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  • Feb 17, 2018
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Plug another backup hole with a personal cloud
Swamp Tech While discussing my crash plan with my brother-in-law and fellow swamp geek, he asked if I'd ever seen his plug. Since that's too personal for him, I assumed he wasn't talking about a hair implant and asked him to explain. 

He showed me what looked like an AC adapter with a USB port connected to an external hard drive and an Ethernet port connected to his network. "Yes," he confirmed, "that's a small computer called PogoPlug that creates a NAS drive out of an external hard drive."  In other words, an instant file server.

Interesting, but even more interesting: it cost around $100 and uses much less energy that a spare desktop configured for the same purpose, and works with a service to provide access to the files over the Internet. Free software allows the PogoPlug to be mapped as network storage for Linux, OS/X and Windows computers and the iPhone / iPod Touch.  Apparently, it had already saved the day for my nephew, who left his homework at home, but was able to retrieve it via PogoPlug.

I wanted to learn more about this personal cloud and plug computing... A plug computer is a small form factor network-attached server for use in the home. It is a lower cost and lower power alternative to a PC-based

It all started with the SheevaPlug development kit from Marvell that appeared in early 2009, launching the plug computer industry.  According to Wikipedia:

A plug computer is a small form factor network-attached server for use in the home. It is a lower cost and lower power alternative to a PC-based home server. In effect, a plug computer is a network appliance that is fully enclosed in an AC power plug or AC adapter.

The SheevaPlug development kit was intended to allow developers to have a starting point (environment) to build plug computing applications.  The original PogoPlug was a SheevaPlug with a PogoPlug sticker and Pogo software (Linux with some customized applications).  Pogo now offers an updated plug with its own design and added presentation sharing features, and many other companies offer plug computers.  There are a couple of issues with the PogoPlug.  First, remote access to the PogoPlug requires going through the PogoPlug website.  Second, although most of the software used to develop and operate the PogoPlug is open source, the PogoPlug applications are not.  This allows Cloud Computing (the company behind PogoPlug) to control the applications available in it's app store.

PogoPlugThe open source issue has been addressed, at least in part, by an initiative called OpenPogo.  OpenPogo provides open source applications that work with the PogoPlug, adding several functions that aren't available in the PogoPlug (e.g. a bit torrent client, media server, web server and more).  This has caused some support issues for Cloud Computing.  In turn, OpenPogo has created instructions for installing OpenPogo on the SheevaPlug development kit and on the TonidoPlug.

The TonidoPlug is a SheevaPlug with Ubuntu and Tonido's free personal cloud software installed (the software can be installed on a personal computer without the TonidoPlug, and works the same way).  Like PogoPlug, the TonidoPlug integrates with a Tonido website to simply file sharing and access to the TonidoPlug's applications.  But while PogoPlug requires access to the PogoPlug website for file sharing, the TonidoPlug website is simply a domain redirect to your TonidoPlug personal cloud. The Tonido software includes many applications in addition to file sharing (they call the webshare), and more are available online (some free, some commercial) in the, you guessed it, TonidoPlug App Store.  The included applications are:

  • file sharing
  • jukebox for streaming music (and maybe video?)
  • a bit torrent client (especially useful if you don't want to leave your computer on all day to download your favorite TV programs)
  • a photo gallery (i.e. create your own Flickr)
  • a personal blog / personal information manager
  • a collaborative workspace (a la CentralDesktop, Basecamp, etc.)

Free screensharing and backup applications are available for the Tonido software, though the backup application appears to allow you to only backup to other Tonido accounts.

PogoPlug vs. TonidoPlug:

  • PogoPlug works with iPhone and Android; TonidoPlug is working on this
  • PogoPlug requires Pogo's website; TonidoPlug does not
  • PogoPlug has drive mapping clients (do they work remotely?); TonidoPlug does not (requires more technical knowledge to map)
  • PogoPlug only offers file sharing (and now, presentations), TonidoPlug has several apps.  OpenPogo software fills in the blanks for PogoPlug (and also works with TonidoPlug), but there have been some support issues (http://bit.ly/5aJfav)
  • PogoPlug has 256MB RAM, TonidoPlug has 512MB (both use about the same amount of electricity)
  • Newest $129 PogoPlug has 4 USB ports, $99 TonidoPlug has 1

Also, check out the Firefox extensions for Tonido: 

Both have active development communities, so it will be exciting to watch how they progress...

In addition to the SheevaPlug development kit, PogoPlug and TonidoPlug, these other plug computers are available:

  • Axentra(tm) Hipserv - media sharing and USB printer sharing
  • Ctera CloudPlug(tm) - focuses on backup (includes 10GB online backup for 1 year) and has an eSATA port
  • QuadAxis QuadPlug - not sure exactly what this includes, though it appears to have file sharing
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