On .Mac and simplicity

July 01, 2003

I've just downgraded my hosting plan so that it will now cost me $20/mo instead of $30. I did this so that I may spend the extra $$$ on .Mac, which is $99/yr. I haven't written about .Mac on here before because I've been in the process of evaluating it for the past month. Apple allows Mac users a free, 90-day trial of the .Mac service. Though there are many, many features, the one that really caught my attention was the Backup capability. It's no secret, I'm incredibly anal about backing up all of my important documents and this program really simplifies the process, even to the point that I really won't need to burn backups anymore (or not as often I should say). With the .Mac package, you get 100MB (or more if required) of space on their servers, which you can use however you like (I'll talk about some of the other options a little later). The way I've been running my backup system for the longest time is that I'd essentially have two different categories of backups; one for stuff that would rarely, if ever, change (old schoolwork, e-mails, past website designs, etc), and then 'living' documents that changed often (current schoolwork, code, etc). I'd burn all of the older, static stuff to CD (2x) and also keep a copy of all of it on my current HD for easy access. The newer, dynamic stuff would get backed up once a week to CD and would also be run through a couple of scripts I wrote that would tar everything up, encrypt it, and then send it off to a couple of shell accounts. Now, the thing about .Mac's Backup feature is that it automates this entire process and makes it, well, pretty. It also gives me peace-of-mind knowing that my data is in good hands. Not only are all of my regular documents backed up, but so are my iCal calendars, Address Book information, and Safari bookmarks — all automatically and behind the scenes. This feature alone is worth the $99/yr to me — it helps me sleep better.  :)

Another really neat feature (especially for those with more than one Mac) is that iSync can sync with your .Mac account. This means that if, say, you have a Mac at work and then one at home, you can sync your bookmarks (and everything else) across them. It's all automatic.

There are those who will tell you that the $99/yr is worth it just for the e-mail address you get — you get an @mac.com with the account. To tell you the truth, I'd be pretty damn excited about it myself if it weren't for the fact that I already have the greatest e-mail address on earth. This also goes for the web space you get with the account (homepage.mac.com/username).

Speaking of the web space, .Mac also lets you easily integrate photos from iPhoto into your web account. In fact, I might start putting the photos that I already share on the .Mac homepage and point to them from here (at least until MT adds photo-blogging functionality).

.Mac also gives you anti-virus support in the form of Virex from McAfee. Now, it's incredibly rare that I ever have trouble with viruses in *nix, or Windows for that matter, so it's hard for me to even care about this feature enough to write about it, but it's free and part of the .Mac package, so what the hell.

I've been talking about ubiquitous integration and synchronization for as long as I can remember and .Mac is unquestionably the biggest step by anyone in this direction. Very, very, cool.

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