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We live in a world where we rely more and more on digital media. We share photos with friends and family through websites like Flickr and Facebook. We discover new music via digital download. We rent movies over the Internet.
At the same time, accessing all of this digital media can be a virtual juggling act. You may forget to sync your iPod and be without new music and podcasts. E-mailing photos can be a hassle and a half -- especially if you're trying to send the latest digital captures of little Quentin to his elderly Uncle Conrad & Aunt Ginny.
This is where the Pogoplug enters the picture. This petite device, which is as audibly quiet as it is visually loud, allows you to share any file you'd like over the Internet -- without hassles, headaches, or hidden costs. Simply plug the gray & magenta Pogoplug into your Internet router and attach a USB storage device -- hard drive, flash drive, or even a memory card reader -- to one of its four ports.
I know what you're saying about now. "This is going to be hard." It's not. Within 10 minutes of hooking up the Pogoplug to my Apple Airport Extreme router, I was browsing the files on the attached hard drive on my computer and iPhone. The only way to make the setup process easier would be for Pogoplug to send someone to your home to plug things in for you.
This is not hyperbole. If you'll pardon the alphabet soup, this reviewer remembers very well when adding a new device to a computer was a careful balance of assigning unused IRQ and COM ports, and ensuring that you had just the right amount of EMS and XMS assigned to get the corresponding software to function. But with the Pogoplug, there are only a few steps to get it to work, and most of them self-explanatory: plug the device into the wall, plug it into your router, plug the hard drive in, check and see if the green light is on, and set up an account on the Pogoplug website. To put it simply, I'd rather configure 10 Pogoplugs than attempt to assemble one piece of Swedish furniture.
Ok, We Get It. It's Easy. But How Does It Work?
As soon as you've plugged your hard drive into the Pogoplug, it starts scanning the drive for photos, videos, and music. When viewing your files on your computer's web browser, these types of files are automatically displayed in the file library's "My Media" section. By default, photos are organized by date, music by album, and movies in the order that they were added. Of course, you can change the order of any of the folders to sort by filename, date, or file type. My Media also includes the "Slideshows" section, which allows you to create photo slideshows -- complete with music -- via an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.
A second set of options allows you to view files that were added today, in the last week, or in the last month. From here, you'll also be able to search your files, view files you are sharing, or files that have been shared with you by other Pogoplug users.
The final section allows you to browse all the files on attached hard drives via the standard folder structure. This view gives you the most flexibility, because you'll be able to view files in the folder structure of your liking and access any type of file stored on the drive. You'll also be able to create folders and upload files from your computer from this screen.
Not all of your friends and family will have a Pogoplug, but you'll still be able to share files with them. You can select any folder easily to activate sharing. You can change access levels -- creating public shares that anyone can view as well as private shares that are accessible only via an e-mail invitation. You can also publish links to your shared files via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and RSS.
You aren't limited to accessing your Pogoplug via a web browser. Clients are available for iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Blackberry, and Palm -- all for free. Regardless of the smartphone in your pocket, your files are available to you. I was able to test out the iPhone app and was really impressed. The photos, music, and movies shared via the Pogoplug were easily accessible and streamed quite quickly over a Wi-Fi connection.
Optional software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The software does two things. It allows you to browse files that are shared to you by other Pogoplug users on your desktop, and it supports Active Copy. While the first feature is somewhat self-explanatory, Active Copy is a pretty powerful feature that adds a lot of value to the device. It allows you to set up "watched folders" on your computer. Any file added to these folders is automatically copied to the Pogoplug. This not only makes it easy to keep your media up to date, you could also use it to automatically backup important documents -- which you would, of course, be able to access remotely.
All-in-all, using the Pogoplug was a remarkably pleasant experience. It provides surprisingly easy access to all of your media from anywhere that you have an Internet connection. Support for popular smartphones adds further value, as you won't have to be near a computer to access your media. The ease with which you can share files with friends and family via e-mail and social networks is simply icing on the proverbial cake. If you're looking for an easy way to access files when away from home, relax--you've found it.