The Pogoplug – decent media server for less than $25
A couple of years ago, I got an idea –wouldn’t it be dandy to convert my DVD collection to digital files, stick them on a couple of big hard drives and then stream them to my Xbox 360 in the living room and LG Smart TV Adapter in the bedroom? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to stream content to my iPhone and Android tablet, too, and how great would it be to be able to access files on the Internet from any Internet browser?
I was able to achieve all of that for a mere $25 by purchasing the Pogoplug POGO-Bo1. You can get your own Pogoplug these days at Amazon.com for as little as $16.99 and that’s a steal.
By the way, since the Arkansas Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, passed a law a couple of years ago requiring Amazon to collect sales tax for purchases made in this state. Amazon responded by terminating affiliate agreements in July 2011, meaning this site doesn’t get a dime when people click links like the one above. So, thanks, legislators, and rest assured that First Arkansas News will get absolutely nothing if you buy a Pogoplug through the above Amazon link.
At any rate, what do you get with the hideously pink POGO-B01? Essentially, it’s little more than a unit boasting four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port and a dual core, 700MHz CPU. To set it up, all I had to do was connect it through the Ethernet port between my cable modem and router, plug in a couple of hard drives into the USB ports, set up an account at PogoPlug.com, download the Pogoplug backup to my PC and I was up and running. The Pogoplug backup software runs on Windows and Mac. Those running Mac can set their systems up to read from the Pogoplug, but not write to it.
The Pogoplug backup software is essential to configure your PC to access the Pogoplug and access the hard drives hooked up to the device so files and be written to them and read from them. You can manage the drive through the Pogoplug site if you want, but it’s a lot more convenient to simply install the backup software and treat the drives connected to it like they’re additional hard drives physically attached to your computer.
Once the PogoPlug was set up and hard drives were installed, I had 1.5 terabytes of storage available for media. I’ve converted a lot of DVDs and CDs to media files and stream them from the Pogoplug. It is critical to enable streaming to the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 the Pogoplug from an Internet browser if you want to use those services — it’s an extra step that’s not obvious, so keep that in mind if your game console can’t read the Pogoplug.
Once all of that is done, you’ve got a wireless media server that didn’t cost much and works fairly well. In my home, the PogoPlug is accessible by any devices hooked up to the wireless network. There are even Android and Apple iOS apps that allow phones and tablets to connect, too.
Yes, the Pogoplug can be configured to backup your computers and you can share files through HTML links. Also, it is a snap to access files through a Web browser or mobile app. The Pogoplug at my house, however, is almost exclusively a local media streamer.
Here’s the thing — the Pogoplug does have some limitations. For one thing, streaming video over the Internet just doesn’t work that well. In spite of my stout Internet connection at home and the more than adequate one at my office, watching media streamed over the Internet is problematic. Videos tend to be choppy and playback is interrupted by buffering quite often. It is possible to optimize videos for streaming over the Internet, but going that route takes up a lot of time in that the Pogoplugs little CPU takes a very long time to convert media to a Web-friendly format. Even when a video is optimized, problems with buffering and “stuttering” remain.
No, this little gadget is a great local streamer, but there are even some problems with that. The Pogoplug seems to fail at times and that requires a full reset of the device (that’s mostly annoying rather than devastating, however). Also, I often have to plug the hard drives into my Windows 7 machine and force it to check the drives for errors before they’ll play nice with the Pogoplug after I’ve reset it. Another problem is that the Pogoplug is absolutely chained to the Web — if your Internet connection goes down, local streaming won’t work even if your router is fine and your devices are connected to it just fine. That also means that the Pogoplug might wind up useless if the company that made it goes out of business and takes with it the Internet-based services the Pogoplug needs to function. Also, have USB 3.0 ports rather than USB 2.0 would have helped with data transfers between the Pogoplug and the hard drives as there are times when more speed is necessary.
Oh, and one more problem — if the Pogoplug does go down and needs a manual reset, you won’t be able to access your files when you’re traveling. That almost goes without saying, but it’s something to keep in mind if you rely too heavily on this device for cloud storage. Yes, it is a cloud device, but it can be a finicky one. Since one must restart the device from time to time, it might not be wise to rely on it to grant access to your files when you’re away from home. There’s also an option to hook up a printer, but that feature doesn’t appear to work that well.
Still, for $25 I was able to put together a great local media server that was recognized with ease by my Xbox and LG Smart TV Adapter. There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to turn the Pogoplug into a Linux Web server, but I wanted a competent media streamer that didn’t cost much and the Pogoplug has exceeded my expectations. Four USB allows for a lot of storage, and it’s nice to know that I can install Linux in the future if I need to do that. In fact, if Pogoplug goes out of business, this hardware will likely become useless unless it’s hacked and set up as a Linux server.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.