I’m sure you’ve been at work, thinking “Crap, I don’t want to go home and do this, because I don’t have the software there.” Or maybe you do have the software, but you don’t have some certain set of plugins (i.e. Photoshop Brushes for a graphic designer), and you need a way to get those things synchronized in both places at once. ***As such, this experiment implies that I will NOT be using this program in two locations simultaneously.*** (That’s not to say that it can’t be done – but it is to say that it will require more human intervention to resolve the file version conflicts than I wish to do.)
Well, I have an answer – and this example will use the Digsby Instant Messenger client. (I’ll get technical after the story below.) Here’s a little background…
I’ve been using Trillian for my instant messaging software of choice since it was version 0.74a back in 2001. And I have never had any problems with it. It’s been a great tool to keep the 20-odd screennames I had back in the day all organized with their appropriate buddy lists joined or separated as necessary. Fortunately, I was invited to use their new Trillian Astra beta program for the past couple years. Using the Astra alpha/beta releases has been nice, as all the features from the Pro accounts were available for testing – that was, until Build 98, when they turned on the Basic/Pro distinction. Much to the chagrin of the beta testers, there was a major uprising because of this, with a lot of focus by the users being put on Chat Logs and server-side synchronization. To the praise of Cerulean Studios, they reinstated the Pro functionality until they gave fair warning in Build 99.
One user mentioned Digsby as an alternative to Trillian. I’ve used other clients like meebo.com as a cross-platform web-based chat, and Pidgin when I used Linux on my laptop (and even tried the Windows version recently). However, Digsby is the only one that provides the closest functionality to Trillian with the many social networks that it connects you to – with the somewhat-noticeable lack of MySpace IM. (But who really uses that anyway?)
Ultimately, I gave Digsby a shot on my laptop, running Windows 7 Beta 1, and it seemed to serve its purposes very nicely. I don’t use the laptop for anything beyond quick internet checking with Google Chrome, collecting my emails in Thunderbird, an alarm clock using Songbird, and sending IMs.
Later, when Trillian released Build 99, I wasn’t thrilled about the limited Basic functionality I was relegated to – but also am not prepared to spend the nominal $25 to upgrade to Pro just yet. (Maybe I will this summer.) So, I installed Digsby at work, and on my desktop computers, and was back in business.
I noticed that once I installed Digsby on the other computers, it migrated my accounts, buddy lists configuration (i.e. meta contacts), and most of my preferences over. It wasn’t until I discovered there were also customizable themes and when I had to look through chat logs on 3 computers, that I noticed a need for further synchronization.
So I set out thinking of a way to do this…and that’s where we start.
I’ve been using Live Mesh since it was Microsoft Groove in Microsoft Office 12 Beta 1. And I thoroughly enjoyed the functionality of being able to keep a single copy of my website code (since I run multiple sites on the-spot.network), and be able to work on them at work, at home, or with my laptop outside of Jamba Juice in Sundance Square, Fort Worth, TX.
You can do this with both Groove or Mesh, but for the purposes of this article (since I don’t have Microsoft Office installed on the laptop), we’ll do it with Mesh (plus Mesh is free, Groove is part of Office 2007).
Warning: Please read before you proceed.
I had to do this SEVERAL times before it actually worked. By “SEVERAL” I mean that I had to reinstall Digsby a LOT because I didn’t do it correctly, or the permissions weren’t setup properly before I tried syncing. If I were you, I’d try something simple first, like creating a folder in Program Files, and sticking a txt file in it, and see if you can get it to sync. Once you’ve followed the instructions and learned how, give it a shot with the program you have in mind.
Ok, you can continue.
Step 1: Sign into or up for Mesh.com
Step 2: Add your computer to Mesh
From the Devices page, click Add Device. Use the drop-down menu to select your computer’s operating system, and then click Install. This downloads the Live Mesh software to your computer. Once you’ve installed the software, you’re ready to begin synchronizing folders between: your computer and your Live Desktop, your computer and other devices in your mesh, or your computer and a friend’s computer.
Do Step 2 on all the computers you wish to sync.
Step 3: What do you want to sync?
Mesh gives you about 5GB of cloud storage space. Because everything you sync between computers is also stored in at the Live Mesh website on your “Live Desktop”, the cumulative sum of all the files you want to keep synchronized cannot exceed 5GB.
For my example, I want to sync my Digsby themes so that I can use my them on whatever computer I am using. So, I navigate to the Program Files folder, and find the Digsbyresskins folder.
Step 4: Setting the right permissions
First things first though – if you’re using Windows Vista and have the User Access Control activated, then you’re not going to be able to write anything to this folder without giving Administrative Privilages. This will prevent Mesh from syncing the files and folders to anything your Program Files directory. So let’s fix it…
- Right click on skins, choose Properties
- Click the Security Tab, and hit the Edit button
- Hit Continue on the UAC window, click the Add button
- Type your username and domain if needed, and hit OK
- (***If, in Step 8, you don’t see any files showing up, you might need to start over and add the “all user accounts” to have full permissions by selecting “<localhost>users”, and giving it Full Control. Otherwise, go ahead and set that permission now, if you don’t anticipate any security issues in doing so.***)
- Check the Full Control checkbox, and hit OK, and hit OK again to close all the windows.
Do this same thing on the other computers you’d like to sync with, adding the appropriate username for your account on that particular computer. Now you should be able to write files to that folder without needing approval.
Step 5: Add the folder to your Live Mesh
Now you’re ready to add your folder to your Live Mesh:
- First, remove everything in the folder you want to use. In my case, I cut all the theme folders in skins.
- Right click on skins, choose Add folder to Live Mesh.
- You’ll get a window that pops up, asking what you’d like to name the folder. I just used “Digsby-skins”. Hit OK.
- Paste the themes back into skins and let them sync.
Step 6: Let the folder Sync to Live Desktop
My entire Digsby installation is about 60MB, with the themes making up about 3MB of that. Depending on what you’re actually syncing, this size will vary greatly – and so will the time it takes for everything to upload. If you open the folder you’ve chosen to sync, you’ll see a sidebar pop out of the right hand side of the window that shows the progress of your device.
Note: You’ll only see the devices that you’ve told to sync with this folder. Mine shows my laptop because I’ve already done this, we’ll get to adding the other devices next.
Step 7: Setting it up on the other computer.
For this to work, you should have the same program installed on the other computer. This is not meant for sharing a program from computer to computer – just accessories like themes, plugins, settings, etc.
To set up your other computer, start over with Step 1 – install Live Mesh, add the computer, configure the Security settings, cut the contents from the folder you’re going to sync.
Once you’ve added this computer to Live Mesh, you’ll see a desktop icon, in my case “Digsby-skins”.
- Double click the icon to get the setup window
- Click Browse and Navigate to the directory you want the sync’d files stored in and hit OK
You’ll want to give it some time to download the files that the source computer has put up on the Live Desktop. You can base that timeframe by the activity of the Progress Meters on the right of the directory window, as the image in Step 6 shows.
Step 8: Add any files from the secondary computer to be sync’d
Once you have finished syncing the files from the source computer, you can cut/paste the files you moved on the secondary computer, back to their original location. This allows you to Overwrite any files that might be duplicated on both machines, instead of having to resolve any conflicts manually.
After you have copied the files on the secondary computer back to their original location, check to see that they are showing up on the primary computer. If they are, then everything is working like it should.
Step 9: Testing the synchronization
When everything is finally sync’d back between both computers, give it a test. You should now be able to load your program in both places, and if you happen to add a new plugin in one location, it should be available on the other computer soon thereafter.
That is how I have set up my Digsby installation to share Themes, and how I will instruct one of my coworkers to sync her Photoshop brushes between office and home. Let me know what you’re using it for in the comments below.