Poor boy Apple Dot Mac alternatives

Purchased a new Apple computer lately? Apple recommends supplementing your new purchase with a yearly subscription to their Dot Mac (.Mac) service.

Touting such conveniences as iWeb publishing (no HTML/CSS knowledge necessary), Photocasting (think personal photo broadcasting), iDisk (access files anywhere at anytime or share files with others), Backup (schedule automatic backups offsite or to external media), Groups (communicate and socialize with others), Mail (desktop & web based email access), and Sync (data & preference syncing between machines) what’s not to like? What may not be so enticing for users is the admission cost(s) for such “conveniences”. $99 for single users and $179 for family (up to 5 members) per year. Still sound enticing enough to subscribe and renew on a yearly basis? It very well may be. Fortunately, for the penny pincher in all of us, similar “conveniences” can be achieved for a fraction of the cost… Maybe even free.

Whether or not you can make do without the annual subscription service offered by Apple depends wholly on your willingness to nit-pick through the alternatives. The following article will break-down available solutions based on the specific “conveniences” you wish to retain while saving a little money in the long run.

Staying code-free without iWeb?


Although it is true that iWeb can be used to publish websites without .Mac, issues mary arise due to iWeb’s original intent to be used in conjunction with .Mac.

The solution for creating equally attractive websites without iWeb & .Mac or touching a single line of HTML/CSS? Realmac’s RapidWeaver ($39.95) website creation application. Bundled with a wide assortment of themes (additional themes available for purchase), RapidWeaver provides an intuitive interface for creating web documents including blogs, contact forms, file sharing pages, movie albums, and photo albums [among others] without any prior experience. Furthermore, RapidWeaver bridges the gap between yourself and the internet by bypassing the requirement of an additional FTP application.

Of course, electing to go the RapidWeaver route does require that you seek actual web hosting which can be arranged for as little as $7.95 per month.

Sharing photos without “Photocasting”

Want to share your personal photographs with family & friends online? It’s easy thanks to a wide variety of photo sharing services – both free & paid.


Considered the current de facto photo sharing service, Flickr offers both free & paid-for (annual subscription) account types. Free account holders are entitled to an uploading limit which caps off at 100MB per calendar month + 200 consecutive photos made available for public viewing (older images are never deleted, only hidden from view). An adequate limitation for those few weekend family meets or children’s sporting events. Photos can be organized into Sets (albums) and shared with the general public or select contacts (family & friends). Members who discover that additional upload bandwidth is necessary may want to consider upgrading to a Pro account ($24.95 annually).

Supplement your Flickr experience with the following [optional] desktop utilties: FlickrExport for iPhoto, Flickr plug-in for Aperture, or Gleam.


For those that prefer an even easier photo sharing experience, consider checking out the free BubbleShare service. BubbleShare prides itself in its simplicity to create photo albums to share with contacts. The simplicity is further enhanced thanks to the ability to create shared albums without any type of mandatory registration. Simply title your album, batch upload images, and create an entire album online within minutes.

Free file storage (WebDav) without an iDisk

There’s no arguing the convenience of centralized online file storage. One of the greatest assets of .Mac is the included online storage. Apple’s iDisk is nothing more than a mountable WebDav file system. The convenience of WebDav allows users to mount the iDisk on their desktop like any other storage medium, drag files and documents to be uploaded to Apple servers, and retrieve those very same items from a different machine.


Want the convenience of an online file storage service which offers browser based file management or unofficial WebDav support? Check out Box. Box provides users with 1GB of free (upgrades available) online storage managed and accessed through any web browser thanks to its slick AJAX interface. Upload, manage, and share individual files or complete folders (and their respective contents) from your browser. Box even offers a beautiful Flash widget for your personal website or blog providing visitors with access to download shared files.

Furthermore, Box offers unofficial WebDav support allowing users to mount their Box file account on their Desktops to transfer files to and from while working on any one of their machines. For a complete rundown on how to get WebDav support running on OS X, check out the write-up on UNEASYsilence: Box.net destop for Macs.

Offline file backups without Apple’s Backup 3

The internet is chocked full of tutorials and recommendations for backing up data on OS X. My personal recommendation for backups is SuperDuper. I outlined the steps for creating a bootable backup of your current hardrive using SuperDuper back in September: Practice safe computing, use a clone. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments for additional details.

Sync multiple machines at your leisure

Dot Mac does one thing great – which many current subscribers claim justifies the annual cost – Syncing. Dot Mac offers the option to sync select preferences, data, and settings automatically, at specific intervals, or manually based on your own discretion. Browser bookmarks, Keychain passwords, Mail rules, Address Book entries, iCal events, even select 3rd party applications such as NetNewsWire, Yojimbo, and Transmit provide syncing of data and settings between machines using Apple’s .Mac service. The downside? Only select applications by Apple – Safari, Mail, Address Book, iCal – and a limited number of 3rd party software support the service.

Alternative for keeping multiple machines synced? Check out Econ Technologies ChronoSync which offers an incredible amount of flexibility and power when it comes to syncing machines. Chronosync utilizes “Relative State Monitoring” & data verification for syncing individual files or entire folders.

Even more promising is MildMannered Industries MySync which offers similar functionality to .Mac syncing Bookmarks, Calendars, Contacts, Mail accounts, Rules, and signatures. All done by detecting other MySync nodes (user accounts with MySync installed and enabled) in order to sync data.

For those who utilize browsers other than Safari for their needs, check out Google’s Browser Sync Firefox extension or Camino which offers bookmark syncing via FTP.

What about Mail & Groups?

I trust that the importance of establishing alternatives to Apple’s Mail and Groups service is not an immediate challenge. What with Google’s ever improving Gmail email service and online Groups to supplement hundreds of online forums, it is not at all a challenge to convince yourself to look elsewhere.

Open for additional .Mac alternatives

Aside from creating your own .Mac replacement, what other recommendations might you have? [Digg this]

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Discuss - 56 Comments

  1. Derek says:

    Sorry to hear Gleam didn’t work out so well. There may be some sort of memory leak that I didn’t notice the last time I fired that application up.

  2. Alex Hoover says:

    I would honestly rather pay for a full host than pay for .Mac (I currently am on a monthly plan with Dreamhost). It seems like a waste to me when you can get a domain, 250GB space, 2TB bandwidth, unlimited databases, etc for $10USD a month. Only catch is you need to know X/HTML or something like that to create a website.

  3. Derek says:

    Is anyone else looking forward to Macworld? Will we finally see some back-end improvements to .Mac?

  4. Gary says:

    I’ve done the same for the past 3 years, and just converted to a Family pack for $129 (HUGE discount) purchased form Amazon as well. I really wanted it for the portability of the email accounts no matter who my home ISP may be. Also – the webmail works behind firewalls so IMAP acocunts are perfect for checking at work or school. What I also really like is it allows for alias accounts (e.g. an account that fwd’s the email to your main account) this way I can use the alias for when I need to give an email account on a website – and never use my main email for web transactions. So when spam comes heavy, just delete the alias, and create a new one to use.

    .Mac is really worth it, even for a single account at $69.00 – thats $5.75 per month for all the features…. a great bargain.

    [quote comment=”38848″]Comparing .mac at $99 is simply incorrect. Every year I buy the .mac box from Amazon at $69 and simply upgrade using that. Never paid $99 for .mac in three years.

    I am sure you can also buy a discounted .mac family box from Amazon. When you compare the close integration of .mac with multiple macs and all the services you need in one place it beats box.net or flickr or what have you. Plus there are no ads. Not sure if these additional services have ads, but if there are ads, then saying they are free is incrorrect as well. You must assign some value to the ads served that generate revenue for the hoster and compare using that figure. Only then will you have a meaningful comparison.

    Still whatever suits each individual is what matters. Not everyone needs backup or iDisk or even web pages.[/quote]

  5. Oleksandr says:

    interesting article.
    Mac services have a level, that is progressing and makes our future now. And its real not expensive for that quality of entertainment they offer. I like the way of mac style and technology. It is just interesting and inspiring to stay whatching their progresses and ideas…

  6. Stepan says:

    iDisk is more then just WebDAV. It’s also local copy of WebDAV share, so you can use you iDisk even when network is down.

  7. Derek says:

    [quote comment=”42256″]iDisk is more then just WebDAV. It’s also local copy of WebDAV share, so you can use you iDisk even when network is down.[/quote]

    That is very true… How do you like the sync speeds though? I find it irritating that I can sync files faster using something like Transmit over the Finder for iDisk.

  8. frank d says:

    I find .mac / iDisk horribly slow to synchronize files. There is serious lag before and after every file is written. .Mac support holds their foot down that it is my ISP and/or my 10mb connection. Simply not true. I can top out my upload connection (true 100KB up) using any connection method to any fast server. The only thing that is slow is getting something to .mac.

    In reply and feedback I have suggested to allow multiple file transmissions at once the way some other protocols allow you to upload and download multiple files simultaneously.

  9. Derek says:

    Great tip on Plaxo. I haven’t checked out that service in quite some time. The only memories I have of the service are the spam-like "excessive" emails that would go out about contacts etc. I’ll have to check it out again.

  10. A great alternative to using .Mac for syncing your Address Book is none other than Plaxo. They came out with a Mac plugin over a year ago and it works FAR better than my old .Mac sync ever did (it was creating duplicates constantly, and losing dozens of address book entries altogether!). Plaxo does it quickly and simply and NEVER screws up my data.

    Thanks so much for all this info Derek! I was especially interested in finding an alternative to iDisk.

  11. […] Luc recently pointed out the fact that Plaxo offers a syncing utility that will ensure you have full access to contacts in your address book no matter what client you’re currently using. Plaxo offers a menu bar utility that will automatically sync your contacts with the Plaxo toolbar – ensuring access to vital contacts via Thunderbird, Outlook, Outlook Express, and even internet browsers. […]

  12. […] Posted by Graham Perrin on March 14th, 2007 Poor boy Apple Dot Mac alternatives […]

  13. […] Dot Mac alternatives Filed under: OSX — 0ddn1x @ 2007-04-15 22:36:17 +0000 http://5thirtyone.com/archives/741 […]

  14. […] Poor boy Apple Dot Mac alternatives: .mac alternatívák csóró macereknek http://5thirtyone.com/archives/741 « elÅ‘zÅ‘ | következÅ‘ » Benke Zsolt — 2007. 08. 20. […]

  15. Nora says:

    Plaxo is indeed an intriguing option, however, they have a 10,000 contact limit. As a virtual assistant who maintains many Address Book groups for my many clients, I have well over 10,000 in my database. Bummer on that limitation.

  16. […] start, here’s a terrific entry from 5thirtyone.com about “poor boy” .Mac alternatives. Box.net looks intriguing. Although many of these options are low cost or no cost, and they require […]

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  18. […] to 5thirtyone.com, “Apple’s iDisk is nothing more than a mountable WebDav file system.” So, get […]

  19. AJR says:

    I’m curious to know if .Mac has changed dramatically since February and if these changes have made it any better?

  20. Derek says:

    Aside from supposed improved mac.com IMAP support and an increase to 10GB (standard) for online storage, not much has changed. I’m assuming Apple will introduce new features in a timely fashion in order to help sales during the launch of Leopard.