Poor boy Apple Dot Mac alternatives

  • December 26th, 2006

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?

Rapidweaver

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.

Flickr

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.

Bubbleshare

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.

Box

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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