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USB Lego Monsters By Mindstroms

lego mindstromWhat could be better than working with USB, robots, legos and our imagination? Our beloved memories of childhood play with Legos has now turned into adult fun with the new robotic line of Mindstroms. The Mindstroms from Lego is based off their NXT Technology whereby a main NXT brain unit controls 5 different robotic functions for you to let the imagination run free. Build anything you want with the legos, intuitive robotic software or get extreme with Lego’s open source developers kit. So what are the 5 building blocks of the Mindstrom units?
  • Touch sensor
  • Sound sensor
  • Light sensor
  • Ultrasonic sensor
  • Servo motors
Through these sensors, some crafty lego design build your robot and communicate via USB for software download and development stages. The world’s next Frankenstein is only a lego or two away. So this is how it works. Build your lego monster with available parts kits.

mindstrom lego kit

Launch the intuitive robot software and use pre-defined commands to build motion, touch, light and other sensory functions.

mindstrom software

Last, connect and communicate via USB to test your functions and ultimately download the finished firmware version to the NXT Lego robot.

usb mindstrom

The USB monster Lego kits, or Mindstroms are available for $250 from Amazon. This is one excellent gift for the 9+ age who’s into computers, gadgets and tinkering.
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USB Hack: Turn Any USB Drive Into a Readyboost Drive

Readyboost is a Windows Vista feature which uses flash memory to enhance computer performance.  The reports have varied about it’s success, but one thing is for sure – you need a Readyboost drive to use the feature – well, until now. Here is a USB hack or work-around for turning any regular USB stick into a Readyboost drive.  First, lets look to see what Windows would like in a Readyboost drive:
  • The USB Key must be at least USB 2.0.
  • The device must be able to do 3.5 MB/s for 4 KB random reads uniformly across the entire device and 2.5 MB/s for 512 KB random writes uniformly across the device.
  • The USB Key has to have at least 64mb of free space.
If your USB key is at least USB 2.0, but is rated slower for the random reads and writes required to use ReadyBoost, more than likely you have seen this message:

readyboost error window

If so, plug in the USB Key, and cancel Autoplay if it pops up. Click on Start button, and select “Computer.” After Windows Explorer opens, in the right window pane find the USB Key you want to use. Right click and select Properties, then select Continue Reading

USB Hack: Disable USB Port on PC

usb connector, usb portFor many IT managers USB port connectivity can still pose a large threat to company security.  One quick down-and-dirty method is disabling the read and write from any system USB port.  This can be done through a quick registry edit. Here is the full Microsoft article explaining how to disable a USB port (link). Note:  This is a registry edit so be sure to backup your registry first and know how to restore it in case something terrible happens. To disable the access to USB port, in windows XP and 2000: 1. Click Start, and then click Run. 2. In the Open box, type regedit, and then click OK. 3. Locate, and then click the following registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\UsbStor 4. In the right pane, double-click Start. 5. In the Value data box, type 4, click Hexadecimal (if it is not already selected), and then click OK. 6. Quit Registry Editor. To re-enable a disabled port: 1. Click Start, and then click Run. 2. In the Open box, type regedit, and then click OK. 3. Locate, and then click the following registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\UsbStor 4. In the right pane, double-click Start. 5. In the Value data box, type 3, click Hexadecimal (if it is not already selected), and then click OK. 6. Quit Registry Editor. Continue Reading

USB Drive Ejector Software

I reported a while back on a product called Unlocker if you are having problems unlocking your USB drive from a Windows operating system. Today I bring you another package which does the same function; however, is easier to use. USB Drive Ejector is a simple utility which lists all USB devices on your buss and with a double click – you can unlock and eject the device.

eject usb drive

This is a great tool to have in case you’ve ran into:
  1. Cannot delete file, access denied
  2. Sharing violation
  3. Source destination file in use
  4. File is in use by another program, etc.
However, you should always proceed with caution when a stubborn drive wont eject. Sometimes…and I mean sometimes…there are reasons. Such as virus software scanning the memory device or Windows writing to the device in cache memory. These examples are far and few between so a couple of common sense activities might be in order, such as Continue Reading

6 iPhone Hacks An iPhone User Would Probably Want

I don’t own an iPhone, but my neighbor & buddy & fellow entrepreneur does. Recently he showed me some cool things he’s done with the phone. So here are 6 iPhone hacks any iPhone owner would probably want [to check out]. Note: You take responsibility for your actions.
iphone hack
  1. iPhone Interface Tool – This toolkit lets you move files around on the iPhone, run any desired applications on the iPhone or activate the phone without iTunes.
  2. Use LED lights to create your own flash for the iPhone camera.
  3. Drop your iPhone and broke the screen? No problem, learn how to replace it here.
  4. Here’s another way to unlock your iPhone SIM card.
  5. Include the WiFi music store with this firmware version of 1.1.1 release.
  6. Not a true “hack” in the traditional sense, but create and order your own customized cover design for the iPhone.
When my buddy isn’t chatting it up on his iPhone or texting with the footer “Sent from my iPhone” he runs a nice little Photo Birth Announcements business. Continue Reading

Onion Powered iPod

So it turns out a white onion is not only good for salsa, but good for charging iPods too. Here is a video showing you how to charge an iPod with an onion, Gatorade and USB cable. I knew those electro-lights are good for something. For those not interested in watching a 3 minute video here is the down-n-dirty:
  • put two holes on either side of your onion with screwdriver
  • soak the thing in Gatorade until most is gone (about 1 cup worth)
  • use the iPod USB cable and push in the USB connector into the onion.

Your iPod will then turn on and charge shortly there after. So for about 1 cup of gatoraid soaked into the onion will get you about 30 minutes of charge time. Source: TreeHugger, YouTube link If you like this we have other USB hacks and USB Tutorials. Continue Reading

Hack: iPod Touch as Mass Storage Device

As if you need one more device for storing files you eventually can never find, the iPod Touch can now be used as a USB mass storage device.
ipod touch hack
At this time, the following hack only applies to MacFanBoys – I’ll post a PC solution when found. Per TUAW:
You know that “Enable disk use” checkbox? The one that appears in iTunes for most modern iPods? That checkbox isn’t there for the iPod touch. The touch provides no built-in disk access utilities but if you have an Intel Mac, and aren’t afraid of the command line, you can use these Media Folder utilities to copy files to and from your touch.
Note: To follow updates jump over to TUAW. Continue Reading

PStart – Your Custom Desktop Start Tray for USB Stuff

Is your UFD stuffed with portable applications? Do you find yourself constantly exploring the USB drive to launch your program? If so, forget about it. Use PStart. I while back I wrote an article about 55 Portable Applications to Make a Super Stick – well that list is nothing without the PStart tray tool. (PStart is apart of that list too).
pstart
Pstart is a simple tray tool to start user defined applications from their flash drive. Designed to run portable applications you can start anything without actually opening up and exploring your flash drive – do it right from your desktop tray. Of course Pstart is as portable as your applications and will work on any PC system. PStart has four useful tabs to help in your daily routine. Items, Search, Notes and Info. Here’s a break down: Continue Reading

Run iTunes on a USB Drive or USB Stick

apple logo silver blue

Today I put together all the information needed to run a mobile Library from Apple iTunes on a USB stick or USB drive. This method will run the entire iTunes application from the storage device, making it easy to manage iTunes libraries from a single location. I believe this is how iTunes should have be developed – as having a library specific for each computer is a frustrating way to enjoy your music.

What pushed me over the edge is my wife wanting to purchase music from iTunes at work and sync them up with the iTunes computer at home. Typically this is done by purchasing the music and downloading directly to the iPod, but she’s a CPA and travels from location to location for audits and doesn’t even use the same computer all the time – yet she loves her music. The solution was to run iTunes from a USB flash drive to manage a single Library.

This tutorial includes installing iTunes on a flash drive, creating autorun files for auto-launching iTunes from the flash drive and how to set-up iTunes on different computers to run a music library from the single flash drive. Of course this method also works for larger storage hard drives – basically anything that appears as a Mass Storage Device on your system. If you are looking for a long term strategy for managing your iTunes music, I strongly recommend doing this process to an external hard drive that is, at least, 120GBs. So here we go:

Here is a quick summary so you know what we are getting into:

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AppleTV Hack: External Storage via USB

The good folks at AppleTVHacks just released a way to use an external drive via USB for additional storage. Here comes the 1TB AppleTV! So here’s the high-level summary, the AppleTV hack allows the system to boot normally from the internal drive of the AppleTV then allows for digital content to be stored, pulled and played from an external drive. Unfortunately this AppleTV hack is only working on Max OSX at the moment, but a community call to action has been made to incorporate this hack to support other opperating systems. Ahh, how nice.
appletv hack usb storage
If interested visit the other side of this link for all the gritty detail. Continue Reading

Problem Ejecting USB Mass Storage Device

On more occasions that I’d like to admit, Windows will not eject a USB device from my operating system when using the Safely Remove Hardware in the icon tray. The annoying error message Windows displays “The device cannot be stopped right now. Try stopping the device again later” usually appears in a time sensitive situation. So what is the work around?
usb device locked
Try using a freeware software utility I found while reading FreewareGenius.com called Unlocker. Unlocker is a utility that frees a file or folder which is being used by another program or process. Albeit there are situations that a file should remain tied to it’s process or program but other times you need to force the release. Continue Reading

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