Shaw reviews Seagate's Backup Plus external storage drives, Rubbo International's D-Wings.
The scoop: Backup Plus external storage drives, by Seagate, about $140 (for 1TB capacity).
What is it? Storage vendor Seagate has moved away from the GoFlex branding on its external storage drives, moving instead to a "brandless" line of products with more descriptive titles: The "Backup Plus" device basically does what it says -- it provides backup for data stored on your Macintosh or PC -- and the "Plus" is some additional features found on its Seagate Dashboard software. The GoFlex adapters still exist, letting users choose the adapter type depending on the ports they have on their computers, and allowing for flexible upgradeability. For example, this version features a USB 3.0 cable, but FireWire 800 and Thunderbolt adapters are also available.
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Capacities of 500GB ($120) and 750GB ($130) are also available; Desktop versions will feature drives of 1TB ($130), 2TB ($150), 3TB ($180) and 4TB ($250).
Why it's cool: The biggest "plus" is social network integration on the included software -- users can back up their photos and videos from Facebook and Flickr, to either their computers or the external drive directly. Seagate has recognized that more users are uploading photos and videos to these social sites directly from their mobile devices instead of going through the computer. The software provides users with a quick and easy way to download that content onto a storage drive.
The drive also features a nice cross-platform integration between Macintosh and PC users, recognizing that many homes now include Macs and Windows systems. If you want a drive that can read and write files to both a PC and a Mac, the drive can do this with a quick software install (make sure you buy the PC-based unit, not the Macintosh-only drive). If you're a full Apple fan, you can buy a drive specifically made for the Mac (500GB or 1TB), which includes Time Machine backup functionality. Desktop versions of the Mac-only version are also available (1TB, 2TB and 3TB versions).
Some caveats: The Seagate Dashboard software isn't fully baked yet; I had some initial failures trying to download content from my Facebook account, and needed to do some login workarounds in order to download Flickr (owned by Yahoo) photos. Recent software updates seemed to have solved those issues. While you can use the software to upload to YouTube, it would be nice to have download capability too. The good part is that the software works without the external drive needing to be connected, so you can install the software and backup social content directly to your computer.
Grade: 4 stars (out of five).
The scoop: D-Wings, by Rubbo International, about $8 (HomeDepot.com)
What are they? D-Wings are small cable and cord clamps that include self-adhesive backing to stick onto furniture or walls. The clamps come in a package of 12 small clamps (3/8-inch/9mm) and six larger clamps (1/2-inch/12mm).
Why they're cool: For people with lots of cables and cords cluttering up a tabletop, desktop or hanging off a desk, these can provide some better organization and prevent people from tripping over or accidentally unplugging the cords. If you have a "rat's nest" of different cables (connecting to devices or power outlets), you can clean up your space easily with these.
Grade: 4 stars