For the 12th time in the past two years, I’ve cried out, “No more .Mac,” only to come weeping back to sync my Macs again.
This week, I dropped .Mac. Forever. Yet, amazingly, our Macs remain synchronized. Here’s how we did it.
First, a little history. I’m not much for Apple’s .Mac service. I’m not the only one who recognizes the problems with Apple’s online tax machine.
Email comes and goes. iDisk must be the slowest disk on the internet. Synchronization works and is clearly valuable for families with multiple Macs.
For Carol and I, .Mac’s quivering quiver of other services and tools has been a mixed bag of eye candy. Backup worked. Sometimes. What we liked was having the .Mac web email and sync for contacts, calendars, and bookmarks.
Second, let me say right up front that this isn’t a full-fledged complaint against .Mac. It is what it is. This week was not a good one, as both email and iDisk suffered outages (again), and sync was offline half a dozen times.
Enough is enough. The .Mac web mail I can do without as I have Yahoo, Gmail, Mac360, and my company’s email—all web based, as needed. The real trick was to find a good way to synchronize all the Macs in our household.
What we found was SyncTogether from Mark/Space. These folks have been around awhile with other synchronization products for Windows Mobile and Palm devices.
When it worked, the $100 annual tax for .Mac was fine for synchronizing our contacts, calendars, and bookmarks, Mail settings, and more.
SyncTogether does that, and more, and at half the price of .Mac. Since I wouldn’t expect an upgrade cost for a couple of years, the price advantage becomes at least $150 over the same period.
It’s really very simple. Carol and I keep plenty of valuable information on our Macs; my MacBook Pro, the iMac, and an aging PowerMac.
SyncTogether connects those Macs and synchronizes our contacts, calendars, notes, Safari bookmarks, Apple Mail settings, so everything works the same as .Mac. Except faster.
EVen better is SyncTogether’s “selective syncing” feature. That lets us choose individual Address Book groups and individual Calendars to sync on other Macs in the house.
We’re each a user on each of our Macs and SyncTogether recognizes that, and syncs data appropriately. In some respects, it’s like having a local version of .Mac’s sync, but without the slow sync process, the added expense, and constant interruptions of service.
Even nicer is SyncTogether’s ability to synchronize data from other, non-Apple applications. These include Carol’s beloved Microsoft Entourage (how many of the Mac360 women use that? All of them.), my Transmit and others, including SOHO Contacts and Calendar, BareBones Yojimbo, and others.
Please note that full snchronization of data from Mac to Mac is no trivial task and should be set up carefully, and monitored regularly. For us, it’s a simple two step process. The backup plan takes care of critical data. The sync plan keeps us up to date on items we need on each Mac.
SyncTogether’s interface is the tired old brushed aluminum but highly Mac-like in flavor, somewhat reminding me of Apple’s Backup. Select what you want to synchronize, click settings, make appropriate changes, select the Macs and users to sync, and set the schedule.
Bonjour lets SyncTogether find the Macs in your home or office, the scheduling component takes care of automatic syncs, though manual syncs can be performed any time.
Have we ditched .Mac forever? Well, maybe. For now, SyncTogether performs the most critical function which is synchronization between Macs. Your mileage may vary. We’re confident we’ve saved money, though we hope Apple gets the .Mac act together and adds value sufficient to the price tag.
SyncTogether is not an end-all, be-all solution for synchronizing files between Macs, but it is straightforward, seems stable, and costs less. There are problems. Mail account passwords do not sync. iCal and AddressBook need to be “neat” and “clean” and not cluttered with empty name fields. It doesn’t synchronize Apple’s keychain, which we use.
While this may not be the “home synchronization” tool for everyone, it’s a viable solution for many. Do you have multiple Macs? What do you use to synchronize the two? How does it work? What problems have you encountered and how did you solve them?
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