How to get (almost) all the functionality of MobileMe (previously known as .mac) without paying for MobileMe
Email – Use Gmail with IMAP turned on and you can sync mail between your iPhone and Macs. If you’ve got your own domain you can use Google Apps to use a personalized email address. I use Gmail without ever opening the browser based gmail but it’s nice to know that it’s available. IMAP keeps your computers in sync with each other and with your phone and works great.
Contact and calendar syncing – Plaxo will sync your contacts and calendar surprisingly well across your Macs, Gmail and Yahoo. In order to sync with your iPhone you’ll have to plug the phone in and Sync over USB. You lose the push sync for iPhone that MobileMe offers so if that’s the killer feature for you, you might be stuck paying.
Remote File Storage – There’s a service called DropBox that gives you 2gb free and syncs really well between computers. It’s in beta but they’re giving out beta invitations and I imagine it will be generally available soon. There’s Box.net which also gives you 2gb for free and has a web interface. Finally–Windows Live Foldershare it isn’t online storage, but it will sync folders between computers with no limit on the number of files, they’ve just got to be smaller than 2gb each.
OmniFocus to iPhone Sync – OmniFocus syncs over WebDav. It’s almost impossible (but not quite) to find free WebDav hosting. I found some offered by Tomben called OFWD. You can set it up in just a few minutes and it works fine. Box.net is an oft-suggested solution but in my experience, it doesn’t work.
BackToMyMac – BackToMyMac is just VNC. One way to get around this is to turn on screen sharing in your Mac’s system preferences under sharing then use the built in Screen Sharing.app (copy it from /System/Library/CoreServices to /Applications). You can set up a friendly name for your computer with DynDNS and then configure your router give your computer a static internal IP address and forward port 5900 to your computer and you’re done. There’s a great article explaining some of this on Macworld. If all that sounds like a pain LogMeIn works really well and it’s free and easy to set up.
Gallery – Flickr is free for 200 pictures. You can upload to it for free from iPhoto with Connected Flow’s FlickrExport. FFXporter is also free. It’s not as pretty or easy as what you get with MobileMe, but it works for basic needs. The gallery is another area where MobileMe still beats free solutions.
It’s not perfect, especially if you want a push contacts/calendar sync and a gallery, but you can get most of the way there with free stuff. The reason I started looking is because MobileMe just wasn’t doing it for me. The last straw was when ALL my phone numbers randomly disappeared from contacts on my phone after syncing with MobileMe. I was able to recover them, but I decided MobileMe wasn’t worth it.
If I’m missing anything, or there’s a better way to do something than what I’ve listed, I’d love to know.