Over the last five years or so, the USB drive has eliminated the need to cart around expensive disks of varying sizes that don’t hold much data, or burn endless CDRs, making life a lot more convenient for computer users everywhere. Recently, the storage and connection format has seen some impressive innovations. I’m not just talking about increased storage size or the multitudes of designer casings that allow you to coordinate your drive with your outfit, but serious improvements to the technology that may be life-changing.


For busy users of the Evernote digital note-taking software who want to preserve fleeting “Eureka!” moments, the VoiceGATE USB voice recorder by Reudo, is a useful tool. Released last year, this seemingly typical USB drive, which comes in trademark Evernote green and white, has been updated in this year’s version to allow for a longer recording time; up to 100 minutes, and greater file compression; 1/8 of the conventional size. Here is how it works: when out and about, you have a stroke of genius and want to get that thought recorded immediately without too much hassle. You could reach for your smartphone, type in your PIN, and launch a voice recording app, but this becomes a bit of a process and the moment of inspiration may have passed. With the VoiceGATE, which easily attaches to your keychain, phone, or ID card lanyard, you simply flip the switch to record, talk away into the mic, and flip the switch back when you’re done. There is a multicolored LED light that gives feedback as to whether the device is in standby, recording, or saving your message mode. What is perhaps even more convenient is the ease with which you can manage your audio files. With the “EN Uploader” (Evernote Uploader) software installed on your Mac or PC, and linked to your Evernote account, the VoiceGATE will automatically sync your files to Evernote whenever it is connected to your computer — and also erase the files from the USB drive. The files are recorded in WAV format and the upload allowances are dependent on your Evernote account; free members can upload files up to 3MB in size, while Premium members have a limit of 50MB on their uploaded file sizes. Of course, the VoiceGATE can also be used as a regular storage device with 4GB of space. It runs off its own battery that charges when connected to your computer, and it gets about eight hours of recording time off a single charge. This handy tool is priced at ¥3,800 and is available through the Reudo online shop.


Buffalo Reversible 4-port USB Hub

Buffalo also has a new device that should appeal to just about any computer user: A four-port USB hub that doesn’t care whether you stick the cable in USB icon side up or down. With our growing piles of USB-connectable peripherals — smartphones, tablets, cameras, scanners, printers, e-readers, and so on — the experience of trying to stick a USB device in only to realize that it needs to be flipped around is such a common experience that it has become widely accepted as a fact of life. This USB hub takes it both ways and is so simple and practical that it is sure to become a standard format in the near future. The Buffalo hub comes in four colors (pink, black, white, and blue), supports USB 1.0 and 2.0, retails for ¥1,720 and is currently only shipping within Japan.

buffalo.jp/products/catalog/supply/peripheral/usbhub/bus/bsh4u17/. Jess Mantell is a PhD student in the department of Media Design at Keio University. Follow tweets about design, technology, and urbanism @jessmantell

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