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Trek ThumbDrive Smart: Floppy disks are pretty useless, but on occasion, you'll still need them. We look at something that may finally do away with the floppy forever.
Date: December 27, 2003
Catagory: Memory & Storage
Written By:

Look at any modern PC, and you'll notice 2 things consistent with all of them. They will likely have a USB connection, and they will likely have a floppy drive. Floppies really aren't necessary anymore, as a PC function without them. Sure, sometime's you'll need to boot off a floppy to get to DOS, but in most cases, that's only required if you need to do a BIOS update. In anycase, most CDROMs support booting (as do most motherboards support CD booting), so there really is no need for floppies anymore. Nevermind the one obvious fact, a CDRW can hold close to 650MB, whereas a floppy a mere 1.44MB.

That being said, there are times when you don't need the storage capacity of a CDRW. Sometimes you just want a quick file copy of a word document to take with you on the road. Let's take the scenario of a desktop at home and a mobile for traveling. Let's also say you don't have a floppy on the desktop, or you've swapped the floppy drive out of the laptop for an extra battery. Although home networks are increasingly popular, not everyone has one, so we'll assume that a network copy is out of the question. Another scenario, if you do have a network connection, is your mobile is either in the car, or in your office. In that case, your options are to either:

1) Email the document to yourself
2) Burn the file on to a CD

The problems with the solutions are simple. Emailing yourself the document will be time consuming. Imagine if you're on a plane and you need access to the file. You are not going to be able to retrieve it until you arrive somewhere where you'll have internet access. The problem with the CD scenario, is it will take anywhere from one to two minutes (time to start CD authoring software, write time, and lead-out time), and in todays frantic lifestyles, that may be a minute too long. Add to the problems that CDs can be cumbersome if you have to carry them around.

Click to Enlarge

The we'll be looking at today addresses the issues raised above, and it's a little more handy than just being portable storage. Before we get further into it, let's take a look at the specifications...



-Windows: Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, XP with USB port
-Macintosh: Mac OS 8.6 through Mac OS X version 10.1 with USB port

Key Features

-USB Specification 1.1 maximum speed of 12 Mbit/sec.
-Capacity: 8MB/16MB/32MB/64MB/128MB.
-No external power supply required.
-Mass storage compliant
-Hot Plug and Play via USB port
-Solid state drive with no moving parts
-No installation required
-Write protection switch to protect your files/data from being overwritten.
-LED indicates the current state of the drive
-10-years of data retention

If you haven't already figured out, the one saving grace about floppies is they are small, and they're relatively useful for dragging around small files. USB thumbdrives though, blow floppies away when it comes to storage, and even when it comes to portability. These drives use flash memory, which means no moving parts, and the ThumbDrive pictured above draws power directly off the USB port.

Click to Enlarge

The Trek ThumbDrive is small. It's half the size of a pen, and easily fits in your pockets, yet feels robust enough, that if you sit on it, you should be fine. So long as you use Windows Me and above, the device is completely driverless. So long as your PC has USB 1.1 connections (a standard option in the last 5 years), you'll be able to make use of the ThumbDrive. The device will work in USB 2.0 ports, but at USB 1.1 speeds. Another feature is its cross platform ability, meaning you can use it in Macs (OS 8.6 and up).

In either platform, the device will appear as a removable storage device. The capacity of the unit we've received is 16MB. If that's too paltry for you, they have models with up to 128MB. The device works like any other storage device, where you can simply copy files back and forth from the device as you would a floppy. One thing that is suggested though... don't yank the Thumbdrive out when you're done with it, or you'll risk the possibility of data corruption. The proper procedure is to "eject" the unit, by stopping it, then pulling it out.

Much like a floppy, you can write protect your data so it won't be accidently erased or overwritten. Unfortunently, if somebody wants to "accidently" erase your stuff, they can. The only security is a lock switch. There isn't any software where you can encrypt your data, nor can you reserve a section to be private, like the DiskOnKey.

Next Page - Testing and Conclusions

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