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November 2011 Archives

November 3, 2011

Seagate GoFlex Desk External Drive with Flexible Interface

I just did a Google search for "You can never have enough...", and the top responses were "...hats, gloves and shoes" (from the TV show Absolutely Fabulous), "...cowbell" (from Saturday Night Live -- look it up), and the more prosaic / inspirational "... of what you don't need."

Of course, I was looking for the answer "storage," which further searches seems to apply mostly to space around the house, though I was thinking more in terms of gigabytes and terabytes.

Storage is on my mind because I've been pushing a lot of files this year -- video, audio, and lots and lots of data -- and need a way to be able to take it on the road when necessary.

And Seagate has stepped up with the Seagate GoFlex Desk External Drive with capacity up to a ridiculous 4 TB, in a desktop size (6 1/4 x 4 9/10 x 1 3/4 in., 2 1/3 lbs.)

With today's street pricing, you can get 1 TB of storage for around $90, 2 TB for $110, 3 TB for $160, and the full 4 TB for $220.

The GoFlex drive features an illuminated capacity gauge and backup software with encryption.

But the key feature is the flexible interface, part of the Seagate GoFlex Storage System with interchangeable cables and desktop adapters.

Because once you do get enough storage (at least for the moment), you then discover that you never can have enough bandwidth either, to access all those large files on the disk.

With the USB 2.0 interface on your current system, copying gigabytes of data can seem to take forever, while the new USB 3.0 interface promises up to 10X faster data transfer (or more like 4X in current practice -- see below).

So maybe it makes sense to invest in a huge new USB 3.0 drive, plus a PC card adapter for your laptop, so you can run faster now, and feel pretty comfortable that your next Windows system will support USB 3.0. But you may already have legacy FireWire 800 drives and a compatible interface on your system. Or your company may already have invested in eSATA for large external drives.

The Seagate GoFlex System resolves these connection uncertainties with swappable adapters for the drives, so the same external drive can connect to different systems with different interfaces.

After all, you don't want to build up 4 TB of important, well-organized files, and then discover that the disk interface is no longer compatible when you upgrade, or cannot be shared with other systems. It seems you can never have enough interfaces as well.

See my earlier article on USB 3.0 in Videomaker magazine.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for more on portable drives, from keys to desktop drives.

Find the Seagate GoFlex Desk Drive on Amazon.com

More on USB 2.0 / 3.0 data rates:

Continue reading "Seagate GoFlex Desk External Drive with Flexible Interface" »

November 4, 2011

Amazon Prime Members Can Now "Borrow" Books for Free on Kindle

Amazon has enhanced its Prime program, now for book readers as well as video enthusiasts -- Prime members now can "borrow" books for free to read on their Kindle devices, as part of the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Amazon Prime membership costs $79 a year. The initial attraction for Amazon customers is the free two-day shipping on millions of items (but not all items, and not the Amazon Marketplace), with no minimum order size.

For video fans, Prime instant videos also offers unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of over 10,000 movies and TV shows via Amazon Instant Video. Just log in to Amazon and click "Watch now" to begin viewing.

And now Kindle owners can "borrow" one book for free each month from over 5,000 titles, including more than 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers.

On your Kindle, browse the Kindle Owners' Lending Library under "See all categories" in the Kindle store. Eligible titles display the Prime badge in the search results, and have a Borrow for Free button on the detail pages in the Kindle Store.

You can read a borrowed book on multiple Kindle devices (of any generation) registered to the same account, but it cannot be read on Kindle reading apps. There is no due date -- You can borrow one book per calendar month, and must return the previous book before borrowing the next (follow the prompts when you borrow your next book, or check under Manage Your Kindle).

You can try out Amazon Prime by signing up for a one month free trial.

See my Handheld Devices Gallery for more on the Amazon Kindle line and other E-Book readers.

Find the Amazon Kindle and Amazon Kindle Touch on Amazon.com

November 6, 2011

Seagate GoFlex Portable Drives Up To 1.5 TB

It's a glorious time for storage, as we're recalibrating from gigabytes to terabytes, now even for personal drives at a cost coming under $100. The Seagate GoFlex Desk External Drive brings desktop drives to 4 TB, and includes the GoFlex Storage System with interchangeable cables and desktop adapters so the same drive can work with different interfaces (see previous post).

But what about more portable drives, to cram lots 'o bytes into a handheld device that fits in your bag to go?

No problem -- the Seagate GoFlex Portable Drive offers up to a wonderful 1.5 TB of storage for only around $155. With the same GoFlex design, you can use additional adapters to swap it between USB 3.0 / USB 2.0, FireWire 800, and/or powered eSATA.

Or if you're looking more to maximize transfer speed over these fast interfaces, rather than maximum storage, the recently-introduced Seagate GoFlex Turbo Portable Drive features a 7200 RPM high performance drive for up to 40% faster file transfers than standard 5400 RPM drives. It's available with up to 750 GB for $139.

The Turbo drives also bundle SafetyNet Data Recovery Services free for 2 years, to rescue damaged or deleted files, whether by accessing your drive over the Internet, or by shipping it in for service.

I've been successfully using several of these drives to manage large amounts of data on the road. That 1.5 TB works well for both for building up a sizable archive of files as a backup disk, and for leaving plenty of headroom to add more files on an active disk.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for more on portable drives, from USB keys to desktop drives.

And see my Holiday Gadgets 2011: Portable and Wireless feature for more on storage and other holiday goodies.

Find the Seagate GoFlex Portable Drive on Amazon.com

November 9, 2011

Seagate GoFlex Slim Ultra-Portable Storage

If you're in the market for mass storage, the Seagate GoFlex line offers the GoFlex Desk desktop drives with up to 4 TB for around $220, and the GoFlex Portable handheld drives with up to 1.5 TB for around $169 (see previous post). Both these lines also use the GoFlex adapter systems to support multiple data interfaces, beyond USB 3.0 / 2.0.

But if you're looking for even more portability, the Seagate GoFlex Slim Drive shrinks a fast 7200 RPM drive with a USB 3.0 interface down to roughly width of a pencil, with 320 GB of storage for around $70.

This puppy is not quite 3 x 5 inches, or about the size as a post-it pad -- but less thick. The USB 3.0 port fits on the end (the new port is smaller than a standard USB 2.0 port), and the end is removable with the GoFlex interface, which can plug into the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Net Media Sharing Device to make the storage on the portable USB drives available over your local network.

However -- If you're interested in more storage, be warned that monsoon flooding in Thailand has seriously impacted hard disk drive production for the major vendors, so plan ahead for shortages and/or price increases. See Tom Coughlin's update on the Forbes.com blog.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for more on portable drives, from USB keys to desktop drives.

And see my Holiday Gadgets 2011: Portable and Wireless feature for more on storage and other holiday goodies.

Find the Seagate GoFlex Slim Drive on Amazon.com

November 11, 2011

Seagate GoFlex Satellite - Mobile Wireless Storage

It's time to wrap up this series on hard drives, which has been using the Seagate GoFlex line of drives to demonstrate the range of options available -- from desktop to portable to shirt-pocket slim (see previous post).

But why worry about physical interfaces, when today it's all about cutting the cable? Instead, you can connect to the Seagate GoFlex Satellite Drive via Wi-Fi. Going wireless means the disk not only works with computers, but also with portable devices including the Apple iPad and iPhone.

With this handheld drive (it's 4.72 x 3.54 x 0.87 in. and 0.59 lbs.), you can bring along additional media clips and documents, and access them from your portable device -- that's 500 more GB for around $179.

The idea is that you first load up the Satellite drive with all your files (yes, by plugging in a physical cable to your computer), and then you can detach and take it on the road as auxiliary storage for stuff you want to enjoy and share.

Note that this is not like adding an external hard drive to your device to allow you to drag and drop masses of files. Instead, the GoFlex Satellite is intended to be an auxiliary stash of media and document files that you can browse and view and stream. You can store some 300 HD movies, 125,000 songs, or 100,000 photos, and access them from up to three computers or portable devices at once.

Of course, when you plug the Satellite directly into your computer it mounts like any other external drive. You then can drag and drop the files that you want to carry on the drive, or use the Seagate Media Sync software for PC or Mac. And with the GoFlex adapters, you can choose between disk interfaces for USB 3.0 / 2.0, FireWire 800, and/or Powered eSATA.

Then when you dismount the drive it switches to operating as Wi-Fi hub. When you turn it on, a network called "GoFlex Satellite" appears in the list of available networks on your computer or device, so you connect to the drive just like any other wireless network.

However, when you connect to the drive instead of your network router, you're no longer connected to the Internet, so how do you actually access the contents of the drive?

One way is to use a web browser -- the drive redirects any web address access to the GoFlex Media interface, which lets you browse and play the disk contents.

Or on portable devices you also can use the free GoFlex Media app for the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android tablets, and smartphones.

Both the app and browser interfaces share the same design -- you can browse your files by type (Videos, Photos, Music, Documents), or by folders on the drive. Then click to display / play the file.

The GoFlex Media interface does support a limited mechanism for downloading individual files from the drive onto your device, though the app mechanism controls playback and manages the downloaded files internally. There also is an upload feature to copy from your device to the drive which is prototyped but not yet implemented.

The Satellite drive has drop sensor protection. It runs on a rechargeable battery for 5 hours of streaming, or 25 hours on standby. It trickle charges through the USB data interface, or has a separate power adapter (though USB) for faster charging.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for more on portable drives, from USB keys to desktop drives.

And see my Holiday Gadgets 2011: Portable and Wireless feature for more on storage and other holiday goodies.

Find the Seagate GoFlex Satellite Drive on Amazon.com

November 13, 2011

Kensington AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, and Tablet Charger

The good news for powering your various portable devices is that most smaller devices now use standard microUSB and USB interfaces for power as well as data, from tiny Bluetooth headsets to smartphones and tablets (see earlier post). So you can power them from your computer while you're transferring data, or use USB AC wall adapters. Unfortunately, it's not quite that easy, as not all USB power connections are the same -- so you need to use the appropriate more sophisticated adapters for the iPad and other more complex devices.

The last outpost of custom power connectors is laptops, so any universal charging solution still needs to come with a collection of tips for different manufacturers.

The Kensington AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, and Tablet Charger is particularly light and flexible, at 4.3 x 2.75 x 0.73 inches and only 8 ounces. The flexibility comes from the included tips to power laptops from ten different manufacturers. You can also switch between 19 and 16 volts, depending on the needs of your devices.

Plus, it includes two built-in USB power ports, one USB and one microUSB, which supply 2.1 Amps to charge tablets and phones, including the iPad & iPhone.

The AbsolutePower unit puts out 100 watts peak, which can support triple charging a (not too demanding) laptop plus two additional USB devices.

This is a surprisingly light universal laptop charger with the bonus simultaneous USB ports, with the right juice for the iPhone and iPad. It's built with a textured scratch-resistant finish, and is available for around $106.

See my Portable Power Accessories Gallery for more on portable chargers

And see my Holiday Gadgets 2011: Portable and Wireless feature for more on these and other holiday goodies.

Find the Kensington AbsolutePower Charger on Amazon.com

November 15, 2011

Holiday Gadgets 2011

It's time for my annual holiday gadgets review, and this year it's all about portable and wireless, smartphones to tablets to e-readers -- especially with the ongoing momentum of the Apple iPad, the impressive continued demand for the new Apple iPhone 4S, and the strong pre-orders for the just-released Amazon Kindle Fire tablet.

For a preview of the holiday shopping season, the Consumer Electronics Association has released its annual Holiday Purchase Patterns study. The CEA sees modest growth in total consumer spending for the holidays ($1478 per household, up 5% from last year), and slightly stronger growth in the percentage going to CE products ($246, or 32% of the holiday total).

It's clear that portability dominates in the CEA study, as the #1 product that adults would like to receive is tablets (14%), followed by notebooks (11%).

Then come TVs (6%) and video game consoles (5%) for the home, followed by other portable devices -- e-readers (5%), MP3 players (3%), and smartphones (2%). That's a clear message on the hot topics for the holidays.

My annual Holiday High Tech Gift Guide 2011 is in this week's U.S.1 Newspaper (or see the full issue in PDF).

Then I'll be doing a series of Holiday Gadgets and Gifts talks in the Princeton area (see talks schedule), starting with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce this week, and back at the Computer Learning Center at Ewing and the Hopewell Public Library next month.

The content of the talk, with the products that I'll be demoing, is now posted as this year's article -- Holiday Gadgets 2011: Portable and Wireless

(Illustrations: Apple iPhone 4S, Amazon Kindle Fire tablet)

Find the Amazon Kindle Fire on Amazon.com

November 24, 2011

The Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet as an E-Viewer

The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet is an intriguing product -- a 7-inch color touchscreen Android tablet for only $199! (Kindle the fire, get it?)

What Amazon has done is to create what I would call a spectacularly adequate tablet -- It adequately performs general tablet functions like e-mail and web browsing on the paperback-size display, but is clearly focused on delivering (and selling) media and entertainment. The result is a spectacularly great deal at, did I mention, $199.

The Fire is cost-reduced by stripping away all the nice-to-have but ultimately non-critical features, including Bluetooth and 3G wireless, cameras and microphone, GPS and sensors, physical home and volume controls, expansion memory (with only 8 GB of memory built in), and common apps like calendar and chat.

If you think of the Kindle and other e-readers as stripped down tablets focused only on downloading and reading books for people who like to read, you can see the Kindle Fire as a similar device focused tightly on serving as the gateway to consuming a broader range of media -- It's an e-viewer, for people who are interested in viewing.

You can see this focus in the design of the home screen of the Fire. In other tablets, all functions are performed through apps, and all apps are (mostly) equal -- you access video or music or books or e-mail or web or any other app in the same way, by tapping on the icon. And you customize your home screens by re-arranging the icons as you want them.

Instead, on the Fire the media consumption elements are placed front and center, to dominate the home screen and relegate everything else to second rank.

The home screen has a horizontal menu of the key built-in media types across the top -- Newsstand, Books, Music, and Video, plus Docs, Apps, and Web. These are not apps listed on the Apps page, these are hard-coded built-in functions, which link directly to the associated Amazon stores and cloud services.

Everything else (the non-Amazon and non-monetized stuff, from e-mail to photos), is then relegated to access via apps.

The Kindle Fire really is spectacularly adequate, smartly designed to fit its purpose as an e-viewer for Amazon-supplied content, with some nods to more general tablet functions like web and e-mail.

If you want the flexibility of a more general tablet, then you should step up to the Apple iPad, or consider some of the other Android tablets, including the Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet.

Find the Amazon Kindle Fire on Amazon.com

November 30, 2011

Kingston Data Traveler HyperX Thumb Drive Goes USB 3.0

The arrival of the USB 3.0 interface is great news for dealing with today's big hard disk drives that are crossing into terabytes of capacity -- since you can move data between your computer and external storage at least four to five times faster (see earlier posts on the Seagate Goflex line and the LaCie Rugged portable line).

But as interface speeds get faster, the limiting constraint becomes the spinning magnetic disks in the hard drive. Thus the interest in Solid-State Drives (SSD), particularly to replace hard disks as the internal drive for laptops (see earlier post) -- not only for faster start-up and access, but also for ruggedness, lower weight, and lower power usage (albeit still at significantly higher cost).

So USB flash drives (aka thumb drives) seem a natural next step for USB 3.0, since they're already built with solid-state flash memory.

For example, check out the new Kingston Data Traveler HyperX 3.0, featuring a USB 3.0 interface that runs 7 1/2 times faster than USB 2.0 drives! As a bonus, it's built rugged with a metal casing and rubberized grips.

Over a USB 3.0 interface, the HyperX 3.0 sports transfer rates of 225 MB/s for reading and 135 MB/s for writing. Compare that to the USB 2.0 rates of 30 MB/s for both read and write.

But here's the fun comparison -- desktop USB 3.0 hard drives quote bus speed rates of up to 130 MB/s, while this thumb drive with flash memory can go some 1.75 times faster.

And since the HyperX 3.0 is available in capacities up to 256 GB, you're looking at a seriously interesting replacement for a portable hard drive that is ridiculously smaller and faster.

The trade-off, of course, is cost, since the Data Traveler HyperX 3.0 is priced at $193 ($142 street) for 64 GB capacity, $377 ($279 street) for 128 GB, and maybe $870 for 256 GB.

In comparison, you can find a basic 64 GB USB 2.0 drive starting at around $65. Or a pocket-sized spinning disk such as the Seagate GoFlex Portable hard drive with USB 3.0 interface with 320 GB for around $79 -- and pile on more capacity with only incremental cost increases -- around $89 for 500 GB, $119 for 750 GB, $129 for 1 TB, and $149 for a whopping 1.5 TB.

What a wonderful array of choices for saving and carrying your files -- and getting at them quicker.

See my article for Videomaker magazine for more on USB 3.0: USB 3.0: Same Great Interface, Ten Times Faster.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on flash memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

And see my Holiday Gadgets 2011: Portable and Wireless feature for more on storage and other holiday goodies.

Find the Kingston Data Traveler HyperX 3.0 on Amazon.com

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About November 2011

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in November 2011, listed from oldest to newest.

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