Keep contacts plain

In the last 3 years, I have used many contact management tools. This is the story of how I changed contact organization tools across time. This is my story.

At the beginning there was a phone. I didn´t have any contact information anywhere so I started off by introduccing my contacts on the phone. Thus my mobile phone became the base of all my contact management. As time went by and I changed the phone I had to find a way to copy things to the new one.

If you keep the contacts on the SIM card, this tasks it's easy. The only thing you need to do is insert the old sim card on the new phone and of you go.

However, as a programmer, I soon realised the limitations of this technique. At the end of the day, you have a very limited storage on the card. At the same time, I was too dependant on the SIM card. Had I lost it, I would have lost all my contacts. So I imediatelly started thinking of a way to keep the contacs in the computer and being able to sync them to the mobile phone.

These were my Windows days. I had just finished University and since I was a child, the only operating systems I had used were property of Microsoft. Due to this, I didn´t know the advantages and disadvantages of using other Operating systems and therefore I stuck to the one I knew.

In this environment, I tryed outlook to keep all my contacts and then sync them with the phone. The first month I thought I had the perfect set up. I couldn´t see anything else I might wanted to do that It wasn´t posible to do with the current set up. One again though, I sang victory songs to early. The realization came when I wanted to syncronize a second computer without using the phone. I started to dream about synchronizing all my computers online.

So I discovered Plaxo. I thought it was very cool at the begining. Specially with my new windows mobile phone (HTC touch). All contacts were getting syncronized as well as all tasks. The mobile was notifiying me with tasks and birthdays and setting a second computer with all my personal information was as easy as connectiong it to Plaxo. It looks perfect, doesn´t it?

We are however missing and important point here. We are stuck with propietary formats. Not only that but also, Plaxo can know everything about me and my friends. I started to worry about this things. I wanted to see were my contacts were really being saved and I wanted to be able to understand the formats which they were being saved.

I don´t really remember when I started using GNU/Linux. But ever since I did that, I try to make things simple. I hate propietary formats because they make it difficult to interchange data. When I see the data and I can understand it I feel better. I fell on control of my data. I feel free as in freedom.

The path from here is been far from easy and is far from been complete. Being able to be free is a good feeling but it´s really difficult when you really think about it.

I found an editor called emacs and start liking the way it works. I found a contact management database called BBDB and found that there is a way to export contact to a nokia phone using gnokii. I keep the birthdays and tasks in an org-mode file that I managed with emacs.

There is a learning curve for all of this, but the flexibility it gives you is worth it. Everything is saved in flat files and it´s open software and I own all my data. Still syncing everything is as easy as syncing flat files!

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