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What do you think of Visual Studio Live Share for multi-user editing?

zspencer profile image Zee ・1 min read

Hello Dev.Tovians!

I'm looking into Visual Studio Live Share as a mechanism for doing some lower-latency remote pairing without requiring as much screen sharing. (which is slow!)

I'm curious what (if any) challenges you encountered while:

  • Setting it up
  • Granting access
  • Using it for extended periods of time
  • Adding new people/dropping people in the middle of the session

In the past, I've tried similar tools and the issues I've run into were:

  • "Oh no it stopped working but it was invisible"
  • "Wait, the test failed? Oh! They were running against the version that hadn't been updated yet!"
  • "Yeah, all the code isn't on your computer yet because we haven't opened them in the editor..."

My hope is that with Microsoft (who has traditionally been very good at dev tooling) throwing their weight behind a multi-user-code-editor it'll be a touch more consistently usable than the well-intentioned but underfunded hobby-projects I've used in the past.

Any experiences you can share or tips for a noobie getting started with it?

Discussion

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embiem profile image
Martin Beierling-Mutz

I've used it a handful of times and it's been amazing. Especially for projects that require a lot of setup, anyone joining your session can just use your setup and even use the terminal. Of course only if you allow it.

I can highly recommend it.

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zspencer profile image
Zee Author

Thanks Martin! I'm seeing enough enthusiasm to get me to get off my arse and try to make it work.

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Ben Halpern

I used it once and it went pretty well. Still not a natural habit when going over things remotely, but I could see it becoming one. It's only going to get smoother.

Compared with what can go wrong when screen sharing in terms of latency and awkwardness, live editor share is inherently way more viable.

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zspencer profile image
Zee Author

Yeah, I'm super optimistic now that the really hard problem of near-real-time consistency on home nodes has some $$$ behind it.

If I had to guess, they're approaching it more like how problems are solved with gaming, with a distributed event stream of micro-patches instead of schlepping the files back and forth like the implementations I'd seen previously.

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JoeSchr

I tried to use it with a remote server I had running on gcloud while being on a spotty train connection. In the end sadly it was working better to just share the screen via VNC accessing VScode on the server desktop directly. Fetching of files or even the directory was painfully slow.

But I have to say, that I was working on a very thin client (chromebook using crostini as well as crouton) and also my server may have been too weak to handle vscode + liveshare?

Nonetheless the result really suprised me.

Since then I stumble over coder.com which gives you vscode directly via your browser, which seems to work quit fast on my chromebook. Sadly they haven't support for docker yet, which is kind of my remote use case and KO criterium to be usefull for me, to be able to start my containers so I can work everywhere.

For now my go to remote solution is to just share my workstation via google remote desktop. I now get all the goodness from my chromebook (light, great battery, mobile) with the power of my workstation.

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Zee Author

That feels very similar to the use case I'm hoping for. I, personally, run a MBP 13" with a pile of RAM, but I often pair with people who are running low-end hardware. I've taken to spinning up a massive VM for an hour or two to make everything way faster.

I had not heard of Google Remote Desktop before, how does it do on battery life? I've found VNC really chews through the battery for me.

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JoeSchr

I found Google Remote Desktop to be quit fine on battery life? I really use it as an thin client, even stream my music and everything from the work station. Often I forget I'm not working really on that machine.

But maybe there is some special brew inside ChromeOS, so that it works that fine. All in all not bad for an ~200-300€ machine...

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zspencer profile image
Zee Author

I am very very tempted to try this! Thank you!

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Adrian B.G.

It failed me on Linux, but when it works is ok.

I would also have a plan B an online IDE like cloud9.

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Jonathan Carter

Do you recall what the issues were on Linux? We’ve addressed a bunch of issues over the last few months, so maybe we’ve resolved your initial problem? If not, I’d love to know what went wrong so we can look into resolving it 👍

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zspencer profile image
Zee Author

Agh, Linux is kind of important since I do most of my dev on a Linux box :(. Is it something where it's gotten better over time, or is it intermittently broken?

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Ben Sinclair

I've used share terminals (through things like tmux and screen) before. That works well with very little lag since you're sharing text updates, so if you're happy using terminal editors and tools, that could work?

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zspencer profile image
Zee Author

I use Tmux and Tmate pretty extensively, with ngrok for forwarding. The barrier to entry is pretty high; and then the level of customization that most people set in their CLI editors means it's difficult for random pair partners to hop in and start going.

I tend to run my vim as neutral as possible ( show line numbers, auto-indent, but that's about it) which helps; but it still has a lot of non-network related friction :(

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Felix Pojtinger

It's great! I am just waiting for MS to release the code before I'll use this for anything "relevant" ... I've decided some time ago to stop relying on proprietary services for such a critical application, so we'll see.

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zspencer profile image
Zee Author

That's an entirely valid approach. I wonder if Jonathan Carter (How do you mention people on this platform?) has any insights into any planned release to the commons?

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Zee Author

Adding a comment with some answers I'm getting off twitter; so future searchers get something useful if they land on this:

Jonathan Carter - "As we’re still in preview, there are definitely still some little bugs here and there 😁 That said, Live Share doesn’t sync files, and all dev environment context is pulled from the “host”, so things like terminal output, test results, localhost servers come from the same codebase

Additionally, our team is super responsive and iterating quickly, so if you run into issues, simply let us know or file an issue on GitHub: GitHub.com/Microsoft/Live-Share. We need the community to help us making it better!

Also, just as a quick FYI, if you install our extension pack, that includes integrated voice calling and text chat as well. So you can start a Live Share session, and include chat, editing, debugging, terminals, etc: aka.ms/vsls-pack
" - twitter.com/LostInTangent/status/1...

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Manda Putra

No doubt. Thats it. I think its secure too. They had file access management.

What again? Maybe terminal sharing is good too.

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Davide

I am experiencing very laggy servers? My pair programming buddy and I can barely work. I wonder if it a setting? We both have decent internet connection.