Cloud fever and TonidoPlug: Your own personal cloud

CodeLathe's TonidoPlug 2 is an amazing device that lets you build your own personal cloud

I know why you're happy ... you've got cloud fever. You can't get enough of cloud this and cloud that so, as a change from megascale, enterprise-scale, cumulonimbus-like behemoths, let's look at a something more on the wispy, happy, summer stratus-like scale. The TonidoPlug 2, which is based on the SheevaPlug and developed and marketed by CodeLathe LLC, is a personal cloud system that is really cool, amazingly well-featured, and remarkably inexpensive.

Driven by a Marvell Kirkwood MV88F6281 ARM-complaint system-on-a-chip (SoC) with a Feroceon 88FR131 rev 1 (v5l) processor running at 794.62 MHz with 512MB of RAM, this device is surprisingly fast.

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The TonidoPlug is physically small (5.5 inches by 3 inches by 1 inch) and provides 512MB of flash storage for the operating system and apps, an internal slot for a 2.5-inch SATA II drive, and a single USB 2.0 port to which (obviously) USB storage devices can be attached.

TonidoPlug 2

Click to see: TonidoPlug 2

For connectivity the TonidoPlug has both wired Gigabit Ethernet and integrated 802.11b/g/n wireless.

The TonidoPlug can be plugged directly into a power socket or, through a rather clever piece of engineering, the plug can be swapped for an adapter that allows a wired power cord to be used. The TonidoPlug, which can operate on any power source from 100 to 240VAC at either 50 or 60Hz, is also miserly, drawing less than 13 watts at maximum.

And now, the software: The TonidoPlug 2 currently runs Debian 6.0 "Squeeze" and supports file sharing for clients on both your local network as well as the Internet. There are also free apps to provide remote access to the TonidoPlug from iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows 7 Mobile devices.

When you first power up a TonidoPlug it will get its network configuration via DHCP. Cunningly, you can find the local IP address of the device by going to http://www.tonidoplug.com/ip and clicking on a link that will take you to the TonidoPlug's configuration page ... this is a very clever technique that other manufacturers would do well to emulate rather than their usual simplistic reliance on a default address.

The TonidoPlug comes with several built-in applications: Webshare for files and photo sharing; Explorer for file system browsing; and a DLNA Media Server for streaming content. You can also install a number of apps directly from the Tonido App Store, including: Sync for file synchronization; Search for file search; a personal blog called Thots; Tonido Shell for a browser-based command line; a Web browser-based BitTorrent client; Workspace, a Web browser-based collaboration software; and Jukebox, a Web browser-based music player.

You can also upgrade to TonidoPro from the App Store for $29 per annum, which increases the synchronization storage from 250MB to 50GB and adds sync capability for guest accounts.

A really interesting feature (currently in beta) allows you to set up the TonidoPlug as a relay by configuring the Wi-Fi service to work in "hotspot" mode. This makes the system behave much like the bigger, more muscly brother of the Kingston Wi-Drive, which I reviewed last August.

Priced at just $119 for the drive-less TonidoPlug 2, this system gives you a huge amount of power and range of features in one small, well-polished, highly capable, and very cost-effective package. The TonidoPlug 2 gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

Gibbs is plugged in in Ventura, Calif. Connect at gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

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