Posts tagged “ical”.

Random error when syncing with NewtSync

November 2nd, 2009


Get this. An attempt to sync my Address Book contacts and my iCal dates with the eMate. I’m using NewtSync with a Serial-to-USB adapter over USB on my iMac G4. And everything’s going fine (above).


Then this. What gives?

The process never finishes before this error message pops up. My eMate, though, has a lot of the information from iCal loaded from the sync, including repeating appointments. Address Book contact info, however, never makes it over to the eMate.

I’ve had issues syncing my eMate with anything on OS X. Guess I’ll keep trying.

Why I’ll be canceling my MobileMe trial account

December 4th, 2008

If first impressions are everything, then MobileMe never had a chance.

After I bought my iPhone 3G, I signed up for the trial MobileMe account. Back then, it was only a 60-day free trial, but Apple soon added 30 days onto that, and then 30 days onto that, after MobileMe’s launch arrived like a lead balloon.

The idea seemed swell enough: sync your Address Book, iCal, and Mail settings and entries with the ever-present Cloud, and your iPhone. But since July, I’ve run into more problems than solutions, and MobileMe has been a frustrating mess.

My free trial is up on Monday, Dec. 8. I’m going to cancel my account.

Looking back, I never really needed MobileMe to begin with. trashmobilemeBecause I plug my iPhone into my Mac almost every night, any new entries in either iCal or Address Book get synced each way – from the iPhone to my Mac, and from my Mac to my iPhone. I don’t need the “push” capabilities MobileMe claimed to offer because my syncing schedule was fast enough.

It’s too bad. Apple had a big uphill effort replacing the .Mac service. MobileMe seemed like a decent-enough resolution to everyone’s complaints against .Mac: not much storage, lackluster syncing, no star features that made it seem worth the $99 annual subscription. With it’s modern browser interface and over-the-air syncing, MobileMe looked great on paper. In practice, however, it failed to live up to my expectations.

Maybe it was a lack of habit, but I never found myself missing MobileMe when I wasn’t using it (which was often). If I used my iPhone and Mac for business, the cloud syncing might seem like a bigger deal. But I had a system down, and it worked just fine for me.

The one feature that did catch my eye was the photo sharing galleries. My friend’s wedding photographer put together a beautiful presentation (the subjects helped) using MobileMe’s slideshow capabilities. But again: I don’t really need it. Flickr works just fine as a photo-sharing environment for me. I can make slideshows with Flickr that look fine for my needs. I’m not a wedding photographer. I don’t need anything fancy.

Another thing that bothered me? The fact that iDisk iDisk Sync [thanks commenters!] takes up the 10 GB of space from my hard drive. Maybe I’m a rare case, but when I launch iDisk, it takes away whatever space is available away from my Mac’s “available” space. Why store things on a fragile cloud when my hard drive works just fine? I love the idea behind iDisk, but my iBook is cramped enough without taking that additional 10 GB away.

Apple’s solution? Don’t use iDisk Sync.

The launch didn’t help things. We all remember that, right? The big outage that first weekend. How it took weeks and weeks of Apple tinkering to get even basic services like e-mail up and running for all MobileMe users. For a while there, MobileMe seemed like a big embarrassing misshap for Apple – right up there with the big system outage for the iPhone 3G’s launch. That kind of thing can leave a bad taste in the mouth. I guess it’s never gone away for me.

Part of me is skeptical about this “cloud computing” stuff. I understand that Google seems to have it down, barring Gmail outages, and – lord bless them – Microsoft is working on their own cloud syncing projects. But Google apps like Gmail are hooked up to my, which runs from my desktop, and I don’t often make appointments or add contacts through a web browser. That stuff lives on my Mac. I like that I can edit a contact’s information on my iPhone and the change gets logged in Address Book in OS X. There’s no extra log-in-to-the-web-service involved.

If I had several Macs strung out over several locations, with only my iPhone in common, the idea behind MobileMe could come in handy. Backing up my data to the cloud? Sure. Do it all the time. But easy and reliable syncage still seems to be a giant Work In Progress. I’m not yet impressed.

So thanks for the couple of free months, Apple, but I’m saying “no thanks” to MobileMe. Maybe some day I’ll find a use for it – one where I can justify renewing my subscription. Right now, though, I can’t see any good reason to keep MobileMe around. It’s either been a thorn in my side or a non-starter, and life’s too short for either of those.

How To: connect a Newton eMate with OS X using Escale

December 1st, 2008

eMate and Escale - we're connected

As I hinted at Friday, I had success connecting my Newton eMate 300 with my iBook G4, running OS X 10.4, using a Keyspan serial-to-USB dongle I recently grabbed off eBay. This has been a long time coming. I first wrote about how to connect your Newton with OS X back in March, and there are tons of resources a Google search away, but here – for the first time – I got to see first-hand how the whole process works.

And it’s such a snap.

More… »

Mobile OS X: are the pinstripes back?

July 31st, 2008

In the G3-G4 Mac era, pinstripes were everywhere.

Look at the front of a G3 iMac, or an Apple Studio Display (CRT or flat screen), or even OS X up until Panther. Even the classic Mac OS had pinstripes on the tops of windows, and the pre-Power PC Macs had pinstripes as a rule.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, to find pinstripes creeping back into the Mac OS. But the iPhone OS X? Take a look:

I found that shot in the Contacts app, but pinstripes can also be found in the iCal app (try adding a new appointment), the Settings, and even the Clock (the map in the background). Now the iPhone’s pinstripes are a little thicker and more prominent than OS X’s. Check this preference pane from Jaguar:

Takes you back, doesn’t it?

With its darker hue and thicker lines, the Mobilie OS X goes for a more professional and buttoned-up look, much like OS X 10.5 Leopard, than the lighter, “lickable” OS X of yesteryear. The pinstripe motif is mostly a simple backdrop to app screens displaying boxed areas of information (iCal, Settings). But also, the vertical stripes lend to the iPhone’s mostly vertical orientation. Granted, the pinstripes only appear here and there (I noticed the scheme in a few apps, like UrbanSpoon, too) – instead of everywhere with OS X 10.0 and beyond.

The more unified look of Leopard begins to break down in areas like this, much as Panther and Tiger only used the brushed metal design willy-nilly.

I agree with John Siracusa: using OS X 10.2 Jaguar on my iBook G3 is a “jarring” experience: the clunky finder, the toy-ish polish on buttons and tabs, and all those pinstripes.

Now they’re back, in iPhone form.

[Jaguar screen shot courtesy of Ars Technica.]

MobileMe Update 2: Nevermind, it still sucks

July 27th, 2008

To test my MobileMe account’s syncing ability, after getting it up and running yesterday, I ran a simple experiment: schedule a reminder on the iPhone calendar (above, for a Chicago trip this weekend), and watch what happens.

You know what happened? Nothing:

The above screen shot is from iCal, one whole day later. Notice no event scheduled to remind me to “pack for Chicago.” Nope, just a few reminders that were already there. Despite telling MobileMe and the iPhone to sync every hour, MobileMe sent nothing to iCal. And that iCal reminder, the green one about the open house? That didn’t get pushed to the iPhone, either.

Things really started to get weird when I received a phone call. Instead of my contact’s name popping up, the iPhone displayed the number only. It turns out that 90% of my contacts were missing from my Contacts app. Where did they go?

Then, while browsing with Mobile Safari, I found all my book marks missing. All Mobile Safari gave me was the stock bookmark options:

So even though I told MobileMe to sync my contacts, my iCal events, and my Safari bookmarks, none of that made it to my iPhone.

Now, after I turned MobileMe syncing off on the 3G, I can’t get my Mobile Safari bookmarks to show back up – even though I told iTunes to do so:

MobileMe, on my iBook G4 running the latest Tiger install and synced with an iPhone 3G, doesn’t work as advertised. The web version is only a little better. That “pack for Chicago” reminder? It showed up in MobileMe’s web iCal. But my contacts made it from either my iPhone or my iBook just fine – but why wouldn’t they show up on my iPhone?

Surely these are all symptoms others have reported before – but MobileMe actually syncing with Tiger was enough of a treat to try the whole thing out. It turns out, though, that MobileMe probably isn’t for me. Not the way it’s working now, at least.

Update: MobileMe syncs with OS X 10.4 Tiger [finally]

July 26th, 2008

You see that? Finally, after two weeks of waiting, my MobileMe account syncs to that damn cloud that keeps raining on everyone.

Every day since I purchased my iPhone and signed up for the free 90-day trial of MobileMe I’ve tried syncing my iBook (running OS X 10.4.11), and every day it gives me the same message: try again, buddy. But, like a mouse hoping the electrified button will bring more cheese, I kept trying.

Finally, this morning, after a friend had sent me an e-mail asking if I liked MobileMe (and right before I sent my reply saying “don’t even think about it”) the .Mac sync screen above showed up. It parsed through my iCal and Address Book settings and sent them to MobileMe Land, which meant I could keep everything on my iBook and iPhone synced. Good news.

Things have gotten so bad that usually-secretive Apple has a MobileMe status blog of sorts from some mysterious employee who received a directive from Steve Jobs: inform the masses. Apologize. Send it via RSS. Keep them In The Know.

In the 14 days since we launched, it’s been a rocky road and we know the pain some people have been suffering. Be assured people here are working 24-7 to improve matters, and we’re going to favor getting you new info hot off the presses even if we have to post corrections or further updates later.

The “pain” part hasn’t been so bad. I use Gmail for e-mail, and my iPhone syncs with my iBook settings every time iTunes syncs it. Before, I thought you had to have MobileMe to, say, add an iCal event on the iPhone and have it appear on your Mac in some form or another. This is false. I’ve found that, just like photos, the iPhone will “push” contact info and calendar events from the phone to the Mac when you plug it in with the USB connector. Which is handy, and doesn’t make MobileMe a necessity. Thank goodness, because MobileMe hasn’t been what we would call “reliable.”

The true test comes in about an hour, when my MobileMe account is scheduled to sync. I added a Calendar (is it iCal on the phone? I get confused…) event on the iPhone, and we’ll see if it shows up in iCal on my Mac sometime in the near future. But even that little note above, where the .Mac preference pane shows the damned thing doing something, is enough to give me hope.

Any other MobileMe syncing successes out there? Let me know in the comments.

[Update to an update: MobileMe is still acting weird, with no end in site.]

iPhone 3G: It’s the little things

July 17th, 2008

It’s typical of an Apple product to delight and amaze the more you use it. The iPhone 3G is no different. It’s been a ton of fun to use and explore in the week I’ve had it.

First, I discovered this blog looks good on the iPhone’s screen, both in vertical (above) and landscape mode.

Other blogs out there are helping me discover new things.

Lifehacker shows how, by holding down the “.” and “.com” buttons in Safari and Mail, you get more options:

First, in Mobile Safari, just hold down the .com button for a second to see other domain options (namely .net, .edu, and .org). Second, when the keyboard has the @ symbol but no .com key, you can hold the ‘.’ (period) key to get the same domain shortcuts – something that comes in especially handy when you’re manually entering email addresses or filling in login credentials in new apps.

Just the “.com” in Safari was enough to make me smile. But this? That’s handy.

Wired’s How-To Wiki taught me how to avoid SMS charges (I opted for no text plan): plug your contact into AOL’s free iPhone AIM client and text to your heart’s content for free.

I’ve tested it, and it works great.

To Do apps, however, were another story. I struggled with the multitude of options out there: free apps, pay apps, voice note apps. I hate to sound cheap, but I was mostly looking at free solutions, and the reviews were of little help because they went either way. Finally, a new app popped up in the App Store – Dobot’s To Do app – so I downloaded it on a whim. And so far, it suits my needs pretty well.

I was never a big fan of the Newton’s solution to to-do lists. The easiest way was to sync the Newton with Newton Connection Kit and type up the list on my iMac. The keyboard made the whole process more comfortable and quicker. But on the road, you have to scribble a note, highlight it, have Assist interpret it, and the it appears in your to-do list. Way too complicated, and awkward when all you want to do is have a list of check-off items. In fact, it’s one of the key gripes that I have against the Newton. I’m sure there’s another to-do app out there, but I’m limited with my Newton OS 1.0.

If Dobot’s To Do app fails me, I can always spring for app that costs actual money. What I’m hoping, however, is that somehow Apple includes some sort of iCal to-do list sync.

My experiment is to try and use only the iPhone for lists, to-dos, and calendars for the next few weeks. By forcing myself to one platform, I can get to know its ins and outs, and find out what it lacks.

Why a Newton emulator would be fun on iPhone

March 20th, 2008

An iPhone on the Newton?

I took my suggestion from the iPhone SDK announcement and posed an offer to the Newtontalk mailing list:

So who wants to take up a collection for the $99 developer’s fee, grab a bit of Cocoa, and make a Newton Touch app? I’ve got $5 toward the effort!

One reader, Simon, correctly pointed out that the software developer’s kit was actually free; it’s the right to upload software to, and therefore receive the blessing from, Apple’s App Store that costs $99.

The point is still there. With reports of 100,000 downloads of the iPhone software kit, there has to be someone out there that is thinking, “You know what would be fun? A Newton emulator!”

Is this even possible? Plenty have reported on the limitations imposed on software developers – no app can remain open in the background, no scripting, etc. – so that Apple can keep the platform secure.

Mattias of says the limitations could cripple the entire thing:

The iPhone SDK has severe limitations in its license that would make an Einstein emulator useless. Apart form having to disable the ability to install packages in order to conform, we would also not be able to run in the background, so no alarm or calender events (it may be
possible to solve the first issue by wrapping Newton packages and have them installed through iTunes which would give the per-application control back to Apple). There is also the lack of pen input and a very high resolution, yet small screen, which makes HWR impossible and hitting a Newton button extremely hard.

But there has to be a way to, say, scribble something on your Newton Notepad app and have it show up in iPhone’s Notes. Or scribble in a contact into Newton’s Names and have it sync to Address Book. Same with Calendar and iCal.

This would solve one of the main dilemmas today’s Newton user faces: the difficulty connecting a MessagePad’s information with OS X. If an iPhone could run a Newton app, syncing would be a breeze.

On their own, the iPhone and iPod Touch are becoming what the Newton always dreamed of: a platform to organize your computing life on the go. So there really is no need for a Newton app other than to just play around with and show to your geeky friends. They’re based on two totally different input philosophies (though there is a stylus available for the iPhone now, as we’ve seen), and I can see why switching from one to the other would be pointless.

Someone on the Newtontalk list brough up Apple’s possible resistance to a Newton app being made available in the first place. All applications have to be certified by Apple before users can download them from the App Store, and Apple probably has no interest in seeing its ten-year-dead OS making any sort of reappearance. There are still jailbroken iPhones and iPod Touches out there, though, that provide a handy bypass system.

The idea of the Newton lives on in the iPhone: novel input mechanism, calendar and contact syncing, e-mail, web surfing, dock-loading applications, etc. And when developer start churning out to-do apps and financial apps and gaming apps, all that will be left untouched will be the Newton’s handwriting recognition. The iPhone will be what the Newton wanted to be when it grew up, in full color.

But when developers program videos like babes washing your iPhone’s screen, or apps that mimic the Nintendo Entertainment System (as Newton developers did with Newtendo), a fun Newton emulator doesn’t seem like such a worthless project.