Must-have gadgets for the discerning geek

Sure, you're getting an iPhone. But real techies will want these cool toys, too


Data Robotics Drobo intelligent backup drive
Why you must have it:
MP3 files, TiVo videos, vacation photos, you name it — a lot of precious information now resides on our hard drives, vulnerable to becoming so much electronic dust in case of a system crash or a drive failure. The Drobo takes a step beyond the large external drives widely available today by adding intelligence and configurability to the device, both simplifying operations and giving you more control. The Drobo enclosure can take up to four half-height or full-height SATA hard drives and combine them into a massive, multiterabyte backup system — no need to figure out RAID settings or worry about whether the drives are the right capacities to work together. And as you add or replace drives within Drobo, it handles the updating and migration of affected backup data automatically. It also initiates the backup for you, so there's no need to have backup software on your PC or Mac.

You can use the Drobo with multiple PCs, backing each up on it. The Drobo personal storage array is also compatible with Mac OS 10.5 Leopard's Time Machine, letting you back up your data and allowing access to the various changes to individual files that Time Machine provides.

Your chances of having the first one on the block: Very good, as Drobo has been available only a few months.

What you should know: To support both Macs and PCs simultaneously, Drobo drives should be formatted with FAT32 partitions. Drobo has no network interface for LAN-based backup, but users have successfully connected it to a USB-equipped Apple AirPort Extreme wireless router to enable network backup in all-Mac environment. The company says Windows-only and mixed-platform network backup should be possible if you use another vendor's USB 2.0-equipped router (AirPort requires that attached devices use Apple's HFS+ partitions for storage).

What you need: A USB 2.0-equipped PC running Windows 2000, 2003 Server, XP, or Vista, or a USB 2.0-equipped Mac running Mac OS X 10.4 or later.

Still not sure what to put under the tree? Maybe you're torn between buying an iPhone or some other mobile device. (After all, as cool as the iPhone is for personal use, it's not yet enterprise-class.) Not to worry. InfoWorld can make help you make that decision a little more easily, too:

Read Tom Yager's iPhone review, then watch our two video reviews of the iPhone: one of the device as a combo MP3 player, Web browser, and cell phone, and the other of it as a multimedia device.

Read our Test Center comparison of seven supersmart phones for extreme mobility: the AT&T 8525 (a.k.a. the HTC Hermes), HTC Advantage X7501, Nokia E61i, Nokia E65, RIM BlackBerry 8300 (a.k.a. the Curve), RIM BlackBerry 8800, and T-Mobile Wing (a.k.a. the HTC Herald). Watch our handy slideshow for a quick take on each.

In this article, information relating to the T-Mobile Hot Spot @Home product was misrepresented but has now been corrected. InfoWorld regrets the error. 

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