Back to my Mac Difficulties

I am having extremely frustrating and contradictory problems with the Back to my Mac. I have a mac mini and Back to my Mac had been working with an older router no problem. All the hardware stayed the same and then Back to my Mac  ceased working on the mini. I bought a new router a cisco WRT610. It worked a couple of times and then stopped with the same error about it needing NAT or universal plug ‘n play. I brought in an Airport Extreme and set it up as part of the existing network. I tried to get Back to my Mac to work and it said that there were 2 devices using NAT and to disable one. I disabled the NAT setting on the Airport Extreme and Back to my Mac still did not work stating that it needed a router with NAT. I cannot figure out where the NAT settings are on the cisco router. I configured the Airport Extreme in every way possible – an extension to the network, a bridge, on its own as a network and I could not get Back to my Mac to work. I can set up the Extreme as the office’s router but I don’t really want to do that. Any Mac experts out there have any idea on how to solve this bizarre problem?

I am noticing a trend with Mobile Me services: they seem to work for a while then stop. I had the same problem with my iDisk. See here, and here. I am beginning to think that Mobile Me is a serious dud. The two main things I have wanted on it have worked for a short time and then they stop. I am going to have to see what Apple has to say about it.

Mobile Me: Back to my Mac

I did the 2-month trial of Mobile Me mostly for the iDisk function*. At the end of the trial I signed up for a year – which is approximately $100. Almost immediately iDisk stopped syncing properly for me.** There are other great functions of Mobile Me. You can sync calendars and mail across computers using Apple’s Mail program and iCal. I use Gmail for all of my email and google calendar for my calendaring needs. The ‘find my iPhone’ application would be invaluable if you ever lost your iPhone.

Back to my Mac is a feature that allows you to log in remotely to any Mac on your Mobile Me account. This feature has been indispensible to me since I discovered it. Here is a list of how I have used it over the last month or so:

1. I have logged into my Mac Mini at work and printed a document for one of my staff members. Quite often they will need something from me at the office and the ability to print it remotely is great!

2. I needed to access the database at work and I could not get MS Access to work properly at home*** so I logged on to my work computer and did what I needed to do and saved the results where I could access them.

3. Sometimes I don’t want to sit at my computer in my office moving large numbers of files so I will go to the living room, log in remotely to my iMac and carry everything out on my MBP.

4. Sometimes rented movies don’t transfer properly to the Apple TV – with Back to my Mac I am able to log in and make sure iTunes is still running and manually transfer them again.

I am sure as time goes on I will find more and more uses for Back to my Mac. I know other programs can give you remote access to your computers but they do not come as part of a package like Back to my Mac does. It was relatively easy to set up and indispensable in my opinion.

*More in iDisk in another post.

**I am sure it was a coincidence.

***It seemed to stop working after I updated to Windows 7. I have since fixed the problem.

Dropbox vs iDisk

When I first installed Mobile Me I did it for the iDisk feature. I was having trouble saving all of my documents on a USB stick plus I had over 2 gigs of docs I was transferring on a daily basis and it was getting to be too much. Apple’s iDisk seemed like the perfect solution. And, so it was for about 2 months. Shortly after my trial period ended, iDisk stopped syncing files completely. I did some searches and other users were having the same problem. Apple posted all of these silly and convoluted fixes for this problem that never worked for me. I even chatted with the Apple tech and it still won’t sync. So I was left looking for another solution as I need to make sure I have all of my files everywhere I am.
When I first installed iDisk it took a very long time to get all of my files uploaded from one computer and then downloaded to another. Several hours long. I also had to compress the files in order to upload to iDisk. When I went looking for another solution I chose Dropbox which is another file syncing program that allows you to store up to 2 gb of stuff for free. I cleaned out some of the stuff that I no longer needed, trimmed it down to about 1.7 gb and uploaded to Dropbox. Right away I was impressed with the speed in which Dropbox processed my files. The next step was to set up Dropbox on my other computers which was also amazingly simple. I was very pleased at the speed in which files transferred.
Any files saved in your Dropbox folder are immediately synced across all of your computers if they are on. When you start-up a computer that has been off, a little Dropbox message pops up telling you which files have been synchronized. The synchronization is much more stable and accurate than Apple’s iDisk. On several occasions I would need to email a file I had just saved to my iDisk. I would go to look for it and it would not be there. I would have to wait for a while to appear on the iDisk. This has never happened with Dropbox. All of my files are there immediately after saving and synced immediately.
The only draw back to Dropbox is that you have to pay if you want more than 2 gigs. The next step from 2 gigs is 50 gigs for about $100 per year. I doubt I will ever need 50 gb for my files. It would be great if they had a smaller increment and charge less for it. I think a 10 or 15 gb level would be great for people like me. In the meantime I am busy trying to get as much extra space as I can. Apparently, you can get up to 8 gb by getting everyone you know to sign up for Dropbox. If you are thinking Dropbox might be for you let me know and I will send you an invitation!
Edited to add: Today I worked from home. I needed to connect to the office network so that I could get the most up to date database. Using Back to my Mac (blog to come soon) I connected to my MacMini and navigated to the network and copied the file I needed. I then pasted it into Dropbox and immediately I had a notification that Dropbox was syncing the file with my home computer. Lightening fast and amazing!

Syncing Files

I have been using Mobile Me to synchronize my computer files between my 3 Macs. When you sign up with Mobile Me you get 20 gigs of storage in the ‘cloud.’ It also allows you to sync all things Mac – like the calendar, contacts, email etc. Everything had been going along fine until things just stopped syncing.

I noticed it first last week when I went to open a file I had created at home and shared to the iDisk. I was surprised to see that it was not there. I found the file when I came home, made sure it was on the iDisk drive and synced again. I also emailed it to myself in case it didn’t sync. When I got to the office the file was not there. On all of my computers, the Finder indicates that the iDisk is not synced.

Note how it says that the iDisk is not synced

I googled the issue and came to this Apple Support page that gives you great instructions about how to get your iDisk to sync. I go through every one of them. I worked through all the steps in the document – still won’t sync. I then chatted with an Apple Rep and we went through some other things like logging out and then logging back in with a fake username and password. I tried the things suggested here and I still cannot get it to work. I feel like I have been spending a whole lot of time trying to figure this out.

Finally, I gave up. I downloaded DropBox where I can get 2gigs for free. I am very pleased to say that it is working and working very well. It also has significantly faster upload speeds. My largest folder was synced completely in about 2 hours. It took much longer to sync to iDisk.

I will keep Mobile Me because it syncs other things that are useful – like the calendar. If I can ever get the iDisk to sync again I will use it more as archive storage. It is too bad iDisk is this temperamental. If you need an online storage system, DropBox wins hands down.