Geek Toys On My Radar

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Currently on my shopping list:
Draytek 2910G Dual Wan broadband modem. I own a Draytek 2600VG already — Draytek is probably one of the best modem manufacturers these days. Once we’ve relocated (more on that in future posts) I want to get both cable and dsl broadband so that we’re never off the internet. When our ISP goes down, our life stops dead in its tracks. We rely on web apps and VOIP for work and family stuff. It’s a redundancy priority for me to have two ISPs.
QNAP TS-109 NAS server with 750GB Seagate hard drive + Squeezebox combo. This seems to be the real deal as far as PC-less media distribution is concerned. I need to make sure it’s possible to run slimserver and TwonkyMedia at the same time on the QNAP so it can serve music to my Philips WAK 3300 (yes I own a WiFi alarm clock. And your point is? By the way I’m not linking to the device because it has too many shortcomings to be recommended.)
The whole wireless PC-less media thing is quite complex. Many media players and NAS boxes look great on paper, only to be thrashed by people who own them (see for instance what people have to say about the Buffalo Linkstation Live or the Maxtor Shared Storage, among other duds). Slimserver on the TS-109 looks like a well-supported solution based on reliable components. A lot of the stuff out there is junk. And some products, while receiving good reviews (eg. HP Media Vault) are lacking in the hackability and interop departments.
– Creative Zen Vision M 60GB. Its main benefit is that you don’t need to use Itunes junkware. (I own an Ipod Shuffle, neat device, horrible software.) More seriously, it works as a USB host so you can dump pictures directly from a camera into it.
I’m also looking for a good world phone/PDA (i.e. quad band GSM + email). You can get old unlocked Treos (650/680 gen) for $300 or less, but they don’t run Skype natively and once you add WiFi to them, they’re bulky and not that inexpensive anymore. If someone knows of a reliable quad-GSM + Skype device (with support for encrypted WiFi) that doesn’t cost more than $300-400, please email me (comments are still broken).

07/30/07 update: Lee Devlin corrects me about HP’s device by pointing to his extensive HP Media Vault FAQ/Knowledge Base. Slimserver isn’t mentioned though, and the Squeezebox isn’t DLNA-compliant.
08/01/08 update: not a great day, but I’m glad I’ve done more research. First, Creative has retired their M models in favor of the wide (“W”) PMPs which are not USB hosts (way to upgrade your product line, Creative). OK, let’s search for something else then, my wife points me to the Cowon A2 which is my kind of no-nonsense device (you get to use it as external hard drive, unlike the Ipod/Zune proprietary crap). Final check, is it going to work with our Canon Powershot S3 IS? Well no, because it turns out Canon cameras don’t support USB OTG.
Seriously, what’s wrong with the consumer electronics industry? I will not get locked in some overpriced proprietary platform that requires you to jump through hoops to get anything done, such as transcoding mp3 or xvid files instead of supporting them natively (this kind of stupidity killed Sony already). I guess it leaves the Archos 605 Wifi (review) since it has an SD slot, and it may be compatible with Canons since it supports PTP too. It’s also a UPNP client so I may get started with my Wifi music plans with it. USB Host and TV Output are done through docking stations. I’m not in love with tactile screens though, and it looks like it doesn’t support divx/xvid natively. I’m going to sit on this for now as the 80GB and 160GB models are not available yet.

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