MobileMe 60 day trial – part 1
MobileMe offers many useful features for anyone with more than one computing device, and since I am using a hackintosh, macbook and iTouch it could solve all my synchronisation needs. A sixty day trial is available just like the now obsolete .Mac service. I signed up to see how well it would work, specifically with my non-apple hardware.
The first hurdle is seeing MobileMe on the Mac. My hackintosh was used for the setup process and didn’t encounter any problems with initial sign up. The first task was to go to the .Mac section of System Preferences and click the Learn More button under Try .Mac For Free. This triggered software update to download a small (8Mb) package which replaces all reference to .Mac with MobileMe.
Once done clicking the Learn More button takes you to a Mobile Me login screen with the option to sign up for a free trial. Part of the signup process includes entering your payment card details, as the trial becomes a full subscription if you don’t cancel within the 60 day trial. This is no more than other trial services do, but I always wonder how many people end up paying because they forgot to cancel.
The signup process is straightforward and once done a ‘Get started with MobileMe today’ email is sent. This has links to setup guides for Mac’s, PC’s, iPhones and iPod Touch’s. There’s nothing technical involved in setting them up but I was expecting a simple wizard to walk you through initial setup. The Mac is setup first, by logging into the System Preferences MobileMe panel. Once logged in the basic account details are shown.
This was my first surprise. MobileMe has been described as offering 20Gb of storage, and I had assumed that this meant a 20Gb iDisk, not a 10Gb iDisk and 10Gb of mail storage. 10Gb for mail is nothing special today, my free Gmail account currently offers 6922 Mb. Online file storage services offer anything from 1 to 50Gb of free storage. Some of these have strings attached and are probably not as integrated and easy to use as an iDisk, but 10Gb still seems small for your $99/£59 a year. It’s possible to buy more storage, with another 20Gb costing $49/£30. The description for this says ‘Add storage to your Individual or Family Pack subscription for mail, photos, documents, and more’ so the extra 20Gb may still be split into another 10Gb for mail and 10Gb for iDisk.
Next step is to select the items you want to keep synchronised in the Sync tab. I selected ‘Synchronize with Mobile Me: Automatically’ and ticked the boxes for Bookmarks, Calendars and Contacts. Hitting Sync Now started off the first sync which worked fine with no errors.
Once the sync was completed I went to Me.com in firefox to log into the online account and see if the sync had worked correctly. Unfortunately I was unable to log in using the member name and password that works fine on the hackintosh. I’ve since tried a variety of user names (including my appleID info) in firefox and safari, but nothing has worked. There’s a thread at Apple support that recommends changing the password but this hasn’t worked for me.
Next step was to setup the Macbook with the same details, to see if MobileMe would keep my Macs in sync. Setup again completed with no problems, and as before I selected the bookmarks, calendars and contacts to sync automatically. All three appear to be syncing as expected, but the speed of updating details is nowhere near the few seconds Apple demonstrated. Adding a calendar event on the Macbook took seven minutes to appear on the hackintosh. An Address book contact has yet to appear after 20 minutes. This may be just more of the service problems Apple has had since MobileMe went live, so I’m glad I have a 60 day trial to see if it gets better before parting with my cash.
Now that the two Macs were working the iPod Touch was next. Using the guide provided is simple but again, why isn’t this a wizard?
The details were accepted without complaint, which makes me even more puzzled why the web login isn’t working. Also not working, and this is the biggest problem I have, is most of the iTouch syncing. The iCal event I mentioned earlier has still not appeared on the iTouch, and I’ve tried all the syncing options available. If you don’t want to use the push option you can choose to have your iDevice contact the servers at a time interval or manually, but non of these have had any effect. The Calendar colours have now changed to match those in iCal so something is happening, just not the bits you really want.
Bookmarks on the iTouch were all deleted after initial setup, and the way I organise my bookmarks appears to be causing a problem. All my bookmarks are in the bookmarks bar, sorted into folders. This means I have lots of drop down menu’s of bookmarks for a variety of subjects. MobileMe doesn’t appear to synchronise the bookmarks bar so there are none on the iTouch. To test this I copied one of my folders to the bookmarks menu, but so far this hasn’t been synchronised.
This is puzzling me, and the only thing I can think of that may be causing an issue other than general statup issues is the payment problem I had when buying the iPod Touch version 2 software (well worth the $9.99/£5.99 for those yet to decide). The transaction appeared to go through ok, the software was downloaded and installed without any problems. When I checked my AppleID account later it showed there had been a problem taking payment and it was still outstanding. I had to click the try again option several times before it went through, so I’m not sure if this has blocked the software from working properly
Part 2 will cover any changes to the non-working features as well as some of the other sync options.
UPDATE After about an hour nothing had appeared on the iTouch. The Macbook, hackintosh and iTouch were all rebooted and left a few minutes but nothing happened. I forced a sync on the hackintosh, and the contact and calendar event from it appeared on the iTouch. Syncing the Macbook had the same effect. It looks like the details are syncing, but it’s not currently automatic when a change is made and it doesn’t happen every time you force a manually sync.
The bookmarks from safari have now been synchronised to the iTouch, so the problem was that nothing was syncing. The bookmarks bar is present, as is the bookmarks menu.
I’m not sure if the payment issue was causing a problem or not, items are now synchronising but it still isn’t happening automatically. Starting a manual sync seems to work fine. I suspect at the moment that all these issues are related to MobileMe being new and not currently handling the load well.