MAGIC FINGERS

Those little flash memory drives about the size of a finger have become so common they’re often used as promotional gifts by companies, much as they give away pens and coffee cups.

You see them in movies and TV shows now. Instead of the scene where the spy is trying to download the secret information onto a disk, he pulls out a little flash drive. Disks are slow; why wait? There are at least a dozen makers of these tiny flash drives and there doesn’t seem to be any difference in what you get. That’s only the way it seems, because there are some big differences. We’ve found that the quality names do seem to work better, and the one we like best these days is the “Lexar Jump Drive Lightning.”

The main reason is they have what they call “Power to Go” already on board. This is software made by Ceedo (Ceedo.com) and it allows you to carry not just data but applications on the flash drive. You can install and run most of the standard Windows programs right on the Jump Drive Lightning. When you plug it into the USB port on a Windows computer you are ready to run your own programs with your own data. Pretty nice.

The “lightning” part of the product name refers to the speed of data transfer. The transfer rate is 20-22 megabytes a second when the computer is writing to the drive, 30 megabytes a second when it’s reading from the drive. That is very fast – much faster than a regular disk drive can operate, but that’s understandable because a disk drive is mechanical and a flash drive isn’t; it has no moving parts. This technology is coming to computers late this year or early next.

The Lexar Jump Drives costs $40 for the one gigabyte version (the one we use, and more than enough for most users), $65 for two gigabytes and $110 for four gigabytes. All the drives have built-in 256-bit encryption routines to keep your data private and for all practical purposes “uncrackable” by anything but a Cray super-computer. A “shredder” routine is also available to completely destroy any data you want permanently erased. Free engraving of your name or personal message; your could load it up with photos or songs for a nice gift. More info at Lexar.com

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