Cooking with Linux - Linux, Thunderbird and the BlackBerry—a Love Story

Keeping various devices in sync with our Linux systems can be the source of nightmares for many. After all, asking for an open-source solution that can keep millions of smartphones, cell phones, e-mail clients, contact databases and calendars on the same planet, never mind the same page, seems akin to asking for the moon—to which Chez Marcel would like to ask, “Would you

Once installed, you will see the Funambol BlackBerry sync icon in your list of applications on the BlackBerry screen (Figure 7).

Figure 7. The Funambol Client Icon as It Appears on My BlackBerry

Click the icon, and you should see a status screen showing Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes, all with Not Synchronized below the labels. To perform a sync, you need to configure the client. Press the menu key on your BlackBerry, and select Settings (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Press the menu key to configure the client settings.

When the Funambol client configuration screen appears (Figure 9), enter the URI for your machine's Funambol server. This is the same address that you entered when you configured the server. You also must enter your user name and password—that's your Linux server user name and password. A little farther down that screen, there are check boxes beside labels to Sync Contacts, Sync Calendar, Sync Tasks and Sync Notes. These are all checked by default, but you may decide you don't want to sync all those resources, so change it here if you like. You also can configure a scheduled sync and have the client update your information every 30 minutes (the default) or whatever period makes sense to you. That feature is not turned on unless you specify otherwise.

Figure 9. Funambol BlackBerry Client's Configuration Screen

When you're done, save your settings (on my BlackBerry, I just press the trackball or the back arrow). You'll find yourself back at the status screen, and now you're ready to synchronize for the first time. Press the menu key, and select Sync All from the menu. The Funambol client will connect with your server and start transferring the information on your BlackBerry. Underneath the labels for Contacts (and Calendar and so on), the client will show how many records are being transferred. Once complete, the status screen lists the last successful sync for each resource (Figure 10).

Figure 10. During synchronization, the status screen shows you the number of records transferred. Once complete, you can see the latest sync at a glance.

This is all wonderful, because the Funambol server effectively is keeping an over-the-air backup of your data—handy if you ever need to reload it. But, what if you use another client on your Linux desktop for e-mail, contacts and appointments, such as Evolution or Thunderbird? Funambol provides download clients for these and others as well. Figure 11 shows a screenshot of a pretty desolate-looking address book in Thunderbird.

Figure 11. My Thunderbird Address Book, without Any Contacts

The plugin you need for Thunderbird is available from the Funambol community download page. Download it, and save it to a local directory. Once that's done, click Tools on the Thunderbird menu bar and select Add-ons. When the Add-ons window appears, click the Install button, and navigate to the folder where you stored the file, then click on it and install it. Once finished, Thunderbird needs to restart to load the new extension. After Thunderbird restarts, you must configure the Funambol client to connect to your server. Click Tools from the menu bar, and select Funambol plugin. When the Funambol PIM Plugin window appears, click the Options button, and you'll see a screen that, although shinier than the one on the BlackBerry, is similar as it asks for the same information, namely the server URL, user name and password (Figure 12). Enter the information, then click Close.

Figure 12. Configuring the Funambol Thunderbird Plugin

That's it. To synchronize Thunderbird with the contacts from my BlackBerry, all I do is click the Synchronize button and wait while my contacts are transferred (Figure 13). How long this takes depends, of course, on how much information is being synchronized and how fast your connection is.

Figure 13. The Thunderbird Sync Plugin Happily Doing What It Is Built to Do

In this way, I can keep my desktop client in sync with my BlackBerry and the server itself. As an added bonus, I get over-the-air backup with my own server without having to shell out the dollars for a BES server. Funambol, Linux and my BlackBerry—it's a match made in open-source heaven.

With the help of Funambol, a great open-source application, you (and François), can keep all that personal information in sync without having to resort to entering the information manually or paying huge sums of money for a special server running proprietary code. Well, mes amis, the time is finally upon us. That old clock on the wall says closing time has arrived yet again. François will be happy to refill your glasses a final time while we say our goodbyes to one another. Please, mes amis, raise your glasses, and let us all drink to one another's health. A votre santé! Bon appétit!



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Anonymous's picture


Great article! Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and experience. I did everything you mention in this post and defined my desktop computer as Funambol server (I have a wireless home network with a desktop computer and a laptop both running sidux and a Blackberry Bold 9000). My desktop IP address is so I defined Funambol URL as in both server (using funambol-admin) and clients neither the laptop or Blackberry can reach the server (the message in the Blackberry is Network Error). Do I need to start an additional service (i.e. http server). Thank you very much in advance,

Luis Pablo Gasparotto

Partially solved

Anonymous's picture


I'm making some progress. I installed dhttpd web server and now I'm able to open in both Blackberry and laptop but I'm still unable to sync them with server using Thunderbird add-on nor Blackberry Funambol client. I think I'm close to solve it. Any help will be really appreciate.

Best regards,

Luis Pablo