Virtualise your life - mixing mobility and cloudivity

Summary:OK, so maybe "cloudivity" isn't really a word, but it sounds good, doesn't it?I've covered how you can work anywhere using online office suites, and weighing the benefits between cloud and mobile computing.

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OK, so maybe "cloudivity" isn't really a word, but it sounds good, doesn't it?

I've covered how you can work anywhere using online office suites, and weighing the benefits between cloud and mobile computing. Last night I had a dream; to cut a long story short, whilst I was waking up, a chain reaction of thought processes kicked off. I could almost feel the neurones in my mind firing off signals to each other.

Why can't you mix both worlds - mobile computing to cloud computing, enabling you to work anywhere and therefore everywhere?


 Image Gallery: See how to mobilise and virtualise an entire hard drive, enabling you to work anywhere and do anything.  
Image Gallery: Setting up mixed cloud and mobile computing
 
Image Gallery: Virtualisation and mobilisation
 

By mixing mobile computing to enable access everywhere, utilising whatever Internet connection you can around (preferably 3G of some sort or wi-fi), synchronising your entire hard drive using a cloud storage solution, which can then be synchronised with another machine or downloaded elsewhere - this opens up the idea of truly using your machine everywhere.

Using some jiggery-pokery with dynamic DNS settings, or using third-party tools to access your computer's remotely, it is easy nowadays to be a thousand miles away from your desk and still use your computer as if it was there in front of you. I'm aware of that, and use some of those resources myself to work away from the desk - but with Windows 7 supporting use of virtual hard drives (VHD), this opens up a potentially quite useful idea.

Windows 7 concept logo, courtesy of Long Zheng (nice chap)
We have heard for a while that VHD, the virtual hard drive used to virtualise entire operating systems with Microsoft Virtual PC, will be a feature in Windows 7, but until then the ability to move entire virtual machines around doesn't have to be a pain. Using two computers - one of them your primary computer, and say another one is a public computer at your University library. You can install all of your applications, move your documents, adjust your settings, onto a virtual machine and it is all contained within one single file - your virtual hard disk.
Diagram showing VHD synchronising across the cloud (Note: this image when clicked may not fit on your screen)

Your virtual hard drive needs an operating system for it, but it doesn't have to be Windows. If you're happier using Ubuntu, Linux, even Mac OS X if you can get it to work, use it! You can then synchronise this folder using many of the products out there - FolderShare, Groove, AllWaySync - but for me I've used Live Mesh because it was already on my machines.

Mesh works well because not only can you synchronise large files across a cloud, you can leave it there suspended within the cloud, allowing you to download when and where you like; consider it more of a "manual method" to move your virtual hard drive. The best thing about it is once you've done working on one machine and you save your state or simply turn off your virtual machine, it's still saved within that one file, which can then be synchronised behind the scenes back to your cloud. Once you get back to your primary computer, it's there waiting for you as you left it the last time you used it on that other machine.

Diagram showing VHD synchronising across the cloud with Windows 7 support (Note: this image when clicked may not fit on your screen)

Although Windows 7 probably doesn't support VHD yet (there is no evidence to show it working in the production environment, ie. no screenshots, even though it's been confirmed it will be supported), this will no doubt make life easier for those using this technique.

Some of you may think, "what's the point?" and quite rightly so. There isn't necessarily a point, but it's another way to work effectively. Even with remote access tools, doing all this without a cloud service and using a flash drive, mobile computing and cloud computing as separate entities, this is just another way to get work done wherever you may be.

I've created a photo gallery demonstration following step-by-step how this is done, feel free to check it out and comment on your thoughts and ideas, and constructive criticisms if you feel they're appropriate.

Topics: Mobility, CXO, Hardware, Microsoft, Networking, Operating Systems, Software, Virtualization, Wi-Fi, Windows

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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