I’ve been playing with Appfire’s Firestarter, a portable wiki appliance. That’s Confluence on a stick. What’s more, you can sync your Firestarter Confluence with a server-based Confluence, and even sync one Firestarter Confluence with another. This will be great for people who want to work remotely or offline, and then update their corporate wiki when they are able to connect again.

At Atlassian Summit a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get hold of an early adoption release of Firestarter. I couldn’t wait to try it out, so I grabbed a MacBook Pro, inserted the Firestarter USB stick and got going.

Getting Firestarter fired up is easy. Just follow the instructions on the printed card that comes in the box. I was ready to go in a few minutes.

Using the Firestarter wiki

First I wanted to see if Confluence really does work on a stick. What better test of fire than one of our own documentation spaces? I downloaded an XML backup of the SharePoint Connector documentation and imported it into the Firestarter Confluence, using Confluence’s space restore option. That worked just as you’d expect. Here’s a screenshot of the SharePoint Connector documentation space on the Firestarter Confluence:

Yep, that’s the Connie I know and love, with an extra fiery hue here and there.

Now let’s assume I have some brand new documentation on my Firestarter Confluence. Maybe I was on one of those dreaded 14-hour flights from Sydney to San Francisco and I filled the time by writing the new SharePoint Connector documentation directly on my Firestarter Confluence. How do I get my updates onto our corporate wiki?

That’s where syncing comes in.

Syncing your Firestarter Confluence with a server-based Confluence site

I installed a standalone version of Confluence on my Windows desktop, to act as my server-based Confluence instance. Then I installed Appfire’s Enterprise Sync plugin on the desktop Confluence. This is a pre-release version 0.2.0 of the plugin, made available especially to me. Thanks Appfire!

The first thing is to define a “sync spot” on the Firestarter Confluence. A sync spot is a Confluence instance that you want to sync with. Firestarter adds a “WikiSync Settings” option to the user menu, granting access to this configuration screen:

I defined my desktop Confluence as a sync spot, then followed the prompts to do my very first sync. Firestarter detects the new content and prompts you to select the spaces and/or pages that you want to transfer:

Click “Sync (Push Selected Content)” and away you go. In a very short time, the new documentation space (Confluence SharePoint Connector 1.2) was ready and waiting on my desktop Confluence:

What’s next?

This is an early adoption release of Firestarter, so it’s not ready for use on production systems or data yet. The Appfire guys will be delighted with any feedback we can give. I haven’t yet tried syncing one Firestarter with another, or pulling content from a server-based Confluence to a Firestarter Confluence. Appfire have a great list of more planned features.

If you’re interested in a much more detailed, blow-by-blow account of my Firestarter adventures and feedback, you could take a look at my personal blog post: Appfire’s Firestarter – Confluence wiki on a stick.

This is a really exciting idea from Appfire. It’s especially interesting for people who want to work remotely on Confluence wiki. As a technical writer, I’m intrigued by the idea of distributing documentation on Firestarter and allowing customers to sync the latest updates whenever they’re online.

Let us know if you’ve been playing with Firestarter too.

Playing with Firestarter, a portable Confluence wiki from Appfire