Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interesting problems: MobileMe, iCloud, Lions and Google

These are interesting times for our home IT strategy. Recent Apple changes are accelerating the demise of the general purpose computer in ways I'm only beginning to understand.

At our home, for example, we have been using MobileMe to manage Contact synchronization between iOS devices (iPhones w and w/o SIMs) and our four Macs. Each of the Macs has multiple user accounts to serve some subset of our family of five. (I'm omitting the Google Apps aspects to simplify - things are complex enough).

This has to change, MobileMe is going away June 30th 2012. It is being replaced by iCloud. iCloud works with most of our iOS devices, but it requires Lion (Mountain Lion soon) on the Macs.

Of our four Macs, only two will definitely run Mountain Lion. [1].

Meanwhile, Google's Anakin Skywalker emulation means we want to back away from our dependency on them, which leaves, unfortunately, even more dependency on the Other Devil.

I think, going forward, the transition over the next year is to:

  • A server (iMac) and 1-2 laptops
  • iPads - eventually one for each child ($$)
  • iCloud (yech)

I'm glum, but I don't see how I fight this. The old G5 iMac with the decaying (delaminating?) display may go to anyone interested in a machine that can run MacOS Classic. The Dual USB laptop will stay Snow Leopard and be a kid's homework machine.

[1] Lion is such a mess I've been restricting it to a single device that came with it. It's unlikely that Mountain Lion will work on our Core 2 Duo plastic body MacBook with integrated Intel graphics, though there are rumors that Apple may add some coverage. It appears even Apple is embarrassed by Lion, and may feel the need to bury it rather than let it quickly.

Update 2/25/12: ironically, one reaction to Apple's Snow Leopard/MobileMe/MacBook triple termination is to turn to the other agent of the DarkSeid - Google. i used Spanning Sync ($25/year) with some success for several years to sync Address Book to Google. We already use Google Apps Calendar for our family including our iPhone calendars. So one solution is to go Google across all our Macs, even on Mountain Lion.


Charlie Stross said...

Alternate exit strategy: why not consider a Mac Mini Server? Lion Server includes its own (Postfix-based) mail server and lets you do almost all of the stuff you relied on MobileMe for (and a chunk of the stuff iCloud provides). That way you get to keep the family mail archives in your own server, back up via Time Capsule, and if Apple decide to drag everyone else off into the cloud you've got the option of not following them and not losing your data when they turn their servers off.

JGF said...

I'd considered that route, then turned aside based on the quality issues with Lion Server (makes Lion non-server look good). However, it's possible that Mountain Lion server will be a fix.

I hadn't thought about how iCloud sync would work 10.8 server. I wonder if the contacts would sync per user.

Of course Apple would never discard our valued data. Shame on you for such a cynical suggestion.

Personally I think it's part of Jobs last mission, to teach us the Buddhist path of embracing the impermanent. When all of our data disappears, we will embrace non-being and transcend.

Jennifer Hill said...

Thank you. I've got 2 laptops and iMac running Snow Leopard and was just thinking of moving them to Lion. I will now wait. I don't use MobileMe b/c I have 2 AppleIDs, first from 2002, when I got my first MacBook and the other thanks to questionable advice when I got my first iPhone in 2010. They cannot be merged, I just have to lose one, is what I understand.

John Gordon said...

Jennifer, yes, it's a mess. Our iPhones bind us to Apple's world, particularly with Contacts.

There's no way to sync desktop Contacts to iCloud except through Lion - Apple doesn't allow 3rd party developers to do this. That's their choice.

So the iCloud migration is forcing premature Mac obsolescence.

Android users are similarly bound to Google's infrastructure, with a different set of evil options.

Windows 8 users may have it better -- these days Microsoft is the least evil of our vendors. (Also the weakest, those things go together.)

Synchronization is a very hard problem by the way, so it's not easy to get around the box Apple has put us in.

I feel your Apple ID/App Store ID pain. That problem has been building for years, and Apple has whacked us there as well.

Seems like there are some things they could be doing with their $100 billion cash reserves.

Söderberg said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I´m in the same predicament and really don´t know what to do. I really really don´t want to switch to Lion at this point....
1 Mac Pro
2 Macbooks (one that wont run lion)
2 iPads
3 iPhones
1 iPod touch