Hippo Manchester
October 13, 2005

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Techie: Memory in your pocket

And the cheapo DVD recorder shows its weaknesses

By John ďjaQĒ Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Youíve probably seen USB flash drives.

They plug into USB ports and give you anywhere from 16MB to 1GB of portable storage space. Most fit on your keychain, but there are a couple neato form factors for those who need their gadgets to serve multiple purposes.

I personally own an Edge Memory (edgememory.com) DiskGO! USB Watch Drive. This baby fits on your wrist and has glowy hour and minute hands. My version has a short USB cable and plug built right in. The company also makes a dressier version with a separate USB cable, which is about the same size as most other flash drives, so it sort of defeats the purpose.

For the survivalist geeks out there, youíll want to check out Swissbitís (www.swissbit.com) USB Victorinox Swiss Army knife. The USB port swings out like any other tool, so you have a deadly weapon hooked up to your PC, and it has pictures of your fwuffy widdle kitten stored on it.

Swissbit makes two versions. The TravelSafe/Flight version actually has no knife at all, just the flash drive, an LED light and pressurized ball-pen, so you can theoretically get it past the TSA at the airport. The Extended Tools Edition adds a knife, scissors and nail file. In both versions, the USB flash drive is detachable, so you can take it with you without the extra bulk.

DVD Recorder Update

I promised Iíd let you guys know how I liked my CyberHome DVR 1600 DVD recorder after using it a few weeks, and here I go. Thatís what a swell dude I am.

For the most part, Iím happy with it. Itís easy to set up, and playing a recording is a breeze. Just select its listing, which includes the first recorded frame, from a menu. The date, time and channel of the recording is also listed.

I do, however, have a few beefs. In no particular order:

1. Sound quality. For relatively quiet, talky scenes, the sound is perfect. But louder, sweeping soundtracks get all warbly; the pitch of the music wavers and stumbles. Even on higher-quality recording modes, the sound, well, sucks. It can be very distracting. To be fair, my cheap DVD+RW media could be to blame, but the problem does seem to get worse the farther into a recording I get, or the farther away from the center of the disc. Can the sound encoding just not keep up?

2. Speaking of recording modes, CyberHome should have put a little more thought into them. High Quality (HQ) yields 59 minutes. That would be one less minute than an hour. Longer (and slightly lower quality) modes exacerbate this problem, until you end up in a mode with, instead of five hours, four hours and 43-ish minutes. Again, my cheap media could be at fault.

3. The name of the recorded program is not listed. I canít really complain about this, because I knew the recording setup was more like a VCR than a TiVo ó setting the date, time and channel rather than selecting from a program guide. But still, most cable systems broadcast content information along with the sound and picture. It shouldnít be hard to add the program name to the listing.

4. The clock gains about a minute a week. But as I said, all in all, Iím happy. The DVD+RW doesnít self-destruct if it comes in contact with sunlight. Itís easy to see whatís on a disc. Itís even easier to transport than a VHS tape. Iím pretty much sold.