Ten years ago we had the choice between either a desktop model or a laptop compiter. Three years ago netbooks were added. Retail electronic stores had numerous netbooks to choose from. In 2010 Apple introduced the iPad, a tablet computer, inspired by it’s popular smartphone, the iPhone. The iPad was huge success and now, with no surprise, other manufacturers are offering competing devices. The stores are now flooded with tablets instead of netbooks.
Although the iPad is currently the front runner due to the astounding number of available apps, all tablets have many things in common.. touch screens, lightweight, ultra-portable and unfortunately limited storage capacity. While desktops and laptops have hard drives of at least 320 GB, tablets are offered in 16, 32 and 64 GB models. This is sufficient for quite a few software “apps” and their related data but when you start adding videos, full length movies, photo albums and etc. the space gets gobbled up.
Most tablet owners will want to store files and media on some sort of external device. Storage on an external device not only saves space on the tablet but (if networked) will provide a location through which the owner can share files with others Apple iPads do not have USB ports. However, many iOS apps do provide connectivity to remote servers, Depending on your needs you can use several types of remote external storage.
Cloud storage gives you the ability to share files on a remote server accessible to anyone with proper credentials (password). For several years Dropbox has been avaiable and is extremely popular. For “small” users, Dropbox provides 2GB of free storage. Users who need more will have to pay a fee, but it is reasonable. That is, it is reasonable only if you truly need to share files remotely with others, via an Internet connection. For sharing via a local network, or just taking your files with you when you are away from home, other solutions may be more practicle.
You can share files with others on your local network, including your own tablet computer by installing a local file server on your desktop machine. The easiest way to do this is to enable a WebDAV server. If you are not familiar with WebDAV, it is a replacement for old fashioned FTP but is much simpler to use offering a “drag and drop” interface and accessible via a web browser. WebDAV is built into both Mac OS X and Windows 7. Ubuntu users will need to install “apache2” if it’s not already there. In all cases a few steps must be taken to enable it. I am providing three “howto” links that were good as of this post. Otherwise put the keywords “WebDAV’, “setup” and your OS name into your favorite search engine.
- Windows 7 users look. here. Windows Vista/98 users go here first.
- Mac OS X users look here.
- Ubuntu (or other Linux) users look here.
Users of Apple’s iWork apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) on the iPad take note! iWork apps will, of course, connect to Apple’s own iCloud service that is now in beta and will be available to the public soon. iCloud will offer 5GB of free storage and will be a serious competitor to Dropbox, at least for small users. At this time iWork apps will connect to a WebDAV server. With or without iCloud there is an an incentive to enable a WebDAV server on your local computer.
Recently appearing in the maeketplace are some gadgets that also provide portable WiFi storage, They are expensive (as compared to a USB stick) but can easily pay for themselves if you are now paying for cloud storage, The Kingston Wi-Drive and the AirStash devices are available now. The Hitachi G-Connect drive will be avalable soon. Personally, I like the concept of the AirStash drive. It costs $99 and uses standard SD memory cards (not included) for storage. SD cards are small and easy to carry. They currently retail for less than $3/GB. I have a couple of 8GB cards on hand and I have ordered the AirStash device. Upon arrival, I will share the device with my wife and give her an SD card. In a future post I will review the product.
Which solution is right for you?