Apple’s replacement for .Mac has had a very rocky start, and has a long way to go before its ready to compete with free alternatives. Many users do not want to move away from MobileMe because of the deep integration with the Mac desktop, while others are reluctant because its hard to find another single service that provides all of the services that MobileMe does. If the latest outage has you ready to jump ship, here’s a guide to making the break.
Making the transition to Gmail is very easy. Gmail allows you to use POP3 to download all of your existing mail from MobileMe into Gmail, and Gmail also allows you to send email as firstname.lastname@example.org allowing you time to migrate slowly. With instant search, integrated chat, nearly infinite storage, and an extremly fast interface, making the switch to Gmail not only replaces MobileMe Mail, it makes your email overwhelmingly more enjoyable.
Calendar: Google Calendar
Using the mail substitution above, its a simple click away to use the excellent Google Calendar. The web interface is excellent, but if you are an iCal user, Google Calendar provides a very simple way to migrate all of your existing calendars off of MobileMe.
First, create blank calendars on Google Calendar to mirror each MobileMe calendar you use today. Next, simply follow the instructions here to sync your Google Calendar to iCal. Finally, drag and drop your calendar events from the local iCal calendar to the newly added Google Calendar. Once all of the calendar events are moved over, delete each of the iCal calendars. Give Google a second to sync everything up to their servers and then check the web interface. All of your calendars should be available.
Address Book: Plaxo
Plaxo not only syncs your address book contacts to their web service, it also keeps your contact information current with others who use their service. Plaxo includes a plugin for the Mac’s Address Book that makes the sync painless. It can also sync to Gmail’s contacts, Outlook, and a host of other services.
iPhone Bonus! If you’ve got an iPhone, you can sync Address Book directly with Google, bypassing Plaxo. There’s also a clever hack to enable this ability without an iPhone, but, being unsupported, the next Mac OS update will probably wipe it out.
There’s certainly no shortage of photo sharing web sites available. Crowd favorite Flickr is a great choice, and with the $24 FlickrExport tool from Connected Flow, you can upload directly from iPhoto. Flickr also has a ton of social media capabilities, and the ability to integrate into other online services. If you’d like to keep with one provider as much as possible, Google’s Picasa is another great photo sharing site, which also has a free iPhoto plugin to upload photos.
iDisk: Amazon S3
This is another area where there is certainly no shortage of competition but I ultimately chose Amazon S3 + Cyberduck for my online storage needs. Box.net is another strong option; however, my initial tests found very poor WebDav capability. Amazon S3 can be a little complicated to set up, but at only 15 cents per gigabyte, the price is hard to beat, and there is an active developer community creating new applications for accessing S3 all the time.
Mozy provides 2 gigabytes free online storage, and their Mac client integrates easily with the desktop. The utility installs as a menu item, and offers pre-configured “Backup Sets” for many common items like Address Book, Apple Mail, Keychains, and Firefox or Safari bookmarks. It also offers to backup your entire Documents, Music, and Movies folders. With the Backup Sets feature I set up a custom Yojimbo set by selecting all of the files in
~/Library/Application Support/Yojimbo. Mozy also allows you to specify a specific file or directory that you would like backed up.
Sync Bonus! If you are using Firefox as your main browser, Foxmarks can sync both your bookmarks and passwords between multiple machines, regardless of operating system. I use it to keep my browsers in sync between my Mac at home, and my Windows XP laptop at work.
iWeb Hosting: Google Sites
Google Sites gives you a very simple and easy way to setup a web site for sharing stories, photos, and movies with friends and family. While not as all encompassing as an iWeb site, it still gets the job done. If Sites is not really what you are looking for, consider setting up a free blog site with WordPress.com. If sticking with iWeb is a necessity, simple, low volume web hosting with a company like 1and1 or Dreamhost is relatively inexpensive, and can give you full control over the content, look, and feel of your site.
Breaking away from MobileMe is not a decision to be taken lightly, but by taking an objective look at exactly what you want out of an online service, the move can be relatively painless, and surprisingly enjoyable.