Monday, 6 April 2009

Live Mesh

I came across a new Windows Live component the other day called Live Mesh
when searching for a way to synchronize my favorites. In IE7 you could synchronize favorites with Live Favorites. It worked pretty well, although by no means perfectly. This functionality was removed from IE8, which annoyed me somewhat. I work from home most of the time, but occasionally go into the office and take a laptop. Virtually all documents I use are checked into SharePoint, so I don’t lose any data when I switch machines, however there are always useful bits and pieces that I pick up on the Web and I usually just add these to favorites. This is where the upgrade to IE8 is giving me problems. Not insurmountable, obviously, but I want everything to work smoothly. A blogger called Laurent Duveau has used Live Mesh to do just this. Looking further into Live Mesh made me realise its other capabilities. It interested me through a connection with the Azure Services Platform, of which it is a part, and through its data synchronization and remote control functionality.
Live Mesh allows you to synchronize folders with the cloud. You set up a device and then simply right click a folder to begin synchronizing data. This sounds a bit like functionality already provided by Live Sync and SkyDrive, however Live Sync requires both computers to be connected at the same time and SkyDrive is just online storage with no more advanced functionality.

So what more does Live Mesh offer? Well, for a start, the whole process is automatic and painless. You add a folder and the folder is synched. You can add another device and keep the data synched across multiple devices. These devices will include Windows Mobile and Apple Macs in the future. The data is both held locally, so that it can be accessed offline, and in the cloud, so that it can be accessed anywhere. This solved my favorites problem, but also made me curious as to the capabilities of Live Mesh.

Other features include remote desktop. Now not only do I have all my data synchronized, I can also connect to my desktop PC from anywhere. So far, these are all features available with the use of a few tools, but there is another trick up the Live Mesh sleeve. There is a Live Framework with various APIs including .NET, Silverlight and JavaScript to use Live Mesh services. This not only allows you to share folders as you normally would with Live Mesh, but also allows any data to be stored and synchronized between devices. I’ll leave the Live Framework for another day, but it appears to offer interesting possibilities.
Of course, this is a beta, but when the minor errors are ironed out this could be a valuable data synchronization tool.

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