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Jun
3

PogoPlug II review

by Kenneth Hess

The Pogoplug is a Linux-based network file-sharing device that allows secure access to share, upload, download and manage files from within a web browser. Kenneth Hess shares his thoughts…

Tech Specs:PogoPlug 01
Processor:
ARM926EJ-S rev 1 (v5l)
Operating  system: Linux using BusyBox
Memory: 256MB
Dimensions: 60 x 145 x 180mm
Weight: 450g
Expansion: 4x USB 2.0
Web: Pogoplug.com
Price: £99

Pros: The Pogoplug is so easy to set up and use that you’ll have your own private cloud running in five minutes.
Cons: The web interface lacks sufficient controls to limit indexing, which can take hours on large drives that contain many files

What’s not to love about a £99 Linux-based device that requires little time to set up, no computer for connectivity, no monthly fees and only a web browser for access to your files from anywhere in the world? Yes, its radioactive pink colour might seem a bit off-putting upon first glance, but after you connect the Pogoplug and discover its power, you won’t care if it glows in the dark (but don’t worry – it doesn’t). This particular pink and white gadget is actually San Francisco-based CloudEngine’s second version of the device to carry the Pogoplug moniker. That said, this model bears almost no resemblance to the original except for its performance and functionality. A complete redesign gives the Pogoplug II a more modern and attractive form. The updated Pogoplug has four USB 2.0 ports: one up front and three on the posterior. The wired LAN port and electrical plug are also located on the rear of the device. A cable wrangler on the back of the case prevents the Pogoplug and associated USB drives from looking like a spaghetti explosion.

According to its website and the minimal instruction booklet that comes boxed with the Pogoplug, there are only four steps to enabling your own private cloud:
1. Power on the Pogoplug.
2. Connect it to your router.
3. Attach USB drives.
4. Activate it online.
5. And, it is actually just that simple.

PogoPlug 02

Some slightly exaggerated claims state that you can have the Pogoplug up and running in 60 seconds, but a five to ten minute setup time is a more reasonable estimate for the average user. Once connected and activated, your browser is directed to the ‘Library View’ of your attached USB drives and the files they contain. From this page, you may upload files, share files, remove files and directories, rename attached USB drives, search for files, set up Active Copy (forsynchronising files and folders between connected USB drives) and edit security settings.

There are two major downsides to the Pogoplug, however, and these are indexing and wired-only connectivity. Currently, there are no controls over file indexing. As soon as you activate your Pogoplug and have USB drives connected to it, it will begin indexing every file and folder on the device. This recursive indexing takes a very long time. Initial indexing on a 500GB My Book, of which 302GB is used, took two full days. When you display your files in the Library View, you’ll see a message that tells you that access may be slow due to this indexing. The other significant negative aspect is that the Pogoplug must connect directly to a LAN router with an Ethernet cable. There is no wireless access available in either the first or the second Pogoplug model, which is a real shame.

You can enable SSH access to your Pogoplug through the Security Settings page, although there isn’t much you can do with its limited embedded BusyBox Linux operating system. Updates to the Pogoplug are likely pushed from the my.pogoplug.com site on an as-needed basis, since there are no repository tools or setups for ‘pulling’ updates as you would with an apt-get or YUM-based system.

The Pogoplug stands out among its peers in functionality, simplicity and upgradability. Linux is limited to browser-based interaction with the device, but Windows and Mac users can optionally download an application that maps the attached drives as if they were local to the accessing computer. There is also an iPhone application available so that you can upload photos and videos for immediate sharing with family and friends. The Pogoplug is a fun device with which to work and fully justifies its price.

Verdict: 4/5

It’s difficult to say anything bad about the Pogoplug. Its small size, ease of use, Gigabit Ethernet and four USB ports make it a winner for anyone needing secure remote access to a large number of files. And, there’s no monthly fee for using the service. The one-time £99 purchase price is all you’ll ever pay.

This article originally appeared in issue 87 of Linux User & Developer magazine.

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    • Ronald

      “Linux is limited to browser-based interaction”. I think you mean no NFS. Does it do Samba? Linux could use that, if present. “…no monthly fee for using the service.” What service? Do you mean software updates from my.pogoplug.com? This product is not a service, it’s a box. There should never be a monthly fee for using a product that you own. And why does it need to do “indexing” anyway? If it’s open for SSH then a simple ‘find’ command does that job. This article lacks clarity.

    • Marek Winicius

      Too bad it really stinks at accessing those files after a Pogoplug firmware upgrade. Their support is horrible as well – their responses are “contact support” – when I’m already talking to support. I got one of these for Christmas for myself and have been regretting it ever since.

      In case you think I’m the only pissed-off customer, look at their forums: http://pogoplugged.com.

    • Ken Hess

      “There should never be a monthly fee for using a product that you own.” You mean like a cellular phone? Or Television?
      Indexing is a default process for the device that finds all the files and indexes them to make searches faster through the browser interface.

      Limited to browser-based interaction means just that. Most Pogoplug users wouldn’t know or care about NFS or CIFS nor will they use SSH. The device is so easy to use, it’s for those who just want a plug and play interface and not a technical challenge.

    • Ken Hess

      By the way, it does do Samba. Note the bit about “but Windows and Mac users can optionally download an application that maps the attached drives as if they were local to the accessing computer.”