Offline Files Beta Chat Transcript (July 20, 2006)

Chat Topic: Live Chat on Offine Files
Date: Thursday, July 20, 2006


Wendy [MSFT] (Moderator):
Welcome to today’s chat with the Windows Core File Services Team on Offline Files.  We will try to answer as many questions as we can today. Participants should type their questions, select the “Ask the experts” check box, and click “Send.” Those posts will go into a private queue, from which our experts will draft answers and repost questions in the upper window with their answers. (To confirm: if you selected the “Ask the experts” check box when you posted, you don’t need to resubmit.             

 

At this time, I’ll let the experts introduce themselves.


Wendy [MSFT] (Moderator):
Howdy all!  My name is Wendy and I’ll be your host today.  Emergency exits are located at the rear and over the wings.  Let’s see some questions!

Navjot [MSFT] (Expert):
Hi! I am Navjot Virk. I am the Program Manager in the Remote File Systems team. I specifically work on Offline Files, SMB and WebDAV redirector.

Brian Aust [MSFT] (Expert):
My name is Brian Aust.

 

I am a development lead for Offline Files.  I have been involved with the feature since its inception in Windows 2000.  In Vista I am responsible for the Offline Files service, public API, and all user interface elements including integration with the Windows Shell.


Shubhankar [MSFT] (Expert):
My name is Shubhankar. I am a tester with the offline files team.

Matt [MSFT] (Expert):
Hi, I’m Matt.  I am a Software Development Engineer in Test for the Offline Files team.

Patrick Elliott [MS] (Expert):
Hi, I’m Patrick Elliott — I’m sure most of you all know me already   — I am on the Windows Beta Triage team — and I’m here today to learn and ask questions myself

Offlines Files[MSFT] (Expert):
Hi, we’ll have members of the Offline Files team using this laptop because we’re having some connection problems with a few laptops :-)

Navjot [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Why there is reliability problem with offline folders?
A: Could you be a little more specific? What exact problems are you seeing?

Navjot [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Are machine-based certs still used for EFS encryption?
A: Offline Files in Vista use the local certificate of the user to encrypt the offline files cache.

Brian Aust [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: ” The user is working in offline mode when they are not connected to the  server and all file requests are satisfied from the Offline Files cache.” So, if the files are in a “cache” then aren’t the files local, hidden in the  temporary files area?
A: Yes, copies of the remote files are stored (cached) on a local volume.  By default, this is under the %systemroot%csc directory.  Access to that directory is restricted to LocalSystem.  The files are accessed directly only by the Offline Files (CSC) driver.   Applications issue normal remote file system requests through Windows.  The CSC driver is integrated with the SMB redirector to intercept those READ/WRITE requests and service them from the local cache. 

Wendy [MSFT] (Moderator):
For those just joining us, today’s chat is about Offline files.  To post a question, please type your question, select the “Ask the experts” check box, and click “Send.”

Shubhankar [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Would new online folders work when computer is used by several users (different user accounts)?
A: Yes they would. If your offline cached files are encrypted though, there could be issues with using the same offline files while offline. This is due to the files being encrypted in a particular user’s context


Offlines Files[MSFT] (Expert):
Q: What *are* offline files?
A: Offline Files is a feature of Windows Vista that enables access to files on

an SMB server even when the client is not connected to the server. Offline

Files was first introduced in Windows 2000 and then revised in Windows XP.

Offline Files in Windows Vista has been completely redesigned based on the

feedback we received from our customers. Offline Files in Windows Vista has

many new features, such as seamless transitions and better synchronization,

both of which I’ll describe below.

 

We have more details on its benefits at

<https://blogs.technet.com/filecab/archive/2006/07/11/441131.aspx>. Plus, take

a look at the Offline Files LiveMeeting at

<http://connect.microsoft.com/windows/Downloads/DownloadDetails.aspx?DownloadID=1857>

 

Brian Aust [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: I haven’t had much success getting offline files to work consistently with previous buildss, what improvements have been made in the recent builds?
A: As with any release, the feature is improving with every week.  Can you be more specific in describing the problems you have encountered?  Please post as another question and I’ll pick it up.

Wendy [MSFT] (Moderator):
Q: Can someone summarize the changes between XP Pro and Vista and Longhorn regarding this feature?
A: Can you be more specific in what you’re looking for?

Shubhankar [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: A common pronlem with offline is when a computer domain member change, the offline cant be access – is the new Offline folder would address this issue?
A: If you mean the computer changing domains, this shouldn’t be an issue with offline files. You might however have to reenter your credentials to the shares made available offline in the previous domain, to gain access to those files again

Navjot [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: In reading some documentation today, I read that offline files FOR VISTA are always READ locally, and then lazy written to the server (if available.) However, isn’t that a server-side setting (which goes back as far as 2000) which dictates the client?
A: Where did you read this documentation? This is not correct. Whether Offline Files will cache files from a share is a server side setting, share on the server can be set for “manual caching”, “auto caching” or “no caching”. By default on Windows servers the share is set for “manual caching”. manual caching means that only files you specify on the client will be cached. Auto caching means that any file that client accesses will be cached and “no caching” means that files will not be cached.

 

On Vista, if a file is cached then when working online Offline Files will try to staisfy all read requests from the cache. The write requests will still flow to the server. While offline all read/write requests are satisfied from the offline files cache.

Brian Aust [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Not really a question.. just a 4th request from an MVP (me) with a feature request: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider having an icon change when files are set to be offline. The little clock icon is great — for those files which are ghosted. …
A: CSC has always presented an icon overlay when an item is “pinned” (always available offline) in the CSC cache.  That’s the overlay with the two blue arrows.  We do not display an overlay for items that are cached but not pinned.  Are you requesting an overlay for that scenario as well?  Note that in Vista the shell displays the item’s “offline status” and “offline availability” in the preview pane and as item properties.  The availability property will indicate if the item is not available offline, available offline or always avaialble offline (pinned).

 

Let  me know if that does not answer your question. 

 

Note that we are currently working through issues with the “ghost” overlay and trying to come up with a solution that is effective for HSM, CSC, an DFSR ghosts.

Offlines Files[MSFT] (Expert):
Q: SO maybe we could get and or test a tool for Vista and or Longhorn to test the offline files are “good” or would the Syncronize folders have this option?
A: For Vista, Offline Files will be able to display properties directly in the Explorer window.  This means that, for example, you will be able to see at-a-glance whether or not your Offline Files have any unsynchronized changes, whether or not there are any conflicts, etc…  Does this answer your question?

Shubhankar [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: …and arrows for “always available offline”. But you’re missing the fundimental piece: icons for files which *ARE* available offline. PLEASE PLEASE consider this for final vista! (I’m begging here!)
A: Have you tried adding the explorer columns, “offline availability” and “offline status”?

Sriram [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Is there a test server where those of us that do not have a resident file server can take files offline and run the scenarios etc.
A: You don’t need server operating system to test offline files. You can try this against any client OS too.

Navjot [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Could I ask whether there is a simple way yet to delete old stale offline files? I have had particular issues, when the user no longer has permissions to a certain folder, who then receives erros every time they synchronise (every log off in this case)
A: Admin can delete Offline Files that the user has lost access to by going to the Offline Files control panel applet and clicking on View Your Offline Files. In this viewer you can right click on a file and delete it from the cache.

Offlines Files[MSFT] (Expert):
Q: If I have a large PST in the 4GB range, and I change a large portion of that file; say ~1GB of Junk Mail or Sent items. – With the differencing technology in the Offline folder sync only send 1B & not whole file ? – Would a 1GB deletion send nothing ?
A: Only the modified 1GB of the file would be sent back to the server in this case.  Delete operations don’t need to contain any additional data other than the file to delete, so they’re very small.

Navjot [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: – do you have a problem working with offline Files  with wireless laptops
A: No, there are no issues when using offline files on wireless laptops. offline files is a very useful functionality for mobile laptop users.

Shubhankar [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: I see offline files as a security risk, unless the CSC driver is extremely secure ….
A: We do provide the option to encrypt your offline files. Could you elaborate on your concern about security?

Offlines Files[MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Can the “home” for offline files be another P2P machine, e.g. WXP, on the ‘Home” network (as ssems to be the current slang)?
A: The cached files must be located on the system volume of the client machine that is doing the caching.  They can’t be located on, for example, another machine, a removable drive like a firewire drive or keychain drive.

Sriram [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: The CSC driver, does it allow for other computers to access the offline files cache on another system?
A: Files in cache are local to the machine and cannot be access from other system. But that said as the files are on local file system, you can “access” them if you have access to it. Does this answer your question?

Navjot [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Can the “home” for offline files be another P2P machine, e.g. WXP, on the ‘Home” network (as ssems to be the current slang)?
A: No, the Offline Files cache needs to live on the machine. You cannot redirect the cache to another machine.

Brian Aust [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Brian: Yes.. You nailed it. I want an icon change (single arrow?) when my file is “temporarily available offline”. SOmething.. anything !
A: There are a couple of problems with that.  First, it is difficult to come up with suitable images that represent the concepts.  It’s important to identify “always available offline” so we’d need two overlays.  We can’t use color to differentiate as that is an accessibilty problem.  Also, the shell’s icon overlay manager does not allow an overlay extension to say “display THIS overlay image”.  It only supports an extension to say “show MY overlay” image.  Therefore, to display two images (one for each state), we would need to register two overlay extensions and each would need to query the CSC cache for the state of that item.  That would effectively double our perf cost on opening a shell folder.  Ideally the overlay extension mechanism would allow us to specify the overlay image but it doesn’t work that way today.

 

Another consideration is that the most common CSC scenario is the redirected folder case where all items are under a cached folder are pinned and receive the “pinned” overlay.

Offlines Files[MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Is there any known issues sync’ing files back to a Windows 2000-style (not R2-style) DFS?
A: Nope.  No problems.  And as a tester of the feature, I can assure you that this is part of our standard test matrix.  I myself have redirected documents here at MS which are backed by a Win2K DFS setup.

Shubhankar [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Will there be a “cachmov.exe” equivilant for Vista? If so, in what form?
A: There probably won’t be that executable. However there will be scripts telling you how to do it, as well as a KB article


Shubhankar [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Does “previous versions” work with offline files … ? (I’m sure it does.. but haven’t tested it.)
A: It should work with “previous versions”, while online

Brian Aust [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Does “previous versions” work with offline files … ? (I’m sure it does.. but haven’t tested it.)
A: No.  CSC does not currently integrate with the Volume Shadow Service. 

Navjot [MSFT] (Expert):
Q: Rob: So for Dave Stafford questons answer a 1 Gig delete of info from within a 4Gig file would sent 1 Gig over the wire
A: If the modific