Review: Tab Energy

Yes, I know Tab is not Diet Coke.

Tab is a drink that I don’t even remember… after all, I was all of 7 years old when Diet Coke came out and crushed Tab into the pavement.  Tab was the 70s, Diet Coke was the 80s, and lets be honest, you’d rather have the 80s ten times than the 70s even once. Tab was saccherine, Diet Coke was Nutrasweet.  A triumph of technology and taste.

So it’s a little weird, but the truth is that I have a soft spot in my heart for the Tab brand.  I’m not really sure why.  Maybe it’s the hot pink can.  Maybe it’s the cool pseudo-high-tech, Star Wars font for the logo.  Don’t know.

When I heard that Coke was going to revive the brand, I was intrigued.   An energy drink made sense to me – why not turn Tab into a low-calorie, high-caffeine brand, like Jolt cola but with style, finesse, and no calories.

Tab Energy.

I hadn’t seen it anywhere, and I can’t confess to looking that hard.  But when I was buying ice for my 4th of July BBQ, I bought a couple at the local Albertsons.

The good news?  I liked it.  Oh sure, as a guy, you have to get over the pink.  The can is hot pink and slender.  The drink itself is pink.  It might as well be called “Barbie Energy” for the masculinity it eminates.  Check out the corporate website… safe to say, it doesn’t speak to me.

But it tastes good.  Something like Strawberry/Watermelon.  And it has a kick.  If you’ve ever tried any of the diet energy drinks, they are absolutely foul.  I tried Diet Red Bull at the eBay Leadership conference in December, and I literally almost threw up.  But Tab Energy is really drinkable…

Unfortunately, I can read the tea leaves, and my guess is that it isn’t doing well.  It’s not stocked in many places, and the price is high.   The marketing campaign for it has been terrible – so ultra feminine and pseudo-urban, it feels like they were trying to make it a fashion accessory instead of a drink.  Oh well.  If Coke can drop Diet Vanilla Coke, the best Diet Coke ever, they can easily lose Tab Energy.

Too bad really, because I could easily see making this my energy drink.  Super low calorie, tastes great, good kick.  I’d happily give up the Diet Mountain Dew for it, and pay more in the process.

Go try it while you have the chance.  🙂

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)

On Tuesday night, I did something I haven’t done since high school.  I stayed up to see a midnight premiere of a movie at Century 16 on Shoreline.  In fact, the last time I did this, it was Century 10 on Shoreline, because they hadn’t added on the last 6 theaters yet.

I wasn’t planning on it, but I was offered free tickets by my Mom, a Harry Potter fan, and I couldn’t let her stay up that late and wait out in the cold.   So, after arriving at the theater at 10:30pm, and getting into the theater at 11:15pm, watching trailers start at 12:15am, at 12:35am, we began watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Overall rating: B+.  It was a good movie, and I’m fairly sure I will watch it several more times when it comes out on cable and DVD.

In fact, the only problem with the movie really is the problem with the last two Harry Potter movies… the books have become so large that there is no reasonable way to capture them in a 2-hour movie.  I feel like they keep getting trapped in the middle:  too long and with too little context for a viewer who hasn’t read the books, but too short and with too little detail for someone who has.

I really wish they would learn from the Lord of the Rings success, and make an extended 4-hour version of the movie, mini-series length, for DVD.  Tens of millions of Harry Potter fans would buy it, and it would be a better movie to stand the test of time 10 or 20 years from now.

In any case, it was worth seeing, and I’m glad I’ve re-read the fifth and sixth books in the series.  I’m all fresh and ready for the infamous Book 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, due to arrive in less than 10 days.

Adam Nash Gets NAS: The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+

It has been a long while since I reviewed any high tech device on this blog, but I am so delighted with my new Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ that I had to post about it.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is one of the new generation of simple, easy-to-setup storage servers available for home and home office use.  Although individual hard drives are getting cheaper every day (I regularly see 500GB drives for $99 on NewEgg now), storage of large media files (like video and DVDs) are outstripping even the biggest drives.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is a really interesting solution.  For about $600 you get an shiny, empty case, about the size of two large Harry Potter hardcover books.  The case has a plug for power, 3 USB ports, and a single Gigabit ethernet port.  The little server has a cute little LCD, hidden behind a mirror, which displays status in plain English.  The case has room for up to four SATA hard drives, although it will function with only one if needed.  However, the magic really starts when you install multiple drives.

You see, the Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is actually a little genius of a server.  It is built to magically turn multiple hard drives into a single, large volume, with professional-class protection from data loss, and the ability to be accessed from anywhere on the network, by any Mac, PC or Unix machine.  For techies out there, the device seamless handles RAID 0, 1, 5 and “RAID X” configurations. By default, the machine comes configured for RAID X.  More on RAID X in a second.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ offers the amazing feature of data protection.  If any one of the hard drives crash, you won’t lose one byte.  In fact, you can just pop out the drive, insert a new one, and voila, everything is back to normal.  Fantastic for anyone who has dealt with the struggles of trying to back up hundreds of gigabytes of data.

Even better, the “RAID X” virtualization software in the ReadyNAS allows you to start out with as few as two drives, and still have complete data protection.  When you run out of space, you can just add a third drive, and voila, more storage!

This data protection costs you in terms of GB… one drive is utilized completely for protection.  So if you have just two drives, you only get access to a single drive worth of storage.  However, drives are cheap, and losing data isn’t, so these days it is worth.

I have had two major hard drive crashes in the past two years – each one was almost tragic.  The first cost me about 5% of my photo library – that may not sound like much, but it meant whole event albums were lost… (sorry, Rebecca, your prom photos are gone).  The second cost me about 1/3 of my music library, leading to many hours of re-ripping CDs.

Those events led me to the conclusion that it was worth spending the extra dollars on more robust storage.  Now that we have multiple computers in the house, and devices like the AppleTV, it makes more sense than ever to have cheap, reliable, massive network storage.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ has a lot of professional-class features.  The OS is on flash, and is thus protected from any drive failure.  The LED gives great status, and the device has a lot of file-server configuration tools on it’s web based administration.  You can even plug an addition USB drive into the device to automatically backup the ReadyNAS!  The NV+ is quieter, and has improved technology for compatibility and speed with Mac OS-based machines.   It supports full duplex Gigabit ethernet with large frames, making it as fast as possible for network storage.

I configured my device with 2 750GB Seagate 7200.10 drives, each with 16MB cache.  Over my Gigabit network (I’m using a NetGear 8-port 1000/100/10 Switch), I am seeing speeds of about 500MB per minute, but the ReadyNAS hasn’t finished synching yet, so I expect speeds may improve a bit.  At this speed, I can do an incremental 1-4GB backup easily in minutes.

The machine is relatively silent, louder than a Tivo though, quieter than a PC.  It’s small, and I’ve actually installed it not next to my computer like a hard drive, but on a shelf near my ethernet switch.

When I mount the drive, I see the shares on my PowerMac G5 just like any other server, with 666GB of storage available.  (Yes, weird how the 750GB drives come out that way… just an artifact of the fact that hard drive manufacturers continue to label their hard drive sizes incorrectly, pretending that 1 Kilobyte is 1000 bytes instead of 1024.)  I paid a lot more for the 750GB drives – about $200 each vs. $100 for the 500GB versions.  Still, this gives me room for an additional 1.5 TB of storage over time, and I really think I’m going to need the space.  At this point, my backup needs about 300GB, and I have 60GB of photos, 100GB of iTunes music & video, and 400GB of ripped DVDs… and that’s just right now!

Anyway, I love the device, despite the cost.  There are cheaper boxes out there, but this server lets me start with the storage I need, and painlessly expand over time.   I also considered the Drobo, which is about $200 cheaper, and connects via USB 2.0.  The Drobo has an even better trick with storage – it will let you use drives of different sizes!  Use 2 500GB drives today, and add 2 1TB drives in a year when those are available.   Still, in the end, I wasn’t comfortable with a drive that had to depend on a computer to be used by other machines – I like betting on the future of Gigabit ethernet more than on USB 2.0.

You could always buy a cheap PC, get a RAID 5 card, and try to build this yourself… but when I priced it out, it was hard for me to save much money, and the time & quality of the end result was just not compelling.  I was able to install the 2 drives and set up the ReadyNAS in less than 45 minutes.  It would have been faster, but I of course insist on tweaking the security and network settings.

Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about the ReadyNAS NV+.  It took a bit of work and confidence to get the drives to slide in properly, but it really is a great product.