Information in the Personal Cloud (Part 3)

Following on from Part 2 which looked at the consumer plug computing server solutions for your personal cloud. In this post I’m looking at another solution to NAS (Network Attached Storage), the HDD enclosures specifically designed for this task. As I was researching this topic there was one particular producer who consistently received positive reviews and that was Synology. I think that they have put a great deal of effort into the user experience; consequently they have received numerous awards. With their DiskStation products they not only focus on the enterprise solution side of things but they provide consumer focused products as well; though not quite as functionally right as their enterprise products they are cheaper and still (very much) stacks up favourably against the competition.

The two Diskstations that I’m interested in are the Synology DS110j – single disk enclosure  currently retailing at ~ £113, and the Synology DS210j – double disk enclosure (RAID) backup ~ £152.50. Stick a SATA disk or two into these beauties and you’re set up.

(If you’re not familiar with RAID what it does is automatically backs up data between two or more disk drives so that there is redundancy between the two disks; one disk fails and all your data is retained on the other disk(s). Swap the failed disk out for another disk and the whole process begins again.)

I really am drawn generically to this concept as a solution, and to these Synology products in particular. This video might just highlight a little more:

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Information in the Personal Cloud (Part 2)

There are a number of plug computing devices on the market, some specifically do this kind of function commercially. These small form factor devices are Linux server computers running on ARM processor architecture, and consequently only draw between 4W and 13W of power. They have an Ethernet socket and from 1 to 4 USB sockets. Once you couple an external USB HDD and plug into an Ethernet socket you have a Network-attached storage (NAS). This can then provide secure cloud backup, remote access and collaboration services, and allow sharing and synchronize of files on your local network.

The options include:

  • Pogoplug v2 Pink
  • Tonido Plug
  • Seagate Dockstar (based on Pogoplug software)
  • Iomega iConnect WDS
  • CTERA CloudPlug

I’ve gone out and got a Pogoplug v2 cos it was the easiest and cheapest route for me at the time. I coupled a Western Digital 1TB HDD to it and plugged it into an ethernet socket. The setup was relatively straight forward, and didn’t take very long at all.

There are three options for access with the Pogoplug:

  1. Web access via the security  https://my.pogoplug.com login
  2. Download a small desktop client for Windows, Mac OS or Linux
  3. Install a mobile app for iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Palm.

You can manage, access, upload and download content from anywhere. You can view your images, even as a slideshow, and stream video (you need to have the videos transcoded first or you’ll only see the first 10 sec by default).

Here’s a video of me streaming a video from the external HDD via Pogoplug simultaneously to a laptop and an Android mobile:

You can backup and synch folder.

You can share your content with other people by allowing access to specific folders and inviting them using the email invite option. Alternatively you can open the content of a folder completely and have a URL allocated. From your logged in access side it might look something like:

Setting up sharing folder on Pogoplug Then from the open web side using the supplied URL you’d see:

Open web side view of folder via Pogoplug(This folder isn’t open any longer, so the URL doesn’t work.)

By default security isn’t set, but you can optionally enable SSL, though this will slow down access.

I must admit that for about the first three days following setup I did experience some difficulties. Uploading files wasn’t working successfully; they would hang or bomb out. I resorted to plugging the HDD directly into my PCs to transfer files across. Then accessing these files was a little slow via the Pogoplug interface. However, following this initial period, things have gone much more smoothly.

Interestingly, the Seagate Dockstar also uses the Pogoplug service.

If you have any worries about the longevity of Pogoplug, they have said that if the company does dissolve then the code will be made available via SourceForge so you’d be able to continue using your Pogoplug.

I think the Tonido Plug runs all open source so that might be an area to consider further.

I intent to write another part in this Personal Cloud series of posts soon.

Additional information:

  1. Tonido – Run your own personal cloud – http://www.tonido.com/
  2. Tonidoplug – TonidoPlug is a tiny, low-power, low-cost personal home server and NAS device powered by Tonido software that allows you to access your files, music and media from anywhere for just $99 – http://www.tonidoplug.com/
  3. Pogoplug – http://www.pogoplug.com/home-en.html?
  4. Seagate Dockstar – http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/network_storage/freeagent_dockstar/
  5. Comparison of hardware specs http://plugapps.com/index.php5?title=Portal:Hardware

British Library Sound Map – Sheffield

The British Library has a project just started where the general public can record short soundscapes to be kept and archived for posterity. The pilot phase is happening right in the gorgeous city of Sheffield.

There was an article about it on BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight yesterday (listen via iPlayer from 39min42sec to 44mins) plus an article in the Sheffield Telegraph.

I spent my lunchtime recording some soundscapes in town, geo tagging and uploading them. By the time I got back to my desk they had already made it onto the British Library Sound Map.

Here’s my tweet about it. Follow the #uksm on Twitter.

Application of this concept has some great potential for education. It also shows what a multi-tool the smart phone has become.

So if you want to be a little part of history, get recording sounds to Audioboo. More details are on my previous blog post about Audioboo.

Swype for Android

It’s not often that you encounter something that significantly changes the way you do things in such a subtle fashion. I’ve signed up for the Beta of Swype for Android. Registration will probably only be open for a few days; demand is high.

So what is Swype? Well it’s a new means of inputting text into an Android device (at least for starters). I’ve a feeling this is going to be on so many devices in the future. I’m sure there’s a complex algorithm under the bonnet, but this is so quick and easy to use it’s going to make a significant different to the way I’ll be able to work into the future. For example, I’m thinking of creating a mobile blog for jotting down quick thoughts throughout the day, and Swype will make that practical and possible. It’s so easy to get started with using as well.

The special thing about Swype is the way you just slide your finger or thumb across the keypad and spell out the word, increasing the input rate significantly from the customary double thumb approach preferred by many. So much so that the texting world record has recently been set using Swype.

This video of a presentation by the CEO (perhaps a bit long but you don’t need to watch it all) demonstrates things better.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1378748&dest=-1]

There’s a set of Swype tips videos on Youtube. This one shows you a trick to type even faster:

Zoom H1 Audio Recorder

Samson recently announced the launch of their new Zoom H1 Audio Recorder. From the images and the spec it looks rather nice. The form-factor makes it useful for those interviews, with a look that appears as though it will feel more like holding a standard microphone. It has an X-Y stereo configuration, records to microSD cards, records WAV @ 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz @ 16-bit or 24-bit, and claims to run for 10 hours on one AA battery. An interesting marketing point for me is that it fits on a hot shoe mount on the top of a DSLR, and with those things capable of filming incredible HD movies, having such a useful audio recorder in situ is a real positive. I’m rather interested in this one.

Full details from Samson.

PhoneGap – JavaScript programming apps for iPhone, Android, & more

I found this last night and noted it on Squire’s Daily Interest until I could write a post here.

PhoneGap looks sooooo interesting. It allows native phone apps to be produced for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and more in JavaScript.

It started from a two day iPhone Dev Camp. The underlying reason for it coming into being is that there aren’t that many Objective C developers, but there are a whole lot of HTML and JavaScript programmers.

Under the MIT Licence PhoneGap will always be opensource.

There’s already a list of apps created using PhoneGap.

The download is here.

Check out the video, it explains things a whole lot better:

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more about “PhoneGap“, posted with vodpod

Steve Wheeler’s New Smart Devices for Learning

Had a look at Steve Wheeler’s Slideshare presentation about New Smart Devices for Learning today, and it’s well worth sharing here: