Tag Archives | MobileMe

Don't Be Like Salma Hayek!

Selma HayekPoor Salma Hayek. She may be a gorgeous, accomplished, award-winning actress, but she’s apparently not very good at keeping her online accounts secure. A post at Electronic Pulp reports that pranksters have figured out how to get into her e-mail at Apple’s MobileMe service by using the “Forgot Password?” feature to reset her password. And they’ve been sharing stuff they’ve found (nothing scandalous).

Could this have been prevented? Did Salma do anything wrong? Did Apple? If the reports are true, the answers are yes, yes, and yes.

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Hey Apple, You Don’t Own My Contacts

No Mobile MeAllow me to vent here for a second. As you may have read in my recent post about Mac products at Target, I have been in the midst of reloading things for my attempt at installing Windows 7 on the MacBook Pro. This included a wipe of OS X for good measure, which has been giving me some trouble anyway.

Part of that wipe took out my calendar and contacts–I knew I forgot to back something up, and that was it. Not to worry, though: I had them on my iPhone 3G, too. I could just merge them back on my first sync with my freshly-wiped and speedier MBP, right?

Not so fast.

I did not renew my service with MobileMe when it expired last December. Little did I know that once you sync once with the service, Apple all but owns your information.

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A MobileMe Rival From Microsoft?

Neowin is reporting that Microsoft plans to unveil a mobileservice called SkyBox at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It’s supposedly similar to Apple’s MobileMe–although I hope it works a whole lot better–and syncs e-mail, SMS, calendar info, and photos from device to device via the cloud. (Neowin says it “could be” available on phones other than ones that run Windows Mobile–and I’m officially guessing that if it exists, it’ll be free, unlike MobileMe.) Neowin says that Microsoft will launch a small-business version called SkyLine as well, and will open an iTunes App Store-like software download service called SkyMarket.

I plan to be at Mobile World Congress–which is the one best place in the world to learn about what’s new with mobile phones–and will let you know what I find out…

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Operation Foxbook: Life Inside the Browser, So Far

I’m typing this in Firefox on an HP Mini-Note netbook. In fact, I’m doing everything in Firefox on the Mini-Note at the moment, because I’m engaged in the experiment I call Operation Foxbook, in which I spend a few days trying to go cold turkey on desktop applications and my fancy MacBook in favor of working in a manner that’s as close to purely Web-based as possible.

How’s it going so far? Not bad, but not entirely free of bumps. A few notes on the Web-based applications I’ve been using:

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More MobileMe For Your Money–Yup, Again

In many ways, Apple’s rollout of its MobileMe synching service has been a textbook example of how not to launch a technology service. Just ask anyone who’s grappled with its outages and glitches. But in one important respect, the company’s doing a stellar job: It’s handling a really difficult situation well.

The latest example is today’s news that current Mobile Me users will get an extra sixty days of service, on top of the free month it extended to Mobile Me early adopters and .Mac veterans a month ago. It’s an appropriate, classy step, but I’m also struck by the honesty of the language that Apple used in announcing the extension:

“The transition from .Mac to MobileMe was rockier than we had hoped.  While we are making a lot of improvements, the MobileMe service is still not up to our standards. We are extending subscriptions 60-days free of charge to express appreciation for our members’ patience as we continue to improve the service.”

Admitting problems in the past tense is unusual enough in the tech biz; admitting them in the present tense, and implying that they’re ongoing in nature, is practically unheard of. I’m sure there are other examples; I just can’t think of any at the moment.

One nitpick: The MobileMe status blog is now three weeks out of date, and doesn’t mention this extension–at least not as of the time I’m blogging this.

Okay, two nitpicks: The Apple site still touts the wonders of MobileMe, which is a little odd given that it’s simultaneously describing it as not being worthy of Apple.

Okay, a meta-nitpick as well: Wouldn’t it have been cool if Apple had declared MobileMe to be in a retroactive free beta, and suspended charges altogether until the service was up to its own standards? You gotta think the goodwill such a move would generate would be more valuable than the cash generated by MobileMe subscriptions.

Of course, Apple’s handling of MobileMe will only be truly successful once the service is working to the satisfaction of folks who pay the company $70-$100 a year for it. If it’s still bumpy sixty days from now, wonder if Apple is prepared to do yet another extension?

Your thoughts?


John McCain: Secret Wikipedia Fan?

A political scandal! A dead service with a funny name! Two e-mail services that have had trouble doing e-mail! And a computer we all know that’s celebrating a very special day! They’re all on today’s T-List.
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Google’s Gmail-a Culpa: Good, But…

In my first post on today’s Gmail outage, I noted that Google’s official Gmail blog was mum on what was going on. I’m pleased to report that after Google had found and fixed the glitch, it used the Gmail blog to report that fact and apologize for the inconvenience. Google didn’t explain what happened, but as my look back at a dozen years of Internet outages shows, the explanations behind unplanned downtime are usually boring, technical, and cryptic–not particularly exciting reading unless you’re a system administrator yourself.

But the one thing about Gmail product manager Todd Jackson’s post that kinda bothers me is this aside towards the end:

“We don’t usually post about problems like this on our blog, but we wanted to make an exception in this case since so many people were impacted.”

Jackson goes on to suggest that people who encounter Gmail problems check out Gmail’s online help and user group for the fastest updates; fair enough. But I hope that Google isn’t too cautious about using its many official blogs to discuss problems with its services and what it’s doing about them. A corporate blog that alerts users to cool new features can be useful; one that’s a comprehensive guide to the services it covers–warts and all–can be invaluable.

Thinking back to AOL’s famous string of humiliating outages in the mid-1990s, one of the things that got the company through them was CEO Steve Case’s letters to AOL users. They were proto-blog posts, prominently displayed on the AOL home page and pretty open about the service’s hiccups, of which there were many.

Today, even Apple is using blogs to deal with MobileMe’s ongoing issues–in a somewhat halting and stilted fashion, but at least it’s trying.

So please, Google (and every other Internet company I deal with): Err on the side of addressing the challenges you and your customers face on your blogs. Apologies are appreciated, but a generally up-front approach to explaining what happened, what you’re doing about it, and whether it might happen again is much more important than “I’m sorry.”


A Brief History of Internet Outages

Someday we’ll all tell our grandkids about what we were doing during the great Gmail outage of August 11th, 2008. Well, okay, probably not–Google’s e-mail service was down for only a couple of hours, which is relatively brief as Internet outages go. But when one of the world’s most popular mail systems goes missing even briefly, zillions of people are inconvenienced and want to share their frustration. In a weird way, it’s a huge compliment: If Gmail wasn’t essential, nobody would care if it went away.

For a dozen years or so now, the Internet has been a mainstream communications medium, and its history has been pockmarked with examples of big-time services choking for extended periods–often a lot longer than today’s Gmail blip. The most famous examples of unplanned downtime have a lot in common: They usually last longer than anyone expected and get blamed on cryptic technical glitches. Almost always, angry consumers announce they’re done with the service in question; almost always, the service eventually recovers.

Oh, and one more thing: The biggest and most embarrassing failures all seem to happen during the summer months. Maybe technology, like human beings, just doesn’t work quite as hard when the weather’s hot and there are distractions like baseball games, picnics, and vacations to contemplate.

Now that Gmail’s back, it’s worth recapping a few other outages that made headlines when they happened–and since the ones that follow are in alphabetical order, they begin with maybe the most famous one of all (hint: it involved a company whose initials are A.O.L.)…

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More MobileMe for Your Money: Apple Does the Right Thing

Large companies don’t always seem to think they’re required to actually deliver the services they promise in order to get their money. (I still remember the time years ago when a rep at Pacific Bell–now AT&T–told me that it expected me to pay my full bill for a week-long period when I had no phone service whatsoever.)

So it’s nice to see the news that Apple is proactively giving everybody who signed up for its MobileMe service or was an existing .Mac user an extra thirty days of service by way of apology for the service’s erratic availability after its launch last week. Gizmodo has the text of an email in which the company admits the rollout was “a lot rockier than we had hoped” and had “lots of problems.” That’s serious crow-eating by any standard.

The company also said it’s going to stop referring to MobileMe’s data-synching as involving “push” for now, since it can currently take up to 15 minutes for e-mail and other info to travel from a Mac or PC to the Web or an iPhone.

(Incidentally, I have a MobileMe account and qualify for the extension, but haven’t received this e-mail yet; why, I’m not sure.)

MobileMe costs $99 a year, so the extra thirty days are worth around $8.25–not a huge whoop, but still nice.

I’m still playing around with MobileMe and forming a firm opinion–it’s a good idea for sure, and an ambitious one, but I wanna get a better sense of just how well it works and if the initial hiccups are over.