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Microsoft Munges Mesh

09-Jul-10 01:57 am EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

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icrosoft released the latest update to its Live Essentials suite of software (which includes, among other titles, the very popular Live Messenger instant messaging tool and Live Writer, which I use to write this blog) a few weeks ago, advertising a number of new features, tighter integration with Office and much, much more. I’ve been using the new tools since shortly after their release and have really only one serious complaint: they’re sort of screwing you as they retire their old Live Mesh prototype technology to centralize data synchronization services with the new Windows Live Sync technology.  How?  Well with Mesh, you got 5.0 GB of online storage.  For some reason, Microsoft decided it was being too generous and dialled that back to only 2.0 GB — which in itself would be annoying.  Now imagine, on top of that, you had used, say, 2.6 GB worth of storage during the 2-year long Mesh trials (as did yours truly).  Yes it now seems I’ve already filled my entire storage allotment with my crazy desire to transfer files from one service to another.

And, unfortunately, that’s not the end of the frustrations one faces with the new Live Sync service.  One has to uninstall Mesh completely from any devices used with the service prior to switching over to Live Sync — the two aren’t compatible.  Of course, unless you’re willing/able to find the appropriate link offering forewarning (and it’s at the bottom of the page, hidden under a JavaScript link you need to click for the warning to become visible), you don’t find out about this rather serious restriction until the end of the Live Sync install process when a pleasant little dialogue appears informing you that you’re effectively shafted by new online storage restrictions.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking — relax, it’s a free service!  True that; although that won’t stop a whole bunch of us freeloaders from whining about our being inconvenienced and it further embeds that nasty little feeling of being screwed (again) by the software giant that seems to never quite get the hint such things are a really, really bad idea.  It’s kind of an unwritten law of dong upgrades that you need to support what came before, and the Live Mesh/Sync migration path has way to many landmines to garner anything but user apathy.  In my own life, synching with devices is a “nice to have” at the moment because Mesh failed miserably in its attempts to synch with my cell phone (despite it running the Windows Mobile OS – Live Sync is untested on that score).  But its exactly in this space Microsoft wants to add appeal and, perhaps that fact coupled with hand-helds requiring less storage in general is what led to the 2.0 GB storage limit decision.  Yet it’s patently obvious that if you have “Sync”, you need to be able to “Sync” with something — like a PC.  So keeping storage at the 5.0 GB level seems a no-brainer, particularly given how little storage space costs in general these days.

A footnote here under the subheading “minor annoyances”.  What happened to the great emoticons that were offered with Live Messenger?  These have been downgraded to a terribly-rendered joke in and of themselves!   To illustrate the point a little further, let me do a quick “before-and-after” comparison:

Emoticon series in Live Messenger 14.x:
Emoticon series in Live Messenger 15.3.2804.607:

 

And one ongoing (and to my mind rather lame) issue with Live Writer: support for tables.  Not exactly a big feature to integrate; I myself must have written routines to create HTML tables myself about 1000 times in my career already.  Yet somehow, adding a “merge cells” feature is apparently beyond the coding skills of the folks at Microsoft Live.   (Okay, well maybe not — having worked for Microsoft, I can vouch for the company employing pretty competent devs, but seriously: what gives with the tables?)

Of course, this is a beta release…not super early, mind you.  But unlike certain competitors of the software giant, Microsoft actually has products that leave the beta phase at some point and finalizes its releases (service packs and updates by the score afterward, notwithstanding).  It’s not clear how close Live Essentials is to that final release point, but there’s still hope that a few of the issues raised in this article can and will be addressed.

So keep your fingers crossed!

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Terry Glavin

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