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Google Contacts syncing issues with the iPhone

Google iPhone SyncFor some time, I’ve had a major productivity issue:  the phone numbers (and in some cases email addresses) of all of my contacts that I keep in Google Contacts were not synchronizing with my iPhone making it pretty difficult to make calls on-the-go.  After a decent amount of searching, I found a lot of people having similar issues but not a clear path to fixing it.  It seems it is a known issue and centers around inconsistency in how Google contacts and the iPhone handle contact fields, the number of fields that will synchronize, field labels, etc.  More concerning, most people who were able to fix their issue did it manually by editing every field for every contact in their address book to use one of Google’s default fields.  This is an extremely painful and tedious process, and could induce sheer madness for anyone with a sizable number of contacts.

The quick summary is, from what I can tell, that Google will only synchronize fields that meet their standards (Home, Mobile, Work Fax), and most importantly, case sensitivity matters.  So if you imported from another address box, your fields may not be matching up even if they are named ‘home’ and ‘mobile’.  Those will be ported into Google Contacts as custom fields and custom fields do not synchronize.  This also applies for the field ‘other’ which seems to causing a lot of people angst as well.  Also note, that Google will only synchronize a certain number of fields such as phone numbers and email addresses.

Finally, I came across a post by Seth Jaffe (thanks Seth!) on a message board that outlined an easy way to make a lot of changes to your contacts in one pass.  I used the basis of his post to fix the issue for myself and thought I would pay it forward with a post outlining how to fix this for yourself if you are dealing with the same issue.  Note, this should only be a fix if you are synchronizing your contacts from Google Contacts to your iPhone (which you can learn to do at MacTalk or here at Google if you are interested).  Also, disclaimers apply.  Back up your data.  I don’t want you go from missing a few data elements to missing an entire address book!  Okay, here we go…

1.  Export your contacts from Google – Click ‘My Contacts’, Click the ‘More’ button and ‘Export’.  You want to export as a Google CSV file.  When it gives you a choice, most of you will want to pick “My Contacts” as the group you want to export as it will be where most of your contacts are.  To be safe, I recommend you do this process twice and also export as an Outlook CSV as well.  This way you will have a back up for either Google or Outlook if disaster should strike.

2. Save the Export to a file – You will need to save the export to a location on your computer and should end up with a file named “google.csv”, but you can name it whatever you want.  Just remember where you saved it.

3.  Open in Microsoft Word – Because it is a .csv file, most of the time this will open for you in Microsoft Excel.  You don’t want to do that, for some reason it did not work for me.  (another alternative would be to open the comma separated file in a standard text editor as well)  In the case of Word, simply Right Click and open it with Microsoft Word instead.  Note, the information in the file will be comma separated and will be all jumbled, don’t panic, this is okay.

4.  Search and Replace – Now use search and replace in Microsoft Word to change a lot of the fields so that they are in the format that fit Google’s defaults and thus they will synchronize over to the iPhone.  Here are a few examples to give you an idea that I used:  Replace all instances of ‘mobile’ with ‘Mobile’, Replace all instances of ‘home’ with ‘Home’, replace all instances of ‘other’ with ‘Work’.  This should get your contacts file to be in the right format.

5.  Save the file – Save the file but be sure to save it as a different file name, like GoogleNew.csv so you don’t overwrite your original.  Microsoft Word will probably add the suffix .txt on the end of your file name if you save it in text format.  Just go to the file where you have it saved and rename it so it ends with the .csv extension only.

6.  Delete your Existing Contacts – You’ll want to delete all of your existing contacts in your My Contacts group because you want that folder empty when you import all of your clean data back in and avoid a duplication issue.  Again, make sure you’ve backed up your data before deleting.  You can do this by clicking “My Contacts” in Google Contacts, selecting all and deleting.  You’ll probably need to do this for several pages if you have lots of data but it is not that bad.

7.  Import your file – Once you have an empty “My Contacts” group, you are ready to import.  You do this by clicking “My Contacts”, then clicking the “more” button and then import.  Choose the file that you created. For example, GoogleNew.csv.  And then click ‘import’.

Once you do that, it should pull in all of your contacts from the new file into your “My Contacts” group and if already have synchronization set up on your iPhone, Google will begin synchronizing your data over to your phone almost immediately if you are on wireless.  You can make sure if works by going into a few of your contacts and you’ll notice the data fields showing up and synchronizing with the right information.  Hope this helps some of you that have been having the same synchronization issues between Google Contacts and the iPhone.

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Pause and Reflect


Image by Rafa Puerta Photo via Flickr

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. Most of this blog is about technology. But make no mistake, we are under self-inflicted attack of technological warfare.  And we love it.  But we have to remain mindful of it. We have to be mindful of it because it is only going to get worse, because technology is getting better. Think about it…let’s take one device, the iPad, a device phenomenally designed so that you can comfortably have it on your lap and be plugged in. What a great way to immerse yourself in great apps, great content, your feeds, the news, books, videos…all while ignoring those around you when you are probably already interacting with them so well….watching the tube.

I’ve had a post like this sitting in my drafts folder for months.  Fred Wilson wrote a post a few weeks back talking about “Being Present“. Similarly Brad Feld wrote a post about his four minute rule that he has with his wife. So I thought it was a good time to dust if off, polish it up and hit publish.  It’s purpose is simply to make the three of you that read it to PAUSE and reflect, even for just a moment before going to the next items in Google Reader.

With technology, we all know it is very tough to unplug and be present for the ones around you. I try to remind myself all the time of this when with the family and admittedly, don’t do the best job of it. The good news for me is have a family that will continually remind me so they keep it top of my mind…put the phone down, shut the laptop.  My personal favorite is my dad who says “Lou, is that phone attached to your hand?”  It is (or should be) obvious for most that balance is really important. This got me thinking about the pervasiveness of technology and how much it may be hindering our abilities to interact on a personal level with others, not just family but colleagues and strangers too.  Again pause and reflect.

I realize that anyone reading this post is instantly going to say that if anything technology has improved interaction with others.  The mobile device let’s you stay connected and reachable.  There is video chat like Facetime and Skype giving you the ability to communicate with others across the country and around the world.  Facebook keeps you in tune with the happenings of all your offline friends (if that isn’t a paradox in itself).  Twitter keeps me abreast of the news and what is happening around me.  And I get it, absolutely right.  That is why is such a tough topic and one that everyone has to figure out themselves.

Take a moment think about it, take stock of those around you and how they are interacting (or not) with others.  Think about the opportunities where you can interact with others and leave the technology aside for even a few minutes.  That is all you can do.  I’ve done it and here are some observations I’ve made:

  • At home – talked about this above already.  Read Fred and Brad’s posts on it.
  • In the city – As if not making eye contact and acknowledging a stranger in city was already a problem, now walk down a city street and take a look around you.  People walking and talking on their phones.  People with headphones on in their own little worlds.  People (pet peeve of mine) walking down the street and typing on their phone.  The most recognition you give is not slamming into them.
  • At the local coffee shop – Starbucks recently changed their WiFi policy making web access even easier for patrons.  Think about that though.  The coffee shop where people used to go, sit down with someone else and chat.  In the past month, I’ve been in Starbucks in San Francisco, New York and Chicago.  Everywhere it is the same.  Everyone has a cup of coffee…and their noses into their phones or laptops.  Sometimes both, while ear buds in their ears while listening to music.
  • At the airport – Waiting for my plane to depart, I think everyone at my gate was on the phone, on their laptop, charging their phone or laptop at the charging station or listening to their iPod.
  • On the train and on the plane – Same thing.  Everyone immersed in the technology in their hands.  More rare is the occurrence that you actually meet the person next you.
  • At the stadium – I was just at the Giants game this weekend.  There we are opening day, beautiful new stadium, huge crowds cheering their team, a game on the field.  What do I see?  A row of people on their phones the whole time!  Don’t get me wrong, I checked into Foursquare but then I watched the game, chatted with my neighbors and cheered for the team.

Again, I am the first one to say technology is fantastic.  I can’t stress that enough.  But we need to sneak some time back in for personal interaction…somehow.  For fun, take some time the next time you are out and take a look around you.  Pause and reflect.  Repeat.   Ok, time to go check what is on the DVR.

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Renewable Energy Power Grid

On 140 acres of unused land on Nellis Air Forc...

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There’s a very good article, Lifeline for Renewable Power, in the latest edition of MIT Technology Review regarding the need for a revamped energy grid that can distribute power generated through alternative energy methods into the places the need it. There is always the ongoing debate on whether we even have at our disposal a set of alternative energy resources that are comprehensive enough to significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.  I don’t want to get into that debate in this post but it is clear we can certainly do a lot more with nuclear, hydro, wind and solar power sources.

And it seems the consensus is that regardless of what alternative energy sources we utilize, the current energy grid that we rely on is in major need of an overhaul.  The current system has major inefficiencies for today’s needs (anyone who experienced the northeast blackout a few years ago can attest to that).

Smart-grid technologies could reduce overall electricity consumption by 6 percent and peak demand by as much as 27 percent. The peak-demand reductions alone would save between $175 billion and $332 billion over 20 years, according to the Brattle Group, a consultancy in Cambridge, MA.

So to sum it up, I think there is more consensus on the fact we are going to need a new grid or at least major renovation on the current one.

Gore called for a “unified national smart grid” that would move power generated from renewable sources to cities, increase the efficiency of electricity use, and allow for greater control over renewable resources. He estimated that the grid overhaul would cost $400 billion over 10 years.

So $400B?  Please allow me to backseat govern for a moment.  $400B to redo the energy grid and move us towards a better energy system?  And we think $700B bail out package to financial institutions suffering from many wounds that are self-inflicted is a better investment where money could go?   Okay, the financial markets situation is a very fragile one and the downstream negative consequences was not something that could be risked.  This has been debated as well.  Perhaps, then we should give the energy grid a nice $14B kick start instead of funding the auto bailout that went in front of the senate, seems to keep growing and one has to question on whether the world needs poorly run car companies.

Let’s move forward, not backward.

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Entrepreneurial Holiday Spirit

It seems the news for the technology and web industry over the past few months has been nothing but gloom and doom, entrepreneurs needing to prepare for the worst, news of layoffs across the industry as org attempt to control costs, etc.  Much of this is tied to the economy and the awareness of the tech space.  It seems as if it hits continual new levels in media coverage since really the release of Sequoia’s now famous RIP Good Times presentation.  The report was covered by many of the usuals if you missed it such as Venture Beat and GigaOm.

So with all that, could there be a better way than to reflect positively on the entrepreneurial spirit than the holiday video release by First Round Capital?  There are so many companies out there continuing their uphill climb, following their passions and trying to change the world in their respective space.  Better than concentrating on what is wrong and how it could get worse, take a few moments to check out this video, it is great to see some real entrepreneurial spirit and realize that it is there every day.  Plus it is just an enjoyable holiday card. :)  Check out the video:

When technology is amazing

Looking at the lush green mountain terrain of St. John about to head to the beach with the family, I yet again find technology incredible. With my iPhone and a wifi connection (and Edge is here so that isn’t needed), I can blog from here. And interact with anything in the cloud for that matter. I could, but I won’t because as much as technology is amazing, so is going to sit in the sun, enjoy the environment and watch my daughter play in the surf is a better option on this day.

Anyway, nothing new in this post but the fact that I can publish this from herr guess puts into perspective on how ubiquitous technology is continuing to evolve.

NOTE: Sitting here at the Denver airport coming back from Defrg and noticed that I never finished this post and hit publish. Wish I was back in St. John heading to the beach, that’s for sure. :)