How to Integrate RIM Blackberry With Google Mail-Calendar-Contacts and Backup on GNU/Linux

[edit: 1/13/09, since this post is still popular I thought I would add an update.  Google sync now does contacts and calendar, there is no need for conjola sync.]

When I first got my Blackberry Curve 8330 I was a bit overwhelmed with integrating my google, desktop, and (now) mobile data into a useful whole.  Both my laptop and my desktop run Linux Mint 5, so RIM was of ZERO HELP in this endeavor.

My methodology was quite a bit different than what is listed below, here I only present the things that actually worked.

I am going to cover backing up to (and restoring from) Linux, syncing Calendar between the device and gcalendar–then syncing gcal with the desktop, setting up and syncing contacts with Gmail, and give some of my take on the Blackberry Curve.

Once a Micro SD card is inserted, my distro auto mounts it as a USB storage device.  Then I headed over to sourceforge’s Barry project to grab three packages.  (The sources are at the top, scroll down for distribution specific packages.)  The three packages you want are barrybackup-gui, barry-util, and libbarry.  (There is also a libopensync-plugin, but I could not get it to sync with Evolution.)  Get these installed then continue.

Plug in the Blackberry and from a terminal type: “barrybackup”

This opens a simple window with buttons for backup and restore.  Its default is to backup everything and that seems like a good place to start before messing with our phone.  The backup is kept in a hidden file in your home folder.  I then rename the backups and create ongoing full backups.

Next I head over to Google’s Blackberry page and install Maps, Gmail, and Sync.  Maps is better that what I got from Verizon, the Gmail client likewise is better than what came on the Blackberry.  Sync is used to sync the data from Google Calendar with the data on the device.  It works in the background and does a good job.

Searching for a way to sync Gmail’s contacts with the Blackberry is what led me to write this post…there isn’t much info out there and much of it resides in forums and their are 12 dead ends for every piece of useful info.

Before continuing, back up your Gmail contacts and also backup your device–important, do not skip.  To sync our contacts we use Conjola Sync, it is an early beta but it does the job, mostly.  Download and install it from the link given.  Before syncing go your gmail account, choose contact and clean out the “suggested contacts” list–delete the ones you don’t want and add the rest to the contacts.

Upon first sync you will have numerous doubles in your contacts–use gmail to manually clean them up and get them merged–no shortcut here, it takes a little work but it only needs done once.  Now before syncing, go to the blackberry and change the options in Conjola Sync so that in case of conflict during sync Google wins.  Do your sync, edit the inevible mistake or two, resync.  Then turn the setting back so that the Blackberry takes precedence.  Run Conjola Sync as necessary.

Next we want to sync all of that with our desktop/laptop.  Be sure that Thunderbird is installed and also install either the Lightning extension or the full Sunbird calendar.  To sync Thunderbird contacts with Gmail contacts I use an extension called Zindus.  To sync Gcal with Lightening or Sunbird I use an extension called Provider.  There is a tutorial for setting up calendar sync here.

If you follow the above you should have a sync that brings congruity to your phone, your desktop/laptop, and your cloud computing data.

Back up often (see above); nothing gets you out of trouble better than a good back up.

</end how-to><begin opinion>

After a few weeks of use, I like the Blackberry more than I thought I would.  I use mostly WAP sites, while beforehand I thought I would use regular sites–the smaller sites are fast and concise, a much better experience on a phone.  I think the internet would take at least a 7 inch screen to be usable and more likely I would need a 9 inch screen.  And once you take away flash, it is not the “real” internet anyway.  So I am more than pleased with what the Blackberry is; while also accepting what it is not.  It is not a full fledged computer like a Pocket PC or an iPhone, but for usability it puts either to shame.  Granted you are not going to do any heavy lifting with this device, but, in the end, it is a phone.

Like I stated, I use mostly WAP sites, to that end I set up a personal portal.  Basically, I learned just enough WML to make a simple home can be found here.  (The link will only work from a phone.)

Edit:  OK, I found out that wml died in 2001, I replaced my pda portal with a simple html one.

If you run into problems or have questions, leave them in the comments section.

3 thoughts on “How to Integrate RIM Blackberry With Google Mail-Calendar-Contacts and Backup on GNU/Linux

  1. Hi

    I just read your instructions on Conjoal Sync. I have been on a break but I’m back into working on Conjola Sync. Some bugs have been fixed and Ill be releasing another better shortly. I’ll also start working on a website to house conjola sync so there is more information.


  2. Hi Sam,
    Thanks for Conjola Sync. As far as I know this is the only method of syncing gmail contacts with the Blackberry.

    I read the thread where you took it upon yourself to work on this, and I mainly want you to know that it is really appreciated.

    Looking forward to the next release…

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