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Friday, October 19, 2007

In response to Bill ... "That is almost as bad as my current Cable Card debacle with Time Warner Cable."

Bo got two Cable Cards for his HD TiVo without much of a problem from Time Warner here in Austin. The adoption of Cable Cards is manditory for all providers of cable by law, however, they do not advertize that they have them. The only hitch was, an authorized technition had to come out to "install" them (for a nominal fee). I belive the guy didn't get past Bo's doorstep.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Over the July 4th holiday, I bought a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. Since my laptop hard drive (160 GB) is full and makes this high pitched buzzing sound, and my backup hard drive (40 GB) reports write delay errors when more than 30GB of data are stored on it I really needed to look into a data storage solution. I went to Fry's with Christine to check out storage solutions and found a small section of the computer components section of the store dedicated to NAS devices. After some help from the associate, and a review of the price ranges, I settled on Seagate's Maxtor Shared Storage II (MSS II) 1 Terabyte for around $410.

Since I had not put any research into the purchase and knew very little about NAS, I did not open the box. I instead opted for doing some research on the Internet.

The box indicates that the 1TB (1000GB) can be configured to mirror the data between the two hard disks inside the NAS. This reduces the available data storage to 500GB but, protects the data on the drive if and when one of the drive should fail. I think this will work out fine, since I don't really need 1TB at this point anyway. Unfortunately, I found a few individual experiences with the MSS II that state there is no supplied software to recover the data from the mirrored drive if a problem does occur, and that Seagate does not warranty the data against loss. Instead, it seems necessary to send the entire unit back to Seagate for replacement, as opening the unit to replace the individual hard drives voids the warranty. I would assume if only one of the hard drives were replaced after the unit was sent in, the mirrored drive would rebuild itself. However, if there was a data or hardware error that affected both drives, there would be no way to recover the data using another computer. Having Seagate recover the data turns out to be a very expensive service. I used the Seagate Recovery Services Solution Wizard for a hard drive with hardware issues that yielded a $1800.00 price tag and a two to four week wait on their return. (Please read the following sarcastically) Fortunately, if they don't recover your data, they won't charge you for their services.

Even if I can buy into that scenario, there's still other issues. Using on board software, media files(audio, video, and pictures) can be streamed to devices that support the protocol. This is done with a standard called UPnP-AV, which the MSS II supports. Unfortunately, the two devices that I would use for this purpose (TiVo and Xbox360) will not even see the device because of the proprietary way that UPnP-AV is implemented. It is possible to get the Xbox360 to recognize and use the data on the NAS if they use a version of the UPnP-AV protocol made by Twonky Vision but, I've seen no evidence that I could install this on the MSS II.

I'm pretty sure that I'll be returning the Maxtor Shared Storage II in favor of a more customizable QNAP TS-201.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

I've been reading up on Apple's Apple TV and really don't know what to make of it. It seems clear that it syncs any media on your computer(s) through wired or wireless media to the hard drive and to your HDTV via a HDMI connection. Of course, you have to install iTunes and the rest of iLife onto your PC to make it all work. I don't think Apple TV can be seen as a DVR, since it's only input is the 802.11 wireless and RJ45 Ethernet jack on the back of the unit. Also, it requires no subscription, since Apple does not supply any services.

Even though I'm a TiVo junky, I would actually consider this. TiVo does support playing audio files from your PC but, it's a bit cumbersome to navigate. TiVo also supports streaming movies from your PC but, only after a bit of hacking. The nice part about Apple TV is, it syncs to your your iSources (iTunes and iMovie) onto the hard drive passively, so you don't have to have your PCs running all the time to get media. Unfortunately, the drive on Apple TV is not very big (160 GB) which is much smaller than the amount of media that I own. I'll keep an eye advances in Apple TV and how easily it is to upgrade / hack.

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