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Summary:

Unlike Google, Apple doesn’t subscribe to the “Release Early, Iterate Often” model of software and service publishing. Even so, that’s how things have turned out with MobileMe. On Friday, Apple published updates to its MobileMe News pages detailing improvements to the service. “As part of an […]

Unlike Google, Apple doesn’t subscribe to the “Release Early, Iterate Often” model of software and service publishing. Even so, that’s how things have turned out with MobileMe. On Friday, Apple published updates to its MobileMe News pages detailing improvements to the service.

iDisk_screenshot

“As part of an update to the MobileMe web applications, you can now access Find My iPhone directly from the MobileMe toolbar.” Doesn’t sound like much (and it isn’t) but it’s a nice touch that makes Find My iPhone easier to access. (Previously the feature was confusingly tucked-away in the MobileMe Settings page.) Also handy is the use of a new URL users can enter into a browser to go straight to the Find My iPhone functionality: me.com/findmyiphone.

The web-based Contacts has been tweaked to resolve a problem that occurred when exporting multiple contacts at once, but by far the most Update Love was lavished upon long-neglected iDisk.

The Apple knowledge base article lists the following updates and improvements to iDisk:

  • New Public folder page located at http://public.me.com/membername now matches the look of me.com and supports drag and drop of files between folders (when enabled for visitors)
  • Allowing visitors to upload, move, and delete files on your Public folder can now be set from http://www.me.com/idisk
  • An iDisk Public folder password can now be set from http://www.me.com/idisk
  • When logging in to a password-protected Public folder with a web browser, entering the generic username “public” is no longer required
  • Adds ability to connect to another member’s Public folder while viewing your own iDisk at me.com

I’m happy to see the addition to iDisk’s web interface of drag and drop functionality, but I have to confess it makes no difference to me at this stage. I simply don’t use the web-based version of iDisk very much if I can help it – it’s too slow, cumbersome and unpredictable. I’ve all too often found myself several-folder-levels deep into iDisk, digging around for a file or three, and suddenly discovered the interface has stopped responding to my clicks. Almost at the same instant I realize things have ground to a halt, the page automatically refreshes itself, dumping me back at my iDisk root folder. That’s frustrating. The language I use in those moments reflects just how frustrating.

In my experience, the poor performance and functional unpredictability of iDisk are the only things about it that are predictable. I don’t know anyone who has had a better experience. Ah well. At least it looks better now.

I’m hardly bowled-over by these updates, but I appreciate they’ve been made. As a paying subscriber to MobileMe, it’s nice to see that Apple remains committed to improving the service. At $99 a year for a single user licence it’s not fabulously expensive, and while a lot of people feel it’s still too pricey, it falls far short of the costs of most hosted Exchange servers. Apple touted MobileMe as “Exchange for the rest of us” and, while a shaky start didn’t do the service any PR favors, I’ve been using MobileMe’s over-the-air sync/push services from Day One with (mostly) satisfaction. Generally speaking, it works.

But I’ve stopped using iDisk because it’s a joke. Stingy storage capacity and horribly slow, flaky performance means I learned long-ago to stop hoping for iDisk to be a dependable cloud-based data storage and sync solution. (Try saying that five times fast!) Today I use DropBox instead of iDisk. And while DropBox is quite ridiculously priced there’s no arguing it’s the no-brainer alternative to iDisk.

But, as they say, “Half of something is better than all of nothing” and I’m glad to see I’m getting some added value for my $99 membership fee. Even if I don’t use it.

  1. Fantastic! It is good to be able to find how to find your iPhone. On the other hand, being able to sort your photos directly in MobileMe galleries, that seems to be too much for Apple. What is it with Apple and sorting? It appears that they philosophically reject it.

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  2. Apple has totally fu**ed up MobileMe beyond belief.

    The thing that angers us the most about MobileMe is that Apple has effectively discontinued the Apple Backup program that we enjoyed using to perform online backups to our iDisk.

    This was a very important part of our $99 per year membership!

    Yet Apple just silently pulled all webpages for the Apple Backup program from its entire website altogether, and the last & final remnant of the program is inside the “Software” folder inside your iDisk.

    However, Apple Backup does not work reliably under Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, as it no longer knows how to keep track of its internal schedule for when its supposed to kick in for automated backups. So Apple Backup is basically a completely useless product at this point.

    Thanks, Apple, for crippling and discontinuing yet another part of your MobileMe services for us, but still charging us a fortune for your reduced services anyways!

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    1. @Scott Rose,
      Backup.app is still available.

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  3. What I don’t understand is why anyone continues to use it at all. I suppose MobileMe is convenient …

    But there are so many free alternatives that it isn’t even hard to reconstruct exactly the same experience somewhere else. For example, Live Mesh or DropBox offers a superior file sync/backup service for far less, and Google Sync is the “Exchange alternative for the rest of us.”

    If interested, you can find a more comprehensive list at:

    http://www.oak-tree.us/blog/index.php/2009/02/27/mobileme-alternatives

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    1. The reality is that most people do not want to be bothered with one site for this, and other for that. They want a self contained solution, even if it is a compromise.

      I find Apple’s whole implementation of network connection through the finder to be a nightmare for anything that is not on the local network. My Macbook connects beautifully to the departments shared drives and to my desktop Powermac when I am on campus, but when trying to do this over my home network (10MB Dn/1MB Up), it is painfully slow and often results in the spinning ball. Most times I just use Transmit to connect because it is so much faster.

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    2. Your hodgepodge frankenlist of half-good “free” alternatives is only “free” if your time is worthless. Mine isn’t.

      There are some good items in there, like Dropbox, but when it comes to web services, integrated trumps everything, and particularly if you’re working in iLife, nothing else even comes close to the no-hassle ease of MobileMe.

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    3. @ Charles. My apologies that the “frankenlist” wasn’t up to your standards. But do you really keep track of your time in the seconds? Because, that’s the difference between using MobileMe and choosing an alternative service.

      For file sync, use DropBox or maybe Windows Live Mesh/Sync. For calendar and all other services, use Google. You probably already have a Google account anyway and Apple has kindly built all of these services into their OS. They even use much of the same internal plumbing that MobileMe takes advantage of. Not to mention that iPhone is supported completely.

      In fact, I’d argue that my “frankenlist” has actually saved me time. In the 30 days that I used MobileMe, the service was consistently slow, unavailable or throwing bizarre errors. I’ve been happier and more productive using alternatives. It just goes to show that “mileage may vary.”

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  4. I like Mobile Me, now if it would just help me find my car keys…

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  5. iDisk works fine for me. You can get MobileMe for $65 on Amazon or lots of other places. I just renewed Mobile Me and did it that way instead of paying the $99 renewal fee. $65 for a year is a great deal for what you get.

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  6. As of this entry, the MobileMe log-in page is down (again) and
    this time will be the last. At $99/Yr. it’s not a deal if you have your
    own website and the faster and not-so -problematic webmail that
    comes with it. It would fill a page to mention all the problems with
    their mail (no HTML or Rich Text, slow, cumbersome to name a few)
    But as of January, 2010 I’m gone and Apple shouldn’t even try to
    lure me back.

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  7. I only pay $69 for my MobileMe account. that’s fine for me. $99 yeah is too much.

    I did a blog post though> i spend a lot of money on sync systems.

    http://blog.adam-jackson.net/2009/09/06/keeping-multiple-macs-pcs-in-sync/

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  8. Not sure what the author is talking about re: iDisk. This year has seen a HUGE improvement in speed for me on my iDisk, which I use all the time. It’s slower than a local hard drive, yes, but it’s pretty quick on a good cable connection, and now takes full advantage of one’s upload capacity (which, as a lot of people seem to be unaware, is always a tiny fraction of your download speed).

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  9. Still waiting on rich text email composing. Is it really too much to ask for, when it’s considered standard everywhere else?

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  10. Liam,

    Why in heaven’s name are you using iDisk via the Web instead of a synced local copy? That makes zero sense to me. I have lots of data on my iDisk, and it’s synced locally to my MacBook and iMac. I always have the same data no matter which machine I use, and it’s local so speed is not an issue. I also love that it’s local so if I can’t get on the network, or lose a connection, etc., I can go on about my business unaffected, knowing it’ll sync back up when I re-connect.

    If you use more than one Mac, and especially if you add at least one iPhone in the mix, there is no better deal MobileMe. Its cost is trivial for the features it provides.

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    1. Hi Tom, thanks for the comment.

      You’re making the assumption I only use the web based iDisk, but I never said that. For the record, I normally avoid the web based iDisk whenever I can.

      I own three Macs and all three have a mounted local copy of my iDisk.

      That said, my original statement stands; iDisk is painfully slow and unreliable.

      In daily use across my machines, iDisk sync starts, seems to take forever, and still ultimately fails for reasons that are never explained. Other times, it works – or at least, *appears* to work, happily reported it is synced even when I can see changes have not migrated.

      This is the same whether I choose to sync manually or automatically. This is the same on Leopard, Snow Leopard, across three different models of Mac and even with fully deleted and resinstated local copies of my iDisk.

      And it’s not my network; I enjoy a 20mb connection, with consistent, high up/download rates.

      End result – after using it extensively, after trying all manner of tests to make sure I’m not being an idiot, I’ve found in my personal experience, iDisk is a time-vampire that works only when it *wants* to work, and syncs only when it *wants* to sync.

      So as I said – I’m glad to see Apple is trying to improve the feature set, but until they can offer performance at *least* as good as DropBox, it’s a big old FAIL to me.

      But, of course, YMMV :-)

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    2. Liam,

      Yes, I did assume you were not using a local iDisk, and now I’m more confused than ever.

      A local copy is… a local copy. Why would your Mac access something off a local iDisk much slower than off a local, say, Download directory? I’d call it a bug except you’re seeing it everywhere. Anyway, if my local iDisks worked as yours do I wouldn’t be happy either.

      However, my experience is the exact opposite. The local iDisk on my two Macs is accessed as fast as anything else on the hard drives.

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