Tag: USB memory keys

A USB-C hub may take your Chromecast with Google Play further


You can do more with your Chromecast with Google TV if you use a USB-C hub or dock that offers Power Delivery pass-through

Use a USB-C Hub to Upgrade Your Chromecast With Google TV (gizmodo.com)

My Comments

The Google Chromecast with Google TV device is actually an Android TV set-top box which has a lot of what Android can offer.

This includes being able to work with external peripherals thanks to device class support for some peripheral types that are connected via USB. It is thanks to Android TV having class drivers built in to the operating system in order to support these peripheral types.

What do I need?

USB-C hub must have Power Delivery pass-through connection

Dell WD19TB Thunderbolt dock product image courtesy of Dell

USB-C hubs and docks can be used to expand your Google Chromecast with Google TV set-top device

The USB-C hub or dock must have at least one USB-C port set up for Power-Delivery pass-through connectivity. This connection arrangement, which may be known as “Charge-through”, passes power from a USB-C PD charger to the host computing device that is connected to the upstream connection. This is in addition to providing power to the hub itself and any USB bus-powered peripherals connected to that hub.

USB PD-compliant charger with at least 45 watts power output

The USB charger that came with your Chromecast with Google Play device would not be able to power anything beyond the Chromecast device itself. This is because it is rated just for that device.

Rather you use a USB-PD compliant charger that offers at least 45 watts output and is something you would get with most of today’s ultraportable laptops that just use this connection. Using a USB-PD charger offering 65W or more may give you more flexibility especially if you are dealing with USB mass-storage devices or Webcams.

You may find that some if not most business-grade USB-C hubs and docks have their own power-supply arrangement and can provide power to the host computer in a USB Power-Delivery compliant manner. That is typically to provide power to an ultraportable laptop that is connected to these docks. These can be used without the need of a separate charger to connect to these hubs or docks – you just use the hub’s actual power supply and associated transformer to power your Chromecast setup.

What can I do?

Play multimedia files held on USB mass-storage devices

If the USB hard drive, memory key or other mass-storage device (including memory cards in a memory-card reader) is formatted to FAT32, you may be able to view or play image, audio or video files held on that storage.

You may have to use a higher-powered USB PD charger if you are dealing with something like a portable hard disk or SSD. As for apps, software like VLC media player that can navigate the Android directory tree can work for finding content. There are also file managers available to the Android TV platform so you can see what is there on the storage devices.

A question that can be easily raised is whether this Android-TV-based Chromecast can support USB mass-storage devices that represent themselves as multiple volumes in one physical device. It is a situation that will come true with multi-slot memory-card readers, USB devices that have internal and external storage or USB storage devices partitioned in to multiple logical volumes.

Similarly, Android TV would need to support exFAT and the other open-source ext-based file systems in order to handle the high-capacity mass-storage devices as they should be handled.

Use of keyboards and mice as input devices

Connecting a USB keyboard or mouse, including a wireless one that uses a USB receiver dongle, provides an alternative input method for your Chromecast with Google TV.

For example, a keyboard can avoid the need to “hunt and peck” with your remote control when logging in to something like Netflix. This can also apply if you make heavy use of the search functionality within your favourite video-on-demand platforms. It can even apply if you are using an Android-TV-optimised Web browser to work the Web on the big screen.

This may even encourage Google to see Android TV as a viable TV-based gaming platform especially if they provide device-level support for wired or wireless games controllers be it USB Human Interface Device class controllers or device-specific support for XBox or PlayStation controllers. It also can lead to the creation of Android-TV-based hardware that has real gaming performance along with games that can take advantage of this performance.

To the same extent, Android TV support for USB-MIDI music devices could open up support for music-based applications and games on that platform. This could be ranging from music-based games through computer-based music training apps to music performance software.

Chromecast with Google TV as a group videophone

You can connect a Webcam to the USB-C hub so you can run this device as a group videophone. But you may find that some Webcams do need a bit more power and will need a stronger USB-PD charger on your setup.

As for software, Google’s Duo is the only videocall platform capable of supporting Android TV with the proper 10-foot “lean-back” user experience. You do need the app to be open and in the foreground when you are expecting a videocall on the Duo platform.

Google needs to encourage software developers who have videoconferencing software for the Android platform to write in Android TV support with the “lean-back” user experience. This could then have any TV or set-top device based on the Android TV / Google TV platform work well as a group videophone.

Infact Skype should reinstigate support for TV-based videocalling after they had many group videophone clients written for various smart-TV platforms.

More reliable Internet connectivity for your Chromecast

An increasing number of USB-C hubs are being equipped with Ethernet ports, primarily so that you can connect that ultraportable laptop to an Ethernet or HomePlug powerline network segment.

Let’s not forget that Google offered an Ethernet adaptor for their previous Chromecasts so these devices can be run from a more stable wired network segment. But they omitted an official Ethernet adaptor for the Chromecast with Google TV as part of its official aftermarket accessories lineup.

But the Ethernet connection on a USB-C hub is also available to the Google Chromecast with Google TV. It would be useful as a means to bring a reliable wired network connection to this device, especially if your home is wired for Ethernet, you have a HomePlug powerline network setup or your TV is next to your home network’s router.


Once you have USB-C hubs and docks that support common standard device classes for their internal connections or allow connection of peripherals honouring standard device classes, this could make Internet-of-Things and similar devices become very capable.

But these setups show a few glaring weaknesses within the Android TV ecosystem like lack of support for high-capacity file systems. It can be a chance for Google to take the Android TV platform further and turn it in to a highly-flexible large-screen set-top platform.

Be careful about USB memory keys left in the letterbox

Articles USB memory keys press picture courtesy of Victoria Police

Police warn of malware-laden USB sticks dropped in letterboxes | The Register

Crims place booby-trapped USB drives in letter boxes | IT News

Don’t plug it in! Scammers post infected USB sticks through letterboxes | Naked Security (Sophos blog)

From the horse’s mouth

Victoria Police

Press Release

My Comments

An issue that is being raised concerning data security is people loading data from USB memory keys that they don’t expect.

This has been used as a way to distribute malware to businessmen at conferences because these thumbdrives, like floppy discs and optical discs, have been accepted as a way to distribute conference content or “electronic brochures” and added to participants’ “show-bags” handed out at these events. The typical method of delivering a malware-laded USB stick was to abandon it at the venue, hotel or “watering-hole” bar and it would inspire people’s curiosity to pick up this memory key, plug it in to their laptop and load up what was on the stick.

Newer iterations of the desktop operating systems i.e. Windows or MacOS have made it hard to allow one to run a program off a USB memory key by default. Similarly, most of the desktop security software would implement removable-media scanning routines to automatically check for malware on a USB stick or other removable media. But there have been some USB thumbdrive variants which have had the firmware altered to run keystroke macros or meddle with network settings.

This situation has now been found to occur in a personal-computing context in some of the outer south-eastern Melbourne suburbs like Pakenham. This was where USB memory keys were left on households’ mail boxes and these thumbdrives were full of malware including fraudulent content-streaming offers. Infact Victoria Police even encouraged Australian householders who received these thumbdrives in their mailbox to contact Crimestoppers Victoria by phoning 1-800-333-000 or using the online form.

But the common security advice to deal with USB memory keys that you didn’t expect to receive is not to insert them in your computer. If you do expect to receive one of these sticks such as them being in a show-bag from a vendor or you receiving conference material on one of them, make sure that you have your operating system and desktop security software patched and updated.

SanDisk releases a wireless NAS as a memory key


SanDisk's memory key that is a wireless mobile NAS

SanDisk’s memory key that is a wireless mobile NAS

SanDisk Announces Bigger, Cheaper Wi-Fi Flash Drive | SmallNetBuilder

From the horse’s mouth


SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

There are a number of “wireless network-attached storage” devices on the market that are primarily pitched at people who use mobile devices and want to have network storage for these devices.

These devices typically work as their own Wi-Fi networks and work alongside a Web front that they provide or a native app provided by the vendor for the main mobile platforms to allow you to use them as networked storage for these devices. But those of you who use regular computers are typically required to connect these wireless NAS devices to the computer’s USB ports and use them as if they are removable storage devices.

SanDisk has released the the latest of these devices as the wireless networked equivalent of the USB memory key a.k.a. thumbdrive or jumpdrive. This device, known as the Connect Wireless Stick is the same size as a large USB memory key but has its own Wi-FI access point and Web server. There is an integrated battery and you can plug it in to a computer or USB charger to charge this device. In this same context, it can be used as a USB flash drive for the connected computer or multimedia device.

It also has the ability to work as a Wi-FI bridge for Internet connection through you setting up the Internet Connection in the SanDisk mobile app. But being a low-powered device, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick would have the ability to stream video content to three client devices concurrently rather than five for most of the hard-disk-based devices. Oh yeah, hang this around your neck to view content you have loaded on to it or share stuff with your buddies sitting at your lunch table in the caf – no need to forget it when you head to class.

But there are a lot of issues to be raised with these devices and how they interlink with the rest of the world. One of these involves the issue of manufacturers writing their own apps for their devices and requiring  users to install and use these apps to see full benefit from them. Here, the wireless NAS devices could use a common WebDAV or CIFS client and UPnP / Bonjour functionality for simplified discovery including the ability to discover the device’s Web page in that context. As well, the device could be managed through a password-protected Web page. This would allow for, at the most, one app to be deployed on your mobile device.

They would also have to support WebDAV and CIFS along with HTTP for two-way file transfer to and from hosts along with appropriate DLNA abilities for interaction with consumer-electronics devices. Similarly the wireless NAS devices would have to support working as clients or access points for small private networks i.e. home / small-business networks and as “go-between” bridges for public networks. This kind of functionality would require WPS and manual-entry setup for small private networks along with Wi-Fi Passpoint setup for public networks.

In essence, the wireless network-attached-storage device should be a point of innovation for everything that works with it. This includes public and private networks, consumer-electronics and photography devices along with system software for regular and mobile computing devices.

Why do you need to safely remove or eject removeable media?

USB memory key

USB storage device

As you use a computer, you will have to get in to the habit of removing or ejecting external or removeable media safely and in a proper way rather than just unplugging the device or pulling out the card.

What is this about safely removing or ejecting removeable storage?

Mainframe and similar large computer setups required the operating system to logically mount a tape or disk pack after the system operator installed the medium in the appropriate drive. This procedure makes the files on the medium available to the operating system and computer programs

USB external hard disk

USB hard disks are more critical with this procedure

Then when the medium was finished with, the system operator had to logically unmount the disk or tape which forced all files to he written back to the medium and the operating system to deem the files on the medium to be unavailable. This procedure was also simplified when the tape and disk-pack drives used electromechanical readiness detection like sensing when a lid or door was closed or a tape was past the heads to let the host computer know that they had media on board and were ready to work with it. It would then require the operator to logically mount the medium and make it available to the system’s programs, typically by typing a special “mount” command.

Desktop operating systems like MS-DOS did away with this to simplify the operating procedures for most people especially as they were used just by one user compared to the previous mainframe systems that were used by multiple concurrent users. It also allowed the use of low-cost disk and tape systems on these computers.

Here, these operating systems immediately wrote back all file changes to the disk when a file was created, modified or deleted. As well, if a program was after a file, it would perform a directory search to determine if the file was there on that disk and the operating system didn’t cache the removeable medium’s directory structure in to the host’s memory. In a lot of cases, the act of closing the disk drive’s door or inserting a 3.5” floppy disk cause the operating system to start reading the disk’s directory in to memory.

But the Apple Macintosh maintained a similar operating requirement to the larger computer systems where you had to logically remove a floppy disk or CD from the system typically by dragging the disk’s icon to the Trash before the computer ejected the disk. This was facilitated with these computers having floppy drives that implemented electromechanical load-eject mechanisms and no hardware “eject” button ever since the platform was created.

This was carried through with Zip drives and other similar removeable-media drives that used any form of electromechanical load-eject mechanisms. The presence of an eject button on these drives typically worked as a way of telling the operating system about an intent to remove the medium so it is logically unmounted and was also implemented with newer iterations of the MS-DOS / Windows operating system along with driver programs for earlier iterations of that operating system.

Similarly, those of you who have used the MiniDisc format, especially with an MD deck or a music system that has an integrated MD recorder, may notice this taking place when you are recording to these discs. What will happen with these decks is that a message will flash up on the unit’s display screen that it is writing all the changes to the disk when you press the eject button or power off the unit before the disk is available or the unit switches off. This makes sure that all of the recording and editing activity is properly committed to the disk and is intact.

Why was there a need to tell the operating system that you were intending to remove the medium

If removeable media is removed by surprise, there can be problems with the quality of the data that is written to the medium because the operating system and applications think that certain files on the medium are available to be worked with.

This can lead to corrupted files because all the changes to the file being worked on haven’t been written to the medium completely. There are also issues with the files being locked by programs that are writing back the necessary changes so that other programs can’t interfere with this process, and if a program hasn’t released these locks or committed all of the changes, the files may not be available for other programs to work with. In the worst cases, your computer can go in to a headspin if it is working with a file that exists one minute and doesn’t exist the next.

How do you safely remove USB removeable media?

Windows Explorer (File Explorer) eject option

Eject option in Windows Explorer

With a computer, you make sure that you have closed the files you are working on if you were using a program to work with them. Then you perform a safe-removal procedure that is dependent on your operating system.

Macintosh users simply drag the icon representing the removeable storage to the Trash icon at the bottom right of the Desktop screen. Then there will be a message to say that it is safe to remove the medium.

Windows users can do this in two ways. They can open Windows Explorer (File Explorer) or My Computer and right-click on the removeable storage which will be represented as its own drive letter. They then select the “Eject” option to begin safely removing the storage device.

Safely Remove Hardware icon in Notification area

Safely Remove Hardware icon in Notification area

The other method requires you to click on the Notification Area on the Taskbar and right-click on the “Safely Remove Hardware And Eject Media” icon. Here, you are presented with a list of USB storage devices that are connected to your computer. Click on the one you want to remove to begin safely removing it. In some cases, a physical device may represent two or more logical volumes (drive letters) because it has been partitioned as such. Here, you select the physical device’s name to safely remove that device.

Safely Remove Hardware devices list

Devices available to remove

USB-based removeable-media adaptors like floppy-disk drives, Zip drives and memory-card readers have the ability to safely remove a particular medium or the whole device. Here, you can click on the medium to remove the card or disk or click on the physical device name to remove the device before you unplug it.

Safely remove hardware devices list

Two logical devices in one physical device – the one that is written clearly is the one to remove

This is more important with those devices that handle multiple media types like some multi-slot memory-card readers or devices that have a combination of fixed and removeable storage options like some digital cameras and camcorders that have internal storage along with an SD or microSD card slot. In the latter situation, these devices would have fixed storage greyed out while the removeable storage is written in black.

I have prepared a PDF reference sheet about the procedure needed to safely remove your removeable media from your Windows computer. Download and print this and keep it by your computer if you or others need to know how to do this properly.

Android users would go to the Storage menu and select the “Unmount SD Card” option for the SD card or “Unmount Mass Storage” for storage devices connected to their mobile devices via USB “On The Go” connectivity.

Safe to remove notification

It is safe to remove

For other devices like A/V devices that write to an SD card or USB memory key, you would have to go to the device’s menu and select the “Unmount”, “Remove” or, more likely, “Eject” option. This process would be analogous to ejecting a tape, CD or MiniDisc so you can work with another medium.

Of course, powering off the equipment properly such as selecting a logical shutdown option would prepare any media or removeable devices attached to the equipment for safe removal.


Once you know how to properly and safely remove media or detach USB storage devices from your computer or similar device, you can avoid situations which can place your computer’s reliability or the data on that medium at risk.

SanDisk releases the first USB memory key with a Type-C connection


MWC 2015 : la toute première clé dotée de la prise USB réversible de demain ! | 01Net.fr (French language / Langue Française)

From the horse’s mouth


Press Release

Product Page (Dual Drive Type C)

My Comments

The USB Type C connector

SanDisk Dual Drive Type C memory key press picture courtesy of SanDisk

SanDisk Dual Drive Type C memory key

has been ratified as a small reversible connector for use with low-profile devices. It will start to appear primarily on the next wave of tablets, smartphones and, perhaps, ultraportable notebooks due to its small size.

But the device that ends up in most USB ports is the USB memory key, also known as a memory stick, thumb drive or jump drive. These are the same size as a typical house key or stick of chewing gum but contain an integrated flash drive that plugs in to a computer’s USB port, presenting itself to the operating system as a removeable disk.

SanDisk has anticipated the arrival of these devices and has launched at Mobile World Congress 2015 a USB memory key that can plug in to a USB Type-C socket. The 32Gb Dual Drive has on one end a Type A plug to plug in to most computers in operation and on the other end a Type C plug for the up-and-coming tablet or ultraportable. Of course, the USB 3.0 device will present itself logically as a removable disk like other memory keys.

This could cut out the need to carry around a Type-A to Type-C cable along with a memory key when you want to move data to your tablet or want to expand capacity on that same device. Who knows who will be the next kid off  the block to offer a peripheral for the USB Type-C connector.

Multi-volume USB storage devices–a connectivity issue is raised here

The current situation

USB storage device types

Single-volume USB devices

Most USB memory keys and similar devices do present themselves to your computer as a single volume or “logical disk”. In Windows, this would be represented as one drive letter and volume name for the device and a Macintosh would show up one extra drive icon on the Desktop when you plug the device in. These devices do work well with specific-function USB host devices like printers or audio/video equipment.

Multiple-volume USB devices

Kingston Wi-Drive USB data and power port

Single USB socket on Kingston Wi-Drive to connect two logical volumes

But there are devices out there that don’t present themselves as a single logical volume. These can range from a memory key or external hard disk that has been formatted as two logical volumes to USB memory-card drives that have multiple slots for the different card types and devices that have fixed storage and a memory-card drive. It can also include mobile phones and MP3 players that have internal storage but also have a microSD card slot.

The former situation is best represented by the Kingston Wi-Drive which I just reviewed here. It presented itself as two logical volumes – one being a read-only volume for the Wi-Fi access point user interface and another for users to store their data at.

How different hosts handle multiple-volume USB devices

Regular computers

This class of device would show up as two or more different drive letters and volume names in Windows or show up as two or more drive icons on the Macintosh desktop. You may have to make sure each volume is safely dismounted in the operating system before you disconnect the device from the computer.

Specific-purpose devices

NAD C446 Media Tuner with USB memory key

USB memory key used to play music in a NAD C446 Media Tuner

But an increasing number of specific-purpose devices are being equipped with USB ports for connecting USB storage devices to. This typically allows you to print documents or photos held on the USB storage device or play / show audio-video content through the screen and/or speakers attached to or integrated in the host device. Infact this setup is used in cars as a preferred alternative to the multi-disc CD stackers that used to exist in the boot (trunk) or dash.

Some devices even write to the USB storage device, typically to store configurations, recorded audio / video content or locally-cached BD-Live online data.

The main problem with these USB storage devices that present themselves as multiple logical volumes is that most of the specific-purpose devices cannot successfully mount the multiple-logical-volume devices at all.

Typically, they would give up the ghost at such attempts, as I noticed with the Kogan WiFi Digital Radio when I tried to connect the Kingston Wi-Drive which had some music on it to the radio. As well, the host-device manufacturers stipulate that you cannot try to use such storage devices with their devices. One person I talked to tonight mentioned that he had to be careful about how he formatted the USB memory key he used for storing music to play in his car’s stereo system.

What can be done

The idea of mounting multiple volumes of the common file systems could be investigated with these dedicated-purpose devices. Here, it could allow the volumes in the device to be presented as multiple “disks” if multiple suitable volumes exist. They could then be listed using a generic “USB+number” name for unlabelled volumes and the volume name for labelled volumes. Most applications would need to mount and use one volume at a time whereas some applications may allow for concurrent multiple-volume access.

The volume-selection option could be provided as part of selecting the files or folders to work with or, in the case of audio-video applications, the USB port used by the multi-volume storage device could be “split” as extra logical sources for each eligible volume.


This may require a small amount of extra code so that different volumes at a physical interface can be enumerated and made available but the idea of supporting multi-volume USB storage devices by dedicated-purpose host devices could be worth investigating.

Lost data on USB drives–can even affect individuals and small business

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

Press Release | Kingston

My Comments

I have had a look at the Kingston press release about the security of data held on USB flash drives and found that it was based on a Ponemon Institute study commissioned by Kingston. The main factor that I had observed was that the survey was based on data that represented the “big end of town” – the larger companies and government departments who typically handle a lot of high-stakes company and customer data.

Here I still find that small businesses and individuals are as at risk from removable-media data theft as are larger organisations. Most of these users would consider secure data storage as storing the confidential data on a USB memory key or external hard disk rather than on the computer’s hard disk. Here, they would keep that memory key or external hard disk locked in a desk drawer, filing cabinet or safe when the data is not needed. If the data isn’t changed or viewed often, like a valuables inventory, the USB memory key or external hard disk may be kept at a bank’s safe-deposit facility.

As well, the typical USB memory key can be attached to one’s keyring that has their house, car and business keys on it and a lot of these users may take advantage of the fact. These key rings are often at risk of loss due to absent-mindedness that can be common amongst us or theft as has been known to happen in the UK and Europe where houses have been broken into in order to steal the keys for powerful or expensive cars that are parked at these houses.

Of course, it is not just government and big business who handle or are responsible for “high-stakes” ultra-confidential data. Small businesses and individuals can also handle this kind of data, whether they provide services to these entities or not.

For example, I had provided technology assistance to a “one-person” business who valued fine art, antiques and collectables. This involved the handling of data relating to the collectable items and who owned the collectable items, as I commissioned newly-bought computers or trained her in computing techniques.

As well, individuals may need to keep copies of information pertaining to personal medical and legal issues where there is a strong emotional link. This information may be considered of high value where it concerns individuals who are in the “public eye” and the tabloid media are hungry for any bit of information about these individuals in order to run that exclusive “scoop”.

A common reality that this “enterprise-focused” article misses is that the typical small-business owner or personal user chooses and purchases their own computer hardware from retail. This is compared to larger organisations who maintain a dedicated IT team who is responsible for purchasing and maintaining the computer and communications technology for that organisation.

For this class of user, I would recommend that they use removable storage that is made by respected brands like Kingston, Verbatim, Sony or SanDisk. It may be worth knowing that some of the good retailers may resell these good brands under their own labels, usually in the premium end of those labels.

I would also recommend that you investigate the use of security-enabled encrypted USB memory keys. Here, I would look for those units that have continual software support from the vendor. This is important if you change your computing platform like what Apple hopes use do or move to newer versions of our current operating systems.

As well, you should make sure that you have good desktop security software on your computer. You could even get by with free programs like AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials. Even Macintosh users should make sure they run good anti-malware software on these computers especially as software threats are targeting this platform as well.

It is also worth making use of strong passwords or other data-locking options that the operating system or USB security software may provide for the confidential data. This may work in conjunction with the common practice of keeping the removable media under lock and key such as in a locked filing cabinet or safe.

What I fear is that a lot of press concerning data security tends to be focused at the big end of town and smaller users tend to be forgotten about. As well, a lot of the good-quality data-security options are often designed and priced out of the range of the small business operator or consumer even though there is a need for this level of data security amongst some of this class of user.