The problem with .Mac (the previous name for Mobile Me) was never the concept, nor was it what was promised, the problem was always the implementation. I expressed my views on .Mac back in January 2007 in a post entitled “.Mac – The Devil is in the Implementation”, and nothing has really changed since. I had high hopes that Mobile Me would finally give us the .Mac we’d always wanted. If all Mobile Me had been was a working version of .Mac without any new functionality it would have been great! However, since it’s launch Mobile Me has just been one disappointment after another. Things started badly when it took them days to get the system even remotely stable, got worse when they permanently lost thousands of people’s email, and didn’t improve at all when we found out Apple had lied to us about push.
From my point of view Mobile Me improved almost nothing, fixed almost none of my problems, and made some things worse. In fact, so far I have found just one improvement. Under .Mac iDisk syncing was very poorly implemented and would take up space equivalent to the total capacity of your iDisk, rather than space equivalent to the used space on your iDisk. That has thankfully been fixed with Mobile Me.
However, the biggest flaws with the iDisk still remain. It’s still PAINFULLY slow, at least here in Europe anyway. Even on our lightning fast internet connection at work it’s not possible to use your iDisk without syncing enabled. It takes 10 to 20 seconds just to list the content of a folder making browsing an exceptionally frustrating afair. It’s so bad that the iDisk is just not usable without syncing turned on.
This absolute need to have syncing enabled leads nicely to my next major iDisk and Mobile Me flaw, no part of Mobile Me does not play nice with proxy servers. iDisk, calendar, and contact syncing regularly fail, and often silently. You get message of any sort to help you trouble shoot the problem, your only clue that something is wrong is that your data gets out of sync. What’s worse these proxy-induced failures often cause massive resource drains. I’ve seen run-away Mobile Me sync processes explode to over 2GB of virtual memory and peg CPUs at 100% for hours on end. These are not just once-off events either, I see it a few times a week when working behind the proxies in work. When it does happen your only option is to kill the offending process using the terminal or activity monitor, if you can get any apps to launch that is!
HTTP proxies are not rocket science, nor are they uncommon, but they seem to have totally flumuxed Apple. If I want to make either of my Macs in work crash, all I have to do is open the iTunes store. Guaranteed crash each time. On my MBP this happens 100% of the time in work, but never at home. The only difference is the presence of proxy servers in work.
To re-cap, so far we have an iDisk that’s too slow to use, and a sync service that can’t sync reliably through a simple proxy. That’s pretty bad for a service you pay $99 a year for, but it gets worse! The wonderful looking web based apps are not immune from the Mobile Me team’s incompetence either. For a start, the coolest feature in the demo, one-click file sharing, was dropped before launch, but what did make it from the demo doesn’t work well for me at all. I have a very full calendar, so that possibly has an effect, but for me the web interface is painfully slow, and that’s at work, where I have seriously fast internet access! That’s bad, but, by far and a way the worst thing about the web apps is their total insecurity. Apple seem to think it’s OK to transmit all your personal details over the internet in an unencrypted form! Even the free GMail gives you encryption now, for a paid service not to take even the most basic of precautions to protect your data is nothing short of a disgrace. If you want to learn more about the insecurity of the Mobile Me web applications I’d recommend reading this article from TidBits.
Finally, to add insult to injury, Apple will not support this paid service over the phone. Even if you pay for full Apple Care on your computer as well as for Mobile Me they will refuse to help you on the phone if your problem relates to Mobile Me. Way to make annoyed people REALLY annoyed Apple!
When it comes down to it, when you start with a turd you can polish it all you want, but you’ll still have a turd, just a prettier one!