The Two Mac Nightmare – Synchronisation

For the last couple of years I’ve been wrestling with the age old problem of having two Macs, a desktop and a laptop. Whilst it’s nice to have the luxury of two Macs it’s always presented an issue that I’m only now beginning to find a solution for. The age old problem of keeping the two machines in sync.

Like many people I’ve gone down the route of pursuing that perfect solution and come up short. I’ve always been left with that feeling that my Macs are kind of there, they’re kind of synced but not quite. It’s always felt a little skew-whiff.

Now there’s probably many answers to why, most likely beginning with my lack of desire to commit to any one method. I’m sure many of you who are in the same boat have gone down the same stream I did. Trying every new “solution” that presented itself, not to mention numerous attempts at finding a quick manual sync workflow. I tried many different services or apps, but each time they felt clunky and came up short.

It wasn’t until I started working1 that the true problem came to light. I had always been pursuing this nirvana of my two Macs in perfect sync without nailing down just what it was that needed syncing. When I started work it was made instantly clear what it was that I needed syncing, for the first time I was able to nail down just what I needed to be the same on my two machines.</br>

  1. Calendars — In this case iCal on my iMac and iBook.
  2. Email — This one was pretty easy, there's a rather well known protocol that deals with this.
  3. Contacts — Address Book on my two Macs.
  4. Some files — Not everything but a select group that changes on a regular basis as well as a few constants.

But I also had a new problem. It wasn’t just the two machines that I needed to keep in harmony. I now had a third access point, my work Mac, that I wanted to be able to access my data on but didn’t really want to have synchronised in the same way. The ideal solution was a web interface that stayed in sync with my two Macs at home2. An added twist that seems to complicate the issue a little further. Or does it? Since the sync has to involve a “cloud” of some sort, it makes a lot of sense to seek out a solution that involved a web interface as a natural solution.

Anyway, now I’ve explained the issue I’ve been faced with I guess it’s time to introduce the series this post is beginning. I’m aiming to go through the tools I now use to “solve” the problem I’ve just outlined. I”ll tackle each individual item in a post of their own, with email and contacts in a combined post3, that will hopefully provide people in a similar position with an effective solution.

  1. I was a student at the beginning of this issue so it was never imperative that the two Macs were "in sync"?
  2. At this point people usually suggest Apple's MobileMe but for various reasons, largely with email it's not suitable for me. I'll tackle this more in the email post that's to come.?
  3. The two go so well together it's hard separate as well as to understand why there is no open protocol for contact sync in the same style as IMAP. ?