Do you want to turn a USB hard drive into a cheap, easy network-attached storage device? Seagate's DockStar is designed to let you do just that. Like the preceding Dock+ model, the DockStar can host a FreeAgent Go drive in its cradle, plus up to three other USB drives. However, instead of linking to your PC via USB, the DockStar uses its Ethernet port to live on your home network.
Network access is enabled via technology Seagate has licensed from Pogoplug--in other words, it's just a Seagate-skinned version of Pogoplug's interface. That's a good thing, since Pogoplug's standalone product is exceptionally simple to set up and easy to use.
The system offers a Web interface for accessing the drive's files from any computer (on your home network, or worldwide via the Internet). The Web interface works on any Web browser, it requires no software installation, and lets you set specific folders for others to access, as well as publish RSS feeds of your files to various social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace).
On the downside, Seagate is charging $30 per year for the capability to access the drive from outside your home network (after one year of free access). That contrasts with Pogoplug's standalone product, which requires no fees. With DockStar and Pogoplug both costing $99, we'd be inclined to go with Pogoplug's instead. That said, Seagate is planning to add SMB drive support to the DockStar via a future firmware update. That feature--not currently available on Pogoplug's standalone product--should allow the DockStar drives to be accessible via non-PC DLNA-compatible network devices, including Seagate's own FreeAgent Theater+.
The Seagate DockStar is available as of Wednesday. (The Pogoplug has been available since early 2009.)