Moving Contacts to an LDAP Server - Someday

I must confess I like reading Ask Slashdot, if only to see the idiocy/helpfulness ratio of replies to interesting questions like this one. I have mostly the same problem (moving my 300-odd contacts from Outlook to some kind of central server, preferably LDAP), and even though it looks as if all the technology is in place, everything falls apart at the seams when you try to put it together.

And all the massed geek know-how of the planet just sits there and writes "code it yourself and make it Open Source" replies (extended translation: we're too lazy to help and don't care anyway, but we'll use it if you write it).

I share the poster's pain. I've tried pretty much the same thing: Picked up Dawn, set up an OpenLDAP server and tried to import all my contacts into the standard LDAP schema. Failed miserably, not due to the "anti-whitespace paranoia" of ldapadd (been there before with authentication databases), but rather due to the utterly stupid amount of cruft an LDAP entry absolutely needs to have before being allowed for consideration by LDAP to (maybe) have the privilege to be stored.

Yeah, it's that tough. And there are no halfway decent GUIs, either. I have a whole list of tools, but none I could get to work properly (that is, easily and without a Master's Thesis in Distributed Directory Services).

You would have thought this would be one of the things the Linux World Domination crusade would have a proper answer to. After all, Evolution needs it. Mozilla supports LDAP too. OpenLDAP is touted as a reference implementation for a bunch of standards. And yet, none of them provides a halfway decent way to import a bunch of personal contacts from Outlook (other than re-entering all the data manually).

The vCard people did it right. A simple, flexible, extensible format, without any external dependencies. The Mac OS X Address Book handles them (and groups of them, and LDAP, but read-only and without authentication, although the Panther version is rumored to support authenticated LDAP). I might just move all my contact data to it, if only because the underlying format is open and easy to manipulate.

Gut a vCard, dress it up as an LDIF entry, and you end up with an immovable, practically hard-linked entry on a pathetically complex tree. And if you create a Contacts subtree in the wrong place, you can't move it easily. No, you have to dump the contents, re-dress the frills, destroy it and then re-create it someplace else.

XML and XPath look pretty good for this sort of stuff (structured data hung on trees), but my e-mail clients will have none of it - all they know (besides their own address books) is how to look up stuff in LDAP. I suppose it was on Microsoft's feature list - everyone went into "me too" mode back in the "directory wars" between Microsoft and Novell...