What's Santa bringing you this year?

New storage gadgets and software tools open your home desktop to a torrent of data

It's the end of the year already --  believe it or not -- and it's time for introspection, time to look back at the past 12 months with a critical eye and to gaze at the future with optimism and expectations, right?

Just this once, allow me to move away from corporate storage and focus on something lighter. Perhaps "lighter" is the wrong word, because home storage gadgets that cost from $1,000 to $3,000 can be heavy on many families' budgets. But if you can spare the cash, there are several buys in that price range that will open your desktop or your entertainment center to terabytes of capacity.

I don't read Japanese, but friends who do assure me that IO Data has just released an external box with USB and FireWire connectivity that adds 1.6TB+ of capacity to your home PC.

The price? A stiff 280,000 yen (approximately $2,730), which is a bit more than what I've planned for Auntie Laura's holiday present, but a steal if you consider that it's a meager 175 yen ($1.71) per gigabyte.

I haven't seen that baby offered in the United States yet, but there are other options if your home PC is running out of space. For example, LaCie sells a capacious, 1TB Bigger Disk unit with all the right connectivity interfaces -- including digital cameras -- for just $999. If you can chew more, for $2,199 LaCie has a Bigger Disk Extreme that rivals its Japanese sibling with 1.6TB.

You're probably wondering whether all that capacity is really necessary and how anybody is going to fill that space. It's easy: Think digital media. The proliferation of low-cost cameras and camcorders creates the need for an electronic version of the old family photo album.

In addition, that space can come in handy when file sharing via the Internet moves -- or has it already? -- from just music and photos to the next level: movies. 

Not enough bandwidth for movie sharing to catch speed, you say? I beg to differ. I recently ran into Blog Torrent, a new application from Downhill Battle that simplifies exchanging files using the BitTorrent protocol.

If the above sounds like Greek, a visit to bittorrent.com/introduction.html is in order. BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol that spreads the burden of downloading files across the Internet to multiple computers.

In essence, each computer in a BitTorrent collaborative chain becomes, under the supervision of a coordinator machine, a receiver and, at the same time, a provider of download data. As more users demand downloads, the bandwidth available to those users will grow accordingly because each new machine will add its upload capacity to the bundle.  

BitTorrent is based on an ingenious scheme but has so far been a tool for geeks only. Blog Torrent's great merit is bringing that amazing collaboration ability to the masses. Don't take my word for it -- check it out at blogtorrent.com.

Now, close your eyes and try to visualize the free Blog Torrent installed on your Web site -- or your Weblog -- so that all your friends and relatives across the world can easily download the movie of your child's first birthday party.

If Blog Torrent- or similar easy-to-use BitTorrent-based products become popular, neither you nor any of your relatives will need a T1 Internet connection, but a terabyte of disk-space capacity may not be enough to store all those movies. Luckily, those large units from LaCie can be daisy-chained to bump up capacity.

With that in mind, enjoy your time off and your holiday shopping.