Monday, April 29, 2013

Cool Tool: Seagate Wireless Plus

Okay, the Seagate Wireless Plus is probably closer to a cool "toy", but it is cool nonetheless.  I was skeptical at first - why do I need yet another storage device for media when I have Spotify for music (or one of the countless online streaming music providers)?  Why not just use Amazon Video On Demand (or one of the countless streaming movie providers)?  Well, it stores movies, music and pictures.  It can stream up to four HD movies simultaneously.  Built-in 10hr battery, Wi-Fi broadcasting, apps for iDevices and Android devices, hmmm...

Then the rationalization, er... use case, hit me - since my kids have Android tablets, I could replace the bulky CD carrier and flaky behind-the-seat DVD players in the mini-van.  Sweet!  The kids keep pulling out the cables to the point where I'm re-splicing them once every couple of months.  With this thing I can turn it on, put it in the glove box and forget about it.  Nice!

Problem!  How do I get all of those movies ripped and copied on to the drive.  Well, its going to take two more (cool) tools to get this done.  First up, Slysoft's AnyDVD HD.  One year of updates is roughly $80 and 2 years is around $103 (I'd get 2 years).  It's worth every penny.  This handy little software sits between your DVD/Blu-ray drive and your software player such that the disc appears to be unencrypted.  We need the disc to appear this way for the ripping tool to work.

Now that we have unfettered access to our movie, how do we rip and compress it into one file?  Note that if we don't compress it we'll fill up the wireless drive much sooner than we might have otherwise.  Also remember we're streaming moving to 7" Android tablets, we don't need the HD detail Blu-ray (1080p) or even DVD (480p) gives us.  After searching the Interwebs for some time I discovered the answer: DVD Catalyst 4.  As of this writing its on sale for $10 but it's worth even the full price of $20.  This product is simply amazing - the number of supported devices is staggering.

This actually presented another problem - my kids have two different devices, an Acer A100 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (which has much better hardware specs).  Which device do I choose?  I tried a couple of different options but found the best compromise to be the Acer A101.  Using this profile, movies stream and playback fine on both devices.  They even work on my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone nicely.

With these two tools working together, ripping a disc to an MP4 file is an easy 2-3 click process.  After that, connect the drive via the USB port to the computer and copy the files to the "Video" folder.  That's it!

I'm about two-thirds through the discs and just now starting to break 100GB (out of 900GB+ free).  The kids have used it a dozen times on various trips w/o issue - they're happy so I'm happy!

I can highly recommend this product.  Note that I haven't discussed all of the features such as wireless Internet connectivity pass-thru.  I'm sure there are other "use cases" that I didn't even touch on.  If you need a portable drive that can be accessed wirelessly, this is it.