Saturday, August 23, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The rationale for not syncing calendars that you can't update was that this could lead to devices becoming out of sync with Google. You could change an event from one of these calendars on your phone, but we would not be able to update the event in Google's system. We recently added code to support one-way sync for read-only calendars but found in trials that users didn't always want those events on their devices. So the feature is on hold until we have the capability for users to select which calendars are synced.
We don't sync calendars that lack timezone data for the simple reason that we need this information in order to create the responses we need to send to your phone. Without the timezone we'd either need to guess it, or not sync the calendar. The choice made was to skip those calendars. You can't create a calendar without timezone data using Google's web site, but we have seen cases where third-party applications and sync tools have done so.
A new feature on our site today gives users the ability to see which calendars will sync and the reason for any non-syncing calendars. Simply visit this page to see your list.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Over the last few days we'd had several reports from users that while their contacts were synced over to their phones, they arrived sans any phone numbers. Other attributes seemed to be communicated OK.
We have very good logging of the conversion process in our system, and though for a few reasons we don't retain logs for long, we were able to look through and spot the issue pretty quickly.
The devices have a common set of attributes which they support. The basic set of phone attributes is two home phone numbers, one mobile phone number, two work numbers, and then a handful of less common numbers such as radio phone, assistant's phone, etc.
Google, on the other hand, supports fewer categories of phone but a greater total number; someone could have five home phones, for example. This difference is where our phone mapping system comes in. The problem these users had encountered was that phones which lacked any category at all, or which were marked as 'Other' at Google, were being skipped entirely.
We are still working with this users to track down how these contacts were created--it isn't possible to add a phone number with no category through Google's own site, so it is pretty curious--but we have deployed a fix where these phones are held over in a special list until we finish mapping all the categorized numbers. If there are any free slots left in the main five (mobile, home 1 & 2, and work 1 & 2) at that time, we start using them to hold these uncategorized numbers.
The fix has been deployed as of yesterday (08/10), and so far things are looking good, as affected users have started to report they now see the phone numbers they expect.
In testing, we did find one curious related circumstance worth mentioning. On an Apple device, if one sets a phone number to the Apple 'other' category (not the same as the Google 'other' category) it isn't sent to us at all, and consequently isn't synced to Google. We'll dig into that one more deeply, but for now, we recommend not to use the 'other' category on your iPhone or iPod, or at least to understand that if you do, it won't be synced over at Google.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Having done this we realized that we needed a new mailbox for non-support messages such as when users send us suggestions for new features, or just when they want to say hello. Therefore we've created the mailbox firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
So today we're focusing on the top three reasons users are currently not able to sync successfully. We know what the reasons are, and how many users are affected because we write a detailed problem record into a database whenever our servers encounter an error. In the past, we would find this information in our server log files. As our user population grew this became impractical (our servers generate 20 Gbytes of log data per day). The new database view we have onto user errors has allowed us to get a much better understanding of the range and frequency of problems.
So what do we see ? The number one problem that leads to persistent inability to sync turns out to be when the user enabled e-mail sync on their phone. At present we don't support e-mail sync (perhaps these users really wish we did !) but we're working on it. At present our server just can't deal with a device that says it wants to sync e-mail. It throws an error and no further syncing can happen. Later in the day we are planning to compile a list of all the affected users and send them an e-mail asking them to turn e-mail sync off on their phones. They should then find that sync begins working.
The second and third most common problems that lead to non-working sync are to do with inconsistent data. Our server code performs consistency checks in a number of places. For example it checks that when Google sends us calendar event changes, that they don't give us two changes (that are different) for the same event. It turns out that sometimes they do ! When this happens our server can't continue processing the sync request, and the result is no sync for YOU! We have some good clues about the cause and are working on a fix which we hope to deploy soon.
The last of the three more common problems also relates to data consistency. What happens is that the user's device sends us changes to events, but there is no 'server id' for those events. This is logically impossible, yet it happens for a fee users. We have a few theories about this one and hope to understand the problem in more detail soon.