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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.

8 Technology Gadgets To Boost Your Business

SmallBizBee posted a nice article today about eight tech gadgets which can help boost your busines in either profit, production, efficiency or exposure.  Click for the full article and how these items can impact your business.  For a quick read we have the summary:
  • ConnectMe Home Phone Adapter
  • USB Duplicator for data loading by Nexcopy
  • Wireless Solar Keyboard
  • Noise Canceling Headphones
  • MIFI Liberate
  • HDMI Pocket Projector
  • Absolutepower Charger
  • Touch Mouse T620
Source:  SmallBizBee.com Continue Reading

Protecting IP on USB

The above InfoGraph was provided by Nexcopy Company and highlights the current and services available for protecting intellectual property on USB flash media, or USB Copy Protection.  The concept behind this USB copy protection solution is the ability to share digital files on a flash drive with others, but restrict their ability to pass along that information. With the above solution a user can protect different file types which are the most popular multimedia files such as PDF, MP3, QuickTime, MP4, M4V, html, flash and some other listed.  This post is not intended as advertising, but a share of products and services about USB copy protection available on the market today. Continue Reading

Longevity of USB Flash and Wear Leveling

I think we have all heard a USB can only be used so many times.  Some say the number is 1,000 writes – some say the number is 100,000 writes.  One thing I do know for sure, it’s impossible to tell on any one specific device.  The life cycle of a USB is directly related to the flash memory…and from model to model or style to style, who knows what quality of flash is used.  With that said, we can still explain the theory behind making USB drives last longer.  For the most part it boils down to several elements  A)  the memory type and quality and B) the wear leveling technique. As a quick summary the NAND flash in USB can be either SLC, MLC or TLC (single cell, multi-layer cell or triple-layer cell memory).  Typically you will find MLC and now mostly TLC in USB sticks.  SLC can be found but typically on the very high end devices. Wear leveling is a technique to prolong the life of the erasable flash memory.  To summarize, flash memory has individual, erasable segments that can be set as zero’s or ones (set as either positive or negative charge).  However, after a certain number of erase and write cycles the segment (cell) becomes too unstable for reliable use. Wear leveling is the algorithm used by the controller on the device which attempts to arrange the erase and writes evenly across the flash medium.  Typically flash can have a cycle between 3,000 and 5,000 erase/writes.  In addition to the usable area, the flash also has some cells with specific blocks for extended live which can handle up to 100,000 writes.  This is the area where the controller makes not of the segments previously used and maps out the next best cells to use during an erase/write cycle. There are three types of wear leveling. No wear leveling – A Flash memory storage system with no wear leveling will not last very long if it is writing data to the flash. Without wear leveling, the Flash controller must permanently assign the logical addresses from the host computer to the physical addresses of the Flash memory. This means that every write to a previously written block must first be read, erased, modified, and re-written to the same location. This is very time consuming and highly written locations will wear out quickly with other locations even being completely unused. Once a few blocks reach their end of life the drive is no longer operable. Dynamic wear leveling – The first developed type of leveling is called dynamic wear leveling and it uses a map to linklogicl block addresses from the host to the physical Flash memory. Each time the host writes replacement data, the map is updated so the original physical block is marked as invalid data, and a new block is linked to that map entry. Each time a block of data is re-written to the Flash memory it is written to a new location. Static wear leveling – The other type of wear leveling is called static wear leveling which also uses a map to link the block addresses to physical memory addresses. Static wear leveling works the same as dynamic wear leveling except the static blocks that do not change are periodically moved so that these low usage cells are able to be used by other data. This rotational effect of block addressing enables an SSD to operate until most of the blocks are near their end of life. The above are three types of wear leveling and there are three types of techniques used to extend the life of a USB drive. Error correction – Code which is kept and logs bad blocks so they cannot be used again in future writes. Pool reserve – Where if a write fails to a block it can be re-routed to the pool of reserved blocks and written there. Track usage  – Blocks on the media can be tracked in a least recently used queue of some sort. The data structures for the queue itself must be wear leveled as well as this queue information is constantly changing. Source:  Wikipedia and Nexcopy Inc. duplicator manufacturer. Continue Reading

Rip and Tear Gigabytes To Go

Burning CDs is slow and impractical when at a clients site.  In addition, who wants to leave behind their 16GB flash drive with a mix of personal and professional information?  With that said, we designed a small pack of drives we could tear and use when needed.  Since we travel and present files to clients this gives us an easy, inexpensive and creative way to leave files with the client. The design lends itself to the old-school flyers you’d see around town for a local band playing at a pub or someone looking to offer odd-job services.  The physical form factor says it all…quick, easy, here-ya-go. Each pack of four is recycled paper used as it’s chassis/case and COB memory and USB connector (Chip On Board) for the memory.  Each tab is perforated for easy tear and use functionality. The designer Kurt Rampton of Bolt Group offers the drives in a couple different Continue Reading

BlurPort Is Gate Keeper For Your USB Things

BlurPort is putting a cool twist to securing your USB devices.  From flash drives to hard drives BlurPort has you covered. The product can be found (and funded) on Kickstarter right now.  The concept is the BlurPort device is an 8GB stick…but it’s more.  The BlurPort uses a multi-factor authentication method to unlock your digital content.  Meaning you need the knowledge of the password and you need a physical device to act as the token.  What is the physical device you ask?  Simple:  your smartphone. The BlurPort app on your phone will offer many different ways to authenticate yourself, from facial recognition and eye scanning to NFC tokens, even pattern trace passwords. So who wants another 8GB flash drive…well the BlurPort can also grant access to your USB hard drive and other storage devices.  By removing the tail end of the BlurPort you now have a female USB socket for connecting another USB peripheral.  This is where we believe the product is very unique.  The BlurPort (now you can understand the name) is the gate-keeper for all your USB devices.  It’s the digital road block to access and only your dual authentication will grant access. Work flow after the jump: Continue Reading

Ajay Bhatt Inventor of USB, Nominated

One of the most underrated and overlooked advancements in personal computers is the USB port.  The USB protocol has given countless device makers, cable manufacturers and peripheral innovators the ability to quickly and easy connect their products to a host computer.  It has finally been recognized that Ajay V. Bhatt and his team are getting the praise they deserve with the nomination of the European Inventor Award in the non-European Countries category. It may not be as well known on this side of the Atlantic, but the European Inventor Award is highly regarded and considered the “Oscar” of the technology award. By nominating Bhatt and his team for their amazing efforts to bring about “one of the most revolutionary advances in computing since the development of the silicon chip”, Europe is finally taking steps to give these inventors the credit they so rightly deserve. While we may take it for granted, the PC industry was a mess back in 1997 and installing a new device – be it a mouse, camera, printer or even storage – was not as simple as plugging in a standard cable and installing a few drivers. Thanks to Bhatt’s leadership, this all changed and now consumers can be almost assured of interoperability between peripherals and the operating system. Since 1997, over 10 billion USB devices have been shipped and we are not exaggerating when we say that entire markets owe their existence to the lowly USB standard. Hopefully, on May 28th Bhatt Continue Reading

Weight Management System via USB Fork

In what is easily one of the strangest weight loss ideas we have seen in a long while comes word of a new Kickstarter project called the HAPIfork. The USB HAPIfork or Happy Fork is a smart fork which can track how fast you are eating and make recommendations on how fast you should be eating. Simply put, most people eat their food way too fast which can lead to digestion problems, acid reflux and even weight gain. The HAPIfork can break you of this bad habit as it will tell you when you are eating too fast via gentle vibration. As time goes by, you will naturally change your eating pace and not only potentially lose weight but also learn to enjoy your food more. Best of all, you can track all your meals and eating habits on your computer or Android device – via a free included app – as the HAPIfork will come with integrated Bluetooth and USB 2.0 connectivity. Where this is a wireless electronics device you will also have to plug it into a free USB 2.0 port from time to time to recharge, but this is also a great time to download your data from your HAPIfork. If you think you could benefit from such a device, you should rush over to Kickstarter and make a pledge. Expect to pledge $99 if you want to actually get one when they are made. Though with such a high asking price, you will need to be very dedicated to eating healthier. Continue Reading

Gadgeteer Loves USB Power Now on Alaska Airlines

Question:  Would you take a slimmer seat cushion (thus less space) to gain USB power? If your answer is yes, then Alaska Airlines has you covered. Alaska announced last week that the new seats, manufactured by German company Recaro Aircraft Seating, will also include 110-volt socket AND USB power outlets on the seat back in front of every passenger.  To date, the company has installed the slim seats with USB sockets on seven new planes and plans to have them on 75% of its fleet of 125 planes by the end of 2014. Initial response from customers Continue Reading

USB To Kick Into High High Gear

You can’t help to think Apple’s push for Thunderbolt has something to do with the latest announcement from the USB-IF…in that transfer speeds via USB will double what the USB 3.0 specification currently is.  If development can stay on target, this increased speed should be seeing implementation by end of 2014. The new specification will run with USB 3.0 sockets and connectors; however, will require new wire setup for the cables. It is expected to see the faster USB spec in PCs, adapter cards and hard drives, but will take significantly longer to reach mobile devices and tablets.  As it stands now, USB 3.0 is just gaining momentum as a standard socket in PCs and mobile devices should start seeing 3.0 connectors in late 2013.   Continue Reading

Flash Memory – Supply and Demand

In recent weeks the cost of flash memory has increased substantially.  The commodity product, is for the most part, a stable consumable with pricing that fluctuations in single digit percentages.  However, lately the prices have increased between 10-30%.  As with any product there are variables which contribute to price and the following information might help explain why flash memory is getting more expensive. The two largest manufacturers of flash memory (NAND memory) are Samsung and Toshiba.  Together they account for about 70% of the world’s flash.  These companies produce a wide variety of flash memory models and the factories have various levels of quality for the output of their product. Typically the high performance memory that gets the best test ratings is sold to large consumers like Apple, Nokia and Sony.  As the ratings for the speed of the memory drop, these variants get pushed into the low-end market segments, such as USB drives and inexpensive MP3 players and other promotional gadgets. In Q3 2012 Toshiba made an announcement they will reduce world wide production by 30%.  Since this time, flash pricing has remained stable and has not decreased in cost. With the on-going patent battles between Apple and Samsung the Cupertino based company made a decision Continue Reading

Microsoft Foils USB Hack In Latest Windows Update

When a USB stick is connected to a PC the Windows operating system enumerates the device.  In simple terms, this means Windows will check to see what type of device was just connected, a HID device, Mass Storage Devicet etc, it will also check the speed of the device. During the enumeration process some registry entries are made into the Windows registry…this is where a hacker could get into your system and take control.  This is the update Microsoft issues earlier this week to fix the security flaw. Since the vulnerability is triggered during USB enumeration, no user intervention is required. In fact, the vulnerability can be triggered when the workstation is locked or when no user is logged in, making this an unauthenticated elevation of privilege for an attacker with casual physical access to the machine. Other software that enables low-level pass-through of USB device enumeration may open additional avenues of exploitation that do not require direct physical access to the system. So be sure to update your PC with the update notification comes through – it’s in your best interest. Full Microsoft article Continue Reading

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