WD My Passport Edge drive — the good and bad

If you are looking for a small, portable hard drive for your laptop then there are several choices on the market and hard drive prices continue to reach new lows. The one I settled on, mainly because of a price deal, was the WD My Passport Edge. The stipulation was that I was buying a drive that specifically said “for Mac”. There is a version that is not labeled this way, and is generally the same price, but at the moment of my purchase the Mac one was cheaper. No problem since, after all, a hard drive is a hard drive, right?

wd my passport edge

The Good

With 500 GB of storage, the little USB drive packs plenty of extra space into its enclosure. When I say “little” I mean that quite literally, as the dimensions are 4.4 x 3.4 x 0.4 inches and 4.6 ounces. In addition to the sleek design, the drive also is USB 3.0 (backward compatible of course) and comes with pre-installed software to work with Apple Time Machine.

The Bad

I am sure the Apple software is great, but I purchased with for Windows, and there is a process that needs to be carried out to make that work. That pre-installed software blocks Windows access.

As I plugged in the drive, I heard the familiar USB connection chime, but a trip to Explorer showed no extra drive. Normal trouble-shooting resulted in the same thing — I unplugged and re-plugged, switched ports and the like, all to no avail. A trip to device manager showed the drive, no problem. A PC reboot also produced all of these same results.

It turns out you will need to open Explorer and right-click on Computer (“This PC” if you are running Windows 8.1) and choose “Manage”.

Now, locate the WD My Passport drive — the simplest way is to unplug the drive while watching the console. Pay attention to which one disappears. Then plug it back in and again and pay attention to see which drive appears (it should be the same). Likely you will find it listed as “Disk 1″.

Move to the lower pane and right-click on the WD. Choose “New Simple Volume” — wording may vary based on Windows version. During this setup process you will be prompted to enter a volume name — I simply named it “WD My Passport”. If you choose none then the drive will be named “new volume”. You also must choose a drive letter, but the default should be fine (F in my case). You can always go back and right-click the drive later and rename it or change the drive letter.

Conclusion

The above steps fix the problem, and now you have a small and elegant looking hard drive that will easily fit in a pocket and holds 500 GB of data. For the price, this drive can not be beat, but setup is a bit of a trick.

WD TV Live at The Gadget Show Live

WD TV LiveWestern Digital’s TV Live series of media players has been around for a couple of years and they’ve gained a sizeable following with over 3.5 million devices sold. The 3rd generation WD TV Live has been released recently and Daniel Mauerhofer was kind enough to give me an interview at The Gadget Show Live.

The new WD TV Live model introduces wi-fi connectivity which was absent on the previous model and it’s now been localised for the UK market with the inclusion of iPlayer and Spotify. Coming in two models, one without an internal hard drive (£99), which is available now, and a second which will have a 1 TB drive and will be available later in the year (approx. £129).

As ever, there’s a complementary remote control app for Android and iOS devices, which looks pretty useful; it’s certainly more than just a button-for-button replacement of the IR remote control.

My personal pet peeve in this area was that media players seemed either play from the local network or stream from the Internet but it was a rare device that could do both. The WD TV Live does both so it’s a thumbs up from me.

On The Net, Less Can Offer More

For some time now I’ve been using an iOS/Android app called “Heytell” to communicate with a number of friends and relatives. Heytell’s appeal is that it offers reliable asynchronous voice messages that are quick and easy to send to people when you don’t want to invest the time in a phone conversation. Heytell’s success as an app is that it offers something that’s less than a phone call but does it very well indeed.

Text messaging is successful and popular because it offers the opportunity to send quick and easy messages directly to the cell phones of others if you don’t want to invest the time or effort into writing a full-fledged email. Text messaging’s success is that it offers something that’s less than an email but does it very well indeed.

For some time now, I’ve been experimenting with various set-top boxes, including the Western Digital WDTV as well as built-in apps in a couple of different brands of Blu-Ray players, the software version of Boxee, an Apple TV, and even a Mac Mini connected to my HDTV. All of them had their strengths, however, it still felt as if something was somehow wrong or missing from each one of those experiences and user interfaces.

Over the weekend I bought a Roku 2 XS. The Roku is by far the best set-top box experience I’ve ever had. Roku has got it right. They’ve currently got well over 100 apps to chose from, with many more constantly being added. Roku has a tremendous amount of content provided by those third-party apps, and content drives success. Content is king and always will be.

It hit me what the appeal of a box such as Roku is with its third-party apps. These streaming apps, such as Crackle, Netflix, etc. are something less than a full-fledged cable or broadcast TV network. They can have lots of highly-specialized content to choose from, such as Netflix, or such a small amount of highly-specialized content that it’s only updated once a week. Big traditional cable and broadcast networks provide only one program at a time that the viewer has to make an appointment to watch. Roku video streaming apps provide specialized content that in many cases could never make it on a traditional broadcast network because the audience would be too small. That same specialized content begins to have tremendous appeal in a Roku app venue where it’s something less than a full-fledged network environment, yet delivered very well indeed.

On the Internet, less really can be more.

Samsung 58″ Class (58.0″ Diag.) 500 Series 1080p Plasma HDTV

A few days ago I made a trip to my local Best Buy store and ended up walking out with a Samsung 58” 500 Series Plasma HDTV. I’d gone into the store thinking if I left with anything, it would most likely be an LCD HDTV. However, after spending quite a while comparing picture quality and prices on the massive number of sets covering the big-box store’s back wall, I happened upon the Samsung model PN58C500, a 58” Plasma.

This Samsung Plasma has an absolutely stunning picture, rivaling the best high-end LCD sets that cost two and almost three times more. The PN58C500 sells for $1,197.99. I happened to have a “Best Buy Rewards” coupon for 10% percent off of any HDTV set costing $750 or more, and the coupon did end up applying to the PN58C500. My final price, including our rather high local sales taxes, ended up being $1,147.

There’s no 3D circuitry, but that’s not a problem for me since I consider 3D TV’s (as well as 3D movies) to be a useless gimmick. The PN58C500 has Samsung’s “AllShare DLNA Networking” that allows the set to connect to computers and DLNA servers running on your home network to stream HD video via Ethernet. I’ve also got a Mac Mini, as well as a Western Digital HD Live Plus media player attached directly to the set via my surround sound receiver/switcher.

The PN58C500 has a useful variety of video formatting modes to easily cycle through via the remote control that facilitates getting the right picture format for the particular video you are watching or device you are watching it from. It has 3 HDMI inputs, and is a thin 2.8 inches thick.

The remote control seems to be a bit touchy, needing to be pointed at the set to ensure that remote control commands register. Also, the built-in speakers seem to fire out of the bottom, but the volume levels are more than loud enough to be usable.

If you are looking for a new big-screen HDTV, you can’t go wrong buying this set considering the price versus value. I cannot over-stress the absolutely stunning picture quality this set produces.

Twonky Mobile Server

It’s always fun when technology intersects, and it becomes possible to do something cool that was previously not possible and/or was never thought of.

Such is the case with my Sprint HTC Evo smartphone. Sure, it’s a pocket computer. Sure, it has WiFi. As such, sure, it’s a network device with a potential node on my home network.

Rewind. What was that last bit again? My phone is a network device with a potential node on my home network. Let’s see – what can I do with network devices – share resources, share drives and therefore share files.

Enter the free Twonky Server Mobile for Android. Twonky Server Mobile is a free piece of software available in the Android Marketplace that shares audio, video and photos from the phone to UPnP and DLNA certified receiving devices on a home network. This includes software such as Boxee and UBMC among others.

I had a copied a number of videos to my Evo’s 8 media card so I’d have them available to watch if and when I had time. Hummm – with the Evo’s WiFi turned on and connected to my home network, if I ran the Twonky Server Mobile software, would I be able to see Twonky Mobile Server as an available network share with my Western Digital TV Live Plus boxes? If so, how would it work?

I’m happy to report that the free Twonky Mobile Server for Android works flawlessly. Simply start the app and there’s nothing else to do on the phone. Twonky Mobile Server shows up as an available server on the network, and the audio, videos and photos show up and play with UPnP and DLNA certified receiving devices such as WD TV Live Plus boxes.

Twonky also offers a small array of inexpensive server software products that make it possible to easily share audio, video and photo media from your Windows or Mac computer via UPnP and DLNA to certified devices such as Playstation 3, many digital photo frames, many Blu-ray players, and other devices and softwares.

Updated Western Digital DVR Expander

For those of you with a cable or satellite DVR or TiVo, Western Digital has updated their My Book AV DVR Expander hard drives.  Among other things, is the addition of a USB port, to the already existing eSATA port.  That means the drives are now compatible with the Sony PS3 and other media devices such as camcorders.

This is TiVo’s one and only “official” method of hard drive expansion.

The capacity has not changed – it’s still 1TB, but I think we can expect that to be expanded on in the near future.  Although, 1TB is an awful lot of HDTV recording.  I never came close to filling the 500GB drive in my DirecTV HR23.

One thing to watch out for, at least for DirecTV users (and I have no idea if this applies to other DVR’s) is that this drive replaces the internal drive.  The good news is that it replaces, but doesn’t overwrite.  In other words unplug this drive and reboot to the original internal drive and all of your previous recordings are still there.  It would be nice if it added to, instead of replacing, but beggars can’t be choosers.  And, since most cable DVR’s have ridiculously small drives, this is a no-brainer of an upgrade.

So, what do you pay for this convenience?  It retails for $149.99, but Amazon already has it for $119.00.  This is what we should have from our TV providers to begin with, but, for now, we  have to pay extra for.  And this is, by far, the best extra you can add to your DVR.

Ending A Relationship

Our relationship had always been so full of promise and fun. Being gone so much of the time due to my job was certainly a strain. Even so, when I was around, I didn’t make many demands.

Something was coming between us. Lately I’ve been looking elsewhere and slowly began finding satisfaction on the Internet. The thought of divorce has been crossing my mind over the past few months. It was a painful decision, but I knew it had to be made.

Today I decided it was time to sever our ties.

I’ve been a Dish Network customer for about 10 years – until today.

What came between us? I’ve been experimenting with the idea of getting TV content from various sources on the Internet. I’ve tried connecting both Mac with Front Row and Windows Media Center laptops to an LCD HDTV. A full-fledged computer is very flexible in that it can play virtually any file type, but the clunky, complex hands-on Interface is not designed to be operated from an easy chair. I want as much content as possible integrated into one place.

In the meantime I stumbled across some software called Playon TV available at http://www.playon.tv. The software comes with a 30 day trial and works with the DLNA and UpNP network device standards. The software sells for $39.95. Playon TV is designed to be installed either on a computer or a home server on the home network. Playon TV enables streaming of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Videos, Pandora, etc. to a DNLA/UpNP device like the WD TV Live Plus, X-Box 360, etc. There are also plenty of free third-party plugins for Playon TV that add a mind-boggling and growing variety of content to the Playon TV network share. It works well with my hacked Apple TV with XBMC.

Yesterday I visited my local Best Buy store and bought a Western Digital WD TV Live Plus to connect to the small HDTV in my kitchen. The WD TV Live is a very small set-top box that comes with a small remote control that has an Ethernet port in and an HDMI port out. Straight out of the box it does an excellent job of playing Netflix and is capable of playing back 1080P content. Only the Plus version plays Netflix.

The WD TV Live Plus combined with the Playon TV software convinced me it was time for radical measures. This afternoon I cancelled my Dish Network account and will save $97 dollars per month. I also bought a second WD TV Live Plus unit to connect to my main HDTV/surround sound setup.

At $97 dollars per month savings the two WD TV Live Plus units will have paid for themselves within 3 months.

Can I live without access to Dish Network? I think it’s going to be similar to a few years ago when I dropped my wired phone line. There was a bit of an emotional attachment that I had to let go of, but once I cut the cord it was no big deal.

GNC-2007-12-11 #324

I have made the announcement on when I will do the 24 hour Marathon show. Set your calendar it will be Dec 21st

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