Today June 2006
by Robert Sanborn
Ahh, talk about a strange spring time, had the heat
on this morning, and the air-conditioning on this afternoon. Summer is
here and with that I am still finding cool stuff from the CES show back
in the middle of winter.
Personal servers are really coming into their own
these days as very small businesses and home users are discovering that
with more than one computer in the house, you have a whole new set of
problems making sure you are secure and backed up. And that is where
these boxes come in. Made by a very large number of companies these
days, these machines are popping up everywhere. Makers include Big name
companies like Seagate to one brand companies like my Yellow Machine
that I have been using and testing for the past two years.
So what follows are some of the boxes I saw at the
www.chilisystems.com, makes their Chili Box as an internet sharing
system with firewall built in, 120 Gig file storage, backup, web proxy
server, VPN, and email server. About $649.
Yellow Machine, which I have mentioned before,
www.yellowmachine.com has slots for four physical drives that you
can configure into a raid format for more secure and automated backup.
It is also a firewall router with 8 ports and also has VPN capabilities.
You can get a terabyte for less than $959.
Another box that I have tried and works quite well
is the Mirra Personal Server, now by Seagate.
www.mirra.com. I like their technology and how they get it done. You
tag certain files and folders and designate them as either being shared
with another computer (and it is done dynamically and it works great),
or backed up on the server. Another really neat feature is that you can
have internet access to those files you back up. A 250 gig model is
At the higher end is the Buffalo
www.buffalotech.com, TeraStation Home Servers. You get 1 gigabyte of
storage configured as you want in Raid configuration if you like, four
USB2 ports for add on storage and backup, and gigabit Ethernet for high
speed access. Backup software and a slick design make this a popular
Want a personal file server but are too cheap to
buy one? How about using Google’s Gmail service. With several gigabytes
available to you online, just email your files to yourself. Of course,
your upload speeds will be quite a bit slower than downloading and you
do have to go through some hoops to get the large files up there but it
is being done. Here is the link:
www.intel.com has its own storage solution, the SS4000-E Entry
Storage System. You can get up to 2 gigabytes of storage on this one
with gigabit Ethernet access and an easy to use setup system for backup
as well. With four drives, you can also set it up as a RAID system for
secure backups. About $700 plus additional drives.
Got a yen to study and the stars again, and I don’t
mean on the small tube. Celestron,
www.celestron.com, makers of telescopes and other astronomy related
gear, came out with a really cool tool to help you figure out what is
were. Called the SkyScout Personal Planetarium, uses GPS technology to
instantly identify thousands of stars in the sky. You point the SkyScout
to any star, hit the target button, and it will tell you what object you
are looking at. Conversely, to locate a star or planet, select the
objects from the menu list and follow the directional arrows through the
viewfinder to locate it. Not cheap but wow, what a way to find things,
They are putting lights into everything. Got a
really cool USB retractable connector cable with bright LED lights in
them, mine is green, but you can get them in red and blue as well, from
www.microcom-inc.com for about $20.
More Cool Stuff for the Traveler
www.netgear.com came out with a new WiFi Finder that is small and
easy to move around. Rather than unpacking your laptop and plugging it
in to see if you are near a hot spot, just hit the button, and the
bright red, yellow, and green LEDs will tell you whether there is a good
signal Wireless B or G signal.
More from the traveler comes from Saitek,
www.saitekusa.com and their really cool notebook optical mice. Got
mine in a really wild orange but with 800 dpi optical sensor, does the
job just fine, $20.
Charge 2 Go is pretty cool for those of you with a
cell phone battery problem. It claims to offer up to three extra hours
of talk time but I have found you need to be careful as I got no where
near that in my test but it did work. It is a small canister that holds
a AA battery and you connect it to the power connector on your phone.
For $25 from
Coolest press release was from Blackstone
International, the makers of MFuel. The products they have allow you to
nearly plug anything into anything. The trinket they gave out is
actually a universal plug converter for different countries, while not
handling different voltages, this gizmo at least allows me to plug my
notebook power connector into nearly any countries wall outlet. Their
World Power Pak has in one package power and connector solutions for you
notebook, phone, PDA, camera, DVD, MP3, and host of other devices so for
a wired business traveler, a great package.
If you need a compact battery charger to take with
you, look at the Lenmar Egg. It is a stylish compact overnight charger
selling for just $8.
www.lenmar.com Of course, if you need quicker charging, look at
their Lightning Mach 1 model that will charge 4 batteries in as little
as 15 minutes. A quick tip for you on batteries, look for higher power
batteries as they really make a difference in the life when using them
in high power users like digital cameras. I have seen AA batteries with
an amp rating of from 1300 to over 2500 mAh. Sometimes those marked
“Ultra High Capacity” are not necessarily that high.
More Cool Stuff
Want to see some pretty cool computers? Take a look
at Kick Butt Computers,
www.kickbuttcomputers.com. They have a very unique line of computers
suited to some interesting tastes including flames, guitars, drums, and
How about a great looking and sounding boom tube
for your Ipod or other MP3 Player? Think Outside,
www.thinkoutside.com, has just the box for you, It is really the
ultimate portable speaker system at just $200. If a little too pricey,
take a look at their Bluetooth keyboard for your PDA, fir $149, you get
a stowaway keyboard that looks sharp and works great.
Cool It Systems,
www.coolitsystems.com has some very unique approaches to getting you
a cooler system. Their Free Zone CPU Cooler system is water based in
that it really cools off the system for you. This is designed for people
that naturally run hotter systems like overclockers who boost their
processor beyond the recommended limits of the manufacturer to get that
one more ounce of speed out of the computer. Around $399.
They also have a USB Beverage chiller that is
perfect for cooling that 12 ounce can of soda or whatever. Can’t use it
for anything larger but it works great according to my testers who
enjoyed several cool Cokes at my expense. About $20.
For Do It Yourself Builders
CoolerMaster has come out with new IDE cables that
are just great for small sized computers, instead of flat cables that
can block airflow, these are rounded with industrial strength
Want to give Linux a try without having to install
anything on your computer? You can with the new versions that you can
load directly from a CD drive. Linspire Live is such a package that
really works pretty well. Tried it on my test system, just pop the CD in
the drive, start up the computer and you also can be running Linux. Try
www.linspire.com/freeaisle. On my test system, sound worked, DVD
worked, recognized the CD burner, and connected immediately to the web.
Great way to test things out.
USB ports are everywhere now and what I am starting
to see are broken USB connectors either on the back of computer or on
the little drives themselves. Ok if it is just a plain old USB cable but
if it is that brand new 4 gig drive you just bought, that can get to be
a pain. One tip would be to use those USB extension cables. They come
with many of the odd shaped drives and I keep one plugged into my
computer and just plug the USB drive into it. Saves some wear and tear
and as you already know, you don’t know from one computer to another
whether the drive is upside down or not. So I carry one of these with
my little Swissbit USB Army Knife.
Stay tuned, more stuff to come.
Robert Sanborn is a technology analyst for PC
Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at email@example.com