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. ?