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Feature Tour - more

With many online users, social networks are very important.  The latest firmware, which Pogoplug automatically updates, added features to connect shared folders directly to Twitter, Facebook or MySpace.

In the lower right quadrant of Figure 12, you’ll see the publishing options. For each social network, you have to log in, and permit Pogoplug to publish using your social network’s login credentials.  You can also notify people on your social networks if you add, delete or modify the contents of a folder. 

I enabled Pogoplug to update my Twitter account for this shared folder.  I selected the Twitter checkbox and clicked on Publish to Twitter.  The message entry box doesn’t have a character countdown, so I kept my message short.  I was pleasantly surprised that Pogoplug automatically shortened the URL using bit.lyNote that when you publish to a social site, the folder permissions are automatically changed to Public Viewing.  Figure 13 shows the resulting tweet.

Twitter post with bit.ly link to my shared photo album

Figure 13: Twitter post with bit.ly link to my shared photo album

For testing purposes, I also shared my files with one of my alternate email addresses.  Figure 14 shows the email that I received with the link to the shared folder.  When I logged into http://dockstar.pogoplug.com using my alternate credentials, I could only view the shared folders.  No other folders were visible. 

Email notification of a shared folder

Figure 14: Email notification of a shared folder

Performance

Since the DockStar isn't a full-fledged NAS, we just ran the Vista SP1 filecopy tests from our normal NAS test suite. This test copies a directory containing slightly more than 4 GB of files of various sizes.  Read and write tests were performed both with the 320 GB FreeAgent Go mounted in the Dockstar as well as with the drive directly attached to a computer.  Here are the results:

Table 1: Performance summary

For write operations, you only take a small performance hit when writing to the FreeAgent Go drive when it’s attached to the DockStar.  You do get noticeably better read performance, however, with the drive directly attached.  The "Using DockStar" results of 22 - 23 MB/sec are comparable to middle of the pack single drive NASes and are pretty much at the maximum rate that a USB 2.0 port supports.

Final Thoughts

I really liked the DockStar and think that for simple home networking and file/photo sharing with friends on the Internet, the DockStar coupled with Pogoplug’s service is an excellent choice.  The browser-based experience for sharing files and photos on the Internet is quite simple to use, and the connections to popular social networking sites would be real plus to some consumers. 

One key negative is that as a local shared storage device, all users have equal access to all files.  So for parents who may wish to partition their files from their children’s files, a more traditional NAS with user and group security capabilities might be a better choice.  Still, you could accomplish the same type of security by disabling Windows File Sharing (disabled when you activate the Pogoplug service), and just “invite” your children to a “kids” folder.  Using their login credentials and the Pogoplug drive connection client, they’ll have access only to the folders you explicitly share with them.

I’d also like to see Pogoplug add some enhancements to the user interface such as the ability to move files (rather than copy/delete), and to add drag-and-drop moves and file / folder uploads.  Some additional controls of the slideshow, such as the time between slides would also be welcome.

For me, there are several compelling reasons to consider the DockStar and Pogoplug’s service.  First, the DockStar and FreeAgent Go combination use only a fraction of the power used by my aging (5 year old) server.  And, since there’s no fan, it’s extremely quiet.  Second, using the Pogoplug drive connection client, the DockStar appears as a mapped drive whether I’m at home on my local network, or traveling on the road.  Finally, since it’s expandable and can mount up to three USB storage devices, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever run out of room. 

I doubt that I’ll use the Internet file sharing and social networking features, and my online photo albums are already using a service with better presentation capabilities. But for remote access, simple file sharing, low power consumption and decent file transfer speed, it's a compelling solution. Looks like a keeper to me!

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