Back in March I wrote that 64 bit Vista marked the end of the line for my Lexar 32bit Cardbus adapter. It got lost in the post on the way from Hong Kong. I gave it enough time to be sure it really was lost and the e-bay seller sent me another which arrived yesterday. This is (for now) the last piece of a puzzle of how to keep a lot of gadgets charged up and/or to connect to your PC. For me this list is
- Portable Hard-disk / card reader
- In-car FM transmitter.
- Bluetooth GPS puck
- Bluetooth headset
- Digital Compact Camera (used mostly for diving)
- Digital SLR camera
The SLR camera takes SD memory cards and has a non standard USB connector. I sometimes shoot in a studio with my laptop and I’ve mentioned the software for tethered shooting doesn’t work on 64bit, so I swap memory cards and copy from one while I shoot on another. The expresscard is ideal because
(a) Vista supports it without having to mess about with drivers.
(b) Once fitted it can stay in the slot for ever and there’s no risk of forgetting it.
(c) It’s faster reading than any other method available to me (even if I had got the Lexar device to work).
I didn’t understand why Vista called the Expresscard a USB device until I looked at the “about expresscard” page and saw that “ExpressCard-compliant host platforms must support both the PCI Express and USB interfaces.” So the card is USB in an alternative package – which is what I see when I put Vista’s device manager into “by connection” view. I got odd results when I tried running the benchmarks that I ran on the old Toshiba – it’s faster on writes and slower on large reads than the Tosh’s built in SD reader It’s faster than anything I’ve plugged into a normal USB port but by varying margins depending on whether reads or writes are tested and which cards are in use.
Having bought 2 USB adapter sets (one in my camera flight case, and another with extras in my laptop bag) – I don’t really need to connect the SLR to the laptop: On a day out shooting I slot the memory card into the portable hard disk and press the copy button. For studio shoots (or quick shoots) I put the card in the laptop. On long trips taking the laptop means I can edit pictures and burn backups to DVD or make a secondary copy on the portable hard disk (if I bring it).
The cable rationalization goes further. I download from the Digital compact camera using a standard Mini-B USB cable. Although the portable hard disk has a “Y” cable to allow it to draw enough current, my Dell Latitude D820 will supply enough current for it to work with the standard Mini-B cable. My new E650 (now also available on Vodafone) no longer needs a special charge cable and can use the same cable in the car or with my Swiss Word Adapter (I’m on my second one of these – thanks to a combination of poor packing on my part and rough baggage handling by Lufthansa).
I’ve changed the FM transmitter I have to play music from the phone – to one with a wider choice of frequencies and a USB power connection. So all my In-car devices are now USB powered : I showed before the “universal” USB power adapter I made; this powers the Bluetooth headset charger or GPS unit form the car, laptop or Swiss world adapter. I still have to pack 3 mains powered devices the power brick for the dell and the chargers for the camera batteries. All 3 can share one mains cable.