Eco Button for PC – Product Review

The idea of the Eco Button is that by using it, that is to say pressing it when you are leaving your PC for a while and putting your PC into “standby mode” or “sleep mode” by using the Eco Button by simply pressing said button rather than having to go though the PC's system of putting the PC into said mode(s) thereby reducing power consumption and your carbon footprint.

I had heard about the Eco Button and read write-ups on it and even raving reviews but never actually used one ever before.

My Eco Button came as a give-away from one of the stands at the recent EcoBuild Exhibition at Earls Court ad simply because it is here and I have used it for a while I thought that a review would be in order.

I shall be entirely honest in this review and some may not completely agree with me nor like what I say.

As said in the introduction, the Eco Button basically does nothing more than by pushing it it puts the PC to which it is attached into standby or hibernation by using the functions that are built in to WINDOWS 2000/XP/Vista. This same function works over most, if not indeed all, multimedia keyboards with the “sleep” button. So, therefore, the Eco Button is, in fact, nothing but a gimmick and yet another bit of plastic and electronics that will end up in the landfills, where it should, however, not end up in.

The software that you are forced to download – the button does not work without it – tells you every time when you “wake up” the PC again after it had been put to sleep by means of the Eco Button how much carbon you have supposedly saved, etc. However, it also slows down the opening process of the PC down quite a bit and I do not think that I need that kind of time wasting.

In addition to the time-wasting part, each and every time the PC get powered up again in this way the power surges in the system actually cause a much higher current draw – unless things have changed since I studied the subject – and thereby probably nullifying the effect of any savings made to the environment in the first place. Much better just to turn off the screen, the monitor, by hand. It is also the monitors, even the FST ones, that draw several times more power than the PCs themselves.

I have also noticed that having the device plugged into the USB hubs slows down the PC quite a bit and the Eco Button program also itself does not help here.

The Eco Button, in my opinion, is nothing but a gimmick and I have uninstalled it again. Aside from the time wasting when I want to get back at the PC and I have to go through all the rigmarole that one has to when one does the same via the “sleep” button on a multimedia keyboard or via the “start” menu of a Windows PC, I can do without the loss of power while working.

Are there any really? In my opinion not, with the exception that, aside from the supposed environmental benefits you can “lock down” the PC with the press of a single rather big button.

Many, and first and foremost to anyone wanting to use it there is no Linux support which, with anything, in my view, already makes those that do not have such support less a good idea, as, in today's world, more and more people and business, etc. are migrating to Linux with its various distributions.

I rather turn the monitor, the greatest energy waster, off manually and then be able to get back to work on the PC as and when I need in a hurry without having to go through all the stages of bringing a PC back out of standby/sleep mode. I have no time to waste like that.

So, in the definite final conclusion: Even if you get an Eco Button free my advice is “do not even bother” as regards installing and using it. It is a waste of time and nothing but a gimmick.

As I said in the beginning, there will be people who will disagree with me as to the merits of the Eco Button but that is there prerogative.

To me, after now having had one for test, it is and remains a bit of a gimmick that may do absolutely nothing as to the carbon footprint.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), February 2008

Buffalo MiniStation – Product Review

MiniStation Turbo USB Portable Hard Dive 80GB (other capacities are available)
Buffalo's MiniStation Portable USB 2.0 Hard Drive offers a compact lightweight storage solution which fits into your pocket.

Store, back-up and transport digital images, music and other files without taking up room on your PC's main drive. The combination of a tough armoured case and a shock absorbent inner floating structure offers unmatched protection for your data.

Shock resistant chassis design, auto installation and easy operation make the protable HD a true plug and play compact storage solution.


  • TurboUSB – up to 64% faster transfer speeds
  • Floating internal supports and a shock absorbing case protect again minor bumps and shocks
  • Includes two USB 2.0 data cables (30sm and 81cm) (ONE IS FOR POWER THE OTHER FOR DATA ACTUALLY)
  • Automatic setup – no drivers needed
  • pre-formatted for immediate use (FAT 32)
  • Supports USB 2.0 and 1.1
  • Leightweight, compact and portable
  • near silent operation
  • Secure Lock Ware protects your data from unauthorized access (SLW may ONLY be used in Windows environment)
  • Memeo Auto-backup software
  • Supported OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista & Mac OS X 10.3 or higher
Well, so much for the manufacturer's information, reproduced above.

I received this hard disc drive FREE upon attending the recent Insight Client Event held on February 22, 2008 at the Old Billigsgate, the old London Fishmarket. All the first 1,000 visitors through the door got one of those. While it is said that you do not look a gift horse in the mouth I nevertheless thought that a review would be in order.

Baffalo's MiniStation is indeed a very need portable hard drive and very compact indeed and it does work well (once I managed to get it to install) and opens a lot faster than my Targa USB hard drive and I am NOT using USB 2.0 even.

However, the installation really was not a simple plug and play. Instructions should have been provided as to the sequence of the plugging in of the device's USB cables, one which is for the data and one which is supplying the power to the unit, e.g. data cable before power lead, as most users would probably, like I did myself, first put in the USB power lead (yes, the drive is powered from a USB socket, so it needs at least two USB sockets free on the PC/Notebook and the power one, ideally, must not be through an unpowered USB hub) before plugging in the data cable.

Also, initially, the drive did not want to work at all in a Linux PC environment. In today's world where more and more individuals, businesses, schools and even governments are going the Linux PC, and general Open Source, environment route support for Linux right out of the box is going to be an absolute must.

Mind you, having said this, it probably refused to work because I had put in power lead before the data lead and once I did discover the fact of data lead before power lead on a Windows XP Pro PC, where the drive also did not want to work at first with the other configuration, it finally initialized fine in Linux Ubuntu and it that PC to which it, in my setup, now belongs to.

  • Very sleek case Great idea of cables being able to be wrapped around the body of the drive for storage when being transported, just like with the Logitech mouse I have only recently reviewed.
  • Great transfer speed, even in USB 1.1

  • Needs instructions as to sequence of USB cable installation
  • Needs better/faster Linux interoperability out of the box (though it works fine with Ubuntu at present and the initial installation problem may have been dues to the cable sequence).

All in all a very nice external storage drive that will – one – not break the bank and – two – not require to be carried by means of a small truck. I can very much recommend it.

Reviewed by Michael Smith (Veshengro), February 2008

Cruzer® Enterprise – Product Review

Secure Enterprise-Grade Portable Storage from SanDisk

Cruzer® Enterprise is a USB drive specifically designed to meet the unique security, compliance, and manageability needs of enterprise-size businesses. It does not rely upon users to decide which files to secure. Instead it requires mandatory access control for all files, storing them in an encrypted, password-protected partition. This ensures security and protects stored data in the event of device loss or theft.

Cruzer Enterprise features ultra fast transfer speeds on USB2.0, a simple interface, and the ability to plug-and-play. It’s intuitive and practical enough for users to start using immediately.

With hardware based encryption and mandatory access control, Cruzer Enterprise helps IT managers more effectively protect information on company issued portable storage devices.

  • Hardware based 256-bit AES encryption, compared to the old military grade encryption of 128-bit
  • Mandatory access control for all files (100% private partition)
  • Strong password
  • “Lockdown” mode when a set number of incorrect password attempts are made
  • Centrally Manageable (Using SanDisk CMC software sold separately)
  • Ultra fast transfer speed – 24MB/s Read, 20MB/s write.*
  • Available in 1, 2, and 4GB** configurations
* Based on internal testing; performance may be lower depending upon host device
**1 megabyte (MB) = 1 million bytes; 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1 billion bytes. Some of the listed capacity is used for formatting and other functions, and thus is not available for data storage.

Supported Platforms
  • Windows 2000 SP4 or higher
  • Windows XP SP1 or higher
  • Windows 2003 server
  • Windows Vista
And these are the ONLY platforms – presently – and it would appear from what I was told at the Insight Client Event 2008 that neither Linux nor Apple Mac will be supported in the near future which, I have to say, may be the wrong move.

I have had the opportunity to put this USB drive to the test with installing and running it and find it a very useful tool. The case is very rugged and will, so I am told, withstand quite some impact.

This is the ideal kind of USB drive for the emergency management officers of local government who often lose their, so it would appear, unencrypted “normal” drives. With the use of the Cruzer® Enterprise there is no danger of the data being compromised, and some of it, I am sure, is rather sensitive, as no one can, theoretically, get to the data secured on the Cruzer® Enterprise drives.

It does exactly what is says on the box

It works ONLY with the above mentioned Windows platforms and not, for instance, the Linux PC and server environment. In today's time where more and more agencies migrate to Linux, in it various forms, for desktop and other locations Linux support, including Debian for Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, etc., is a must, methinks.

It is very slow with systems with 256MB RAM and less

Reviewed by Michael Smith (Veshengro), February 2008

SanDisk Introduces Two Secure USB Flash Drives For Business: Cruzer Professional and Cruzer Enterprise

Cruzer Professional Allows for Public and Private Data Partitions,
Cruzer Enterprise Provides Mandatory Security with Optional Central Control
MILPITAS, CALIFORNIA, June 4, 2007 – SanDisk® Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK) today introduced Cruzer® Professional and Cruzer® Enterprise, two USB flash drives that deliver strong security and state-of-the-art speed to business users. Cruzer Professional is primarily for individuals and small businesses who want to protect crucial data while also making it easy to share selected files. Cruzer Enterprise is primarily for medium and large organizations that require mandatory policy enforcement, central management and regulatory compliance.

“USB flash drives offer an inexpensive and convenient way to carry large amounts of digital information in a pocket or purse, yet without proper security these benefits become a huge threat to businesses of all sizes,” said Yariv Fishman, product manager for enterprise solutions in the USB business unit at SanDisk. “Cruzer Professional and Cruzer Enterprise are business tools, from a trusted leader in USB flash drives, which help ensure confidential data remains confidential – even if the drives themselves are lost or stolen.”

Cruzer Professional and Cruzer Enterprise offer password protection and virtually ironclad data security through hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption. Hardware-based encryption is much more reliable than the software-based security used in most consumer USB flash drives with password protection, because software-based protection relies on the host computer – which can be compromised by spyware and other threats -- to perform security operations. Cruzer Professional and Cruzer Enterprise are true plug-and-play devices, requiring no software installation on a host computer, so the drives will connect instantly to any computer running a modern version of Microsoft Windows.

Cruzer Professional and Cruzer Enterprise are also very fast, with read speeds of 24 megabytes (MB) per second and write speeds of 20 MB/sec1. This reduces waiting time, which is particularly noticeable when moving large files such as business presentations and video productions.

Cruzer Professional Delivers Security and Sharing

Cruzer Professional lets the owner establish a secure, password-protected “Privacy Zone” that can occupy anywhere from one percent to 100 percent of the drive’s total capacity. The area outside the Privacy Zone is unprotected and is therefore open to any user. Here’s how this can work: A sales executive heading out for a trip puts confidential business plans in the Privacy Zone of a Cruzer Professional, and a product presentation in the public area. Arriving at a client’s office, the executive hands the Cruzer Professional to the client and allows the client to transfer the presentation – without worrying the client might accidentally or deliberately copy confidential files.

Cruzer Enterprise Makes Security The Rule, Not The Exception

Cruzer Enterprise features mandatory password protection for the entire drive, so all files are encrypted if the drive is lost or stolen. Mandatory encryption, as well as a set-up process that requires users to create complex passwords, make Cruzer Enterprise the USB flash drive of choice for organizations with high security requirements, such as public companies subject to the accounting laws, or health-care providers falling under privacy regulations.

Because Cruzer Enterprise doesn’t require installation of drivers or establishing administrative right on any host computer, deployment is as simple as putting the drive into the hands of the user. Cruzer Enterprise is also compatible with many leading enterprise security solutions that enforce policies on usage of removable storage devices.

For larger organizations seeking more functionality, as well as more efficient management of secure USB flash drives, SanDisk is introducing Cruzer Enterprise CMC (Central Management & Control) server software. Cruzer Enterprise CMC supports password recovery and renewal through the network, remote termination of lost drives, central back-up and restore, as well as central usage tracking and auditing. CMC is available now, with pricing information provided on request to enterprise clients.

Pricing and Availability

Cruzer Professional and Cruzer Enterprise are both available now in the United States. They are expected to be available in Europe in July, and in Asia later this year. Cruzer Professional and Cruzer Enterprise are compatible with Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003.

Cruzer Professional comes in three capacities, with manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs) as follows: 1 gigabyte2 (GB) for $54.99, 2GB for $94.99 and 4GB for $144.99. Cruzer Enterprise comes in the same three capacities, with MSRPs as follows: 1GB for $74.99, 2GB for $124.99 and 4GB for $184.99.

SanDisk is the original inventor of flash storage cards and is the world’s largest supplier of flash data storage card products, using its patented, high-density flash memory and controller technology. SanDisk is headquartered in Milpitas, California, and has operations worldwide, with more than half its sales outside the U.S.

Experts find way around secured data

A simple method to steal encrypted information by freezing computer hard disks has been developed by a group of U.S. computer researchers.

The technique could be used to undermine security software protecting critical data on computers, The New York Times says. And, it's as easy as chilling a computer memory chip with an inexpensive blast of frigid air from a can.

The move, described on the Princeton University group's Web site Thursday, exploits a little-known vulnerability of the dynamic random access - DRAM - chip. Those chips temporarily hold data, which are supposed to disappear when the computer's electrical power is turned off.

But, the researchers discovered the chips retain memory for seconds or even minutes after power is cut, giving them ample time to freeze the chips with a blast of canned air so they can be read, the Times said.

Now let's put this into perspective:

DRAM memory chips lose their memory when power is removed. If you shut off the computer, the RAM is cleared (due to it's design, it requires power to keep data in RAM). This was previously assumed to be immediate, but it turns out it is gradual rather. Why? I do not know. Maybe someone from our readers can enlighten the rest of us. Apparently, the warmer the DRAM chip, the faster the decay. Under normal circumstances, it's a few seconds. Cooling the DRAM with air will make it decay a little more slowly - maybe a few minutes before the data is too corrupted to read. If you "flash freeze" it in liquid nitrogen, it'll take hours before the memory decays to an unreadable state.

This, in and of itself, has nothing to do with being able to read encrypted files or encrypted hard drives. However, it does expose a loophole: if the encryption key is in RAM, someone with physical access to the computer may be able to read that RAM, acquire the key, and then be able to decrypt files on disk.

The solution? Never leave a powered up computer that uses encryption. Shut it off before you leave. Suspend to RAM is no good - you have to shut it off.

The only 100% sure fix for this is to ensure that the key is never in RAM. There are only two ways to do this; first, never use encryption, or second, store the key in a register in the CPU (which requires development of new hardware), or, though I can only hazard a solution here as I am no engineer, maybe having the key on a secure dongle.

This is, however, the normal progress of security technology. Somebody develops a technology, and then somebody finds a flaw. The flaw is fixed, and then somebody finds another flaw. Rinse and repeat. There is no such thing as "bug-free" software. If someone claims they have bug or flaw free software, the flaws just haven't been found yet. Nothing is “fool proof”, or better to say, nothing will withstand someone who has time and money at hand to try and crack the defenses.

In other words:

How long will it take, in reality, for the RAM to have shut off properly and the data be GONE? Theoretically, the way I see it, a couple of minutes after you have shut down the PC, e.g. turned it off and turned the power to it off too. Unless some bursts in during that process and gets to the PC, opens it up, sprays a freon onto the chips, etc. then that may be happening but... reality would say to that that this is HIGHLY unlikely and the time it would take to actually get to the chips – physically – should have already rendered attempts null and void.

All this is is a scenario of the fact that it could be done if the chip is immediately accessible, etc. Instead of worrying about this, however, we should rather worry about those, dare I say, idiots that keep their passwords to their encryption keys and such in the wrong places or have them as simple as wife's maiden name or what-have-you. Or those that carry dongles with either passwords, encryption keys, and such, which are not, the dongles that is, password protected, let alone encrypted themselves. Flash drives of the kind as “Cruzer Enterprise” from SanDisk, or those from “Ironkey” or those from Kingston Data might provide the answer there. The weakest link is not technology, in most instance, but, as so often in other situations too, the human element.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), February 2008

Logitech NX50 Notebook Laser Mouse – Product Review

Wrap it, pack it, use it everywhere!

You may think: 'what can one say about a mouse. One is very much like another.' Well, not necessarily and in this case definitely not.

Logitech's NX50 Notebook Laser Mouse has a uniquely-shaped base allows the USB connector to snap securely to the underside of the mouse, holding everything in place and protecting the optical lens during transport. No tangles and no unraveling!

Integrated cable management allows the user to wind the cord neatly for storage. A 1000 dpi laser sensor offers 20X more tracking power than standard optical, making for accurate tracking on most high-gloss surfaces. The tough polymeric bodywork easily withstands bumps on the road and the plug-and-play technology makes for simple installation and operation

System Requirements (according to Logitech)
Windows® 2000, XP or Vista™
USB port

Technical Specifications
1000 dpi laser
Three-buttons plus scroll wheel
Compatible with 32- and 64-bit platforms
Certified for Windows Vista™ Premium solutions

Package Contents
Logitechh® NX50 Notebook Laser Mouse
3-year guarantee

Price: around GBP 10

While Logitech states for PC the requirements as to Windows® 2000, XP or Vista™ in regards to Operating System the mouse performs equally well on Linux PCs, and definitely on Ubuntu Linux where it was tested.

Laser instead of LEDs making for much better tracking, especially on glossy surfaces though I am old-fashioned and still rather have the rodent on a nice mat for it, especially an environmentally friendly one made from recycled tires.

A nice strong cable – nearly as thick as those of standard PC rodents – that wraps around the mouse's body for storage.

Now here I am really having a problem. Why? Because I couldn't find any.

This mouse is, I must say, the first laser one that I have ever used and tested. All the rodents in use with my computers are of the optical, e.g. one to two LED kind (and dare I say even one old roller mouse). The experience of using the LogitechNX50 was rather positive, to say the least.

The greatest pro, in my opinion, of the LogitechNX50 is the fact that the USB lead is (1) much sturdier than the ones usually employed for the laptop/notebook rodents and (2) wraps around the body of the mouse rather than retracts into a little spool. The plug then, once the cord is wrapped around the body, clips neatly into a receptacle at the bottom of the mouse.

The scroll wheel is very positive as are the buttons and this little rodent would be equally at home in your laptop bag for use with your laptop/notebook PC when the work area allows for the use of an external mouse, as it would be at home with a desktop or tower, in your home office or at the office.

Reviewed by Michael Smith (Veshengro), February 2008

Users' Bad Habits Invite Malware

Some estimates suggest spyware problems in the U.S. are decreasing, but writers of all kinds of malware are prevailing – partly because of computer user behavior, antispyware experts have stated.

Computer users far too often run outdated antivirus software, operating systems and browsers that have not been updated or patched since time immemorial because they're scared of change, said Janie "CalamityJane" Whitty, administrator of security software vendor Lavasoft's online support forums.

Whitty sees people running a 2003 version of antivirus software, she said during an Anti-Spyware Coalition conference in Washington, D.C. "The nature of malware has changed since 2003," she added.

In addition to problems caused by users, there's a healthy underground market for the kinds of data compromised by spyware and other malware, said Stefan Savage, director of the Collaborative Center for Internet Epidemiology and Defenses at the University of California in San Diego. The center monitored a popular malware-trading IRC forum for about six months in 2006 and found the advertised value of compromised bank accounts offered there was US$54 million.

While some estimates show the spyware problem shrinking, U.S. companies and consumers are losing the battle against malware in general, Savage said. Antivirus vendors, in unguarded moments, will say they're able to catch less and less malware as criminals become more sophisticated, he said.

The chances of an Internet fraudster getting caught are "virtually zero," he added.

"By any objective measure... this is something we end up losing on," Savage said. "The more money these guys make, the more money they can invest to get better."

The panel on consumer behavior kicked off a day-long session on fighting spyware, during which many experts said they continue to have major concerns about spyware and other malware. Those concerns remain despite Consumer Reports' annual estimate of spyware that suggests the problem is declining. The magazine estimated that 850,000 U.S. households had to replace computers in the first half of 2007, with the cost of fighting spyware at $1.7 billion for the year. In 2006, spyware cost U.S. individuals and businesses an estimated $2.6 billion, the magazine said.

Part of the problem is that people hang on to outdated operating systems and browsers, even though newer ones have better security controls, because they don't want to learn how to operate the new software, Whitty said. "The malware changes," she said. "If we don't change with it, they're going to win."

Computer users seem to be of two minds when it comes to giving up personal information, added Susannah Fox, associate director at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a research organization. Many young computer users will refuse to disclose personal information to e-commerce sites, she said. "But yet this is the same group that is putting their whole lives" on social-networking sites, she said. One private detective has told Fox that social-networking sites make it significantly easier to track down details about people, Fox said.

No one hast to have outdated antivirus and anti-spyware and anti-malware software. There are great programs out there to be had for FREE that will do the job properly and often better than the paid-for bits of software and on the other hand there are also operating systems out there available for free that are not even susceptible to any such threats. However, for the Windows PC user rather than the Linux PC user antivirus and other protection software, as well as all the patches, is a must and programs like AVG from will give great anti-virus protection for FREE, and then there is Spyware Search & Distroy, Spyware Blaster, and AdAware. All are free to the home user. All people must do is (1) download and install then, (2) regularly, ideally daily, update them and (3) run regular checks.

A protected Windows PC is a happy PC. Otherwise get a Linux PC; that is an even happier PC.

Michael Smith (Veshengro), February 2008

Employees' USB sticks 'could risk security'

Workers who bring USB sticks and iPods into their place work and connect them to its computer system are a potential threat to their own organisations, according to information security solutions firm Kaspersky.

David Emm, senior technology consultant at the company, explains that employees are not experts in this field and as such they may not be fully aware of the risks.

Giving small business technology advice, he states that if and when workers bring USB sticks and iPods into work they should scan the peripherals before they integrate them into the computer system.

This allows a "layer of confidence" to be established in the firm, Mr Emm adds.

"It's really a question of giving sensible advice to your staff," he concludes.

Meanwhile, research by Websense suggests that 90 per cent of businesses have suffered a hacker attack in the last 12 months and 45 per cent have had their IT systems infected by a computer virus.