David R. Heffelfinger

  Ensode Technology, LLC

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Synchronizing Contacts Between Two Blackberries Under Ubuntu Intrepid

I just upgraded my old Blackberry to a Blackberry Bold. I of course wanted to transfer all my old contacts to my new device. I transferred all my contacts to the sim card and installed the sim card in the new phone, however that is a less than ideal solution since the sim card splits the contacts, that is, if a contact has home, phone and work numbers, that one contact appears as three different contacts in the sim card. Also, email addresses are lost when using this technique.

It is no secret that I am a Linux user, however I do keep a spare Windows partition around for the rare cases that I need to use Windows. Today was one of those days.

Blackberries come bundled with Windows software to install applications, synchronize with outlook, perform backups, so on and so forth. I wanted to run the Blackberry software to transfer the address book from my old device to my new Bold.

I booted to Windows vista and ran the installer, while it was running a million security updates and popups were showing up, and windows kept asking me to reboot my laptop. I refused to reboot as I simply wanted to transfer my addressbook to my new bold. Once the Blackberry desktop installer completed, lo and behold, it asked me to reboot. I gave in and rebooted, only to have Windows Vista prevent me from logging in again once it came back up.

When I tried to log in, a Windows Activation dialog window showed up, complaining about the license store containing inconsistent data or something like that. The dialog box had a link to contact HP, my laptop's manufacturer. I clicked on it and I was able to chat with HP customer support. After a lot of back and forth what HP told me is that I would have to do a full system restore, which I refuse to do since it would wipe out my Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex installation.

I googled around for a solution to Windows vista preventing me from logging in to no avail. I tried to transfer the addressbook via bluetooth, but for some reason I don't get the option when I select the Bold from my old Blackberry (I do get the option when I select my bluetooth headset, go figure).

At this point I turned my attention to trying to transfer the addressbook using Linux. I had heard of a utility called Barry that may help me with my issue.

I found Ubuntu deb packages here, unfortunately the most recent version they support at this time is Hardy, I saw no packages for intrepid. I felt brave and installed the packages for Hardy under Intrepid, they installed with no obvious issues.

From the list of packages, barrybackup-gui looked promising. I installed it by simply clicking on the link from Firefox and opening the downloaded file directly in GDebi. There were some unresolved dependencies, which at the moment I can't remember exactly, but all the dependencies are listed in the same page. I simply installed the dependencies and tried again, until all dependencies were satisfied (I only had to install two or three dependencies).

At this point I plugged my old Blackberry to one of the USB ports in my laptop, and executed barrybackup, it detected the blackberry, asked me to identify it. At this point I configured barrybackup to backup only the address book by going to Edit | Config, then clicking the configure button.

I only wanted the addressbook, therefore I clicked "Deselect All", followed by activating the "Address Book" database. I OK'ed my way out of there and clicked on "Backup". After a couple of seconds, I had an addressbook backup in my Linux box.

At this point I unplugged my old blackberry from the USB port, plugged my new one and re-ran barrybackup, it recognized the new device and asked me to identify it. After doing so I clicked restore and it started copying my backups to the bold (word to the wise, it deletes all entries in the existing addressbook before restoring). Unfortunately there was a problem and it only restored a partial number of the entries in my addressbook.

It left out about 20 or so entries, luckily a lot of those I don't need anymore, therefore I ended up having to enter only a few by hand.

Although the Ubuntu/Barry combination wasn't perfect, it sure was a better solution to my problem than Windows vista with the official Blackberry desktop software


An Ubuntu (partial) success story! I'm still looking for the perfect Linux tool to sync my Palm Centro. I've found a few that sync, but not to the apps I want to sync with (for example, Google contacts and calendar). Anyway, I spent my "free" time this weekend trying to improve my wireless connection under Intrepid and I think I just made it worse (I tried native drivers, fwcutter, and ndiswrapper). I've been wrangling w/wireless for two years on my laptop---at best achieving only mediocre results. It's probably time to just buy a network adapter that is known to work w/out problems under Linux. Anyway, glad to hear you found a decent Blackberry backup utility.

Posted by Allan Bond on November 17, 2008 at 09:55 AM EST #


A long time ago when I had a Handspring Visor I remember there was some software to sync between Evolution and the Palm device. If I remember correctly, the software I used was Gnome Pilot.

Evolution nowadays has native Google calendar integration.

You may be able to at least indirectly sync your Centro with Google Calendar by synching it to Evolution, and have Evolution sinc with Google calendar.

I'm not sure if there are any utilities to sync Google calendar to a palm device over the air.

Posted by David R. Heffelfinger on November 17, 2008 at 10:17 AM EST #

Sorry, I misspoke. I actually did sync my calendar and contacts via Evolution once, but it wasn't a perfect transfer. The calendar hour was off similar to your problem with the Blackberry sync. Except in my case, the timezone was already set correctly. The contacts also synched the first time, but every subsequent time has failed. I haven't had time to mess with it, so maybe Evolution will be my answer in the end. If I can get the Google synching to work perfectly, I can see myself using Evolution as my primary calendar/contact manager. The interface has come a long way since I tried it a few years ago and it feels much snappier.

Posted by Allan Bond on November 17, 2008 at 02:44 PM EST #

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