Posted by Deliverator on 16th July 2009
I have a rather large number of personal computers I use on a regular basis and data synchronization is a constant problem. I am an extreme case to be sure, but the same problems tend to apply to people with just a few PCs as well. Let us count my regularly used PCs:
1. My primary desktop. A core i7 monster of a machine
2. My secondary desktop. A dual core atom netop.
3. My home-theater PC hooked up to my projector
4. Lenovo Thinkpad Laptop
5. Acer Aspire One Netbook
6. Samsung Q1UP UMPC
I actually have a few more I could throw into the mix, but they are special purpose machines and not regular workstations. So lets just declare six to be the magic number.
Files – I can share files between machines easily enough via my in house gigabit and wireless networks. When out of the house and on cellular WWAN , I can VPN in and access what I need via file sharing. In a lot of cases, when just accessing media files, I will just serve them up remotely using ORB. I use Karen’s Replicator to do one way syncing of certain folder structures when I am planning on taking my work on the road for a while. I haven’t felt the need for something more rigorous like Rsync or Unison which would allow for more dynamic background syncing and handling of exceptions. My needs just aren’t that complex.
Email – Syncing email is a bit more of a problem, as I have a number of legacy pop email accounts and do most of my spam filtering on the client side of things. I could convert some of my accounts to MS Exchange or IMAP and let it handle the syncing, but it would be only a partial solution. Most of the time, if I am just out and about during the day I just use Remote Desktop to access my primary desktop and use Thunderbird on it. I have Thunderbird set up on my Thinkpad and netbook to check out the same accounts (while leaving a copy of any downloaded messages on the server) in case my main machine goes down or is otherwise inaccessible while I am traveling. Again, not a particularly elegant solution, but one that has remained not-broken-enough for me to care to fix it.
Browser – I have used Firefox exclusively for most of my web browsing since it was still known as Phoenix. I only ever touch IE in extremely desperate circumstances. There have been various ways to sync browser data between multiple machines for quite a while now, such as the Xmarks plugin (formerly Foxmarks) and social bookmarking services like Delicious, but for a wide variety of reasons I am distrustful of handing my data over to outside sources. One of the neat and little heralded features of the new Firefox 3.5 release is a Mozilla Labs project called Weave. Weave basically syncs your Firefox profile (bookmarks, site passwords, etc.) across multiple PCs and does it in realtime. It also encrypts your data on the client side, so even though it uses Mozilla’s servers to do all the magic, you never expose your data to an outside source. Check it out, it is the best thing since sliced bread.