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Upgrade to MobileMe Calendar by 5 May 2011

Apple has announced that all MobileMe members must upgrade to the new CalDAV-based MobileMe Calendar by 5 May 2011. It’s clear from Apple’s statement below that if you don’t upgrade manually (Apple won’t do it for you), you’ll lose syncing of events between your devices along with the ability to see your calendars on the me.com Web site.

On May 5, 2011, MobileMe will transition completely to the new Calendar service that we launched in October. The new MobileMe Calendar includes calendar sharing, invitations, and a new Calendar web application. To maintain calendar syncing between your devices and to continue accessing your calendar at me.com, you must upgrade to the new Calendar by May 5, 2011.

In general, the new MobileMe Calendar is a good thing, using the CalDAV standard and providing push updates to calendars made from any connected device, read-write calendar sharing for family and friends, calendar publishing for groups, and event invitations with RSVPs. It’s accessible via iCal, in the Calendar app of iOS devices running iOS 4.2.1 or later, via the me.com Web site, and through some independent calendaring apps, like BusyMac’s BusyCal and Chronos’s just-released SOHO Organizer 9.

For most people, upgrading to the new MobileMe Calendar shouldn’t be a major fuss, and Apple has a MobileMe Calendar FAQ that provides links to instructions and covers most of the issues. However, there are some situations that require additional thought and effort ahead of time, and some people have had trouble that requires help from Apple.

First Things First — Before you read any further or do anything, first back up all your calendars from iCal by selecting each one in turn and choosing File > Export > Export. That way, even if things go horribly wrong, you can at least tear everything down and start from scratch if necessary. There are other methods of backing up, but they may not work; this is what Apple recommends.

Also beware that any files you have attached to events in iCal will be removed from your events automatically, and you can’t attach files to events going forward. I suspect most people never attached files to events, but those who did should consider leaving existing calendars local (in the “On My Mac” category in iCal) and starting new calendars in MobileMe for sharing and syncing.

Finally, repeating events that cross Daylight Saving Time boundaries will reportedly have their times changed by an hour. There appears to be no workaround for this, so you’ll have to check manually after upgrading. It’s apparently best to fix such problems via MobileMe’s Web interface, probably because that’s the master copy of the data.

Use Appropriate Software — Next, make sure you’re using the appropriate software. For the Mac, that means Mac OS X 10.6.4 Snow Leopard (or later). Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard also works, but with limitations, including the lack of push updates, the capability to share and accept shared calendars in iCal, and subscribed calendar syncing.

For iOS devices, Apple says you need iOS 4.2.1 or later, which automatically knocks the original iPhone and first-generation iPod touch off the MobileMe calendar bandwagon. For those devices, you’ll need to sync calendars and contacts via iTunes (select Sync Address Book Contacts and Sync iCal Calendars in the Info tab of a selected device in iTunes). Commenter MetalSamurai has noted that iOS 3.1.3 will actually work, but you’ll have to jump through hoops, including setting up a separate CalDAV account.

Windows users need at least MobileMe Control Panel 1.6.4, either Outlook 2007 or 2010 (32-bit), and iTunes 10. I don’t know if there are any gotchas with running those versions on standard Windows installations.

Using BusyCal — If you, like us, relied on BusyCal for calendar sharing among a family or small workgroup before the MobileMe Calendar transition, you’ll need to run through a simple set of steps to upgrade to the new MobileMe Calendar and maintain your BusyCal calendars. If you’re using BusyMac’s older BusySync software, it can provide read-only access to the new MobileMe Calendar, making an upgrade to BusyCal the best option, although BusyMac has instructions for using BusySync in read-only mode with MobileMe as well.

Upgrading to the new MobileMe Calendar with BusyCal does require a change in how you share calendars. As BusyMac notes in a blog post, you’ll need to switch your LAN syncing (sharing from within BusyCal itself to other Macs running BusyCal on your local network) to cloud syncing (where your calendars are hosted on MobileMe or Google Calendar). Plus, since Google Calendar subscriptions won’t sync to both MobileMe and iOS devices, accessing calendars hosted on Google Calendar from an iOS devices requires syncing directly with Google Calendar. Again, BusyMac has instructions.

I was able to upgrade to the new MobileMe Calendar and set up BusyCal with no major problems, although I did have to juggle some files around, given that my BusyCal server was running on a Power Mac G5 under Leopard, so I couldn’t complete the upgrade within iCal on that Mac. I worked around the problem by moving my BusyCal backup file to my Mac Pro under Snow Leopard and performing the upgrade there. It’s also possible to export individual calendar files from BusyCal before the upgrade, perform the upgrade, create new calendars on MobileMe, and then import the exported calendars into the new MobileMe calendars.

Of course, the downside of the MobileMe Calendar is that everyone who wants to sync multiple devices needs their own MobileMe account, which may not be practical in a large workgroup. For such situations, it might make more sense to avoid MobileMe entirely and rely instead on a solution like Google Calendar. BusyMac also mentions using iCal Server (part of Mac OS X Server) and Kerio Connect.

I suspect there are additional questions and concerns that people may have with regard to Apple’s forced upgrade to the new MobileMe Calendar. If there’s something that’s not covered by Apple’s MobileMe Calendar FAQ, BusyMac’s instructions, or this article, leave a note in the comments, and I’ll see what I can figure out.

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