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ASUS Tinker Board 2 With Four USB 3.0 Ports

ASUS unveiled the Tinker Board 2 and Tinker Board 2S, its most powerful single-board computer or (SBC) and was designed to challenge the Raspberry Pi. The Tinker Board 2 and Tinker Board 2S have a Rockchip RK3399 processor, and up to 4 GB of dual-channel LPDDR4 RAM in addition to more USB connectivity than before with one USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C socket and three USB 3.2 Gen1 Type A sockets.

The only thing distinguishing the Tinker Board 2S from the Tinker Board 2 is its 16 GB of eMMC flash storage. The latter relies on a microSD card reader instead, which the Tinker Board 2S also has. All other specifications are identical, though.

Underpinning both SBCs is a Rockchip RK3399 processor that includes two ARM Cortex-A72 cores, four ARM Cortex-A53 cores and an ARM Mali-T860 MP4 GPU. There is also 2 GB or 4 GB of dual-channel LPDDR4 RAM.

Here is a list of the I/Os:

  • 1x HDMI 2.0
  • 1x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C (OTG & DisplayPort 1.2)
  • 3x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A
  • 1x 22-pin MIPI DSI
  • 1x 15-pin MIPI CSI-2
  • 1x RJ-45 Gigabit LAN
  • 1x Wi-fI 802.11 ac & Bluetooth 5.0
  • 1x 40-pin GPIO header
  • 1x DC fan header
  • 1x RTC battery header
  • 1x Power and recovery headers
  • 1x 12 V – 19 V DC-in barrel connector

Now heres the real question; will ASUS have the same problem with nearly zero support for the board? The thing that keeps the Pi above everyone else, is the support/community behind it.

Asus Tinker Board 2 and Tinker Board 2S

Small at 85 mm x 56 mm supports Debian 9, while ASUS plans to deliver Android 10 by Q1 2021. So it’s heard, the Tinker Board 2 and Tinker Board 2S will offer up to 1.5x the performance of the original Tinker Board. It is unknown when ASUS plans to release either board though, or how much they will cost. However, we expect them to arrive by Q1 2021, going off ASUS’ commitment to delivering Android 10 in that quarter.

Although the Tinker Board 2 isn’t available as of this post (Nov 2020) you can click this Tinker Board 2 link at any time to search it’s availability on Amazon.

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Press Release: Nexcopy Introduces Default State USB Write Protection Flash Drive – Lock License

“The fundamental change towards how our flash drive works should draw attention for those looking for read-only USB flash drives” says Greg Morris, CEO of Nexcopy Inc.

What is unique about the Lock License approach is whenever power is cut to the device, for example disconnection, the USB is automatically write protected. This is the strongest first line defense against malicious software or virus jumping onto a flash drive without the user knowing. It is impossible to infect a USB drive if the device is write protected.

Lock License flash drives require a password upon first use. This password is used to unlock the write protection and make the USB a read/write device. This feature provides a personalized solution for each business which uses the Lock License technology. There is no need to set the write protection after being unlocked because simply cutting power to the device will put the USB into its default state: A read-only device.

The Nexcopy Lock License USB flash drive has the following features:

  • Default state of drive is read-only, a.k.a write protected
  • User assigned password to remove write protection
  • No password is required to read from the drive, acts as normal WORM device
  • Graphical User Interface (GUI) to set password and remove write protection
  • Command line utility for custom integration to remove write protection
  • No back door password or feature from Nexcopy to unlock the drive
  • Available in USB 2.0 and 3.0 technology and ranging from 2GB through 128GB capacities

Stan McCrosky, head of Sales, comments, “System Control manufacturers for waterworks, electrical utility and petroleum companies need a solution like this. The ability to load software or firmware to a hardware based USB read-only device gives system control companies an incredible amount of security for in-field deployment via USB. More importantly, the command line utility gives the manufacturers a secure way to unlock the drive and update the content remotely without the worry of the drive remaining read/write. It’s simply impossible for the drive to remain writable.” McCrosky concludes.

The Lock License USB flash drive is simple to implement. Steps include:

  • Connect USB to a Windows computer
  • Open either GUI or command line utility to remove write protection
  • Assign a password to be used when removing the write protection
  • Data load the drive as needed
  • Eject drive from computer once copy process is complete
  • At this point the USB is write protected at the hardware controller level
  • The Lock License drive can be read (used) by any device on any platform
  • Password not required to read data from the drive
  • Password is only used when removing write protection to make the USB read/write

Nexcopy Lock License media is available in USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 technology and range it capacity from 2GB through 128GB. Nexcopy offers six body styles for the Lock License media with a wide range of body colors available for each stye, all available for custom branding. The six body styles include Oxford; a capless swivel style drive. Newport; a classic rectangular shape with cap. Lexington; a classic rectangular style with rounded edges and cap. Augusta; a shorter style drive with large lanyard loop. Huntington and Geneva which uses an aluminum body for more durability and also better suited for laser etch branding.

The Oxford style swivel drive is the in stock media Nexcopy carries for same day printing and shipping. Nexcopy inventories USB 2.0 media of 2GB and 4GB capacity and in stock USB 3.0 media of 8GB, 16GB, 32Gb, 64GB and 128GB capacities. The in stock Oxford media is a black body with white swivel clip with full color printing via the Nexcopy Logo-EZ USB flash drive printer.

The Lock License utility is available for download off the Nexcopy support page. The utility requires a Nexcopy licensed USB flash drive. The Lock License USB write protection is not a universal solution for any thumb drive, a Nexcopy drive is required in order to take advantage of the increased security the technology offers.

Official press release:

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How To – View Linux Files on USB Flash Drive

This article will help you view Linux files on a flash drive when connected to a Windows 10 computer. This is a more common problem than you might think. In 2020, the percentage of computer users who use Linux is just above 25% of all computer users? This implies you will eventually receive a USB flash drive which was formatted and used in Linux to save files. If you are a Windows user and currently in this situation, here is your help.

Linux may use FAT32 or exFAT to format a flash drive, but the default would be either ext2, ext3 or ext4.

In Windows, when a USB is formatted as the ext type, Windows will ask to format the drive. Do not do this if there is data on the drive you are trying to access. (Previous article on best way to format USB drives)

The solution to resolve the Windows request to format the drive, and see the Linux files on the drive is do the following:

This first tip might not be “required” but it is highly recommended.

In the Search field of Windows type Control Panel and click Enter

This will take you to the Control Panel.

Click Programs and then click Turn Windows features on and off

In the dialog box which pops up, you’ll need to scroll down most of the way when locking for

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How To: Copy Protect PDF Files

This article will overview PDF copy protection and the available options. A couple of things worth mentioning before getting into the details:

  • Encryption is different than copy protection. Encryption is a technology solution where the PDF owner assigns a password to the document and after the user enters that password the user can do anything they want with the file. Print, share, screen capture, etc. The idea for encryption is the document being unattainable until a password is entered.
  • Copy protection does not use a password and anyone can see the file. However; the file cannot be copied, printed, shared or screen captured. The idea behind copy protection is the PDF being viewed by anyone, but nothing can be done with the file. When people are searching for PDF copy protection, this is the solution most likely sought after.

PDF or Portable Document Format is an open standard. What this means is the document format was designed to be used in just about any document reader program. The goal for the PDF specification was to make the format as universal as possible. For this reason, it is a bit more difficult than one would think to copy protect a PDF file.

Windows comes pre-installed with Adobe Reader. In addition, Windows has embedded Adobe API code to read PDF files. Even if Adobe Reader was not installed on your computer, or uninstalled, the underlying code is still there to open a PDF. In additional to Adobe Reader (#1 PDF reader in the market) there are dozens of additional PDF reader programs. Again, the goal for all these readers is to open and read a portable document file.

Adobe copy protection solutions are very well known for being cracked. If you Google “Adobe copy protection crack” you will find pages of ways the Adobe security features are compromised. Here and here are two examples of Google search results with web pages dedicated to hacking.

The fundamental problem with copy protection are the lack of controls when viewing a PDF. Meaning a PDF content owner (you) does not have the control over Adobe Reader, or other programs, to stop the user (your client/customer/student) from printing, screen grabbing, sharing and saving.

The idea behind a PDF copy protection solution is a framework where the PDF can be opened and viewed, while you (the content owner) maintains control of the document.

Of course Adobe Reader, FoxIt Reader and others, will not provide the tools to block a user from printing or saving from within their program. In contrast, we need a “reader” or “viewer” with controls to block those functions.

With this in mind, it is difficult to provide a reader with these security functions. Most users who receive a PDF do not want to download and install another program just to read a PDF file. The ease and beauty of a PDF gets lost in that process. No longer is the PDF a portable document format. In addition, a software program that can be downloaded to view a PDF can also be downloaded by a hacker to be reverse engineered. There needs to be something more than just a secure reader/viewer to control the PDF.

The most secure way to copy protect a PDF file is to associate it with something physical. There are some software (only) solutions, but those are not as secure as a solution with something physical.

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What Is The Lifespan of a USB Flash Drive?

The lifespan of a USB flash drive relates to three factors. In general terms, a flash drive will last much longer than you think and here are some details to help you understand the answer.

The three factors related to the life span of a USB flash drive are:

  • How the drive is made
  • Wear leveling technology
  • How the drive is treated

Flash drives are a commodity product and (generally) driven by lowest price. With that in mind there are plenty of shortcuts a manufacturer can use to save time and money. What is important to understand, is knowing the quality of product you are going to use.

How the drive is made

A flash drive is made up of five primary components: The PCB (printed circuit board) the flash memory, the USB controller, the components and the soldering which holds everything together.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB)

Most promotional memory products (flash drives given away at trade shows) will use a two layer printed circuit board. Two layer boards are bad for use with any USB device, including a flash drive. The USB specification requires four layers for a product to be made to specification. A four layer board will include the, much needed, grounding plane of the PCB to insure transmission without interference from the trace lines. A two layer board is at a much greater risk of not performing as it should. If you received a USB at a trade show, don’t consider that device for “long term” or “important” storage options.

This is an image of a four layer USB flash drive by Nexcopy with Micron memory with write speeds of 12MB/s

USB flash drive PCB with NAND memory

Flash Memory

Flash memory used in the production of USB drives stems from a sea of unknown factors. Flash drives are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to NAND memory as part of the BOM (bill of material). All the good quality NAND memory is used for more expensive products like phones, set-top boxes, communications hardware, etc… and the manufacturer of USB flash drives, is typically, the last tier of manufacturing consumption. With that in mind, one trick the flash manufacturers use, is down-sizing the memory wafer (NAND chip). Let us provide an example: Toshiba is the world’s largest memory manufacturer, and after production of say a 64GB chip, they test it. If the quality of the silicon cells in the chip are below a certain percentage, the chip gets downgraded to a 32GB chip. They test it. If the memory is still failing QC, it gets downgraded again. The process continues. So if you are dealing with a 512MB USB stick, you are dealing with the worst part of NAND memory chip. Very unreliable. The quickest way to test the quality of flash memory is test the write speed. For USB 2.0 product, if you see a write speed of 9-10MB/second or better… its’ good quality. For USB 3.0 if you see a write speed of 18-20MB/second or better you are dealing with good quality. A slow write speed means the silicon of the chip is having a harder time making the phase change (positive or negative) to save data to the memory chip.

USB Controller

The USB controller is the chip on the flash drive with all the brains. The USB controller is the gate keeper between the host computer and the USB stick. The chip allows the host computer to read or write data to and from the flash memory on the flash drive. Because the USB controller is the brain of the flash drive, it’s important to have a controller that performs well and is reliable. One of the most important features of the USB controller is wear leveling. This is also one of the most important aspects for defining the lifespan of a USB flash drive. More about wear leveling in a bit. For now, the important point is understanding the compatibility of the USB controller to that of the flash memory. The NAND memory market is very fast pasted. New technology is always developing. For this reason, the firmware inside the USB controller is very important. The firmware “marries” the flash memory to the device and creates a usable flash drive. There are many flavors of firmware for a single controller and it all boils down to how often the USB manufacturer updates those firmware tools. It is very possible to load firmware that is not optimized for the NAND memory used in the production of the flash drive. It’s also very possible the firmware is set for a different objective, for example, the firmware was set to be optimized for capacity rather than read/write speeds. The amount of control the USB factory has with these firmware tools is mind-blowing. The firmware tools are used to configure the USB stick to exactly what they want. In summary, there is no real way to test the quality of the USB controller and it’s firmware other than having an intimate knowledge and relationship with the actual manufacturer of the USB flash drive. The point to explaining the function of a USB controller is to show what a large impact it has on the overall performance of the drive.

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How To: Watch Video, Play Music on PS5 from USB Flash Drive

Like the PS4, the Sony PS5 lets you play music and video from a USB flash drive through the console. The process is easy enough and some reminders on “how to” might speed up the process of getting things to work smoothy.

The PS5 will play MP3 audio and MP4 video from a USB flash drive. Unfortunately the Sony PS5 doesn’t play back all audio format types or video format types, so if you stick with the most common and most universal, which is MP3 for audio and MP4 for video, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Please take note: The PS5 supports all of the same formats as the PS4 family and supports video in max resolutions of 3840 x 2160. Unfortunately, trying 8K videos doesn’t work because the SP5 doesn’t support an 8K output (right now).

Pro tip: Make sure your MP3 audio and MP4 video are organized in folders because the PS5 will make a play list order from the content found within those folders. It’s a manual process, but it’s best if you want to have somewhat of an organized playlist. Maybe make different folders from different artists to play MP3 audio from a USB flash drive on your PS5.

To play back video and audio from a USB stick you’ll have navigate to separate sections.

Don’t go to the Media section. That section is only for streaming content you purchased from the PS Store.

To watch video, long-press the PS Button and select Media Gallery from the main list. Then click USB on the far right. You can only access video this way.

ps5 media gallery usb screen shot

Navigation looks something like this:

PS5 Home -> Media Gallery -> USB

Remember, the files stored in the folder are arranged like a playlist with the PS5 console is indexing the content. You can press R1 or L1 to skip back and forth. Press right and left on the D-Pad to skip ahead in small chapter-style skips.

To play audio, simply press the PS Button once to open up the Control Center quick bar. Then select the Music icon. It’s pretty bare-bones right now, but it’s functional.

Music can be played in the background as you do other things/play games. Once music is playing, you can pause it and change tracks right from the Command Center.

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Disk Signature Collision While Cloning

Microsoft Windows has been sending out updates which have created some problems for those cloning mass storage devices like USB flash drives and USB hard drives. This article should help you resolve those issues.

The Disk Signature is a unique ID Windows will assign to a device inside the Master Boot Record or MBR. The disk signature is 6 bytes long and sits in the first sector of the mass storage device. The disk signature becomes a problem for those cloning flash drives or hard drives with either a software utility or a large duplication equipment like a USB duplicator. The disk signature compounds itself if a multi-partition device is being cloned.

Many times a multi-partition device is created in Linux and at the time of create only one disk signature is assigned to the physical device. However, if multiple units of those copies are put in a Windows computer, Windows will try and assign a disk signature to each partition. This will cause a collision.

There are different situations one could have a disk signature collision, so this is only one example.

GetUSB.info did a write up about this a couple months back, here is the full blog post:
https://www.getusb.info/only-1-usb-drive-can-be-use-others-are-ignored/

In addition, we found the following website which does a fantastic job about how one would edit the disk signature using a hex editor:
http://www.multibooters.com/tutorials/view-and-change-disk-signature-in-mbr.html

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5 (legit) Reasons a USB Flash Drive Disconnects and Reconnects in Windows

Roll Play Scenario:

  • Windows: Sound of connected a USB flash drive to Windows…
  • User: Ah yes… let’s get to work!
  • Windows: The Windows sound of a disconnected USB device…
  • User: Oh no, what’s happening?

A quick Google search and here we are… let’s take a look:

Here are five legitimate reasons your USB drive might be disconnecting from your Windows computer.

1. Running on Battery

Windows OS is set at default to power down USB ports when running from a battery. The power down process usually doesn’t happen until 10-15 into a stalled USB port, but maybe your setting is different. So worth checking… but first… plug in your laptop and see if the problem is resolved.

To check your USB power setting do this:

Search for Control Panel and click Enter

control panel

In the Control Panel click the Hardware and Sound link

hardware and sound

From here (might be slightly different for everyone) click the Change battery settings and further click Change plan settings and then you’ll see an Change advanced power settings option. Click the Change advanced power settings you can scroll around to find the USB devices and adjust your power there.

USB power setting

2. Faulty USB Port

The number one reason for why a USB device doesn’t work is the physical USB port on the host computer. A laptop generally has only 3 or 4 ports and those ports get a lot of action. With a tower PC, the front USB ports on the bezel also get most the action. Question: When you insert the USB device can you wiggle it around? Was there very little tension or pressure when connecting the USB device? If the device wiggles, or extremely easy to insert… you might have a physically bad USB socket.

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The Swiss Army Knife of USB-C Hubs

Did you buy one of those ultra-thin laptops and fall in love with the light weight, sleek size and powerful processor? Yet, sit there not be able to use all its power because you don’t have the ports to connect what you want? The 9 in 1 USB-C hub will solve your problems. You can do almost anything with it, just like your desktop.

The USB-C hub allows you to connect a monitor, speakers, headphones, SD card and 10BseT network cable at home (very useful). The hardwired Ethernet cable connection is clutch, but the other thing which is valuable to me is connecting a spare VGA monitor for a second screen.

USB-C hub

The 9 in 1 hub is compact, lightweight (like my laptop) and well built. The hub consists of wedged shaped aluminum tube with the taller side featuring the video ports. A circuit board is suspended inside by plastic inserts that also serve to align and cover the gaps in each port. The two end caps are press fitted into the tube without any additional adhesive. I doubt the device will fall apart if dropped, but if it does, easy enough to snap back together.

USB-C hub 9-in-1

Understanding the quality of a product requires one to take it apart and see how it’s manufacturer. The hub disassembles easily by popping off the plastic cap over the Ethernet port. The board inside then slides out without effort. The cap on the cable end can be removed to complete disassembly but is not required to full access the board. The USB-C cable is wired to the board through some form of displacement connector and secured with adhesive. The shielding on the cable is also ungrounded thus add minimal functional. Fortunately the cable is short enough it should have minimal effect on signal reliability.

All major components, other than the DAC, are older but from recognized manufacturers. The hub is wired with 2 of the 4 USB-C high speed lanes assigned to USB and the remaining lanes assigned to Display Port. This means USB operates without compromise while DP is limited to 2 lanes. This means higher bandwidth operation such as 4K 60Hz is not possible. The on-board 3A DC converter should supply ample power to all components. There should be no issues operating all ports simultaneously assuming low power USB devices are used.

USB-C hub internal pcb

  • The USB hub supports 2.4A fast charging; thus charging a single device quickly maybe possible. However, the hub itself is limited to 3A so charging multiple devices at high speeds will not work.
  • The HDMI output is limited to HDMI 1.4. But all non-3D HDMI display modes within the spec should be supported.
  • VGA output works in both widescreen (16:9) 1080p and 4:3 UXGA
  • Card reader functions simultaneously with both Micro SD and full size
  • 2-Ch DAC functions requires output from HDMI. It converts HDMI audio to analog 2-ch output.
  • Ethernet uses both link detection and EEE to conserve power both when idle and while operating. Shorter Ethernet cables/connection should result in less heat generated. Ethernet also supports various wake functions.

When compared to the OEM Microsoft branded Surface dock that sits around $200.00, there really isn’t a choice for most users. This dock is certainly worth it’s money at $30 (time of this post).

View all articles related to USB hub products posted by GetUSB.info.

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How To: Check if My USB Flash Drive is Bootable?

The following article will explain how to check your USB flash drive for if it’s bootable. There is no software needed, no download, just a couple of simple commands in your Windows 10 operating system.

A master boot record (MBR) is a special type of boot sector at the very beginning of a partition storage device like a fixed disk (hard drive) or removable drive (USB thumb drive). The MBR contains executable code to function as a loader for the installed operating system. This loader turns over the functions of the hardware (mother board bios) and passes that loading responsibility off to the operating system (Windows).

This is how you check if your USB is bootable, or not:

First, please have only the one USB stick connected which you want to check if it’s bootable. It’s not required to do this, but will my the instructions below a bit easier to follow, that’s all.

Using the Windows search function copy and paste this into the search field and click Enter

compmgmt.msc

The screen shot below will pop up after you click Enter. Using the image as a reference, select “Disk Management” under the “Storage” folder“. In the middle of the dialogue box you will see the drive letter associated with your USB flash drive. In the middle of the box you will probably see the USB listed two different times. The top portion of the box, the USB will be listed along with other devices, like your hard drive and optical drive. The bottom portion of the box, the USB will be shown as “Removable

Once you’ve determined which drive letter is your USB drive, you may Right Click on the drive letter and select Properties.

A Properties dialogue box appears giving you the option to select any one of the devices show in the previous window (the Disk Management window). From this dialogue box, click the Hardware tab and select the “Mass Storage USB Device” by a single click. Then click the Properties button at the bottom.

The last dialogue box are the Properties of your specific flash drive.

Click the Volumes tab at the top, you then must click “Populate” to get the device information. . The “Partition Style” will read either Master Boot Record (MBR) or the field will be empty.

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What is the Difference Between a TF Card and microSD Card?

In general terms the TF card and microSD card are the same. They are the same in physical size and same in most technical terms. The two devices may be used in exchange with each other.

There are some technical differences between the two which will be explained later, for now, the biggest difference between a TF card and microSD card is the history of the name.

The TF card came out first. TF card or T-Flash or TransFlash was first to market from SanDisk in 2004. SanDisk, in partnership with Motorola, created the TF card specification. The TF card was the smallest read/write memory form factor and was designed for mobile devices (thus the small size).

TF cards are based on NAND1 memory. The TF card did not last long. At the end of 2004 the Secure Digital Association, which is the governing body over Secure Digital media, absorbed the TransFlash technology and re-branded as: microSD.

This implies, the life of the TF card ended in late 2004 and the microSD card has been available ever since. This will explain why you cannot find a “TF” branded card today (2020). The other reason you cannot find TF cards today is the maximium size of only 16MBs or 32MBs at the time of production. Today you cannot find any memory device with that small of gigabyte capacity.

Here is the technical difference between the two: Micro SD cards can support SDIO mode, which means they can perform tasks unrelated to memory, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and Near Field Communication. Whereas a TransFlash card cannot perform this kind of task.

SDIO mode stands for Secure Digital Input Output, a type of Secure Digital card interface. It may be used as an interface for input or output devices.

The SD Association devised a way to standardize the speed ratings for different cards. These are defined as ‘Speed Class’ and refer to the absolute minimum sustained write speeds. Cards can be rated as Class 2 (minimum write speed of 2MB/s), Class 4 (4MB/s), Class 6 (6MB/s) or Class 10 (10MB/s). It’s important to note that these are the minimum, so it’s entirely possible a card can achieve faster speeds.

NAND is not an acronym. Instead, the term is short for “NOT AND,” a Boolean operator and logic gate. The NAND operator produces a FALSE value only if both values of its two inputs are TRUE. It may be contrasted with the NOR operator, which only produces a TRUE value if both inputs are FALSE.

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