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I was late to the party with a .Mac account having just signed up in 2004. What I was looking for in a .Mac account was an easy way of sharing my photos and movies of my trips around the world and the off-site backup of my important stuff.
If you look at the features and free software provided with a .Mac account, it is, in my opinion, a bargain especially with the recent upgrades of additional storage to 250 megs and disposable email alias accounts. With the free license for the Virex virus protection software, and the automatic backup feature of the Apple Backup application, peace of mind and data protection is well worth the price. The $99 a year subscription for a .Mac account also gets you Web hosting, if you don't already have it with your Internet Service Provider. There aren't many places you can get Web hosting for $99 a year and have all of the bells and whistles of the .Mac account.
The .Mac service has very good Help files and tutorials online. But I found myself wanting more help when I was setting up my own home pages on my .Mac account for my trips. I'm a Web designer, but for the life of me I had difficulty creating my home pages in the .Mac account. Either I had to create my site from scratch, which would have eliminated the really cool features like creating a slide show and movie pages with just a few clicks of the mouse, or I use the homepage creation tools on the .Mac account. With the homepage creation tools, I found that I was not getting the flexibility I wanted. After many hours of trial and error, I figured it out. But how nice would it have been if I had a manual.
Well, that's where Inside .Mac from O'Reilly comes in handy. Very much like the Missing Manual series, Inside .Mac is a comprehensive book for everything about your .Mac account. If you have been using Mac OS X or any of the Apple applications, you may have discovered that many options and features are there but not completely documented. A book like Inside .Mac helps fill in the blanks.
The book starts on good footing with the basics of setting up your .Mac account and configuring your preferences and mail account. Generally organized with a topic per chapter, the book covers the ins and outs of your iDisk, .Mac mail, the all important .Mac Backup, and how to install and use the complimentary Virex software. The book also shows you how to use Virex to scan email attachments, and running Virex from the Terminal command line. A good 50 pages of this 350-page book is devoted to the Backup service. There is a chapter on connecting to your iDisk from a Windows PC and a chapter on how to set up a blog using your .Mac account.
Then the fun begins with another 50 pages or so devoted to building a .Mac homepage, creating a photo album page from iPhoto, sharing files, creating a movie page, password protecting your pages, and even how to create your own custom design home page on your .Mac account. All of these tips are clearly written and interspersed with clearly delineated tips and cautions.
If you have a PDA or cell phone, you'll like the clear explanation on how to use iSync software in OS X to synchronize your all of your address book contacts, iCal entries, and Safari bookmarks to your .Mac account and your digital devices like an iPod, PDA or cell phone. This clear concise chapter shows you how to set up iSync and how to add your devices. Even sync from a Mac to a Mac. How cool is it to log into your .Mac account from anywhere the world and look up a bookmark of that important site that there is no way you are going to remember because of the long and complex URL! Inside .Mac will show you how.
In summary, if you are perplexed by the features on your .Mac, or need more than the help Apple provides online, then this book is for you. Otherwise, the online documentation and Quicktime tutorials, which are included with your .Mac subscription at no additional cost, might just do the job for you.
Review by NCMUG member Stephen Henry