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Making a Smooth Move from .Mac to Google
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Online Storage

One of .Mac's strong points is its ability to provide you with a convenient online storage solution. Although Google is rumored to soon be providing an official online storage system via a new GDrive service, nothing official is out yet. Nonetheless, some clever folks have figured out ways to hack GMail's file system to provide you with ways of storing information online using GMail. For Mac users, gDisk is a nice frontend for uploading files.



Basically, gDisk and other software like it (GMail Drive for Windows and GMail Filesystem for Linux) use a clever hack that allows you to store information online by creating a special draft message with an attachment that corresponds to the file you uploaded. When you're using the gDisk client, you access the remote file via the gDisk interface and never need to know what's going on in the back room. When you're on the go and don't have ready access to the client software, you can just yank attachments right out of your Drafts folder from within GMail.

If online storage is of particular interest to you, it might also be worth noting that GMail currently offers you almost 3GB available for gDisk-related activities while .Mac storage caps you out at 1GB.

Google Groups

Just as .Mac allows you to create .Mac groups, Google offers you Google Groups. A big benefit of Google Groups over .Mac Groups is that you don't have to be a GMail member to be in a Google Group, whereas you do have to have a .Mac account to create or be in a .Mac group. Creating a group in .Mac also costs you 30MB of storage. Basically, Google Groups are a Google-endorsed way of creating your own custom mailing lists.

Blogging and Photocasting

Apple's fairly new iWeb application explicitly integrates blogging into your .Mac experience, but you could have used an application like iBlog to manage a blog hosted with .Mac for a long time now. Of course, you probably already know that Google has owned Blogger since 2003, so you can get your blog on Google-style as well. Feel free to use your favorite OS X blogging tool to blog to your heart's content with your new Blogger account instead of your .Mac account.

Likewise, you can share photos via Google's recently released Picasa Web Albums tools; there's both a standalone application and a plugin for iPhoto. Although not yet available for OS X, Picasa's integration with Hello for Windows users is every bit as sophisticated as a .Mac photocast, so hopefully it won't be long before a universal binary or web-based application becomes available. Until then, you can still share photos with Picasa in a few other ways, or try out a Flickr feed from Flickr (a Yahoo! company.) Currently, you get 250MB for free with your Picasa account and have to pull out the wallet if you want more space.

Synchronization

Another of .Mac's strong suits is its ability to synchronize your data and settings over multiple machines. An overview of moving to Google wouldn't be complete without addressing this topic, but it turns out that there's not a lot to say. Since Google services are inherently web-based, synchronization takes care of itself. One synchronization tool Google does offer, however, is the Google Browser Sync Firefox extension. It's capable of keeping your browser settings such as bookmarks, history, etc. synced up across multiple browsers and can even restore browsing sessions from one machine to the next!

It's also interesting to note that even though nothing readily comes up from a quick search, it would certainly be possible to produce a tool (even System Preferences style) that mimics the way .Mac syncs user information by leveraging the same concepts involved with gDisk and other online storage hacks. Such a tool would be very useful because it would provide the ability to arbitrarily sync data such as Keychain items, bookmarks from Safari and other browsers, etc. Keep your eyes peeled; something like this is bound to turn up sooner or later.

Do You Trust Google?

One big question in everyone's mind right now is whether or not Google can be trusted with virtually all of their information. Conspiracy theories run rampant and sites such as GoogleWatch have popped up all over the Net, but there are definitely plenty of Google champions out there too. This interview with Brin and Page provides some topics that are good food for thought, such as what does "Don't be evil" really mean? Who decides what is and isn't evil? Should Google not "taking your email hostage" make you trust them any more or less? It's a lot to think about--and the key is to make sure you are periodically thinking about privacy issues that are important to you.

Since Google is a search company at heart, being able to mine your data is of particular interest to it, so it probably won't be offering to do this anytime soon--but it would be neat to have a suite of tools (perhaps Greasemonkey scripts) capable of performing client-side encryption/decryption on data before it's ever sent to Google's servers. Even a mechanism as simple as a basic cipher would provide a minimal amount of privacy while not overtaxing your browser's JavaScript engine. Anyone?

What Else?

Recalling that our intentions were to discuss how to make a smooth move to a Google-centric online experience as an existing .Mac member, there are a lot of neat Google services that we couldn't talk about simply because they're not on topic. But there is one that you should know exists--not because it's directly comparable to a .Mac feature, but because many .Mac users wish there were a better way to keep snippets of text and other small notes synchronized across multiple machines.

You guessed it. Google Notebook is the Google app (still in the labs) that allows you to manage text clippings like notes and to do items while you're browsing the Web. There's also a great Firefox extension, which some prefer to the Google Notebook interface itself. If you can live with Firefox, the Google Notebook and Google Browser Sync extensions go a long way to make Firefox even more powerful.

You can always review everything Google is cooking up on its products page. As of late, its Docs & Spreadsheets duo have been getting a lot of press.

Is it a good idea to move away from .Mac's paid subscription to a free Google-based online experience? What's .Mac doing right that Google is not and vice versa? Do you trust Google any more or less than Apple with your precious information? Like any other topic, there is always more that can be said, so please share your thoughts below.

Matthew Russell is a computer scientist from middle Tennessee; and serves Digital Reasoning Systems as the Director of Advanced Technology. Hacking and writing are two activities essential to his renaissance man regimen.


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