Kickstarter begins for Transporter: Internet Connected Private Storage

Subject: Storage | December 6, 2012 - 07:12 AM |
Tagged: transporter, storage, NAS, cloud

I was recently briefed on an interesting new product called the Transporter, a file sharing device engineered by the same folks that took part in the creation of the Drobo. Connected Data has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its production, so I am now free to talk about it. Here's what it looks like:

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Transporter is basically a local area network share. It connects to your router via Gigabit Ethernet (and reportedly runs at close to HDD throughput). With the software installed to your local PCs or Macs, it enables folder sharing and real-time syncing to any other Transporter-equipped location (i.e. a family member). There will also be versions of Transporter with 1TB or 2TB internal hard drives, which shift the file storage burden off of the local computers, if desired.

This may sound a lot like other cloud-based sharing solutions out there, but there are some very significant differences:

  • User data is only stored on local systems or shared with other user-invited locations (via their Transporter).
  • The capacity shared is only limited by your local storage capacity (plus whatever internal storage is installed into the Transporter via its internal 2.5" drive bay).

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To put it simply, Transporter is similar to Dropbox in functionality and convenience, but your data is *only* stored privately, and there are no subscription fees or storage limits (beyond that of your local storage capacity). The Kickstarter has only been going for a few hours, and the 'early adopter' pre-orders are more than half gone. Once the 'early' orders are used up, price for a bare Transporter goes from $149 to $179. 1TB models go for $269 and 2TB for $359. We're definitely keeping our eye on this one.

Source:

Microsoft is going out of their way to make Office 365 more attractive than its boxed cousin

Subject: General Tech | September 18, 2012 - 10:24 AM |
Tagged: SaaS, office 365, office 2013, microsoft, cloud

Today The Register posted the pricing Microsoft plans for their two new office suites, the familiar semi-yearly upgrade that is Office 2013 and the brand new, yearly licensed cloud dwelling Office 365.  They are two very distinct products in many ways even if they both encompass the same software suite.  The boxed Office 2013 will come it the three flavours we are familiar with as well as pricing that remains in line with previous releases, though the licensing terms of one copy of Office per machine seem to be more strict and you may not be able to transfer a license to a new PC if your old one is forcibly retired.

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Office 365 on the other hand is a very different beast and it seems that Microsoft is offering a few carrots to tempt the home and small office users who didn't really jump onto the beta release of this new online version of Office.  Pricing is much less especially considering you get the same suite of programs as the most expensive boxed edition, though it is of course a  yearly fee. However at the cost of $100/yr a home user would only start paying more than the Professional Edition of the boxed set after the fourth year and you can bet that Microsoft would have released a newer version in the interim. 

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The other edition of Office 365 is intended for small to medium companies and as even the basic edition of 365 comes with Outlook, Access and Publisher, Microsoft needed to find another hook to attract customers.  That hook is a hosted Exchange server with a 25GB Outlook mailbox for each user, 10GB of online storage plus another 500MB per user, and HD Video conferencing which will more than likely use Skype.  The pricing isn't bad either, at $150 per license you do pay a bit for the extras but each Small Business Premium license allows the user to install Office 365 on five different machines, though only under their user and obviously nobody would ever share users to overcome that hurdle. 

This is a very different Office, which will have to compete with Open Office and Google's new offering as well.  It is hard to predict if small companies will jump on this new way of licensing Office but the lack of an announcement about an Enterprise Edition is very telling.

"Redmond is still offering shrink-wrapped versions of Office 2013 for those who prefer the old model. The suite will be available in three configurations: Home & Student for $139.99, Home & Business for $219.99, and Professional for $399.99.

All three bundle the same core components, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The Home & Business edition adds Outlook, and the Professional edition throws in Publisher and Access."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Windows 8 can go diskless

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2012 - 10:53 AM |
Tagged: win8, cloud, microsoft, Windows to Go, kingston, super talent

Installing Windows from a USB drive is old hat to many, both consumers and professionals, but booting to Windows from an external drive would be a new trick.  Windows 8 has been designed with this type of usage in mind, which is unsurprising considering how much talk there is about the cloud.  A proper implementation of this would mean that low cost computers, shipped without a hard drive, could be readily sold.  Both Kingston and Super Talent have designed USB 3.0 devices which will have "Windows to Go" on them; fully able to boot to a full installation of Win8 on Intel powered machines.  Unfortunately there is a problem with WinPE installations on ARM based devices, as that method requires a wired network connection which may mean ARM devices would have to be sold with a USB to ethernet dongle in order to allow for booting.  Once the machine is booted and the wireless drivers load then the ARM devices could be unplugged.  Check out the hurdles Microsoft had to pass in order to make this work at The Register.

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"Such devices, Niehaus said, will have to be certified to run Windows to Go for two reasons, one of which is that in Microsoft's tests external storage ran dangerously hot.

The second reason is that external drives can't be partitioned in the ways Windows 8 requires, thanks to its use of BIOS-replacement Unified Extensible Firmware Interface(UEFI) that is an important contributor to the new OS' faster boot times. Niehaus explained that UEFI means Windows 8 needs four partitions in a disk. One is for recovery purposes, a second for the system, while UEFI uses a third invisible partition of 128MB to help it go about its work. The fourth partition holds the OS and user data."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

TET, ePO and SSO... McAfee and Intel's Cloud

Subject: General Tech | May 24, 2012 - 09:19 AM |
Tagged: mcafee, Intel, cloud

Intel's purchase of AntiVirus vendor McAfee has been feeding rumours and speculation for about 10 months now and while we have plenty of buzzwords and a feeling that they are looking at securing Cloud Computing only recently have we seen anything concrete.  The first product to give us insight into their actual plans has arrived on the market bearing an awkward name, McAfee Management for Optimized Virtual Environments AntiVirus.  This is essentially antivirus and antimalware specifically designed to be used in virtualized server environments which are connected to and providing services to a large amount of geographically separate devices ... aka 'The Cloud".  It is possible that they have a product which will be able to prevent the spread of an infection by leveraging the strictly partitioned nature of virtual servers and data stores, something that will be very important for anyone providing SaaS (Software as a Service) to clients. 

The Register also points out that in order to fully benefit from this AV product you will need a relatively new Xeon for your servers to support Trusted Execution Technology and a Sandy/Ivy Bridge processor for client side machines.  That means hardware upgrades which Intel's sales team would be more than happy to talk to you about.

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"What Intel is planning is a cloud-to-desktop security strategy, mixing hardware and software features in a federated framework designed to make cloud computing safer, locking down the desktop and, coincidentally, giving IT managers another reason to specify Intel's systems during the next upgrade cycle."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

AMD will not chase Intel making "needlessly powerful" CPUs

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | May 19, 2012 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, trinity, cloud computing, cloud, amd

Bloomberg Businessweek reports AMD CEO Rory Read claims that his company will produce chips which are suited for consumer needs and not to crunch larger and larger bundles of information. They also like eating Intel’s bacon -- the question: is it from a pig or a turkey?

Read believes there is “enough processing power on every laptop on the planet today”.

I disagree.

The argument revolves around the shift to the cloud, as usual. It is very alluring to shift focus from the instrument to the data itself. More enticing: discussing how the instruments change to suit that need; this is especially true if you develop instruments and yearn to shift anyway.

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Don’t question the bacon…

AMD has been trusting that their processors will be good enough and their products will differentiate in other ways such as with graphics capabilities which they claim will be more important for cloud services. AMD hopes that their newer laptops will steal some bacon from Intel and their ultrabook initiative.

The main problem with the cloud is that it is mostly something that people feel that they want rather than actually do. They believe they want their content controlled by a company for them until it becomes inaccessible temporarily or permanently. They believe they want their information accessible in online services but then freak out about the privacy implications of it.

The public appeal of the cloud is that it lets you feel as though you can focus on the content rather than the medium. The problem is that you do not have fewer distractions from your content -- just different ones -- and they rear their head once or twice in isolation of each other. You experience a privacy concern here and an incompatibility or licensing issue there. For some problems and for some people it makes more sense to control your own data. It will continue to be important to serve that market.

And if crunching ends up being necessary for the future it looks like Intel will be a little lonely at the top.

Intel wants to be the colloidal silver lining in the cloud

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2012 - 09:30 AM |
Tagged: Intel, mcafee, cloud

It really has been almost a year and a half since Intel bought McAfee and we started speculating on what this would mean.  It was a common hypothesis that Intel wanted to leverage the Trusted Execution Technology that exists in Xeon processors as well as a belief that there would be instruction sets in the Core architecture that could be used to make your machine more secure without sacrificing performance.  That theory has proven true as Jason Waxman who is in charge of Intel's Cloud initiative spoke about the current and planned implementations of their hardware assisted antivirus.  A new tool called McAfee Management for Optimized Virtual Environments AntiVirus will handle scans and updates for the server and service side and new additions to McAfee's ePO agent which expand its ability to secure networks and servers.  The Register put together a generalized look at what we know so far and while we are still hoping to see more specifics from Intel soon it is certainly more interesting than the other McAfee story currently circulating.

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"Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel's Cloud Infrastructure Group, said that over the last year or so he'd been inundated with questions about what Intel was going to do with McAfee since it lashed out $7.68bn for the security firm, during an industry-wide buying spree on cyber-security companies. Chipzilla's been intentionally quiet on the subject, but was now ready to talk he said."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Box.com Offering 50GB of Free Cloud Storage For Life To Users of Android App

Subject: General Tech | February 23, 2012 - 11:48 PM |
Tagged: storage, media, Internet, free, cloud, box, backup

The online storage space is really starting to heat up as companies start getting competitive to grab their share of the 'cloud storage user base' pie. Dropbox is a popular file syncing and online storage space solution offering 2GB free and routinely offering extra free space to those that want it though promotions and referrals. On the other side of things, Microsoft offers 25GB of online storage space with SkyDrive minus the computer syncing (currently) for free to those with a Windows Live (or Hotmail) account and they are in the process of overhauling the service to make it easier to use. Besides those two juggernauts, there are several alternative solutions that offer extra space or cheaper paid storage in order to remain competitive with the larger services. One such service that has not gotten the same amount of public recognition is a site called Box.com. They primarily provide Internet based (paid) storage for businesses; however, it seems that they are starting to make a big push to get deeper into the consumer market.

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The company is currently offering 50 GB (yes, you read that right) of free online storage space for life (or at least the life of the company) if you install their recently updated Android application and sign up for an account (or sign into an existing account) within the next 30 days (as of writing, that would mean 3/24/2012).

Further, if you download the Android Box application before March 23, 2012 at 11:59 they will up the individual file size limit from 25 MB per file to 100 mb per file. Although that is still not big enough for movies, the increased per file limit makes it easy to backup your photos even in RAW.

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Once you download the Box android application from the Android Market, and sign up (or sign into an existing account) a message will pop up indicating that you have been given 50 GB of free storage and it is immediately accessible. There are a few caveats; however. The Box.com service has mobile applications that are free; however, they do not provide a free application for Windows or Mac. To get the desktop/laptop syncing service, you will need to upgrade to a paid Business or Enterprise account. Also, the Android application itself may concern some users as one of the application permissions during installation includes access to your contact list. The company has stated that this is necessary to make the sharing and collaboration process easy for the user. It certainly would not be the first application to ask for (to the user) strange permissions, however. You could always install the app on an Android VM or another phone if you're that paranoid (heh).

While you do not get a desktop application for free, you can still access your files (and the increased 50 GB of storage) from the website, and they do allow bulk uploads that can include multiple sub-folders. One snag that I ran into was that if the uploader identified any file in a folder as being over 100 MB, it would refuse to upload the entire folder. This may be a bug or an issue on my end; however, I was not able to figure out a way to just skip that one file and upload the rest of the files in the folder.

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The batch uploader allows uploading multiple subfolders via drag and drop.

One thing that I enjoyed about the process (aside from the plentiful storage) was that they made it easy to sign up, all they ask for is an email (which doesn't need to be verified to get access to storage) and password.  It's kind of nice to not have to slog through the process of handing out a bunch of personal information just for an online account!

I'm currently uploading my photos to the site to back them up (I learned two years ago that it can never hurt to have too many backups!) and the upload is going smoothly. The website batch uploader is Flash based and does not require IE like SkyDrive does, so that's a positive thing in my book. Let us know in the comments if you've tried Box out before, and how you're going to use the 50 GB of cloud storage.  It really seems like the cloud / Internet based storage market is heating up, and this is a good thing for end users as it means more options, more innovation, and cheaper prices!  If Box.com isn't for you, Dropbox and SkyDrive are also offering plenty of free storage space.

Source: Maximum PC

Lucid Cloud Gaming (VGWare) and XLR8 on Tablets Demo

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | January 18, 2012 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: CES, lucid, xlr8, vgware, cloud

Even though CES 2012 is behind us, there are still some things we took photos or video of that we wanted to show you.  First up, Lucid had a suite off the strip to demonstrate a couple of new technologies coming from the company in 2012.  VGWare is the current name for the cloud-based gaming technology based on the Lucid GPU virtualization technology that allows for games to be rendered on a server and played on a remote machine with only minimal hardware.

In the video above you see two integrated-GPU based notebooks playing Modern Warfare 2 (two instances) and Madagascar being rendered on a machine running an NVIDIA GTX 480 GPU.  

Lucid intends to offer this technology to larger-scale companies that would want to compete with someone like OnLive or maybe even software developers directly.  While that is what we expected, I told them that I would like to see a consumer version of this application - have a single high-powered gaming PC in your home and play games on multiple "thin client" PCs for LAN parties, etc.  What do you all think - is that something you see as useful?

The second demo was for Lucid's XLR8 software that promises to improve performance of gaming on PCs, phones and tablets by intelligently managing display synchronization and GPU performance.

The really interesting part about XLR8 is the flexibility it offers - in our video you see it running on an ASUS Transformer tablet via the NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC.  Frame rates jumped about 40% but we didn't get enough hands on time with the configuration to truly make a decision on whether or not it was an improved gaming experience.  Hopefully Lucid will get this technology to us soon for some hands-on time.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Acer Launches New "AcerCloud" Cloud Service

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2012 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: sync, streaming, cloud, CES, acer

Last summer Acer purchased a cloud-service company for $325 million, and now that we are at CES the reason for the acquisition is apparent. According to Cnet, Acer is launching a new cloud service. Dubbed the "AcerCloud," the new service allows users to stream and sync files between Windows computers and Android mobile devices. Acer Chairman J. T. Wang stated that the company is "determined to make it very successful and sustainable."

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The new cloud service will launch with three applications to facilitate streaming and syncing photos, music, videos, and documents. These apps are named Clear.fi Photo, Clear.fi Media, and AcerCloud Docs. The company is going to integrate the cloud streaming service with their ultrabook lineup. AcerCloud is only the first of many cloud streaming services to emerge recently. Amazon Cloud Drive Service, Google Music, and Apple's iCloud are just a few of the popular streaming services that Acer has to compete with. That's before taking into account syncing services like Dropbox, Sugar Sync, and SpiderOak among others. Needless to say, the AcerCloud is going to have quite a bit of competition to contend with. Whether their proprietary cloud can carve a niche into the market filled with platform agnostic alternatives remains to be seen; however, competition is a good thing and Acer is likely not (going to be) the last company to launch a cloud service of its own this year.

Do you use any of the streaming and/or syncing services? What would it take to give Acer's solution a try?

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Apple May Build New Data Center In Oregon

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2011 - 07:28 PM |
Tagged: server farm, Internet, data center, cloud, apple

CNet is reporting that Apple is currently considering constructing a new data center outside of Prineville, Oregon. The 31 Megawatt facility would be built on 160 acres outside of the small Oregon town and would join other prominent tech companies’ data centers including those of Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

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According to Oregon Live, it is the area’s mild climate (meaning lower cooling costs compared to naturally warmer climates in addition to all the heat from servers), low electricity costs, and certain “rural enterprise zones” that exempt computers and equipment from normal business property taxes. They state that such exemptions could save Apple several million dollars.

Although Apple has so far declined to comment, city officials have commented that the company looking to purchase the land for the data center codenamed “Maverick” appears to be serious about going through with the purchase. Two major issues stand in the way of Apple building a large data center in the area, however. The company is concerned about tax issues against their intangible assets. Due to Apple putting a great deal of stock (er, the other kind :P) in their brand name, trademarks, and patents, they could face further taxes in the way Oregon’s State Department of Revenue taxes data centers. The largest issue; however, lies in power concerns. In order to supply enough electricity to the various data centers in the area (including Apples should they indeed be building one), Bonneville Power Administration would need to upgrade the Ponderosa Substation, construct an additional substation, and add further transmission lines. This is because the utility company’s transmission capacity to the area is currently nearly maxed out. A 31 Megawatt data center would consume enough electricity to power approximately 22,000 homes and that kind of capacity is not available in an area where towns are a fifth of that size.

The upgrade to the areas electrical subsystems would cost nearly $26.5 million and would take almost three years. Member Services Director for the Central Electric Cooperative, Jeff Beaman, believes that after the appropriate upgrades, a new data center “seems doable.”

Whether this elusive “Maverick” is indeed Apple, and whether the company decides to build a data center remains to be seen; however, it is certainly plausible. Now that Apple is moving more services to the Internet, and the increased adoption of IOS devices thanks to the iPhone being available on all the major US carriers, the company would definitely benefit from having another facility on the other side of the country as their current North Carolina based data center for performance as well as redundancy and stability reasons. What are your thoughts on the reports, is Apple looking to put more cloud (server horsepower) in your icloud?

Source: Oregon Live