Tag Archives: macintosh

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock at CES



OWC logoOther World Computing (OWC) always turns up at CES with new toys and this year Todd looks on with desire as founder Larry O’Connor shows off the latest accessories from the Mac shop.

First up is a 240 GB SSD with USB3 crammed into a memory stick form factor. Made to match most Apple products with a brushed aluminium finish, it’ll set you back a cool $199. A 480 GB version will be coming soon!

Next is OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock which brings five USB 3.0, two Thunderbolt 2, FireWire 800, HDMI, gigabit ethernet and audio in/out ports into a single unit. On order for delivery in February, this will set you back $249 as a CES limited-time special ($299 normally). Very handy if you have legacy FireWire gear that you want to use with newer Apple computers.

Other products mentioned but not shown include SSDs for Mac Pro upgrades, software RAID solutions and portable backup drives.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Todd Aune of The Elder Divide for the TechPodcast Network.
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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.


Apple Keyboard Overlays from KB Covers



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: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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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.


KB Covers Keyboard Overlays



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



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



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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