Panther: Improved iDisk? Improved Mail?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
July 10th, 2003 • 8:50 pm

If you’ve followed the news about the upcoming Panther release of Mac OS X (10.3), you know that it’ll feature a revamped iDisk feature, where the “disk” will actually reside on your local hard drive and automatically synchronize with the copy on Apple’s servers in the background.

This obviously addresses an issue with iDisk that Apple has never been able to solve satisfactorily, i.e. the sluggishness of iDisk that makes it an impractical (and frustrating) solution for many Mac users, even those with high-speed Internet connections.

Even though I have a subscription to the .Mac service (which I got at half price last year and will be up for renewal soon — but I’m far from certain that I will renew at the full $100 price), I rarely ever use iDisk, mostly because it’s nearly unusable with my dial-up connection. When you are used to the smooth and fluid experience of using Mac OS X in most situations, the hick-ups and temporary (but lengthy!) freezes in the Finder due to iDisk are just too much to take.

My issue is whether Apple’s proposed solution in Panther will really improve things for someone like me. Yes, I have unlimited Internet access, which means that my connection is on all day, giving Mac OS X ample time to “synchronize” smaller files between my local iDisk and the one on the server. But what will happen for larger files? How long will it take to synchronize them and, more importantly, how badly will the synchronization process impact the rest of my online activities, such as checking mail and browsing the web?

If today’s situation is any indication, it won’t be a pleasant experience. Right now, whenever I download a large file in Safari, if Mail attempts to CHECK mail in the background at the same time, I get all kinds of annoying modal alert boxes telling me that it couldn’t connect to the server.

There is nothing in Apple’s description of the revamped iDisk that indicates that they have addressed this issue. One solution would be to put a fixed (but user-adjustable) LIMIT on the amount of bandwidth that iDisk can use, like 1 KB/s, for example. With my connection peaking at 28.8 Kbps (1 KiloByte or KB = 8 Kilobits or Kb), this would leave 2 to 3 KB available for other online activities.

Come to think of it, I wish there was a way to do the same for downloads in Safari or other applications. As you can imagine, with this kind of connection, fast file downloads are not exactly a priority for me. Whether a 10 MB file takes 1 hour or 2 hours to download is of little consequence to me. All I want is to be able to go about my business (including online activites) while the downloading process is taking place.

Will Apple take situations such as mine INTO account? So far, there’s little indication that it will… (Similarly, I see nothing in the description of the new Mail that addresses my issue with the modal alert boxes. Maybe Apple is just too embarrassed to admit that it is a problem, and has quietly fixed it without telling anyone. One can only hope!

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.