Noticed this by accident, having activated Time Machine while in Mail.app. Very nice—I assumed one would have to restore the Mail backup files in ~/Library/Mail via the Finder (which is what usually comes up for me when invoking Time Machine in OS 10.5.x), but this is much nicer and much more elegant.
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OK, it’s been a few days since I ditched Entourage and began using iCal/Mail/Address Book. Overall, I’m liking it. Syncng to my iPhone is flawless. I’m using Growl so that I get notifications of each e-mail, similar to what Entourage and Outlook provide. Searching through old e-mails is fast—really fast. Just try searching for a subject or recipient using Entourage; it’s a vastly inferior experience.
On the other hand, there are some niceties to Entourage. Not many, mind you. But I’d be intellectually dishonest if I wrote otherwise; this was, after all, the PIM I’ve used for over eight years, and would still be using it if only its sync to and from iCal wasn’t so fermisht. Entourage is more elegant when accepting calendar invitations and unlike Mail, provides buttons to accept, tentatively accept or decline a meeting. Accepting a meeting in Mail is easy but I have no clue how to formally decline or tentatively accept it. While Growl notifications are nice, each new e-mail generates a notification instance, so a lot of mail downloading all at once plasters my screen with separate notifications. Nor can I delete an e-mail from the notification as I can do in Entourage. Rather than a button to create a bulleted or numbered list, that requires a visit to the menubar in Mail. Marking a message as unread is a second-level contextual menu item rather than a first-level item as it is in Entourage. And why not have an unread messages view, or at least a way to sort unread messages that preserves sorting by date?
Address Book is fine but the interface is primitive compared with Entourage’s Contacts. Same with iCal. There are no individual event categories, just different calendar groups. Setting an appointment means more typing than with Entourage because there are no dropdowns. And while one can set an e-mail associated ToDo, you can’t set an e-mail-generated Event through scripting. Not a big deal, but I’m used to being able to run a script in Entourage to do this. I also like Entourage’s recurring ToDo items.
So why use Mail/iCal/Address Book? Because they work, sync perfectly with my iPhone and there are no database corruption concerns. With Entourage, corrupt the database and it’s bye-bye calendar/contacts/mail/notes/tasks in one fell swoop. Sure, I have backups and my personal e-mail resides on a server using IMAP, but I’ve wasted many hours over the past few months dealing with sync issues and I like having my weekends back. And so does my family.
When I had a BlackBerry, I relied on PocketMac’s free sync tool that enabled me to sync my Entourage calendar, notes and address book with the BlackBerry. Since moving to the iPhone, I rely on the sync services built into Entourage, which also interacts with OS X’s sync services. Until recently, it worked ok—new events got synced from Entourage to iCal within seconds, and then to my iPhone over a USB sync (or vice-versa, since new events on the iPhone would make it to Entourage).
Then came Apple’s change to MobileMe. Dorky name, but whatever. It held the promise of push e-mail as well as push contacts, push calendar events and push bookmarks. Sounded great. And initially, once some bugs were worked out on Apple’s end, it seemed to work ok. Certainly, the push e-mail works perfectly. However, “pushing” to and from my MacBook Pro would take much, much longer. True, the MobileMe sync preferences are set to sync at 15-minute intervals (a number easily changed, mind you, but in the end that doesn’t help much—trust me). That I could have lived with, since all I’d have to do is hit the Sync Now button in iSync on my menu bar, and that would be that. However, syncing this way takes forever. The sync would keep going and going for 30 minutes or more, even if hardly anything had changed on my iPhone or laptop.
I reset sync services, restarted, repaired permissions, etc. but that didn’t make the “push” syncing any faster. So I disabled push on my iPhone except for e-mail, and that’s when the real troubles started. As expected, the calendar, contacts and bookmarks on my iPhone were now blank, but one sync with my MBP over a USB cable would do the trick. And it did. Except that with all the sync services nonsense I went through, my iCal calendar wouldn’t sync within any reasonable timeframe with my Entourage calendar. I had read an article on MacFixit about how to solve these issues by deleting several preference files, and that made things worse. I no longer had any Entourage calendar within iCal, nor was it being recreated by deactivating then reactivating sync services in Entourage. And when I finally had some success, everything was duplicated on both ends. Fortunately, I had a backup of my Entourage database (several, actually, all taking up 2+ GB of space), and reverted to that one, but now iCal only showed all my old recurring events ad nauseum. I even went into the terminal and tried the following:
rm -rf ~/Library/Application\ Support/SyncServices/*
(note: in general, I never recommend using any rm -rf Unix commands, since it can end up irrevocably trashing unintended files, but in this case it was worth a shot.). Unfortunately, this didn’t work. Apple does mention never to delete anything in the SyncServices folder, but deleting the entire folder in the expectation that it would be recreated later on seemed reasonable.
To make a long story short, after two days and many hours of dealing with this issue, here was the fix, at least on my system, which I found in a support article from the Entourage Help Page:
- Turn OFF all sync services in Entourage preferences
- Quit ALL Office applications (including Daemon—a script to do this is here)
- Quit Safari, Address Book & iCal and all applications synching through .Mac (Transmit, Yojimbo…)
- Use Activity Monitor to quit Sync Services
- Delete the contents of ~/Library/Application Support/SyncServices/
- Optionally: if you want to replace all data in the system Address book and iCal with Entourage data, delete all iCal & Address Book Data Files:
- ~/Application Support/iCal/*~/Application Support/AddressBook/*
- Open the .Mac System preferences and make sure .Mac synching is enabled
- Restart all applications that sync to .Mac (Safari, Address Book, iCal, etc…. and Entourage).
- Turn ON Sync Services in Entourage preferences.
I should also add that I used iSync to reset the sync history. How much that helped is hard to say, but Apple also suggests going into Terminal.app and typing:
I didn’t need to try that one, which probably does what I did with resetting the sync history anyway. In any event, I now can sync perfectly over USB again. However, I strongly recommend not enabling push for contacts, calendar and bookmark synchronization. It’s slow, unpredictable, and the fact that I usually cannot load the calendar page in MobileMe doesn’t make me very confident in Apple’s servers these days. Until they really have their act together on the MobileMe front, I’m keeping push off except for e-mail. The whole MobileMe push thing is what got me into this nonsense, anyway. It cost me much of my weekend, and had I not been careful, could have lost data as well.
UPDATE 3/30/09: Well, I think Apple has finally gotten its act together on the MobileMe front. I’ve been using MobileMe sync for weeks now and it’s been great. I no longer use Entourage at all, but use Mail/iCal/Address Book, so my sync problems have been gone for many months, and the addition of syncing through the cloud only makes this better. But if I were still using Entourage, I’d be leery, mainly because SyncServices and MS Sync is not great.
- Exciting news: Linda Wertheimer of NPR was at our house tonight to interview about nine local Democratic women, including Debbie, in order to get a sense of whom they’re supporting in next week’s primary and how they came to the decision. It was just good fortune that this came about, and the group was more or less split 50/50 Obama/Hillary. The interview will be broadcast tomorrow morning (Weds) on NPR’s Morning Edition. It will also be on NPR.org. I’m really proud of Debbie for participating in this. UPDATE: the link to the broadcast on NPR is here.
- I turned in my absentee ballot early last week in Norristown, PA. I didn’t want to take any chances with the mail.
- I’ve spent several hours between last night and today trying to get a new AirPort Express to extend my wireless network in concert with my old AirPort Express and a Verizon-supplied Westell wireless router (that does not support WDS, although that shouldn’t matter). I’m giving up for now—unless one or both APX’s are wired to either my computer or the Westell router, they’re not visible to the network or to Apple’s AirPort Utility. I’ve configured the new APX to serve as a WDS main base station and the old one to serve as a WDS remote, while the new APX is also wired to the Westell router. However, neither APX can pick up an IP address via DHCP from the Westell router unless hard wired to the router. My next step: adding a regular router between the Westell and the APX’s so that hopefully I can assign IP addresses. Sheesh—I thought this was all supposed to be easy!
- The new MBP has at times manifested one of the graphics glitches that have finally been admitted to by Apple just the other day. If the MBP is not connected to a power source or USB mouse and I use the trackpad to scroll a page in Safari, I get a lot of garbled text. If I use the page down or arrow keys or just hit the space bar to advance the page, this problem generally doesn’t happen. Restarting takes care of it for awhile, but then it returns. Hopefully this will be fixed with 10.5.3, but we’ll see.
- Liking the Finder in Leopard, but I do miss some things from PathFinder, like tabbed browsing. The problem is that I’m finding PF to be somewhat unstable and unpredictable in 10.5.2, as have others.
- Weird glitch today—went to back up my entire iTunes library to DVDs (which I’ve done before on my iBook G4 at least twice just fine) and on two attempts, iTunes 7.6.2 would crash when initiallizing the third disc. Not the first or second, which burned fine. But the third, and this was a reproducible crash. I’m going to try this on my iBook tomorrow.
- Getting psyched for next week’s start date for my new job in the Bay Area (or is Redwood City just considered the Peninsula and not the Bay Area? I’ll have to figure this one out). Just ordered an M-Audio Keystation 88es from Sweetwater Sound so that I can have an inexpensive 88-key keyboard controller with me for evenings and early mornings. I figure this way I can get a bunch of things done on the music front while in CA and use my time on the East Coast exclusively for work and family. I might actually be more productive with composition this way…
- Oh, and I’m going to be a volunteer ob/gyn in Tanzania this summer. More details to come.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never purchased a top-of-the-line Mac laptop. My first Mac laptop was an end-of-life’d PowerBook 520c I got through a university discount. Let’s see—33 MHz, 250 MB hard drive and with the expensive RAM upgrade I bought, it went from 4 MB to a whopping 12 MB of RAM. I should also mention its 9.5” passive matrix color screen and its 28k modem. Yes, those were the days.
I finally was able to get a PowerBook G3 (Wall Street model), which I believe was 256 MHz (or was it 128?), and I maxed out the RAM to 40 MB or so. This was again not the high-end laptop from Apple, but it was more than good enough. Since then, I have had two iBooks, one G3 and a G4, figuring that it wasn’t worth the price differential to get a PowerBook, just as I once looked at my first PowerBook’s crappy passive matrix screen and envisioned five $100 bills next to it, and determined that the $500 looked better than the difference between an active matrix and a passive matrix laptop screen.
I was provided with a MacBook Pro for my forthcoming new job, and it’s incredible to finally have the best tools available for work. It’s the 2.5 GHz dual-core model with half a GB of graphical memory on a separate chip and 2 GB of RAM. The hard drive is 250 GB in size, which is great since my puny 80 GB iBook’s hard disk was nearly full. While I had a weird glitch with the MIgration Assistant right at the end of transferring stuff from my iBook G4 (each time, with less than a minute to go, the Assistant would lose its FireWire connection with the iBook and the iBook was frozen, so some apps didn’t transfer over), it’s been flawless since. I had to re-input my Keynote 3 and Reason 4.0 serial numbers and for some reason I have no printers anymore, but that’s it for problems I’ve found.
It’s an amazing, incredibly fast laptop. The LED display is very sharp, and an ambient light sensor adjusts brightness based on the surrounding lighting. The keys also light up in low-light conditions, which still amazes my daughter Arielle. And it comes with OS 10.5.2, which so far seems to be working just fine for me. And the trackpad does multi-touch, like the iPhone. In all, it has been a pretty painless update, although a bit more intensive than the last time I used the Migration Assistant to go from the iBook G3 to the G4. It’s just nice to finally have the best toys tools at my disposal.