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I’ve been using solid state flash memory with digital cameras, handheld computers and MP3 players for a couple of years. And faithful readers will remember that I like USB a lot. Data transfer is faster than through a standard serial port. The USB port/connector pair is much easier to connect and disconnect than the D-9 or D-25 serial ports and is designed to be connected and disconnected without turning off the computer (so-called “hot” connect). Obviously, I’d like a product that combines the two technologies. This week I look at a solid state “hard drive” that fits in a small shirt pocket. The Flash USBDrive adds a CompactFlash memory roughly 2.25 inches by .5 inches by .2 inches to a USB connector on one end. The unit comes with an extension cord, useful if the committee that designed your computer inexplicably placed the USB port on the back of the machine. Stick the USB drive into the USB port and read or write to the USBDrive. A tiny switch places the unit into “Read Only” mode, so that data cannot be deleted or overwritten. According to the vendor, saved data should remain in the unit for 10 years. Accompanying software lets the user “password protect” the data. I cannot attest to the 10 years, but the Flash USBDrive does work. Sort of. My first problem was installing the driver required to run the USBDrive. The file on the CD-ROM that accompanied the USBDrive didn’t work. “Download the new one from our Web site,” I was told. The new one worked fine. Once the driver was installed and the “drive” inserted into the USB port, Windows recognized it as a removable disk drive that was accessible using the Windows Explorer, or the Save or Open commands available through most programs running under Microsoft Windows. When you leave that computer, pull the “drive,” toss it into your shirt pocket, and take it with you to wherever else you need to have the data available. My test unit had a 16 megabyte capacity. I had no problem transferring seven files comprising 15.5 megabytes of data onto the Flash USBDrive using the Windows Explorer. When I attempted to transfer 300 small files comprising less than four megabytes in total, I began to see operating system messages that individual files could not be saved to the Flash USBDrive. The vendor is unaware of any limits on the number of files that may be saved, but is studying the problem. That problem aside, I can think of all sorts of uses, from temporary backup of important files to moving working files between office and home, saving large files too secret to be committed to the office’s network, or taking your multi-media Power Point presentation or deposition and document files to court. Of course, if you’re going to use the Flash USBDrive on someone else’s computer, you’ll have to install the driver on that computer. The Flash USBDrive is currently available in 16/32/64/128 and 256-megabyte capacities with 512-megabyte and 1-gigabyte units to come. List prices run from $70 for the 16-megabyte unit to $600 for the 256-megabyte unit. These prices seem comparable to standard CompactFlash wafers and they are very convenient. Flash USBDrive is an easy, but not inexpensive, way to carry large amounts of computer data in your shirt pocket. DETAILS Flash USBDrive Price: $69.00 for 16 megabytes to $599.00 for 256 megabytes. Requires IBM PC or compatible running Microsoft Windows 98/2000/ME with USB Port. JMTek 5007 Pacific Highway East Tacoma, WA 98424 Phone: (253) 952-7000 Fax: (253) 896-0377 www.usbdrive.com E-mail: [email protected].

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