Mobile [Me]ager

I was glad to hear that Steve Jobs is almost as disappointed with Mobile Me as I was. My municipal wifi connection slowed to a crawl during the final weeks of my stay in Bangkok (so much so, that it was like being back in 1992 all over again!), to the point where Mail.app lost track of whether the queue of 20 emails in my Outbox needed to be retried for the infinitieth time, or else moved to the Sent folder… or maybe just given up on entirely and thrown away so that I wouldn’t have any evidence of misbehavior. I’ve used AppleMail as my main window into the world of electronic mail for about 4 years now, and although it has some flaws I’m mostly satisfied with it.

On the other hand, while Mail was caught up in a paroxysm over how to resend everything in an infinite loop, I decided to see whether I could live in Mobile Me for a day or two. Yeah, I know… but I was desperate, okay? I lasted 3 days, and then decided to forgoe mail altogether until I had a broadband connection again.

Let me count the reasons why…

1. Push?

At least I know now why my iPod Touch has started bleeping at me every few minutes now. And why Blackberry owners always seem so distracted. I agree that Apple should have provided the push service that they advertised, but seriously: What is so great about being interrupted all the frackin’ time? Unless I hide it underneath the cushions of my sofa, my iPod even keeps me awake at night now!

2. Rules?

Like most people, I’m subscribed to a few mailing lists. Oh alright, I’m subscribed to metric butt-load of mailing lists — but, that’s okay, because I’ve set filtering rules up to move them out of my Inbox as soon as they land. That way I can actually spot the emails that are addressed directly to me when I access the Inbox folder. Actually, no. Mobile Me may very well synchronize all those rules between my Desktop machines, but within a couple of hours of trying to use Mobile Me as the hub of my email system, my Inbox is totally swamped by mailing list messages.

3. HTML?

While I’m confessing my mailing list addiction, I might as well admit that most of them are for compiler tools, programming languages, and the Free Software Foundation. And, like it or not, the bulk of those messages are talking about snippets of code. Which is great, because I like code. And I especially like talking about it on mailing lists with other people that like code. Except in Mobile Me, which refuses to display anything at all in a monospaced font — all the indentation is totally screwed up by any of the proportional fonts I’m allowed to use when composing a reply. At least, last time I looked it wasn’t there. And the helpful lady behind the instant chat support couldn’t find it either. But, when I went to double check, the service was down again. Sigh.

4. Headers?

So, everyone knows that the whole of Mobile Me is up and down like an express elevator to hell, but that’s fine because you’d have to be pretty stupid to give it out as your main email address. I just have my main email host forward copies of everything to my me.com address, so I can have the convenience of a gorgeous Ajaxy web client on the days when it is working, but go back to my regular email host on the days when it isn’t. Only, there is no means to set my From or Reply-To headers to anything other than a me.com (or mac.com) address. That means anytime I send an email from Mobile Me, the reply will always come back to Mobile Me. If it’s up that day.

5. Encryption?

I realize that no one has this in a web mail client yet. But I sort a hoped Apple might hit one out of the park here. In these days of TLS and google gears, there’s absolutely no technical reason why I couldn’t have Safari pass an email through a client side program that asks for my GPG pass phrase and adds a signature or encrypts the whole thing before uploading it back to the server for posting.

6. Threading?

It might be that I used mutt and gnus for email before I switched to a Mac that led me to rely on full conversation threading in my email, and I still feel a bit disappointed with Mail.app for having such a half-cocked implementation. I can’t say that I was expecting any revelations from Mobile Me Mail, but all the grown up shave message threading…

7. Buggy!

Sometimes, Mobile Me Mail goes a little crazy. I’ve only been paying attention for a few days, but I couldn’t fail to notice that forms sometimes scroll a bit too far, or email doesn’t get filed in my Sent box reliable, or, or, or… Which, I suppose is just nit-picking compared to the huge gaping flaws in the design that make it nigh-useless as a reliable email hub. But maybe, just maybe, I’d put up with the other shortcomings if it ran smooth as silk and looked totally fabulous?

Who am I kidding! There’s gonna have to be a serious rethink in how Apple has positioned Mobile Me Mail before anyone can take it seriously as real email client. It’s just a toy at the moment: Fun to play with for a day or two, but not useful for serious work in the real world. It just doesn’t bring enough to the table to be genuinely useful.

Maybe Mobile Meager has gas from all the sprouts?

Am I really asking for the moon on a stick?

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