Paul Kimbrel

Paul D Kimbrel

Web Developer, Technical Architect, Sound Engineer

Bye, Bye, U3.

A while ago, my wife bought me a SanDisk Cruiser 4GB USB flash drive. The thing works pretty well, but for encryption, it uses SanDisk’s proprietary U3 software. U3 is nice and all, but it locked me into the Windows platform and I always seemed to have issues getting it to run on machines that I hadn’t already tooled around with.

I’ve been considering moving off the Windows platform on my development laptop, but the two things that have kept me on Windows was the Office suite (believe it or not… I like it) and the U3 software. I started looking around at other secure USB flash drives to see if anything would work with Linux and I couldn’t really find anything pre-installed. But everyone pointed to an open-source software package called “TrueCrypt.”

I considered getting another flash drive and installing TrueCrypt on it as a second, more platform independent data solution. However, I got to thinking… Do I really use the U3 software? It has a sync feature that is nice, but you can only sync a profile to a single machine. So I didn’t use it - ever. I just copied my documents to the flash drive periodically and called it a sync! So I decided to ditch it.

Thankfully, SanDisk did something rare for a hardware manufacturer… they actually listened to their customers. They put an uninstaller for the U3 software that will remove the “secret” partition on the drive and free it up to act just like a standard flash drive.

So, I backed up my files, uninstalled U3, and installed TrueCrypt on it. REAL tough… you copy the files to the drive. Phew… tough.

I ran TrueCrypt. It works by creating a file on the unencrypted partition that acts as a data store for an encrypted partition. The TrueCrypt drivers then use that data store and de/encrypt data from/to that file in real time as you use the encrypted “drive”. Through some relatively easy menu options, I was able to set up a drive that automatically mounted when I fired up TrueCrypt from the USB drive. There’s an “autorun.inf” file on the drive, but it doesn’t seem to want to run. So I just created a batch file that ran the same command.

So, now, all I have to do is stick the drive in, let the unencrypted drive mount, then run the “start.bat” file that I created in the root. TrueCrypt asks for my password and another drive mounts with my encrypted data.


Next up… trying it with Linux.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about where I’m going with the Office suite, I’m looking at IBM’s Symphony. It’s basically a nice facade to OpenOffice.

And for those who know me, you know that I’m Outlook junkie. Yea, yea… don’t bug me about it. Hey, I can’t find any other package that integrates contacts, emails, and calendars as well as Outlook. Well, except for Evolution. I used Evolution a bit when I was trying the Linux desktop thing once before. I’ll have to give it another go. I did hear from someone that Thunderbird has a calendar plug-in. I’ll have to see how well it works. I mainly need something that I can sync with my PDA…

I’ll post more my Linux Desktop migration again as it progresses. My main drive is a slightly unfounded fear of Vista.