Category Archives: cloud

Polkast Personal Cloud Service



Polkast Polkast allows any individual to create their own personal cloud server quickly and easily. This would allow them to access the date including documents, photos, videos and music that is on their home computer from anywhere in the world where a connection is available. Polkast allows the user to stream video from their home computer to their mobile device, because it doesn’t have to go thru the cloud and the connection is direct you get a better streaming quality. However the quality of the stream is effected by your local bandwidth. Polkast has recently added the Aviary Photo Editing system to its cloud app. This will allow you to editing any photo that is on your home computer on your mobile device.

Polkast is free to use on one computer. There is a pro version which will allow you to connect to multiple computer. This version is available for Windows only and there is a $4.99 a monthly subscription fee. The pro version also you enables you to connect PC to PC. The Polkast Music service allows you to seamlessly integrates your iTunes collection to your mobile device . Play any song, no need to sync or download. You can create a playlist on the go and even listen off-line. Polkast Music is $4.99

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network, andInterview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Amazon Introduces AutoRip



AudioRip logo Amazon has introduced a brand new service called AutoRip. This is a very different way of looking at music storage. In short, it takes the CD that you purchased from Amazon and puts it into your Amazon Cloud Player. It also will make that album available on your PC or Mac, Kindle Fire, Android phone, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Right now, this service is only available to customers in the United States.

This is a rather unexpected move in a time when record companies are screaming about pirating and copyright. Perhaps they aren’t complaining about AutoRip because it only allows users to put CDs that they really have purchased into the Amazon Cloud Player? I’m not sure.

It is clear that gifts of CDs that your friends or family purchased for you from Amazon are not eligible for AutoRip. There is also this interesting piece of “fine print”:

Some record companies require us (Amazon) to insert identifiers in the metadata that accompanies music when you download it from the Amazon MP3 Store or Cloud Player. This includes the music you have purchased from Amazon.com and matched music imported to Cloud Player from your device.

These identifies may include a random number Amazon assigns to your order or copy, purchase date and time, an indicator that the music was downloaded from Amazon, codes that identify the album or song (the UPC and ISRC), Amazon’s digital signature, an identifier that can be used to determine whether the audio has been modified, and an indicator whether the music was purchased from the MP3 store or imported to the Cloud Player.

Look for the AutoRip icon in search results and CD detail pages to find out if it is one you can use with this new service. The MP3 versions of your past AutoRip eligible CD purchases are already available in the Cloud Player, where they are being stored for free. CDs that you purchased through Amazon, from as far back as 1998, are eligible for AutoRip.


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.


Protecting Your Digital Assets



Two FactorMat Honan’s story (as covered by Todd in the latest podcast) showed me that the strongest password in the world is worth nothing if it can be reset by a straightforward social engineering-based attack. I’m sure Apple and Amazon will be looking hard at their policies and procedures but for the individual, there’s also much to learn from the episode.

i) Two-factor authentication. There’s no doubt that this is a good thing and I enabled it on my Gmail account last night. Turning it on is easy, but it’s a pain in the ass for the first few hours as you re-login to all your Google-based services. With several regularly used PCs, email clients and umpteen mobile devices, it takes a bit of time to get them all setup correctly. Touch wood, now that I’ve been through the re-login process, things are largely back to normal.

ii) Backup, backup, backup. For at least part of the story, Mat is entirely to blame. If there’s only one copy of any piece of data, it might as well not exist. Never mind hackers; theft, damage and accidental deletion make it all too easy to lose data, especially with mobile devices. Disk space is cheap, so even if you have just one PC, have a working set of folders, a backup set of folders and also make copies on a regular basis to a USB drive, which you disconnect from your PC when not in use and preferably store somewhere else.

iii) It’s your data. Convenient as “the cloud” is, remember it’s your data and your responsibility to keep it safe. If you push information directly to the cloud, don’t forget to include this information in your backup routine. Google has tools to download data from its services. Or don’t bother with someone else’s cloud and build your own, using a PogoPlug or similar.

iv) Download email using POP3. I use web-based Gmail and IMAP-enabled apps to manage my email and if email is deleted from Gmail…poof, it’s all gone. By using a POP3 email client like Thunderbird, you can have a copy on your PC as well.

v) Spread the load. Convenient as it might be to have all your eggs in one basket, either with Apple or Google, consider spreading your digital assets across different services, e.g. email on Gmail, work files on Dropbox, personal files on Box, photos on Flickr. If someone does compromise one of your accounts, all is not lost in one go. But don’t use the same password across all the systems.

vi) Remote kill-switch. The ability to kill mobile devices remotely is very handy if they are stolen but there’s a risk that the kill-switch can get into the wrong hands as in this case. However, the benefits probably outweigh the risks in that you are far more likely to lose your device than be hacked, so it’s perhaps better to focus on minimising the fall-out from both physical loss and a remote wipe.

There’s certainly plenty of food for thought there and even if you only take on one or two of the suggestions above, you’ll make yourself much harder to attack while lessening the impact.

Picture courtesy of Brian Ronald.


Jolicloud Launches Public Profiles



Cloud storage hub Jolicloud today announced the launch of their new Public Profiles for users.  If you aren’t familiar with Jolicloud, it’s a service that grabs all of your various data from different social services like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Picasa, and Tumblr and places the data into neat files in one single location that users can then easily scan.  For instance, you’ll find all of the photos you posted on different networks all grouped together in a convenient Photos folder.  The same for music, links, videos, and documents.

The new Public Profiles allows users to more easily share content with friends straight from Jolicloud.  Users can invite and follow friends and give them access to your media stored there.  Jolicloud only shares the data users have made public.  The new update is for both the web and iOS versions, but they hinted that Android would be coming next week, possibly with even more features.  Their official annoucement stated, “We’ve heard a lot of feedback about Jolicloud over the last few weeks, and now we’ve decided to bring some of the most requested features to you with an update to our iPhone and web apps.”  They went on to hint that, “Rumors among robots mention a major event for next week.  But you know, those are only rumors..”

Jolicloud is still officially in beta, but the service is stable and so far seems secure.  It’s also free to use, and there are mobile apps for both iOS and Android.  You can get a view of the main screen below.


Amazon Cloud Player App Finally Available for iOS



Amazon Cloud Player has been available for Android devices since it launched, but today Amazon announced that the music app is now available for iPad and iPhone.  That’s great news for iOS owners, especially given that the other big player in this field, Google Music, is also not available for Apple’s mobile platform.

Amazon Cloud Player offers 5 GB of free storage for your MP3’s.  Customers can not only store the music they purchase through the Amazon MP3 Store, but also upload their existing music to the service.  Additional storage is available at tiered rates, which are pretty reasonably priced.  New users can sign up for the service over at Amazon.  The app is available now through the iTunes Store.  The app is free for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and requires iOS 4.3 or higher.  Amazon Cloud Player is also available for Android and on the web.

iPhone and iPod touch


Dropbox Vs. Google Drive




Google recently released Google Drive. It is the newest cloud storage device. Dropbox is a cloud storage device that has been in use for quite some time. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two.

Price

Dropbox:
* Up to 18 GB is free. You can earn 2 GB + 500 MB per referral.
* Pro 50 Plan costs $9.99/month or $99.00/year. Gives +1 GB per referral, up to +32 GB
* Pro 100 Plan costs $19.99/month or $199.00/year. Gives +GB per referral, up to +32 GB
* Teams plans start at 1 TB. Costs $795/year for the first five users and $125/year for each additional user.

Google Drive:
* Store up to 5GB in Google Drive, 1GB in Picasa, and 10GB in Gmail for free
* There are several monthly plans to choose from. Yearly plans are not yet available.
* Plans include: 25 GB for $2.49/month, 100 GB for $4.99/month, 200 GB for $9.99/month, 400 GB for $19.99/month, 1 TB for $49.99/month, 2 TB for $99.99/month, 4 TB for 199.99/month, 8 TB for $399.99/month, 16 TB for $799.99/month.

Upload Limits

Dropbox:
* Files uploaded to Dropbox via the desktop application have no file size limit
* Files uploaded through the website have a 300 MB cap
* The files you upload to Dropbox must be smaller than your account’s storage limits.

Google Drive:
* An uploaded file or folder can be up to 10GB

Compatibility

Dropbox:
* Can be used with Windows, Mac, or Linux
* Can be used with iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, or Android

Google Drive:
* Can be used with PC and Mac
* Can be used with Android
* Cannot be used with iPhone or iPad at this time (but is coming soon)


Polkcast Creates Your Personal Cloud



Polkast LaptopPolkast thinks that it’s better to have your files in your control in your home or office rather than the nebulous cloud. Andy talks to Dave from Polkast on how they do this but still give you access from your smartphone.

Polkast consists of two components, a server app that’s installed on the PC or Mac where all the documents and files are stored. A client app goes on your smartphone or tablet, and both iOS and Android devices are supported, including the Kindle Fire.

The client app is much like any media player interface with icons for music, photos, videos, documents and so on. You can browse for the media you want and show photos or play music.

For a single PC or Mac, Polkast offer a free service, no matter how many client devices connect. For multiple PCs or Macs, the premium service costs $4.99 per month (though this option doesn’t seem to be available on the website yet).

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

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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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Polkast: Making Your Computer the Cloud



Polkast Cloud base solutions for accessing the data on your computer off site are great, but they have their limitations. First they are slow, because everything has to upload to the cloud first before you can access it off site. Second most cloud solutions have a limit on how much you can store on their sites. Third they can get expensive if you have to store a lot and finally you have to depend on them to be up.

What if you made your computer the cloud, that is the solution that Polkast came up with. You install the Polkast server on the computer you want to access the files from and then the Polkast app on your mobile devices including your smart phone, tablets or lap top. You can then access the files on that computer from anywhere in the world as long as the server is running. To access files using Polkast you have to sign in with a user name and password. Everything is encrypted while going from PC to PC or mobile device. Unlike a cloud base solution there is no storage limitation and it is as fast as your local ISP. You can share specific files with other people by email or through their Polkast account. The service is free for one computer for multiple devices it is $49.95 a year. If you are looking for a way to access your home files on the road, but are wary of a cloud solution, this might be a solution for you.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Don Baine The Gadget Professor of Geek News Central

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