Slipped iDisk

iDiskAbout a month ago, I started seeing some weird problems with Open dialogue boxes from within Mac OS X applications: when selecting Open from the File menu or invoking command-O, many applications would hang for what seemed like an interminable period of perhaps two or three minutes, and I’d be presented with a spinning beach ball. Eventually the application would snap out of it, but as you can imagine, that kind of behavior is a major impediment to productivity.

In searching for a solution, I tried repairing permissions on my hard disk, updating from Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.4.2, and removing the indispensable Default Folder X enhancement for Open and Save dialogue boxes — all to no avail. After some digging around on Apple’s discussion boards, it turns out that the culprit is Apple’s .Mac suite of Web services, specifically the WebDAV-enabled iDisk feature when it’s set to automatically sync. Disabling that feature in the .Mac preference pane instantly releases troubled applications from paralysis — if you’re seeing this problem, this is what you should do.

On Again, Off Again

I was even able to re-enable the automatic sync for iDisk after a decent interval, effectively “resetting” the iDisk without bringing back the problems with the Open command. At least I thought so, but after a few weeks, it’s back again, hanging for a good two or three minutes each time I try to access the Open dialogue. So I’ve disabled the iDisk again, which is a shame, because I really like that feature, but it’s clearly broken.

It makes me wonder, really, whether Apple really pays sufficient attention to .Mac, a service that could use a serious overhaul both in marketing and technical execution. It’s an offering that is clearly marketed towards novice and intermediate users, but I often suspect that the bulk of its subscriber base is really Apple fans, like me, who’ll buy almost anything with an Apple logo on it — even if it’s not as capacious a product as some free alternatives, or if it wreaks havoc with the major pieces of software that I really do need.

  1. I’m with you; I wish Apple would overhaul the service.

    Yesterday, while trying to copy an app to my public folder so that a friend could install it on her machine, the Finder locked up. After five tries (and five force-restarts), I gave up, burned her a CD, and drove to her house and hand-delivered it. Forcing the user to hand-deliver software is not, I shouldn’t think, a feature of dotMac.

    It seems like I’m paying $100 per year for an email address I never use.

  2. .Mac is pretty indispensable for those of us with two Macs – mine’s just come up for renewal, and I didn’t hesitate, despite the fact that I use *none* of the service’s features other than syncing (my internet connection simply isn’t fast enough to support iDisk, which is the only other bit I’d conceivably use).

    It does sound like there are some upgrades on the way, however. I’m particularly keen for Apple to release an upgrade to Backup, which is currently bordering on functionless. I like the idea that we might also see some ‘exclusive’ Dashboard widgets with this apparently imminent upgrade…

  3. I had this exact problem a few years ago. It kind of shocks me that it hasn’t been fixed yet.

    .Mac has really turned out to be quite a disappointment, and that’s a shame, it could really be a great thing.

  4. Wow, people still use .Mac? I got the impression that Apple were driving it into the ground to finally get rid of the iTools legacy. I had all sorts of problems with the service and couldn’t justify the cost. The only useful thing was Sync, but I got a new phone that wasn’t supported.

    Mind you, if Apple released Sync separately and it supported my phone now, I’d buy it…

  5. For what it’s worth, I use .Mac and am happy to do so. I like synching my Keychains and bookmarks as well as keeping my address book (and bookmarks) online so that I can get to them from anywhere.

    I use the email address as a permanent address not tied to a domain name for all of my domain name registrations. I use HomePage occasionally when I want to share pictures without the hullaballoo of creating a Web page.

    Any one of those features is worth $100/year to me (mostly because of how tightly the product binds with the OS – I know there are similar solutions that are less expensive). Combined, it’s a bargain.

  6. Khoi: were the problems you had with the open dialogue boxes restricted to files on your iDisk or did you have problems opening any file?

    It takes forever for me to open / close / save files from iDisk even though I’m using a cable modem (which the .mac support page said was the most likely cause of slowness). It also freezes up entirely from time to time. And these are not big files–Word documents of a page or two.

    I love that .mac allows me to share my address book and iCal–my assistant can do all my scheduling for me! However, using iDisk to access files is beginning to seem unworkable. (I’m using the trial membership right now and probably won’t sign up for the full membership.) Any suggestions for a better solution that would allow me to share calendar, address book, and some small Word files and pdfs?

    Love your page!

  7. If Apple could spearhead the creation of a new TLD for all its current subscribers and provide it as part of the $100 annual cost…

    …all of a sudden the .Mac service could become an excellent marketing campaign for switching people to the platform and providing them a simple, all-in-one solution for establishing an online presence.

    (hypothetical TV spot ensues)

    John Doe: “www.JohnDoe.mac”

    Tony Hawk: “www.TonyHawk.mac”

    Al Gore: “AlGore.mac”

    Khoi Vinh: “Subtraction.mac”

    Get it? — “Got .Mac?”

  8. I just came across this page via Google. FWIW, I like .Mac – as Erik said, once you start using all the features (Sync, HomePage, e-mail aliases etc), it’s a bit of a bargain and all well integrated with the OS and computer I’m using. iDisk transfer speeds from the Finder surely do suck, I agree, so my tip is to buy Transmit 3. It speeds things up – not a huge amount, but enough to make uploading 50Mb files feasible.

  9. I have had the problems mentioned in this thread as recently as today. I turned off synching to the idisk and that helps with the file dialogs. I agree with those who complain about the performance of idisk. I have spent a good part of the last 24 hours trying to get a video christmas card I made uploaded so I can get it out to my friends and family. This has cost me a couple of restarts – something that almost never happens otherwise. It’s amazing that an iDisk mount can lock up the Finder so bad.

  10. Can confirm identical issues to previous posts – iDisk runs extrememly slowly. As mentioned by others, it also appears to lock-up my system, requiring a Force Quit | Relaunch Finder and worst case scenario is a complete reboot. Oddly enough (shouldn’t be required in 10.4.x) installing the iDisk utility for Mac improved performance from the perspective that it ‘unfroze’ the hanging system!?

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