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U3 USB Memory Sticks, iRiver Ogg players, Gripes, Oh my!

Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:36 pm
by Void Main
So my daughter just started college and I took one of my printers down to her dorm and set up a queue for it on her Linux laptop. I also gave her my Cruzer 256MB memory stick while I was there so she can easily move her homework files around. This gave me an excuse to get a new 1GB memory stick (I'm always thinking).

I stopped at the local Walmart and picked up a new 1GB Cruzer. It's a little smaller than the old one and has a retractable USB port. I plugged it in to my laptop and it automounted like usual and I found a few Windows garbage files on the file system which wouldn't do me any good since I don't use it so I just blew them away, no problem. Of course the first thing I did was install DSL (Damn Small Linux) on it.

Well, I was at work and I decided I wanted to copy a couple of files off of a WinXP box so I put the stick in the machine and it chugged away for a little while and I saw two new items pop up, a new CD drive and a removable drive. This U3 logo flashed on the bottom right of the screen for a second and then the machine blue screened! I thought "what kind of crap is this?!?". I did a little research and found out U3 is on a hidden partition on the memory stick and appears to be pretty common on a lot of these devices:

http://www.u3.com/

Of course this is a Windows only thing. Us Linux users and Mac users don't have to put up with this malware and the USB stick just works as it should. This thing creates a bunch of registry entries without even telling you that it's going to do it. Fortunately there was a program on the site I linked to above that I could run on that Windows box that would remove the hidden partition and reformat the memory stick with the full 1GB available. I still had to go through and delete a lot of registry keys manually. I must have done this to my old Cruzer as well but I don't remember having to do it. Maybe I never plugged that one into a Windows box!

This reminds me of this iRiver music player I bought a while back. I bought it because it was able to play Ogg files. I get it home and realize I can't just mount it like any other file system to copy my music to. It used some stupid MS based picture transfer protocol (MTP) to transfer the files. It required Windows media player in Windows and in Linux you could get gphoto to transfer the files. So, I certainly wasn't happy about this at all and on top of that I found I could only get about 512MB of files on it rather than the 1GB it said it was supposed to have. Then I noticed it had the stupid "Microsoft Plays Anywhere" logo on it and realized I had some DRM infested piece of crap on my hands.

Well, after a little research I found there was a UMS (allows it to be mounted like a drive) version of the firmware outside of the US. I flashed it and now it worked great. I fired off a nasty message to iRiver shortly after about what I thought of their "Plays Anywhere" DRM crap and their choice of protocols. It apparently loses the ability to play DRM infested files after the conversion but I look at that as a positive thing. I also was able to use the full 1GB after the conversion. Now I just did a search to see if things are still the same and I must not have been the only one to complain because it looks like iRiver now officially supports both MTP and UMS and you can switch between them. Good on them I guess.

Some links:
http://www.mtp-ums.net/index-old.php
http://www.mtp-ums.net/
http://www.misticriver.net/showthread.php?t=36052
http://www.misticriver.net/showthread.php?t=42108

New Official Supported Conversion:
http://www.iriver.com/html/support/faq/ ... sp?idx=387
http://www.iriver.com/html/support/faq/ ... sp?idx=375

I just want to get plain old devices to use for what they are intended without all the Windows malware and extra garbage! Is that too much to ask?!?!

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 1:04 am
by JoeDude
Worker201 had an equal shock at a U3 thumbdrive...It's posted at that other place ;).

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:22 am
by Jenda
hmm... any recomendations resulting from this?
IE, what should I watch out for, as a linux-only user, with thumbdrives?

And mp3 players - I want a cheap one for my dad, a few Gigs is enough. Any suggestions?

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 5:48 am
by Void Main
Well, in Linux only you'll never see the U3 stuff so I would say most any of them "should" be pretty good under Linux. Just be aware that any of them that come with "U3" technology will have this hidden partition on the device. In Windows this hidden partition is used to install the U3 garbage so I would suggest if you get one and you want to be able to use the full space of the device you can stick it in a Windows box and run that U3 eraser program. It will delete that hidden partition and reformat the device to it's full capacity.

Regarding the MP3 players I do like my iRiver T30 after putting the new firmware on it. Before that I got a SanDisk 1GB for my daughter and it worked great straight away. The SanDisk also has an FM radio and recording capability and was cheaper than the iRiver and the iRiver doesn't have a radio. The iRiver will play Ogg, MP3 and WMV (including the DRM versions with the MTP firmware that comes on it) where the Sandisk does not play Ogg.

I don't have any experience with any other players or memory sticks but I can say that I would buy all of the ones I mentioned again.

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 7:34 am
by Master of Reality
But can you install linux on the iRiver?

I like my Ipod nano when i run linux on it. The only thing wrong with the nano is that its cant play OGG (due to hardware i think).

If you get an Ipod and put iPodLinux on it you should be able to play OGG though (as well as play videos on a non-video ipod).

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 8:38 am
by Tux
Master of Reality wrote:But can you install linux on the iRiver?
Nah, but the GPL rockbox project is pretty neat. Achieves similar goals to iPod Linux, on certain MP3 players

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 8:54 am
by Void Main
I assume you use these players for something more than music players when you install Linux on them? For me I just want a player to use while I run and work out so running Linux on the device itself isn't important for me as long as I can communicate with the device from my Linux machines. But maybe there are cool things you can do with it to make it worthwhile.

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:41 am
by worker201
Yeah, that U3 stuff is bad news. I found that when you have fully secured Windows, it won't actually write to the registry, and becomes a regular USB device, just like in Linux. I had to put the drive into a relatively insecure Windows box in order to run the removal program.

FYI, I think I recall that the loss of space to the U3 system is 6MB - on a 256MB device, that's a lot.

Unfortunately, U3 is a vendor supported technology, and we're probably going to see more of it in the future. Even though the criticism against it is widespread and valid, it's a profit machine. The vendors think they can sell more USB sticks if they convince people to install software on them and drag them around from computer to computer. The one I worked on had Thunderbird installed on it, which is a nice idea, but it was done inappropriately.

My report on it, from last week:
http://www.microsuck.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10566

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 10:53 am
by Void Main
worker201 wrote:I found that when you have fully secured Windows...
Heh heh, I have never found one of those. :)

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 11:08 am
by Ice9
worker201 wrote
Unfortunately, U3 is a vendor supported technology, and we're probably going to see more of it in the future.
Don't know about that, have you seen this?
Works in a kind of similar way but with open source apps.

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 11:48 am
by Void Main
Ice9 wrote:worker201 wrote
Unfortunately, U3 is a vendor supported technology, and we're probably going to see more of it in the future.
Don't know about that, have you seen this?
Works in a kind of similar way but with open source apps.
I went to the web site and initially it looked interesting but then I realized they are all Windows compiled apps. Am I missing something? I'm not going to run them under Wine. I guess any Linux system already likely has all this stuff installed. I guess that's why I just install Linux on my USB stick and boot that on the computer I want to use.

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:25 pm
by worker201
Void Main wrote:
worker201 wrote:I found that when you have fully secured Windows...
Heh heh, I have never found one of those. :)
Bwah, me neither - but you can get sorta close by being ridiculously strict with logins, passwords, and service controls. It's a long way from the OEM installation, that's for sure.

U3 is financially backed by Sandisk, makers of the Cruzer drives. U3 has also shown up on Memorex devices. And strangely, the technology has gotten some good reviews in certain PC circles. That's why I say it is going to be around for awhile.

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:59 pm
by Void Main
It's sort of insulting to me that they put this on the drive at all. It's especially insulting to me that I can't "uncripple" it without a piece of Windows software that in order to run I have to insert the device into the machine where it will automatically make configuration changes on that Windows OS without any warning at all. I would almost go so far as to say they have a virus planted on these drives.

Now, on the other hand I would say "more power to them" if they just offered the drive with it's basic functionality and offered a free download from their web site to those who wish to use the U3 technology. I still don't like the idea of people going around sticking USB devices in machines and have it automatically changing the configuration of the OS. The OS should not allow this by default. Of course it's just a case of the manufacturer taking advantage of security weaknesses in Windows.

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 1:40 pm
by worker201
Void Main wrote:Of course it's just a case of the manufacturer taking advantage of security weaknesses in Windows.
I think more likely that what we thought were security holes all along were actually backdoors designed for exactly this kind of thing. Microsoft certainly knows what these devices are doing, how they work, and how they affect the integrity of the OS as a whole. As if there was integrity. What I mean is that the entire concept of a registry and the insecurity surrounding it might have been preplanned by Microsoft from the beginning. If not from the begininng, then at least these things remain insecure by design.

If this is correct, then it puts Microsoft under a whole new light. Not necessarily a good one, but a different one. Much like the Cyrius Cybernetics Corp from "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "their superficial design flaws were obscured by their fundamental design flaws". Perhaps Microsoft has been more concerned about the 'design' than the 'flaw' all along, and we're just now seeing what they have been planning from the beginning.

Then again, probably not. Microsoft is likely too busy with release plans to notice much of anything.

Posted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 1:53 pm
by Ice9
Void Main wrote:
I went to the web site and initially it looked interesting but then I realized they are all Windows compiled apps. Am I missing something? I'm not going to run them under Wine. I guess any Linux system already likely has all this stuff installed. I guess that's why I just install Linux on my USB stick and boot that on the computer I want to use.
Yeah I know but I find it interesting as an alternative to that crap U3 thing, plus it's done with open source apps.
U3 is proprietary and Windows-only so if I can prevent it from spreading too much ...

Of course we can do this kind of thing a lot easier than ths Windoids thanks to DSL and the likes :D