Cloud Engines Pogoplug Pro DIY cloud box
Your data, available globally
Review Since Reg Hardware reviewed the earlier version of this device in February, the vendor, Cloud Engines, has made some significant firmware and hardware improvements that justify a second visit.
Cloud Engines' Pogoplug Pro: manly colours, this time round
The obvious change to this new "Pro" version is the colour: the white and shocking pink livery that stirred controversy in the always lively Pogoplug forum has been replaced by a sombre piano black, although the eccentric "wingless doubledecker flyingboat" design remains.
Inside, the switch from the single-core ARMv5 processor of the pink model to a dual-core ARMv6 CPU running the SMP version of Linux is probably less significant than it might seem. Rather than increase its power, the aim is make the machine more responsive while still retaining the sub-5W power rating that puts it in the "plug" class.
The other hardware change is the addition of built-in wireless, 2.4GHz 802.11n, to be precise. Owners of the previous pink version can upgrade to wireless networking by adding a USB dongle, but this obviously reduces the available USB sockets from four to three. The built-in wireless works well, but I'm not inclined to bury my long-term aversion to piping HD media through anything short of a CAT5 cable where possible.
Three USB ports round the back, in addition to the one on the front
Like its predecessor, the Pogoplug Pro works as a LAN fileserver, although it doesn't offer regular Windows sharing, aka Samba or SMB/CIFS. Instead, Cloud Engines supplies a local application for your Mac, Linux or Windows machine.
Native desktop access
The advantage over Samba sharing as usually implemented is that the drives attached to the Pogoplug can be formatted for Window, Mac or Linux, and still appear as accessible shares on the desktop. The downside: there's no version of this desktop app for 64-bit Macs. Alternative access to the server is available through a web page when you log in to my.pogoplug.com, with the advantage that this works across the internet as well as locally.
The 'double-decker flying boat' design incorporates the power supply, so there's no external brick
Our February review discussed the way the Pogoplug can optionally transcode video down to a lower bandwidth suitable for remote internet connection. Also mentioned as a forthcoming attraction was the ability to stream multimedia to the XBox and the PS3. This function is now well-established, and I regularly use it to UPnP multiple music and video formats, including AVI and M4V/MP4 over the LAN to my PS3.
There's one small bug in the current implementation: you need to switch off the option to create a ten-second preview snippet of every video file, otherwise the PS3 only plays the snippet instead of the whole movie.
The open source alternative
The February review mentioned the community of hackers who've congregated around the Pogoplug, and indeed Cloud Engines pitched this at the time as part of the sell. The community is still thriving, but there's since been something of a falling out. The company insists on maintaining proprietary secrecy around the mypogoplug Cloud features, so the geeks have ditched Cloud Engine's Linux implementation and now offer their own Plugbox Linux as a complete replacement firmware. It brings new features to the party - like full SMB connectivity, for example - but precludes the Pogoplug Cloud activity.
Printing on a global scale
The earlier review didn't mention - because it wasn't then on the cards - a new function that's currently in (very usable) beta on both the Pogoplug and the Pogoplug Pro. It's now possible to plug a USB printer into the Pogoplug to turn it into a universal internet printer. 'Universal', because it can be used to print anything from any hardware running any operating system anywhere in the world, as long as the client device is capable of sending an email attachment. Currently, because of the need for special drivers on the Pogoplug, the compatibility list for this function is confined to HP and Epson printers marketed in the last five years.
Your Epson or HP printer can be accessed from anywhere on the Internet by sending it an email
It works like this: an Excel spreadsheet on my phone, for example, only needs to be emailed to
email@example.com as a regular attachment. A central server run by Cloud Engine reads the sender's address and so knows to divert the attachment to - in this case - the Epson BX305 plugged into my Pogoplug Pro. You can also open up the universal print facility to other email addresses by adding them to the share list associated with the printer, which means you can invite friends and clients.
The Pogoplug Pro provides a web-based media player that can access content on your USB drives over the LAN or anywhere in the world
The printer doesn't have to be network enabled to do this, and the USB connection will effectively turn it into a network printer. The printer I used for the test, said BX305, is already network enabled, and with printers like this you can dispense with the USB cable, because the Pogoplug searches for them across the LAN and adds them automatically to its asset list. A similar arrangement, using
firstname.lastname@example.org, can be used to transfer data from a remote device to the Pogoplug's USB drives.
Does what it claims to do elegantly and efficiently. You get a lot of functionality for less than 5W and just under £100. And the subscription-free Cloud service, which now includes the ability to print from anywhere in the world from your laptop, netbook, tablet or phone, means there are no hidden after-costs. ®
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