Idisk - The Most Versatile Component Of Mobileme (Part 1)

9/10/2012 4:07:46 AM

iDisk was the most versatile component of MobileMe, yet it doesn’t feature in iCIoud at all. As its name suggests, it’s a freeform chunk of online storage space which appears in OS X as a disk drive, but keeps its data in Cupertino rather than on your desk. Mounted in the Finder sidebar, it works just like a local drive; you can drag files in or out. Often speedier, users discovered, was to upload to it using a WebDAV client app such as Transmit ( And when you weren’t at your own Mac, you could log in to MobileMe and access your iDisk through a web browser. It’s very handy.

Description: iDisk

Another feature of iDisk was that you could set it to sync its contents with your Mac. This meant that when you were away from an internet connection, you could still look in your Dropbox, access files from it, and drop files back onto it. Behind the scenes, OS X was maintaining a local copy of the iDisk’s contents, which continued to work quite happily when disconnected from its master copy on MobileMe; next time a connection was available, it would reconcile the local copy with the server.

A bonus of this was that if you set mul­tiple Macs to sync to the same iDisk, they’d each share a common set of files, so docu­ments you created in the office could be edited at home without you having to email them from one machine to another.

Logging in to MobileMe through the browser lets you view your iDisk’s con­tent in a pseudo-Finder interface, and from there you can share it to friends, optionally with password protection. The public folder attached to every account allowed your friends, family and business contacts to send files straight to your iDisk, without being able to mess up or delete your own files.

You might think it would be tough to find an alternative third-party tool that could replicate all of these features in one place, but in fact there are several to choose from. Let’s have a look.

In place of iDisk, try... Dropbox

More than 50 million people use Dropbox to synchronize files across their devices. With clients for OS X, iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Windows and Linux, it was con­ceived by MIT graduate Drew Houston as a solution to his habit of forgetting to carry his USB memory drive.

Description: Dropbox

At heart, Dropbox is an online backup service that uses client applications on its various supported platforms to automati­cally copy data to its servers, and from there pass it down to other clients logged in to the same account. That makes it sound more complicated than it is to use. On a Mac or PC, it sets up a folder called Dropbox in whichever location you choose - by default, inside your home folder - in which to organize your synced files. Dragging a new file into this folder uploads it to the server; a client app, which sits in the OS X menu bar, monitors online changes instigated by other machines logged in to the same account and pulls them down to the same local folder.

(We should pause here to clarify that Dropbox has no connection with the DropBox folder you’ll find inside your OS X Public folder. That’s an Apple feature which is used to simplify file sharing on a local network.)

On the iPad and iPhone, a Dropbox app lets you view a wide range of file types in situ and open some in third-party apps for editing.

You can even sync your iPhoto library over Dropbox by saving it in the synchronized Dropbox folder. Bear in mind, though, that if you often import or alter a large number of images, you’ll pass a lot of data over your broadband connection doing this, which could break a monthly data cap.

Everything happens in the background, so you don’t need to actively manage the sync process or take responsibility for making sure you’re always working on the most up- to-date version of a file - although you can perform bespoke uploads by simply dragging them into the Dropbox browser window.

Description: You can even sync your iPhoto library over Dropbox by saving it in the synchronized Dropbox folder

You can even sync your iPhoto library over Dropbox by saving it in the synchronized Dropbox folder

Dropbox also replicates MobileMe’s basic collaboration tools by letting you share a new or existing folder with colleagues (they’ll receive an email containing a link to the files) or allow other Dropbox users share files with you, at which point their own shared folders will appear in your Dropbox web interface.

Note, though, that if someone shares files with you from their own Dropbox account, the contents of their shared folder will be counted against your allocated disk space, as well as their own - so it’s important to unsubscribe from other users’ shared fold­ers when you no longer need them: log in at and click Sharing > Options > Members > Leave folder.

As your online Dropbox archive is effec­tively a mirror of your local Dropbox folder, the installation routine sets it up to appear in the Finder sidebar. In this respect it apes the MobileMe iDisk once again. However, it currently lacks the ability to connect using a transfer tool like Transmit, and despite plenty of discussion in the Dropbox forums, there’s not yet an FTP facility.

You can sign up for a free 2GB account at If you sign up through NupFuK6 instead, you’ll get an extra 500MB free. So will MacUser - it’s a referral scheme.

For more extensive use, 50GB and 100GB accounts cost $99 and $199 a year respectively. There’s also an enterprise version for team use that starts at $795 per year for five years with unlimited storage.

Dropbox at a glance

Description: Dropbox at a glance
Dropbox at a glance

1.    Shortcuts to all your shared folders are found in the Sharing tab. You can stop sharing a folder, or opt out of a folder shared with you by another user, from here

2.    If you’re syncing across several Macs and mobile devices, the Events tab makes it easy to keep an eye on changes by listing actions performed on your own files and the contents of shared folders in date order

3.    The two people on this folder icon Indicate that it’s been shared with other users. In this case we’ve shared it ourselves, but if it was shared by another user it would adopt the same icon

4.    Dropbox doesn't immediately remove files from your account when you delete them. Deleted files are hidden by default, but clicking the trash can shows them In grey; click one to open a file history

To save you logging in to your Dropbox account on a regular basis, you can also subscribe to a list of changes using any RSS reader. Click the RSS button to access the feed.

  •  Programming the iPhone : Progressive Enhancement - Location Awareness
  •  Programming the iPhone : Network Connectivity
  •  Optimus 4X HD Battery Life Appears Unconvincing
  •  Let's Try The New Features Of Android 4.1
  •  10 Things You Need To Know About...Mobile Banking
  •  Can You Improve Your Drawing Skills With Your Android Device?
  •  Droid Report: Behemoth 22-inch "tablet"
  •  JCB Toughphone Pro-Smart
  •  Kingston 64GB Wi-Drive
  •  LG Optimus 4X HD
  •  LG Optimus L3
  •  Orange San Diego - The First Intel Phone
  •  Samsung Galaxy Xcover Extreme
  •  Sony Xperia Active : For outdoor sports
  •  Kingcom Joypad C72 Tablet Review
  •  Panasonic ToughBook CF-H2 Field and Health Tablet
  •  Top 5 Amazing Tablets : Google Nexus 7, Microsoft Surface, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, Asus Tablet 810, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
  •  Toshiba AT200-101
  •  Top 5 Good-value Android Smartphones
  •  Top 10 Smartphones With Remarkable Cameras
    Top 10
    Nikon 1 J2 With Stylish Design And Dependable Image And Video Quality
    Canon Powershot D20 - Super-Durable Waterproof Camera
    Fujifilm Finepix F800EXR – Another Excellent EXR
    Sony NEX-6 – The Best Compact Camera
    Teufel Cubycon 2 – An Excellent All-In-One For Films
    Dell S2740L - A Beautifully Crafted 27-inch IPS Monitor
    Philips 55PFL6007T With Fantastic Picture Quality
    Philips Gioco 278G4 – An Excellent 27-inch Screen
    Sony VPL-HW50ES – Sony’s Best Home Cinema Projector
    Windows Vista : Installing and Running Applications - Launching Applications
    Most View
    Making Movies On Your Camera (Part 1)
    The Ultimate Guide To Macro (Part 2) - Using off-camera flash for macro, 10 expert shooting tricks
    Silverstone Heligon HE01 - Asymetrical Cooling
    Google Chrome 21 - Fast, Free Web Browser
    Windows Vista : Scheduling with Windows Calendar (part 2) - Working with Multiple Calendars, Importing Calendar Files, Sharing Calendars
    Sharepoint 2010 : BCS Architecture - Presentation & Core Components
    A New Leaf (Part 1)
    Technology For Business (Part 1)
    SQL Server 2008 : Performance Tuning - Using Dynamic Management Views
    The Future Of Apple: Chip Off The Block (Part 1)
    Silverlight Tools: Vector Graphics Editors
    Rig Builder – May 2012 (Part 2)
    IIS 7.0 : Managing Configuration - Delegating Configuration (part 1)
    Ipad Lion (Part 2) - What to expect from the upcoming mountain lion
    Windows Phone 7 Development : Debugging Application Exceptions (part 1) - Debugging Page Load Exceptions
    Programming the iPhone : Progressive Enhancement - Audio Support
    5 Tips For Faster Editing
    SharePoint 2010 : Understanding Windows PowerShell Concepts (part 2)
    Programming .NET Components : Building a Distributed Application (part 6) - Remote Callbacks
    Building LOB Applications : Printing in a Silverlight LOB Application