iCloud First Thoughts (and a few tips)

I tend to wait a bit when there's a new OS X or a new iOS. I like to watch the forums and find out what other users are experiencing before I "take the plunge."  As a long time .Mac and MobileMe subscriber, I felt extra pressure to move up to the newer OS in order to avoid any possible interruption in service.  Yes, I know MobileMe is supposed to be around until June 2012 but left to my own devices I might just have waited that long. In this article I will talk about my preparation for iCloud, upgrading a mobile me family pack to iCloud and I will delve into how photostream has worked for me.

Lion

I first tackled Lion.  I bought it in the app store and installed it on my Macbook.  It worked well enough but it broke a few things.  My Network Attached Storage drives were missing and I lost the ability to use VNC from my iPad to control my Mac.  There was a bug in Lion such that third party VNC apps wouldn't know where the cursor is. I could see but I couldn't click on anything.  I later downloaded and installed splash desktop and got around this.  But I'm getting ahead of the story.  I made sure all our Macs had Lion. I created my own usb restore stick from the installESD.dmg that comes with Install OS X Lion.app.  I made a usb stick copy of the app as well.  This meant I never had to sit through another Comcast-throttled Lion download.

iOS 5

When IOS 5 came out, I was kinda busy so I waited a few days.  I went ahead and let iTunes download it but I didn't do the install right away.  Again I did my own iOS device first before moving on to those of other family members.  Mine went pretty well but Comcast got up to its old tricks and I had to reset my cablemodem a few times to get decent download speeds for the 700+ meg iOS downloads for other family members.  This is where I first saw the iCloud setup.  I skipped it.  I wanted to walk around with Lion 10.7.2 on my Mac and iOS 5 on my iThings for a few days before taking the next step.

iCloud

So here we are in the fourth paragraph and I finally start talking iCloud.  That's because the groundwork required to get ready for iCloud was pretty involved. Several days ago, I created a trial iCloud account and set it up on my Mac.  I would later learn creating a "dummy" iCloud account was a big mistake.  And here comes the first hint.  When you delete an iCloud account from a device or computer, all the data that came with or got associated with that account gets deleted.  You don't get a choice.  So when I decided to go ahead and try to migrate my MobileMe account to iCloud last night, I got an Apple agent in a support chat before I began.  He talked me into removing the test account before upgrading my mobileme account to iCloud and it wouldn't let me sign out without deleting data which in my mind wasn't really associated with that account.  So here is the second hint. As if you didn't already know, back up your data before you begin

For me backing up involved exporting from address book and calendar as well as running an app on my iPhone that emailed me my entire address book.  So I was backed up 3 ways before I began which is a good thing considering that everything appeared to "disappear" from the address book on my Mac after I deleted the trial iCloud account.  A curious thing happened in the middle of the update.  Once my data came back (uploaded from the good copy on my iPhone and pushed back to my Mac from iCloud), my keyboard stopped working.  I had just downloaded and installed the new iPhoto from the app store in the hopes it would give me full control over what iCloud was doing.   I had to open keyboard viewer and type by clicking to tell the Apple support guy things were basically working now and I needed to reboot to get my keyboard working again.  I guess I really should have grabbed an external keyboard and plugged it in but I figured if the OS was that far gone, it needed a reboot more than it needed whatever I was about to type. 

iCloud Sync

After the reboot, everything worked fine.  I'm used to mobileme sync and iCloud sync is just as good, if not better.  In fact my 2200+ contacts came back so fast if I had blinked I would have missed it. Still, there was more to learn about going from MobileMe to iCloud. I found out that once I migrated my "master" mobile me account to iCloud, I lost the ability to administer the "sub accounts" separately. The third hint is this: For family pack accounts, after the master account has moved to iCloud, each family member must upgrade to iCloud separately or lose their stuff come June 2012.  

iPhoto 11 and Photostream

I now turn my attention to iPhoto '11 and photostream. But it is now time for the fourth hint. If you allow your Mac to upload to photostream, it sends everything you import as if it were new.  This made no sense to me. I imported 100 old photos from 2009 and suddenly they were being pushed to photostream.  I guess this is a nice feature if you want everything everywhere but I don't have room for 300 gig of photos on my iPhone or on my iPad so I switched off uploading to photostream from my Mac.  I imported another folder with 50 or so photos and it didn't get pushed.  I'll have to go back later (and update this article) once I confirm I can still push things I want to have pushed without pushing everything. I should mention that I have a little bitty 1.8 Gig iPhoto Library with nothing inside.  This is because I've turned off "copy items to iPhoto Library" when I import them.  I think photostream is gonna make iPhoto Library grow rather large in size.  I'm considering writing an Applescript to export, delete, then re-import photos once a month so the library doesn't get to be 50 Gig after one year of photostream.  BTW, I did read a lot of scary reviews in the app store about iPhoto 11 crashing. I bet it was from users who had big libraries.  WIth my petite little 1.8 gig library, I didn't observe one single incident. So here is the fifth hint: Before switching on Photostream, clean up your iPhoto library so it's not huge.

Photostream on iPhone 4

When I enabled photostream on my iPhone, nothing happened. I took 3 new "test' photos and they got uploaded instantly.  So the new photos came down from my Mac but nothing that had been sitting on my camera roll before I enabled photostream got sent up. Here is the sixth hint.  If you take any photos with photostream disabled, you will have to find another method to get them off your phone.  I used Eyefi software to upload the 40 pictures and 1 movie I had on the phone and it took about an hour and cost 30% of my remaining battery life.  I'm apprehensive about what will happen the next time I decide to take a movie with my iPhone.

Photstream on iPad 1

Photostream pushed all the new photos from my iPhone 4 and all the photos I sent (deliberately or by mistake) from my Mac. So even though my iPad 1 has no camera, it has photos I just took with my iPhone.  This is sweet! And here is my seventh and last hint: If I'm shooting someplace that has wifi, people can see my shots on the big iPad screen within seconds after I've taken them.  Kudos to Apple for this feature!

That's all for now...