Author Archive

Mark McCrosky

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. Posting on Quora.com as well.

The Difference Between a TF Card and microSD Card

In general terms the TF card and microSD card are the same. They are the same in physical size and same in most technical terms. The two devices may be used in exchange with each other.

There are some technical differences between the two which will be explained later, for now, the biggest difference between a TF card and microSD card is the history of the name.

The TF card came out first. TF card or T-Flash or TransFlash was first to market from SanDisk in 2004. SanDisk, in partnership with Motorola, created the TF card specification. The TF card was the smallest read/write memory form factor and was designed for mobile devices (thus the small size).

TF cards are based on NAND1 memory. The TF card did not last long. At the end of 2004 the Secure Digital Association, which is the governing body over Secure Digital media, absorbed the TransFlash technology and re-branded as: microSD.

This implies, the life of the TF card ended in late 2004 and the microSD card has been available ever since. This will explain why you cannot find a “TF” branded card today (2020). The other reason you cannot find TF cards today is the maximium size of only 16MBs or 32MBs at the time of production. Today you cannot find any memory device with that small of gigabyte capacity.

Here is the technical difference between the two: Micro SD cards can support SDIO mode, which means they can perform tasks unrelated to memory, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and Near Field Communication. Whereas a TransFlash card cannot perform this kind of task.

SDIO mode stands for Secure Digital Input Output, a type of Secure Digital card interface. It may be used as an interface for input or output devices.

The SD Association devised a way to standardize the speed ratings for different cards. These are defined as ‘Speed Class’ and refer to the absolute minimum sustained write speeds. Cards can be rated as Class 2 (minimum write speed of 2MB/s), Class 4 (4MB/s), Class 6 (6MB/s) or Class 10 (10MB/s). It’s important to note that these are the minimum, so it’s entirely possible a card can achieve faster speeds.

NAND is not an acronym. Instead, the term is short for “NOT AND,” a Boolean operator and logic gate. The NAND operator produces a FALSE value only if both values of its two inputs are TRUE. It may be contrasted with the NOR operator, which only produces a TRUE value if both inputs are FALSE.

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Use Windows Defender To Scan USB Sticks

You never know where a flash drive has been.

It’s always best to scan a USB flash drive.

Did you know Windows Defender can be setup to scan a USB stick automatically, when it’s plugged in? Below are the steps to make that configuration setup.

By default, Windows 10 does not have this setting configured. We are not sure why, as USB sticks and downloads from internet sites are probably the two most vunerable ways to get a computer infected. Our only guess, is the scan process of a USB stick can take some time, and for a user to have that step done with each connection, could reduce the user experience.

This tutorial will take about three minutes to setup. I would suggest read the rest of this article and when done, go back and perform the few steps required to make the Windows Defender scan for USB flash drives.

We are going to make a Group Policy to scan USB flash drives using Windows Defender.

Let us run the Group Policy editor.

Press the Windows Key + R

Type gpedit.msc and press Enter or OK.

Look for the Administrative Templates under the top Computer Configuration directory, expand this directory (folder)

Scroll down to Windows Components, expand it

In that directory scroll down more and look for Windows Defender Antivirus, expand it

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Did Apple Computer Make This USB Fan?

Billy Idol’s Hot In The City is a tune which comes to mind whenever talking about USB gadgets that cool thyself.

With summer coming into full swing, this is a good time for a USB fan mention. Cruising the Amazon website this Aikoper product popped up. At first glance I honestly thought the fan was designed by Apple Computers. The aluminum base, slick black body and the cool grey vents, thought it was from Apple for sure. Wrong!

This USB fan has some unique features we believe everyone will like.

There is no switch for turning the fan on or off. Rather you touch the aluminum base. That is very Apple’esc. A single tap to the base and the USB fan goes into “low speed” mode. A double tap will put the USB fan into “high speed” mode. The third tap will turn the fan off. The touch sensitive base has four rubber pads to insure no vibration during operation.

The fan itself is a dual-blade design. Meaning there are four blades toward the front of the bionic shaped shell and another four blades near the rear of the black shell. The idea here is reducing the device noise while in operation.

The black shell case is convex in design to pull air down and into the system, rather than up and into the system. Although the pitch of the shell isn’t great, we may assume less dust and dirt will come into the system from a pull-down air flow design. The curved shell sits on a the aluminum base with some pitch mobility to angle the fan a bit higher or lower for optimal position while in use.

The product dimensions are 5.6 x 3.9 x 4.9 (inches) and sells for $16.99 USD from the Amazon website (at the time of this post).

The Amazon listing has over 1,609 ratings with 61% as a five star product, 13% as four star product and the balance just picky people trying to be overly critical. To give you an idea of product feedback and experience, here are some testimonials from the Amazon listing:

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Sharing Sensitive Documents With a Third Party

You have a document, video or audio file with sensitive information on it and you need to send a copy to a third party. What options should you consider?

Three options come to mind: email, Dropbox or flash drive.

Sending an email is basically the same thing as sending a postcard. While there are efforts one can use to change this, email remains pretty wide open. This is true and scary; anyone who wants to read your email (not just the NSA) can read your email.

Most times you can send sensitive documents through email and nothing will happen. However; you are playing Russian roulette (almost literally, given the recent theft of 1.2 billion email account credentials by a Russian gang) with the security of that transmission. Remember, the topic of this post is about sharing sensitive data with a third party.

The next logical step would encrypting the email (or files) attached in the email. Encryption is a good option and certainly more secure than sending the email without encryption. You could run into a file size limitation though. Most videos will be larger than a 20MB, which is (generally) the maximum file size one could attached in an email. Encryption is a good next step, but there is a bigger issue at hand than file size. More about that in a few.

Dropbox is next on our list of most obvious options to share sensitive data with a third party. Dropbox is a great option when you have larger files. With Dropbox you could upload those big audio or video files and provide a download link for your recipient. Dropbox doesn’t encrypt your data by default so there is some exposure there. A quick and relatively safe method to encrypt your files using Windows would be compressing the video into a zip file and assigning it a password. Encrypting the data will provide that extra layer of security. As with an encrypted email, the encrypted Dropbox alternative also has a major flaw.

Ask yourself, “Do you trust the recipient?”

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Short Review of Windows 10 Computer Stick

In 2015 Intel introduced the Compute Stick or Computer Stick – the item has been around from that point onward. The idea is simple and elegant. Intel wanted to create an HDMI dongle computer which can run Windows 10.

There is no confirmation, but our suspicion is that Intel wanted a ultra-cheap and portable solution to run Windows for embedded applications like set-top boxes (DVRs) and other IoT (Internet of Things) products. If our assumption is correct, it’s a wonderful product and is a great solution for its intended purpose.

PCWorld did an incredible overview of the Compute stick in 2016, and a connection link to that article is at the footer of this post. The PC World review outlined the specifications and performance levels of the Intel based product. We will let that article do the heavy lifting for the tech people out there, but today we want to talk about the applications one might have for a computer stick.

For only $120 (ish) off Amazon, this is an excellent solution to run Windows 10 for a host of specific applications.

computer stick

Several bullet points worth mentioning right out of the gate:

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Formatting a USB Flash Drive as UDF

When trying to format a flash drive in Windows (7 or 10) you will see the file system options best suited for the device. The proper file systems for a flash drive would be: FAT, FAT32 or exFAT. Windows will also list NTFS for a flash drive, but not the best for a USB stick, as mentioned before. The file system types listed by the Windows GUI (Graphical User Interface) will depend on the GB capacity of the flash drive connected.

So why no UDF file system on the list?

First, let me say it IS possible for Windows to format a flash drive as UDF (Universal Disk Format). Microsoft just doesn’t want you to do it; and there are good reasons why.

Before the reasons given for not using UDF as a format on flash drives, let’s clear one thing up: If you think formatting a flash drive as UDF will make the thumb drive appear as an optical drive in the computer – you are mistaken!

From the Wikipedia page about Universal Disk Format, UDF, the specification is governed by the Optical Storage Technology Association and because of that, many believe a UDF anything will work like a disc. It, UDF, is most widely used for DVDs and newer optical disc formats, can be used on flash drives, but does make it operate like one.

If we take out the hope of formatting a USB with a UDF file system, some may feel the Universal Disk Format means the flash drive will work in anything, such as from Windows, to Mac, to Linux, Symbian and/or to proprietary system. The truth here is exFAT will do just the same. Please keep that in mind.

So why not format a USB as UDF in Windows? Here is a list:

  • The lack of fully-functional filesystem check tools.
  • 64GB limit with Windows & Linux, a bug, not a limit of UDF
  • SD and USB mass storage devices are exposed to quick wear-leveling failure
  • UDF is read-only for Windows XP

Without bogging down this post with ultra-technical information, from the above list, the most important to consider is the first, lack of filesystem check tools.

This means if the USB is pulled out while in operation and a bit is affected by the action, there are no tools to check the file system for errors. You are flying the dark as to why the USB no longer works and there are no tools available to help you figure it out. Given the flash drive was specifically designed to be portable and quick access, the above action is most certainly going to happen sooner or later, which makes UDF a high risk file system.

How to format a flash drive as UDF:

Connect the USB to your computer and note the assigned drive letter

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Home Office Mini USB Flash Drive Duplicator

Today, more than ever, people are working from the home office. Working in a comfortable environment is nice and can be very productive. However; sometimes the home office doesn’t have the same computer equipment or gear to do the jobs needed. With many organizations who are practicing social distancing, or building a work community of remote offices, one will find certain items are still needed.

Let us look at a simple way to make USB copies at the home office. For example, let us think about an IT manager who needs to roll out restore installation packages, or a software developer who is required to deploy software updates to a group of remote users. This IT manager or software developer needs a quick, easy and inexpensive piece of equipment to do the job.

The mini-sized USB flash drive duplicator by Nexcopy is a great solution for this exact problem. The unit pictured below is 6″ long and 4″ wide. So it will fit into any briefcase (if those are used anymore) and light as a book.

The USB duplicator allocates one socket for the master device and four sockets for the target devices. The duplicator is a binary copier and will copy any file format or file system connected to it. The duplicator is powered through a USB cable and is ideal for any sized USB flash drive.

With a duplicator like this, making copies at the home office is very quick and very easy. The duplicator works with a single push of a single button. The mini duplicator may be configured to perform a binary copy or a binary copy and compare. The copy and compare function gives the user piece of mind that each copy is exactly the same as the master. So the USB flash drives can be delivered with the utmost confidence each copy is working and an exact digital copy of the master.

Flipping through the features of the duplicator, we have some other bullet points worth mentioning:

  • Asynchronous copy mode, all the time
  • Binary copier will copy any format; FAT, FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, HFS, Ext2,3,4, Proprietary
  • Binary CRC verification algorithm
  • Quick Erase and Full Erase for disk sanitization
  • Four language modes in LCD menu
  • USB speed benchmark utility
  • Firmware upgradeable

So how much will this mini USB duplicator benefit a home office employee? The easiest way to determine this is asking ourselves how much time the duplicator will save. This mini system, called the Nexcopy USB104SA will copy one GB of data to each device in about one minute. That is ultra-fast. So if the IT manager or software engineer had to data load a 12 GB data set, it would take about twelve minutes to make four copies. There is now way Windows could copy data that fast to four sticks. When using the copy and compare mode it takes a bit longer… about 1.5 minutes per GB. So still incredibly quick.

There are a couple of features listed above one may not be familiar with, so let’s review. The quick erase or full erase is a scrub method to remove all data from the USB flash drive. This is a nice feature to guarantee data is removed from the USB with no chance of the data being recovered. Formatting a drive doesn’t remove data, but erase will. The quick erase will scrub certain portions of the drive so some data could remain, but most likely corrupted and unable to recover. The full erase function will randomly write binary zero and one data to the entire memory of the flash drive. By doing this random write sequence, it would be impossible for even the most sophisticated forensics recover software to restore data from the device.

The four language modes include English, Spanish, Portuguese and Simplified Chinese.

The USB benchmark speed is a great tool to figure out the quality of media one is using. This is particularly important when dealing with promotional quality media, as promo memory is very instable. The easiest way to determine the quality of memory is looking at the write speed. With the benchmark utility one can test the read and write speed of a drive. The USB duplicator will write about 20MBs of random data to determine the average read and write speed. If the USB memory has a write speed of 4MB/second or lower, it’s not good quality. If the write speed is above 8MB/second for USB 2.0 media and above 20MB/second write speed for USB 3.0 media, it is of better quality memory.

The CRC verification method is Cyclical Redundancy Check verification method and is most reliable for NAND memory. Probably best to search for CRC verification for a complete understanding of this protocol.

The USB duplicator made by Nexcopy is a backward compatible product and will copy to USB 1.0, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 flash drives. The duplicator will write to the device as fast as it will allow. The best write times will result from the operator using USB 3.0 media.

The USB104SA has a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of $399 USD.

Source: GetUSB.info

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Only 1 Compact Flash Card Can Be Use – Others Are Ignored

The most common reason why only one Compact Flash Card is usable when multiple Compact Flash Cards are connected is due to a device signature collision.

If you are dealing with bootable devices and seeing this problem, we are confident a collision is the issue. If you are not dealing with a bootable device, then our information below will, probably, not help.

Compact Flash Card hard drive sketch

What is a Compact Flash Card signature collision?

A signature collision can happen on any bootable device, so Compact Flash Card cards, SD cards, microSD cards and USB flash drives. A disk signature is a unique identifier number (UID). It is a unique identifier stored as part of the MBR (Master Boot Record) for an operating system loaded on the device. The operating system will use the UID to identify and distinguish between storage devices. It is commonly made up of eight alphanumeric characters. A disk collision occurs when your operating system (Windows) detects that there are two disks with identical signatures.

For Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, these versions of Windows will disable the second drive and will not allow that second volume to mount until the disk collision has been rectified. If you are reading this article, chances are, this is exactly what is happening to you.

The first thing to do is navigate to the Disk Management tool with in Windows. To do this, use the search tool and type in Disk Management. This will take you to the utility that Windows offers. Here you can see your multiple devices connected. If you click or hover over the device not working you will see one of two messages:

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The new iPad OS Supports Flash Drives and SD/microSD Cards

Today Apple announced the new iPadOS will support USB thumb drives. The iPad has long been toughted a workers tablet from Apple, but the relaity is their iPad didn’t provide much functionality. In addition, the devices have limited storage.

With today’s announcement the above argument could get a little muted.

Update: We learned the iPad will allow other storage devices such as external hard drives and SD or microSD cards (with USB adapters). The USB port will also allow for HID devices, such as a USB mouse and keyboard. We are not sure if the iPad will support Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, but we’ve got to assume, right!

There is no word about the connection. The connection could be one of three; an adapter, USB-C socket size or the classic USB type A socket size.

iPad accepts usb drive

Source: GetUSB.info News Site.

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News Review: Nexcopy Launches USB-C Copier For Mass USB-C Duplication

Nexcopy put out a press release today announcing a USB Type C duplication Copier which is available for immediate purchase. The USB-C200PC is a twenty target USB-C socket duplicator which is PC based and loaded with software features.

Via EIN Presswire service, Nexcopy Inc the news release talks about the increased demand is due from Apple housing a USB-C socket for their computers and Iot, or Internet of Things, type products are using the USB-C socket more frequently. Because of this shift, the duplication equipment market has adjusted.

nexcopy, usb-c copier

Because the Nexcopy duplicator is PC based does not mean you will lose functionality and speed. The USB-C200PC is believed to be a 3.1 based technology and will write at the devices maximum transfer rate. USB 3.1 has a theoretical maximum speed of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). Keep in mind that is “theoretical” so your real world experience will never get that close.

The USB-C200PC ships with the Drive Manager software and includes some fairly trick software features:

  • Six copy modes
  • Binary copy mode supports all formats; HFS, Ext2,3,4, Proprietary
  • Unique data streaming to each USB-C socket
  • Binary verification
  • Erase and D.o.D. Erase for disk sanitization
  • Data collection to extract files off USB-C devices
  • Intuitive and informative Drive Manager software
  • Upgradeable to PRO Series for USB-C write protection
  • Upgradeable to PRO Series for USB-C partitioning

One interesting copy mode is the unique data streaming function. The data streaming function gives a user the ability to put unique data to each USB-C flash drive. This is of particular interest for software publishers and on-demand USB production sent from on-line, front end order fulfillment solutions.

Nexcopy is also well known for the PRO series duplicators that perform advanced functions to flash drives, such as USB write protection (USB read-only), partitions at the controller level, and serial number control for UFD identification. From the press release, these advanced functions will also be available on the USB-C200PC duplicator.

The USB-C duplicator has a list price of $1,299 and is available through on-line retails like Amazon, WalMart.com and NewEgg. If you are outside the United States, the product is available through a worldwide network of authorized resellers.

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