Gadling Gear Review: Western Digital My Book Live

The biggest buzz word in technology over the past year or two has been “cloud services” with a number of companies, including Apple, Microsoft and Google, all announcing options that allow us to store files onto a virtual drive that is available whenever and where ever we have an Internet connection. We even told you how cloud services will change the way that you travel in our recent “Travel Smarter” series, in which we took a look at some of the best cloud storage options available today. But if you don’t like the idea of your personal files being hosed on a server owned by a corporate tech giant or you simply need more storage than those companies are currently offering, you may be interested in Western Digital’s line of My Book Live hard drives. These nifty pieces of technology connect to your home network and provide personal cloud services while you’re at home and on the road.

Available in capacities ranging from 1 to 6 Terabytes, Western Digital has a My Book Live for all budgets and storage needs. These drives look like most others on the market although they do include an Ethernet port which allows you to connect it to your home network via a router. Configuration is a breeze, and Western Digital provides software for both Windows and Mac computers to walk you through the process. The only hiccup I experienced during the initial set-up was that in order to complete the installation I first needed to connect my laptop to the network via Ethernet as well. That allowed the two devices to more easily locate one another for the first time. After that, the full functionality of the My Drive Live was available whether I was connected by cable or wirelessly.

Once successfully configured, the drive will appear on your network and will be available for any computer to access. An easy-to-use suite of administrative tools allows you to control just who can gain access to the drive however and it is even possible to create unique folders for each individual. Western Digital has streamlined the whole process and within minutes you’ll have a fully functional network storage solution for backing up and storing your most important files.Of course, network storage isn’t really a new concept and what really sets the My Drive Live series apart from competitors is its ability to exist “in the cloud” as well. That means that even when you’re not at home you’ll still be able to access your files over the Internet. This is a great option for business travelers looking for a way to get to their important documents while on the road, but it can also be a lifesaver for other travelers as well. For instance, I’d recommend keeping a copy of your passport on the drive while traveling abroad and should something happen to your physical passport, you can get to the digital version quickly and easily. That same approach holds true for other travel documents, such as itineraries, invoices, airline tickets, insurance and so on.

As you would expect from a drive built by Western Digital, the hardware is solid, fast and responsive. But it is the software that comes with the drive that makes the “personal cloud” work so effectively. The included WD Quick View utility facilitates access from any computer and the WD 2go apps give you limited access to your files on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. Once installed, those free apps do allow you to browse photos, documents and music from your My Book Live, but you aren’t able to edit those files in any way, which can be a bit frustrating at times. At the very least I would have appreciated the ability to email those files to someone in a pinch, but in its current state the mobile apps are simply glorified file viewers.

I tested the 1 Terabyte version of the My Book Live, which provided more than enough storage for my needs. Multi-computer families may want to consider one of the larger versions of the of the device however, as multimedia files such as music, photos and video can eat up a lot of space very quickly. Additionally, the My Book can serve as a back-up drive for Windows PC’s and a Time Machine drive for Macs. When the computer and drive are on the same network, the back-up process is seamless and transparent, taking place in the background while you work.

I’ve had the opportunity to test the My Drive Live on multiple occasions while traveling lately and it has never failed to deliver. Whether accessing files from my laptop or iPad, it has worked as expected and advertised every time. Internet speed plays a big part in performance however, so be warned. If you try to connect to the drive over a slow connection, it may take awhile for it to respond.

As a traveler who happens to love his technology and gadgets, I’ve found the My Book Live drive to be a fantastic edition to my home network. Not only does it provide plenty of great benefits while I’m at home, it also gives full access to my files while traveling. It provides great piece of mind knowing that not only are my files securely backed-up, but that they’re also available to me anytime and anywhere. If Western Digital puts some more time and effort in developing their mobile apps, that functionality will be extended even further.

Prices vary depending on the amount of storage on the drive. The 1 TB My Book Live that I tested carries an MSRP of $159, but it can be found online at substantially lower prices than that, making it a bargain for those looking to launch their own cloud.

Gadling Gear Review: Keen Turia Sandals

Shoe manufacturer Keen is well known for making comfortable and sturdy footwear for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Their catalog includes shoes for hiking, trail running and even cycling, all of which manage to remain both durable and stylish at the same time. Perhaps their most iconic offering is their line of sandals which continues to evolve and improve while retaining the core elements that have made them a favorite with many for years. This legacy continues with the new Turia Sandals which are a great travel shoe for warm weather destinations.

Lightweight and breathable, the Turia Sandal provides plenty of coverage for the foot while remaining comfortably cool even in the warmest of environments. A synthetic mesh wraps the top of the foot while a closed-toe design proves to be both protective and pragmatic for travelers visiting demanding locations. The shoes use a zip lacing system that holds them snugly in place for hours on end and an aggressive sole manages to provide solid traction on a variety of surfaces including those that are both slick and wet.

Sporting anti-bacterial fabrics, Keen has designed these sandals to be worn for days while still resisting odors, fungi and and stains. On top of that, they’re easy to keep clean and quick to dry, which is greatly appreciated on short summer escapes and extended journeys alike.

All of these features make the Turia an excellent choice for travelers who are looking for a versatile and comfortable shoe to take with them nearly anywhere. Their compact and flexible design make them easy to pack and their stylish good looks keep them appropriate for light hiking, visits to the beach or just kicking around town. In fact, that versatility is perhaps my favorite feature of these sandals, which were one of just two pairs of shoes that I took with me on a recent visit to the country of Jordan, where they proved to be equally adept at both trekking in the desert and visiting the beaches of the Red Sea.

As with all sandals, the open design of the shoe does allow for dirt, sand and small rocks to collect inside at times. This issue is further exacerbated by the closed toe on the Turia, which can prevent that debris from escaping, causing irritation on the foot and toes. While this is more of an issue with these type of shoes in general, and not a design flaw of the Turia itself, I did feel it was worth noting. While wearing these shoes, there were times when I needed to stop on the trail, pull them off and empty out the offending materials before continuing.

Available in four different colors, the Keen Turia is an excellent choice for travelers looking for a lightweight and versatile shoe to take with them on their next adventure. They are comfortable, durable and packable, which makes them a great option for just about any escape and with a price tag of $100 they remain affordable as well.

Gadling gear review: Supertooth HD Bluetooth car speakerphone

One of the best accessories for any road trip these days is a good handsfree Bluetooth device that allows drivers to take and make phone calls while keeping their hands firmly on the wheel. An increasing number of new cars come equipped with these systems, but for those of us not fortunate enough to own such a vehicle there are a number of options available that deliver similar functionality. Take for example the Supertooth HD, which packs a lot of features into a small, easy to use device.

The Supertooth HD comes with a built-in clip that securely fastens the device to a vehicle’s sun visor. This keeps the unit conveniently close at hand for when the driver needs to access the controls and helps to more clearly pick up voices when on a call. The device also features a powerful speaker, which makes incoming calls sound loud and clear, while two integrated microphones help to reduce background noise for the person on the other end of the line. A large jog-wheel makes it a snap to adjust volume without taking your eyes off the road and several well-placed buttons grant access to some of the Supertooth’s more advanced features with just a click. Some of those advanced features include the ability to voice-dial contacts, announce incoming caller ID and read texts and emails.

On paper the Supertooth HD seems like the perfect handsfree device for those looking to get the most out of their smartphone while on the road. It does feature good sound quality, both incoming and outgoing, and is a breeze to pair with a phone. It took me just a minute or two to connect with my iPhone, for example, and I was making calls shortly there after. Some of the other features are not as easy to use, however. For instance, to get the most out of the voice dialing system you’ll have to program it with specific numbers ahead of time or rely on the built-in voice dialing on your specific phone as a fallback. The device also has the ability to read incoming text and email messages for you, although that particular feature is only available on Android and BlackBerry devices, and not the iPhone.One of the other big features of this device is that it can compose and send outgoing texts, emails, tweets and Facebook status updates using just your voice. It is a useful feature to have at your fingertips while driving, although it does require the Handsfree Assistant subscription service, which comes at an added expense. Using the service can take a bit of getting use to, and at times it can be slow to respond, but in my testing I found that it was accurate and reliable, for the most part.

Powered by a built-in rechargeable battery, the Supertooth HD is good for 20 hours of talk time and a thousand hours of standby. Those numbers seem fairly accurate from my use of the device, which can be recharged with the included USB car charger. Supertooth has even included the ability to inquire about the status of the battery at any time through a simple voice command.

For the most part, the Supertooth HD is easy to recommend for road warriors looking for an inexpensive and easy to use handsfree speakerphone for their vehicle. It offers excellent sound quality, easy set-up and the ability to connect two phones at the same time. Android and BlackBerry users will get a bit more functionality out of the device, although iPhone owners will find a lot to like as well. It even works well with Siri, which can trump some of the features that are a part of the subscription service.

If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speakerphone system for your car, then the Supertooth HD should be on your shopping list. It delivers a lot of value for the $129 suggested retail price.

Gadling Gear Review: Heat Holders Socks

I suffer terribly from cold feet; it’s why I don’t cheap out on socks. It’s also why I have one of those electric heater mats on the floor under my desk (a gift from my mate who sometimes just nails the gift giving with weird yet supremely likeable prezzies). Socks are way low on the scale of glam gear down with quick-dry underwear and refillable three ounce bottles, but they’re essential, and having warm feet can really make the difference between a lousy day or a good one.

Because of my terminally chilly paws, I was keen to see if Heat Holders are any better than the merino brands that stuff my sock drawer (SmartWool, IceBreaker, Dahlgren, and Darn Tough Vermont) at keeping my feet warm. (I am a fan of good socks, you may have guessed.) The short answer? Well, sort of.

I have a strong preference for natural fibers, it’s a “less plastic stuff” thing. I’m not totally naive; I do know that sometimes, the synthetics are the way to go. I’m just not that keen to spend a couple of hours waxing a canvas raincoat because I want to go with heavy cotton over far superior modern materials like GoreTex or PolarTech. Heat Holders are an acrylic poly blend; there’s nothing particularly natural about them.

They feel fine, though. They have a deep pile fleecy inside, they’re kind of cuddly, furry, even, a little bit like the inside or your lambswool slippers. (No, I don’t have those. The husband does and they’re sweet.) Outside, they’re, uh, a little plastic-y. I’ve been spoiled by merino, which I tend to prefer. But it’s the outside of the sock, who cares?

Here’s my issue with these socks. They’re really bulky. All that fluffy really does work to keep your feet warmer, and they’re great for sleeping in. But I couldn’t get them in most of my shoes. I’m not totally sold on the idea that adding bulk is the best way to stay warm. I get it — loft is how you hold heat and the loft that these socks somehow manage to provide, even after a full day’s wear, works. They worked great in my wellies, which are a little big, but I couldn’t wear them with many of my other winter boots. I’m wearing mine around the house and with my rain boots out in the wet, but for travel? Nope, too bulky.

The marketing text on the elaborate packaging says that these socks are “seven times warmer than your basic cotton sock.” That’s probably true. But I’m not sure they’re seven times warmer than some of the wool or alpaca fiber socks I’ve got, and that’s a more useful comparison.
Heat Holders socks come in a few styles: stripey, long, and in a slipper sock. Their original sock goes for just just under $20.00.

Gadling gear review: Clever Travel Companion secret-pocket tank top and underwear

When going abroad, one of the biggest concerns for travelers is keeping their valuables safe from pick-pocketers. While fanny packs may be a decent option, they’re also a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist, making you an even easier target for getting ripped off. Then there are money belts, which are great fashion-wise, however, tend to get itchy and leave sweat marks when it’s hot out. That’s why I was excited when I found out about The Clever Travel Companion‘s line of “100% pick-pocket proof” clothing.

I tried a solid black tank top with hidden pockets, as well as a pair of underwear with pockets. To be honest, with or without the pockets I would definitely buy this tank top. It’s not too tight, not too loose, made of 100% cotton, and actually feels like a second skin it’s so comfortable. Even after walking around in it for an entire day it didn’t stretch out or chafe my skin. The pockets make it that much better, as the zipper is literally right above your stomach, allowing for easy access to all of your important documents while still keeping them safe from thieves. You can wear it as an undershirt or as a shirt on its own.

The underwear, which are actually more like boy-short bathing suit bottoms, are also extremely comfortable and made of 94% rayon and 6% spandex. When I first saw them I was a little worried they’d tug, slide up, or show through my pants; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they did none of these things. In fact, I forgot I was even wearing them. What I really like about this product is there are two zipper-pockets right in front, making it really easy to quickly get to your things while also eliminating the nervousness back-pockets cause of never really knowing if your stuff is still there.

The Clever Travel Companion has created an extremely useful yet comfortable set of clothing options for travelers, especially when you also think about the extra accessories you now won’t have to pack. Secret-pocket tank tops and t-shirts cost $39.90, while the women’s underwear costs $29.90. There are also products for men, including long johns ($39.90) and men’s underwear ($29.90).