I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

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.

  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. ?