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Matt LeBoff

Kicking around in technology since 2002. I like to write about technology products and ideas, but at the consumer level understanding. Some tech, but not too techie.

TeamViewer Alternative – And it’s Free – Quick Assist from Microsoft

TeamViewer is one of the most popular applications to share computer screens with other people. However TeamViewer is very expensive. Is there a TeamViewer alternative? Yes there is… and it’s 100% free.

We found a TeamViewer alternative one day because, as a business, we had to provide technical support to a remote Windows computer. TeamViewer is very clear about their software being used in a business should have a business license.

From the screen shot below, you can see a single license is $34.90 per month. What TeamViewer doesn’t tell you… until half way through the purchase process… is a yearly subscription is your only option. Ugh. This now puts your TeamViewer cost at $418.80 for a single year. More licenses require a bigger financial commitment.

teamviewer is expensive, free alternative

We immediately went into TeamViewer alternative mode.

As an alternative, we found Quick Assist from Microsoft.

Quick Assist is 100% free and offered by Microsoft which allows users to share their computer screen and give free and total control to the other. There is no time limit for a sharing session and there is no limit to the number of times you can use the tool, or no limit for whom you use the tool with.

You need to download the free utility from the Microsoft App store, and that process is extremely easy. Type “quick assist” into the search bar and Windows will provide a link to download.

Quick Assist is TeamViewer alternative, download screenshot

After download the Quick Assist app is ready for use.

By launching the app you can either input a code from an Assistant who is helping you remotely, or you can select the option to assist someone else. See the image below.

To assist another person you will need a Microsoft account and if you don’t have one, Quick Assist will put you through the process in a couple steps.

If you are receiving help from someone, a Microsoft account is not required.

Below are a couple screen shots for getting connected between an “assistant” and the one receiving the help.

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Make USB Flash Drive Bootable in Anything

USB flash drive, bootable, in anything

Doing some research for why some HP computers do not boot from a USB flash drive, I came across Ventoy.

Ventoy is a software tool to create a USB flash drive bootable in anything and supports the most common image files.

We tried Ventoy to make a USB flash drive bootable, and it works like a champ. In fact, the software is so easy to use, it is worth commenting about a previous post we did. A while back we talked about how to check if your USB flash drive is bootable, and to be honest, rather than putting in the time and work to read the article and do the steps, your time is better used flashing your drive with Ventoy. The result is a bootable USB flash drive for any device.

Ventoy is an open source tool for creating bootable flash drives when using image files like ISO, IMG, WIM, VHD and EFI files. The project team tested over 900 image files which tested successfully on over 90% of the distro packages.

What we like about this solution is no need to flash the drive with boot code using the source CD-ROM like so many tutorials out there (for Windows at least) because the Ventoy tool creates a second partition which all the boot code and the Ventoy utility flashes that partition with the boot code needed. You can see from the Disk Management screen shot below there are now two partitions on the tested flash drive.

usb flash drive, bootable, disk management, ventoy

You can tell there have been plenty of Ventoy updates and what is (also) very nice about their software tool is the display of Ventoy version on your device. Nice feature to cross reference if your device is current or needs an update. The update process is just as quick as the original creation of the bootable device.

usb bootable in anything, ventoy software screen

Considering the above, it goes without saying it is easier than ever to make a USB flash drive bootable in anything without having to re-do the work. This software eliminates the need to re-create a bootable image to USB and flash it over and over. Simply update the image file content, not the boot strap code.

The only thing even slightly annoying, which is easy enough to correct is the Volume name for the primary partition defaults to “Ventoy” Would be nice if an edit feature was in the software to customize this without the additional step of renaming the volume after-the-fact.

USB volume name, ventoy, for bootable flash drive

Here are a list of feature copied from the website. The project is open source and we suggest making a donation if you do in-fact use the code. It’s only fair, right!

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Kingston – To Pay $7.5 mil In Compensatory Damages

Kingston USB flash drive, stock photo

Friday, June 3, 2022 Kingston Technology Company LLC was held accountable for willfully infringing on US Patent No 6,926,544 held by Pavo Solutions LLC.

The patent abstract:

A flash memory apparatus with a single body type rotary cover, where the cover is not completely separated from the main body to prevent cover loss. The flash memory apparatus consists of the following components: a flash memory main body with a rectangular shaped case in which a memory element is mounted. A USB terminal piece is electrically connected to the memory element and installed at a front end of the case to protrude therefrom, as well as a hinge protuberance formed on at least one side of the case. A cover is provided that is defined by a pair of parallel plate members facing each other with an interval corresponding to the thickness of the case. The cover has an open front and a closed back. The cover’s lateral ends are both open. The parallel plate members are joined to the hinge protuberance by a pair of hinge holes, allowing the cover to rotate with respect to the flash memory main body, allowing the USB terminal piece to be received in an inner space of the cover or rotated for exposure to the outside of the cover.

We are not a legal website so for more detail on the proceedings, please visit IP Watch Dog.

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How To: Create a Website Shortcut on a USB Drive

This article will show you how to create a website shortcut that works from a flash drive. The article includes the instructions, a video on the instructions and a template file one can download and tweak for their own use.

The reason for this topic of creating a website shortcut on a flash drive is because dragging and dropping your desktop shortcut to a flash drive doesn’t work.

The shortcut on a desktop is a relative path of the computer to the website. Which means the shortcut doesn’t transfer well to a flash drive for others to use. Rather than a working shortcut, the shortcut either errors off or takes you to a generic page within the browser.

Creating a shortcut that works on a USB flash drive is very easy. Like, crazy easy.

  • Open Notepad (type notepad in search and click Enter)
  • Type: [InternetShortcut]
  • Type website landing page: URL=https://www.getusb.info
  • Now Save As the file to your USB flash drive with .URL extension.

You have now successfully made a website shortcut on your USB flash drive.

This link can be used on any flash drive or hard drive or desktop location. The shortcut is truly a universal file that will work from any location.

Here is the text file which you can use as a template if the above instructions are too complicated or you simply don’t want to perform the steps.

Here is the video: How To: Create a Website Shortcut on a USB Drive

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Power Apple TV Box Without Outlet

power Apple TV box without outlet

From Mission a company which makes your favorite accessories a little better introduces a power solution to power your Apple TV box without needing an AC outlet.

By offering this solution, one less power outlet plug is required to run your Apple TV box.

Perfect for wall mounted TVs with only one outlet behind/near the TV. Declutter the cables around your TV with the Mission accessory.

How does it work?

Between the connection to your Apple TV box and a USB port on your TV sits a small electrical box. This box has a lithium ion battery and a custom PCB which stores extra power from the USB socket from your TV and buffers that power in the lithium battery. Then a bit stronger current is sent to your Apple TV box to properly power it.

How it works, power Apple TV box without outlet

This Mission product is compatible with all versions of the Apple TV box.

  • Powerful Battery // 7.2V / 2000mAh Battery
  • High Output Power Capability // Works with 4K HDR Video
  • Product Dimensions // 4ft/121cm total cable length, 7.9 oz
  • Compatibility // Compatible with all generations of Apple TV

F.A.Q.

Q. Does the internal battery ever fully discharge and disrupt the USB cable performance?

A. No, the cable is designed to always have sufficient power, even after many hours of continuous use.

Q. Is a mount for Apple TV included in the box?

A. No, for the easiest setup we recommend the purchase of an Apple TV mount. This will allow the Apple TV and Mission USB Power cable to be easily installed on the back of the TV, minimizing clutter around the TV.

Q. What is the output voltage of the cable?

A. 120V

Q. What is the total length of the cable?

A. 4 feet or 121 centimeters.

Mission also provides this same type of solution for the Chromecast product and Amazon Fire Stick.

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Official (nearly) – Apple Dropping Thunderbolt for USB-C

Apple switching Thunderbolt to USB-C

We love to hear the big and small wins for USB technology. After 10 years, USB-C will win the battle as the connection socket of choice for iPhone products.

Why?

It is estimated the value of charging cables to be sold in 2022 is $2.6 billion dollars. If you estimate cable to be $10 USD, that is 260 million physical cables made. Yes, this is an estimated number, but that is a lot of potential waste given most already have charging cables.

The fundamental problem are the different cables needed for different devices. This is why USB is such a lovely technology. It is designed to be universal. Really, all electronic devices which can charge or communicate should connect via one physical method. We vote USB-C!

Who started it?

The EU started the push to codify the use of a single connector type for all electronic devices starting in 2018. The EU started this process in order to eliminate waste associated with one cable being shipped with every electronic device. Their goal is to reduce the number of charging cables manufactured to get the world closer to a carbon neutral position. EU wants all devices to use the same connection type by 2030.

Who tipped us off?

Today we learn from a well know parts analyst who covers the Apple products. Ming-Chi Kuo is an analyst who surveys different parts suppliers related to the supply-chain of product manufactured for Apple. Through the forecasting survey and questions, Kuo is able to accurately predict many upcoming trends and changes related to Apple products.

When will this start?

Based on parts forecasting and the ramp up of USB-C components, Kuo believes the change will happen in 2023.

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Why do I have to Eject my USB Flash Drive?

Why do I have to Eject my USB Flash Drive

Do I have to eject my USB flash drive?

The short answer: No.

The technical answer: Yes.

If the technical answer is yes, the why do I have to Eject my USB Flash Drive?

The difference boils down to the type of file system being used. If the USB is FAT, FAT32 or exFAT you do NOT need to eject the USB flash drive before pulling it out of a computer.

If the USB drive is NTFS, then yes, eject the flash drive before pulling it out of the computer.

So why eject when the USB flash drive is formatted as NTFS?

The NTFS (New Technology File System) is a journaling file system system.

A journaling file system is one that keeps track of changes which have not yet been committed to the main part of the file system by recording the goal of such changes in a data structure known as a “journal,” which is typically a circular log. In the event of a system crash or power outage, such file systems can be restored more quickly and with a lower risk of corruption.

Depending on how it is implemented, a journaling file system may only keep track of stored metadata, resulting in improved performance at the expense of increased data corruption risk. A journaling file system, on the other hand, may track both stored data and related metadata, with some implementations allowing for user-selectable behavior in this regard.

With an NTFS formatted flash drive it is very possible there are journal entries going on in the background which the user is not away of, so if the drive is unexpectedly pulled out of the computer that physical action could corrupt the data on the drive.

Why do people format flash drives as NTFS?

Two common reasons people (wrongfully) format a flash drive as NTFS include:

  1. The user would like to take advantage of security settings which NTFS does offer
  2. The user has large single files and isn’t aware exFAT solves the same problem

NTFS allows an Administrator to assign privileges’ to files and folders and those security settings will remain for said files on the NTFS formatted flash drive. This is probably the ONLY legitimate reason a flash drive should be formatted as NTFS.

FAT and FAT32 have a single file limit of 4GBs so any single file larger than 4GBs will not be copied to a FAT or FAT32 flash drive. To get around this problem, Users will format the drive as NTFS. They select NTFS because it’s the same file system as their host computer… and since it works there… might as well format the flash drive the same way. However, what the users don’t understand is exFAT solves the same problem while at the same time providing a more stable file system – one that isn’t a journaling file system – so a flash drive can be pulled out without ejecting.

Good News – Free USB Eject Software Tool

GetUSB.info reported on this earlier; Eject USB Flash Drive safely, Free Download. The software is free to download, free to distribute and free to embed into other programs.

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How To: Copy Protect Digital Photo on USB Flash Drive

I want to copy protect a digital photo on a USB flash drive. The answer wasn’t as obvious as I had hoped, but I did find it.

Below is the process I used to get what I needed.

The first thing I want to emphasize is that I want to protect a digital copy of a photo rather than a physical copy of a photo.

So, how to prevent a digital photo from being copied from a USB flash drive is a difficult question to answer. My first thought is about the medium I intend to use to send a digital photo to someone.

  • Do I offer a download link?
  • Do I send them a digital copy on a storage device like a portable hard drive or USB flash drive?
  • Do I provide them a weblink to view the file from a hosted server?

The more I considered a delivery method, the more questions I had.

My first thought was to host the photo on a private webpage. Only users with access to the page could view the photo.

This isn’t going to work. I realized that once the viewer is on the page and viewing the photo, they can save it or screen capture it. After that, they could share the digital photo with whoever they wanted. There isn’t much protection here.

My next thought was to put the digital photo in a password-protected zip file. That is a good idea. The photo can only be viewed by someone who knows the password.

Oh wait, that doesn’t work either. I end up with the same problem as the hosted webpage. Once the file is accessed, the user can do anything they want.

So it occurs to me… I keep returning to an encryption solution rather than a copy protection solution. Encryption is useful because only those with the correct password can access the photo; however, it is not the same as my ultimate goal, which is to copy protect a digital photo and prevent it from being copied.

I guess you can say encryption is a way of keeping the honest people… well, honest.

I need a way to protect my photo regardless of the recipient’s intent. I realized I needed a solution in which everyone can see the photo but no one can do anything with it. Is it even possible to find such a solution?

When I was talking with a neighbor who is an IT guy, he mentioned a concept that I’d heard of before but didn’t apply to my thinking. Rather than a digital method of sending the photo, he proposed a type of physical dongle that held the photo. He explained that without the physical device, viewing the photo is impossible.

The lightbulb went on!

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How To: Get Serial Number of USB Flash Drive

Using the CMD prompt in Windows 10 or 11, it is a one line request to get the serial number of a USB flash drive. The serial number in question is the device serial number which follows the device and will be the same serial number to identify the physical device. This serial number is written into read-only memory on the flash drive and cannot be duplicated or deleted or modified. This is different than the volume serial number which we talk about from a previous post.

Steps are very simple:

# Insert a flash drive (or multiple)

# Select a flash drive by clicking on the drive letter

# In the Explorer path field type cmd

usb flash drive, cmd prompt

This will open the Command Prompt

# Copy the text below and click Enter

wmic path Win32_USBControllerDevice get Dependent | find “USBSTOR”

This request is asking Windows to search the computer for any Mass Storage devices (flash drives) connected to the computer USB Host Controller on the motherboard.

How To Get Serial Number of USB Flash Drive

Serial Number of USB Flash Drive, multiple drives

You do need to parse some information out because more than a serial number is given.

The serial number of the USB flash drive is listed last and there is a &0 at the end which is not part of the serial number. The hardware serial number can range in length so we don’t have a guideline for how long it should be. Typically we see serial number lengths range from 8 to 30 alpha-numeric values.

Using a 3rd party program, you can see the serial number of the USB flash drive matches that of the cmd prompt request.

software to get serial number of USB drive

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How Long Does A USB Flash Drive Last?

  1. Can you freeze a USB flash drive?
  2. Will a USB flash drive survive the washing machine?
  3. Can a USB flash drive survive getting wet?
  4. How long does a USB flash drive last?
  5. Why is a USB flash drive so durable?

How long does a USB flash drive last?

#1 – Can you freeze a USB flash drive?

Yes, if a USB drive is frozen it will work and will work immediately without need of defrosting it. Nerdy details below.

#2 – Will a USB flash drive survive the washing machine?

Yes, a USB flash drive will survive a washing machine; however, it is recommended to let the flash drive dry for 24 hours before trying to use it. Nerd details below.

#3 – Can a USB flash drive survive getting wet?

Yes, a USB flash drive will survive getting wet; however, it is recommended to let the flash drive dry for 24 hours before trying to use it. Nerd details below.

#4 – How long does a USB flash drive last?

Data on a USB flash drive could last forever if setup correctly and stored correctly. However the real-world answer depends on a couple things: What type of NAND flash memory? SLC, MLC or TLC and also how the device is stored between now and eternity. The nerd details are below but if you want a USB flash drive to last a realy long time you need to setup the device correct A) write protect it and you can’t leave it out in the elements B) don’t expose it to extreme tempuratures.

#5 – Why is a USB flash drive so durable?

A USB flash drive, or thumb drive, is made up of NAND memory. The unique thing about NAND memory is the ability for it to store data without elelecticty being required to flow through it.

The technical (nerdy) details about the above questions.

A quick recap about traditional storage memory. In very simply terms your computer uses a hard drive and uses RAM. The hard drive (at least the old’en days) uses a magnetic disk to store data. The magnetic platter(s) inside the hard drive hold positive and negative charges. The + and – equal the binary zero and ones – because of the charge state the hard drive could “remember” data without needing power.

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What replaces write protect switch on USB flash drive?

physical write protect switch, USB

The concept of a write protect switch on a USB flash drive is to make it read only (locked). When the device is locked content on the drive cannot be changed, altered, manipulated, formatted or deleted off the drive. What GetUSB.info never understood is the value of a physical write protect switch.

Sure a USB write protect switch helps the honest people stay honest, but that approach isn’t very secure and certainly doesn’t apply for all situations.

So what replaces a write protect switch for a USB flash drive?

How about a programmatic way to add or remove the write protection to a flash drive?

Better yet, how about assigning a password to the programmatic way of adding or removing the write protection?

We can relax because the Lock License drives address both of these issues.

The Lock License drive is a hardware based ( at the chip level ) write protection solution and through a specific vendor software command the write protection can be removed to make the USB stick writable.

The write protection is configured on the USB controller of the flash drive. This means the write protection is done at the device level and will follow the USB stick. The result is a Lock License drive which is truly read-only when connected to anything… such as a Windows computer, Mac computer, Linux box, Smart TV, car stereo, anything!

The Lock License drive comes with a software method to unlock the drive and make it writable. This special software requires a password to be assigned to the unlocking. The password is required because the manufacturer, Nexcopy, didn’t want a universal way to unlock the drive.

Kanguru manufactures a USB flash drive with a physical write protect switch. The write protection itself is as secure as the Lock License solution, the difference is a Lock License drive adds one additional layer of security. The additional layer of security, the password requirement, is an important step for ensuring the device is as secure as possible.

Another interesting fact about the Lock License drive is the default state of the USB stick being read-only, or write protected. This means it is impossible for a user to accidently leave the Lock License drive unlocked.

The “locking” or write protection is done when power is cut from the device. Even if a user forgets to lock the drive, the locking happens automatically when the USB is disconnected from the computer.

It is worth noting there is no universal way to write protect any flash drive, this is why you cannot buy some software solution to do the feature. Write protection is a hardware based solution, not software.

The Lock License drive is manufactured by Nexcopy Inc who is based out of Southern California. The product is available in both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 technology and ranging in GB capacities from 2GB through 128GB.

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Aleratec – Closed Their Doors February 2022

From all accounts it appears Aleratec closed their doors and out of business from sometime starting in February, 2022.

GetUSB.info has called the corporate office multiple times searching for comment, but no answer. In addition, it appears Google removed Aleratec from their search results as their domain www.aleratec.com has been off-line for well over 30 days. We are posting this information in the event end-users are looking for support or warranty information related to the company.

Aleratec, Inc. was a family-owned, California-based company with two decades’ experience in designing, developing and marketing products acclaimed for high performance, reliability and ease of use.

Greg Morris, CEO of Nexcopy Inc, a similar company profile and also based in Southern California commented today after request, “I’ve known about Perry Solomon, the CEO, well over twenty years and he was always a good person to speak with regarding industry trends and business practices. Extremely friendly and approachable. Perry was focused on bring a solution to the market which brought true value to the end-user. I wish him the best of luck with his next business adventure.”

Aeratec sold PC based and standalone flash memory duplicators, CD and DVD duplicators, hard drive duplicators and hard drive demolishers. Aleratec also provided a “charge and guard” cabinet for charging portable devices like tablets. Schools found the charge and guard cabinet particularly beneficial.

At the time of this posting some products can still be found on-line, but most models seem to be listed as out of stock or on back order.

If Aleratec would like to comment or provide information for post sales support and parts, please reach out at: gmo @ getusb dot info and we can post the information in this article

aleratec out of business

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