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Archive for April, 2020

Review: Windows 10 Computer Stick

In 2015 Intel introduced the Compute Stick or Computer Stick – the product has been around ever since. The idea is simple and eligant. Intel wanted to create an HDMI dongle computer which can run Windows 10.

There is no confirmation, but our suspicion is that Intel wanted a ultra-cheap and portable solution to run Windows for embedded applications like set-top boxes (DVRs) and other IoT (Internet of Things) products. If our assumption is correct, it’s a wonderful product and is a great solution for its intended purpose.

PCWorld did a fantastic review of the compute stick back in 2016, and a link to that article is at the footer of this post. The PC World review outlined the specifications and performance levels of the Intel based product. We will let that article do the heavy lifting for the tech people out there, but today we want to talk about the applications one might have for a computer stick.

For only $120 (ish) off Amazon, this is an excellent solution to run Windows 10 for a host of specific applications.

computer stick

Several quick talking points before we move to examples of usage out in the field:

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Review: Wireless Phone Charger For Tesla Model 3

My neighbor has a Model 3 with a wireless charging station right in the console. I didn’t realize this was an after-market purchase, so wanted to review it here today. The brand my neighbor has is the Taptes generation 2 wireless charging station.

The Gen 2 has some improvements from the previous version. Starting with the basics, this version has a ridge line molded into the center of the charging platform. This allows a user to charge two phones vertically, independently getting their charge, at the same time. The center line ridge doesn’t go all the way to the bottom so if you need to charge your phone while in landscape mode, viewing say Google Maps, you have that capability.

The charging station does have USB-C in the event a passenger has a phone which doesn’t support the wireless charging mode. This would include both Android and Apple phones.

My neighbor has the Model 3, 2019 version, but this version does support the Tesla console for 2017, 18, 19 and 20 year models. The black is the same tone of black as the black interior of the Tesla. As I mentioned before, I didn’t realize this was an after-market product until my neighbor told me so. In my opinion, it didn’t look like an add-on.

The charging pad has anti-slip grip material so the phone doesn’t move around while driving. The wireless signal is strong enough to go through phone cases. However; if you have a magnetic disc or a pop-socket on the back, it might not charge as it’s either too far away from the wireless power signal, or the obstruction doesn’t allow your phone to take the wireless charge signal. The charging pad also has two LED to indicate the charging station is sending a signal to the device. Your device will also confirm it is receiving a charge. The wireless charging station comes with two USB splitters so you can power the charging station from the Tesla USB system and still have USB connections off to the dash for something like a dash-cam recorder or other device.

    In the package
  • 1 x Wireless Charger / Pad Gen 2
  • 1 x Manual
  • 2 x USB Splitters

tesla wireless phone charger

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Why Does the Partition Size Matter Inside an Image File?

This topic is brought up today because we hear some Users have issues understanding this point. The partition size inside an image file does matter. The question we will answer today is why it matters.

Let us start off with two simplified overviews. First, all storage devices use a partition to define it’s characteristics. A storage device has a file system, like FAT32 or exFAT or NTFS and that file system has a defined size or digital capacity. These characteristics, and some others, are laid out in the partition.

Second, an image file is the above partition with all its detail, the file system, defined capacity along with all the actual files and folders on that partition and put into a single file or .img file.

For a non-technical person, let me use a puzzle as an example.

partition table, puzzle, image file

  • The puzzle box is equivalent to the physical device.
  • The plastic bag inside the puzzle box, holding all the pieces, is the image file.
  • Print on the puzzle box indicating the number of pieces, is the partition.
  • The puzzle pieces inside the box are equivalent to the data.

Okay, so at this point we know the image file (.img) is the bag which holds all the puzzle pieces and the data are all the bits inside the bag. So let’s address the question of this post, “Why does the partition size matter inside an image file?”

Back to the puzzle box. As with any puzzle, the outside of the box lists the number of pieces. In this example, we can use the number of pieces printed on the outside of the box as the partition table size. If the physical box size is, let us say, 8″ x 11″ then it’s totally logical that a 1,000 piece puzzle would fit inside. In fact, it is logical to say even a 20 piece puzzle will fit inside the box. But, could a 5,000 piece puzzle fit inside this box?

From the three scenarios above, one doesn’t work, right? The scenario where the box says there are 5,000 puzzle pieces in a box that is physically to small.

Partitions are the same.

The situation which doesn’t work, is when the print on the outside of the puzzle is telling you the number of pieces inside the box are clearly more than what the physical box can handle.

Said another way, you cannot use a partition table size of 4GBs and try to have the image file fit on a USB stick that has only 1GB of storage space. Even if the image file itself is only 1GB large of actual data. Just like the puzzle, no matter what is printed on the outside of the box, if the number of pieces are larger than what can fit inside the box… it just doesn’t work.

Here is a real-world example: You can download this IMG file which is only 40MB large. The IMG itself has a 4GB partition inside it. As long as you write out the IMG file to a flash drive that is 4GBs or larger, everything will work. If you try and write out the IMG file to something smaller, like a 2GB stick, it won’t work.

What happens?

Windows is very smart. All versions of Windows (from 7 and higher) will take a look at the total available memory and compare that to the partition table size. If Windows sees the partition table is larger than the available memory of the device, she won’t let you do anything with the device… other than format it. Once the drive is formatted, Windows will automatically rewrite the partition table to fit the amount of available memory. In this example, Windows would format the drive to become a 2GB stick… not a 4GB stick.

Why does Windows do this?

They want to eliminate fraud. Windows 7 was introduced in 2009 and before that, the only OS was WindowsXP. Well, Windows XP didn’t have the capability to compare partition tables to available memory. The result was fraud. Many would sell some larger GB capacity drive… like at the time 32GB, but only 4GB of real, usable, memory was there. The user would run out of memory space long before the “printed capacity” of the drive was reached.

If you found this article; maybe there is a situation where an image file is not working when written out to a USB flash drive? If this is the case, be sure to check your partition table compared to the amount of physical memory available. The easiest way to check, would be mounting the IMG file on your computer and check Properties for the partition size. Keep in mind, the default “Mount” command in Windows doesn’t work. You need something like this.

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Home Office Tools – Home Office USB Duplicator

Today, like never before, individuals are working from the home office. Working in an favorable situation is decent and beneficial and I think this is why so many love the home office. As favorable as things may be; now and again the home office doesn’t have a computer gear to carry out the responsibilities required. With numerous business now practicing social distancing, one will discover certain things are still needed.

Consider the niche requirement to make USB duplicates at the home office. For instance, let us consider an IT director who needs to turn out bootable restore recover sticks, or a product engineer who is required to send programming updates to a group of remote office sales guys. These managers need a snappy, simple and econimical bit of gear to do the job.

The smaller USB flash drive duplicator by Nexcopy is an incredible solution for this definite issue. The unit measurings is 15cm long and 10cm wide. So it will fit into any computer bag, and light as a book.

Nexcopy USB Dupliclator

The USB duplicator is a one-master to four-target copy station. The duplicator is a digital binary copier which duplicates any file system or structure provided by the master host flash drive. Using a USB cable the duplicator can power the five USB flash drives; however, is not recommended for using with USB hard drives.

With a duplicator like this, making duplicates at the home office is speedy and extremely simple. There are four menu buttons, enter, escape, up and down. The unit will work at the press of a single button, which makes this unit ideal for non technical people. The mini duplicator may be configured to perform a binary copy or a binary copy and compare. The copy and compare function gives the user piece of mind that each copy is exactly the same as the master. Having a verification option will insure every copy is the same as the master, giving the user piece of mind all the copies are 100% correct and exact.

Reviewing the features of the duplicator, we have note worthy features:
  • Asynchronous copy mode, all the time
  • Binary copier will copy any format; FAT, FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, HFS, Ext2,3,4, Proprietary
  • Binary CRC verification algorithm
  • Quick Erase and Full Erase for disk sanitization
  • Four language modes in LCD menu
  • USB speed benchmark utility
  • Firmware upgradeable

Is the cost of the mini sized USB duplicator worth the cost for a home office employee? The easiest way to determine this is asking ourselves how much time the duplicator will save. This mini copy station, called the Nexcopy USB104SA will copy one GB of data to each device in just over one minute. That is extremely fast. If an IT manager or software engineer had to data load a 12 GB worth of data on a PC, it would take about 12 minutes to make four copies. Windows could never copy that much data, that quickly. When using the copy and compare mode it takes a bit longer… about 1.5 minutes per GB. So still incredibly quick.

Several features are worth mentioning in a bit more detail. The Erase function is a technical term to remove all data from the USB flash drive. This is a robust feature which guarantees data is removed from the flash drive with no ability of the data being recovered. Formatting a drive doesn’t clean data from the drive, the format function only destroys the file allocation table (the directions to find data), but erase will actually overwrite random binary data over the data blocks. There are two erase settings available on this little USB104SA, and the quick erase will scrub certain portions of the drive so some data could remain, but most likely the files would be corrupted if trying to be recovered because the random write sequence skips around the drive and over writting just bits of memory. The full erase function will write binary randomly zeros and ones to all the NAND memory of the flash drive. By doing this randomization, it would be impossible for sophisticated forensics recovery software to restore any data.

The four language modes include English, Spanish, Portuguese and Simplified Chinese.

The USB benchmark speed is a great a convenient tool for testing the read speeds and write speeds of a thumb drive. This is even more valuable when dealing with promotional quality media, as this low-end memory is very instable and can get frustrating to deal with. The easiest way to determine the quality of memory is looking at the write speed. With the benchmark utility one can test the read and write speed of a drive. The USB duplicator will write about 20MBs of random data to determine the average read and write speed. If the USB memory has a write speed of 4MB/second or lower, it’s not good quality. If the write speed is above 8MB/second for USB 2.0 media and above 20MB/second write speed for USB 3.0 media, it is of better quality memory.

The duplicator uses the CRC verification protocol. We did a previous article on Cyclical Redundancy Checking and a great read.

The USB duplicator made by Nexcopy is a backward compatible product and will copy to USB 1.0, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 flash drives. The duplicator will write to the device as fast as it will allow. The best write times will result from the operator using USB 3.0 media.

Source: GetUSB.info

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How To Format a Flash Drive as UDF (Windows 7 & 10 Solution)

When trying to format a flash drive in Windows (7 or 10) you will see the file system options best suited for the device. The proper file systems for a flash drive would be: FAT, FAT32 or exFAT. Windows will also list NTFS for a flash drive, but not the best for a USB stick, as mentioned before. The file system types listed by the Windows GUI (Graphical User Interface) will depend on the GB capacity of the flash drive connected.

So why no UDF file system on the list?

First, let me say it IS possible for Windows to format a flash drive as UDF (Universal Disk Format). Microsoft just doesn’t want you to do it; and there are good reasons why.

Before the reasons given for not using UDF as a format on flash drives, let’s clear one thing up: If you think formatting a flash drive as UDF will make the thumb drive appear as an optical drive in the computer – you are mistaken!

From the Wikipedia page about Universal Disk Format, UDF, the specification is governed by the Optical Storage Technology Association and because of that, many believe a UDF anything will work like a disc. It, UDF, is most widely used for DVDs and newer optical disc formats, can be used on flash drives, but does make it operate like one.

If we take out the hope of formatting a USB with a UDF file system, some may feel the Universal Disk Format means the flash drive will work in anything, such as from Windows, to Mac, to Linux, Symbian and/or to proprietary system. The truth here is exFAT will do just the same. Please keep that in mind.

So why not format a USB as UDF in Windows? Here is a list:

  • The lack of fully-functional filesystem check tools.
  • 64GB limit with Windows & Linux, a bug, not a limit of UDF
  • SD and USB mass storage devices are exposed to quick wear-leveling failure
  • UDF is read-only for Windows XP

Without bogging down this post with ultra-technical information, from the above list, the most important to consider is the first, lack of filesystem check tools.

This means if the USB is pulled out while in operation and a bit is affected by the action, there are no tools to check the file system for errors. You are flying the dark as to why the USB no longer works and there are no tools available to help you figure it out. Given the flash drive was specifically designed to be portable and quick access, the above action is most certainly going to happen sooner or later, which makes UDF a high risk file system.

How to format a flash drive as UDF:

Connect the USB to your computer and note the assigned drive letter

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