Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

What I’ve learnt about Live Mesh for consumers

with 5 comments

I have been using Live Mesh beta since it was released in beta form in Spring 2008. In that time I’ve learnt about its various nuances and foibles so I’m sharing them here for your interest. I will assume you have a working knowledge of Live Mesh and understand words like sync, conflict, news, newsfeed, Live Desktop in that context.

  1. One of the things I quickly learnt is that sharing folders with others is a sticky business; the main problem concerns folders that contain Microsoft Excel documents. Unbeknown to you Excel automatically commits saves while a document is open which Live Mesh then interprets as an update (I don’t know what sequence of events causes this to happen but trust me, it does). If more than one person opens such a document then conflicts can occur even though nobody actually committed a save. Make sure you get on well with people that you are sharing folders with because in my experience this can lead to some … err… opinionated discussions (He says, euphemistically) :).
  2. [This one comes from my fiancée Helen] Installation and maintenance is pretty much trouble free. Once its been installed then, other than dealing with conflicts, you can pretty much forget about it. The software is automatically updated for you on your behalf as and when required which only results in a momentary pause while the update is configured.
  3. The contents of a Mesh folder and that folder’s newsfeed, whilst being inextricably linked, are maintained separately. What this means is that a folder’s newsfeed can inform that a file has been updated but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the resultant version of that file has been synced to your machine. If you make changes to a file before the previous latest version has appeared on your machine then conflicts will occur. Conflicts should be avoided if possible. This is a bad user experience, right now there is basically no way of knowing for sure if the latest version of a file is on your machine or not.
  4. The newsfeed receives a news item when a file is updated or added to a Mesh folder and that news item has a date and time associated with it. Be aware though that the data and time are not the same as the file’s Last Modified Date. This can cause confusion when trying to correlate news items with last modified dates in the conflict resolution dialog because invariably the two will not be the same.
  5. This is not made any easier by the fact that the conflict resolution dialog does not (currently) tell you on which machine an update to a file is done, hence reconciling your activity to what you see in the conflict resolution dialog is difficult.
  6. Microsoft Outlook mailbox files (i.e. “.pst” files) do not get synced by Live Mesh.
  7. The Live Mesh software generally does all its synchronisation work when the computer is idle. Be aware of this, it may mean that the latest version of a file takes longer than anticipated to appear on your machine. There is also no notification when a new version of a file gets synced to your machine so its not easy to know whether you have the latest version or not. The instantaneous sync portrayed in the launch video isn’t really accurate.
  8. A little known fact about the Live Desktop is that you can open the navigation pane within a folder window and browse through all of your folders just as you can using a familiar Windows Explorer window. I’ve produced a video of this which you can see in my blog entry A tour around Live Desktop.
  9. I use Live Mesh to keep  my media library (i.e. MP3s, videos, podcasts) synced across my various computers. That library is about 60GB in size and I learnt the hard way that you can’t just point Live Mesh at that folder on one machine and then expect the whole thing to exist on another machine in a few hours. If you want to keep a large volume of files like that in sync then you’d be advised to use an external disk drive to physically move all the files to where they are required and thereafter use Live Mesh to keep them synced up.
  10. You may also want to minimise synchronisation activity on your home computers if your internet service provider (ISP) places data limits on your usage.
  11. In the same way that Excel updates .xls files surreptitiously, Zune software does the same with media files so you may get lots of seemingly unexplainable sync activity as a result. I don’t know if iTunes does the same but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does.
  12. At the time of writing it is not possible to control sharing and synchronisation of subfolders in a Mesh folder hence I advise that you don’t add your “Documents” folder (“My Documents” on XP) to the Mesh; you will want to maintain finer-grained control than that.
  13. When you invite someone into a Live Mesh folder assume that they won’t know what to do once they are signed-in; syncing a folder to one’s computer is a new paradigm and most users will need this explaining to them. At the time of writing http://www.mesh.com does a pretty poor job of explaining the paradigm to new users.
  14. Mesh does a great job of synchronising your IE Favorites (C:Users<user>Favorites), Live Writer drafts (C:Users<user>DocumentsMy Weblog Posts) and Live Messenger conversation history (C:UsersuserDocumentsMy Received Files<user ID>) so add these folders to your Mesh as an easy starter for ten. [N.B. See my post More on storing messenger conversations on the Mesh for ideas about how Mesh could be further leveraged for storing your Live Messenger conversation history.]
  15. Most of all…Live Mesh is still in beta so there are still bugs. You would be well advised to not rely on Mesh as a fault-tolerant backup mechanism just yet.

Remember that Live Mesh is still in beta so everything that I’ve said here is subject to change.

-Jamie

In the clubhouse: clubhouse, how-to, mesh
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Written by Jamiet

September 23, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Great post jamie, I can’t believe that I totally missed out on the folder navigation in live, it blows my mind that it’s in there…
    I agree that it’s deffinetly not ready to be used for reliable backup, I prefer folder share, not live sync.  It seems to be a little quiter (smaller foot print) and faster compared to mesh. 
    A few small gripes on my part about mesh is the feeds pane that pops up with the desktop folders, I find it a little bit cryptic and hard to understand.  I also wish that I could set it to be in minimized by default, or even cooler, is if they used the new aero black glass effect like in the new messenger, that definitely would be sweet..
    None the less, this is a rocking program, can’t wait for the sdk to come out, great post again.

    Nik

    September 23, 2008 at 2:04 pm

  2. sorry, lol, i meant i "DO" prefer live sync

    Nik

    September 23, 2008 at 2:05 pm

  3. Regarding 9, I had originally tried this, but just wound up with a bunch of duplicates.  I suspect the files were changed by a media player or antivirus software, but it did not work as expected.

    Jordan

    September 23, 2008 at 10:01 pm

  4. Not to nitpick but Live Mesh isn’t even at the Beta stage. It’s pre-beta – its a Tech Preview which is considered pre-beta – kind of like a "alpha".

    Brandon

    October 12, 2008 at 7:08 am

  5. but let’s be straight Bandon…you’re not nit-picking, right?only joking…fair comment. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Jamie

    October 12, 2008 at 11:33 am


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