my desktop and laptop
My unplug-and-bolt email solution. I almost have a decent solution to my Outlook email/multiple computer issues. In order to have my mail on my desktop when I was at my desk and on my laptop when I was away—and offline—I had been copying my oulook.pst file (currently at about 100MB—not counting the archive.pst) back and forth from one machine to the other. Obviously, this is a little tedious and presents potential complications (e.g., send and receive before copying back the latest version, and you have synching issues—or worse, accidentally copy the wrong direction, as I'd come close to doing a few times). Other solutions I'd considered were running an Exchange server, which offers additional advantages (Outlook Web Access), but was more overhead than I wanted. (Yet another complicated server application to maintain and/or pay for? No thanks.) Or using IMAP, which my hosted mail server already supports. But I hadn't liked IMAP with Outlook when I tried it before. (I don't remember why, exactly.) And both of these options still require a wait-and-synch step between switches—essentially the same step as copying the oulook.pst back and forth, though perhaps more efficient and less error prone.

Anyway, I discovered that in Outlook XP (and probably 2000, I don't remember), you can change the location of your data file. So, I just pointed Outlook on my desktop to an outlook.pst file on my laptop and, voila! I'm working off the same file. When it's time to go, I just unplug my laptop and bolt. A seemingly obvious solution that it took me too long to figure out—and which makes it much easier to get stuff done without having to be tied to my desk on a lovely day like today. A good thing, since I basically bought this tiny machine for that purpose. Perhaps I'll finally get that 802.11b card for it now, too.

However, it's not perfect yet. Now Outlook on my desktop is a little slow. Tolerable, but a bit too much network lag for comfort. I'm hoping that will go away if I upgrade my internal network from 10BT to 100. (Darn, I think I sold an extra 100MB hub and PCMCIA card at my sale the other day.)

Here's another little note for you kids who want to try this at home: Annoyingly, Outlook's rules (i.e., filters) seem to hard code the location of your data file. So, if you say put junk mail in your Deleted folder, that rule won't work on another machine if the data file is in another place. So, on the laptop, instead of just using, say, c:\Documents and Settings\...\outlook.pst for my data file, I actually created a local map to it as o:\outlook\outlook.pst—the same as on my desktop. Thus, the path is the same on both machines, and the rules work.