I just got a laptop, so now I have the hell of synchronizing multiple machines. Yes, 20 years after the Network is the Computer I still can't transparently get from anywhere to my data and software. Google Browser Sync is one tool to solve this problem. It syncs up your Firefox settings, cookies, passwords, etc to a Google server. No matter where you launch Firefox it will sync your data, in theory giving you transparent access to browser state.

It mostly works, but it's got rough edges. Syncing is transparent and effective although I have mysteriously lost a couple of cookies. It syncs most of the data you care about except extensions and toolbar layout. Data is encrypted on the client, an essential feature. It's kind of ugly: the browser button is too big and it pops up annoying alerts if you run simultaneously on two machines.

But there's one crippling flaw; it adds about five seconds of startup time everytime you launch Firefox. They must be getting a lot of complaint because it says right on the download page "we're working on it". Seems simple enough to fix, just don't sync every time.

What I find most interesting about this is if you squint, Google Browser Sync looks a whole lot like another piece of Microsoft's Passport/Hailstorm vision. I have no idea what Google's planning in this area, but it seems obvious to me that people want to centralize a lot of personal data. Google's proven they can build products that scale and I'd trust them with my data more than any other company. More like this please!

A couple of days after I put this on my weblog, Google fixed the startup time problem.
  2006-08-02 20:21 Z