Every week or two I take a look at the pile of gadgets on my desk at home and try to figure out what to write about over the next few weeks or months.
When I have enough of those collected, I’ll pick two or three and run them together. Sometimes there is a theme, and sometimes there is no rhyme or reason other than I think they’re cool.
These two gadgets are cool, and I think you’ll like them.
• Polk Audio Atrium 5 speakers
Many of us have a deck, patio or even a pool in our backyards, and we like to spend time on the deck when the weather is nice.
Music can make a big difference your outdoor entertaining. I have tried several ways to bring music outdoors, most lately with small Bluetooth speakers, but I’ve also been on the lookout for an speaker solution I can keep outside.
I’ve been testing a pair of outdoor speakers called the Atrium 5 from Polk Audio ($299.99 at polkaudio.com and cheaper on Amazon.com).
They are designed to live outdoors, so extreme cold, heat or even rain won’t hurt them.
The Atrium 5 is a pair of dual-driver speakers that come in black or white. They also include some handy instructions for painting them to match your house.
Each speaker houses a 5-inch midrange-woofer and a 3/4 -inch tweeter.
The speaker enclosure is all-weather certified and water-resistant to withstand salt fog, UV rays, extreme high and low temperatures, and heavy rain.
They each have a metal C bracket so they can mount vertically or horizontally on a wall. You can remove the bracket if you want to set the speakers on a flat surface.
Each speaker measures 7.75 by 6.75 by 10.5 inches and weighs 4.6 pounds.
The speakers’ nominal power is 33 watts, and peak power is 100 watts.
These are not powered speakers. They need to be connected to an amplifier or receiver. I’ve been running them from a Sonos Connect Amp.
Getting good sound outdoors can be tricky.
I was happy with the music coming from the Atrium 5s, but you have to remember that outdoor speakers are usually mounted up high, under the eaves of the roof. The speakers are likely positioned farther away from your seating position than they would be if you were listening indoors.
The Atrium 5s are designed to cover a large area, and the music on my deck sounded rich and full.
• iStorage diskAshur2
Everyone should be concerned about data security, and I’m sure that most of you are worried enough to make backups of your computer’s hard drive.
I recommend making at least one backup of your computer’s hard drive onto an external drive.
What about securing that backup?
And what about securing external hard drives in general?
Having an unsecured backup of your files is asking for trouble.
You can go one of two ways to encrypt your external drives — with software encryption (such as Windows Bitlocker feature) or with a drive that has encryption built in.
I’ve been testing the iStorage Diskashur2, which is a portable hard drive with built-in 256-bit full disk hardware encryption.
This is a seriously secure hard drive.
The USB 3.1 drive has a built-in cable that’s about 4 inches long, which is a bit inconvenient if the closest USB port on your desktop PC is on the front.
On my Dell desktop at work, I had to make a small platform for the drive, because the cable was too short to set the drive on top of the tower, and I didn’t want it to dangle.
Plug the Diskashur2 into your computer (Mac or Windows) and before you can use it, you’ll have to enter a PIN on the keyboard. Out of the box there is a default administrator PIN you use to unlock the drive. You then need to set your own administrator PIN, which you can use to unlock the drive if you are the only one using it. PINs must be 7 to 15 characters.
You can also set PINs for users. When a user unlocks the drive, the administrator can choose to set the drive to read-only so the user can access data but not add or erase anything.
There are also many variables the administrator can set for user PIN requirements (number of characters, special characters, non-repeating, nonsequential, etc.).
I’m just going to say again, this drive is as secure as any I’ve ever seen.
Unplugging the drive will immediately cause it to lose power, and it will be locked when it’s plugged in again.
The administrator can also set an unattended auto lock duration where the drive will automatically lock after a preset amount of time (5 to 99 minutes).
Finally, the administrator can set a self-destruct PIN that will cause the drive to immediately erase all contents and PINs.
I don’t even want to think about what situation would cause a need for that feature, but if you need that level of protection, you’ll be glad it’s there.
The drives are available in various capacities of 500 gigabytes to 5 terabytes and in four colors. The 2 TB red drive I tested costs $266 from Amazon.