I’m pretty fond of the offline files and folders feature in Windows, can’t say I’m terribly impressed how Microsoft makes such a feature only available in “Professional” versions, when such a huge proportion of home machines are laptops where people have a NAS or external drive that ideally they should be using to hold their precious files.

Both at home and at work I’ve configured SAMBA on a Linux desktop machine to export my home directory; at home our Windows 7 laptop has Pictures and Documents libraries on the server in $HOME/Pictures and$HOME/Documents, at work the clapped out Windows XP laptop does the same to the Linux box there. The Linux boxes run unison to synchronise files, so the copies are consistent between the two.

An added degree of complexity is that the pictures and documents folders are really $HOME/media/pics and$HOME/docs respectively, the Pictures and Documents folders are symbolic links to the real locations. This all came about because my folder structure in my home directory is old, terse and unixy and I’m happy with it.

All well and good… so far. Windows 7 doesn’t seem to have any problems, although sometimes its a little slow to synchronise, especially if I’ve worked on the files from the Linux side of the universe, and periodically I get a couple of hundred of the particularly useless Microsoft error message that:

The process cannot access the file because it is being accessed by another process

Of course there’s no bloody indication or identifying features of either process!

The real weirdness is the Windows XP system. Sometimes, and I cannot narrow it down to when or why, other than it has happened both on hibernation and on power-down, when the XP system shuts off it will delete the symbolic link \$HOME/Pictures from the server. Of course the next time it powers on it tries to re-establish the SMB share to \\blah\Pictures and can’t until I’ve realised and remade the link!

None of the software on either Windows system seems to have any problems with the offline folders, except Google Picasa, unfortunately, which is my image manager of choice. The developers seem to be stuck in a pre-Vista “My Documents” mindset and it didn’t seem to like Vista’s naming of folders or Windows 7’s concepts of Libraries. Some days I just cannot convince it to refresh its view of the folders and let me see photos that every other application on the machine can see.