Abstract Factory Blog

In Production, Your Personal Computer is not Personal

13 Aug 2013

This post was inspired by an event that occurred today while working at Glassworks London. Consider it a true story.

You’re new and sit down in front of you assigned computer. You start setting things up the way you like. Then it comes.

"We need to move you to another computer"

I’ve seen a few ways in which this has been solved and a few ways in which it hasn’t. The most elegant of those have all strangely been on Linux. I suppose Windows is less customisable in the following proposed solution.

The naive solution to keeping your personal computer non-personal – meaning you can move around freely, having your digital personal belongings follow you around – would be to simply store it all “in the cloud”. Could you?

Yes you could. *Pat on back*

Personal assets are more centralised than you might think they are. Right now, I’m sure you’ve got personal belongings spread out all over the place. (think Desktop, C:\ root) In fact, take a second to think about if there was a flood. Your computer has less than 2 minutes left to live. You don’t have time to pry open your computer to retrieve your shiny new SSD disk. Best you can do is put the closest things on your usb stick and flee.

This is inefficient. And you can do better.

In fact, this system relies on it. If all of your personal belongings were to instead be stored in one central location, then it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch to simply put that someplace else and re-direct your My Documents or Home folder to that location. So that whenever an application saves user profile data, it would look that folder up and simply store it wherever it pointed to.

That solves quite a few problems. Not only can you quickly and reliably make a copy of your personal belongings before you reinstall your machine, but you can also rest assured that your settings and files would stick with you, regardless of what machine you log into.