Tag Archives | storage

HP's MediaSmart Servers to Crunch Video, Stream to iPhones

HP LogoMicrosoft’s Windows Home Server platform has only one major booster among PC manufacturers, but it’s a doozy: HP, whose MediaSmart Servers pack sizable quantities of redundant storage, Microsoft’s software for backing up, restoring, and sharing data, and HP’s own tweaks and additions, such as support for Macs. And today HP announced a software update for its EX 485 and EX 487 models with two significant new features: automatic conversion of videos for streaming and viewing on computers and mobile devices, and a new app called iStream that gives iPhones and iPods Touch remote access to the videos, music, and video you have stored on the server.

The software update, which HP plans to release late this month, can automatically generate high-resolution and low-resolution MPEG4 H.264 video files from multiple formats (including unprotected DVDs–but not, of course, copy-protected ones). I’ve spent enough time tending to computers that were slowly crunching away at video files to find the idea of a sever silently doing it in background mighty appealing.

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Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Storage?

Inhabitat(A NOTE FROM HARRY: We’re pleased to continue Digital Media Central‘s guest appearances with one by Jill Fehrenbacher of Inhabitat, a cool blog about design, technology, and sustainability.)

With the cost of memory cards and hard drives falling almost by the day we’re adding storage capacity faster than can we fill our hard drives up with stuff–even if we are creating more photos, MP3s, emails, videos, etc. than ever (think about how you take more pictures with your digital camera now that you have a 1GB card in there than when you were scraping by with just 64MB). Moore’s Law has been great for processors, but the cost of a megabyte of hard drive space has plummeted. In 1986 it cost about $50 to get 1MB of storage; 23 years later just over fifty bucks gets you a 500GB drive–$2.5 million worth of capacity by 1986 standards.

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Home Storage: Important. Also a Challenge.

HotHardware[A note from Harry: Our Digital Media Central guest posts continue with a few thoughts about storaget from Dave Altavilla of PC enthusiast site HotHardware. It’s not as simple as it used to be.]

These days, the ever-growing library of files, documents and multimedia content for the average home user, family or small office, is not just bulk media that needs to be backed up.  Beyond ensuring redundancy and resiliency for the data itself, file access, file management and file distribution need to have higher levels of sophistication.  Gone are the days where you just mount a NAS (Network Attached Storage) volume as a mapped drive on your client machines and workstations.  Oh no, dear ol’ Dad needs to play around with pics of the kid’s football team and needs to look at them “Flickr style” or he gets confused.  Little Johnny wants to stream his iTunes up to his bedroom.  And Mom, she just wants that QuickBooks data backed up nightly because if she loses it again, Dad is going to be in the dog house for a very long time.  Finally, and actually of primary importance, all of this precious family data needs to be secured and have varying levels of user access rights.

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Three Ways to Protect and Share Your Stuff

[An introductory note from Harry: Our visits from guest Digital Media Central bloggers continue. This week we’re happy to host David Ponce, owner and managing editor of popular gadget blog OhGizmo. Welcome, David!]

OhGizmoIt’s not that I want to sound like I’m repeating things that have been said endlessly over the last decade or so, but sometimes there’s no avoiding it. It’s pretty amazing to me just how radically the production, storage, and sharing of documents has changed since, say, grandma’s time. I mean, really, think about it. My own mom, only one generation back, still has these heavy stacks of cardboard albums with sticky pages, cellulose acetate covers, and fading Polaroids. My dad has trunkloads of Super 8 films in condition I can’t even imagine. I still own a pretty impressive collection of cassette tapes. Yet none of these materials is getting any sort of attention any longer simply because they haven’t crossed the digital divide.

We just live in a completely different world now, with different rules. I think it’s important to learn a new way of storing and protecting the new digital documents. While it might have been perfectly fine for my mom to keep her photo albums on a shelf above her racks of mothballed clothes, that won’t fly these days. It’s no longer necessary for grandma and grandpa to fly over from Miami to watch a grainy video of their grandchild splatter around in a pool. Or watch slides of their children’s Grand Canyon vacation projected on a white wall. They can stay at home and look at everything on their computer, easy as pie.

So, if we’re ditching the cardboard albums and dusty boxes, what are good ways of sharing and (maybe more importantly) protecting all the digital content we produce these days? First thing you need to realize is that hard drives fail. Really, they do. And often. So it’s really not safe for you to keep all your files on your PC drive, and expect them to be around forever. You need to back up. You can do this several ways: get an external hard drive and transfer everything there. Upload pictures to a picture sharing site, like Flickr. Transfer data to an online storage service, like Carbonite. Basically, don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.

While you’re doing this you’re clearly increasing the safety of your data. But you’re not making it particularly easy to share your files with family and friends. You’re even potentially fragmenting your collection, with files here and there. Another obstacle to sharing is large video files. You can put them on YouTube, but the quality will suffer. Of course there are sites that allow you to send large files, some of which rely on Peer-to-Peer technology (like YouSendIt), and they’re quite effective. But they do have their problems: you have to initiate the transmission, a notification email is sent to your intended recipients and they have to download the files. It works, but it’s not easy to use.

Then you have other more elegant solutions, like home servers and other forms of networked storge. They can become a central hub where all your media is stored, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. There are no limits on the amount you can transfer. They can also back up your files periodically, and since it’s just the one device, you solve the fragmentation issue. But they’re not perfect on they’re own.

If you ask me, I think the best solution is one that tries to get the best of all worlds.

– Use a PC as you normally would, offloading pics and videos and any other documents as usual.

– Use centralized storage to automatically back up your files and make them accessible worldwide.

– Send your files to one trusted offsite storage solution. A home server device is nice, but what happens in a fire?

And that’s it. All your data is redundant and accessible. With a little bit of effort and some discipline, your documents will stand the test of time and look a heck of a lot better than my mom’s 1972 Polaroids.


How to Produce Great Web Video in a Whole Lot Less Time

[David Spark (@dspark) is a veteran tech journalist and the founder of Spark Media Solutions, a storytelling production company that specializes in live event production. He also blogs and does a daily radio report for Green 960 in San Francisco at Spark Minute.]

speedvideoTen years ago when I worked at ZDTV (later to become TechTV) I made all the mistakes a first time producer can make in video production. I shot too much video. I didn’t set up a shoot schedule. I didn’t have an outline of what I wanted. And I ended up reshooting projects because I didn’t plan correctly.

Video production can be insanely time-consuming. Some of that is just a result of rookie mistakes made early on, but many production processes are simply unavoidable. Even though everyone has adopted non-linear video editing, watching video must be done linearly. A good producer can reduce time considerably if they plan better and learn how to more efficiently work their equipment. But even when you cut out all the fat, you still end up with the realization that  video production is slow.

About four years ago, at CES in Las Vegas, I started to see a new crop of software and devices specifically targeted at reducing the time it takes to produce a video. No single product or technology has shown itself to be the panacea for speedy video production, but when you use these tools and tricks in aggregate they can save you an enormous amount of time. Here are some suggestions that everyone can use. These tips are not just for professionals, but anyone looking to cut down the time it takes to produce video. I know I’ve left a lot out, so I look forward to you adding some of your own recommendations in the comments.

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