To begin, Live Mesh is an application that has saved my butt more than a few times. Now let me tell you how.
Live Mesh is perceived to be a file sharing application, of which there are certainly many others available. It’s the details that make it outstanding. Not only will it effortlessly (and quickly!) sync your files across all of your machines, but it also provides the ability to Remote Desktop to those machines as well.
Remoting into your machine is invaluable. How many times have you left a file on the wrong computer? Now, from ANY computer, you can get it. You can even use just a browser to remote into your machines, so you don’t have leave a mark on your friend/colleague/mom’s computer to do so.
In addition, you can also leverage 5GB of storage in the cloud to sync all your files. Then you can just go to your “OS in the cloud” to get to those files as well.
But that’s now what this article is about. I’ve been using Mesh for 6 months now, and I’ve found some rather clever ways to leverage this technology. Here’s my Mesh Tips:
1) Syncing your Messenger nicknames
I consider myself pretty good with names and faces. But when it comes to your email address, or your avatar/handle/username, I often struggle. So one of the features in MSN Messenger that I use pretty often is the “nickname” tag. I can rename your entry in my Messenger window to be your actual name, rather than whatever you chose to name yourself that day, or by your Live address, which is usually something like firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m just not going to remember who you are, especially if we talk infrequently.
This information is stored in an XML file that is stored locally on my computer. By adding that folder to my mesh, and syncing it with all of my other machines, I no longer have to guess who you are. I’ve now got my nicknames everywhere I need them.
2) Universal Web Favorites
There have been a ton of services pop up on the web to help circumvent the age-old problem with Favorites in the browser.
That problem is getting those Favorites on all of your computers. Very often I will save a URL on one computer (or even one browser) only to need it somewhere else. So I started using services like Google Bookmarks, where all of my bookmarks were just persisted in the cloud. Then I could install their intrusive* toolbar to access them relatively easily.
But the mechanisms that the browser creators built for us to manage our favorites are actually pretty good, less that whole cloud persistence thing. So by using Live Mesh to sync my Favorites folder on each of my computers, I have now solved the one downside to the Favorites feature in the browser.
* Aside from taking up browser real estate, take some time to look at the traffic and processor time that Google Toolbar takes up. It’s surprising.
3) Your music library is now everywhere
This is one of the more challenging tasks facing people with multiple machines. Music libraries are an intricate work of art in many cases. We’re talking about THOUSANDS of files, in THOUSANDS of folders. Each one organized by artist, then album, and for the really persistent )like me), you’ve even got places for the album art, and all of the tracks are numbered in order, so you can sort them in album order.
These types of collections range anywhere from 1-2 GB all the way up to the hundreds of gigabytes. This is an immense task to have your music on each machine. Especially because it’s not as if music has stopped being made, so you’re always adding new songs, albums, etc. You want those individual changes to show up everywhere you might listen to music, right?
Up until Mesh, I bought a 250 GB portable hard drive to solve this problem. But that meant I had to take it everywhere. It was not convienient in the slightest.
With Live Mesh, I can just add my “Music” folder to the Mesh, and now my library, and all of its future changes are on each of my computers.
[DISCLAIMER] Please keep in mind that we’re still talking about moving a large amount of data across the Internet and downloading it to muliple machines. That first push from Mesh is going to take a while. But once it’s done, it’s done.
[MISCONCEPTION] Many people read about Live Mesh’s 5GB limitation, and immediately rule out using large numbers of files with it. The 5GB limit only applied to what is persisted in your Live Mesh Desktop online. You get 5GB of storage in the cloud. Once you go over that limit, Mesh will change how it works to be P2P (peer-to-peer). It will still sync your files across your machines based on the rules you’ve established, but those files will skip going to the cloud. There’s just not room. (I’ve even heard that Mesh is smart enough to recognize when two machines are on the same network, and will circumvent even going to the Internet to P2P the files.)
4) All of your projects, all the time
The thing I use Mesh for the most is definitely for keeping copies of all of my project files everywhere I need them. I am currently using three different laptops for my road trips (depending on where I’m going and how I’m getting there). When I get to a place that I may be presenting or meeting with developers, I often need to show demos, and that’s what most of my code is. Demonstrations of technology that I may need to use at any time.
Also, if I have time to work on a new project from the road, those updates will be sitting on my desktop machine when I get back home. It’s a perfect solution for a one-man development shop. It starts to present challenges when you’ve got multiple people working on multiple files, so I can’t recommend a version control system enough for that scenario.
5) Sharing your family photos
I have a brother in Chicago, sister in Columbus, parents in Cleveland, and inlaws in Akron and Canada. Sending email was always the way to share photos/videos/etc. with them. Then I built a website, but maintaining and uploading all of those files became frustrating. So I moved to Flickr. But now all of my images were publicly viewable, or I had to force everyone to get an account on Flickr so I could get them access.
None of those are ideal situations. I’d prefer to have all of us have access to ONE folder that Mesh updates from each of our computers, and dumping files into that folder results in those things showing up on my parent’s and sibling’s computers.
By sharing a Mesh folder with everyone, we can all dump files to each other, and keep up with each other in a far more personal way.
To wrap up, these are just a few of the ways that I use Live Mesh. It’s made my life much easier for using multiple machines (even machines that aren’t mine.)
If you haven’t tried Mesh yet, why not? It will definitely save you time.
If you have, how are you using it? I’d love to know how it’s helping you.