Sunday, September 6, 2009

Keeping Music on Your Desktop and Your Laptop no Matter Which One You Used to Buy it.

I have to take note of an excellent utility buried in the Windows Live software stack for synchronizing folders.  It’s discussed in a SuperUser.com posting (Keeping folders synced between several machines - Super User).

Synchronization (or sync for short) means different things to different people so some clarification is in order.  Like many people I have multiple computers at home.  Sometimes I’ll buy music (mostly from amazon.com/mp3 these days) while using my laptop.  Sometimes I’ll buy it while using my desktop.

Unfortunately Vista doesn’t come with a built in way to automatically keep these 2 music folders in sync.  It’s got plenty of functionality grouped under the rubric of synchronization but none of them let you automatically keep two already existing folders in sync.

This problem is probably so common that I’ll give it a name: “Playlist Frustration Syndrome” (PFS).  The main symptom is awkward pauses as your desktop computer unsuccessfully tries to play music you bought while using your laptop.  Other symptoms include PC Rage, spontaneous swearing, manual copying and, lastly, disillusionment with the whole concept of multimedia convergence.

Fear not Windows Live Sync (formerly Foldershare) is the cure for this and other ills.  I haven’t explored those other Ills so won’t comment on them in this post.

Windows Live Sync supports 2 types of sharing: for keeping folders on a LAN in sync use the “create personal folders” option.  The personal folder option provides a way to map folder A on computer A with any other computer + folder combination.

In my case, for music this means mapping:

DESKTOP\music to LAPTOP\music

Since it uses Peer-to-Peer networking no information needs to be sent over the internet in this scenario.

They even wisely used Universal Plug-and-Play so if you have a router that supports it (and it’s turned on) then any firewall settings are automatically taken care.

This was definitely a smart acquisition on Microsoft’s part.

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