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Microsoft – Page 7 – Regular IT guy

Category - Microsoft

HowTo: Sync Documents / Photos between PCs

I’ve been helping out the Consumer division at Microsoft Canada with training and Evangelizing the benefits and awesomeness of Windows 7 especially when you light it up with Windows Live Services. It’s been a lot of fun and a change from the regular stuff I talk about in the Enterprise space.

I figure it was about time I also share some of these services and programs with the broader audience – because we’re all consumers and not everything is about Servers, Mail systems and virtualization. Problem is – there is just SO MUCH STUFF! So I am going to attempt to break it down into solutions and keep things short and sweet.

memorycardsThe Problem: you’ve got multiple systems in your family / friend social unit. You also have multiple cameras and you have a need to ensure that when your significant other “empties” the camera on to her laptop after the kids soccer game – they get stored and protected as well as shared across the other machines. Likewise – when you empty out your camera after the camping trip, the same happens, but your laptop is a corporate system. Oh – and for some reason – you have a MAC system as well – for your teenager.

The solution: Windows Live Mesh. It’s free – part of the Windows Live Essentials 2011  suite – and yes – there is a client for Mac

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Let me set the stage a bit for how I use it. It’s a bit of a blend of the personal life and work life – but ultimately as is my belief– you only have ONE life, right?

Windows Live Mesh is a free solution to keep your life in sync. Download and install on your system, light it up with a Hotmail/Xbox/Live ID and you are ready to go with one system. Repeat the process on the additional systems “you control” with your same Live ID. Your device pool under your control grows. Install it on a “different” system that isn’t yours and light it up with a different Live ID to further extend your possibilities.  All transfers between systems are on a peer to peer basis and are encrypted with TLS or SSL encryption. You can sync up to 200 folders, each up to either 50 GB OR 10,000 items (whichever you hit first).

That is a lot of Synchronicity. Back to the scenario.

Scenario #1 – Photo Duplication Hell.

The camera scenario is very real for me. My wife has one, I have one, the kids have one, heck – we’re over camera’ed in our house. Kind of goes hand in hand with also having a lot of different Laptops / PCs in our house as well. We were constantly hit with duplicates as we’d forget if the camera pictures were extracted on this system or that system and it all ended up with a complicated mess of duplicate and triplicate photos or worse – deleted / lost photos.

Enter Windows Live Mesh.  I started using it when it was called FolderShare ages ago.  Go download and install client from here. Launch Mesh and light it up with a Live ID. I did the same for my wife’s laptop (with her permission of course) but with HER Live ID (because I REALLY do not control her system). I then create a new folder under my Pictures library called “_current Pictures”.

imageI launch the Mesh client ( you can see it in your taskbar as the two blue arrows) and choose to open the client and create a new sync’d folder. I browse to and select the “_Current Pictures” folder. When the selection screen comes up – don’t select an additional device at this time just finish the process. In the Mesh client – select and expand the “_current Pictures” folder.

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Select the “People I Selected” option (for the first time – it will say “Just Me”) and then pick the people from your buddy list or type in the email address you want to send this sharing invitation off to – up to 10 I believe.

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Mine already has my wife added AND an address for my HomeServer. Yup – I have Mesh installed on my home server to act as an “always on” backup of the files.

Now it’s a matter of human protocol that when you dump your camera contents to your system, you put move them into the Current Pictures folder. I chose NOT to take the whole Pictures library and sync it because it would be the ENTIRE library (all sub folders). I don’t know about you – but my wife doesn’t want to see all the work photos of events and things in the family photo storage location. I DO however want those work photos across all my work systems – so I setup a sync folder like I did in the first scenario and it’s called _Work Pictures..

Scenario #2 – document sync across your “work” systems.

Wait a minute – I just mixed “work” with home. Well – I use Windows Live Mesh to also sync files across my WORK systems I control. (Don’t worry MS-IT – it’s Low Business Impact stuff).  I use Mesh for syncing my documents across all three of my systems with the same Live ID signed in.  In my scenario – there is little to NO chance I will be using two of the systems at the same time resulting in a conflict and now duplicate (with machine name appended) file. By expanding the tool from the system tray – I select sync a folder.

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I browse to the folder I want to sync like “Podcasting” and then select the destination devices that are “under my control” and are signed in with the same Live ID. I can choose multiple systems but notice there is also an option for SkyDrive synced storage (more on this later).

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The service goes in, itemizes all the files, regardless of their size and sends over the content to the second system – provided there is networking connectivity between the two of them. Works great when I am on the road and working on stuff – knowing that my files are synced back to the “home base” system in the home office.

Scenario #3 – want to sync to “The cloud” not Claude.

Remember during the device selection process of the previous two scenarios. One of them was “SkyDrive Storage” as an option. Your Live ID has a total of 25 GB for storage capacity via the web.  You are able to access 5 GB of that storage for the purpose of syncing content from your PCs to the cloud.

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There are some restrictions you should know about. Files can only be up to 50MB up to 100 MB in size (so no movie storage or DVD ISO files here kids) and there is a hard stop at 5 GB of your 25GB total allocation of SkyDrive space. Your local folder can have more then 5 GB, but it will stop sync’ing after it hits 5.

It works the exact same way as scenario #2 above, but “the cloud” is always on and available to sync from OR edit directly in the cloud – but more on SkyDrive later in a separate post.

Scenario #4 – …but wait! There’s more! Remote Control!

OK – so if syncing between Your systems, your friends systems and even the cloud ain’t enough for ya – how about one more functionality that Windows Live Mesh brings – REMOTE CONTROL.

Say you are on the road, you are heading out a meeting and you forgot that a report you were working on is sitting on the desktop of the computer in your home office? it’s not in the sync’d folder that is in your documents folder because you forgot to move it there when you finished it last night at 2 AM. What can you do?  Remote Control and log in to your Home Office Computer, drag the document from your desktop into your Documents folder that you are sync’ing across all the systems.

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This option is OFF by default – you have to go in and enable it on a per machine basis. You can see here I have not enabled it on my system as of yet, but once it’s enabled and the Windows Live Mesh client is up and running – the icons of the systems become enabled and I can remotely login and control the system over the internet – no firewall changes required.

In Summary: (sorry – this was a long one)

Windows Live Mesh is a great way to get files sync’d across multiple systems – including Macs. (not that I have one –  You can download the Mac Mesh client from here.) There are no subscription options, no costs involved (except your bandwidth), no Amway style sales to your friends to get affiliate space. You can do it within your house, between friends in different houses or even different countries / organizations – provided you know their Live ID.  I use this as a disaster recovery scenario with my Brother in Toronto and vice versa for our family photos – geo-diversification – but I digress. The service CAN (but doesn’t have to) use Cloud storage on SkyDrive.

Even if you manage to forget a document back on another one of YOUR systems – you can remote control and login to it and prevent having to call home and guide your wife on how to type your 28 character password and circumnavigate your chaotic desktop to find that report and email it to you.

Give Windows Live Mesh a try. It’s one of Microsoft consumer cloud services that not many people realize just how powerful it is.  It’s saved my bacon on many occasions.

Power Of Community–Virtualization Reality–Halifax Leg

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DSCN5321 (640x480)On the continuing Eastern leg of the Virtual Reality community tour – I drove from Sydney to Halifax yesterday morning in order to make an up time, avoid the fog (which closed the airport) in order to talk with professors and IT staff at Nova Scotia Community College. The meeting was setup by my friend David Jelico – a prof that is very passionate about Technology and teaching students a balanced approach to surviving a career in IT. Topic was about private / public cloud and how the college could incorporate it into their curriculum as well as embrace some of the technology themselves.

As is always the case with David – his passion shines through and lots of lively conversation ensued with a full Q&A back and forth with everyone in the room. Nothing like keeping “the Microsoft guy” on his toes, eh?

After grabbing a bite to eat between sessions at “The Q” (best damn rib and BBQ joint in Halifax hands down) we hopped the ferry to cross over and setup for an evening event at the NSCC Waterfront campus – overlooking the beautiful harbour. If I had to choose a campus with a view – this would be the one.

The event itself was a bit modified. We had lower numbers then previous cities, so I modified the content to be better suited to a smaller crowd and focused on engaging and talking with the guys and showing / building the environment collaboratively with them. I say “building” mainly because I had a hardware issue that made it so I had to completely rebuild one of my Host Hyper-V servers which was left in a default install state. The demos were extended to literally build the second Host and enable it to work as the second node cluster for the highly available VM system.

After the event – I offered up a round of drinks for good measure at my favourite local establishment “The Old Triangle” where it happened to be jam night – bring your own instrument for traditional down home kitchen party. I kind of regret not picking up the Bohran to play a tune myself – but I was otherwise engaged in talking with Rob about his plans to setup a Canadian Home Grown Hosted Datacenter service using the full suite of MS technology (System Center Virtual Machine Manager, System Center Opalis, System Center Operations Manager, Hyper-V and more). I look forward to sharing his story with you here as they build it out and how they use these technologies to offer up hosted infrastructure to their Canadian customers.

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I’m writing this post the day after – enjoying a rare day in the sun on the wharf downtown in Halifax. I was working at a Co-Working space called “The Hub” earlier today, but the sunshine was calling and I had a lunch meeting with a friend so I took advantage of some mobile technology and charged laptop in order to write with a view of the ocean.

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Info: Windows 8–first peek at UI and experience

I’ve been anxiously awaiting for some REAL visuals and a first demo at the experience of what Windows 8 could look like. Finally after waiting a couple of years, Sinofsky was on stage talking about Windows 8 with Walt on stage at AllThingsD. Before continuing have a look at the video they published below.

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Love it.

Pure AwesomeSauce!

A Couple of points I heard listening to the whole thing:

  • user gets to choose what’s on the start experience
  • works with older programs
  • companies could add programs to start experience (group policy?)
  • same interface on multiple form factors, touch or not

I could see myself using that split keyboard on a slate form factor while working from the couch! Then walking over to my desk to switch to bluetooth enabled keyboard for heaver writing jobs.

Digging a little further – there is a Windows team video by Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management of the Windows User Experience team. Nicer view of the functionality and no interruptions.

This is the first time I’ve see this UI and build of Windows – I’d be pulling the wool over your eyes if I said I had access to more info or details about plans, ship date, enterprise deployment or formfactors – Nadda. Zip. Ziltch!

All I know is I am freakin’ excited.

If you have anything to do regarding building apps, user interfaces or are curious about the next version – you should sign up and get your ass over to BUILD

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(link to calendar.ics file with deets)

We saw the first glimpse of the client in a consumer setting. 

Show Me The Server!


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