For the past semester, I have been using Live Mesh, which is Microsoft’s entry into cloud computing . Cloud computing is web-based computing, or using the web for everything that you normally do on your desktop or laptop. So, instead of using Microsoft Word, you might write documents with Google Documents , the free online word processing programming. Cloud computing also lets you do away with hardware-based data storage: instead of saving documents to a flash drive or DVD, you simply store them online. The big idea of cloud computing is that we will eventually spend one-hundred percent of our computing time on the web. For schools, this could mean a lot less money spent on software: who needs Microsoft Office when you can do everything with Google online applications?

As I wrote earlier this year, Live Mesh is a folder syncing program that automatically backs up your work to a “live desktop” in the cloud (online). You can also sync folders on a range of machines: Live Mesh will keep everything up-to-date automatically. No need to worry about which files are backed-up on which machine. Live Mesh also lets you access all of your machines remotely, so I can use my work desktop from the comfort of home.

It’s all great in theory. But Live Mesh is currently in beta, and it suffers from bugs, bugs, and more bugs. With every update of the software, I spend at least a week troubleshooting to resurrect the software. Live Mesh does have a forum for discussing problems as well as an official site for submitting bug reports, but their support is torpid and unhelpful.

Still, the idea of cloud computing is so persuasive that I keep at it with Live Mesh. A couple of weeks ago, when Live Mesh was still working, I used it to edit videos from home and to grab files whenever I needed them. On one morning, I forgot a handout for my English 311 class. Instead of traipsing way back to my office, I went online, accessed my Live Desktop, downloaded the file, and used the classroom data projector to show the handout. That’s cloud computing at its best.

And that’s the way Live Mesh is supposed to work . . .