2008 was a good year for gadgets for me. It was probably something to do with making up for not coding for most of it. I’m including in gadgets software and services nothing to do with computer programming.
First up on my list is Apple’s Mobile Me. Mobile Me is nominally a replacement and upgrade of Apple’s .Mac internet application service, offering web-based and IMAP email, a calendar and address book syncing service for Mac’s running OS X, internet based file storage, etc.
The biggest update I was interested in of Mobile Me over .Mac however was it’s iPhone integration, and more specifically the over-the-cellphone-network syncing of address book, calendar and ‘push’ IMAP email. Before Mobile Me I used to hook up my iPhone to my home iMac every day to make sure any contact or calendar changes were backed from my iPhone, and any changes I’d made elsewhere were synced to my iPhone. I also used Plaxo to sync address books between various computers and Spanning Sync with Google calendar to sync calendars across computers.
This setup worked, but has now been completely replaced by a totally automatic process in Mobile Me. Without using any other services, calendars and address books are now kept in sync across all my work and personal Macs, and my iPhone, without any work on my part apart from the initial setup. These days I plug my iPhone into the computer every few weeks rather than every day.
This setup does everything important that I wanted 6 years ago.
Mobile Me has not all been smooth sailing, however. The launch in July for some very strange reason was consecutive with the launch of the major iPhone version 2 software update, and the cutover from .Mac to Mobile Me was a hard-change, rather than gradual crossover. Unsurprisingly this didn’t go so well, with services being inaccessible to some extent for a few weeks. Luckily I wasn’t already dependent on .Mac, but if I had been and thus not had email access for several days I would have been most definitely cheesed off.
Also, the Mobile Me web applications (allowing you to access your mail, contacts, calendar from a browser) aren’t all that great. They look lovely and shiny, trying their best to look like their desktop counterparts, however they just end up being slower than Google-style equivalents, and don’t work on some browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer 6 on my dad’s home computer when I visited in September.) This isn’t a particularly big deal since I only need to use this feature when abroad, but even so I think Apple have something to learn about running web application services.
Griping aside, Mobile Me is a real time and brain saver for me. Well worth the subscription cost.