Sunday, July 20, 2008

MobileMess troubleshooting and why this may be worse than it looks

I think the MobileMe problems are worse than they look ...

...The MobileMe rocky transition is still an ongoing battle for us. We have not been able to successfully synchronize our iCal calendars nor our Address Book to the MobileMe website for 3 days now. The MobileMe website contains OUTDATED information from our Address Book and iCal calendars. We are running Mac OS X 10.5.4 on a MacBook Pro, with the MobileMe 1.1 updater applied. We have tried all the troubleshooting steps on Apple's website, including unregistering & re-registering our computer from the MobileMe system preference, completely resetting our sync data from the MobileMe System Preference, resetting our SyncServices folder using the Terminal command in this tech info article - - repairing permissions, and running Keychain First Aid. All to no avail...
I deal with synchronization issues professionally, in a high-reliability domain (healthcare). In this domain we call it "integration" or "message-based integration" and the "standards" are HL-7 RIM 3.0 and CDA, formal ontologies (SNOMED), knowledge bases (NDDF for example) and data sets (ICD, CPT, etc).

Synchronization is technically hard. Semantic communication between disparate data models is not only an "unsolved problem", it's not perfectly solvable even with human intervention. To the extent we succeed it's by converging data models.

Technical challenges are one thing, but what makes Synchronization a killer problem is that most executives in most domains don't understand why it's hard. So they don't treat it as something to fear and budget for. Synchronization projects tend to be career killers, so people who know something about synchronization tend to find other work to do.

My fear is that the Apple engineers who understand synchronization have found other projects to work on. Meanwhile Apple execs demanded Exchange support, along with iCal support, along with Outlook support, along with an expectation that it would "just work" (so no options for undirectional messaging, just bidirectional synchronization).

It ain't going to work. iCal and Address Book have very different data models from Exchange/Outlook.

This wouldn't be so bad if the iPhone weren't locked down. If small, smart vendors had access to the hardware connector they could work around Apple's mistakes ...

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