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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.

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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Ten Questions & Answers About Disk Signature Collision

Below are a list of the ten most common questions about a disk signature collision along with the related answer. The bottom of this article includes a video for some of the diskpart steps, which is needed when investigating a disk signature collision.

  1. What is a disk signature collision?
  2. Why does Windows create a disk signature collision?
  3. How do I find the disk signature ID?
  4. Does Windows 10 have diskpart?
  5. How do I start or launch diskpart?
  6. How to change a disk signature?
  7. Is there a disk signature collision for every device?
  8. What is MBR verse GPT
  9. What is the difference between an online and offline device, how do I fix it?
  10. Where can I find the full list of diskpart commands?
  11. Jump right to the demonstration video at bottom of article

#1 – What is a disk signature collision?

When two (or more) storage devices have the same hexadecimal value for their disk ID (also known as disk signature). Windows does not like to see multiple storage devices with the same signature, so it will take all but one offline so the user gains access to only one device. The signature collision is most often found when binary copies of a master have been made to target devices.

#2 – Why does Windows create a disk signature collision?

Our understanding of why Microsoft did this was to prevent malware from spoofing the OS by presenting an identical seeming drive with bad intent. Bear in mind this MBR stuff was developed when dinosaurs still ruled the earth. Malware was but a dream in some teenage miscreants mind. So little effort was expended in that direction, much to the chagrin of todays Microsoft. The bible says something about this, “The sins of a father shall be visited upon their sons” or words to that effect.

#3 – How do I find the disk signature ID?

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What is USB4?

USB4 connector, close up

One-sentence summary; What is USB4

USB4 is the USB-C form factor for connecting; fully supports Thunderbolt 3 specification, all wrapped up using the USB 3.2 specification.

USB4 has four benefits over prior versions of USB.

Maximum Speed of 40Gbps. Using two-lane cables or a set of cables, devices may operate at up to 40 Gbps, the same speed as Thunderbolt 3. Keep in mind there is a big difference between Mb and MB. Mb is megabits, not Megabytes (MB). So for example 8Mb is about 1MB of data. As a reference, a typical MP3 audio file is about 3MB (megabytes). 5,000 MB/second is the theoretical maximum speed of USB4.

USB 4 supports DisplayPort 2.0. DisplayPort 2.0 cables feature 80Gbps bandwidth, making it possible to display ultra-high resolutions at previously impossible refresh rates. DisplayPort 2.0 can handle up to two 4K screens at 144Hz simultaneously, or an 8K display at up to 85Hz natively, with no form of image compression. This is true because USB4 uses all eight data lanes at once time.

Compatible with Thunderbolt 3 devices. USB4 is a protocol which supports all the specifications of Thunderbolt 3; however, Thunderbolt 3 is capable of 100Watts of bi-directional power delivery and not all manufacturers who support USB4 will not include the [full] power implementation of Thunderbolt 3.

Most efficient resource allocation scheme. USB4 devices use a process called “protocol tunneling” which optimizes the use of DisplayPort, PCIe and USB packets at the same time while allocating bandwidth to optimize efficiency. This scheme will create better performance across multiple devices with a collection of protocols.

USB4 will only operate through a USB-C type physical connector. USB4 peripherals will most likely not see older standard USB type A ports because the connection speeds and power delivery mechanisms will not be available. Although USB4 is 100% backward compatible with all other USB protocols, it doesn’t mean the older standard will get the improved benefits. If connecting, for example, a Type-A, 5 Gbps USB 3 port by using an adapter, the speed and power will drop to the lowest common denominator.

Some notable comments:

Device and host manufacturers will not [be required] to pay Intel royalties when implementing USB4 technology. This implies a better chance of mass adoption of USB4; however, there is a catch between manufacturing USB4 devices and making said products [fully] USB4 compliant. Specifically, the Thunderbolt compatibility specification may become a part of the product when developing and manufacturing a USB4 product which can use the USB4 logo. This issue means a consumer could buy a laptop with USB4 and find that it doesn’t work with a Thunderbolt 3 peripheral.

It is important to know Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 are logo certified programs from Intel which cost manufacturers time and money. So, while a USB4 powered computer could work with 40 Gbps devices or even those labeled as Thunderbolt, it may not be obvious because the product didn’t go through a certification process. Or the opposite of this would be a USB4 device does not support Thunderbolt because of the expense required to get the certificate.

USB4 has two speeds. As with Thunderbolt the paradox a USB4 product may not support the full 40Gbps specification. 40Gbps is the theoretical maximum speed, but many devices will use the lower 20Gbps standard because the manufacturing cost will be lower, thus creating a lower target price for consumers. If speed is the number one priority be sure and check the specifications of the USB4 product before purchase. At the time of this writing most USB4 products which support 40Gbps are cables and PCIe adapter cards.

Why the USB4 name?

An online article that summarized an interview with Brad Saunders the CEO of the USB Implementers Forum [USB.org or USB-IF] indicated the lack of space between “USB” and “4” is to focus away from USB version numbers and focus more on brand. This branding concept for USB is a good change, but afraid the history of all the USB versions of the past will continue to haunt them.

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Mini Portrait Display Monitor – Mini in Size, Large on Coolness

 mini portrait display monitor

Mini Portrait Display Monitor – Mini in Size, Large on Coolness

With the everlasting newsfeeds from Twitter and never-ending social media feeds a portrait style display is the ideal monitor keeping you connected while not eating up real-estate on your main monitor. We understand not one display size will fit all needs, but this mini portrait display stands tall amongst other sizes we’ve seen. The cool factor for this product is off the charts and wouldn’t you love to be the first in your office to have this setup?

Resolution is 1280 x 400 with a physical size of 70mm (x) 208mm (x) 16mm so for you Americans on the Imperial measuring system that is 8″ inches tall by 3″ inches wide. The monitor size is just under 8″ inches.

The mini portrait display uses an HDMI cable for video and micro-USB for power.

The display isn’t fully supported on the Mac so user experience will vary when paired with that OS, but the mini portrait display monitor will run as expected on a Windows machine. The unit is (about) $95 USD after the conversion from Yen. The company marketing this display is Sanko and product is not yet available.

Are you interested in this product? GetUSB.info is planning to bring in 50 units… get on the list to buy. Send an email to gmo (at) getusb.info to make a request.

small portrait display

mini portrait display, with hdmi

Source: Impress Watch, Japan

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