That’s right. I got a new toy today – the Pogoplug.
How much did it cost? A ridiculous $24.99 online at J&R Electronics. What is it? Perhaps the coolest little gadget I’ve bought in a long, long time. Yes, the POGO-B01 I bought may have been so cheap because the thing comes in a very ugly, hot pink color (the black Pogoports I found were all more expensive than my pink one). Still, I feel like I stole that thing.
the Pogoplug, in a nutshell, is a very small media server. It’s little more than a unit boasting four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port and a dual core, 700MHz CPU that’s running Ubuntu Linux for an operating system. That’s a lot of punch for $25 and I’m enjoying the heck out of it.
I was able to get the Pogoplug up and running in just a few minutes by plugging it in, hooking running an Ethernet cable between it and my wireless router and then setting up the device after I took out a free account at PogoPlug.com. Once I plugged in an external hard drive, I was in business.
When the Pogoplug is configured, you’ve got a personal cloud on your hands. I went ahead an installed an application that allows me to manage the device like any other hard drive set up on my main, Windows 7 machine, but it’s easy to access files from an Internet browser by simply logging into my account on PogoPlug.com. That’s right – if I’ve got an Internet connection, I can grab any file I need off the Pogoplug.
Ah, but there’s more. I can stream movies directly to my Xbox 360 through the Pogoplug and there’s even an iPhone app out there that allows one to stream media to my phone (yes, there’s an app for Android, too). I’ve got an old 350 GB drive hooked up to the Pogoport now but will order a 2 terabyte one soon so I won’t have to worry about running out of space. And, when I’m saving files on my local network, the process is very quick – just a little slower than it is to save on an external hard drive plugged directly to a computer with a USB 2.0 port.
We’ve got the unit set up in my home so that we all can save to the hard drive and pull files from it, too.
If that all sounds cool, that’s because it is. However, there are some drawbacks to the Pogoplug. For one thing, it would be great to be able to plug in my printer and use it as a network printer that everyone in my house could use. That feature is supposed to work, but I can’t get my computer to recognize the printer hooked up to the Pogoport. The ability to do that isn’t documented well at all and God only knows if the Pogoplug folks will fully implement that feature. That’s a shame because it only seems logical that the Pogoplug could be used as a network print spooler.
Bear in mind that such features – and more – can be implemented by those wanting to hack the thing by setting it up with a custom Linux OS that converts the machine into a pretty decent server (just google “hack Pogoplug” and you’ll find guides all over the place for doing just that). I may get around to customizing the Pogoplug in that manner one of these days, but I’d rather avoid it because I’m lazy. I’m sick to death of hacking away on devices to get them to work like they should – I’d rather just plug something in and use it.
Another drawback is that streaming media is great locally, but video is choppy when I’m away from home and accessing the Pogoplug through another network. That shouldn’t be surprising, but anyone hoping to stream huge files while outside of the “home” network will likely be disappointed.
And, if you’ve got a hard drive full of media, it’ll take a few hours for the Pogoplug to index it all. That process took about three hours on my hard drive.
Finally, the instructions that come with this thing are dreadful. You get a huge piece of paper telling you to log onto Pogoplug.com and activate it from there. Should something go wrong, they may be out of luck as there’s not just a whole lot in the way of support that comes with this thing. Heck, the documentary pamphlet packaged with the Pogoport doesn’t even go into the technical specifications for this thing. That’s a drag because there are a number of Pogoport models out there, and they don’t share a common chipset. If you’re going to put that aforementioned custom version of Linux on the system and use it as a file server, you’ll need to know which CPU you’re dealing with before you begin the process.
Still, those complaints are minor. Once you invest your $25, that’s the last money you have to spend. It’s a dirt cheap personal cloud that doesn’t come with a bunch of ongoing fees and can be expanded with additional hard drives.
I’ve still got some work to do with the Pogoplug, of course. “Cloud” printing is maybe-kind-of-perhaps supported and I need to set that up for those times when we need to print something and don’t want to drag a laptop back to the printer. I also need to mount the Pogoplug as a hard drive on my netbook that’s running Xubuntu Linux 11.10.
And, of course, I’ve got my daughter on the lookout for a “Hello Kitty” sticker to slap on the annoyingly pink device. It seems only appropriate.
Eventually, the Pogoplug will allow me to convert my DVD collection to a bunch of MP4 files so I can leave them in a closet and stream movies to my Xbox 360. Cool stuff. I converted my CD collection in a similar manner and that’s allowed me to clear up some space by dumping those discs in a closet and forgetting about them.
Stay tuned – I’ll write more about the Pogoplug as I find more uses for it. The fact I picked up that nifty device for about half the price of a popular, current Xbox 360 game is enough to make a cheap bastard like me giddy.