Sandisk has lit up our life with a couple of remarkable new products: a one-gigabyte photo memory card and a thumb drive that literally requires your thumb, or at least one of your digits.
The USB thumb drive is an extension of their Cruzer line. It’s the Cruzer Profile, and it’s so high-tech
it’s almost scary; this has to be in a James Bond movie. A tiny scanner about a half-inch long and the thickness of a pencil lead is built into the protective case. It scans a finger for proof that you are the approved user. Anything you download into this flash memory drive is then protected from viewing by people who give it the wrong finger.
The Cruzer Profile can also save your user names and passwords for sites that require these. Just go to that site, swipe your finger, and you’re logged on. Also handy is the Profile’s software for synchronizing Outlook mail and doing backups.
The case that scans your finger is permanently linked to the memory stick by a thin cable containing a blinking blue light. This is active when you’re using the Profile. Any attempt to remove that connection (or otherwise bypass it) destroys the download.
The one-gigabyte version of Cruzer Profile is about US$110 from a discounter like Amazon.com, and the 512MB version is US$70 from froogle.com.
A note about using the Cruzer Profile: It must be plugged into a USB port on the computer itself. Some people use a USB hub or ports that are built into their keyboard or monitor; these will not carry enough current to power the miniature scanner in the memory stick.
Moving to the next gee-whiz item … Sandisk is the technology leader in flash memory cards, and their latest is the one-gigabyte (1GB) Ultra II SD Plus card for digital cameras and more. This one may be more high-tech than the Cruzer Profile.
The memory card itself is about the size of a small postage stamp. Despite that tiny size, it’s hinged in the middle. When you unfold it, another set of contacts is revealed, and this end can be plugged directly into a USB port. Thus no other device is need to transfer pictures from the camera card to the computer or a printer; simply pull the Ultra II card out of the camera, fold it at the hinge, and stick the other end into a USB port. Viola, as we say in fractured French.
This tiny card can also be used as a storage device. When we plugged it into the USB port on one of our desktop computers, Windows immediately recognized it as a removable drive. The operating system made no distinction between this incredibly miniaturized card and any other drive. Fantastic! (Like the Cruzer above, the card works with either Windows or Macintosh.)
The Sandisk Ultra II comes with a little key chain case in the package. The list price is US$150, but bargain hunters searching the Web can find the one-gigabyte version for about US$105. A 1GB flash memory card can hold about 250 four-megabyte (4MB) photos. To figure out the storage capacity for use in your camera, just divide your picture’s pixel size into 1,000. A camera that takes 5MB pictures, for example, would be able to store about 200 on a one-gigabyte (1GB) card. That may not work out exactly right in the real world, but it will be close.
The no-trace memory stick
If it’s important to you not to leave any tracks on a computer, like when you’re downloading or uploading financial data on a public library computer, for example, you might want to use a stealth USB drive.
We’ve written about the StealthSurfer USB memory stick before, but here’s an update on the latest version, StealthSurfer II. It has its own built-in Web browser, Mozilla’s Firefox, and so bypasses any browser normally used by the computer you plug into. That computer will be unaware that you are online, and there will be no trace of your having been there. Additional built-in software includes Anonymizer, which hides your surfing identity and protects you from cookies and spies.
The 128MB version of StealthSurfer II is US$100, and the one-gigabyte version is US$300, from the maker at www.stealthsurfer.com. Like most USB memory sticks, it is small enough to easily fit on a key chain.
A problem finding spotbot
A lot of readers have e-mailed us to say they could not download the free copy of “”SpyBot: Search and Destroy”” that we wrote about last week.
SpyBot is easily one of the best spyware elimination programs we’ve ever run, and it is definitely free. The problem appears to have been a newspaper typesetting program that removed a crucial hyphen in the Web address. That address should read www.safer-networking.org. Do not leave out the hyphen, and be sure to end with “”.org,”” not “”.com””. Unfortunately, any change in typing the address takes you to a copycat site that then tries to sell you other software.