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Personal cloud-server gadget goes mobile

Sep 1, 2011  |  Rick Lehrbaum

Cloud Engines is now accepting preorders for a new version of its Linux-powered Pogoplug personal cloud-server gadget, targeting users of Android and iOS mobile devices. Although dubbed “Pogoplug Mobile,” the compact new model remains powered by an AC wall-wart and communicates via wired Ethernet.

What’s a Pogoplug?

Basically it’s a low-power, inexpensive file streaming/sharing gadget running a customized embedded Linux-based operating system, which works in tandem with webservices supplied by Cloud Engines at Pogoplug.com. At its core, the low-cost/no-monthly-fee device/webservice combo lets users stream multimedia and share files (located on Pogoplug-attached storage drives) on an unlimited basis to anywhere on the Internet.

The new Pogoplug Mobile device is more compact than the current “home” and “business” models, and it targets iOS and Android mobile devices, according to Cloud Engines. However, it appears to be equally useful for general purpose use.

One key mobile-oriented feature of Pogoplug Mobile is its ability to automatically backup all photos, movies, music, and other content from an iOS or Android mobile device. Another new feature, perhaps unique to this new mobile-oriented model, is the offering of “unlimited, instant streaming of entire iTunes media libraries” to iOS- and Android-based mobile devices, as described by a Cloud Engines spokesperson.


Three views of the Pogoplug Mobile device
(click images to enlarge)

 

The 4.3 x 3.9 x 1.5-inch device integrates an embedded computer consisting of an 800MHz ARM processor, 128MB of RAM, and 128MB of flash memory. The rear panel has a power jack, Ethernet connector, and USB socket for attachment of one or multiple (via a hub) HDD or flash devices. Also shown in the above photos is the SD card socket located on the enclosure’s side.

Key features of the Pogoplug Mobile device, according to Cloud Engines, include:

  • Streams entire libraries of music, movies, and photos to an iPhone, iPad, or Android device
  • No inherent storage or streaming limits
  • No need to download the same content to multiple devices
  • Permanent storage and backup of all photos and videos taken using the mobile device
  • Android devices can be configured to automatically backup photos and movies to the Pogoplug Mobile via their wireless Internet connection
  • Pogoplug Mobile integrates seamlessly with the Pogoplug desktop apps on Windows or Mac desktop and laptop systems, and with Pogoplug mobile apps on iOS or Android (2.2 or later) devices

The above capabilities depend on the user adding one or more USB drives (HDD or flash) and/or an SD card to the device. Incidentally, DeviceGuru has had great results attaching iPods to previous Pogoplug models.
 

Pogoplug’s cloud architecture

The overall architecture of how the Pogoplug device and its associated Pogoplug.com cloud-service team up to transmit multimedia and files across over the Internet is shown below.



Pogoplug and its cloud-services architecture

 

In contrast to cloud-services like Dropbox or Amazon Cloud Drive, the user’s data doesn’t get stored on the Pogoplug.com cloud-service. Instead, the cloud-service performs a forwarding function, allowing you to access the data located on your PC or Mac from anywhere on the Internet.

Among other functions, the Pogoplug.com cloud-service prevents your Pogoplug from having to be exposed directly to the consumers of its data, and it also wraps the entire transaction in a security layer to safeguard the data itself.

One clever aspect of the Pogoplug architecture, which isn’t indicated in the above diagram, is that data transfers between the Pogoplug and destinations on its local subnet are routed point-to-point, rather than passing through the Pogoplug.com cloud-service. Consequently, A/V can stream much more efficiently within your home LAN/WLAN, regardless of your broadband connection’s capabilities. Plus, you won’t be penalized by your ISP for streaming too much data no matter how many Pogoplug-hosted movies you watch.
 

Software-only Pogoplug

In addition to its Pogoplug gadgets, Cloud Engines recently introduced a software-only product that’s usable without a Pogoplug device. A somewhat restricted (though potentially very useful) version is available free of charge, but although it lets you access and download all types of files and view photos in a slideshow manner, you can’t use it to stream music or videos.

For a $29 one-time “premium” upgrade, however, you can upgrade it to provide audio and video streaming, equivalent to that of a hardware Pogoplug device (even better, when it comes to on-the-fly A/V transcoding). According to Cloud Engines, the software-only Pogoplug implements the same sharing and data access features provided by the Pogoplug devices. Users can access and share files of any size or type from anywhere in the world, to anyone in the world.

Keep in mind, however, that using a software-only Pogoplug requires you to keep a PC or Mac running, which means your “software Pogoplug” consumes about 25-50 times the energy drawn by a Pogoplug device. So, it’s probably not the best solution for an always-available source of streaming multimedia or file access.
 

Updated Android and iOS apps

Updated Pogoplug apps for iOS and Android devices will be released to their respective app stores when the Pogoplug Mobile device comes to market. All new features will be integrated within a single free app for each mobile OS, according to a Cloud Engines spokesperson.

“The updated mobile apps will work with existing Pogoplug devices and software,” says the spokesperson. “The app remains free, so a user who didn’t want to buy a Pogoplug Mobile could download the free software to take advantage of the automatic backup of the phone’s camera roll. Music streaming would also work if they upgraded their [PC or Mac app] to premium.”
 

Further details

The Pogoplug Mobile device will be available in October, priced at about $80 — and zero monthly fees. For further details, including downloads of the free and premium apps for PCs and Macs, visit the Pogoplug website.
 

This post was initially published on our sibling site, DeviceGuru.com.

 

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