Hold off upgrading MobileMe iCal

No data in the calendar.

UNLESS YOU ENJOY waking up to a blank calendar, hold off upgrading MobileMe iCal for now. Prior to the latest update, I enjoyed flawless, seamless calendar integration across my desktop and laptop computers, iPhone, and iPad. I could enter an appointment on any device and know that it would show up immediately on all the other devices. And I could share calendar data easily with others, whether or not they were MobileMe users. All that changed last week with Apple’s latest calendar update.

Pointless error message from Apple when it fails to sync with itself

The first thing the update does is pointlessly duplicate all your existing calendars, so that you have double listings of all events.

To stop that nuisance, you have to choose which version of each calendar to stop displaying: the new one hosted at MobileMe, or the “old” one that is locally cached on all machines and is in the fact the same thing. With no information from Apple, I guessed that I should stop displaying the “old” sync’d calendar and instead display the new MobileMe copy.

This caused the “old” calendars to disappear from my sidebar entirely. Now when I create a new event, there is much spinning of the beach ball as the cloud and my local computer negotiate every character press.

That’s bad enough; losing all calendar data is worse.

When I rouse my home machine in the morning, it fails to sync with itself due to some asinine unknown problem in Apple’s cloud, sends me the pointless error message shown here, and gives me a calendar like the one at the top, which is completely empty except for locally cached birthdays. Restoring the calendar requires me to stop work, quit any open apps, and restart my machine several times.

Additionally, “old” calendars long shared with others don’t update. You have to tell the user to stop linking to the “old” calendar and send info about the new one. And the new one won’t work if the user isn’t on MobileMe.

I’d happily go back to the “old” calendars that were always locally cached, never got hiccups when I typed data into them, and never disappeared like this, but Apple has helpfully removed them from my sidebar, so I can’t. I’m stuck with poor performance and disappearing calendars.

Things work better some places than others—for instance, on my iPhone, where I use Calvetica, I haven’t suffered the same frustrations I’ve experienced on my home iMac—and of course your mileage may vary. No doubt Apple tested the update on at least a few user setups, and I’m sure there are people for whom the .0 update is working, but I’m not one of them, and you might not be either. Eventually Apple will fix these bugs. I suggest waiting until they do. There is no benefit to the new calendar for existing MobileMe users, and there are plenty of drawbacks for now. I love Apple but their usability testing sucks.

By Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek.

Designer at Automattic, Inc. Co-Founder, An Event Apart. Publisher, A List Apart & A Book Apart. Author. Father. He/him.

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