A cool USB hub, a sweet Mini WiFi Router, and how to find Paul Revere through social analysis

Gibbs reviews two products from Satechi and is impressed by a paper that explains the power of social network analysis.

We start with the gadget of the week: The Satechi 7-port USB 3.0 Aluminum Hub. I've mentioned Satechi in glowing prose in a previous column because they make really nice products and this one is no exception. Now, I've tried all sorts of USB hubs in the past, but most of them have the design aesthetic of a brick ... they are usually cuboids that slide around your desk and wind up being a rat's nest of cables.

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The Satechi 7-port USB 3.0 Aluminum Hub

The Satechi 7-port USB 3.0 Aluminum Hub is a sleek, high-touch, Apple-like design with a sloped front face that makes it easy to insert and remove USB plugs, non-slip "feet", and a finish that nicely matches Apple's brushed aluminum look.

My only grumble is that an iPad won't charge while plugged into the Satechi hub because an iPad requires 10W minimum and the Satechi hub only has a 3W power adapter ... on the other hand, the company doesn't list the iPad in the device's compatibility list so I have to give them a pass on that.

Priced at $54.99 the Satechi 7-port USB 3.0 Aluminum Hub gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

Another Satechi product that I intended to review a couple of weeks after that previous column is the Satechi Multifunction Mini Router ... alas, other obsessions and shiny objects ("Squirrel! Squirrel!") distracted me. Now to correct that oversight ...

This Satechi Multifunction Mini Router is 2.9 inches by 1.9 inches by 2.3 inches (not much bigger than the average wall wart) and plugs directly into a power socket.

The Mini Router can be configured to operate in one of five modes: Access Point Mode, which connects to your wired network and creates an AP; Router Mode, which provides a wireless AP when connected to a WAN connection; Universal Repeater Mode which extends the range of existing Wi-Fi connections up to 100 feet; Client Mode, which connects a device such as a laptop to an existing wireless network; and Bridge Mode, which allows two or more wireless access points to communicate with each other to connect multiple LANs.

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The Satechi Multifunction Mini Router

The Mini Router supports 802.11n with a maximum speed of 300Mbps in the 2.4GHZ wireless band, and WiFi Protected Setup (WPS ... which you should immediately disable). In my casual testing the overall performance was great (not, of course, enterprise-level throughput).

This product has a Web interface that is also impressively responsive. You know how many of these consumer gadgets are slow to respond and take forever to reboot after making configuration changes? Not so with the Satechi Multifunction Mini Router ... this thing is a sleek greyhound among the other lumbering bulldog-like products.

I've tested similar products and the Satechi Multifunction Mini Router is by far the best yet. Priced at only $39.99, it gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

Finally, I'm sure you have been following the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance brouhaha. If you've wondered how really sparse data about social connections can be used to understand relationships between, for example, people or between people and organizations, then you have to read the paper "Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere" by Kieran Healy.

Using what Healy describes, tongue-in-cheek, as "the simplest techniques of the new-fangled Social Network Analysis in the pursuit of those who would seek to undermine the liberty enjoyed by His Majesty’s subjects" (the paper is faux dated London, 1772), he shows "how we can use ... 'metadata' to find key persons involved in terrorist groups operating within the Colonies at the present time."

The "OMG" of this paper is that it demonstrates with a simple example how much information can be revealed by simple techniques. Indeed, these are far simpler techniques than TLA (Three Letter Acronym) agencies such as the NSA use, but it still shows how "useful" insights can be discovered from what might, at first blush, appear to be trivial data sets.

Gibbs had his OMG moment in Ventura, Calif. Your insights to gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter and App.net (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

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