Personal Tech: Pop in a slice of storage
We've all wished we could quickly enlarge a closet - push a wall out a bit, extend the rod, and sling on hangers for more shirts. That's the coolest trick of the new Storage Central, a $130 storage shed for computer data from Netgear.
A metal box that plugs into a router on a home or office network, the Storage Central is about the size of a two-slot toaster, but its slots are for installing two hard drives. Pop in a drive, bought separately (120 gigabytes runs about $100), and you get an unusually flexible storage bin for your valuable music, photos, and PowerPoint presentations.
For example, if you start to fill that first drive, plunk in a second and - in a nifty trick - the device can make it appear like the first drive simply puffed up larger. No more juggling multiple drive icons and trying to remember which holds that precious video of your toddler shoving peanut butter up his nose.
Need even more space? Plug in more Storage Centrals to your router and their drives blend in with other Storage Central drives.
The devices use new tech from a company called Zetera that requires software to see Storage Central drives. So far, it's only available for Windows machines, though Zetera promises Linux and Mac versions. Also, the drives seem somewhat sluggish at sending and receiving files. But the makers may be onto something if, as Darwin said about evolving species, it isn't the fastest or biggest PC drives that thrive but the most adaptable.
A weekly feature of usnews.com, Personal Tech reviews the latest in consumer electronics and gadgets.