Gruber speaks here on one of my favourite topics, Apple’s venerable MobileMe service.
Mobile Me. It’s great for syncing your iPhone to your Mac, but what’s the point of Mobile Me’s Web apps? If you’re at your computer, you use Mail and Calendar. If you’re out and about, you’re supposed to use the iPhone. Gruber has a sneaking suspicion Apple put apps up on the Web because “that’s what the kids were talking about.” It’s like the lounge singer, he says, who grows long sideburns after Elvis Presley arrives.
I think the point he’s missed is that MobileMe’s web services are for when you don’t have your computer with you, or you don’t have an iPhone, but I take his point – that doesn’t happen very often now, why would you leave home without your iPhone?
I’ve written long into the night concerning my love-hate relationship with Apple’s syncing service.
I now feel that I can recommend it, however it still seems as a whole, to be lacking a certain cohesion.
Certainly when adding up all the separate parts, it is very good value, but there are still some gaps.
A decent notes sync for a start. I won’t go into the shortcomings, and half-assed attempt by Apple to give us notes syncing, but it’s certainly not up to scratch.
The workaround I have is to keep all the notes as text files on my iDisk, and then edit them on my Macs with a text editor, and on the iPhone with an Office app that allows creating, editing and savings files to your iDisk over wifi & 3G.
Back To My Mac that actually works. I can’t get through my workplace’s arcane Windows server, so BTMM is a non-starter for me. I don’t see why it has to be this way. As a back-up I use the free ‘logmein‘ website, so I can log into any Mac on my network, remotely, with no configuration whatsoever – it just works. Why BTMM needs special configuration of the router is beyond me. Actually it’s not, I understand what need to be done, I just don’t see the reason why it needs to be done.
Coming back to the cohesion problem, MobileMe seems to be a good range of separate ideas, but they don’t gel together.
You have the web apps, the iPhone apps and the Mac apps. Some sync together (iCal, Address Book), others do not (Notes). Some exist on one platform (Notes on the iPhone and in Mac Mail), but not the other (no web apps for Notes).
To me ‘the cloud’ concept isn’t clearly being followed through. Apple need to have 3 clear clients:
- MobileMe capable apps for the Mac
- MobileMe capable apps for the iPhone & iPad
- MobileMe capable apps for the web apps
Each app needs to be comparable to that platform, so if you had the iWork app ‘Pages’ on the Mac, then there is a comparable app on the other devices (as feature-rich as the platform allows).
Any new app is released on all platforms simultaneously – that is absolutely vital – true cloud computing, your content, anytime, any situation, anywhere.
And most importantly – they all need instant sync between each other, pulling from the cloud.
That is a MobileMe service I’d be willing to pay for – maybe even a bit more for.
I’ve written many times about the frustrations I’ve had with MobileMe, the bad syncing, the ‘just plain not working’ problems, one of which needed a reinstallation of the combo updater.
However I’ve just completed an upgrade of my design studio, upgrading everything to Leopard (yes I know it’s been a while) and I can now state (touch wood), the MobileMe is living up to its promise.
I think the problems I have had is mainly down to the fact that the main central Mac is (and always has been) Leopard, and the other Macs have all been Tiger based.
Now that we’re all Leopard, I’m seeing some very reliable and fast syncing, it now ‘just works’.
It seems also that MobileMe’s infrastructure at Apple is also a lot more reliable than it was in the past.
So, I’m now planning a roll-out of the syncing across multiple Macs, I’ll report back with my hopeful success.
So I’ve had a rocky year with MobileMe that’s tested my patience to it’s limits. Many others agree with me:
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Although by all accounts it’s not as bad as when it first started (I joined after the MobileMe team were sacked replaced), it still could be so much more.
My plans were huge for Apple’s syncing service, I was going to connect up my freelance work, and sync the computers in my studio (about 6-7 Macintoshes) and much more.
The reality? I dare not do more than sync up one work Mac, with my home Mac.
The amount of troubleshooting I’ve had to do just keep this running smoothly means that if I pushed this out to the full studio, I’d spend too much time keeping it working – time I just don’t have.
Apple, I know that this is a small blog that nobody reads, but you really, really need to do something, and quickly – like the image above says, you’ve got 51 days before I’m forced into making a decision of whether to continue.
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I’ve written before about the problems I’ve had with MobileMe, and that it doesn’t seem as rock-solid as we’d like.
I’ve had problems with data syncing, needing to re-set sync data on 2 occasions, and one problem needing to reinstall a combo updater.
Many pundits have written that maybe this is proof-positive that ‘the cloud’ is not and indeed cannot, live up to its promise – a totally reliable, always backed-up, always available media-rich experience.
I’ve decided to give MobileMe the benefit of the doubt and use it ‘carefully’ and with a constant overseeing to make sure that all is well.
I’ve commented in a recent post, that with all the problems Apple had and continues to have with their cloud, maybe we are seeing the limits of their competence and maybe after all, Microsoft with all their expertise, can do it better.
I’m glad to be proved wrong.
It’s hard to know where to begin with this. Microsoft bought a company called Danger in early 2008, and basically took a perfectly functioning online service for T-Mobile’s Sidekick users and whilst performing an upgrade, totally screwed it up in the worst way possible.
They actually lost their data. Forever. Gone. No backup.
What’s Microsoft current market cap? $230 Billion?
How is it possible that this could happen?
And more importantly, why do people constantly continue to deal with this loose collection of morons that dare to call themselves a company?
In all my criticisms of MobileMe, I have never lost even one ACSII characters worth of data. It’s been a pain to reset sync, and I’ve invented at least 4 new swearwords when I was troubleshooting Apple’s cloud, but Apple have made sure that I never actually lost anything.
Well done Microsoft for allowing confidence in the cloud to be dented even further than it was. Morons.
In the end the solution was very simple, however the way in which I found out it was simple, was not simple.
Firstly, let me remind you the mac in question is a production machine, therefore I can’t afford to do anything wrong. So I had a plan.
I have a spare G5 (lucky me) so I decided to Carbon Copy Cloner the spare Mac (Mac 1) to a disk image on an external. I’d do the same to the Mac with the MobileMe problem (Mac 2).
It would then be a simple case of installing Mac 2’s disk image to Mac 1. I could then troubleshoot this Mac as much as I needed until the problem was solved.
Well this bit sounds simple but the cloning took ages; a day and a bit later I was set.
So I ran Onyx to clear all caches. After a restart – problem remained.
So I reinstalled the 10.4.11 update – and this solved the problem.
A short while later the production Mac is MobileMe’ing happily.
Why did MobileMe die? – Who knows?
Am I now happy? – Not really. When something goes wrong with a Mac I expect the answer to be a logical progression of testing and narrowing down the problem.
In this case, nothing made sense. The problem didn’t seem to have a logical solution, and the only thing that worked was overwriting some files with a combo updater.
This isn’t very Mac-like – and it’s that aspect of this that worries me a great deal.
This is a difficult post to write.
More often than not, the content of this blog is pro-Apple. I make no apologies for this, and although I do critcise Apple from time to time, I also cut them some slack.
Recently I purchased MobileMe. Now, despite a hiccup in purchasing, which wasn’t Apple’s fault, but the resellers, things went smoothly.
At first, things went smoothly. I have an iBook running Leopard, an iPod Touch and a G5 Tower running Tiger, all syncing to the cloud.
This worked fine for a little while. I kept getting a lot of contact an calendar updates on the G5, which was a bit suspicious, but things worked OK.
That was until last week.
The G5 at work was syncing OK, no problems, the iBook & Touch worked flawlessly. Just to check a configuration, I clicked the .Mac Preference Pane on the G5 (it’s running Tiger remember).
It wouldn’t open. It beachballed and then gave me a ‘Could not open .Mac because of an error.”
I’m a seasoned troubleshooter, so I logged into another account – same result. OK, that points to a system-wide pref file that’s corrupted.
So I moved all the .plist files I could find and restarted.
Oh dear. This time the G5 stalled at the desktop. It couldn’t load the .Mac menubar item. So I did a bit of system-voodoo and removed that menubar item so it wouldn’t have to load.
The system now started ok (sans the menu bar item), but upon launching System Preferences, the .Mac Preference Pane wasn’t there.
Ouch. Never seen that before. At this point I thought about cache corruption. The preference pane was in the system (I checked) but it wasn’t loading.
So I cleaned the local caches and restarted. Now my Keyboard & Mouse Preference Pane is in Chinese. I kid you not.
Anyway, this G5 is a production machine, so I left it there, so I could do some more research.
This research has given me a few pointers, which I will try soon. There’s a couple of files I haven’t trashed yet, so we’ll try that.
If that doesn’t work, then I’ll clean all caches, including system.
If that doesn’t work, I’ll try reinstalling the combo updater.
If that doesn’t work, it’s a install of a new system.
How is it possible that enabling a product on your system can cause so many problems? I have over 20 years Mac experience and I’m grasping for solutions.
How is it possible that a product can simply stop working for no reason?
And, let’s not forget, this is an additional service I’VE PAID FOR.
Which is why this article is difficult to write.
MOBILEME IS NOT READY – AT ALL.
It works for lots of people, but not all. I certainly could not run a business on this. Even the little web-design service I do in my spare time.
I don’t expect this from Apple, I really don’t.
Are we seeing here the limits to what Apple can do reliably? Are we seeing the edges of their competence? Were all those Windows users right in saying that Apple just doesn’t do certain things as good as Microsoft?
Now that Steve’s away, I hope that Tim asks some serious question of MobileMe. It’s damaging the brand severely and they need the courage to fix it properly, or pull it off the market, trash it and partner with Google, rebrand their offerings and give us a service that we can all be proud of.
Will I be renewing in a years time? At this moment, I’d say no.
After much deliberation, I decided to purchase MobileMe.
I was going to purchase it almost immediately, however if you are a follower of all things Apple, you can’t blame me for holding of for a while.
It has to be one of the dark days at Apple, that they allow a product to ship that quite clearly wasn’t ready for primetime.
So I followed the news for a while and saw that the number of complaints fell to an acceptable level, so I decided to jump in, after years of kicking the tyres.
I’ll come to my experiences in using MobileMe in another post; the reason for this post, is to point out the rocky road I myself had to travel, even before I started using Apple’s Cloud.
I decided to purchase the boxed version of MobileMe from a local Apple reseller in Nottingham in the UK. I won’t mention their name, however the name has 4 letters of the alphabet in it and begins with K. If you’re from the UK, you’ll know who I mean.
I wanted the boxed version as it was going to be a present from my wife for my birthday.
So we travelled to Nottingham and tried to purchase the boxed version of MobileMe. Now, it’s here I made my first mistake. The salesperson said that they could sell me a boxed copy of .Mac (the last one in the shop apparently!) for £10 cheaper than MobileMe.
He assured me that everything would work OK, the serial number was the same for both services.
I fell for it, and made my purchase.
Upon opening on my birthday, I visited the MobileMe code activation page and entered my code.
Oh dear. It didn’t work. It kept on coming up with the message, ‘That could has already been used.”
Now, I gave the salesperson the benefit of the doubt. I had heard that there had been a few problems in transferring .Mac accounts to MobileMe, so I called the reseller to give me some guidance.
Well, they were no help. The advice was, “Not our problem, this happened to me, don’t worry, you just need to call AppleCare, here’s the number.”
So, unperturbed, I called AppleCare. I got in touch with a very nice young lady who was no help whatsoever. The told me to goto the help pages at MobileMe and use the ‘chat’ service there.
So, again I launched the chat service and here’s where I actually got some of the amazing Apple service I heard so much about.
Within a few seconds a very helpful person was taking my complaint down, and a few minutes of checking told me what the problem was.
The account had been activated 305 days ago and was already active.
Now, they said they usually tell people to take it back to the Applestore for a full refund, but in this case, they’d give me a new code for free. A few minutes later my account was activated and syncing.
Great service at last.
So the question arises, are KRCS (damn! named them – whoops!) selling copies of .Mac they’ve already sold to someone else (when they set up a Mac for a customer maybe?)
I don’t know for sure, but it sure smells fishy to me.
I have always advocated that you should look after the little guy’s business, but in future, I’ll be visiting Sheffield Apple Store.
I’ve signed-up to the free trial now 3 times in as many years.
Every time I read about it online I think to myself, “that sounds good, and very useful, let’s give it a go.”
Every time I fully expect that I’ll put down my £60 and subscribe properly for a year, instead of just kicking the tyres.
But I don’t. I sign up for the free trial, take a good look around, try out a couple of things and just let it fizzle away to nothing.
What puts me off?
Well certainly not the cost. £60 for what you get is very reasonable, although you can duplicate a lot of it for free.
It seems to come down to me I think. I’m just not that well organised digitally, and a lot of what you can do with .Mac takes a certain amount of organisation and effort in terms of figuring out how to do things. I guess I’m just lazy.
But, now an iPhone is on my horizon (it’s still blurry and a way off, but it is there), .Mac seems to make more sense.
So I signed up again, and took a look at the iPhoto integration, and was very impressed.
No, scratch that – I actually verbalised a ‘wow’.
I know this has been around for a while, but posting a web gallery from within iPhoto to .Mac just blew me away.
I then started to play around with iWeb, and could see the potential there as well.
Actually, and really for the first time, I started to get it, I’ve started to see how .Mac can be part of my life.
But now we have ‘MobileMe’.
Not the best name ever, but I didn’t like ‘MacBook’ when I first heard it, and now it seems the most perfectly natural phrase.
Push services, full integration with iPhone, and much, much more for the same price as before, this is the icing on the cake.
It’d be nice if ‘Back To My Mac’ would just friggin’ work though.