Change is a fact of life, and when anything is in the hands of Steve Jobs, change will happen sooner rather than later. His passionate desire to toss the old out the window, in the belief that death is life’s greatest change agent, is the characteristic I love most grudgingly about Apple. (Note to Windows-switchers: if you prefer stasis, better stick with Microsoft.)
I’ve been a happy user of MobileMe since it began as the free iTools service in January of 2000. As an Apple early adopter, I recognize that the new iCloud service is the future, and I want to go there yesterday. Most MobileMe features will be greatly enhanced in iCloud; nevertheless, I do regret giving up the aspects of MobileMe that are not making the transition. My iDisk holds some sites that many others have linked to and, if I dare say so, rely upon, particularly in education, so this transition is a bummer. For example, as of today, if you Google “history of science online,” my website for an online class is the top hit, outranking some impressive alternatives:
But as of last night, I’ve moved my iDisk websites to kvmagruder.net (here’s my new History of Science Online). As a result, I’m sure this top ranking in Google won’t last much longer, but I’m willing to toss it out and accept the reality that the death of iDisk is an agent of change to make me rethink my web solutions from scratch, including going through all my old files and weed out the ones that should no longer be online. This will be a slow process, so the sooner it’s begun the better. Apple-flavored Kool-Aid may taste bitter at first but it goes down good. Once the process is completed, the solutions that I use will be better than iDisk and MobileMe, so I can see that Apple is making me take the medicine for my own benefit. Best of breed or bust.
MobileMe and iDisk Alternatives
Here are the alternatives I’ve settled upon for those features of MobileMe which won’t make the transition to iCloud:
Web host: I use iDisk to share files, to host several different websites, and to hold photo galleries and video pages. To host my websites, I considered DreamHost, GoDaddy, BlueHost and Webfaction, among others. I’ve settled on BlueHost, which offers all the features I need at an affordable price. In addition to hosting websites, blogs, photo galleries exported from Aperture, and the like, I’m also looking forward to creating online exhibits on this website with Omeka and perhaps noodling around in Moodle or other wiki and discussion board software for my classes, which I could not have done with MobileMe. BlueHost is one of Omeka’s hosting suggestions. In addition, BlueHost prohibits adult sites, whereas most web hosts allow any content that is legal. Be sure to check out the helpful BlueHost tutorials. Cost: $4.95/month for 2 years.
FTP: I prefer an app to a web interface for ftp uploading, and since I’ll be using a file transfer app more often now, I’ve upgraded from CyberDuck, which is free and functional, to Transmit, which is faster and sports a more convenient UI ($34 at the Mac App store). See: Transmit tips.
File sharing: For file sharing, two iDisk replacements are Dropbox and Box.net. The box.net free account limits file sizes to 25MB, however, and I’m usually trying to share image-rich Keynote or Pages files larger than that, so I’m going with Dropbox, in addition to my BlueHost site. Cost: free; see tour.
Photo galleries: MobileMe alternatives are Picassa, Flickr, SmugMug and 500px. I’m going with Flickr because of its integration with iPhoto and Aperture. One-click publishing from my Mac and iPhone is really convenient. (Get the Flickr iPhone app.) For some purposes, however, I’ll export a web gallery from Aperture and upload it to my web host. I opted for Flickr Pro to host more photos and in order to make larger file sizes available – for my purposes, web quality images are not sufficient, and my photo gallery solution needs to allow others the option of downloading high quality images. Cost: $24.95/year.
Videos: Two MobileMe alternatives are YouTube and Vimeo. A deciding factor for me is OS X and iOS integration: both offer the convenience of one-click publishing direct from within iMovie. I’m going with Vimeo, and I opted for Vimeo Plus. Vimeo Plus features include: no ads, clean interface, high video quality, can change public/private status of a video, replace a video – see the Vimeo FAQ. (Get the Vimeo iPhone app.) Cost: $59.95/year.
Blogs: Some time ago I switched my blogs from iWeb to WordPress.com, so I had a head start on this transition. Whether one chooses Blogger or WordPress, either may be run for free on their sites or transferred to your own web host. I highly recommend MarsEdit for composing blog entries offline (cost: $39.99 at the Mac App store). In a couple months I’ll be moving my WordPress blogs over to my web host, which will support additional WordPress customizations (if you want help, check out the WordPress tutorials at Lynda.com). This blog has been changed from its old wordpress.com url to kerrysloft.com, and the other one is already at its own ouhos.org domain, so links will not be broken and the transition should appear seamless to visitors. Cost: free for simple blogs; or about $20 per domain name per year (including a privacy option).
Website design: iWeb was ideal for quickly and effortlessly laying out simple websites – even for publishing to a web hosted site instead of MobileMe. iWeb was also perfect for students creating their own semester projects. Nevertheless, iWeb’s days are numbered – you can’t buy a copy from the Mac App store. Therefore, because I don’t want to invest further effort and time in a deprecated solution, we’ll need to invest in a flexible iWeb-like website creation tool for family and daily use. There are times when Coda or Dreamweaver are overkill (I now only use the latter for legacy sites). Here are several potential iWeb alternatives:
- Sandvox. Cost: $77 single-user; $117 for a household; not at the Mac App store. See screencasts.
- RapidWeaver. Cost: $79.99 + optional plugins, at the Mac App store. See related videos at Vimeo.
- Freeway Express. Freeway Express cost: $69.00 from the Softpress website (which allows for upgrade pricing to Freeway Pro and a 20% educator’s discount); Freeway Express AS at the Mac App store: $29.99 (upgrade to Pro not available).
- Flux. Cost: $119.99 at the Mac App store. See screencasts.
All four have free trial versions, so check them out and see which one works best for you. Sandvox and RapidWeaver are the most iWeb like. I’m guessing that at some point over the coming year we’ll settle on RapidWeaver as our iWeb replacement.
So, while the true joys of iCloud will only arrive this fall, already I grudgingly thank Apple and Steve Jobs for forcing me to make the jump from MobileMe in these other areas. I will miss MobileMe’s simplicity, integration, and ease of use, yet these separate solutions are each better in their own way than their MobileMe equivalents, considered independently. The annual expense is more expensive than MobileMe because of the extra options I’ve chosen, and companion apps like Transit and MarsEdit add to the overall cost, but it could be worse. I do believe these alternatives will turn out to be more functional than their MobileMe equivalents, and despite the time involved to make the transition, they are not that difficult to set up now that I have settled on the pieces of the puzzle listed here.
- iCloud (Apple)
- MobileMe transition (Apple)
- iWeb to WordPress
- Moving iWeb Websites from MobileMe
- iCloud pertinent questions
- ZD Net advice (how to add other persons’ calendars and contacts to your device).
- Apple Support
- Apple Support (with FAQ for folks with multiple iTunes IDs)
- Apple Support (explains that calendar data will be lost unless one first migrates to MobileMe calendars before going to iCloud).