Geek gadgets: New way to distribute software; iPod to AV system box

Disclaimer: I got these for free to try out, although I'll be giving away both things at the Gnomedex conference in June. The iPod player I got before I set my policy of not accepting free stuff. The U3 drive I got because I didn't have time to sit through Nathan's demo and wanted to try it out. When I received them I made no promises to them about the coverage I would give them, or even IF there would be coverage coming. If I ever have a conflict of interest, I will disclose that to my readers.

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U3 smart drive

So, last night, Nathan Gold, developer evangelist for U3, shows me a new kind of USB Thumb Drive. He had one loaded up, gave it to me, and said "try this out."

I'm playing with it now. It's a 1GB flash memory drive that plugs into my USB port. But it isn't a normal memory key. When you plug it in it automatically adds a new menu in the system tray. That pulls up a ton of software that Nathan put on my key for me.

Turns out it fools my PC into thinking it's a CD-ROM drive that auto starts.

This is a radical way to distribute test software. Why? Cause I unplug my key and any software I run disappears along with it (and any traces, including any temp files I've downloaded — I got the Maxthon browser on the key, for instance. As soon as I unplug it everything goes away, even registry entries).

Whoa. More details on the U3 site.

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Xitel HiFi Link for iPod

Maryam has an iPod Nano, so back when I was at CES, when I saw the Xitel HiFi-Link for iPod, I wanted to try it to see if it was really good. Lots of my friends have iPods, so thought this was unique.

It's a box that you hook up to your AV system at home that lets you dock a Nano and play the music off of it onto your AV system.

It does exactly what it says it'll do, is well designed (looks just as stylish as Maryam's iPod) and sounds awesome on our AV system. If you're looking for a way to connect your iPod to your AV system, this is worth considering.

On both of these products I'll buy one after giving these away at Gnomedex.

48 thoughts on “Geek gadgets: New way to distribute software; iPod to AV system box

  1. >

    go ahead and try…usb does not recognize the .inf, you need to fool it into thinking it is a cd device , which is what u3 does..

  2. >

    go ahead and try…usb does not recognize the .inf, you need to fool it into thinking it is a cd device , which is what u3 does..

  3. >>MUST have administrator rights on any computer you >>want to use it with – therefore the users who would >>actually benefit from U3

    Not true, it writes to your local profile…I have tested this on completely locked down exxonmobil crap desktops and it works fine….if the port to u3 is done correctly, you do not need admin rights….

  4. >>MUST have administrator rights on any computer you >>want to use it with – therefore the users who would >>actually benefit from U3

    Not true, it writes to your local profile…I have tested this on completely locked down exxonmobil crap desktops and it works fine….if the port to u3 is done correctly, you do not need admin rights….

  5. We know that running applications from a USB drive is not new. People have been doing this since USB drives first came out. It is no different than running an application off of a floppy disk.

    The big difference here is that U3 offers application developers a platform that comes preloaded on U3 smart drives from companies such as SanDisk, Memorex, Kingston, Verbatim, and many others, which offers an easy way to handle the installation, configuration, starting, stopping, cleaning up, and removing the application. Also, the U3 platform offers the software publisher a standard that contains items such as a unique ID on every device that can be used to license software. In the past, people had to rely on different methods for minimizing piracy on each USB device from each manufacturer because there was no standard and even building a special USB flash drive around their software to protect it. Now, all U3 smart drive manufacturers offer the developer the same platform for them to license their applications in addition to other items such as knowing what drive letter is assigned to the device.

  6. We know that running applications from a USB drive is not new. People have been doing this since USB drives first came out. It is no different than running an application off of a floppy disk.

    The big difference here is that U3 offers application developers a platform that comes preloaded on U3 smart drives from companies such as SanDisk, Memorex, Kingston, Verbatim, and many others, which offers an easy way to handle the installation, configuration, starting, stopping, cleaning up, and removing the application. Also, the U3 platform offers the software publisher a standard that contains items such as a unique ID on every device that can be used to license software. In the past, people had to rely on different methods for minimizing piracy on each USB device from each manufacturer because there was no standard and even building a special USB flash drive around their software to protect it. Now, all U3 smart drive manufacturers offer the developer the same platform for them to license their applications in addition to other items such as knowing what drive letter is assigned to the device.

  7. The comment regarding the need for Admin rights to run any U3 software is incorrect. Most of the applications listed on U3 Software Central do not require admin rights. It is up to the developer of the application to determine which mode they are planning to use. The only time an application must have admin rights is if they use an area of the registry that requires those rights. We encourage application developers to remove their reliance on the registry and thus removes the need for Admin rights.

  8. The comment regarding the need for Admin rights to run any U3 software is incorrect. Most of the applications listed on U3 Software Central do not require admin rights. It is up to the developer of the application to determine which mode they are planning to use. The only time an application must have admin rights is if they use an area of the registry that requires those rights. We encourage application developers to remove their reliance on the registry and thus removes the need for Admin rights.

  9. Keydrives we’ve been ordering on the behalf of our clients for the last 2 years have auto-run functionality. UD-RW is one method. also have cool “funny shaped” drives for Citrix and others. Its pretty easy to fool windows into thinking its a CD and therefore not writable and fully auto-run. nice thing with U3 is that is educates the masses (and Scoob). That alone (as a marketer) is great.

  10. Keydrives we’ve been ordering on the behalf of our clients for the last 2 years have auto-run functionality. UD-RW is one method. also have cool “funny shaped” drives for Citrix and others. Its pretty easy to fool windows into thinking its a CD and therefore not writable and fully auto-run. nice thing with U3 is that is educates the masses (and Scoob). That alone (as a marketer) is great.

  11. Scott: >What’s the point?

    Because it makes me feel guilty when I don’t write about them. I’d rather not have that guilt on my head.

    And, it does create a pressure to say something nice. Especially if you get addicted to the gadget gravy train. This is a corrosive effect. I’d rather just blog my life as it happens. If I can afford to buy a toy, then great. If not, that should tell you something too.

  12. Scott: >What’s the point?

    Because it makes me feel guilty when I don’t write about them. I’d rather not have that guilt on my head.

    And, it does create a pressure to say something nice. Especially if you get addicted to the gadget gravy train. This is a corrosive effect. I’d rather just blog my life as it happens. If I can afford to buy a toy, then great. If not, that should tell you something too.

  13. Robert, I’ve got a question about your announced policy of “not accepting free stuff.” What’s the point?

    I mean, what you’re really got going for you is your credibility. And you may want to protect that with a stated policy that implies you’re not being bought off for your opinion. Or subtly influenced if “bought off” is too harsh a phrase. But at this point your credibility is pretty well established – high or low depending on who’s counting. You don’t really need to take a new stand on freebies, You are who you are and it’s already been established. You work for Microsoft as a technology evangelist! Don’t you think that anyone who would feel your opinions are compromised already feels that way? Strange thing is, when you tout great features of Vista I believe you. It’s because your credibility is based on you being a real guy – not a corporate mouthpiece, and not someone easily bought off by fancy gadgets (maybe momentarily entranced, but nothing permanent). You put your phone number on your blog. You talk about your family. You praise the Mac. You’re just the Scobelizer, and if I am going to believe you I am going to believe you – free swag or not. Personally, I’d rather you accept something, disclose it, and tell us about it than just observe it from afar. Put another way, using your best judgement got you this far….

    Scott

  14. Robert, I’ve got a question about your announced policy of “not accepting free stuff.” What’s the point?

    I mean, what you’re really got going for you is your credibility. And you may want to protect that with a stated policy that implies you’re not being bought off for your opinion. Or subtly influenced if “bought off” is too harsh a phrase. But at this point your credibility is pretty well established – high or low depending on who’s counting. You don’t really need to take a new stand on freebies, You are who you are and it’s already been established. You work for Microsoft as a technology evangelist! Don’t you think that anyone who would feel your opinions are compromised already feels that way? Strange thing is, when you tout great features of Vista I believe you. It’s because your credibility is based on you being a real guy – not a corporate mouthpiece, and not someone easily bought off by fancy gadgets (maybe momentarily entranced, but nothing permanent). You put your phone number on your blog. You talk about your family. You praise the Mac. You’re just the Scobelizer, and if I am going to believe you I am going to believe you – free swag or not. Personally, I’d rather you accept something, disclose it, and tell us about it than just observe it from afar. Put another way, using your best judgement got you this far….

    Scott

  15. Nifty idea on the drive, unfortunately it will end up being another thing to apply group policy on in order to protect our computers……..sigh

  16. Nifty idea on the drive, unfortunately it will end up being another thing to apply group policy on in order to protect our computers……..sigh

  17. Apple makes their own doc that does the same thing.

    If you have a more recent Onkyo/Integra/Integra Research receiver or preamp, they also sell their own Onkyo branded iPod doc.

    In my opinion such things aren’t all that big of a deal. I think that boxes that allow you to connect either to the internet or to a media PC are more powerful and useful. Good examples of this are Onkyo’s Net-Tunes functionality, XBox 360′s media center capabilities and Slim Devices Squeezebox.

    After all, the biggest iPod can hold 60gig worth of stuff, whereas PCs these days can easily hold .5 to 2 TB or more if you have enough drive bays and good cooling.

    Most important is to not buy songs in formats that lock you in to the types/numbers of devices you can have them on. DRM is the biggest anti-feature on a lot of devices these days, so your best bet is to look for devices and formats that are DRMless.

  18. Apple makes their own doc that does the same thing.

    If you have a more recent Onkyo/Integra/Integra Research receiver or preamp, they also sell their own Onkyo branded iPod doc.

    In my opinion such things aren’t all that big of a deal. I think that boxes that allow you to connect either to the internet or to a media PC are more powerful and useful. Good examples of this are Onkyo’s Net-Tunes functionality, XBox 360′s media center capabilities and Slim Devices Squeezebox.

    After all, the biggest iPod can hold 60gig worth of stuff, whereas PCs these days can easily hold .5 to 2 TB or more if you have enough drive bays and good cooling.

    Most important is to not buy songs in formats that lock you in to the types/numbers of devices you can have them on. DRM is the biggest anti-feature on a lot of devices these days, so your best bet is to look for devices and formats that are DRMless.

  19. Running an application “installation free” and without a residual footprint from a flash drive is not even remotely a new idea – pocomail (for example) has been offering a completely self contained system for years – so what’s cool about the U3 is not what it does but how well it appears to do it. Specifically that its taken what is self evidently a good idea and added a lot of polish.

  20. Running an application “installation free” and without a residual footprint from a flash drive is not even remotely a new idea – pocomail (for example) has been offering a completely self contained system for years – so what’s cool about the U3 is not what it does but how well it appears to do it. Specifically that its taken what is self evidently a good idea and added a lot of polish.

  21. The essential problem with U3 is that you MUST have administrator rights on any computer you want to use it with – therefore the users who would actually benefit from U3 (ie students, corporate employees using computer they can’t install software on) are not able to use it.

  22. The essential problem with U3 is that you MUST have administrator rights on any computer you want to use it with – therefore the users who would actually benefit from U3 (ie students, corporate employees using computer they can’t install software on) are not able to use it.

  23. For those of you that are developers that have been holding off on converting a application to be used on a U3 Smart Drive. We have a contest going on over at TechPodcasts.com were we are giving away nearly $1000.00 plus some smart drives to those who enter the contest.

    We will be having a demo this coming Saturday with a developer that is going to show you how to convert an application. The details are on the techpodcasts.com website to sign up for the live round table and also the contest information.

  24. For those of you that are developers that have been holding off on converting a application to be used on a U3 Smart Drive. We have a contest going on over at TechPodcasts.com were we are giving away nearly $1000.00 plus some smart drives to those who enter the contest.

    We will be having a demo this coming Saturday with a developer that is going to show you how to convert an application. The details are on the techpodcasts.com website to sign up for the live round table and also the contest information.

  25. The keychain thing isn’t exactly new.

    I’ve got one that has my cross platform programming environment (no its not Java) and runtimes for linux, windows, and mac os x. I can plug it into anything and have my programming environment handy anywhere. Very handy.

  26. The keychain thing isn’t exactly new.

    I’ve got one that has my cross platform programming environment (no its not Java) and runtimes for linux, windows, and mac os x. I can plug it into anything and have my programming environment handy anywhere. Very handy.

  27. this was possible for a long time. i remmeber Fujitsu (FLA) doing such a product around a year back. Its preinstalled on the USB drive.

  28. this was possible for a long time. i remmeber Fujitsu (FLA) doing such a product around a year back. Its preinstalled on the USB drive.

  29. Can’t you put an autorun.inf file on any removable media to get it to autorun, regardless of whether it’s USB or CD or other? I don’t have a USB stick handy, so I can’t try it out, but I coulda sworn I tried it out ages ago.
    Security issues aside, though, it’s a pretty nice way to run software, so long as it really is as transient with the files as it appears. Reminds me of cartridge-based consoles.

  30. Can’t you put an autorun.inf file on any removable media to get it to autorun, regardless of whether it’s USB or CD or other? I don’t have a USB stick handy, so I can’t try it out, but I coulda sworn I tried it out ages ago.
    Security issues aside, though, it’s a pretty nice way to run software, so long as it really is as transient with the files as it appears. Reminds me of cartridge-based consoles.

  31. @2. So, lemme get this straight. The DLO lets me watch videos on my TV from my iPod that I may have downloaded from iTunes, which are likely videos that were shown on TV?

    Now, if only Media Center would talk to an iPod. ;-)

  32. @2. So, lemme get this straight. The DLO lets me watch videos on my TV from my iPod that I may have downloaded from iTunes, which are likely videos that were shown on TV?

    Now, if only Media Center would talk to an iPod. ;-)

  33. Hmm, another option for you other than the iPod dock ya’ve got listed above is one by DLO – http://dlo.com/
    Specifically, you might want to take a closer look at this:
    http://dlo.com/Products/homedoc_dx_Prod.tpl?command=showpage&cart=11460607355149459

    The HomeDock Deluxe lets you watch photos/videos on your TV from your iPod, and let’s you browse through the menu using the remote, but looking at the TV screen for track listings and such. It’s a MUCH better solution. This is the one I’m looking at getting eventually when I have the money (it’s around $150).

    btw, don’t know if ya realized that you can sync photos/contacts/etc. to your iPod from Windows – Outlook/Adoboe Photo Elements/etc. This makes the ipod a lot more “handy”

  34. Hmm, another option for you other than the iPod dock ya’ve got listed above is one by DLO – http://dlo.com/
    Specifically, you might want to take a closer look at this:
    http://dlo.com/Products/homedoc_dx_Prod.tpl?command=showpage&cart=11460607355149459

    The HomeDock Deluxe lets you watch photos/videos on your TV from your iPod, and let’s you browse through the menu using the remote, but looking at the TV screen for track listings and such. It’s a MUCH better solution. This is the one I’m looking at getting eventually when I have the money (it’s around $150).

    btw, don’t know if ya realized that you can sync photos/contacts/etc. to your iPod from Windows – Outlook/Adoboe Photo Elements/etc. This makes the ipod a lot more “handy”

  35. Why not save these devices and give them to a school that will be celebrating Computer Science Education on Friday, December 8th which is a day before Grace Hopper’s birthday.
    I’m trying to get schools involved and industry partners as well.
    Computer Science Education is not celebrated during the school year like other disciplines like Math month, or Latin week etc so I’m trying to get this going. Can you help and maybe serve on a committtee?
    http://sws.lhps.org/computerscienceed
    Thanks. Brian Scarbeau Lake Highland Prep Orlando FL

  36. Why not save these devices and give them to a school that will be celebrating Computer Science Education on Friday, December 8th which is a day before Grace Hopper’s birthday.
    I’m trying to get schools involved and industry partners as well.
    Computer Science Education is not celebrated during the school year like other disciplines like Math month, or Latin week etc so I’m trying to get this going. Can you help and maybe serve on a committtee?
    http://sws.lhps.org/computerscienceed
    Thanks. Brian Scarbeau Lake Highland Prep Orlando FL

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