaq (Windows Mobile 2003) with your Ubuntu Linux box, but you shouldn’t be afraid for some commandline steps. Synchronization isn’t perfect, but the simpler the entries in your calendar, the less risk you have of ‘loosing’ appointments.


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3 thoughts on “Evolution – Synchronizing my iPaq

  1. Pingback: Evolution - Moving away from Thunderbird | Ruminations on the Digital Realm

  2. Vandenbroucke Jean-Pierre on said:

    Beste Jan,

    Ben nieuwkomer bij Ubuntu.

    Onlangs overgestapt van Windows Vista naar Ubuntu (9.04 – jaunty). Alles werkt naar behoren. Nu ben ik wel geconfronteerd met problemen bij het synchroniseren van mijn iPAQ hx2110 (Windows CE 5.0) met mijn PC (Ubuntu). Na heel wat zoekwerk ben ik bij je site beland en probeer je instructies op te volgen.

    Evenwel kan ik het pakket synce-dccm niet vinden in Synaptics.

    Heb je enig idee hoe dit komt?


  3. Hoi Jean-Pierre,

    Je hebt gelijk, synce-dccm zelf staat niet meer in de repositories. Wat ik wel zie is odccm:

    odccm is a dccm-implementation for Windows Mobile devices. It responds to keep alives and provides other members of the SynCE
    suite of tools with details of the connected device.

    Zo te zien vervult het dezelfde functie als dccm. Ik zou het zelf wel willen testen maar mijn iPaq is ondertussen al vervangen door een andere PDA.



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