Pogoplug Mobile Review

Pogoplug LogoThe cloud is definitely where it’s at right now, but what if you don’t like the idea the idea of Google, Dropbox et al looking after your data? Then you might be interested in a Pogoplug, which allows you to create your own cloud storage that’s only limited by the size of the hard disk. A Pogoplug is a hardware gadget that connects USB storage devices to your local LAN and then makes the space available across the Internet, effectively creating a personal cloud. The data is stored in your control and if more storage is needed, plug-in a bigger hard drive.

On review here is the Pogoplug Mobile, the 3rd generation of Pogoplug device from Cloud Engines. It offers a single USB port plus an SD card slot along with the network port and power socket. Newer Pogoplugs come with USB3 ports, but as the maximum speed of the Pogoplug cloud is always going to be the speed of the Internet connection, the faster transfer speeds of USB3 are unlikely to be a significant benefit. For testing, I used a 64 GB memory stick, rather than a hard drive, which means that the unit will run silently with minimal power consumption.

Pogoplug Packaging

The Pogoplug website has downloads for Windows, Macs and Linux, and the relevant app stores have versions for Android, iOS, Blackberry and legendary WebOS. I was able to try the Windows, Linux, Android and WebOS versions. The Windows version connects to the Pogoplug and presents it as a drive letter, allowing most Windows applications to use the Pogoplug transparently. The Pogoplug software has additional backup functionality as well, which may be useful for some people. The Linux version is command line only but anyone familiar with Linux will have no trouble getting the Pogoplug mounted into the filesystem.

The Android app is simple and straightforward with a couple of nice tricks up its sleeve. Broadly you can browse files in a directory fashion or you can view music, photos and movies in a tag or meta-data based fashion, As expected, there are viewers and players for the media, though movies get handed over to the default app rather than playing within the Pogoplug app. The music player is basic and has one really irritating flaw; it doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the track number from the mp3 files and consequently orders tracks alphabetically when playing albums. This really needs to be fixed.

Back viewPerformance-wise, the Pogoplug is always going to be limited by the upload (rather than download) speed of the broadband connection when outside of the home. This usually meant a little bit of buffering before playing music but once the playback got underway, there was rarely any stuttering. There were occasional times when folders refused to refresh but my suspicion is that any problems were down to the local data connection on my phone rather than a problem with the Pogoplug. YMMV. Inside my home, the performance was excellent.

In common with other social and cloud apps, the Pogoplug app has automatic uploading of pictures and video from the devices camera. It’s also possible to set the folder where the uploaded images are to go. Frankly, this is brilliant as my wife is hopeless at remembering to copy photos off her smartphone so by setting up the Pogoplug app on her phone, any photos she takes get automatically transferred. On occasion, a photo would sometimes fail to completely upload; again I suspect the loss of 3G connectivity than any fundamental problem, but the error checking could be improved. It’s also possible to upload any image from within the photo Gallery app.

As with most cloud solutions, you can also share with friends and family, using either the app or the web interface. It’s straightforward – select the folder you want to share, select who you want to share with and an email is sent to them with the relevant link. It’s an easy way to share photos of Junior with grandma and grandpa.

Any downsides? Only two that i can see….first, there’s no direct integration with any other apps that I could find. Quickoffice and other office apps typically allow access straight into Google Drive or Dropbox but none seemed to work with a Pogoplug. Effectively I had to download a Word doc to the phone, do my edits in QuickOffice and then upload the doc back to the Pogoplug. Not slick.

The second is that when I was at home and on the same subnet as the Pogoplug, Internet access to Pogoplug’s servers was still needed, presumably to check authorisation privileges. Normally, it’s not going to be an issue, but it would be handy to have a way to bypass this when working locally and the connection to the Internet goes down.

Overall, the Pogoplug is a handy device that gives you control over your data rather than entrusting it to a megacorp. A few glitches spoil what is otherwise a neat little solution that potentially gives as much data storage space as you need, without paying per GB per annum. For the low cost of the Pogoplug unit (about $50 / £35), it’s a bargain.

Disclaimer – this was a personally purchased device.

Arq and Backup Solution for the Mac

Arq Having a good backup system both locally and offsite is important for anyone with a computer. Once you have decide to use a cloud backup the first problem you face is the overwhelming number of options. There are two broad category of backups, manual and automatic. Services like Dropbox or Google Drive are what I call manual backups, in that they require you to physically drop a file or folder into them. An automatic backup system is just that, you choose the files/folders you want to back up and the system you choose backs up those files automatically either at a specific time or interval. There are a couple of things I look for in a backup system: first is it easy to use, second when I recover a file do I get back what I put in, third is the cost, and finally is it trust no one(TNO) compliant. The idea behind TNO is that you and only you has access to your content including your password and keys.

The solution I have found is called Arq after trying Backblaze, Carbonite, and Jungle Disk. Arq falls into second category of backups in that the backup happens automatically once you have set it up.
I first heard about Arq on Security Now Episode #351: Back To The Cloud. Arq is a Mac only backup solution, although there is an app available to view the files on iOS. Arq runs on Amazon S3 and does require you to sign up for the Amazon Web Service
Once you sign up it will give you an access key id, secret access key and you also have to provide a password. Make sure you keep a copy of all these, neither Arq nor Amazon can recover them for you (I use 1password for this purpose). Although this can be inconvenient it makes Arq TNO compliant. There is a 30 day trial, during the trial you pay only for the Amazon S3 fees After 30 days if you decide to continue to use it there is a $29.00 one time licensing fee. Amazon S3 fees are $1.25 $12.5 cents/GB or $.93 9.3 cents/GB for reduce redundancy storage. They also bill you for outgoing transfers. Outgoing transfers are free up to 1GB/month, from 1GB/month to 10/GB it is .120 per GB and so on. The price per GB goes down the more GBs you use. This is one of the things I like about Arq you are only paying for what you are using instead of a flat fee. As part of the sign up process Arq will ask how much you want to budget for backup starting in $5.00 increments. You put in the dollar amount you want to spend and it will tell you how much that will backup. If you are about to go over your budgeted amount Arq will automatically delete the oldest files. Arq does version backup similar to Time Machine, so it will always keep at least two versions of a backup.

You can choose which files/folders you want to back up and you can exclude specific files by name. You can back up from a network attach storage drive. It doesn’t delete backups from network storage devices even if you remove those devices from your network. If you can see it in the Finder menu it will back it up. In fact when I first start the backup process I noticed it was backing up my Dropbox folder, which I quickly unchecked. It does not care what type of file you are backing up. Arq allows you to back up automatically every hour at a specific time during that hour, you can schedule a backup once a day or you can do a manual back up and have it only back up when you tell it too. You can control the transfer rate, either maximum, automatic which will throttle the speed if you are transferring something else over the Internet or a fix transfer rate at a specific KB per second. If you want you can get a Growl notification when a backup is completed. Plus you can have Arq start-up on login, show on the menu bar and prevent your computer from sleeping when backing up.

To restore a file or folder you simply highlight it and then either click restore, which restores it to a folder labeled Arq folder or you can drag and drop the folder/file on to the Finder Window. I did a test restore on an image and it worked great, the image and all the metadata restored perfectly.

I have only been using Arq for a day now but so far I really like it. It was easy to set up, I like the fact it is TNO compliant and I like the cost. If you want to share the files with someone this is not the solution you are looking for. However if you are on a Mac and are looking for a good, secure backup solution I do recommend trying Arq.

Correction: made on Amazon fees 18:55 May 4

Dolly Drive Cloud Backup for Time Machine

Dolly Drive Time Machine Cloud DriveApple’s Time Machine has been a lifesaver for many people, especially when they’ve accidentally deleted an important file. However, it doesn’t protect against fire, flood or theft when everything is lost. Enter Dolly Drive, a Time Machine-compatible cloud-based backup service.

Available as a subscription service based on data usage, Dolly Drive looks like another Time Machine target to OS X and once setup, will store revisions and changes to the cloud, giving the security of off-site backup.

Included as part of the deal, subscribers are sent a hard drive via courier to return and seed their Dolly Drive for the first time. This avoids a lengthy upload over broadband when the service is first started and the whole disk is copied.

Prices start at $5 per month for 50 GB but a more representative subscription is $10 pcm for 250 GB. As a bonus, 5 GB is added each month for free.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Backup City for Tokyo

Picture by Morio

The Japanese Government is taking contingency planning to a whole new level by proposing to build a backup city for Tokyo. Situated 300 miles to the west of Tokyo on an old airport, it would have capacity for 50,000 residents and space for 200,000 workers.

At the time of a disaster the capital would move to this new city so that Japan could continue to function. The city is currently codenamed IRTBBC, or Integrated Resort, Tourism, Business and Backup City and will include buildings for all the key government functions, such as parliament and ministries but will also have general office space and entertainment complexes. It’s also planned to have the world’s tallest skyscraper at 652 m.

Hajime Ishii, a member of the ruling Democratic Party, said, “The idea is being able to have a back-up, a spare battery for the functions of the nation, isn’t this a really good idea?

Err, yes, but wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to find a way to re-purpose existing structures in another city in the time of emergency, much like cruise ships used to be re-purposed as hospital ships?

Check File Copies with Linux Scripts

OpenSuSE logoFor several years, I’ve had an original Buffalo LinkStation NAS as my main fileserver. Being on 24×7, it’s gone through several fans and at least one hard disk, but it’s now time to retire it in favour of a LinkStation Duo which will give me more space, RAID capabilities and faster transfer speeds.

Naturally, as my main fileserver, it’s backed up. However when I copy the files to the new Duo, how do I know that they’ve all copied correctly and none have been missed? There are hundreds of thousands of files and checking each one by hand would be pointless.

Linux has lots of tools that tell me how much disk space is used, such as du, df and filelight, but they don’t always report back consistently between filesystems. Mostly for reasons of speed, they report the total size of the file blocks used to store a file and as block sizes can vary between filesystems, the total number of blocks used for a set of files will be different. For example, I have two folder sets that I know are identical and du -s on one reports 210245632 and on the other 209778684.

Fortunately, there’s an extra command line flag that will change the behaviour to take longer and sum the actual bytes. In this case, du -sb will return 214813009920 bytes on both filesystems. On the whole, I can be reasonably confident that if the total number of bytes used is the same between two filesystems, then all the files have copied correctly.

But what if the total number of bytes don’t match? How can I find the missing or truncated file? After thinking and tinkering, what I want is to get a list of files with each filesize from the old and new filesystems and then compare the two. And here’s how you do it (each section here goes on one line).

find /home/old_folder -type f -printf '%s %p\n' |
sed 's/\/home\/old_folder\///' | sort > old.txt
find /home/new_folder -type f -printf '%s %p\n' |
sed 's/\/home\/new_folder\///' | sort > new.txt
diff -wy --suppress-common-lines old.txt new.txt

If you aren’t used to Linux, this can look a bit scary, but it’s not really. The first two lines create the text files with all the files and the third line compares the two. The the first two lines are much the same in that they do the same commands but on different filesystems. There are three sections, find to list all the files, sed to chop the directory path off, and sort to get all the files in some sort of order. Here are some explanations.

find – finds files
/some/folder – where to start finding files
-type f – only interested in files (not directories or links)
-printf ‘%s %p\n’ – only print the filesize (%s) and the full pathname (%p) on each line (\n)

sed – processes text
‘s/x/y/’ – means replace x with y. In our instance, it’s replacing the leading folder path with nothing. It looks worse than it is because the slashes in the path need to be escaped by a preceeding backslash, so you get these \/s everywhere.

sort – sorts text
> file.txt – copy everything into a text file.

One of the clever things about Unix-like operating systems is that you can pass information from one command to another using a pipe. That’s represented by the | symbol, so the find command gets the information on files and files sizes, passes it to sed to tidy up which then in turn passes it on to sort before sending it to a file.

After running this set of commands on the old and new filesystems, all that needs done is to compare the files. Let’s look at the third and final command.

diff – compares files line-by-line
-w – ignore whitespace (spaces and tabs)
-y – compare files side-by-side
–suppress-common-lines – ignore lines that are the same
old.txt new.txt – the two files to compare

So what might the output of the diff be? If all the files copied correctly, you’d get absolutely nothing. Other possibilities are that the file partially copied or didn’t copy at all. Here’s what the output might be like.

598 i386/compdata/epson3.txt | 500 i386/compdata/epson3.txt
598 i386/compdata/onstream.txt <

The numbers at the beginning of the entry are the number of bytes, so the first line shows that the epson3.txt is only 500 bytes long in the new file but 598 in the old. The second line shows that onstream.txt is present in the old file but not in the new, as the arrow points to the old file.

To close the story, did I find that I had lost any files? Yes, I did. I discovered a couple of small files that hadn’t copied at all because of non-standard characters in their filenames. The filenames were acceptable to Windows but not Linux and I’d used my Linux PC to do the copying. Fortunately, the files were saved and all the scripting was worth it.

Read more on Linux at Geek News Central.

Five Backup Solutions to the Cloud for Your Computer

In this computer day and age, you want to make sure pictures, documents and more are backed up on a daily basis. Especially with hard drives that fail every day and notebooks that get stolen every day. Even if you get your stolen computer back, the thieves might have done damage like wiping the hard drive or dropping the machine altogether.

I back up my machines to different sources. I have 2 home backups and one cloud backup. The cloud backup can also be a great way to share pictures through an iPhone, Android or iPad application. Nonetheless, if my computer drive dies, if there is fire or water damage, if someone steals my computer, I don’t lose the data.

Advantages to Cloud Based Backup

  • Off-site data retention
  • access to data from multiple computers or mobile devices
  • software that will start backing up files when computer is idle
  • High encryption on backup
  • Cloud based service runs their own backups – Your data gets backed up by them, too!
  • Prices are low – There are some services that are free to a certain level.
So here are Five cloud backup solutions you can employ now:

MyPCBackup

My PC Backup

My PC Backup

MyPCBackup was ranked #1 by Top 10 Online Backups. With unlimited backup, you can make sure all your pictures, documents and more are safe. They have an option to sync multiple computers through a folder on the machine.  They also offer a money back option and full customer support.

Mac users won’t be able to use this program, which is a major downfall to this program. The “1 PC, 1 Mac” per household ratio is growing. There is also no mobile application so you can view your backup files.

Carbonite Online Backup

Carbonite Online Backup

Carbonite Online Backup

One of the more popular online backup systems is Carbonite, this unlimited backup lets you view your files from any computer, or through an iPhone, Blackberry or Android application.  Carbonite also has accidental deletion option, which means if you delete a file that was backed up, you have 30 days to restore it.

Carbonite also works on PC and Mac systems. Therefore, you could backup all your items from the old computer, switch the program to Mac and download the files. There is full customer support if needed.

Mozy Online Backup

Mozy Online Backup

Mozy Online Backup

Mozy online backup is also a PC or Mac backup. You can access your data from an iPhone and Android (no Blackberry) application. They also offer on-site backup, which means you can set up a USB hard drive and Mozy will backup to that as well. Full support and they also offer the ability to restore a file up to 30 days after deleted.

Mozy does not offer unlimited backup, though. $5.99 /month  for 50 GB and $9.99 for 125 GB. For a standard computer, you might not fill that spot – unless you take tons of pictures or create video like myself.

DropBox

Dropbox

Dropbox

You might not think of Dropbox as a online backup. However, with their open API, there are a lot of things that Dropbox can become. You can use it to sync with other computers, so it’s a great collaborative tool.

Keep in mind, it doesn’t tout itself as an online backup. You do get some great options, like short-term backup recovery.

They do have a free service for the first 2 GB, then pricing options after.

iBackup

iBackup

iBackup

iBackup is a backup for not only PCs and Macs, but also Servers. You can also back up your MySQL, Linux box Exchange, Oracle and iPhone. Therefore, it’s a full corporate backup solution. It gets pricey fast, but if you need 1.5 Terabytes of data that has to be backed up, this is a great solution.

They also have a “30 version” backup – If you change a document 29 times, then realize you need to start from the beginning, you can go into your account and pull up the first version. That can help if someone messes up a document and you don’t realize it right away.

There are  other online backup options, too. This includes items like PogoPlug or Drobo, where the files are stored at your home site. Elephantdrive, Livedrive, KeepIT are some other online backup tools.

Since it’s your data, you should research each program and see if it’s right for you. But if you have important data and need to back it up, then these options might help you with that solution.

There are also some great software solutions if you want to backup your computer to another computer. If you are on a Mac, then Time Machine is a feature you can set. Everything from backing up folders to making a full image of your computer to restore at a moments notice.

Most important – Back it up now, because you never know if you’ll get a chance to back it up later.

Is Snow Leopard The New XP?

Like a lot of people, I purchased the Lion upgrade on the first day of availability from the Apple App store.

I upgraded two late-model Mac Minis along with an older 17” MacBook Pro. The Lion upgrade solved a freezing problem on the Mac Mini I use as an HD-DVR. However, it created a number of serious problems on the MacBook Pro – Lion would not work with my Verizon USB aircard, it would not back up to my HP Windows Home Server, and it would not work properly with the Ubercaster podcast recording application.

After living with these Lion-induced problems for more than a month on the MacBook Pro, I downgraded it back to a prior (and fully functional) Snow Leopard backup image. Everything is now back to normal, with everything once again functioning the way it should.

My MacBook Pro is no slouch, yet it seemed a bit sluggish running Lion compared to Snow Leopard.

If you have a Mac that’s more than a couple of years old, and/or you are running a variety of software and hardware that Lion likely won’t support and/or that may never be updated to run properly on Lion, I would strongly suggest skipping the Lion upgrade.

I found the Lion interface changes mostly annoying. On a computer (as opposed to an iPod), I prefer normal scroll bars. In Lion you can turn the scroll bars so that they remain on, but they are thin little gray lines that I have a hard time seeing and grabbing with the mouse. I don’t like the changes Apple made to the Finder in Lion, nor do I like the changes they made to the Spotlight Search functionality. I found the changes to the Mail program to be of dubious value, as well as the cosmetic changes to the Address Book adding no functionality.

Snow Leopard runs perfectly well and just might be the new XP.

La Cie and Thunderbolt

Little Big DiskIf you depend on moving a lot of data around and are looking for ways to move it faster then the Thunderbolt technology (formerly Light Peak) is something that should be of  interest to you. Companies and individuals who work in the area of video editing and transfer will be one of the first groups that will take advantage of the Thunderbolt technology. The Thunderbolt technology was developed by Intel in collaboration with Apple. The technology supports both data and display protocols simultaneously over a single cable. The Thunderbolt technology outperforms all other method of transfers by a mile.

Task that previously took a workstation will soon be performed on a consumer compact device. The new Macbook Pro is the first computer to take advantage of this technology. One of the first companies that has created a device that takes advantage of the technology other then Apple is La Cie. La Cie first show case the Thunderbolt technology at the Intel Developer Forum in September 2010. Since then it has worked even more closely with Apple and Intel to develop various storage solutions and peripherals that take advantage of Thunderbolt technology and to bring them to market. This close cooperation between La Cie and Apple  is nothing new. La Cie has been working closely with Apple for over 20 years developing innovative and cutting edge products. La Cie specializes in hard drives including desktop, mobile, network storage, Raid and Multimedia Hard Drives. Their newest product  called the Little Big Disk will be coming out summer 2011. The Little Big Disk was built to store large amounts of video and audio files. The integration of the Thunderbolt technology will allow that data to be transfer far quicker then any other technology. This in turn will speed up the process of both backup and editing.  Task that used to take hours will now be completed in minutes without any effect on bandwidth performance. Multiple Little Big Disks can even be daisy chained together to expand storage. You can also connect other peripherals like cameras or high resolution displays. The chairman and general manger of La Cie said it best:

“Thunderbolt technology is a breakthrough in I/O technology and
represents the future of mobile computing. Soon you will be able to
carry workstation-class power and functionality in compact devices,”
said Philippe Spruch, Chairman and General Manager,LaCie. “LaCie is
excited to be one of the first to deliver Thunderbolt technology with
the LaCie Little Big Disk.”

La Cie obviously sees Thunderbolt as the the transfer technology of the future. whether it is will depend on how fast other companies create products that take advantage of it.

 

GadgetTrak Remote Tracking Software For Mobile Gadgets

GadgetTrak is a piece of software that you install on your mobile phone or laptop. The software will periodically check in and let you know the physical location of the device. If a camera is present, for example on a laptop, it can even take a photo of the thief and email it back to the owner. The software cannot be disabled by the thief.

For a Mac or Windows laptop, the price is $34.95 per year.

For Android and Blackberry phones, which includes remote data wipe ability, secure encrypted backup and a loud piercing audible alarm even if the device is in silent mode, the price is $19.95 per year.

For iPhone, iPod, and iPad, the GadgetTrak app is .99 cents, The iOS version does not include remote data wipe, but does include remote camera and push notification support to inform the thief of the GadgetTrak software’s presence.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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Iomega SuperHero Backup and Charger for iPhone and iPod Touch

As smartphones get more powerful with more storage, the possibility of losing something important when your phone is misplaced or stolen, gets ever greater.   And it’s not really business documents that are important, it’s your photos that are really irreplaceable.

Iomega‘s new SuperHero Backup and Charger for iPhone and iPod Touch can help with this problem. It’s a charging cradle that also backups up contacts and photos to the included 4GB SD card (which can be upgraded by the user, if needed). An Iomega backup and restore application is available from the iTunes store. It’s especially useful for those people who never sync their iPhone to their Mac.

Available from the end of January for $69.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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