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August 2002, Week 4 -- More Teeny-Tiny Storage

    

 Cruzer 

   SanDisk just came out with another one of those flash-memory storage devices. You know, the kind that plug directly into a USB port. But this one has a difference. SanDisk calls it the "Cruzer," as in "cruiser," and what's different is that memory part is replaceable.

   The Cruzer is the size of a cigarette lighter (whatever that is), and inside it is a little flash memory card like the ones that have become common for digital cameras. Unfortunately, it's not the same size as the ones used in digital cameras, so you can't just swap with those. Too bad.

   The Cruzer flash memory card is the size of a small postage stamp. Sandisk makes these, so you'll have to buy new ones from them. Prices for the Cruzer with flash memory card in place range from $60 for 32MB (megabytes) to $200 for 256MB. Those are list prices.

 

   There has been considerable chatter on the high tech circuit that these flash memory devices will come to replace CDs for data storage. This is probably mostly wishful chatter from the makers of flash memory. The advantage of CD storage is not only that it's cheap but that it's relatively permanent. At least, no stray magnetic fields are going to affect a CD.

 

   But replaceable flash memory has distinct advantages. The obvious one is the tiny size, but above that is drop-in, plug-in factor. Any computer with a USB port can read and write to the Cruzer and similar devices (when you plug it in, the computer recognizes it as an additional disk drive). The other thing is that there aren't many files larger than a 32MB or 64MB that a flash memory card can't handle. The smallest one would easily hold more than 15,000 single-spaced typed pages of text. Pictures and sound eat up much more space than text and so would allow for fewer files.

 

   SanDisk is a major manufacturer of flash memory cards and you can get more info at www.sandisk.com.

 

Fast CD drive

Boa Drive

   A new 48X CD-rewritable "BOA" drive from EZQuest feels like a brick carrying it around but is fast and rugged, no doubt about it. You can write a full CD in about a minute and a half using its firewire connection, and the drive is hot swappable, as they say. That means you can take it from machine to machine, place to place, and record CDs full of data faster than the security guards can get to you. At least that's the way they use these things in the movies. Another plus: no drive I.D. recognition is required as you move from computer to computer.

 

   The drive comes in a heavy-gauge steel case and has its own built-in power supply and cooling fan. This is most of what brings the weight up to eight pounds, a lot more than most CD drives. Of course it also makes it very rugged, and other external CD drives normally don't count the weight of their power supply when they give you the numbers. (That's also an item to watch out for when looking at the weight figures for laptop computers; they never count the weight of the converter needed to take it off battery power.)

 

   List price on the new BOA drive is $219, but we were able to find it for around $190 at discount dealers. The drive works with both Macs and PCs. Web: www.ezq.com.

 

Getting in touch -- remotely

   "I'm In Touch," from 01 Communications, is one of several services and programs that let you access your PC from out of town or across town. There are differences here, though, and let's hit some of the highlights.

   First of all, this is a service, with a $10 monthly charge, and is not a remote control program. Unlike the popular "pcAnywhere" software from Symantec, you cannot control your PC from somewhere else. You can, however, access the files on that PC and collect mail. You do not have to have software on the remote computer to use "I'm In Touch." The computer you are trying to access has to be turned on and connected to an Internet service, but this is true of all remote access programs and services.

 

   In operation, I'm In Touch software is loaded into your work or home computer and that machine is left on and connected when you travel. You access that computer through the I'm In Touch service, which is an Internet server that gets in touch with your computer. Highly encrypted passwords are required for the access and to keep you files secure.

 

   Finally, I'm In Touch allows streaming video. In practice this means you can monitor security cameras from a remote location. You can even be notified when the camera software senses motion. This system is much faster than others available. We've had good results with this company's products in the past; more info can be had from www.01com.com.

 

Internuts

  

 

-- www.addall.com A service that automatically searches over 40 book sites for the lowest prices. The current best seller "The Nanny Diaries," which lists for $25, they found for $9.50; a Harry Potter audio book on CD, which lists for $50, was found for $16.

-- www.ericjhellergallery.com Stunning computer graphics generated from algorithms programmed by a Eric Heller, a member of the physics and chemistry department at Harvard. He also sells prints.

NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com  or bobschwab@aol.com.