It just struck me recently, when I updated my iPhone to iOS 5 and started using iCloud, that I’ve now reached a pretty good place in terms of the software that I’m using allowing synchronisation across lots of different devices. I subsequently found that every iCloud doesn’t necessarily have a metallic lining, but more of that later!
Email: IMAP and Google Apps
When I first got the iPhone I was using POP for all my e-mail, both my private and work e-mail, across desktops, laptop and the iPhone. Clearly this doesn’t work in terms of trying to keep everything synchronised.
When I looked at switching to IMAP, I found that I’d need to pay for an upgraded e-mail account with my server hosting provider (Go Daddy) if I wanted to start using IMAP. However, just when I was about to hit the ‘Pay’ button I found that you can sign up to Google Apps and and Host your e-mail on GMail. This does require you to make changes to your MX records through your server admin panel, but Google provide really good instructions for this. The only problem I found was that I tried to use the same email address when setting up Google Apps that I was already using for my personal Google account. This can end up getting a bit messy! Incidentally I am pretty happy with Go Daddy in general.
Now that I’m on IMAP I’ve got everything synchronised across all devices. One thing to note though is that when I was using POP I was doing a send/receive every minute. Since switching to IMAP I’ve reduced the frequency a little (10 minutes), otherwise one synchronisation is barely ending before the next one begins.
Firefox Synchronisation and Firefox Home
Another problem one has, and I’m guessing that lots of other web developers have the same ridiculous number of bookmarks that I have, is keeping bookmarks synchronised across devices. I now use Firefox ‘Sync’, which can be reached through the Options in Firefox. This allows you to set up a synchronisation account and you can then add all your devices.
On the iPhone I’m still using the Safari browser, but you can download a free app called Firefox Home which allows you to access all of your synchronised bookmarks and launch them in Safari.
To ensure that I’ve got access to my work documents, and any other files that I need to reference frequently, I use Dropbox. You get a really good size allocation for free and can pay to get a greater allocation. The files are stored on the Dropbox server and synchronised with local folders on each device that you install it on. There’s also a really good iPhone application.
Eclipse, Subclipse, Subversion and Unfuddle
iCloud? Maybe not!
When I upgraded my iPhone to iOS 5, I became aware of Apple’s introduction of the iCloud. Under iOS 5 you can go to Settings->iCloud and elect to push some of the content from your phone up to your iCloud area, including, mail, contacts, calendars, etc. You can then go onto a website area and view all of your information, so this means that you could have access to your contacts, for example, wherever you can get on a browser.
You can also download the iCloud panel onto your PC and elect to synchronise your content from Outlook to your iCloud. Personally I decided to go for contacts and calendars. Contacts seems to work well, but I had a lot of issues with the calendar side of things – checking on the Apple forums I realised pretty quickly that I wasn’t on my own, and there are some real horror stories on there. Basically, all of my calendar appointments, most of them being in the past, had been pushed from Outlook up to the iCloud (good) but unfortunately it had set me up as the organiser for all of them and sent out e-mails to every attendee! Needless to say this caused a lot of confusion amongst all the attendees and particularly the real organisers! It also sounds from the forums as though when people are trying to resolve all this that greater confusion is caused with iCloud then sending out cancellations.
I haven’t turned of the calendar synchronisation yet, but I’ll see how things go.