Archive for the ‘Document Management’ Category

Netgear Home Server (SC101)

June 3, 2007

Like most people, I have collected an enormous number of files that I would hate to lose.  I could do a backup to DVD’s, which I do occasionally.  Unfortunately there are too many days between backups, which means I would lose too many files.  Everyone knows that hard drives will crash.  It is not a matter of if, but when.  I wanted a system to mirror two drives.  That means both drives would always have exactly the same data for that inevitable day when the drive crashes.  It looked like Netgear SC101 would be that product.  The Netgear solution is just a box and software.  The user buys and installs the drives. 

Hardware installation was rather straightforward.  I easily opened the box and connected up each of my 500gb drives.  Then I connected the server to my network using a standard Ethernet cable.  The software installation was not as straightforward.  Each computer on the network needed the new software.  That would be fine, but the software installed better on some machines than others.  I had to uninstall and reinstall the software on one of my machines a few times.  What bothered me more were the confusing options.  You could partition the drives and set up passwords for each partition.  I eventually got the server up and running.

Once I got the server working well and mirroring working, anything I put on one drive would be automatically saved on the second drive.  At least that is what I thought.  Each time the Network software is run, it asks to check for a newer version.  I routinely choose yes.  On one occasion, Netgear updated my software and I lost contact with my server.  Not only did that machine lose contact, but also all my machines lost contact.  I had to make an appointment with a Netgear engineer and have him connect into my computer.  In about 40 minutes, he was able to give me access to my hard drive.  What surprised me was that he could not reinstate the mirroring option.  To set up mirroring, I would have to start from scratch with the hard drives.  In other words, I could copy off all my data, set up mirroring and then copy my data back.  He also told me that mirror had not been working for weeks.  I could see the differences between the two drives.

Netgear seems to have missed the boat with this server.  What I wanted and expected from a server was robust mirroring.  When one drive crashes, I could replace that drive and the system would automatically reinstate mirroring.  With this system, I would not even know which of the two drives crashed.  Considering I own many good Netgear products, I am particularly disappointed with this one.

Wireless Weather Station

February 2, 2007

Many companies make weather station kits.  These can cost hundreds of dollars and take time to install the sensors.  I have owned a couple of these over the years with many problems.  At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) I learned about a new one from Oregon Scientific model  OSI WMS801.  Instead of requiring one to install sensors, it uses a service from Microsoft called MSN Direct.  Microsoft gets the weather information and broadcasts it over FM.

This weather station is one of the easiest products to use.  You just plug it in the wall and the unit automatically gets the weather information.  I know that MSN Direct does not work everywhere; so one would have to check the Internet to make sure it works in your area.  I used it in Manhattan, where it worked very quickly.  There are some confusing buttons on the outside, but once you figure out how to change the time zone, you are home free.

The MSN Direct booth at the CES demonstrated many products that use their service.  Most charge a monthly fee, but this one does not.  Once you buy the unit for $125 from Costco, there are no additional charges.  The representative from MSN also assured me the service would be around at least five years.

As mentioned earlier I have used many weather stations.  This one is probably the clearest.  The temperature and humidity are large and bold.  The forecasts for the next three days are in slightly smaller type with the barometric pressure trend, wind speed and direction.

For people who like to know more about the weather than just looking out the window, you cannot go wrong buying this product. 

DevonThink Professional 1.2

October 21, 2006

An old acquaintance from my days at The University of Chicago recommended this product. On the strength of his review, I decided to give this product a try. DevonThink is a document management system for the Macintosh platform. In plain terms, it is an electronic filing cabinet for electronic documents. Anyone who has done any kind of research on the Internet will understand the utility of document management. Search engines generate voluminous lists of data, and the act of clicking hyperlinks creates electronic paper trails faster than most of us can take notes on what we have found. What is needed for serious research on the internet are tools that help us to understand the data that we have collected, and DevonThink is an excellent tool.