I use more than one computer

I use more than one computer, and quite a bit. I use three regularly, and two or three more on occasion.

But this seems to be a surprise to many programs.

I want to carry certain things with me from machine to machine, access them from anywhere, and have changes propogate across.

Things such as:

  • Bookmarks
  • newsrc files (to mark which Usenet articles are read)
  • mail (solved with my OfflineIMAP program)
  • A small set of files
  • Contacts
  • Calendar/scheduler (appointments)

Now, MacOS X seems to do some of this with their for-pay mac.com service. But I wonder why so few other apps do this out of the box?

The newsrc question is a particularly difficult one to crack, it seems. There are various schemes for synchronizing bookmarks, but none seem to work reliably.


6 thoughts on “I use more than one computer

    1. Thanks for the note on the Google Bookmark Sync. It looks interesting, but I am hesitant to entrust bookmarks and passwords to any third party, even if it is google. That, plus it is not Free Software.

      I do use Unison to synchronize some of my files, which works OK. However, it works poorly for bookmarks with both Firefox and Konqueror. Firefox only saves bookmarks when you exit it, and it keeps track of the last visited date. So it is entirely possible to have conflicting bookmarks files and to lose bookmarks by using a naive file sync.

  1. I have two computers I want to keep almost completely synchronized. I use unison[1] for that, two-way sync via ssh for all the files; it will notice which files were changed and only require user input if the same file was edited on both PCs. It takes a little setup (mostly finding out which files are often changed on both systems, but don’t really need to be the same), and requires a little thought while using some programs, but in all seems to work very well. It can also sync more than two PCs, but that complicates the setup a bit.

    There’s also a Project that aims to offer all sorts of synchronization between various sources for GNOME called Conduit [2], currently it mostly does one-way sync between desktop applications and web apps, but I could see this becoming a great program.

    [1] http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/unison/
    [2] http://www.conduit-project.org/

  2. Rumour has it that the next MacOS X will have a portable identity feature. I’m not sure exactly what that means. At the least I think it means you could have some of your personal config files on an iPod and move it cleanly from machine to machine.

  3. One of the problems with having a synched home dir is that sometimes you want different configurations for different computers, and having more than one login accessing ~/ can really confuse things like firefox’s locking mechanism. I’m currently thinking that unionfs might be a nice place to start from on a transparent solution. I’m not sure how to push out only appropriate changes though, and there’s probably other problems hiding in the darkness of uncertainty.

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