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  • Software for Mac - a sorry and confused state

    I don't know if I'm becoming too impatient and grumpy, but my intermittent searches for Mac software - primarily contact information and appointments - suggests that there is nothing reliable enough for business use, and perhaps never will be.

    Here are some examples - Address Book sporadically loses records, and no Mac pro I've asked can provide a way to go into an archived copy and retrieve the missing information (you're welcome to destroy your current database with an overwrite). iCal is also flaky, with no certainty that records will stay where they were put.

    If you attempt to build over this poor base, either with syncing to portable devices, or (Lord help you) attempt to integrate contact management applications such as Daylight, you're most likely entering a world of pain and confusion (check the forums on Daylight to see the damage inflicted on small business owners).

    I've had some consultants tell me that 'sync services' is not reliable, but this provides no information that I can translate into a better office system.

    I am VERY KEEN to get my act together, to have information and projects flow as smoothly as possible together, instead of them being the bottlenecks. I don't however see any move towards reliable basic software. Apple's lineage seems to be one of pleasant personal use software, but the app's never graduate to be robust for critical use.

    I have not even mentioned BlackBerry and Mac. That is another area of pain and lost hours for many. There is apparently no incentive for either side to change the current situation. "I use Mac, therefore I must be punished".

    Can anyone tell me that they've navigated the Mac conundrum and found a way through? There is nothing more embarrassing than repeatedly asking a client for their contact information.

    G.

  • #2
    I think you raise some important points, but you'll probably get better responses if you post this in the other forum group: Discuss Gear & Software for GTD.

    http://www.davidco.com/forum/index.php

    Comment


    • #3
      Different experience here

      My experience is quite different. I use iCal and the Addressbook and have for years. I've never experienced any data loss from the addressbook at all. Ical's main issue I have is that I can't easily archive items in the distant past. I can delete all but repeat items but I can't do a clean archive of everything to reduce data size.

      However, I do have some procedures to prevent any data loss.

      First off I always assume my Mac is the trusted source for all data. So while I might add items in both calendar and addressbook to my handheld I sync as soon as I can and verify the data got transferred correctly. I also run Time Machine and store periodic backups on other drives located in separate buildings.

      When I contact a customer I update my addressbook notes field with info about that contact. I currently have about 700 addresses in my addressbook sorted into 5 real groups and I also have a couple of smartgroups for special purposes. Any action items I get from my contacts I enter into my Omnifocus system.

      For iCal I keep a detailed log at least to the half hour and some times of the year to the 10 minute of what I did every day. I often search this data to locate when things got done. I keep about 10 years of data on my handheld but try to archive or delete data older than 10 years to save space.

      Where I have made the biggest change from most folks is my sync protocol. After trying Mobile Me I have determined that it is the source of nearly all the problems I have ever had with sync. Dropbox or other cloud sync also is problematic for the same reasons.

      My handheld is an iPod Touch and I have it set to only sync addressbook and contacts via wire from iTunes. Keeping the sync to tethered by wire only has prevented any data loss. I have also noticed that when I boot up my machine in the morning if I try to start too many sync services too quickly I will get errors. So I start up Safari, then Mail, then iCal. Go start my coffee water. Come back and start up Omnifocus which I have syncing via bonjour over my internal wifi network. I have also noted that there appears to be a memory leak in the mac sync SW. If I leave my machine on all the time over several days sync gets more and more unreliable. The simple and easy solution is to shut down the computer at night and re-boot in the morning.

      I have never tried to do anything with a Blackberry. Friends I know who have those devices do not attempt to integrate with the mac but instead get an iPod touch for their handheld and keep the blackberry as a phone only. My phone is a Palm Treo, but will be replaced by a simple dumb phone when it quits as I never use the smartphone aspect anymore.

      Maybe there are some suggestions you can use from this.

      Comment


      • #4
        Nice rant. Unfortunately, you didn't include any information that would be helpful in diagnosing your problem. Apple's calendar and contacts are relatively simple, but work well for most people. Mine sync flawlessly between 3 macs, an iPad and iPhone. ICal plays fairly nicely with other programs, better, I think, than gcal. A few random thoughts: Is it possible that your hard disk is flaky? Even Apple has a few lemons. Also, most CRM systems, such as Daylight, are a heap of pain, independent of platform. The ones that "integrate" are the worst. Finally, the first step in solving a problem like this is often to reproduce it reliably. If you haven't had someone sit and watch you use the programs and see under what circumstances the problem occurs, you haven't gone very far yet.

        Good luck!

        Comment


        • #5
          I have lost data in the Mail app.

          Moving a large number of messages between mail folders during a reorganisation I have seen the number of emails reduce on successive moves.

          On renaming a folder with a few hundred messages I have seen the copy seem to succeed and then the old name reappear with some of the emails still in it.

          During the recent conversion to CalDAV Apple deleted some of my Notes.

          If you can figure out the rules for syncing Notes then well done.

          I often look in my Drafts folder to see a few emails lurking there. They have been sent already but some old copies are just sitting there.

          I sometimes change a calendar event on my iPhone, see it change, then revert again a little later.

          There are plenty more and I bet many people have them but don't tend to notice, but it's pretty dangerous for running a business.

          I was very happy switching to a Mac when I started my own company due to the greater stability and security, but Apple seem almost naive with data. If I did that to my client's data, I'd be chased out of the building. Things like data hubs and sync are complex, but if you can't get it right, then you don't release. It's about approach and attitude rather than bug-fixing.
          Last edited by pxt; 04-01-2011, 12:55 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Back ups

            I never lost any data Apple Mail, Address Book or iCal until I started syncing with Mobileme. Actually lost my own information which was a bit unnerving. Hence stopped using the service (about a month ago). It seems even some high profile syncing services are not as good as they seem. There seems to be sporadic thunder, lightning, and other adverse weather in the "cloud."

            One this that has helped me is decent regular (daily or hourly) back ups. That way when you notice that something is missing, you can 1) fully back up your current database 2) restore the back up that has the lost information 3) export the missing information 4) restore to your fully backed up current database 5) import the previously exported information. I've only had to do this while syncing with some kind of "cloud" service. I currently use a LAN service called busysync and thus far haven't had any lost data, but this in only a calendar solution.

            For my other programs, Things for example, I have my database on dropbox. That allows me a certain level of "syncing" although not true syncing. Basically, Dropbox just copies the database for you to what ever computer you specify, automatically. That way you're not combining two different databases, you're just transferring the same database to a different place. (Kind of like putting everything on a jumpdrive, but safer, faster, automatic, and nothing in your pocket.)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by pxt View Post
              I have lost data in the Mail app.
              Interesting, I'm curious are you using iMAP or POP?
              I tried iMAP but don't like leaving things on a server so have everything as POP and it's working and is very stable. As I said mobile Me is the culprit for all my data loss issues and sync issues. Once I eliminated that as even an option things got completely stable.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Oogiem View Post
                Interesting, I'm curious are you using iMAP or POP?
                I tried iMAP but don't like leaving things on a server so have everything as POP and it's working and is very stable. As I said mobile Me is the culprit for all my data loss issues and sync issues. Once I eliminated that as even an option things got completely stable.
                Yes, I'm a MobileMe user and this is where most of my sync-related data-loss issues occur. I'm sure that both IMAP and POP are themselves fine as standards.

                Data migration is another, related area where Apple have been known to lose people's data, as well as in my own experience. They deleted emails from accounts of .mac users moving to MobileMe and a few months ago deleted photos during an iPhoto upgrade. It was during the migration of iCal to CalDAV that they deleted some of my Notes.

                Apple have many strengths but, I suspect, their years away from the enterprise have left them with some blind spots. The recent popularity in enterprise of the iPhone and iPad will help but it will take some years for the new attitudes to take hold.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by pxt View Post
                  Yes, I'm a MobileMe user and this is where most of my sync-related data-loss issues occur.....They deleted emails from accounts of .mac users moving to MobileMe and a few months ago deleted photos during an iPhoto upgrade. It was during the migration of iCal to CalDAV that they deleted some of my Notes.
                  Can you eliminate Mobile Me as your sync/backup? That is one reason I abhor cloud based stuff in addition to basic security issues and internet access issues.

                  I've never played with CalDAV at all so I have no clue how it works. Again though cloud solutions in general are flakey no matter the platform. See the issues in this forum about problem with sync and Blackberries and RTM.

                  I did convert data from Palm to Mac w/o problems. I have actually converted my notes from Word to HyperCard to SuperCard to Palm to Yojimbo to Evernote and finally to DEVONThink in the last 15 years or so. Didn't lose anything in all that time. My address data went from Word to Excel to HyperCard to SuperCard to Palm to Mac Address book. Calendar went from Paper to Palm to iCal.

                  I also don't use iPhoto to store photos as I like my own system with everything from my camera automatically downloaded into a separate folder, one per day. I have used iPhoto to get selected pictures onto my iPod but it's not my main system for photo organization. I'm considering Aperture but don't have a need for anything more than simple files for now. I typically take about 5000 pictures a year so I am a fairly heavy photo user.

                  Anyway, as I said eliminating cloud sync has meant I've never experienced the problems that you have reported.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bradenchase View Post
                    I never lost any data Apple Mail, Address Book or iCal until I started syncing with Mobileme. Actually lost my own information which was a bit unnerving. Hence stopped using the service (about a month ago). It seems even some high profile syncing services are not as good as they seem. There seems to be sporadic thunder, lightning, and other adverse weather in the "cloud."

                    One this that has helped me is decent regular (daily or hourly) back ups. That way when you notice that something is missing, you can 1) fully back up your current database 2) restore the back up that has the lost information 3) export the missing information 4) restore to your fully backed up current database 5) import the previously exported information. I've only had to do this while syncing with some kind of "cloud" service. I currently use a LAN service called busysync and thus far haven't had any lost data, but this in only a calendar solution.

                    For my other programs, Things for example, I have my database on dropbox. That allows me a certain level of "syncing" although not true syncing. Basically, Dropbox just copies the database for you to what ever computer you specify, automatically. That way you're not combining two different databases, you're just transferring the same database to a different place. (Kind of like putting everything on a jumpdrive, but safer, faster, automatic, and nothing in your pocket.)
                    I think the makers of Things and Dropbox have done a great job.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Oogiem View Post

                      Can you eliminate Mobile Me as your sync/backup?

                      ---

                      I also don't use iPhoto to store photos as I like my own system with everything from my camera automatically downloaded into a separate folder, one per day. I have used iPhoto to get selected pictures onto my iPod but it's not my main system for photo organization.

                      ---
                      It's a tricky thing because I use an iPhone, Mac and MobileMe and the promise of consistent features across my home and mobile hardware is what I want.

                      So for the moment I am crossing my fingers with MobileMe hoping they will get better, while, as the saying about the camel goes, doing lots of backup.

                      Regarding your photos, keeping them in simple folders gives you a simplicity that will stand in your favour if something horrible goes wrong.

                      Keeping our important data in systems that are 'too big to fail' is an interesting topic and there's an issue there about what we put into apps with non-standard file formats maintained by small companies.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Apple MobileMe is not perfect, always do backups

                        I have used MobileMe for many years with no issue syncing between multiple computers and devices. However, Apple released a new version of iCal and when I upgraded I not only lost a lot of data, but it cancelled a bunch of appointments and emailed my contacts automatically telling them I had cancelled our meeting. This happened twice and I spent a lot of time on the phone with apple tech and none of them could tell me why this happened.

                        However, having said that, I never had any problems until this past year when apple did a significant update to the way iCal works and syncs withIn MobileMe.

                        I always do regular backups in all my programs so I was able to restore my data.

                        I moved off of iCal to BusyCal for Mac, which is a much more robust calendar program for the Mac. It works better for me. But I still use iCal on the iPad and iPhone. Busy Cal syncs fine with iCal, but manages the data and invites better on my desktop.

                        I suggest installing Dropbox on all your devices and doing backups that way. I auto backup omnifocus to Dropbox.

                        Comment

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