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Tag: macintosh

G-Technology G-RAID Mini Review

Posted by Andrew at 6:34 AM on February 4, 2014

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.

Apple Keyboard Overlays from KB Covers

Posted by Andrew at 6:14 PM on February 24, 2013

KB Cover Keyboard OverlayKB Covers produce lightweight and flexible keyboard overlays for Apple Macs to help make people more productive with complex software applications or type in foreign languages. Andy and Scott find out what’s happening with KB Covers from Bruce Franklin.

KB Covers produces overlays for Apple Macintosh desktop and laptop computers, covering both current and older models. Generally there are three kinds of overlays: those for protection or decoration, for foreign languages and for advanced application use, where keyboard shortcuts are key to being proficient in the app. Each year, KB Covers comes out with additional overlays for extra languages and new applications, often at the suggestion of customers.

The overlays are available on-line from around $20.

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

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Pogoplug Mobile Review

Posted by Andrew at 12:50 AM on October 25, 2012

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.

KB Covers Keyboard Overlays

Posted by Andrew at 8:57 AM on February 17, 2012

KB Covers offer specialised keyboard covers for Apple Macs and MacBooks. Rather than dust covers, these are keyboard overlays which re-label for foreign languages or show keyboard shortcuts.

KB Cover Keyboard Overlay

A good example for the former is a foreign language student who wishes to use a keyboard with the studied country’s layout and alphabet. Imagine the convenience for students of Arabic or Cyrillic languages. For software packages, the overlays highlight keyboard shortcuts to enhance productivity – it’s much faster to press “alt-f” than it is to use the mouse to select an item from a pull-down menu. All major software is covered – Photoshop, Final Cut, Media Composer, Sibelius, etc.

The overlays are a ultra-thin and made from high quality silicone. There’s a big selection of overlays for different countries and software packages. Prices are in the range $20-$40 and I think they’re great value.

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

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Dolly Drive Cloud Backup for Time Machine

Posted by Andrew at 8:55 AM on February 17, 2012

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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J5Create’s Wormhole Station

Posted by Andrew at 12:25 AM on January 18, 2012

j5create logoJ5Create may be familiar to Apple Macintosh users as they’re designers of aesthetic Mac accessories, but their latest gadget will be of interest to those of us with a foot in the PC camp. Here Todd talks to John about their new Wormhole Station.

The Wormhole Station combined with the Wormhole cable creates a keyboard and mouse switch which not only controls both a PC and a Mac from one mouse and keyboard but also moves files seamlessly from one computer to the other. Even cooler, you can set the configuration up so that moving the mouse cursor off one side of Mac screen transfers the cursor to the PC screen. It’s a bit like having a dual monitor setup, only with two OSes!

If you like the sound of this, it’s available in both laptop and desktop configurations. Available now, the Wormhole Station will set you back $109.99 and the cable is $39.99. The CES folk like it so much, they gave the Wormhole Station an Innovation Honoree Award.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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LaCie Thunderbolt at CES Unveiled

Posted by Andrew at 8:43 AM on January 17, 2012

LaCie LogoMike Mihalik from LaCie shows off their new Thunderbolt-connected hard drives for the Apple Macs, including the previously announced Little Big Disk and the new 2big, which has two internal 3.5″ drives. Also announced was the eSata Dock, a docking station that connects legacy SATA devices via Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt offers seriously quick data transfer speeds with write speeds of 252 Mb/s and read speeds of 459 Mb/s shown in the video.

The Little Big Disk is available now, but the 2big and eSata Dock units won’t be available until later in the quarter, with pricing to be announced.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast network.

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Sophos Offers Free Anti-Virus for Macs

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on November 4, 2010

Sophos logoThere’s no doubt that Apple Macs and Linux PCs are far less likely to suffer from virus infections or malware when compared to their Windows cousins, but there’s also no doubt that newer technologies such as cross-platform scripting can lead to vulnerabilities across the board.  Besides no-one wants to be blamed for passing on a virus infection as payload in a file, even if your computer isn’t actually infected.

McAfee and Kaspersky have had Mac security products for awhile and now Sophos joins the list by offering its Anti-Virus Home Edition for Mac and best of all, Sophos is offering it for free!

Apparently “based on Sophos’s flagship security software, which protects over 100 million business users worldwide”, the software has protection, detection and disinfection capabilities for viruses and malware on OS X.  It will also detect Windows viruses present in files but aren’t activated.  As with most Windows anti-virus products, the Sophos Anti-Virus Home Edition runs in the background, scanning files on-access. You can read more about the technical specs and download the software here.

I’m not a Mac user, but if I was, I’d already have Anti-Virus Home Edition downloaded and installed.  Yes, I know that it’s arguable that there aren’t any OS X viruses right now, but you can bet that they’re coming and when they do, the viruses will burn through the Mac community like wildfire as most people don’t have protection.  It’s free to download so what have you got to lose except a few CPU cycles?

The One Thing Apple Did Wrong this Year

Posted by J Powers at 2:17 AM on December 28, 2009

First of all, I know there are going to be people disagreeing on this, so let’s just say we’ll agree to disagree….

I have seen a few articles on the web talking about the 10 things that Apple has done right and the 10 things Apple has done wrong. While I look at some of the items on these lists, I agree with it for the most part. You can probably guess some of the things like Apple and AT&T, the Tablet rumors, not upgrading the Mac Pro, etc.

All in all, there is one thing that I think Apple should have done this year and didn’t really do. It’s something that was on Beta News top ten list of things they did right. But I disagree:

Apple did not lower the prices enough.

Back in June the gossip was that Apple was lowering prices on their Macbooks. Everyone was a flutter with a possibly “affordable” machine. But in the end, the reality was that the Intel Dual core laptop started at $999. If you wanted a more affordable Mac – The mini only costs $599.

Now if you compare that to a PC Laptop – 2.66 Dual core with 2 GB DDR3 memory and 250GB hard drive, you will find that price is at about $700. It is said that 30% of the macbook sale is profit. That is about $300 for the Apple name and OS. Apple is expected to have sold about 3 million new machines in this quarter alone, meaning $300 million in sales – or (if numbers stayed the same year round) $1.2 Billion.

Before we move forward – I realize that Apple has to answer to investors. Making profit is key, especially in this economy. However, this last year and a half has not been good to some. Most companies have tried to lower prices so people can buy more and re-stimulate the economy.

Apple didn’t do anything viable for the average consumer.

If they would have done the same thing as with the original Macintosh, then I would be more sympathetic to the cause. Basically, Apple – Back in 1985 – started a program to build, or even rebuild school computer rooms. I was lucky enough to go to a High school that had received 30 Macintosh Classics from this program.

But in this go-around they didn’t. They pretty much profited the money from the sales.

I am all for making a profit in any economy. PC manufacturers would always complain that the problem with building computers was they would only make a couple dollars from selling because the competition was so high. That is why companies made support plans – to make some extra cash on a sale.

My problem lies with the fact that a low end Macbook is not affordable to the average consumer. That is why Microsoft made the PC hunter commercials. A Mac for $1000 whereas a PC Notebook for $500. Yes, it might have a slightly slower processor to it, but will the average consumer actually notice a500 Mhz difference? We could also talk about how AMD processors would match the speed and keep the price low. But let’s not get into THAT argument.

Add to it Apple’s other interests, like iPhone sales, which are great. It costs them $179 to build a 16 GB model. Now while you are saying “That’s OK, I only paid $199 for the phone”, the reality is you didn’t. AT&T picked up the difference for the exclusivity. A $400 difference.

Here is how it works – AT&T pays Apple a monthly fee per phone on their system. So within 2 years, AT&T will pay Apple around $400 for your phone ($12-15 per month). Making Apple about $400 on your $179 iPhone ($600 in total). Of course, if you buy the phone outright, it will cost you $499.

Now we will talk stocks: This last week, Apple shares rose to $209 – the highest they’ve ever been. Why is that? No other reason than the fact that a rumor is going around about a Tablet that might be coming.

Really?

I could go on with numbers, but I think I made my point. Apple could have easily dropped a Macbook to $700, and a Macbook Pro to $900. They would have then sold Apple care for $70 a year and still made a tidy profit.

So the rumor of the Tablet is it will sell for $600. I would venture a guess to say it will be more $800 (if this rumor comes true). Why? Because Apple doesn’t want to “Cheapen” the computer experience for anyone. And they certainly don’t want to lighten the pocketbooks.