Archive for September 2008
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.
- 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) :).
- [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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Microsoft Outlook mailbox files (i.e. “.pst” files) do not get synced by Live Mesh.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You may also want to minimise synchronisation activity on your home computers if your internet service provider (ISP) places data limits on your usage.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.]
- 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.
I’ve just stumbled across a great blog entry from Steven Abrahams, Lead Program Manager for Windows Live Messenger, that gives the most in-depth overview of the new features in Messenger that I’ve seen yet. Check it out at: http://stevenkabrahams.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!4912266378581A64!829.entry#post
UPDATE: And more new information here: http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog/2008/09/21/ResponseToSomeFeedbackOnWhatsNewInWindowsLiveMessenger.aspx from Dare Obasanjo
When the Live Spaces What’s New feed launched last October there were 6 different types of notification prevalent. They were:
[Information comes courtesy of Rob Dolin]
The new wave 3 version of Windows Live Messenger is a pointer to a whole new raft of notification types coming our way. Here’s some that I’ve picked up on so far:
Something to do with adding web activities. I can’t wait to find out what those are.
Changing Messenger photo
Messenger status changes
Favo(u)rite movie lists (I’m guessing this is something to do with the iLike web activity above)
Blog comments (yeahhhhh. I’ve wanted this for ages)
Anyone spotted any more?
I’ve been following the plethora of Windows Live wave 3 posts all day long (and god, there have been a lot) but in amongst it all I’ve managed to find a few features that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else yet.
If you have Auto-Collage installed then you can launch it from within Windows Live Photo Gallery. A nice touch indeed.
|Live Events in Messenger|
|If you have joined any events at http://events.live.com then those events appear as groups within your Messenger contact list. Groups are a new feature in wave 3 and are something I’ve banged on about quite a lot over the past year, I never expected that Events would morph into Groups though. Still, its a pointer to where this was going and I suspect a lot of the things that I predicted in my January 2008 blog entry Active directory in the cloud are about to see the light of day.|
|Windows Live Call|
|Windows Live Call is now a separate shortcut in the start menu. There isn’t much to talk about just yet but the message hints at something bigger and this doesn’t surprise me at all given that the existing Windows Live Call service provided by Verizon has recently lapsed. Are Microsoft trying to bundle a Skype killing VOIP service with Windows Live? I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.|
So not much, only three things found so far. I’ll post more as and when I find them.
My last two 10 Secrets posts have garnered a fair bit of attention so I thought maybe it was time for another. These posts document all those little tips and tricks that newcomers to Windows Live products may not know about – I hope they are proving useful.
|If you want to blog about something you are browsing on the web (and if you have Live Writer installed) then click the ‘Blog This’ button in Internet Explorer’s tab toolbar.
Live Writer will open up and be pre-populated with information about the web page.
Windows Live Tags: writer
Windows Live Tags: Admin Center
|If you want to want to share a file that is on your SkyDrive with the rest of the world then you could provide a boring old URI.|
Why not be bolder and add a user friendly icon for it instead. The "embed" link provided with each file is all that you need.
Windows Live Tags: Skydrive
|A little known fact about Live Writer is that it can be used to update blog entries that you have already posted. Simply open the post from your "Recently Posted" list, hit ‘Publish’ and let Live Writer do all the work.
I don’t know if this works for all blog engines but it definitely works for Live Spaces.
|If you use Office Live Workspaces at http://workspace.office.live.com then your recently updated workspaces will appear at http://home.live.com. Very handy.
Windows Live Tags: home
|If you have a blog, or in fact any RSS feed, you can build a Live Alert that will send an alert to Messenger and/or an email telling you when a new post occurs at that feed.
Go to http://signup.alerts.live.com/brochure/index.jsp to set it up. You’ll be given HTML code that produces a sign-up link which you can then embed into any web page. The link opposite sets up a Live Alert for my blog at http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com
Windows Live Tags: alerts
|How often are you in need of phone support from your more tech savvy family members? Well if you’re talking to them on Live Messenger then use the ‘Request Remote Assistance’ feature and let them see your desktop or even control it.
Request Remote Assistance can be found on the ‘Activities’ menu of a Messenger conversation window.
Windows Live Tags: messenger
|Would you like to keep your Messenger and Facebook statuses in sync? If you add the Windows Live Messenger application to your Facebook profile then any update to your Messenger status will automatically update Facebook.|
|Do you have friends that don’t speak your language? If you’re having a Messenger conversation with them then you can add the Machine Translator bot to your conversation and have it translate everything you say.
Just add firstname.lastname@example.org as a contact.
|Often its useful to track search results to know when new content that you’re interested in appears on the web.
Live Search enables this by simply appending "&format=rss" onto the end of the Live Search URL.
For example, http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=barack+obama&format=rss returns search results for Barack Obama as an RSS feed.
Windows Live Tags: search
If you want to read the previous two 10 secrets posts then hit the links here:
"They must be making popsicles in hell now, because Microsoft has come up with a much better way to expand your musical horizons than Apple iTunes 8′s Genius in their new Zune software: MixView. Not only is MixView much prettier and more fun than Genius—we already knew that—it’s also more useful, more informative, and it leverages the infamous social aspect of Zune in a beautiful way. In fact, it makes Genius look like a flat, gray, boring Windows application.
In addition to that, not only Genius looks like an accounting application—and completely out of sync with what you can find on your own iPod touch—but Genius recommends songs that you already have just because they are in a "Best of" album."
Zune 3.0 is live. I run Zune on my home computer and today I’m at work so ordinarily I would be screwed until I get home BUT….Live Mesh (almost) comes to the rescue. I fired up Live Mesh remote desktop to my home PC and let ‘er rip…
Update is available. Yeahhhh!!
Ah damnit…foiled at the last. I left my Zune plugged in this morning so that I could have 3.0 ready and waiting for me when I get home but unfortunately I can’t install the software with the device plugged in. garrrghh! The vagaries of remote control!
Never mind…I’ll be home in a few hours tinkering to my heart’s content!
In April 2008 Live Search launched a feature in the UK and Japan called ‘Find my location’ which enables you to browse to http://m.live.com on your phone and find your location without having a GPS receiver or extra software installed. This isn’t the same as the ‘My Location’ feature in Google Maps for Mobile because that relies on an installed piece of software and Google’s own database of mast locations. The Live Search implementation relies on the service providers themselves which has the advantage of being up to date and working in a browser but the disadvantage of relying on a third party which is why it only works in the UK and Japan right now.
Unfortunately when I tried to use the feature back in April it didn’t actually work and after investigation I discovered that it was because my service provider, Vodafone, hadn’t opened up Location-Based-Services (LBS) on their internet gateway. When I tried the feature today whilst at Heathrow airport I was delighted to find that Vodafone had twiddled the appropriate knobs to turn this on so if you are in the UK and are on Vodafone head to http://m.live.com and try it out. I don’t think it works on all phones (I stand to be corrected) but it works on mine so I’m happy. Here’s a screenshot after I’d tried it at Heathrow:
I understand that we have Oded Ran at Microsoft UK to thank for this. Kudos Oded!
UPDATE: Oded has provided the following information and has permitted me to share it:
Find My Location with Live Search works on most mobile phones from O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone in the UK. The mobile phone has to be configured to use the network’s default WAP gateway. Luckily, most mobile phones (including the popular Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Windows Mobile models) are configured that way so users can start using Find My Location right away by going to msn.co.uk from their mobile’s web browser.
Unfortunately, some mobile phones like O2’s iPhone, some BlackBerry smartphones on corporate plans and handsets with Opera browsers do not pass through the network WAP gateway. For this reason, Find My Location might not work on these phones. In this case, users can still enjoy Live Search on their mobiles but will not be able to use Find My Location.
Thanks again Oded!
Upon visiting one of my Live events just now I was presented with the following message:
That’s a low resolution screenshot so I’ll restate the text
Your Spaces activity is not currently shown in your contact card. After October 2008, your Spaces activity will become available to people viewing your contact card and your Messenger contacts will be able to locate your space. If you want to keep your Spaces activity separate from your Messenger activity, you can create a second, linked Live ID and use one ID for Messenger and one for Spaces.
So, our activity isn’t just going to appear within Live Spaces but it’ll be available on our Live Messenger contact card* as well. What confuses me slightly is that activity is already visible on our contact card so I’d be interested to understand how this is going to be different. Here’s what my Live Messenger contact card looks like today:
The other interesting bit of news there is that apparently this will be available no later than 1st November 2008. Will Windows Live Wave 3 really be released so soon? I for one certainly hope so.
*Note that the Live Messenger contact card is also visible in your Contacts directory in Windows Live Mail.
What’s even more surprising is that on 4th September it had had 121538 views so we’re talking nearly 900000 views in a very very short space of time. Sure, I know its currently linked to on the homepage but that link has been there since 14th August.
So, what has happened that could have prompted a 900+% increase in 4 days I wonder? Oh yeah, 4th September was the day that that advert got released; I guess there really is no such thing as bad publicity.