July 13, 2010, 10:35 AM — Last week I reviewed the Alex e-book reader from Spring Design and complained that the device didn't support PDF or text documents. I was foolishly relying on the product specs, which didn't mention anything about PDF documents.
It turns out that the Alex can read and render PDF files, but here's the rub: The Alex can't "re-flow" the content in a PDF file. This is to say that when you zoom in because the text is too small, the text on each line isn't reformatted and wrapped to fit the screen. This means you have to scroll left and right and up and down to view the text.
Scrolling, it turns out, is something the Alex can do but it's tricky because you have to press the synchronize button so the PDF document shown on the large electronic paper display (EPD) up top is shown on the device's smaller touch-sensitive LCD display below. Then, using your finger, you move the image on the LCD and the EPD display is updated to show the new position.
This is like using a remote control on a TV and makes for an experience that isn't much like reading a book. And when you leave the document, your zoom and position settings aren't retained so when you return you're back to the whole page view. This is hardly an adequate implementation of PDF viewing. I'm told a future update will address this. Even so, I still like the Alex.
So, (he wrote changing subjects fast enough to give readers whiplash) it seems that the cloud is still the hot technology pin up. I last discussed the cloud when I reviewed Gadinet's desktop cloud storage tool some months ago.
Today I have another interesting network storage solution that is ideal for workgroup or SOHO use: The Ctera C200, a $499 device that provides network-attached storage (NAS) services as well as storage-area network (SAN) services along with optional backup to Ctera's online storage services.
The C200 is a small (6.4 by 8.27 by 3.74 inch) device that consumes a measly 50 watts of power. It has two drive bays for 3.5-inch SATA drives, which can be hot swapped. Given that 3TB SATA drives are now available a C200 could, in JBOD (Just a Big Old Disk) configuration, provide 6TB which should keep even quite large workgroups happy for a long time. Alternative storage configurations include RAID0 (striped) and RAID1 (mirrored).
The C200 is configured through its Web interface. File sharing is supported through CIFS (Windows File Sharing), AFP (Apple Filing Protocol), Apple Time Machine, FTP, WebDAV, and good ol' rsync. Through client shares a so-called "clientless" backup is supported.