Introducing Gout - A GPLed two way contacts sync between MS Outlook and Gmail

But first a rant... Because you can't punch +Larry Page in the face

My earliest mobile phone was a INR ~8K Nokia Series 40 feature phone - the beautiful, solid and functional-to-the-last-screw-and-pixel Nokia 6300. Within a year it was stolen and I bought yet another INR ~8K Nokia Series 40 feature phone - the delightfully compact and typically robust Nokia 5310 Music Express. Within the next 12 months, I had lost that one as well, and this time I bought a Blackberry - the Javelin 8900. It had a few challenges, but after a few initial hiccups, I settled down to comfortably use it for about 2 years. In April of this year I voluntarily "upgraded" to a Google Nexus S - for the pure Google and Android experience.

The problem was my mail, contacts, tasks, and pretty much my 'organized life' was in MS Outlook - for reasons beyond my control.

For nearly 4 years, and across three handsets, some of which were not even categorized as 'smart phones', I had come to expect software from phone vendors that would just sync with MS Outlook. Even by 2008 Nokia PC Sync was quite solid. Blackberry sync had some software issues, but the bi-directional sync worked for all

Having mentally prepared to shell out over $550 for the Google Koolaid, it did not even strike me to check on how well it does basic PIM sync routines. And as it turns out - it sucked rocks. It still does. I for one fail to understand how basic PIM utilities cannot be bundled into a phone in 2011! There is not even a standard notes or tasks program installed in the 'Pure Google Experience.' So much for progress. In the next version of Android do we have to download an app to get the caller's ID displayed automatically?

We are living in 2011. Basic PIM features should be free, pre-installed and freely sync to the popular messaging systems.

Google, I have no doubt, has great strategic reasons for doing whatever it is doing to screw retail users like me. But some of it is really hard to understand.

Google Calendar Sync is a nice little utility that silently does the job of synching outlook calendar entries to google calendar. It is closed source, but available at no charge to everyone - exactly like PC Sync or BB Sync in that regard. However what about the missing pieces - Contacts, Tasks, Notes?

Google Outlook Migration tool - is a one way migration tool from Outlook to Google. If your workplace uses Google Apps for Enterprise, and get the fully functional Outlook Sync tool for Contacts, Tasks and Notes as well. If you are on Exchange at work you are hosed. Tough luck. Can someone explain why Calendar gets preferential treatment? The whole situation is rotten and it sucks. Rocks. Horrible.

Oh, did I mention that the one way migration tool takes over 15 minutes to copy 1200 contacts?

And now we come to the main point of this post :-)

Fed up with the situation, I decided to do some programming myself. And it is finally ready to be released. This was my first program 'for windows', using MAPI. Every step was a struggle, but I am happy the output is actually usable.

Introducing - Gout - the Google <-> Outlook two way PIM sync, which does contacts for now.

Grab it at or clone the git repository and hack away.

- Gout is free. As in speech and beer. All my code is in Python and GPLv3-ed
- Gout is fast. As in the first sync for 1200 contacts took under one minute
- Gout is non-intrusive. It will sync your outlook contacts to a special group (which should be configurable in a later release)
- Gout handles EX style addresses in your outlook addressbook. If you exported outlook contacts to a CSV file, for e.g. and went 'what the hell is that email address', you have encountered this problem. Gout seamlessly works around this problem

Take a look. Spread the word. Send your feedback.

Oxford Bookstore - Spammers

There must be a name for establishments that add you to their mailing list and (a) provide no way for you to get out of the mailing list (b) ignore repeated protests/requests to be removed.... "Spammer" does not appear adequate.

Akila, no I am not interested in 'Magic Show by Poochi Comics & Oxford Bookstore", goddamit. May your mails be redirected to /dev/null ... and may you go out of business...

Blackberry Curve / Javelin 8900

So I lost my cellphone. Again. The last three phones I have bought have all been replacements for phones lost/stolen in various parts of the world. Given this track record, I guess upgrading to a BlackBerry doesn't quite come through as the most sensible thing to do. But what the hell. One has to fight one's own rationality once in a while. The world would be too dull otherwise.

The first evening with this new toy has left me significantly underwhelmed. The user experience is less than spectacular, and not quite what I was expecting from a BlackBerry.

First let's start with a phone feature that does not seem to figure too prominently in any review (of any phone) - the placement of the SIM card and ease of installing and replacing a SIM. I started playing with my shiny new toy with a family member's SIM card, and when the time came to swap that with my own, the piss poor design of the SIM holder in the Javelin hit home. There is a small slot that fits the SIM very tightly once it is slid into position. The problem is the hold is to tight, and there are no catches that release the SIM that once it lodges itself safely into place, getting it out is a herculean task as one can't grab the SIM properly. I am yet to recover fully from the brain deadedness of it all. The thought of coaxing the SIM from this baby half jetlagged and in a landing plane does not fill me with enthusiasm. It has got to be the worst design there is. The Nokia 1110 that costs INR 1500 has a SIM holder that's easier to use. The BlackBerry Bold and Javelin (also called the Curve 8900) have the same wonderfully crappy design. 

Then ran into software issues. The BlackBerry desktop software failed to install properly - some DLLs were not registering. After much head scratching, I figured the problem was the installation path had a apostrophe somewhere, and Windows could not handle that. WTF. Anyway, that consumed some 2 hours of my time.

Trying to sync my Outlook contacts with the Black Berry was the next challenge - the desktop software kept crashing. Double WTF. But by early hours of the morning, by the grace of some unknown $LORD, my contacts were transferred.

This is my first non-Nokia phone, and what a crappy beginning. sure hope things will settle down, and the damn thing shows its worth :)

The Hindu online version comes to the 21st century

Well... a first teeny weeny baby step.


From their website:

"The redesigned website of The Hindu was launched on Saturday, August 15, in beta.

As the website of a 130-year-old newspaper of record, it retains its core values of independence, authenticity, and credibility while adopting contemporary web design principles, tools, and features."

The design is by Mario Garcia Jr., of Garcia Media, Tampa. Florida, USA. The workflow solution is by CCI Europe A/S, Denmark.The web publishing system is from Escenic A/S, Norway.

About time, I'd say :)

Quality of proof reading on

I am sure this would be fixed quite soon, but the language and content gave me a headache just now. WTF.

" The ticket agent noticed his strange behavior and alerted officials for with the Transportation Security Administration, who soon approached the man and separated him from his bag."

"About 5:30, officials evacuated the airport, and some passengers who had already been cleared through security were transported by bus taken to gates at other terminals, Mr. Kelly said."

"The oA law enforcement official who requested anonymity because of the ongoingcontinuing investigation said Mr. McGann had a boarding pass for United Airlines Flight 667 to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in"

Making a point


"In a previous life (before Akamai) I was a complier guy, and for my Master's Thesis I showed that just by adding NOPS you can improve the performance of the SPEC benchmarks by up to 9%. This was in reaction to the common practice (at the time) of publishing compiler papers presenting complicated complier techniques to achieve performance improvements of only 5-10%"

I have not checked out the guy's thesis; but that summary brought a smile to my face, alright!

"Browse Here and Buy Online" Book Stores

One often comes across pleas like "don't go into a book store to check a product out and then come out and order from some online store - it does the physical store no good while you aim for that 5% discount."

Sadly, if 'check out a physical product and buy later online' is what consumers want, then that's what they will do; you cannot fight that. So let's imagine a store that lets people do exactly what they want. Imagine a store that has rack after rack of books - for display. Instead of a physical shopping cart you pick up a hand-held (with a bar code scanner) at the entrance. The hand held can give you complete access to the online information about a product (like amazon reviews, book website etc.). You browse (physically + info on the net) a book/item, and if you like it, you can 'add to shopping cart' electronically. Once you are done you check out - at 'internet rates', and your selections will be delivered by post to your address.

Think of this as a new retail format that market makers like Amazon can use. 'internet rates' should be possible because there is no inventory management at all in the store (expensive real estate). Perhaps a significant fraction of the cost can be recovered from the brands / companies whose products are being displayed.

Hm... anyone got Jeff Bezos' personal email address? Do you think he'll cough up some cash for some thoughts on this idea? :=)