Thursday, July 17, 2008

MobileMe: Perspective of a crusty Palm veteran

I'll update this post as I explore the quirks of MobileMe. As I'd promised, I signed up:
Gordon's Tech:

... The 5 member MobileMe family pack is $130 on Amazon - a $20 savings. As usual, best to order via to give them a bit of a boost...
I didn't take advantage of the Amazon option, I decided to get the process out of the way. Since it's possible to upgrade from an individual to a family account, I decided to only buy what I need for the moment. When I do that update I'll document how the pricing works.

I did opt for the free trial; Apple converts me to a paid account unless I cancel. I had a typo in my original user name so I had to cancel once -- I think Apple would be wise to provide a username review before they complete the signup! My account starts one month after the Free Trial signup, so it does look like this gives me an extra month.

My first question is whether I could get the username that was associated with a former .Mac account. I was able to do that. I checked the old address before and after signing up -- the old email bounces.

Interestingly my Apple Store account, through which I make Apple purchases, is bound to my old .Mac email address. Currently that email address cannot be changed without discarding my Apple account and its associated purchase data -- so Apple doesn't have a current email address for me! I think they've missed something here. I wonder if they'll figure out the problem or if I'll have to discard that account.

Notes follow. In general the PIM/PDA services in MobileMe are a close match to OS X Address book and iCal.
  1. There's an order of declining support as follows:
    OS X 10.5 > OS X 10.4.11/Intel > Vista > XP > OS X 10.4.11/PPC.
    Yes, the absolute rock bottom support is Tiger, not XP. As of today only the iDisk works on 10.4.11/PPC Tiger (reports of Tiger success are Intel only).
  2. Calendars can be organized into Calendar Groups, Groups allow toggling of all members. Calendars may be more robust than the weak Palm model, and may even have advantages over Outlook 2003 calendars.
  3. I uninstalled the problematic Google calendar Sync before testing Outlook Calendar sync. There's no control of calendar synchronization direction, it's all or nothing. On initial sync when data exists the app does allow additional details.
  4. Tasks are very weak. Tasks have a minuscule note field, plain text only (no RTF), capacity > 500 characters. They have a description, completion status, due date (no start date), calendar association and, oddly enough, a URL. Task filtering, sorting and organizing is significantly inferior to the earliest US Robotics PalmPilot. Tasks must be associated with a single calendar; checking or unchecking display of a calendar controls display of calendar-associated tasks
  5. OS X iCal users have task synchronization, but Outlook users do not. Tasks in MobileMe (and iCal) are so weak it's hard to imagine being able to synchronize them with Outlook. Perhaps that has something to do with why there are still no iPhone tasks -- Apple's OS X Task management is so feeble compared to Outlook that Apple may be hoping the majority of users won't notice their absence! (They may be right.)
  6. There are no Note equivalents.
  7. Contacts are reasonably robust. Simpler than the baroque Outlook contacts, more complete that the simple Palm contact, exact match to the OS X address book.
  8. Account options allow one to cancel an account, set time zone, change alternate email address, and allocate storage (I minimized email storage).
  9. You can transfer a personal domain to MobileMe management and get iWeb '08 integration. It will be interesting to see what else they add to this.
  10. There's no equivalent to the old .Mac web page services. Unless they add something else it's iWeb only, which means XP users will be shortchaged. (I even recall when .Mac had some blogging tool -- Apple used to add and remove services fairly frequently when I was a member.)
  11. MobileMe email provides disposable aliases. This is a great feature. If you ever donate money to a political party, use a disposable alias. Parties are exempt from anti-spam laws.
  12. MobileMe email supports forwarding. I am forwarding to Gmail for now.
  13. Junk mail filtering is not enabled by default (weird). Junk mail filtering has complicated implications for Mac OX
  14. The iDisk contains remnants of .Mac, including a "Groups" folder. Groups are not a part of MobileMe.
  15. The iDisk also has an installer for the old OS X .Mac backup program.
  16. The iDisk Public Folder access can be password controlled. There is only one public password -- you can't assign folder-level access. There's some confusion in the documentation about the public URL and webdav connections. There's no web UI for access control, you use the MobileMe Control Panel installed with iTunes/XP, the MobileMe Preference panel in 10.5, or the obsolete .Mac preference in Tiger (10.4).
  17. iDisk supports Vista and OS X direct (webdav) access. XP direct webdav access is not officially supported. Some docs make mention of a MobileMe client, I don't know if the old XP iDisk client still works. I entered the string "[myusername]" into the XP "Add Network Place" dialog, and after a few false starts (user error?) my username and pw were accepted. Performance is slow, but it works.
  18. When I tried synchronizing from my 10.5 machine after all updates, I got this calendar error message "MobileMe Calendar could not start because it was unable to load any calendars from the server. Try reloading Calendar. If this problem persists, contact MobileMe Support." After a restart I was able to load.
  19. Safari/Window can't load my MobileMe calendar. It hangs -- probably too many events. Firefox 3.01/XP is able to load it. Safari OS X and Firefox 3.01/OS X can also load the calendar.
  20. I miss Microsoft. Hell frozen.
  21. When synchronizing multiple items (bookmarks, calendar, etc) with MobileMe a sync warning appears when any one of the items being synchronized is undergoing its first sync. MobileMe requests a user decision for the sync. Problem is, the UI does not allow the decision to be applied to a single item type, it applies to all item types.
  22. The XP MobileMe Settings application is installed with iTunes 7.7 and cannot be separately uninstalled. If you decide, like me, to give it a rest, you can't uninstall. Instead, you sign out.
  23. The MobileMe calendar doesn't support subscribing to ICS feeds, and it doesn't support publishing ICS feeds. At the moment this disturbs me more than many other failings of MobileMe.
More to follow. Last update 7/28/08.

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