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Pushing the iCalendar Standard

A few years ago I found out that my local waste disposal company offered an Android App mymü with the capability to remind me the day before the collections. Back then it was easy to install and it saved me a few times from missing to put out the garbage cans, so I did not think any further of it. Only when the App on a later update started to request privileges that were surely not needed for a simple reminder service, I revisited the topic.

In the meantime I have an established calendaring solution in the form of my own NextCloud server and I wondered why it would not be possible to import the dates into a shared calendar. Most Apps on Android nowadays seem to exist because of the data collection features much rather than the actual functionality, so getting rid of yet another one is a worthwhile aim. Although people not seem to care, I for myself have decided not to install apps anymore requiring privileges not related to their intended task.

Sure enough the company was offering links with iCalendar downloads, but unfortunately the import into the Calendar App from Nextcloud failed for every single event in the file. Not good. A quick test with the Evolution groupware of the GNOME Desktop Environment yielded the same result, but luckily with line numbers of the errors. As is easy with public standards, it wasn't at all a big problem to find the latest iCalendar standard, i.e. RFC5545 and check for myself. Indeed the data files violated the standard in a trivial way. As the files are plain text, correcting the errors with trusty old sed and testing again was a short exercise and confirmed the analysis.

So I contacted the Entsorgungs-Betriebe der Stadt Ulm beginning of last November and kindly asked them if it would be possible to fix the problem once and for all at the source. Not having received any reply I kind of forgot about it again until beginning of January. Realizing that shared calendar with the manually fixed entries was empty for all of the new year I revisited the download section and tried again. Seeing the same error prompted me to write a kind followup to my old querying if the mail was lost for some reason or if I should contact someone else responsible for the download section.

This time I received a mail in only a few hours and the confirmation that my original mail had indeed been received and forwarded to the external team responsible for the website. Only two days later I received another mail that the bug had indeed been fixed and that tests with NextCloud had also been positive. Thanks EBU!

In this spirit it may be interesting to be reminded of ancient wisdom that sometimes seem almost lost:

Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu - chapter 78

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore the sage says:
     He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people
          is fit to rule them.
     He who takes upon himself the country's disasters deserves
          to be king of the universe.
The truth often seems paradoxical.


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