Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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November 2005, Week 3 -- This Little Piggy Went to Market

 

 Storage Central


   A box that looks like a cute baby pig brings big-time storage to your home or business.

 

   This little piggy came to market as Storage Central SC101 from Netgear. It sells for around $100 from discounters. What you get is an empty box, which doesn't sound too good, but when you stuff it with disk drives, sold separately, you've really got something.

   

 

   Storage Central has two drive bays, so you can use one or two disk drives. Using two brings the price up, to be sure, but not as much as one would think. Disk drives are cheap these days, and you can buy two, in large capacities like 150 gigabytes each, for around $100 each. So, fully stuffed, the box would cost around $300.

   

 

   Storage Central takes Parallel ATA drives, any capacity. ATA stands for "Advanced Technology Attachment," and the "parallel" part just means they have parallel connectors.

   

 

   New computers often have sockets to connect directly to ATA disk drives, but most older computers do not. Ours don't, and they're only a year old. But despair not, good people, this little piggy connects to the computer with an ethernet cable, the same kind you use for a high-speed Internet connection. The cable comes with it.

   

 

   Because it connects through an ethernet cable, the box is ready for a network when you plug that cable into a router. The software lets any of the computers on the network use the Storage Central box for, well, central storage. The software handles all that and also offers a choice to mirror the drives if you want.

   

 

   This means that one of the drives will always have an exact copy of whatever is on the other drive, right up to the last split second. If one drive fails, the other drive has the same information, and you can switch to it and keep going as if nothing has happened.

   

 

   We've never had a disk drive fail, but we've heard from others who have, and it's awful. Mirrored systems can save their bacon, so to speak, and keep working. The failed drive can be pulled out of the box, dumped and replaced.

   

 

   The Storage Central box itself looks strong enough to drive a truck over with no damage. It works with Windows XP and NT, and you can take a look at a short, boring video at the company Web site: www.netgear.com. On to wireless ...

   

 

Internuts: A Place in the Sun

   

 

  www.quikbook.com: Its claim is that it will find you the lowest prices for hotels worldwide. We tried lots of places and the prices did seem low. Rooms at the Rittenhouse in Philadelphia were quoted at $265 to $299 a night, for example, while the hotel's own Web site listed them for $380 to $700. You can also search for hotels with free Internet access, wireless or not, at 75 popular destinations.

   

 
Castelar Hotel, Argentina

 

   The site seems to have a loose grip on geography, however. A search for hotels near "Newport Coast," not an actual town, but simply a part of Newport Beach, Calif., produced suggestions for places to stay in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and cities in Spain, Germany, France and Egypt. Paris was listed as Paris, Calif., for example; Barcelona as Barcelona, Calif., etc. As long as you keep your wits about you, though, it should be easy to avoid stupid mistakes.

 

   The site has photos of many of the hotels and rooms, which is a great feature. We saw a beautiful looking place in Buenos Aires, in town, quoted at $33 a night. It almost made us want to go; after all, it's springtime in Buenos Aires.

 

 

Hatch a Video

   

 

   The place we're going is called VideoEgg, and it's where you can hatch your video for all to see. You start by going to another Web site: www.typepad.com. There's a 30-day free trial, and after that it's $5 a month.

   

 VideoEgg

   Once you have a TypePad password and username, you can go to www.typepad.videoegg.com (you can see we're getting close) and upload a video. The VideoEgg publisher can understand dozens of video formats as well as capture video directly from a camcorder, Web cam or video phone. Simply log onto the Web site and go to your "my documents" folder or "explorer" in Windows and drag the title of your video onto the site. "Viola!" as we say in fractured French, your video is available for viewing.

   

 

   There are other sites that let you upload video, but we don't like them as well. SnappyVideos.com and YouTube.com are both free, for example, but have advertisements that show alongside your video. AudioBlog.com charges $5 a month, same as VideoEgg, but doesn't compress the files, which means long upload times. VideoEgg, on the other hand, compresses a file by 10-to-1.

   

 

   This takes care of a major problem with sending out videos: that they're just too big. Video takes a long time for the recipient to download, and many people feel it just isn't worth the bother. If you use VideoEgg or a similar site, you get a link that recipients can use to view the movie. They won't need external players like QuickTime or Windows Media Player.