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TonidoPlug - Plug-in-a-Cloud


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Internally it is a SheevaPlug. From online retail channels, Seagate Freeagent Dockstar is available and functionally (from the hardware perspective) the same thing as the TonidoPlug.

 

IMHO the TonidoPlug MO price is a bit steep since the Dockstar goes at around USD$70. The root password was recently discovered at openpogo.com

 

An MO for Dockstar instead?

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No disrespect intended, nor do I question the motives of the MO organiser, but the $5 discount on an item costing $190 is not particularly attractive.

 

My thoughts exactly...that's why I go and get it myself lor. ;D

 

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Introduction

 

Want to have a feel of what cloud coumputing is all about? Well, here a chance if you get one of the Sheevaplug-based 'CloudPlugs'. In the last CES, we have seen some of these plugs appearing for the first time and if you did a search on the youtube on 'sheevaplugs'...you will find alot of hits. Some of the more prominent brands include Ctera-plug, PogoPlug, TonidoPlug etc...all using the same technology and idea.

 

 

At first glance, most of us whom are familiar with 'PowerPlugs' will easily get confused the 'CloudPlug' with a 'PowerPlug' as they look and feel pretty much the same! What's interesting though is that the idea of CloudPlu probably originates from the PowerPlug technology. So the next sensible move for the IT world is to come up with a new concept (but in design) to push the envelope of such an existing technology, hence the idea of CloudPlug technology was born last year. Just imagine for a second there...how do you fire up a PC? Well in a nutshell, we need electricity and an on-board ethernet to stream data and voice bytes from a host PC to another remote PC or even to a DLNA media servers (e.g. XBox 360 and PlayStation 3) for streaming of media like songs, photos and videos to your home entertainment system.

 

So what exactly is 'Cloud computing' anyway?!

 

In a very brief note, we have to pay homage to Google for coming out with Google Apps and many other IT solution providers that promulgate the idea of using the Internet framework as the working protocol/base as the ultimate producitivity tool to help companies cut cost and increase mobility and productivity of their workers. Imagine all the IT resources that your company ever need is 'ready' online - 24/7 and you won't have to worry about tech support and grapple with the insensitive calculations of annual budgets for IT procurement etc...the answer is out there online at a fee. What's best you only pay for what you need and not anything more so you can always ensure that your company's $ will be well spent in the most business-prudent manner and sense.

 

Of course technology been a technology after all...there's always 2 sides to the coin. The limelight is bright and shinning when it comes to helping companies cutting cost and boost boost productivity of mobile workforce. However we also know that the greatest source of threats actually originates from the World Wide Web (WWW) aka Internet for those more familiar with the term. The dichotomy between cost savings vs. level of risk assumed. It's really up to the company CIO/IT manager of the company to come up with a proper risk-assessment analysis-vs-cost evaluation model to seek the best deal out of it w/o putting the company in harm's way.

 

We have to admit that there is indeed some benefits in cloud computing that we can put into good use. Moderation is the key word for MNCs and other companies wishing to ride on the cloud-computing bandwagon...but for consumers, the idea of using cloud computing to manage our daily work and personal lives couldn't come at a more handy time. So let's see how our little friend called Tonido can spruce up some delights and surprises in the way we manage our online persona. :)

 

Tonido and TonidoPlug

 

A quick google on the Internet provides me with some background of this nifty software called Tonido. If you ever used Microsoft's collaboration tool called 'Groove' before then the Tonido software will strike you with an uncanny resemblance. Of course, Groove is part of the Microsoft Office Suite and you need to pay for it but Tonido on the other hand is FOC. Now where does this TonidoPlug comes into the picture? Well...think of it as a fully working Tonido software in a 'plug'!...meaning if you're a Tonido user then the UI should be no stranger to you...the built-in UI (User-Interface) look and feel exactly the same as a Tonido software that resides on your PC.

 

The first thing that attracted me to this TonidoPlug is the price (rather afforable but there are other similar products which are priced at a more competitive price) and the idea that it is cross-platform friendly (meaning the TonidoPlug can be accessed via a Windows OS, Linux or a MAC PC)...the idea of using SoC (System-On Chip) provides even greater flexibility and power for this little gadget to go evern further...FWIW the TonidoPlug is packed with Marvell's Feroceon CPU (ARM) chipset having a FSB clocked at 1.2Ghz and internal memory of 512MB - enough to be used for playback of HD MKV files encoded using High Profile 4.1 and above! What's more everything on this plug is open-source...meaning the built-in OS is using Linux Jaunty 9.04, the built-in web apps is also open source...the good thing about open source is the speed in development among the user in the same community. Bugs get fixed at a faster rate and newer features and apps roll out faster as well. And most important, even after the demise of the company behind the TonidoPlug, codelathe.com...chances are some 'brilliant minds' can still take over the source code development and to better the user experience and provide more add-ons.

 

In a nutshell, TonidoPlug is a miniature PC that runs on a Linux OS that comes with a Tonido software which is actually a Personal Information Manager (PIM) cum Peer-to-Peer (P2P) collaboration tool. The only difference that sets Tonido apart from the Groove is Tonido utilize the Internet framework as the medium to host its server and running of the apps...Yes! its trying to emulate Google's Web apps...If you ask me about the ensuing competition in cloud computing, I think the only threat for plug computing will be from Google's very own Google OS that works pretty much like Tonido. But at present, Google has been very selective with its OS implementation and Google OS is not make available for download by the netizens.

 

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Unboxing the TonidoPlug

 

At US$99 (S$190 inclu. of GST), the packaging is simple enough to justify its purpose - i.e.  to house the plug and the essential accessories in a secure manner safe for shipping worldwide. The content includes the TonidoPlug, a two-ring power plug, a universal multi-plug converter, a Patch 5e UTP cable and a piece leaflet that contains the basic installation and setup guide...which IMO is poorly drafted.

 

Setting up the TonidoPlug (Hardware)

 

Setting up the TonidoPlug is extremely simple and it only takes about a minute or two to get the plug in working order. Here's what you do...

 

Step 1: Plug the TonidoPlug to a wall outlet using either a two-ring power adapter or you can use the multi-plug converter.

 

Step 2: Attach the stock UTP cable to the TonidoPlug. The other end of the cable is connected to your existing Router.

 

Step 3: Attach an external HDD to the TonidoPlug

 

Step 4: Power up the plug and that's it!

 

It is really that simple! (The booting-up takes about 30 secs)

 

Setting up the Tonido Server (Software)

 

Fire up your PC and go to the Router administrator page and scroll down the list of DHCP list and you should be able to spot a device name called, 'tonidoplug' - take note of the MAC address by highlighting it and paste the whole MAC address to the IP finder webpagehosted by codelathe.com

Once the plug is located, you can now go into the PlugAdmin page to configure the settings such as Network (choose whether you want to use Static or Dynamic IP)...the admin page also allows you to monitor activity logs, CPU usage rate, mounting and sharing of the external HDD that attaches to your TonidoPlug as well as enabling and disabling DLNA media streaming function on your TonidoPlug. IIRC Tonido utlize 'Geebox uShare' as the utility to enable DLNA streaming to your DLNA-capable equipment (e.g. XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 or even your PopcornHour C-200 and other media players that support DLNA feature)

 

Note: You will need to create a profile first before you can go to the Tonido dashboard to explore the Tonido apps. Why is there a need to create a profile? Well, recall I mentioned that TonidoPlug functions pretty much like a mini PC? Now ask yourself, whilst setting up a Windows OS (be it Vista or Win 7) - do you need to create a user profile at the onset? The logic is the same...so bear in mind that whenever you try to access the Tonido apps, you are required to login with the correct credentials (i.e. username and password) before you can use the apps.

 

So what's the difference between the TonidoPlug and a fully-functional Network Attached Storage (NAS)?

 

The two shared some similarities when it comes to file sharing and hosting web-based apps like keeping a personal journal (which in Tonido's case is called Thots - a very rudimentary web app if you ask me - as the app name imply...it merely gives you a platform for you to type in your thoughts, personal comments and remarks anytime of the day. Imagine you're doing a degree or master program and online research is a common thing - this little app could come in handy...besides FireFox developers have also come up with some nifty Tonido plugins that allows you to select snippets of texts and bookmark pages to be imported over to the Tonido Thots. BTW you can also twitter your thots to your Twitter page as well...in a way sharing your thoughts or views on a particular topic of interest with your contact list almost instantly.

 

Other web apps include Tonido Jukebox for music sharing. Importing of songs is easy and fast but the player itself is too basic so don't expect any treble or bass control and there is no EQ options too. Playback quality is above average but considering that it is a web app, you will be more forgiving in this area.

 

Tonido Photos for viewing of your personal photo collection is also quite easy to use. You can import the photos from your PC to be stored in the external HDD. Again when it comes to robustness of the app, you will be disappointed. For instance, if the resolution of your images are too big (e.g. 5 MB and above)...loading time will be very long especially when you select to view the images in thumbnail format. Loaded a bunch of high-res photos which I have took using my HD Digicam, it took almost 2 mins to load up just a 5 MB picture file! That's unacceptable considering that the TonidoPlug is spotted with a Gigabit ethernet port and to make it even more infuriating is the fact that I am using a full-fledged Gigabit network infrstructure in my home network and yet the performance of the transfer rate is mediocre. Another thing to note is that thumbnail presentation will only show up when the images are saved in JPEG or JPG format and other formats like PNG, GIF, AIFF etc will not show up...*bummer*!!!

 

Tonido Workspace is used to keep track of your appointments, taskings and event calendars and making short notes during a meeting. This app is very good and very responsive as well...the design is very intuitive and easy to navigate around. I will consider this app as one of the better ones in this app suite.

Tonido Webshare allows you to create and share files with your friends by sending them the URL link to download the files via email link. You can also password protect the shared files as well. A simple and yet effective app IMO. Nothing fanciful but it serves it main purpose.

 

Tonido Explorer functions just like a Windows Explorer where you can see all the folders and files at one glance. It allows moving and copying of files from one location to the other very easy. Of course basic functions like renaming and deleting a folder and file can be performed with ease using this app. Everything that you can come to expect of a Windows Explorer in short.

Tonido Torrent provides a common interface for managing our uploads and downloads with ease. Amazingly, there is no need for you to meddle with any windows settings and router to bypass certain bit-torrent ports as it has already been performed internally within the plug! And did I mention that the downloading speed is quite good as well :) If you have been using NAS-based torrent sharing feature, the UI should be no stranger to you.

 

There is also a built-in IM to send instant messages to tonido users as well - just need to create an invitation via email to those contacts of yours who are using Tonido web apps as well. A typical tonodo ID will look something like 'davidlee.tonidoid.com'...this is the ID profile that will be used to send invites to other tionido users...thus you create your very own private group of users to collaborate work and manage your personal life all in one platform.

 

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Can TonidoPlug replace my existing NAS?

 

The answer is NO! (at least for now)...Full-fledged NAS like QNAP NAS and equivalent still provide the users with the most flexibility and computing powers to manage multi-threaded functions. For instance, I still need to rely on my QNAP NAS to host my personal web server as it comes equiped with MySQL and phpMyAdmin plugins installed. At the moment, the TonidoPlug doesn't have a web-server function due to the absence of the a/m plugins but that does not mean that in the future it will not happen...the great thing about TonidoPlug is the use of Linux OS and a dedicated SoC based CPU chipset powerful enough to run a full-fledged webserver - this will only happen when the developers from codelathe.com decides to add in the web server funtionalities in the future firmware update.

 

Note: Firmware updating is easy and fast, whenever there is a new firmware for the OS or the Tonido web apps, it will prompt you once you login to the Tonido dashboard.

 

Disappointing transfer rate via network

 

My greatest gripe on this product will have to be the network speed...not just me, in fact most of the current TonidoPlug users lamented on the below average transfer rate when using SaMBa network...The transfer speed only register an average of 6.0 MB/S from my PC to the TonidoPlug. Transfering large media files is a PITA! The developers have taken note of it and will be working to resolve this situation and hopefully the transfer rate for NTFS-based HDD can be improved with the newer NTFS-3G version presently lurking in the web community.

 

Update: Samba speed fix has been discovered and I have applied it - the speed is now 5x faster! For details of the steps, pls refer to this link:

http://www.xtremeplace.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=70654.msg533211#new

 

Conclusion

 

TonidoPlug also provides SSL feature so that you will not be susceptible to malicious attacks like MITMA for instance. For a limited period, Tonido allows TonidoPlug users to request for unique SSL certificate to be sent to them so that they can start enjoying a more secured infrastructure when using the HTTP protocol for remote connection to the TonidoPlug from office to home network. For P2P, I understand that AES 256 encryption engine is currently in place for the added security assurance when sharing files across the cyber conduit. Since we only send invite on a trusted basis, we can expect lesser chance of getting attack vectors from social engineering sites that preyed on unwitting users.

 

Let me repeat again...Cloud plug cannot replace a dedicated NAS for one obvious reason...there's ONLY ONE USB port to connect to an external HDD!!! So you can't do any RAID configuration which can be vital to your organization's protection/backup of pertinent data...for everything else such as sharing of personal files like a video you have made on your trip to Hawaii or sharing photos with family members, relatives and friends without the hassles in going through like creating an account on popular sharing sites like Flickr or Photobucket before you can upload your stuff to share...and what's more it is inexpensive and consumes very little power when in standby mode...which can help to save your some $ as opposed to running a 24/7 NAS that runs your web hosting service. If all you ever need is to have a place to upload their stuff and retrieve it at your convenience w/o burning a big hole and scratching your head when it comes to fiddling with technology...then TonidoPlug could be your best companion.

 

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the torino is a sheevaplug at its heart.

 

if you are willing to hack around using ssh shell access, you will be able to add more useful functions.

 

for eg, i have the following running on my plug.

 

rtorrent for torrenting

sabnzbd for usenet access

squeezecenter

lighttpd and phproxy

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the torino is a sheevaplug at its heart.

 

if you are willing to hack around using ssh shell access, you will be able to add more useful functions.

 

for eg, i have the following running on my plug.

 

rtorrent for torrenting

sabnzbd for usenet access

squeezecenter

lighttpd and phproxy

 

Yes agreed...only when I have the time to play with it. Just got it last Thursday and been playing with it for limited time only...but I have already installed httpd on it.

 

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is this similar to the sapido line of products

 

http://www.sapido.com.tw/

 

 

 

Not sure about this product...but a quick peek at the site link...it's more of a portable NAS and a router that can also doubled up as a AP...in a way its slightly different from the Sheevaplug technology that we're talking about here. Plug computing behaves like a mini PC with apps - think of it like Google OS on a netbook.

 

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Yes agreed...only when I have the time to play with it. Just got it last Thursday and been playing with it for limited time only...but I have already installed httpd on it.

 

 

try lighthttpd, the full blown apache is tad heavy for the plug, esp if you want to be running other stuffs concurrently.

 

 

to me, the beauty of plug computing is not the torino/pogo cloud software.

 

whats so great is that you have a small linux server that can be you 24/7 computer that only takes 5w of electricity!

 

however, i find the plug can get quite warm, esp when the room windows are closed during the day when I'm out for work.

 

solution is to leave it onto of a metal biscuit tin, so that the metal can act like passive heat sink to spread the heat.

 

leaving it siting on the table is the worst, imho.

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Managed to bump up the SAMBA speed by 5x by executing the following steps...

 

1) Login to the root using PuttY

2) Change directory to /etc - look for /etc/usbmount/usbmount.conf"

3) Go to line 28 - remove "sync" from the command line MOUNTOPTIONS="sync,nodev,noatime"

 

The default speed bumped up from 5mbps to 26mbps...

 

Note: This is meant for HDD with EXT3 or FAT32 filesystem only...NTFS driver speed still hovers around 7 - 8mbps.

 

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