back to article A USB stick as a file server? We've done it!

Last week Vulture South got its hands on an intriguing SanDisk product called the “Connect Wireless Stick”. It's a USB stick with a WiFi access point baked in and is intended as networked storage for mobile devices. The idea is that you'll load the stick full of music and movies, then install the companion app on your iThing …

  1. David 132 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    More of this, please.

    That's actually a pretty cool-sounding product - and I'd like to see more of these hardware mini-reviews on the Reg.

    Any plans for a follow-up once you've played with it a while, with additional real-world experiences/tips?

    1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: More of this, please.

      Noted on the "more please". Suspect I'll move on to other things rather than go deeper on this product.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: More of this, please.

        Thanks, Simon. What I had in mind as a follow-up was a description of how the product fared after a month or two of use. All too often in this business, a product that initially looks shiny and impressive, turns out to be a PITA to live with.

        "Every 10 minutes, it will drop the connection to OSX clients - this is a known bug, apparently, but the manufacturer has no immediate plans to fix it"

        "There's a version 2.1 firmware on the manufacturer's site - but be warned, although it fixes $issue, it removes $feature"

        ...that kind of thing.

      2. Baldy50

        Re: More of this, please.

        I know it's bigger in size but my media drive has 1.5 Tb storage capacity, is wireless, has a 7 hour battery life, can charge a smart phone too, and a lot faster transfer rates than a USB stick cos they still really suck don't they!.

        1. Christoph

          Re: More of this, please.

          This 'ere WD My Passport Wireless Pro has 3 Tb capacity and a 10 hour battery life. It can charge a smartphone, and it can suck in files from a camera's SD card or a USB stick automatically.

          Oh, and you can ssh to its Linux shell, and it runs PHP and SQLite under its Apache server - which presents some very interesting possibilities.

          1. AMBxx Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: More of this, please.

            This is turning into a pissing contest!

            My PC connected to a UPS will give about 6 hours battery life and functions as anything I want. Shame the UPS weighs 20kg but far more functional than your little toys!!!!!

            1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: More of this, please.

              hmm you could add a mobile generator and slap everything on a trailer to make it mobile

            2. e^iπ+1=0

              Re: More of this, please.

              "This is turning into a pissing contest!"

              My RasPi blah blah ... one AAA battery ... blah blah ... 10Tb ... blah blah ... cont. p94.

            3. Down not across Silver badge

              Re: More of this, please.

              This is turning into a pissing contest!

              It is isn't it.

              Yes, it is nice to hear of some other solutions out there, but most of the ones in thread (so far) kind of miss the point as they are all lot bigger (bit of spinning rust will be quite a lot bigger and heavier than a USB flash drive) and heavier.

              It is not fast, it does not have massive capacity. It is, however, relatively cheap and more portable than most of the other solutions.

            4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: This is turning into a pissing contest!

              You're spot on, even with the joke icon.

              Except it isn't really since most, of not all, of the comparisons are with significantly bigger and heavier items, often needing and external power source of some sort if not outright physical hacking to make eg a router into a portable device.

              People, this is a pendrive sized device that runs for up to 4 hours with up to 200GB of storage. I don't think there is a single comparison item being mooted here which can compete on the size and convenience of this device. It may be a niche market but then that's what we want to see here. We see commodity stuff all day every day and go "Meh!" most of the time. For that matter, for most us this is still a bit of a meh! item, but for Joe average consumer this is probably a useful, convenient, tiny and easy to use gadget.

          2. R 11

            Re: More of this, please.

            Do they sell for $40 and take up a tiny part of your carry on allowance?

      3. Jeremy Allison

        WebDAV or SMB ?

        Hi Simon,

        When you connect from Mac finder/Windows \\IP-addr\name do you know if it's connecting using WebDAV or SMB ? Enquiring minds want to know...

        (and if it is SMB, I might have to ping my friend at SanDisk to see if we can help make it work better and go faster :-). Sounds like a great product !

        1. ssharwood

          Re: WebDAV or SMB ?

          WebDAV i think

    2. R 11

      Re: More of this, please.

      I've been using one for a while - or at least kids in the car have. These make long distance journeys much better, particularly if the kids have the not uncommon misfortune of having a 16gb iDevice.

      Fill the stick up with 30 or 40 movies and you're off. The cheap one can stream to three devices simultaneously, I think the more expensive models can do even more. Battery life is only a few hours, but you can simply plug it in to a $10 USB battery or a car charger and it will work fine.

      I don't see as many use cases for adults (I suppose the camping one might be valid if you're stuck in a tent during rain), but I'm surprised more parents groups aren't raving about this.

    3. HWwiz

      Re: More of this, please.

      My Huawai 4G "MyFi" device has an SD card slot. So you can use it as a portable NAS using a max 64GB micro SD card.

      So theres your internet and storage for "camping", all into 1 product.

  2. ChubbyBehemoth

    Stick + Battery Loader

    So if you plug it into an external battery pack you can probably get a few more hours with this product? Hmm,..

    1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Stick + Battery Loader

      Yup. Hence Campfire NAS

      1. Gavin King
        Flame

        Re: Stick + Battery Loader

        Attach it to a suitable thermocouple (and probably a regulator) and it really can be a camp-fire NAS.

        1. Adrian Jones
      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stick + Battery Loader

        Aren't you going camping to get AWAY from shit, not take said shit with you.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. PNGuinn
          Coat

          Aren't you going camping to get AWAY from shit?

          Yup, that's the downside of taking the goats ...

          ... But you do have the advantage of an inbuilt local pi**ing contest ...

          Thanks - its the one with the pooper scooper in the pocket.

      3. PNGuinn
        Joke

        Campfire NAS

        When *I* go camping I always take a couple of goats, a selection of quills, some carbon based ink, several large clay jars, sealing wax, a sharp knife ...

        Sorts out MY storage needs ok - and no battery worries.

        Oh - and a jar of curry powder.

  3. FF22

    Pointless

    Did they also solve the flash wear-out issue? If they haven't, then they haven't done anything, that could not have been done for decades, but wasn't, for a good reason.

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Pointless

      So, decades ago you could have a battery powered 200GByte wireless NAS that would easily fit in your pocket for around $100?

      Small 200GB hard drives came out about 1 decade ago - the nearest self-powered pocketable mass storage device I can think of from around then is the 160GB iPod Classic (from 2007), but 3 1/2 times as expensive. So I guess you could have built something around a 2-ish inch drive just about 10 years ago to do something similar, but decades is stretching it somewhat.

  4. Suricou Raven

    Idea.

    Could it, with a bit of firmware hacking, be adapted as a piratebox?

  5. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Too slow

    I've tried cheap NAS before. It sounds like lots of fun - an instant way to share files without infrastructure. Soon you get tired of waiting for it. Simon's 100MB test works out to ADSL modem speeds so you might as well leave it at home plugged into your router's storage port.

    It would be nice if these things got fast.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Too slow

      Most routers make a USB storage device available on the network anyway, so if you did that with this you might end up with the same data available via two IP addresses.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The device is no speed demon

    Well it's Sandisk isn't it?

    I have a router that lets you stick a USB in it to similar effect. The novelty is fairly transient.

    I can see the mobile device use case though, but is the connector full sized? can't really tell from the image.

  7. DainB Bronze badge

    Zsun

    google it

  8. Oengus

    Spinning Rust

    I got a 1Tb spinning rust version from Aldi that I use extensively. I haven't tried to use it as a File Server yet but suspect it would work the same as it has the built in server to service Wi-Fi connections from mobile devices.

  9. Peter Galbavy

    Most of the "MiFi" routers will let you do the same with either a microSD(HC/XC) card or USB stick and they have built-in batteries. Admittedly more expensive, but many will already have one in the "kit".

    Also, those sizes - esp the 200MB one - match the Sandisk microSD(...) range so I guess there may just be a card in a slot inside the device, which in turn would make it more interesting if you could hack the case off and have a swappable card. Fancy doing a teardown as a follow-up?

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      I have the previous version of this (functionally the same), and it just has a (pre-filled) MicrosSD slot on the side with a little rubber cover. FAT formatted MicroSD cards work fine.

    2. Jason Bloomberg

      I used to use old BT Home Hubs with a USB stick plugged in to do the same. They could often be picked up for a quid at bootsales.

      I recall seeing the sticks described in my local Tescos. A little pricey but I might pick up one to play with now I have read the review here.

    3. GrapeBunch

      "Also, those sizes - esp the 200MB one - match..."

      What do you call a router with a 200MB stick acting as a media server? Hub-ris.

  10. storner
    Boffin

    Slow campfire

    Definitely no speed daemon. There are a couple of this kind of devices around, for the latest holidays I brought along a WDC My Passport Wireless which has the same features except it uses 1 (or 2) TB rotating rust storage. Just did a simple speed test, which gave me 60 seconds for uploading a 100 MB file, and 25 seconds for downloading the same.

    Bought it for backing up the SD cards from the digital cameras while on-the-go (my S.O. is an ex-photographer, so a couple of hundred snaps per day is not uncommon). Works quite well.

    But yes - these micro-reviews are nice.

    1. billium
      Thumb Down

      Re: Slow campfire

      Don't think your S.O. ex-photographer would like their fine art being called 'snaps'!

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Slow campfire

      backing up the SD cards from the digital cameras while on-the-go

      This is becoming more of a problem, I think. A 1 week holiday we took back in May generated some 54GB of data between four children and two adults - yes there were videos in there too. Ignoring the video camera and the phones, there are six "proper" stills cameras in that mix. One has a 4GB card, four have 8GB cards and one has a 32GB card. The smaller cards, especially if video is taken, can sometimes last only a day or two of holiday, and you don't want the children to be forced to delete things just because they've run out of space (though there are usually some poor photos that can be removed).

      These days I tend to take a cheapish laptop on holiday (also good for viewing the pictures in an evening), but have wondered about an independent device in the past. Thing is though that without an intermediary such as a laptop it would need to be able to read SD cards, so this particular stick wouldn't cut it. Might as well store the photos on the laptop. And I don't think this is the problem this USB stick is trying to solve.

      It's all a very, very long way from a 10 day holiday I took with my parents back in 1980 - the first time we'd ever been abroad and the only reminder I have of it now are two dozen 110-format slides (bet you didn't know you could get Kodachrome in 110 size). Mum and dad think they didn't take a camera (and I certainly haven't found any photographic evidence that they did, and don't remember any), my sister didn't have a camera and I really must get around to asking my brother if he did. Not exactly a comprehensive record of the holiday, nor top quality.

      BUT. I have to say that I do have to keep reminding the children that they won't get the best out of a holiday if they view the whole thing through a lens. I learned that myself when ma & pa bought a decent camera (OM1n - after the above holiday! I still miss that camera) and suddenly I could use it to take really good pictures, but not remember much about the trip.

      M.

  11. Edwin

    Very cool, but

    seems like an expensive way to realise that you should have added "uSD card slot" to the list of requirements when you bought your new phone...

    That's not to say I'm not tempted though - the primary use case may be a little silly but there are plenty of others...

  12. Tom Paine
    Holmes

    host system?

    No-one's commented on the thing that immediately struck me -- if it's got a web UI, it's got a full blown general purpose computer of some sort, probably a mini ARM core I guess?, and some segregated storage of it's own and an OS. So, is that hackable -- in either sense of the word? Has anyone tried blatting the existing OS image and getting something else running? And so on and so forth...

  13. Adam Jarvis

    Sort of thing Apple used to 'evolve' (copy) into a decent product.

    Fundamentally, this device has its uses, 'it has legs', so to speak (use something similar - a 'portable-ish' 2x2.5'' Mirrored Linkstation Mini NAS)

    But the Sandisk device sounds like the early MP3 Players before the iPod came along, the overall user experence isn't that great, at those speeds. Web Portal is likely to be snail like too.

    Sandisk are approaching this the wrong way, they have all the tech 'in-house' to make this work (for an 'Apple like' user experience), as a high margin, higher price product.

    In the mix, in there somewhere, is a device that would have high margins and sell.

    I'm not sure if you need to add in a USB Battery Pack Charger (10 Hours), employ a faster Arm based processor, maybe a PCI-NVMe Interface SSD, even give it the ability to act as a Wireless router for 1Gb Wired Ethernet. The more stuff you add, the more it needs to be tethered to the mains, though.

    The Linkstation Mini (its a big long in the tooth) but its portable, and just works. I had thought of changing the spinning disks for SSDs, but never got round to it, trim support might be an issue, so left it.

    There is definitely a sweet spot there somewhere, though if Apple put an Micro SD Card slot on an iPad/iPhone this would die an instant death, but sell a lot of new iPhones/iPads.

    Apple must be so getting tempted given lacklustre iPad sales, as it would cause people to ditch their old iPad 2/3/4s, for a new replacement - an easy buck so to speak. Who says Apple need to sell it cheap, knowing Apple adding a microSD+less memory could be sold for the equivalent of a 64GB device.

    1. Major N

      Re: Sort of thing Apple used to 'evolve' (copy) into a decent product.

      But then they wouldn't be able to charge you £100/32Gb premium for the larger models. and, heaven forfend, they might have to add a tenth of a millimeter onto the depth of the phone! Hear that low hum? It's Steve Jobs revolving in his grave at the very thought! If you strapped a few magnets to him, you could probably power Infinity Loop with the output...

  14. Only me!
    Facepalm

    Why?

    Just why is the USB 2.0????

    I would buy it if it was an update product! But I am not spending a ton on old tech mashed up with a bit of funky stuff.

    Just want to hit my head against a wall when I see stuff like this, so close, yet somehow they make a very fundamental mistake by saying "We can save 0.05p in production costs if we use the old stuff."

    1. Snar

      Re: Why?

      If the data transfer is 100MB over 3 mins, there is little point in implementing USB3. I get where you are coming from, though. Zippier flash and USB3 would have made this a really fantastic product.

      Sounds a useful piece of kit for faffing about with and pulling photo's off my iPhone into an archive on the device so I can share them at the time rather than having to download them from the cloud. So IMO it does appear to solve a problem. I've ordered the 128GB version today, and am quite hopeful....

  15. AstroNutter

    PI 3 + Harddrive = more

    I've already solved this problem using a 3TB Hard drive and a Raspberry PI 3.

    The PI 3 connects to the network via wifi. The 3TB Drive is currently used to store my movie library (about 1TB of films, about 250 ish). I'd use a device like that if it was cheap and powerful enough.

    I can run the PI and hard drive off a 12v batttery. Granted it's not as tiny as that setup, but at 3TB V 200GB I'd take it.

    1. Cynic_999

      Re: PI 3 + Harddrive = more

      "

      Granted it's not as tiny as that setup, but at 3TB V 200GB I'd take it.

      "

      As with most things, that depends entirely on what you are using it for. A RP + HDD + 12v battery is hardly as convenient when your main need is portability as something you can carry around in your shirt pocket and recharge from any powered USB socket. If you are looking for storage capacity or speed rather than portability, you could use a rack-mounted NAS with petabytes of storage that will make your RP look a bit silly.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: PI 3 + Harddrive = more

      "I can run the PI and hard drive off a 12v batttery. Granted it's not as tiny as that setup, but at 3TB V 200GB I'd take it."

      Agreed, but you comparing a large-ish 7 day mantle clock with a pocket/wrist watch in terms portability and convenience.

  16. saif

    PQI/Transcend Aircard does it better...when it works

    There is a hackable SD card that works as an SD card in you camera, but can be connected to over WIFI...the thing runs linux, offers a webserver and can present a busybox shell and uses a microSD as storage, allowing the files to be delivered to your PC wirelessly...and also potentially could be scripted for more adventurous activities

    https://forum.openwrt.org/viewtopic.php?id=45820

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Watch Out NetApp!

    1. Mandoscottie

      @AC LOL thanks you made my Friday :)

  18. G Olson

    iMicroAgression

    Gentlemen -- if that's how you choose to self identify:

    Such a biased attitude "your iThing or Android" which fails to assign an equally derivative and dismissive subpar nominal description of the Android is a iMicroAgression which must be rectified. Please use the cattle prod.

    Or at least provide equal time for an equally diminutive description of an Android.

    1. The obvious

      Re: iMicroAgression

      Round these parts Android is usually prefixed with the word Landfill, and such a designation is taken as read and doesn't require constant enumeration for the sake of iDiots.

      1. DeliberatusFreeman

        Re: iMicroAgression

        That's 'Id10t' amigo.

        REALLY, we need a id10t.html standard page dor when the (l)user REALLY needs to sniff some clue glue.

  19. cd

    Thanks for the thoughtful review. I'm thinking of car audio ideas.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Don't most cars have USB ports for audio playback already? Certainly my company car (mid range Kia) and all the hire cars I've had over the last couple of years do.

  20. Mrg9999

    This would be good, if it wasn't USB2

    I bought one on Amazon when it was advertised as USB3, so I thought "maybe they'd updated a year since it came out". No , still USB2. 64GB over USB2 is really slooooooooooooooooooooooow

    The app sucks. The wifi was flaky, run time poor, 1.5 hours. Sent it back for a refund.

    If anyone does have a USB3 unit, please let me know the SKU

  21. Stuart Halliday

    So I could plug this into any old USB charger socket.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    VPN Breakout?

    Anonymous post obviously.

    If you can write/read files using the PC the device is plugged in to, and also read/write those same files on any other PC on the same WIFI, this defeats the security offered (imposed) by VPN clients that deny access to the LAN. So even when my (corporate) laptop is connected to the VPN, I can still share files with my home network...

    I appreciate this is a mere 'convenience' function - since if my corporate lappy lets me read/write to USB I can share files anyway - but this surely makes it quicker and more convenient.

  23. Omgwtfbbqtime

    Make a server farm^H^H^H^H smallholding...

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/08/brando_16_port_usb_hub/

    blast from the past. ;)

  24. Luiz Abdala
    Happy

    So it is a 200GB pendrive.

    It is cheaper than some 64GB SD cards I've seen around here. I've seen one for $170 USD around these parts.

  25. DeliberatusFreeman

    VERY interesting.

    A variant:

    1:Forget the battery, you can plug it into a 2200 Mah ONE AND IT WILL RUN LONGER THAN YOU WILL.

    2:Do a better wifi transciever in it, granting it longer range, more minds to poison... who said that?

    3: improve the up/download speed a bit. Quite a bit.

    4:You can stick it into a wall wart charger for a phone that sports a usb socket for the wire, and it runs until the power company stops. A surge supresser plug would also be nice.

    Your pub/breakroom/student lounge/bus station now has a wifi server.

    Hmmm. A stripped down linux, thppd, an SMTP server, this has possibilities.

    4: protect uploads with a password. Downloads are free, as in at will, as in liberty.

  26. redantpile

    Does the mapping actually work?

    SDWS4-032G-A46

    Has anyone actually been able to transfer files via the ip address? I am able to map and browse the files directory just like the article states. Mine gives the following error. The name of the file appears to copy but it has zero bytes. So basically it's read only.

    error 87 the parameter is incorrect

    1. redantpile

      Re: Does the mapping actually work?

      Update to my previous comment. You have to copy files using webdav. Not sure if it can be mapped but at least you don't have to use the app to copy files.

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