Tougher Thumb Drives Get More Features

Those tiny, key chain-ready storage devices are getting a makeover in
capability and design.

Known as thumb drives or jump drives, among other monikers, the handy
USB-compatible drives have been growing not only in storage capacity but with new capabilities to launch and augment applications. At the
Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, several companies in this sector made announcements.

U3 LLC unveiled a major addition to its portfolio of downloadable
applications for U3 smart
. San Mateo, Calif.-based U3 acts as a kind of clearinghouse for
thumb drive applications and was formed with the backing of several thumb
drive manufacturers.

The latest addition to U3’s Software Central download
area is’s suite of office productivity software. With
OpenOffice on their U3 smart drive, the company says, users can edit and view
their Office documents, presentations and charts on any computer, whether or
not Microsoft Office is installed.

This latest version, OpenOffice 2.0, uses the Open Document format, an
XML-based file format for office applications. With the OpenOffice software,
U3 users have a suite of applications including word processor, spreadsheet, database
and presentation manager, that can be carried in a pocket or clipped to a
key chain.

OpenOffice is the third open source software title U3 has made
available, along with the Mozilla Firefox 1.5 Web browser and the Thunderbird e-mail
client. U3 also announced that it plans to release a framework for open
source development on the U3 platform.

Kingston Technology, Memorex, SanDisk and Verbatim are among the
companies supplying U3 drives, which are available in a variety of storage
capacities up to at least a gigabyte.

SanDisk is showing its latest U3 Smart USB Flash Drives at CES. Both the
drives and a new Sansa 200 MP3 player feature extra protection via an alloy
made by Liquidmetal Technologies. SanDisk says the alloy improves durability
as well as resistance to scratches and wear.

The latest thumb drives from Royal Consumer Information Products make it
easier to know what’s stored on the device. Royal’s EZVue Vista includes a
scrollable, two-line display window of the stored file names, which can be
viewed even without a computer connection. Files are viewed within their
respective directories or subdirectories. Scrolling to the right will reveal
longer file names with file extensions, along with the size of the files and
the date they were created.

Additionally, the drives include Allway Sync Pro software from Usov Lab
that enables one-touch or automatic synchronization between folders and
files stored on an EZVue Vista Drive and the PC.

But with thumb drives becoming so inexpensive, their popularity poses a
potential security threat to enterprise networks.

“The portability of USB devices makes it easy to accidentally infect an
enterprise network with contagions carried in from a home computer,” said
Jim Watson, CEO of Reflex Security. The security firm says contamination
frequently starts with tainted media files downloaded from peer networks
such as BitTorrent that are copied onto the portable drives. Even the act of
installing P2P programs can sometimes introduce spyware and adware to a

Reflex has developed an inline network intrusion prevention system it
says will prevent such intrusions. The company advises IT managers to be
aware of the “Christmas Effect,” with many workers returning from the
holidays bearing thumb drives and MP3 music storage devices they received as

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