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Jewish World Review
August 25, 2006
/ 1 Elul, 5766
Life on a smart drive
Here's an interesting proposition: get rid of your computer. Instead,
carry your applications and a document or 2,000 on a thumb-sized "drive"
which uses flash memory chips. Plug the drive in anywhere and, presto,
you're computing. Get up and leave, and all your data, including the
confidential stuff, stays with you.
That's not exactly the business proposition behind the "U3" flash devices
being marketed as "smart drives," but it's not too far off. Instead, the
idea is that you'll carry some key applications and files on the
aforementioned smart drive, and be ready to work anywhere. In these days
of heightened airport security, it's an idea whose time may well have
In the U.S. market, according to the U3 trade group (I wonder what Bono
thinks of that name), vendors selling the drives include msystems ,
SanDisk, Best Buy's Geek Squad, Kingston Technology Company, Memorex, and
Verbatim. The SanDisk folks were kind enough to send over a 2 Gbyte Cruzer
Titanium U3 device, and it's really difficult NOT to like the
little thing. For one, the $110 list price isn't too much to ask for that
much storage. Then there's the U3 bit.
Here's how it works. There's a partition on the flash drive that stores
small programs and lets you open then from a system tray pop-up menu in
Windows. There are a number of applications you can download for the
SanDisk U3 drive, some free and some for sale. I selected a Web browser
called Maxthon and the Weather Bug utility to join the pre-installed Skype
Internet telephony application, an antivirus program as well as software
to synchronize data on the USB drive and a given computer. Two final
programs on the drive offer a "tour" of the LaunchPad menu software and a
password management program.
If I wanted, I could pack the OpenOffice productivity suite, or,
presumably, parts of it, on the drive, as well as various games and other
utility items. Of the list of programs at the SanDisk download site, I
found none larger than 230 Mbytes, which, while about 1.15-percent of the
drive's capacity, isn't so onerous as to make the Cruzer unusable. Indeed,
with an office suite, a Web browser and an e-mail program, most of us
would be "good to go," mobile computing-wise, and still have a vast amount
of storage space - 1.25 Gbytes or more - in which to keep a variety of
Security doesn't seem to be an issue: Working in a PC format, it's
possible to password- and file-protect data on the drive, which would come
in rather handy, I'd suspect.
The operating speed of the programs on the flash drive matches those of
programs I installed on a computer's hard drive. There were no speed bumps
in using the software, or in saving files to the flash drive. In short, it
worked just as well as an internal computer disc drive, but it's tiny and
stores a lot of data.
These drive are really small: 1.875 by 0.75 inches, and easily fit on a
keychain. Each features a retractable USB port. With capacities of up to
2GB, the maker claims it can hold the equivalent up to 1,400 floppy disks.
Mac users won't be able to take advantage of the U3 system, which is
designed for PCs. But the capacity of the Cruzer Titanium and its
relatively low "street" prices, which range from ridiculously low at Web
sellers I don't recognize to $80 at NewEgg.com , a mail order firm
I've used, up to the list price, make this what I would consider a good
What's next for these items? I'm not sure, but I'm glad they're around.
Info on the SanDisk products can be found, oddly enough, at
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com