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iCards

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I’m not a big fan of Apple’s .mac service. The service may be nice and all, but at the end of the day it just doesn’t cut it because it’s weak and overpriced. We want our own domain name, our own e-mail addresses and a reasonably well equipped web server than can run scripts and access a database. And it turns out you can get just that – for around half the price of a .mac subscription and with the ability to use it and share the cost among several people.

Of course .mac has its sweet spots such as – err, well what were they? Hm, a few points do come to mind, such as certificates for encrypted iChat connections, such as the iDisk or the iSync integration. But I wouldn’t buy .mac for any one of those - no matter how great they are. Why? Because Apple suck major ass in that area: they are crippling OS X for people not willing to cough up the money for .mac.

Obviously, iChat has the infrastructure to use certificates and encrypt connections, so why can’t it do that for the chats between people who don’t have a .mac account if they have a suitable certificate in their keychain? The iDisk isn’t as much of a problem as the OS will let you use other remote servers – although making things work via FTP and ssh connections would have been a treat (and a great technical challenge as far as I know, so I won’t complain too much here - but even just being able to actually write to FTP volumes from the Finder would be helpful). Finally, there is iSync. You may have all those nice syncing capabilities with .mac, but without that extra Apple-tax you can have two of your Macs sitting right next to each and you’ll have a hard time keeping your appointments, contacts – and increasing amount of data from third-party applications – in sync. That’s just pathetic.

They sold me iSync with the OS (and as iPod address / calendar syncing is both very broken and part of iTunes rather than iSync these days, it get exactly no use out of it). Which makes it look like I’m paying for the fun some .mac subscribers are having with the tool. Making iSync more generally useful by enabling it  to store its data on any (or at least any WebDAV) server would have been a fair and empowering move. But it wasn’t made. And with more and more third-pary applications gaining an ability to ‘sync’ this intended restriction of the OS’ functionality for those who don’t want .mac is becoming more and more significant.

The only good thing that remains about .mac is the iCards service. And luckily it’s still there for non-subscribers as well. My favourite way of sending birthday cards around. It has reasonably nice pictures (I really dig the cat with the candle they have for birthdays), it sends you a copy of your card and it will just send the card as an e-mail with attachment to the recipient rather than requiring them to visit some web site. And it is OK to use. – A combination that is hard to find in the existing jungle of e-card services. The only thing that keeps bugging me is that the ‘stamp’ they put on the card is dated in the California time zone. Of course that makes sense for Apple, but it means that I have to send the card after 9 in the morning CET to be sure the actual birthday date is written there.

November 7, 2006, 0:57

Tagged as Mac OS X.

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