Category Archives: storage

G-Technology G-RAID Mini Review



External USB 3 hard drives are pretty common these days and GNC has reviewed several models in the past. However, this is the first portable RAID unit that I’ve had on my desk. On show here is the G-Technology G-RAID mini and with a pair of 2.5″ drives, the G-RAID mini offers a choice of RAID 0 or RAID 1 in a very attractive silvery metal case.  Let’s take a look.

G-RAID mini Shadow

The G-RAID mini comes in the usual blue and white G-Technology packaging and in the box is the unit itself, a power supply, a travel case, a Firewire 400-to-800 cable, a Firewire 800 cable  and a USB3 cable. The travel case isn’t anything to write home about but it’s good to have the full range of cables. The G-RAID mini weighs in at just under a 1 kg so it’s pretty hefty but this an all metal case – there’s no cheap plastic here. It’s also surprisingly small at only 149 x 83 x 38 mm, as you’ll see from the ruler below. Overall, it’s a solid, well-built unit.

G-RAID mini Front

Looking over the unit, round the back are a USB 3 port, two Firewire 800 ports and the DC in jack. On the underside, there’s a cooling fan and on the front, there’s white LED in the G-Technology logo, which flashes with disk access. There’s a hidden “drive failure” LED which goes red if a drive dies, but you’ll see the LED flicker when the mini powers up. The G-RAID mini needs supplementary power from the PSU when connected up via USB, but it’s not need when the Firewire ports are used.

G-RAID mini Rear

RAID ConfigThe G-RAID mini can be configured either as RAID 0 with both drives contributing to one large logical volume or else as RAID 1 with the drives mirroring each other. There’s a simple configuration tool that let’s you chose which it’s going to be. Changing the RAID level completely erases the drive so it’s best to decide early what configuration you want.

The utility is available for Windows and Mac, but once the G-RAID mini is setup, it works as any device that understands USB storage, e.g. Linux boxes or Chromebooks.

So that’s the basics out the way. What’s the performance like? I ran through my usual selection of tests with hdparm, dd and bonnie++ in both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations. Remember, while these tests are indicative of performance, they are for my setup only.

RAID 0 USB 3 USB 2 FW 400
hdparm (read)  155 MB/s  33 MB/s 39 MB/s
dd (write)  178 MB/s  37 MB/s 22 MB/s
bonnie++ (write)  173 MB/s  37 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (read)  171 MB/s  49 MB/s 55 MB/s

 

RAID 1 USB 3 USB 2 FW 400
hdparm (read) 126 MB/s 32 MB/s 39 MB/s
dd (write) 117 MB/s 38 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (write) 114 MB/s 37 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (read) 154 MB/s 51 MB/s 53 MB/s

In either configuration, the G-RAID mini is fast, especially when connected up via USB 3 in RAID 0. Looking at the data, it’s clear that at USB2 and Firewire 400 speeds, there’s no performance difference between RAID 0 and RAID 1. Simplistically the data connection rate is the limiting factor.

However, with USB3 bonnie shows that write speeds fall by a third in the RAID 1 configuration, with reading affected by only a 10% fall. This is not unexpected as extra work is required to write the data in a mirror setup. Regardless, it’s still 3 times faster than USB2.

In summary, the G-RAID mini is an ideal companion for power users with the latest ultrabooks or MacBook Pros where performance is matched to good looks. It’s not cheap with an on-line price of around £275 for the 2 TB version but the protection against single drive failure will be important to those with high profile or travelling roles where having the data available is crucial. The G-RAID mini is an attractive and well-built unit with great performance and it will appeal to both those who need either high-performance or protection against drive failure.


Save Screenshots in Your Dropbox



DropboxDropbox introduced something new that went into effect September 30, 2013. According to their blog, “all the screenshots you take can automatically be saved straight to your Dropbox”. It appears that the purpose is to give people a way to keep their computers a bit more organized. Instead of having screenshots on your desktop, for example, they can be stored in your Dropbox. It also gives people an easy way to share their screenshots.

There is a step-by-step explanation that people can follow if they would like to begin storing screenshots in their Dropbox. I linked to the instructions for Mac. You can also get a “how-to” for WinXP or Vista/Win7.

In short, you take a screenshot, then select to save that screenshot to your Dropbox. A window will pop up that gives you the option of saving that screenshot to your dropbox. (If you changed your mind, there is a “No, Thanks” button). Choose wisely:

From now on, whenever you take a screenshot, the application will automatically save it to a folder named Screenshots in your Dropbox folder. It will also copy a link to the screenshot that you can immediately paste anywhere, such as an email message or Facebook post. Anyone who clicks on the link will see your screenshot on a preview page on the Dropbox website.

In the same post, Dropbox also gives instructions about how to turn off the automatic saving of screenshots to your Dropbox folder. You can opt-out whenever you choose. In addition to using your Dropbox to store, and share, screenshots, there is another new feature for Mac users. You can now copy your entire iPhoto contents to your Dropbox. A new folder will be created for each of your iPhoto events.


Buffalo Claim Fastest USB 3 Drive



Buffalo LogoThe folks over at Buffalo Technology have announced a screamingly fast external drive, the DriveStation DDR. By adding a 1 GB DDR3 cache to a standard SATA drive, they’ve created a USB3 hard drive with SSD transfer rates. Write speeds are doubled from around 170 MB/s to over 400 MB/s, which is pretty nippy in anyone’s book, and read speeds are similarly improved.

DriveStationDDR

 

Obviously, the benefits of the cache aren’t so clear with large data transfers but the greatest use of external hard drives is storing photos or music files and these are typically MBs rather than GBs in size. Consequently, these kinds of files are ideal for the fast data transfer rate of the DriveStation DDR. Think about transferring your latest photos from your camera to the DriveStation DDR – it’s ideal.

Prices are on a par with standard external hard drives with MSRPs of £129 for the 2 TB version and £169 for 3 TB, which isn’t bad. Compatible with all OSes that support USB 3 and there’s no need for any special drivers. The full specs are here.

Geek News Central expects to get a review unit soon, so I’ll be putting the DriveStation DDR through its paces shortly.


Flickr Offers a Free Terabyte of Space



Flickr LogoFlickr looks a lot different today than how it used to. Yahoo! (which owns Flickr) has given Flickr a makeover that includes a brand new design. What once showed you small thumbnails of photos, with a lot of white, empty, space surrounding them, now features the photos much more prominently.

To me, it seems like Flickr’s new look resembles that of Facebook, or perhaps Pinterest. The photos are bigger, filling up the screen. Users now have a homepage that includes an activity feed that combines your friends’ recent uploads with the activity on the photos that you have uploaded. I wasn’t thrilled with the new design at first, because it takes me a long time to “re-learn” how to use social media when it visually changes. Eventually, I figure the new design will grow on me.

In addition to the very obvious design change, Flickr also announced that users will get a free terabyte of space. Their blog says:

At Flickr, we believe you should share all your images in full resolution, so life’s moments can be relived in their original quality. No limited pixels, no cramped formats, no memories that fall flat. We’re giving your photos room to breathe, and you the space to upload a dizzying number of photos and videos, for free. Just how big is a terabyte? Well, you could take a photo every hour for forty years without filling one.

In December of 2012, Flickr released a Flickr iPhone app. Today, it announces the release of the Flickr app for Android users, which can be found at the Google Play store.


Copy: Cloud Storage for All Your Files



CopyCopy a competitor to Dropbox became available to the public today. It allows you to upload your files to the Barracuda Network cloud, where you can access them from any device that you have installed the Copy application on. It will work on most platforms including Macs, Windows, Linux, iOs and Android. According to their press release Windows Mobile is coming soon. Files can either be shared publicly or privately thru an invite. The person sharing the files controls what the person receiving the shared file can do with them, whether they can just view them or actually edit to the files.

Currently you receive fifteen GB of free storage by signing up and another five GB when you down load a desktop version of the application. You can also get another two GB by sharing on Twitter. For $9.99/month or $14.99 a month you can buy two hundred and fifty GB or five hundred GB of cloud storage. They also have options specifically created for businesses. You can upload any type of file you want, text, audio and even 1080 videos. You simply drag the file or folder into the Copy of Folder or any of it’s subfolders you create. On my iPad and Android phone Copy organizes your recently modified files into different categories, so you can view just image files,  just text files or just video files. If you share a file publicly from Copy and it is in violation of the DCMA, Barracuda Network will respond to any DCMA takedown.

On an Android device I was able to upload any file, however on the iPad I could only upload images . I expect this was because of Apple’s sandboxing policy. I was able to upload a text file from the application Draft by using the open with option. Other applications do not have this option and they will have to allow Copy to have access to them like they do Dropbox. Copy does have API documentation available for developer who want to build applications that integrate with the Copy platform, it is currently in beta. Another problem is the only way to lockdown Copy is to log out of the account. There needs to be a pin to lock it down without having to log out. This addition would be especially important if Copy is to be used to store sensitive information.  Despite these complaints I do recommend trying Copy, especially if you are looking for some more free cloud storage.

 


VidaBox Introduces LiivNAS : Dune Edition with Media Management and NAS Support



If you are not familiar with VidaBox, the company makes some of the best media center computers, extenders and servers in the business. Today the hardware maker announces its latest version of the LiivNAS — this one co-branded with Dune Player. “LiivNAS: Dune Edition is highly unique as the only archiving and storage solution with official external/NAS storage device support, plus integration with popular control systems,” states Steven Cheung, President of VidaBox.

The new LiivNAS is intended to streamline library creation. The LiivNAS: Dune Edition features a Blu-ray/DVD/CD drive, internal 500GB hard disk drive and expandable storage capacity with USB or NAS external hard disk drives. It is also energy efficient, using as little as 15-25 watts of energy during peak usage, which allows for an always on instant response user experience.

liivnas

The box also promises lossless video recording of DVD and Blu-ray discs with no compression, and automatic meta-tagging of both music and movies.

All of this functionality does not come cheap — the LiivNAS: Dune Edition is on sale by Dune Player for a price of $1,699.95. You can visit VidaBox to check out their other products, but be prepared for sticker shock.


G-Technology G-Drive Mobile Review



On review today is the G-Technology G-Drive Mobile, a 1 TB mobile external hard drive. Aimed squarely at the Apple MacBook crowd, the brushed aluminium finish and white LED compliments the host machine, and the combination of both USB3 and FireWire 800 show its Mac heritage. Of course the drive can be formatted for Windows or Linux use but the G-Drive is pre-formatted for HFS+ and is TimeMachine-compatible. As expected, the G-Drive is bus powered so there’s no power adaptor.

G-Drive Mobile

 

G-Drive Mobile Ports

The G-Drive Mobile has a couple of touches that set it apart from the other mobile drive offerings. To start with, it comes with all the cables that might be needed, so in the box there’s a USB3 cable, a FireWire 800 cable and a FireWire 400 to 800 cable. There’s no getting the box home only to find the cable need for your setup is missing.

G Drive Mobile Cables

Second, the packaging presents the G-Drive to best effect and the “Getting Started” instructions are printed on the inside  lid of the box. Again, it comes back to appealing to the Apple crowd who expect good design.

G-Drive Package

But enough of how it looks. How does it go? Pretty well actually. Connected up to USB 3, the G-Drive Mobile recorded the following data rates:

– hdparm gave 107 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 105 MB/s.
 bonnie++ gave 104 MB/s for writes and 141 MB/s for reads.

I’m fairly sure that those figures make G-Drive Mobile the fastest USB3 unit tested, beating the previous holder by a considerable margin. Under FireWire 400, the figures were obviously slower, but are provided here for comparison.

– hdparm gave 36 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 22 MB/s.
– bonnie++ gave 22 MB/s for writes and 55 MB/s for reads.

Price-wise, the model here costs £129.95 but if you want USB3 only, there’s a much sleeker and cheaper version at £109.95 in the Apple store. However, if you need FireWire with USB3, the model viewed above is hard to beat, giving historical compatibility with older gear while also offering fast data transfers on newer kit.

Thanks to G-Technology for providing the G-Drive Mobile to review.


Rocstor Encrypted External Hard Drives



Rocstor LogoRocstor specialise in data storage and secure encryption solutions: that’s encrypted external hard drives to you and me, but it’s an increasingly important market. Andy and Scott talk to Anthony Rink from Rocstor about how their products can keep your data safe.

Rocstor offers a range of external data storage products with real-time encryption built-in as standard. The encrypted drives meet FIPS Level 2, meaning that it’s hardware-encrypted (not software) and that any tampering of the drive to get at the crypto keys is obviously apparent. To suit different circumstances, some models use tokens, others PINs and some use both with ruggedised and waterproof units also available. Depending on features, $250-$300 gets you 1 TB of secure external storage.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Scott Ertz of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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Digital Backpack



Digital Backpack Digital Backpack is a managed Dropbox for the enterprise. In the era of bring your own device to work, businesses have handled this problem in two ways. The first is where the employee owns the device, but the management locks it down using encryption. The second is where the company relies on an application such as Dropbox or Box.com creating security nightmare for management and the IT department.

Digital Backpack’s solution is to create a managed container with a backend administrator portal. Backpack is a super pack app which is authenticated for each user within a company. Picture a virtual backpack with the companies logo on it and the employee’s name tag. The employee or management can place apps that are needed for each employee to do their jobs in their backpack. There is also a message board where all actual content is stored, including such things as sales materials or proprietary information. The advantage of this system for the business is that they have the key to the backpack, so the information is secure. The advantage to the employees is they can use the rest of their phone as they would normally. The backend is controlled through a Dashboard. The dashboard allows management to connect to the employee and transfer content to them. Management can also see how Backpack is being used, what is working and what is not.

Backpack is currently available on Android and they are working on a version for iOs and Windows. The price is based on the number of users.

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

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MVB Disko USB File Transfer



MVB DiskoThe Disko from MVB solves that irritating problem when you have a USB memory stick, your friend has a USB memory stick, you want to share some files, but there’s no laptop or PC to make the transfer. Andy finds a solution to this problem and gets a demo of the Disko from Daniel.

Plug a USB memory stick into the Disko and you can browse the stick’s filesystem to find the files that you want to pass on. Once found, copy the files into the Disko’s internal memory and then swap the memory sticks before copying the files back out of the internal memory to the next memory stick.

The Disko also has a built-in mp3 player and FM tuner, making it a pretty handy gadget.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News for the Tech Podcast Network.

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