Pogoplug Problem

I was hoping to be writing a review praising my recently acquired Pogoplug, but I’m sad to report that the device was faulty on arrival and so after a brief encounter with Pogoplug Support, it’s on it’s way back.

There have been occasions recently when I’ve been at a friend’s house and wished I had access to a certain file back home. Setting up a Pogoplug and hooking it up to an external USB drive containing all the stuff I’m ever likely to need access to sounded like a good idea, and this is squarely what the Pogoplug is aimed at. In essence it’s a little Linux server that connects to your home network via ethernet and shares whatever USB drives are attached to it. It’s all done via the Pogoplug website and it’s up to you to choose what you share and who can access it, so you can share those embarrassing pictures with your mates while hiding them from your folks, you know the drill.

Pogoplug

I hope pink is your thing!

First impressions are that the device is a lot larger than the pictures on Amazon lead you to believe and that in the looks department it’s a bit of a marmite device – you’ll either love it or hate it! Set up is pretty straightforward – plug in a USB drive with some data on it , plug in the ethernet cable and plug in the power.  Then you create an account on the Pogoplug website and work through a few easy installation steps, well that was the theory. The device has three USB ports on the back and I found that plugging a 500Gb Freecom USB (2.0) FAT32 formatted external drive into the lowest of the 3 ports gave me … absolutely nothing. The device refused to recognise the drive at all, so I went through the usual troubleshooting steps. I checked the drive on my Mac using both Disk Utility and Drive Genius and it was fine, but nothing would persuade the Pogoplug to recognise it. I reformatted as FAT32, reformatted it as HFS, tried a FAT32 16Gb USB stick in the port, powered everything off, disconnected everything, powered everything on again, all to no avail.

Plugging the Freecom drive into to top USB port similarly produced nothing, it was only when I plugged TWO devices into the Pogoplug at the same time using the top two USB sockets that it started to play ball. After a long afternoon experimenting I found that port 3 was dead and that ports 1 and 2 would only seem to work when each had something plugged into it simultaneously.

My next problem was accessing the data. I had copied 50 photos onto each USB drive and figured that would be an easy test for the Pogoplug software. Ok the Pogoplug website is a bit clunky but I could live with that… if only it would show me some thumbnails! After an hour it had still not managed to index my handful of photos. Sure I could click on the placeholder icon and see the photo, but all I had to go on were the names of the photos themselves – not very helpful. I also tried adding a PDF file and found that when viewing it on the Pogoplug website it gets reformatted, and not for the better. In this situation I found it was a better bet to download the PDF and view it locally. I also briefly experimented with streaming a video file which you’re also supposed to be able to do via the Pogoplug website. I got about the first 3 seconds of the video before it stopped and would go no further.

At this point I decided that the whole experience was not particularly good. Pogoplug Support had been pretty responsive to the USB port problem, but other than the obvious troubleshooting steps (unplug everything, check your drives, etc.), they weren’t able to help. If it was just the clumsy interface then I might have lived with it, but the suspect USB ports tipped the balance and it’s now on its way back for a refund. It’s a shame, the Pogoplug is a great idea, and would be marvelous for non-techie people who want to share a few photos etc., assuming the indexing works eventually. Unfortunately the execution seems a bit of a way behind the idea, and I subsequently found when reading the Pogoplug forums that I’m not the only one to experience these problems. Perhaps Pogoplug v2 (if there is one) will be worth investigating? Just please offer it in a choice of pink or something NOT pink!

iPad + iOS 4.2.1 = Frustration

Sorry but this is a little rant about the latest and greatest version of iOS 4.2.1 on my 32Gb WiFi iPad. You see up to the point just before I upgraded, my iPad was marvellous. Either at home on my WiFi network, or out and about with my Three UK MiFi mobile hotspot, anything requiring internet access was a breeze. Applications like Osfoora and WeatherHD would update almost instantly, web pages would load quickly, even my LogMeIn Ignition worked really well.

But then that fateful day came in November when the much anticipated iOS 4.2.1 update hit the Apple servers. Multi-tasking (of a sort), folders, AirPlay, AirPrint (ok with a helping hand from Printopia in my case), but all really useful stuff. Like many others I’ve heard about including two iPad owning friends, the iOS 4.2.1 update on the iPad wasn’t quite the usiual ‘it just works’ Apple experience. iTunes got part of the way through the update before it decided to ‘hang’. I left it like that for 2.5 hours (yes, two and a half hours!), but no joy. The iPad was in limbo and I eventually had to force quit iTunes and start again. Much later that evening, the iPad was up and running with iOS 4.2.1 and that’s when my WiFi woes started.

No WiFiAt first I thought it was my internet connection at home, but using my MiFi instead of my home broadband produced the same results. The iPad would show itself as being connected to a WiFi network with a strong signal, but web pages would start loading incredibly slowly and apps would take forever to update. Then the connection would drop completely and Mobile Safari would complain of timeouts, apps would tell me I wasn’t connected to the internet and all the while the iPad showed itself as being connected with a strong WiFi signal. Rebooting my router or MiFi made no difference, what’s more my Mac was still working perfectly through the same WiFi connection. Eventually I twigged that restarting the WiFi on the iPad would temporarily fix the problem. Initially this was switching the iPad off then on again, but then I discovered that just recycling the WiFi by turning Airplane mode on for five seconds then off again would do the trick. But the problem would always return, sometimes as soon as five minutes afterwards and sometimes I would get a full 30-45 minutes of working WiFi before it would tail off again and eventually stop.

Searching the internet has revealed that a lot of people are experiencing the exact same problem – intermittent and slow WiFi since upgrading to iOS 4.2.1. Some surveys I’ve seen suggest that it’s as many as 25% of users are having this problem, and it clearly is a problem. Whether it’s related to a particular ‘batch’ of iPads, or some curious combination of circumstances, who knows. I know three other people with iPads and two of them have the same problem, making that 75% of the people I know. I know, it’s a very small sample and for reference one of my friends who has the problem actually had a smooth upgrade without iTunes hanging.

As incredibly frustrating as this is, it wouldn’t be quite so bad if Apple wasn’t being it’s usual taciturn self when it comes to problems. What problems? Having browsed the numerous complaints on the Apple Support Forums, there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment at all from Apple that there’s a problem. Even a simple “we’re not saying there’s a fault but we are investigating” would help. In all honesty, I’d be very surprised if Apple weren’t aware of the problem and are doing a little investigation, but engaging your customers a bit better when there’s issues like this would push their already high customer satisfaction ratings up from the low 90’s towards that magical 100%, well ok 99% ‘cos there’s always someone!

Surely that’s something that Steve Jobs and Co would love to do? I know it would make me happy… well happier knowing a fix is on the way.

Here’s a thread about the issue on the Apple Support Forums – HERE