Managing Treo backups on a Mac?
May 22, 2006 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Any advice on simpler backup and device migration for a Treo user with a Mac?

I've had a Treo 650 slightly longer than I've been fully committed (again) to Macs. So after living for a few months with Palm Desktop for Windows, I moved to Mac OSX... and immediately panicked. Fortunately, many seasoned Mac geeks (including many of you) pointed the way to Missing Sync, which ostensibly takes all the guesswork and kludges out of the equation and "just works."

And for the last several months, it has. I've been happy as a clam. Everything on my Treo is on my Mac in Address Book and in iCal (and therefore accessible online).

But a recent bonehead move made me realize I don't really know what's going on. (I deleted the iCal calendar thinking it would just be replaced by Missing Sync/iSync, but it instead deleted everything -- so while Mac Backup might not be perfect, it sure saved my hide in this case. This scare is what I get for asking about it!) I'd like to know if you have your own backup practices, or advice on how to keep it all straight. Especially since I'm drooling over the new Treo 700p.

For example, on the Windows side, creating a basic tab-delimited text export of all contacts and all calendar entries was as simple as clicking "Export" in Palm Desktop. On my Mac, it seems backups -- either by iCal or by Missing Sync -- are all going into weird directories with odd filenames and specific formats. So at best I've got backups specific to my setup, but not something I could easily hack apart if, heaven forbid, I needed to get the data into some other program or device. And even with these specific backup files, it's not exactly easy to figure out how to access them or to pick a specific backup. Even the Missing Sync support knowledge base outlines some convoluted steps to do things like replace all data on the handheld with what's on the computer, or vice versa.

I remember part of the reason Missing Sync was so highly recommended was because iSync was unreliable and at the time didn't natively support the Treo. But I did notice in the latest iSync update that they added the Treo to the list of supported devices. Should I consider moving back to the native iSync setup? Or even Palm Desktop for Mac?

Again, I love that so far, things "just work." But I'd like to know a bit more about why and how, anyway, just in case! Any random insights would be appreciated.
posted by pzarquon to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I use a Treo 600 on OS X 10.3.9. I do not use the Palm Desktop at all, and never had to buy Missing Sync.

iSync works fine to keep the Treo synced with iCal and the Mac Address Book. I had an issue with the notes database not syncing...figured out a workaround using a Palm app called Note Taker. Note Taker has the advantage of syncing each note to its own text file.
posted by omnidrew at 11:47 AM on May 22, 2006

(further) one thing I have not been able to figure out with my setup is how to get the Treo's pictures off the device and on to my system.
posted by omnidrew at 12:15 PM on May 22, 2006

I reccommend getting a 32MB SD card, install backup buddy on the card, and du manual backups from time to time. You can even set it to auto-backup once a day at a certain time. What's cool is that your backup isn't tied to your computer, so even if you totally fuck it up, you're still good.
posted by mattoly at 5:56 PM on May 22, 2006

Well, I'm using Palm desktop without using the Missing Sync.

the iSync conduit completely bypass the palm desktop software.

It syncs your calendar and address book with the Mac OS versions:
~your home/Library/Application Support/iCal and /Address Book.

Now, Missing Sync can mount your the card in the treo like a USB stick or a memory card (way easier).

But it's working perfect for me.

Oh, omnidrew - my pictures showed up in my Pictures directory.
posted by filmgeek at 7:54 PM on May 22, 2006

P.S. you can totally export your address book and ical info from Address Book and iCal respectively.
posted by filmgeek at 7:55 PM on May 22, 2006

Best answer: I know you probably spent enough on the phone itself, but Missing Sync is definitely worth it, in my opinion.

What makes it worth the $40 all by itself is that it will sync your different iCal calendars to Palm categories. Then, if you use a custom PIM like Agendus (which I also love), you can see your appointments color-coded just like on your computer.

It also has conduits to sync your camera pictures with iPhoto and the ability to copy playlists from iTunes, which is the closest we'll get to iPod-like functionality (although it won't to iTMS purchases).

It even has a Directory Sync conduit, so my folder full of random .RTF files stays in sync with Mobile Systems OfficeSuite on my phone. Also, I use the Directory Sync to auto-magically copy downloaded TV to the phone.

Missing Sync also has a backup feature that will back up ALMOST everything on the phone. (I'm not exactly sure what's missing, but I know that after a hard reset, my Windows machine at work seems to restore better than my Mac at home. Go figure.)

The only time I've ever had a problem with Missing Sync losing data is when I get tangled up in a hard reset. I sync with my Mac at home and my PC at work. Occasionally, if I do a hard reset and don't re-sync the magical special way, I will lose all of my info. But barring that, Missing Sync is batting a thousand.

If a general backup of Address Book and iCal is what you're after, there are easier ways to do it on the Mac. iCal has a built-in backup in the File menu, where you can backup your database (which includes all calendars, I believe). Address Book has an analgous option in the File menu as well.

If you're looking for something more automated, a quick AppleScript would do the job. Your calendar files are located in ~/Library/Application Support/iCal/Sources/gobbledygook folders. Each of those folders has a CoreStorage.ics file in it, which is one of your calendars. Far from being a 'proprietary format,' iCal files are the de facto standard for storing calendar data, readable by web interfaces as well as programs like Mozilla Thunderbird Calendar/Sunbird, as well as Google's calendar.

Address Book's data isn't quite as nicely formatted, but it's still just a single file that's easy to backup. It's in ~/Library/Application Support/Address Book, and it's called

Hope this helps... if you have any other questions, let me know.

(what's the deal with me and super-long mefi posts?)
posted by cebailey at 8:50 PM on May 22, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, Cebailey. I forgot that iCal is a standard beyond Apple. Backup up the files you point out manually shouldn't be too difficult. And as I mentioned, Apple Backup is backing 'em up to .Mac and I was able to easily select from several previous backups to get the one I lost back.

I also know that Missing Sync is the cat's meow, and that's why I bought it. I'm thinking, however, I have no idea how to use it.

For example, in Missing Sync, there are all kinds of custom Missing Sync conduits for individual Palm apps -- Calendar, Contacts, etc. However, instead of using those, I'm just using its iSync conduit. Of course, the iSync conduit is pretty limited... so I'm guessing that's why I don't see what you're talking about insofar as having it sort out different calendars by categories and the like. Should I move to the special Missing Sync conduits?

I clearly need to spend some time with the Missing Sync docs. Though if I could tap you, Cebailey, for some power user tips, I'd be much obliged.

The BackupBuddy card-only solution looks good, too.
posted by pzarquon at 10:57 PM on May 22, 2006

You're on the right track - the Missing Sync conduits are the way to go. That's where you can do the fun stuff like syncing calendars to categories and so on. Feel free to email me at chadbailey at gmail if you need anything.
posted by cebailey at 1:39 PM on May 23, 2006

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