Key Drives, Memory Sticks, Flash Drives, whatever you want to call them, are the new floppy. Quick, simple to use they are by far the superior portable medium.
However, which one should you buy? Here is a short list of things you should look for when purchasing USB Flash Memory drives (in no particular order):
- Physical Shape -> Grab the plug of a USB device. That plug is a standard size. Try to buy a drive that has the same width and thickness as that plug. This will ensure that the drive plays nice in tightly packed areas. Larger drives may crowd other plugs or you may have to unplug stuff just to plug in your drive.
- Storage Capacity -> If you can afford it, get a minimum of 1 GB. 4 GB is a bit much, if you're moving lots of files or really big ones, get an external hard drive.
- Get High Speed USB (also called USB 2.0) -> Make sure the drive supports high speed transfer. Simply saying "compatible" doesn't mean much. USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 work together by design, the only issue is that you only get the high speed transfer rates when a high speed drive is plugged into a high speed socket. The speed difference is like night and day!
- Brand and Quality -> Stay away from no-name brand flash memory, especially if what you are storing on them is important. SanDisk and Verbatim are two good companies that I have used, but there are others. Since flash memory can only be written/erased 1 meeellion times (pinky to mouth) higher quality drives will distribute writing over the entire flash "area" so the drive ages equally. Higher quality drives last longer due to higher quality components and manufacturing.
- Moving Parts -> If you plan to be using the drive quite a bit, use a solid drive that utilizes a removable cap. New drives feature an extendable USB plug, but after a few hundred extensions/retractions the locking mechanism may wear out.
- U3 preinstalled software -> I bought a drive that has U3 installed on it. U3 is a system of installing software right on the drive so that you can run the software right off the drive no matter which computer you are using it on (only software from the U3 site can be installed). It has its own version of the "Start Menu" that launches when you insert the drive. I does this by exploiting the fact that all Windows computers automatically launch software on CDs upon insertion (horribly insecure, I will tackle this issue in a later post). The drive is actually two drives, part of it pretends to be a CD, the rest is the actual storage drive. I would avoid U3 if you can, otherwise the drive manufacturer may provide software to remove the U3 installation (I know SanDisk does).
This is because the box is dividing by powers of 10 but should be dividing by powers of 2. Confused? Let me explain.
Computers do math with 1's and 0's, therefore everything is a power of 2. Thus a kilobyte is not 1000 bytes, it is 1024 bytes. Dividing by 1000 gives a bigger number than dividing by 1024 (about 8% when comparing gigabytes).
This brings me to my next issue kilo-, mega-, and giga- are SI (metric) prefixes and should not be used with computer units. The following table shows the proper terms compared with convensional terms:
Quantities of bytes
|SI prefixes||Binary prefixes|
|kilobyte (kB)||103||210||kibibyte (KiB)||210|
|megabyte (MB)||106||220||mebibyte (MiB)||220|
|gigabyte (GB)||109||230||gibibyte (GiB)||230|
|terabyte (TB)||1012||240||tebibyte (TiB)||240|
|petabyte (PB)||1015||250||pebibyte (PiB)||250|
|exabyte (EB)||1018||260||exbibyte (EiB)||260|
|zettabyte (ZB)||1021||270||zebibyte (ZiB)||270|
|yottabyte (YB)||1024||280||yobibyte (YiB)||280|
Here is a table comparing reported vs actual size:
|Name||Bin ÷ Dec||Dec ÷ Bin||Example||Percentage difference|
|kilobyte : kibibyte||1.024||0.976||100 kB ≅ 97.6 KiB||+2.4% or −2.3%|
|megabyte : mebibyte||1.049||0.954||100 MB ≅ 95.4 MiB||+4.9% or −4.6%|
|gigabyte : gibibyte||1.074||0.931||100 GB ≅ 93.1 GiB||+7.4% or −6.9%|
|terabyte : tebibyte||1.100||0.909||100 TB ≅ 90.9 TiB||+10% or −9.1%|
|petabyte : pebibyte||1.126||0.888||100 PB ≅ 88.8 PiB||+12.6% or −11.2%|
|exabyte : exbibyte||1.153||0.867||100 EB ≅ 86.7 EiB||+15.3% or −13.3%|
|zettabyte : zebibyte||1.181||0.847||100 ZB ≅ 84.7 ZiB||+18.1% or −15.3%|
|yottabyte : yobibyte||1.209||0.827||100 YB ≅ 82.7 YiB||+20.9% or −17.3%|
Now I know that is quite a bit to absorb, you may want to ponder it for a few days. Until next time, keep having fun.
"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"