Archive for January, 2010

Mozilla Sunbird + Google Calendar = Harmony


There are many times during the year where you may be under a lot of stress because you suddenly get hammered with family meetings, work projects, and anything else you may need to do, such as grocery shopping or paying bills. During these times you have a high need to stay organized, and there are some great free tools to help you achieve that, no matter where you go.

Sunbird is a great, free, and open source application developed by Mozilla, aimed to help you organized. It’s based on the Lightning add-on project, and made into a standalone. However, although that might sound simple, it’s a great tool to have, and I’ll tell you why.

Calendars seem to be very boring ways to keep track of your time. At least, most of the time it is. Having to write all your daily activities into that tiny, little box isn’t very fun, and neither is looking at the calendar every few hours to see what’s going on. Thankfully, technology can make this process a lot easier. Sunbird does an excellent job because it has a number of features that may attract you to it. It can include:

  • A number of views, such as Day, Week, Multiweek, and Month.
  • Supports multiple calendars, which can also be shown together at the same time in one “combined” calendar.
  • Supports network and online calendars that use the iCalendar format, CalDAV, WCAP, and Google Calendar (more information below).
  • Differentiating colors to keep track of what events are on what calendar.
  • Timely reminders so you don’t have to worry about missing an event.
  • Useful repeat functions allow a “set-it-and-forget-it” environment for events that continuously repeat.
  • Available on all major platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Solaris.
  • It’s open source.

If all of the things in the list didn’t make any sense to you, it basically means this: More power and flexibility means less work for you to manage your time. Sunbird is definitely a program worth trying out no matter how you plan to use it.

However, this blog isn’t about all the great features of Sunbird. Yeah, it’s a great and useful program, and we’ve already given an overview of Sunbird, but that’s all we’ll do. This is about Sunbird working hand in hand with Google Calendar. So let’s meet our other half of this friendship.

Google Calendars is a service provided by Google that is supposed to keep your life organized in an easy-to-use system that also incorporated your Gmail and Google Contacts, as well as other Google services. It also has a lot of stunning features, and is just as worthy to be tried out as Sunbird is. You can do virtually the same things. The only problem with it is that things will be a bit slower as every part of it is made up of web pages. Also, the interface of both Google Calendar and Sunbird are well made, but Sunbird has an advantage. However, this doesn’t mean that Sunbird should be used completely over Google Calendar, in fact, let’s put them together.

First of all, you may be asking, why put Sunbird and Google Calendar together? Well, to put it simply, it offers even more flexibility than what even Sunbird and Google Calendars offer by themselves. To put these two together, we’ll be using Sunbird mainly as our interface and Google Calendar as our “database”, or storage of where the events are actually saved. Note that the only requirement for this is to have an internet connection whenever you wish to access your calendar, but that would not place any new limits if you were using Google Calendar by itself. This combined setup is extremely useful for a number of reasons. If you have more than one computer, such as a desktop and a laptop, and have your Google Calendar configured in Sunbird on both machines, you’ll have completely synced events on both computers without even touching any sort of button with a “Sync” label on it. Another example would be when you are traveling and happen to be away from your computer. You can get on another computer, such as at an internet cafe, and look through your calendar using Google Calendar, where you can edit, add, delete, and do other things with events. When you are finished, and come back home to your computer, those changes made at the internet cafe will automatically update itself in Sunbird, saving you lots of time trying to keep the different copies synchronized.

Now that we know why we want to put Sunbird and Google Calendar together, it’s time to actually take the few seconds time to make it happen. First, be sure and have a Google account where you can then access your personal calendar.

Go ahead and fire up Sunbird on your machine. Once loaded, be sure to choose the Calendars tab on the left side, then click into the white space and click on New Calendar. Next, you will be asked where the calendar is located. Click on “On the network”, then click on Next. In order to configure Sunbird to use your Google Calendar, we will be using CalDAV, so go ahead and choose that. In the location box, type in the following: https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/%5Byour email address here]/events and replace [your email address here] with your actual email address. An example would look like https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/somebody@gmail.com/events. When it asks for a username and password, type in your complete email address into the username box and your Google password into the password box, then click OK. Now, choose a name for the calendar, a color (or leave the color how it is), then click Next and Finish. If you typed everything correctly, you should now have access to your Google Calendar!

You can repeat this process with other calendars or on other machines. You can even add custom calendars, such as separately made calendars or Google’s “Interesting Calendars”. However, I’ll leave that to be added later or for a different tutorial.

A general view of Sunbird

Adding an event to Sunbird

Adding a New Network/Google Calendar

Main view of Google Calendar

Accessing the calendar settings menu

Finding the Calendar ID

If you have any questions concerning this blog, don’t hesitate to leave a comment! I’ll be happy to answer you.

GlobalAir VA is now online!


Hello everyone! I’d just like to make a quick blog post about a new flight simulation VA (Virtual Airline) that has recently restarted their server, and are now back online. If you are interested in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, especially versions 2004 and FSX, please don’t hesitate to have a look at http://www.globalair-va.net! GlobalAir VA would be proud to have some new members!

Why You Should Use Open Source Software


Today’s computer users are very accustomed to the fact that a lot of good software costs money. Sometimes it costs a reasonable sum, other times it’s about ten times as much. Two of the most popular examples of expensive software are Windows and Photoshop. Windows for home users can cost anywhere between $100 and $300, and Photoshop can cost even more. Of course, these pieces of software have their well deserved reasons for being so pricey, but your wallet doesn’t care about the money to quality ratio. It just cares about the money. Thankfully, there are some very kind-hearted people on this planet, who believe that quality software should exist without carrying a price tag. However, some people came up with an idea to go even further, and let other people modify their own programs to fit the needs of everyone. Here is where “Open Source Software” comes into play.

To give a small history background, the idea of open source software began with the GNU General Public License, created by Richard Stallman. The GNU General Public License allows everyone to modify, change or distribute software under the license without any restrictions. The only requirement is that all software under the license be free. This gives way to many advantages, which we will discuss later.

Now, if you are interested in open source software, you’ll be glad to know that obtaining open source software is easier than you think. Here are some of the most popular open source apps that you can easily obtain:

1. Mozilla Firefox

Firefox, in my opinion, is one of the greatest, most supported open source applications in existence. It is the most popular open source browser, and is currently used by approximately 35% of all internet users, placing it in 2nd place. It is extremely stable, and is offered on many operating systems, including the major ones such as Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Firefox has many areas that you can configure to personalize it to your needs and taste, such as themes, skins, and add-ons. On top of all this, it is supported by the benefits of the program being open source (see below).

2. Mozilla Thunderbird

Yes, it’s true that Mozilla makes some pretty great programs. Firefox isn’t the only one, and instead has an e-mail counterpart know as Thunderbird. Thunderbird is a nice little Outlook substitute that still packs a lot of muscle. It has great organization methods, a calendar, and supports all e-mail protocols such as POP3, IMAP, and SMTP. It even has an easy wizard to set up Gmail in Thunderbird, which gives you more control over your mail. Like Firefox, it’s available on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

3. Ubuntu Linux

Here’s something different that is still fully open source. Ubuntu Linux is not an application, but instead an entire operating system. If you think that all operating systems cost loads of money, I’m happy to announce that you’re wrong. Ubuntu is completely free, so you won’t have to go out and spend at least $100 for Windows. It can do almost everything Windows can, such as go onto the Internet (thanks to Firefox), read PDF and Word files, edit pictures, watch movies, and much more that you are able to do in Windows. In fact, the only downside is that not all Windows applications work on Linux, but for most applications there are open source alternatives. Something that Linux can offer that Windows can’t is the fact that Linux is virtually virus-proof. Except for the ultra-rare Linux viruses that have a hard time getting activated via user interaction, it is not affected by the horrendous streams of Windows viruses. Because of this, there is no need for an anti-virus program, although a firewall is still recommended (Ubuntu comes automatically with a firewall). This makes Linux in general a great choice for server administrators who wish to provide productive services or host intensive websites on a robust system. Ubuntu also plays friendly with Windows in case you decide to keep it and install a “dual-boot” setup.

4. GIMP

GIMP is a life-saver for your wallet in case you were ever once interested in Photoshop. Although not an exact replica, GIMP is definitely a good recommendation for anyone with a tight budget. This handy program contains all the features you could possibly need to edit photos or create amazing graphical art. You can add custom brushes, add amazing effects, and much more.

5. WordPress

Although it’s not an actual application that is used directly on your computer, WordPress is an open source blogging platform where you can blog about your daily life and do a number of other things. It is available as a directly-hosted product, or as a downloadable platform that can be installed and used on your own web server. It allows many different forms of media to be inserted into your blog, and is easy to use in general. It offers a variety of other features that can spice up your blog, no matter what it’s about. It is definitely something worthwhile to check out. Even this very blog runs on WordPress.

Using open source software can be a great thing, especially for you. Since open source applications offer their program code publicly, any programmer or other expert can look through the code and find any mistakes, whether pertaining to performance, security, or other factors that can improve quality, and point them out. Those mistakes, or “bugs”, in the code get fixed, and these fixes get released in an update that makes the software better, and your computing experience safer. So why not do something good for your computer and your wallet, and use open source software.

Welcome to AlternateTechnology!


Hi there, and welcome to AlternateTechnology!

This blog will be going over many specific areas of my expertise about computers. It will have a wide range of topics, but I am sure that many people can benefit from each and every post. For those of you who would like to know what’s to come in this blog, here are some beginning topics I will cover:

  • Windows
  • Linux (specifically Ubuntu)
  • Open Source Applications for both Windows and Linux
  • A few security points
  • Whatever else I may find interesting

Also, I would like to give a few details about myself. My name is Danny, and I am currently in high school in a small Texas town. I enjoy hanging out with friends while working around constantly with my computer to satisfy any needs I have for improvement.

This is just the beginning of what we’re going to go over, as you will see once I begin my posts.