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Nuclear reset for .Mac syncing

How-To: Truly reset your .Mac sync data [Ars Technica]

I never have trouble finding company when it comes to whining about the reliability of .Mac syncing. It's surely not fair to lay all of this at the feet of the .Mac developers -- sync is, we are often reminded, "hard." But if you want to rely on syncing your Calendars, Contacts, Preferences, snippets, Yojimbo, and what have you via .Mac in a battlefield environment, you're going to need a strong stomach, a lot of patience, and reliable backups. Plus, friends, you will regularly have to _reset frickin' everything_.

Entirely overfamiliar with that particular reality, I was pleased to get pointed toward David Chartier's tutorial on saving your .Mac's village by burning it to the ground. It's a handy, illustrated companion piece to Apple's own advice on scorching earth. Very handy, and, yeah, you will eventually need it. So print it out. Maybe even have it laminated.

Apple's .Mac syncing features are sometimes no exception to these problems, and even though Apple provides a number of decent solutions in its .Mac sync support pages, they don't always work. Fortunately, a brief adventure using .Mac sync chat support (found at the bottom of that aforelinked page) cleared up a repeating "merge/overwrite" sync dialog problem for me, and we felt the procedure was worth sharing.

FWIW, here's a few other things I do (as a raving .Mac paranoiac):

  • manually backup Address Book and iCal Calendars once a week ("File > Export..."); periodically ".bz" and Gmail them to myself
  • backup all important "~/Library" files offsite via something like Mozy
  • Whenever it occurs to you, burn a quick CD of your iDisk (or at least throw your most important stuff onto an encrypted Disk Image on a USB stick)

Also -- and I loathe admitting this -- I have accepted that one of our household's Macs is "the master" (i.e., the "the first Mac you re-register" mentioned in David's piece). This means one Mac in the house gets extra-special backup attention as well as being the "winner" whenever I have to do the (increasingly weekly) nuclear reset David describes in this tutorial.

In an ideal world, you should have so much redundant reliability that you can reset from any recently updated machine -- I mean, isn't that the point of syncing? But, as you quickly learn, that's simply not feasible when things suddenly go kerplooey on multiple Macs over a short interval. But, by always knowing where to restart your electronic Marshall Plan -- which box is the true "original" in the .Mac chicken-waving ritual -- you'll have quicker recoveries and a less frustrating experience in general.

There's no pride to be found in being a .Mac whiner. As I've said before, I believe the .Mac offering is the vorpal blade that Apple's hiding under its cape. Done well -- fixed well -- .Mac has the potential to reliably unify every Apple user's digital world. But for now? Yeah, it's more like owning a Fiat where your toolbox always gets to ride shotgun.


About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
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