Debugging SkyDrive for Windows 8

As instructors, we move from classroom to studio to office to home to classroom. Classroom images, presentations, notes, virtual hard drives and tools move with us. I love my solid-state jump drive, though connecting and disconnecting to retrieve files in progress (like research for this blog) creates unnecessary overhead. A virtual (Cloud) based solution is ideal when the file sizes are modest, or when the content needs to be shared.

In our increasingly mobile and security conscious environment, managing remote access to file servers can be problematic, or even disallowed. When an ethical hacking class runs next door, it is comforting to know that our subnets are isolated. Physical or software based reconfiguration to affect access through security layers afford data protection, though with added overhead.

Everyone is Internet connected. Content placement in the cloud can be affected through a variety of services. We use Box.Com to share educational content amongst instructors. A few of my consulting clients prefer DropBox and I configured it for my Android phone years ago.

SkyDrive is Microsoft’s virtual storage solution. Embedded in Windows 8 (well, almost…more on that later). I don’t really need to manage my files in three locations (or with three different tools). I do need to be able to teach use of the tool. It is time to really put SkyDrive through its paces.

First, read the manual. SkyDrive provides 7GB of free Cloud storage that’s upgradable for a small fee. You do need a Microsoft email account, which is essential for many Windows 8 applications. SkyDrive is integrated into Windows 8 with a default Metro (start screen) tile SkyDrive: Any file, anywhere. Desktop applications are available for Windows 7, Win 8, Mac OS X, and selected mobile (Windows phone, IOS, and Android) platforms Download SkyDrive.

That’s enough, let’s open my Windows 8 PC and try it. Boot the laptop. Login. Click the SkyDrive tile. See the Sky Drive logo. Oops… solid white screen. What did I miss?

A little more research.

On A Windows 8 PC, you need to go to the Charms menu (right hot corners) > PC Settings > Users and set your account for synchronization with a Microsoft account for the SkyDrive metro tile to work. Did that long ago. You also need to go into Charms menu > PC Settings > Sync Your Settings > Passwords and make sure your PC is trusted to synchronize the accounts in the background automatically. To complete trusting your PC the easiest approach is to use the automated process that sends a text message to your mobile phone, and use the code received to activate PC trust. I have been using Windows 8 for a year and don’t remember anything else requiring these steps?

Still the white screen. Let’s check the system requirements for Sky Drive. Good to know. With Windows 8 I have all of that. Additional homework reveals that the SkyDrive white screen is a somewhat common issue. To save you from hunting through multiple sources:

An MSN technical overview Windows 8 and SkyDrive revealed one source of the problem as being Internet Explorer settings. Didn’t seem to fit since I was trying the Start tile. Followed the link to reset Internet Explorer Settings for SkyDrive anyway. Didn’t solve the problem, but told me that SkyDrive on Windows 8 might be more complicated than initially suggested.

Found a nice (and short!) intro video from Dell Support about working with SkyDrive that convinced me to continue pursuit. The features look intuitive once I get SkyDrive working. Learned a bit more by reading through Dell support dialogs. Largest file size upload/download for the Metro App is 300 MB, though you can download the Desktop app for Windows 8, increasing the file size limit to 2 GB. The Desktop app, with integration into Windows Explorer is not installed into Windows 8 by default. You need to download it. When you attempt to Download SkyDrive the web page automatically identifies your operating system. Not ready to do the Windows 8 desktop download yet. I want to get the tile working independently if possible, after all it is supposed to be seamlessly integrated.

Let’s try it on my Windows 7 (64-bit Enterprise) PC. Launched the SkyDrive site, which sensed my Windows 7 system. Downloaded the App and ran the installer. The installation process informed me,

“Once you have a free SkyDrive account, you can also install the free SkyDrive desktop app and automatically sync your files across your computers … Downloading the app means you agree to the Microsoft service agreement and privacy statement. This software might also download and install its updates automatically. “

Windows 8 never informed me that I might need a SkyDrive account in addition to my Microsoft email account. Oh well, back to the Windows 7 system. Signed in to SkyDrive with my Microsoft account (Live or other Microsoft based accounts). Accepted the short online tutorial and … voila …

Debugging SkyDrive for Windows 8

Accepted all the defaults for Desktop installation, effectively pointing to my /users/<ID>/Sky Drive folder and authorizing synchronization of all content under the folder structure with my working system.

The system then launched into Windows Explorer, with SkyDrive as the current folder.

Created the template for this blog and uploaded it.

Windows Explorer SkyDrive for Windows 8

Placed the file under the Documents folder.

Then checked out the SkyDrive web location. Skydrive.Live.Com.

SkyDrive web location SkyDrive for Windows 8

 

SkyDrive web location SkyDrive for Windows 8

Logged in, to discover that both my Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems are recognized, even though I have only the white screen in Windows 8. The uploaded document is present. (It looks just like this blog when I double click on it…nice.)

Hmmm.

Download SkyDrive on my Mac27. Seamless install.

SkyDrive on Mac SkyDrive for Windows 8

And seamless integration.

So far, it works on Windows 7, in the Cloud, and on MacOS X.

Back to Windows 8.

Installed the SkyDrive Desktop application for Windows 8. Remember, the tile is present by default, but the desktop application is not. The installation prompted a reboot. Which prompted the installation of 2 Windows Updates (security patches). Not sure they were related, but rebooted one more time anyway.

Now both the desktop application (looking identical to the Windows Explorer interface experienced on Windows 7), and the tile work.\

Not so intuitive, but truly seamless across platforms once working. Now that I have it in place, I might actually use it… and will let you know how it works in future blogs.

Stay tuned…

Enjoy!
Steven Fullmer
Interface Technical Training Staff Instructor

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