Sometimes the journey with Apple is full of unexpected twists and turns. I can say that both as a former Apple employee and as an Apple user who purchased his first system in August of 1982.
How this story twists back around to MobileMe & iCloud won't be apparent at first, but sometimes living in the world of Apple isn't very simple if you are trying to live with systems that aren't brand new.
I have been resisting moving to Mac OSX Lion. I wanted to stay with an older (faster) version of iPhoto that appeared to be tied to Snow Leopard.
That worked well until recently when I figured out that I was suffering from "slow Snow Leopard."
I restart my iMac only after we have been away traveling so this problem crept up on me. After a recent trip back to the coast, I was appalled that it took my 2010 I5 iMac over twelve minutes to boot and open Mail, Firefox, Chrome, iPhoto, and Snagit.
Over the years, I have seen my share of strange Apple problems, but this one was one of the more challenging ones.
When I worked for Apple from 1984 until July 2004, hardware and software problems never were much of a challenge. There was always a brilliant system engineer hiding somewhere. The closest Apple Store to our home on the Crystal Coast is over three hours away so a visit with a genius was not a real option.
My first response to the problem was to try to reinstall Snow Leopard. Unfortunately when I started the installation, my iMac would hang while the system was trying to boot from the original Snow Leopard DVD.
As this was all happening, the death knell was ringing for MobileMe. Earlier in June, I managed to get a friend who was running Lion to bring their laptop to lunch so I could at least start the migration so my email would keep working. Neither of us was very confident that the process had worked.
Also while this was happening I finished my ebook, "A Week at the Beach, An Emerald Isle Travel Guide." I wrote the book with Nisus Writer Express, but I did the final publishing edits and formatting with MS Word for Windows. When I published my book for the Kindle, I knew that people could read it on the iPad, Macs, and Windows machines using free Kindle reader software. I planned to do an iPad version, but I was thrown for a loop when I found that I had to have Lion in order to use iBooks Author.
With that in mind I decided to take advantage of one of the Mac's great strengths, I took a Firewire 800 external hard drive and used Disktools so that it could be a boot disk for my Intel iMac. I took advantage of some instructions that I found on the web so in the process of downloading Lion from the App Store, I created a flash drive OSX Lion installer.
Lion installed easily and I decided to start clean and manually install all my apps. That sort of worked. I purchased an upgrade to iPhoto just after I got my iMac so I installed it. The Mac running Lion wouldn't launch it but when I went to the App Store, it would not sell me an upgrade. I ended up throwing away iPhoto and spending another $14.99 on iPhoto. All of my other apps, Pixelmator, Rapidweaver, Snagit, Coda, MS Office, Fetch, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote installed fine. Interestingly iMovie and iDVD did not have the same problem as iPhoto.
I personally find Lion a little confusing since there are so many different ways to do things, but I will probably get over that. Since my Lion install was finished on June 29, one of the first things I wanted to do was check to see if my earlier migration to iCloud had worked.
For some reason iCloud didn't like my Apple ID so I ended up having to create another one. I also ended up creating one of the most complex passwords that I have ever used just to keep iCloud happy. Fortunately my mail had moved with no problem. I had already logged into MobileMe with my old MobileMe id and downloaded all my photos, websites, and files just to be certain.
My first surprise was that my MobileMe photos showed up in iPhoto on Lion sometime the next day. With that somewhat interesting victory, I decided to work on a more challenging issue, the family email addresses that have been in MobileMe and .Mac for many years. I could find no discussion about this anywhere so I decided to experiment with a spare email account that I had in MobileMe.
By this time MobileMe had died, and we were in July. When I checked the MobileMe family accounts including my spare one using my trusty Dual G5, I saw that they were no longer working. I found one of the last emails suggesting that I migrate my email and clicked on it. When Firefox launched the link, I got a message that the version of Firefox on my old Mac wasn't supported.
Next I changed the default browser to Safari and tried the link again. I got to the iCloud screen and it wanted me to log in. I tried my old MobileMe password and it worked. I got in and migrated my mail.
With that success under my belt, I headed downstairs to my wife's I5 HP laptop which runs Windows 7. She uses Thunderbird for mail because she likes their icon with the bird on it. I found one of the warning emails and clicked on it. Her Firefox took me to iCloud and the log in screen. I tried her email password, and it was rejected. Having nothing to lose, I tried my master MobileMe password and voilà it worked. I easily migrated her email.
With the smell of success blanketing me, I decided to try to fix one of her major complaints in migrating to Windows. The one thing she really misses about the Mac is her address book. Nothing that I have been able to find on Windows has made her happy. I had placed a vcard export file from her old Mac on her Windows computer when I was experimenting. I tried importing it into the iCloud Address Book app, and it worked flawlessly. Of course it is a couple of years out of date, but that isn't too hard to fix with her small number of contacts.
Just to check things, I went back and looked at her Thunderbird client and confirmed that her MobileMe email address was not working. However, she had no trouble accessing it using Chrome. When I checked my iMac running Lion, both my MobileMe email accounts were working. I called it quits for the night.
The next morning when I sat down at my Windows 7 laptop running Postbox for email, I was surprised to see my MobileMe email address functioning once again. I checked my wife's Thunderbird email client and her MobileMe and my spare MobileMe address were both working again.
After that I checked my Dual G5 Mac running OS X version 10.5.8. Neither MobileMe account was working in Mail. However, I could get to the MobileMe mail using Safari on the Dual G5.
So the net is that it you have an older Mac, you will be stuck with Safari browser access to your MobileMe email. If you have a Windows box running Windows 7, MobileMe mail will work in Thunderbird and Postbox. Based on playing around with the iCloud Control panel for Windows I suspect it will also work in Outlook.
So what do I think about Lion and iCloud? I'm not sure why iCloud was designed the way that it is. It certainly does not fit my needs. However, with some tweaks, I could be pretty happy with it. My biggest complaint is the lack of control over Photostream. Sometimes I take a thousand pictures in a day. The last thing I want is for all of them streamed to all of my devices.
What I want is to pick the photos that I want streamed. When you take a lot of photos, the plan is always to pick the ones that you want saved or shared.
It is pretty easy to do a work around. I will likely continue to import and do some of the first round of editing of my photos using my I7 Windows laptop and Picasa. I will then export the ones that I like to either my Google Drive or Dropbox. Picasa does a nice export with dated folders. When I come upstairs to the iMac in my office, I will just import the daily export folder from Picasa.
Turning on Photostream would just give me a lot of duplicates. Often I export back tuned photos from the Mac to my Google drive. Those are often uploaded to an album on Picasa Web Albums. Picasa Web Albums are automatically synced to my Android phone.
There is too much mystery and lack of control in iCloud for my taste. I can't see anyone wanting every picture they take in every place unless they only take a handful of pictures. Fortunately Google Drive, DropBox, and Microsoft's Sky Drive all work well with the Mac.
In another strange quirk, iCloud wanted me to create another MobileMe address. I tried to use one of my current ones but it told me they were unavailable. It is probably somehow related to my new AppleID. However, my new AppleID has my old MobileMe address associated with it. One more email address isn't going to upset me. I already have way over ten email addresses.
However as slick as this appears to work, Google's tools are much more powerful and easier to control. I have two Gmail ids, and it works really well for me. One little trick that I learned with Google is that if you have a Gmail address and haven't signed up for G+, you can still directly publish to Picasa Web Albums which is what I would rather do than go through G+ sharing.
After resolving all the MobileMe migration issues, I got some time to work on trying to fix my slow Snow Leopard. I found an article suggesting that I disable Spotlight. I also removed the Sophus anti-virus app that I was using since I am no longer using that as my primary boot drive.
I ran some tests before I made the changes. The test was to boot up from being turned off, launch Mail, iPhoto, Firefox, Chrome, and Snagit. Without the changes, my I5 iMac running 10.6.8 took twelve minutes and thirty-five seconds to boot. The iMac is a 2.8 GHz I5 with 8GBs of RAM.
With Spotlight disabled and the anti-virus program gone, it booted and loaded the programs in six minutes and twenty-five seconds.
I then tried booting into Lion using the external Firewire 800 drive. The apps were the same but I cannot guarantee the iPhoto library was exactly the same, but it was close. The time for Lion to boot and load the applications was four minutes and eight seconds.
Just to prove that I had correctly perceived that Windows 7 was faster, I ran a similar test on my I7 Lenovo laptop with 8GBs of RAM. The mail application was Postbox and the photo app was Picasa. Of course Firefox, Chrome, and Snagit were all the same.
The time for the Windows computer to boot and load the apps was three minutes and ten seconds. Actually the time is even more impressive when you consider my Windows laptop automatically loads Ginger, Spotify and Skype.
We are less than thirty days from Mountain Lion so I can hope that the new operating system will be a pleasant surprise. It needs to be simpler in my opinion, but I doubt Apple wants my opinion. I miss some things in iPhoto also, but I have given up on those.
I'm just happy to have my iMac booting at a reasonable speed even if I couldn't find anything in Apple's support forums to help me. I am also pleased that my wife has her cherished address book back and that all those old email addresses haven't been put out to pasture yet.
I am going to look forward to comparing Mountain Lion to Windows 8.
I am pleased that Apple has extended the deadline for migrating mail. It would be nice to see some documentation instead of having to figure it out on the fly, but you don't become an Apple user and expect to know all the secrets of the mother ship. That's just not the way it works.
If you have been reading Applepeels for a few years and appreciate the efforts I have made in shining some light inside of the Cupertino spaceship, there is finally a way to say thanks besides donating. Just buy my new ebook, "A Week at the Beach, An Emerald Isle Travel Guide." The cost is only $4.99 and it includes some great pictures and recipes. Eighty-seven pages of information for $4.99 is a deal especially since it includes our family hush puppy recipe.
If you are a Mac lover, you can buy the Kindle version now, and as soon as I am finished with the iPad version, you can buy it and feel great that the iPad version looks better and has more pictures (and all the captions are in the right place). I will be doing a post comparing writing for the Kindle with writing for the iPad.
If you are a Windows lover, you can take some satisfaction from the fact that even though I wrote the book with Nisus Writer Express on the Mac, I had to switch to Word for Windows for the final formatting. Kindle publishing is not exactly user friendly but it does like Word especially Word for Windows. I also ended up doing my promo pieces for color print on Word for Windows though the images were done with Pixelmator on a Mac.
Speaking of books, the book about my career at Apple is back on track. I hope have it published sometime in August in Kindle format first.
With that I can say that I have survived one more set of storms in my computer life. Making it through this just fits with the lessons that I learned from my mom. The first six months of life by the river in 2012 have been much better than last year. I say that in spite of us being brushed by a tornado.
We are fully into our season of beach weather and ripe homegrown tomatoes. If the fish would start biting, life would be pretty good.
I am almost as thankful that traffic on the beach is still light as I am that my iMac seems to be healed.