Archives For Gadgets

It’s not the latest. Nor is it the greatest. But if you’re on the market for a budget NAS, $40 is hard to beat. (Shipping looks to run about $8 – $15.) This refurb Buffalo LinkStation Live incorporates a single 320GB drive and is supported by a 90 day warranty. Assuming the unit is similar to an earlier version I owned back in 2005, the Linkstation is powered by Linux, great for tweakability, and supports a variety of media serving and networking options out of the box. (Though, hopefully with a quieter fan.) At the very least, you’ll be able to use this networked drive as part of a backup strategy and/or to centralize an iTunes collection. Once you’ve picked up the LinkStation Live, head on over to Buffalo Tech’s support site for the latest device firmware and desktop utilities. Thanks for the tip, Jon!

With the netbook craze in full swing, there is some fear that the new cheap portables will inspire a “race to the bottom” for laptop makers. In other words, manufacturers will get squeezed as consumers expect cheaper and cheaper computers available in retail or subsidized with mobile broadband contracts. So is this a bad thing? Certainly not for consumers, but even for computer companies there’s one big upside to declining prices. Namely, computers suddenly have the potential to hit replacement cycles that are much closer to cell phones than PCs of old.

I adore my new Asus Eee. Fast, shiny, and portable, I consider it a dream machine. However, reading today’s GigaOM column in The New York Times about tablet netbooks with built in cellular connectivity, I found myself thinking about a possible upgrade. I immediately checked myself, then thought twice. I bought my Eee for work, and it cost less than a third of what my old Dell did. If something cool comes out this year, there’s no reason I can’t eBay the Eee and buy again. That would drop my computer replacement cycle from two to three years down to one. Not such a bad thing at all.

I’m Dreaming of a Green CES

Mari Silbey —  December 30, 2008

Last year was the year CES jumped on the green bandwagon, going over the top to promote new energy-saving initiatives and ways to offset the show’s massive carbon footprint. It was all a bit ridiculous given the numerous ways in which the CE industry and CES in particular are environmentally unfriendly. (You know, lots of disposable parts, icky manufacturing chemicals, and people like me flying from all over the world to meet up in Las Vegas…) However, the environmental measures were a step in the right direction, and even the green hype has its benefits.

This year, more CES exhibitors have joined in the green fun. In all of the pre-CES pitch emails I’ve received, green tech is the category that shows up the most often. And there’s some cool stuff set to launch. If the marketing is to be believed, we’ll soon see remote controls that never run out of power, new mats that charge your gadgets without their power cords, and technology that reduces the carbon emissions of idling PCs. I’m a little skeptical of first-gen products as they tend to be too expensive, or not quite convenient enough. But I’m determined to be open-minded. And even if the first-gen products aren’t market-changing, there’s always the next generation, and the one after that.

Meanwhile, other folks are spotting parallel trends out of this year’s CES PR push. Dean Takahashi reports that 3D displays and glasses are likely to be big, while the PC Mag crew are prepping for ultra-thin HDTVs and lots of new notebooks and netbooks. Mark Spoonauer over at Laptop Magazine declares that “cheap is the new cool” as far as CES gadgets are concerned, and Jeff Bakalar at CNET is predicting a bigger gaming presence at CES this year than last.

It’s only another week and a half until the fun begins. Any reader predictions? Anything you want me and Dave to scout out?

…And an iPod Touch or Three

Mari Silbey —  December 29, 2008

Per usual, Christmas with my family was a CE lover’s dream. Among the gifts given and received:

  • 1 Slacker G2 (to replace the one I had to give away)
  • 1 Skooba checkpoint-friendly laptop bag
  • 1 Asus Eee 1000HA (okay, I bought it for myself right before X’mas; it’s a tax write-off)
  • 1 Logitech diNovo Edge keyboard
  • 1 PS3 console
  • 2 Garmins and a TomTom
  • 3 iPods Touch

Sadly, not all of them came home to my house, but a healthy number did. As for the iPods, we were not unique in our gift giving. The iPod Touch was one of the hottest selling items on Amazon this season, and a huge jump in App Store purchases proves the new gifts were put to good use. Why the mainstream popularity? Aside from the obvious portable music/video access, I have a theory that a lot of adults who used to steal their kids’ Gameboys to play Tetris are discovering the iPod as an “adult” portable gaming machine. Wurdle, anyone?

So far the gadget I’ve spent the most time with has been my new Asus. The Eee is delicious after lugging around my >15″ Dell for the last two years, and the response time compared to my loaded-down Dell is ridiculously fast. I also discovered an unexpected benefit of the Eee: It props up nicely on my treadmill for a little Hulu watching during workouts.

How did your CE wish list fare this holiday season?

After weeks of playing with the Flip MinoHD, it’s time to give someone else a turn. The kind PR folks have agreed to let us give away our review unit to one lucky ZNF reader.

My initial take on the MinoHD was that the difficulties of dealing with huge file sizes made the upgrade from an SD camcorder not quite worthwhile. But HD is addictive. The more videos you take in HD, the harder it is to go back to looking at SD clips. I’m still not willing to give up the AA battery advantage of the Flip Ultra, but if the Ultra gets an upgrade, I may have to as well.

In the meantime, you know the drill. Leave a comment saying you’d like a shot at the MinoHD (US residents only- sorry!), and one winner will be selected at random this weekend.

Data files on each of my web server, laptops, primary computer and iMac are regularly and automatically backed up to my networked Drobo. I also use the Drobo as a primary repository for 100’s of Gigabytes of centralized data – accessible from any device on my home office network, including my Apple TV, TiVo, PS3 and Xbox 360.

As of three days ago, I had two 500 Gigabyte drives and 1 Terabyte drive installed in the Drobo. Two days ago a flashing red light appeared beside one of the 500 Gig drives. This meant that the drive had failed. I purchased a 1 Terabyte Western Digital replacement drive for $114 at infonec.

True to data robotics claims, I was able to hot swap out the defective 500 Gigabyte drive and slide in the new Terabyte drive without incident. It took about 15 seconds to do. Subsequently, it took about six hours for Drobo to reconstitute data redundancy – ie: to format the new drive and redistribute my data across the newly constituted drive array such that data would once again not be lost if any drive failed.

Read the rest of this entry at The Daleisphere »

Are You Backing Up?

Dave Zatz —  December 23, 2008

The holidays, and related precious photo opportunities, are upon us… so it’s time for a backup public service announcement. And, unfortunately, I have a feeling most non-geeks leave their data vulnerable to loss.

The point was driven home recently, when I recovered the mother-in-law’s PC – containing thousands of irreplaceable photos, including a trip to China and her son’s wedding. After numerous attempts, the XP machine wouldn’t boot into Windows. Which is when I was called in. I figured either the install had been corrupted or the hard drive was failing. Since the drive was still functional, the first order of business was ensuring the safety of her priceless data. I popped the SATA drive into an external dock (above, ran me about $35 at Micro Center) and offloaded her content onto my Macbook. Then I went about restoring XP (on the same drive), followed by her files. And left her with a backup DVD. However, it’s just a stop-gap… and folks need a more comprehensive archive strategy.

Ideally, data is backed up both locally (convenience) and remotely (redundancy). Apple attempts to bring simple, seamless local archiving and restoration to the masses with Time Machine. While a Time Capsule is probably the easiest implementation for novices avoiding clutter, I periodically hang a 750GB Maxtor One Touch 4 off my MacBook via USB. In the days when Windows was my primary OS, I relied on Acronis True Image for disk images and incremental backups. My main Vista install is a Boot Camp partition, and I’ve used the free Winclone to take a baseline image that I can rebuild from should the need arrive. For remote storage, I was a Mozy customer for some time… But have since moved on to SugarSync. While it’s not quite the Mozy+Mac Gallery+Dropbox über solution I was hoping for, they’re off to a good start – I’m willing to give them some time to refine and and enhance their service. (Neither of these cloud storage services would be appropriate if your ISP restricts you to a low data transfer cap.)

So, are you backing up… If so, how? If not, why? And standby for a post by Dale on his Drobo RAID-like storage usage.