Opinion » Cybernaut


In Sync



These days nearly everyone has a computer at work, a computer at home and a computer in their back pocket, like a next generation smart phone. We may run multiple browsers, multiple e-mail applications, different versions of productivity software. We may have more than one calendar or scheduling application, or use more than one type of music and movie player.

Not all of your hardware may be directly compatible. You may have a PC at work, a Mac at home and a Palm Pre or Blackberry, all three running different software in different operating systems. Your digital camera may use one type of memory card and your netbook another.

But that doesn't mean you can't sync everything - your files, your calendars, your e-mail, your media, your contacts lists, your bookmarks - quickly and easily, across a broad range of devices. That's because all of your devices have at least one thing in common: the web - they can all speak the same language and they're all connected through various networks.

According to a new article in MaximumPC (www.maximumpc.com) - a website I've been on a lot recently while shopping for PC laptops - there are more ways to sync your devices through the web. I also added a few ideas of my own.

Live Mesh - One of the top ways is using Live Mesh (www.mesh.com), a free Microsoft applications that keeps your documents synced across devices, computers and platforms. It works with Windows and Mac computers, and with Linux computers to a degree, but only with Windows mobile phones (until someone works out a hack for Palm, Blackberry, Google Android, iPhone, etc.)

How it works is by allowing you to sync a folder between devices, where everything in that folder automatically updates between computers. The main drawback is that you're limited to 5 GB of data.

Live Sync - Microsoft also produces a program called Live Sync, which is virtually identical to Mesh and uses Microsot Live services to sync programs.

Why two Microsoft sync programs? Because each was developed separately and intended for different audiences with different needs, although they basically do the same thing. Only one will survive as Microsoft moves into the Windows 7 era, and the smart money is probably on Live Sync because of its integration in Microsoft Live.

Mobile Me - The first version of this application was a bust, but it's come a long way. The downside is cost ($99 a year), but it will sync your contact lists, calendar, e-mail and passwords. File sync options are also available. While it works with Mac and PC, it's mostly a Mac thing at this time, for people with Apple computers and an iPhone. There are a lot of features that won't work on PCs, and you can't use it to sync your Firefox Bookmarks.

Dropbox - I've written about Dropbox (www.gedropbox.com) a few times already, and I would use this program to sync files and passwords between computers if my home computer was a little newer and compatible with the software. Anything you put in a folder - e.g. Firefox favourites folder - can be synced quickly and easily. The KeePass feature is also kind of neat, allowing you to use one password for every site and service you use, while randomly generating a safe user name and password to protect your identity.

Opera 10 - The latest version of the Opera browser includes the Opera Unite features that lets you sync files, access your music files remotely, post notes to yourself and other users, set your computer up as a web server and more. If you install Opera on all your computers and mobile devices you can also sync bookmarks, notes, history and favourites. This is an awesome feature, although it doesn't sync things like calendars and contacts just yet. But why worry about that when you can use Opera to access your Gmail account that will do all of that for you?

Unite was available with the first Beta of Opera 10, but disappeared from the 2.0 Beta - possibly because of security concerns or a decision to upgrade or improve Unite features. Most experts expect it to return for the official launch.

Google - Google has become the ultimate sync tool, while also eliminating the need to sync devices in the first place. You can sync your Gmail calendar with other calendar applications (iCal and Outlook), and to merge and sync all of your e-mail accounts. Google Docs stores your word processing and spreadsheet documents online. Google also allows you to access your account - calendars, contacts, Docs, e-mail - from pretty much any mobile device.