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February 27th, 2014:

The WhisperCup


Ok. Yesterday I told you what the problem was. Today I’ll show you what I think will solve it. I looked around online and didn’t see anything like this, not that that proves or disproves anything. If the idea wasn’t out there before, well, it’s out there now.

I call it the WhisperCup. It consists of a specially equipped USB thumb drive, and a cylindrical well that matches the thumb drive’s special equipment. The cup provides power to the thumb drive via induction. At the rounded end of the thumb drive is a wireless connection of some sort. I don’t know precisely what; such things may exist already, and if so, all the better. I call it “ultra-short range” because all it needs to do is link data into the thumb drive from the bottom of the cup. Its range could be as little as a half an inch. Certainly it should quit before the wireless end of the thumb drive clears the top of the cup. It doesn’t have to shout microwaves; hence the name WhisperCup.

The drive itself adheres to the Universal Flash Storage standard, which incorporates an interface that might as well be SATA-on-a-chip. I’ve never much likes USB as a storage interface. UFS is faster and supposedly more reliable. Adding USB to the tang end isn’t difficult; all this stuff is jelly-bean logic now. Toss it in the cup and the volume mounts. If you don’t have a cup to toss the drive in, plug it into a USB port.

The proper place for the cup is built into the top panel of a tower case. If you don’t have such a case, there’s nothing wrong with an external WhisperDock with eSATA and a wall wart. (eSATA doesn’t provide power to its devices–big mistake, but we have to live with it.) I have a Thermaltake VB9 BlacX, and there are two toaster-dock style SATA slots in the top panel. Damned handy, though I mainly use them to do my monthly offsite backups onto naked drives. I’d gladly trade one slot for a pair of WhisperCups.

The thumb drive has no internal power source. If it’s in the cup, it gets power from the cup. If it’s in a USB port, it gets power from the USB port. I don’t want the damned thing whispering while it’s in my pocket. I want to emphasize that this isn’t anything like AirStash, which is a portable wireless Web server for file sharing. That certainly has its uses, but it’s not what I’m talking about.

That’s the basics. If you’re nervous about just dropping the thumb drive into a cup, you could line the cup with plastic bristles, which would both center the thumb drive and keep it in the cup until a firm tug yanks it out.

That would do it. No plugging into a fragile port. Put the drive in the cup, and you’re ready to go. If you take the drive somewhere that doesn’t have a cup, well, the wear is on their USB port, not yours.

What’s not to like?