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The Net Takeaway: Another fine Mesh...


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Another fine Mesh... · 12/02/2008 12:26 PM, Tech’ve gotten me into, with apologies to Abbott and Costello.

For the past few years, I’ve been able to link my various machines together with a collection of tools.

Now, these 3 tools give you remote control of another desktop and the ability to move files, up to 2gb at a time. (There are many file splitters/combiners if you need to move more than that at a time). (BTW, still looking for a good way to compare 2 directories and see what’s missing from each: a free Dir-Sync that doesn’t force me to copy but simply let’s me choose what to transfer. Suggestions welcome below, either standalone or as part of a free file manager.)

But a new one has been growing in popularity: Microsoft Live Mesh. This is MS’s first move into the cloud computing world as an “end user” offering, and it’s a pretty impressive first step. After signing in with a LiveID and installing the product, you basically get an icon in the tray and the ability to share any folder into the “mesh” (you control who has access to it, etc.). You can have multiple machines share that folder (or any number of folders), and you have a “web desktop” to add or get to your files from any machine.

There is a 5gb limit, but interestingly, that’s only for the web desktop side. You can actually share as much as you want between machines, but you only access 5gb of it on the web desktop.

But wait, there’s more. You also get Remote Desktop access to the Windows boxes you have added to the mesh. And all this works through most every firewall, etc.

(BTW, MS has a few offerings in this space that you should play with. Besides Mesh, they also have Skydrive which is an online 5gb, no installable client, just online drive space (shareable if you wish, but 50mg per file limit!), aka… and FolderShare which is a pretty clever and cult-popular syncing solution between 2 machines (no cloud storage). So, you’ve got Mesh (beta) which has sync and cloud, SkyDrive which is just cloud storage, and FolderShare which is just sync. FolderShare will be replaced by LiveSync which will sync up to 20 “libraries” each with 20K files each… and I suspect we’ll see them all converge in the future. More good details at the

So, slam dunk, right? Well, there are some differences between the “best of breed” solution I mentioned above, and this one. Some notes:

Some issues I’ve run into:

To their credit, the Mesh team is unbelievably responsive to concerns. They respond to bug reports, they post on the forum… it’s unlike any other part of MS. Gold star to them.

So, in the end, does it replace the motley crew I mention above? Well, Mesh is clearly still beta. But it does have lots of promise, and has MS behind it. So, (duh), I’ll keep playing with both sets, wasting precious memory and confusing myself as to which tool I last did what in. But I’ll sacrifice for you, my readers, in the interest of science.

Feel free to comment with your findings as you try these tools, or suggest others that you think are better.

PS: Why didn’t I mention all the other “sync” and other shared web storage offerings? B/c either a) they don’t work as well as DropBox or b) they don’t offer as many features as Mesh or c) they offer lots of syncing/versioning that I just don’t need.

But I will mention that I expect to see more “integrated” plays (ala Mesh) like Gladinet which I haven’t tried, but includes Remote Desktop (VNC or RDP), a virtual drive via a drive letter into the cloud (ala JungleDisk, but subsuming S3, Skydrive, Picasa, and others), web-desktop integration (double click a doc to load Zoho, for example), on demand file sharing, a shared favorites folder… and in the future, a web desktop for online access to all this. LifeHacker gave this a positive quick overview. Sounds too good to be true, but even if this one fails, there will be others which will include all this… and the kitchen sink.

PPS: I often hear “Oh, you can’t trust MS or Google or ____ with your data”. OK, folks, get a grip. If you really think MS is actually looking at any of the files or cares about them, you should take off your tin-foil hat every once in a while. When you have 5gb of files per user, you are doing everything you can to keep the thing running. You don’t have time to search every node looking for “account numbers” or other silly stuff. Yes, it’s POSSIBLE that some jerk could discover something personal. If that bothers you, don’t put personal stuff on the cloud. Buy your own storage and use your own VPN. But for the rest of you, this should be the least of your worries.

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