From the Kenosha News on 7-17-05

     USB Devices Offer Convenience and Ease of Use

     These days, USB (Universal Serial Bus) devices are becoming more common. Most newer printers, mice, and scanners are connecting to computers using USB ports. If you're not familiar with USB, the connector is rectangular and about ½" x ¼". In order to use USB devices easily, you should have Windows ME, 2000, XP, or MacOS. Windows 98 can support USB, but you may need special drivers for devices that you attach to your computer. Windows 95 will not support USB at all.

      This column will talk about a few very useful USB devices and then tell you how to use them properly.

      My favorite USB device is the USB memory key, often called a jump drive, thumb drive, RAM drive, or several other names. These devices are about the size of a keychain and are used to store data as you would on a floppy disk. They are infinitely reusable, unlike burning CDs. A USB memory device can hold much more data than a floppy disk (up to 1Gb), but it is more expensive than using a CD or floppy. Unlike floppies, I've never seen a USB memory key "go bad." You can purchase USB memory keys at any electronics or office supply store. Some come with a USB extension cable, which is handy if you're connecting to a desktop computer that only has USB ports in the back.

      Another handy USB device is a flash card reader. If you have a digital camera, it probably uses some type of compact media (memory card.) To transfer the pictures to your computer, get a reader for your type of memory card. My camera's "starter pack" came with a flash card reader.

      To use your USB device, simply plug it in to an available USB port on your computer. It doesn't matter which port you use. Give the computer some time to "recognize new hardware" and load the drivers. As I said, on Win98, you might need to provide drivers on a disk. In newer versions of Windows or MacOS, it will just recognize it. If you're using a USB memory device or flash card reader, open My Computer and look for a drive listed as E: or F: and saying "Removable media" or something similar. Double-click on it and manage files as you would on a floppy or on your hard drive.

      When you are ready to disconnect your USB device, it is important that you tell the system that you want to remove it. To do this, look in the systray at the lower right of your screen. You should see an icon that looks like a card with an arrow above it. Hover your mouse over it, and it should say "Unplug or eject hardware." Click on it and select the device that you want to stop. Wait until you get a message indicating that it's safe to remove the device. Remove it. If the message says that the device cannot be stopped, it's probably because you have a file open on that device. Be sure to close any open files that reside on that device, and try again.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 7-17-05