Microsoft talks about merging SkyDrive programming in Windows 8.1

With the launch of Windows 8.1 now just a couple of days away for Windows 8 users, Microsoft will also debut a new version of its SkyDrive app for the operating system. In a blog post today, Microsoft SkyDrive team member Adam Czeisler goes over the lessons the team has learned from previous versions of SkyDrive.

The blog post notes that Microsoft has released SkyDrive apps for a number of platforms, which Czeisler says all use a "stateless JSON API in a design pattern." There are also separate SkyDrive sync clients released for Windows Vista, 7, and 8 as well as Mac OS X which he says use a "proprietary sync protocol directly with a lower layer of the SkyDrive service stack." Czeisler adds that the SkyDrive apps have a small file size but can't be used offline and their performance is limited by the speed of the network. The sync clients have the exact opposite advantages and issues. They can work offline and their performance is based on the devices that they are installed on, but browsing files on SkyDrive with the sync clients also means they have to be downloaded to the device.

The SkyDrive and Windows teams tried to come up with a solution for Windows 8.1 that would have the advantages of both the apps and sync clients. The solution is something Microsoft calls "smart files." Czeisler provided the following description of the change:

Smart files are files that contain only metadata and no “body”. In addition they have a special behavior where applications or components on the system can register to be the provider for the contents of the file and when a caller reads the body of the file via certain APIs, these providers are invoked to satisfy this request. By hooking the SkyDrive sync engine into this pipeline as a provider for files in the SkyDrive namespace, we could seamlessly provide access to data stored in the service without forcing all the data to exist on the device before accessing it.

This solution allows the Windows 8.1 version of the SkyDrive app to reduce the amount of storage space it needs on a device while also allowing both offline and online use. In addition, the SkyDrive app was rebuilt atop the Windows Shell APIs, which allowed it to link its performance to either the network or the local device, depending on if any SkyDrive files were actually downloaded.

The blog also goes over some other new SkyDrive Windows 8.1 features, such as being able to view stat numbers when SkyDrive files are downloaded to the desktop, such as file percent complete, throughput and remaining bytes. Also a new Windows component called Change Tracker offers better monitoring of changes in the file system.

In addition, the Photos app and the SkyDrive app in Windows 8.1 now use nearly all of the same source code and binaries, which will allow, among other things, for users to move, rename or edit photos in SkyDrive from the Photos app.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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31 Comments

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DawnUnder2002 said,
Has anyone found that the SkyDrive sync host engine uses quite a bit of cpu? Seems to be around 35-40% of cpu usage all the time?

8.1 or a previous version?

In the past I have seen 'unresolved' files create a situation like this. Move the contents folder by folder and let SkyDrive complete the Sync, then put each the folder back.

Once you isolate the folder creating this problem, see what is abnormal in that folder.

Things that I have seen create this are odd metadata files, incorrect characters in a filename, etc.

In Win7/Win8 there are a couple of Windows Updates that don't get applied that can also create this problem. Usually they are the common problems where 'system' files have been moved, that creates a load with the shadow copy services. Running a SFC to correct the system will let the update apply and stop the overload of the repeated shadow copy calls.

Definitely love the new 'smart files' and baked in integration. I hope they add a syncing progress bar somewhere though! :-)

It's a welcome change, especially given I'm starved for space on my laptop. I like the ability to be able to toggle whether files are stored locally or online only - less used folders stay online.
The Metro SkyDrive app FINALLY opens the file directly from the local SkyDrive folder, instead of making a temporary copy of the file inside an app's temp storage.
I had issues with the SkyDrive app on 8 taking bloody ages to sync new updated files, or not syncing at all. However SkyDrive really needs version control like Dropbox before I'm fully comfortable with letting all my critical documents rest in my SkyDrive folder.

Since SkyDrive can't be included with File History in 8.1, I'll have to manually sync files to a backup drive as a workaround (which would mean the machine doing the syncing ends up with all files downloaded).

Edited by Denis W., Oct 15 2013, 9:13pm :

Denis W said,
It's a welcome change, especially given I'm starved for space on my laptop. I like the ability to be able to toggle whether files are stored locally or online only - less used folders stay online.
The Metro SkyDrive app FINALLY opens the file directly from the local SkyDrive folder, instead of making a temporary copy of the file inside an app's temp storage.
I had issues with the SkyDrive app on 8 taking bloody ages to sync new updated files, or not syncing at all. However SkyDrive really needs version control like Dropbox before I'm fully comfortable with letting all my critical documents rest in my SkyDrive folder.

Since SkyDrive can't be included with File History in 8.1, I'll have to manually sync files to a backup drive as a workaround (which would mean the machine doing the syncing ends up with all files downloaded).

1) You should always maintain a local full backup on a PC or device with ample storage.
2) It should be obvious to maintain a local copy that you must download all the files from SkyDrive.
3) SkyDrive offers versioning for standard document files.

The SkyDrive 'sync' technology is built from/based on Microsoft Offline file technology, which has been syncing corporate critical documents for 15 years and not only handles file version issues, but also content merging of file changes.

At worst if multiple offline updates are made to any file, you are going to get two copies of it in your SkyDrive folder with one having the originating device name appended to it.

With DropBox I have less 'faith', by having lost 'versions/content' on Dropbox managing just a few hundred files. SkyDrive has yet to screw up or lose a file and it is managing over 500,000 in my account for almost 2 years that are synced across 15 PCs and devices.

Edited by Mobius Enigma, Oct 16 2013, 6:17am :

That is true; I restored a backup of my disk which was 3 months old, and Dropbox freaked out thinking I deleted all files changed since I took that backup and when I restored the backup. -_- I was able to undelete all the files in question, but still an annoyance.

About the backup, I do occasionally run image backups in addition to File History. But it's nice to have a second source for restoring SkyDrive files in case I mess something up.

Can i actually uninstall the skydrive Program that i have installed now? i think it is still installed from windows 8 - but i am not sure. it is listed in remove programs with version 17.05xxx

If you are talking about the one from Windows Live Essentials, you can. I actually installed it in Win 8.1 so I could get the tray icon back in.

pratnala said,
It doesn't show the tray icon even if you install SkyDrive manually. (in windows 8.1)

I know. That's why I am wondering if I could simply uninstall it

Yeah, when I installed it on my laptop, it told me an update was available and then just disappeared but a few days later, I noticed it was back. Not sure what I did to get it back. But now that I updated my Desktop to 8.1 and installed SkyDrive from Live Essentials the same way, it's not showing up.

Spicoli said,
Has anyone written a Unix client for it? That's the big advantage Dropbox has right now.

Ya, it is called an HTML interface, accessible via your browser...

Really, Unix support? Maybe you can petition to get it POSIX compliant too.

Mobius Enigma said,

Ya, it is called an HTML interface, accessible via your browser...

Really, Unix support? Maybe you can petition to get it POSIX compliant too.


Unix support would be great. Would make it even more cross-platform than it is. And an HTML interface is not Unix support, on Unix one would want to mount it as a user-space filesystem.

Skydrive in the 8.1 preview is superb, the best cloud solution I've seen so far. Too bad they are forced to change its name. This great service deserves a great name.

-adrian- said,
I heard someone saying microsoft will just by BskyB

That seems unlikely, as BSKyB is a massive company with over 22,000 employees, a net income of £1.2bn ($1.9bn) and shares valued at nearly £14bn ($22.4bn).

theyarecomingforyou said,

That seems unlikely, as BSKyB is a massive company with over 22,000 employees, a net income of £1.2bn ($1.9bn) and shares valued at nearly £14bn ($22.4bn).

whooooosh

theyarecomingforyou said,
Is there any news on when SkyDrive will be renamed and what that name will be?
Probably like Microsoft Drive (like Microsoft Account)

I have a feeling they probably settled that issue. They've been using the SkyDrive name quite a bit lately. If that's the case, I'm glad

j2006 said,
I have a feeling they probably settled that issue. They've been using the SkyDrive name quite a bit lately. If that's the case, I'm glad

The issue was settled a couples of months ago, with Microsoft agreeing to rebrand SkyDrive worldwide. However, the agreement allows Microsoft to continue using the brand "for a reasonable period of time to allow for an orderly transition to a new brand." Nothing has been announced to suggest otherwise.

theyarecomingforyou said,

That seems unlikely, as BSKyB is a massive company with over 22,000 employees, a net income of £1.2bn ($1.9bn) and shares valued at nearly £14bn ($22.4bn).


With a net income a year the value of that entire company...

Shadowzz said,
With a net income a year the value of that entire company...

That's a lot of pay just for the SkyDrive name, especially when BSkyB doesn't align with Microsoft's business strategy.