Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

Busbi Bolt 16GB USB 3 Flash Drive Review

August 31, 2011 4 comments

Busbi Bolt USB 3 / USB 2 16GB Review

The Busbi Bolt is a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 compatible flash drive.
Today I’m reviewing the 16GB version and testing the speed in USB 2 and USB 3 mode.

Busbi Bolt 16GB USB3

First Impressions

I can’t tell you much about the Busbi brand, but it’s probably just a repackaged OEM device, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If the memory chips and the controller are good enough, why should it matter who fabricates them?

The Bolt feels robust and light when first released from it’s blister pack. The surface on which the Busbi logo is printed has a different feel from the plastic outer, it’s almost rubberised, and tactile enough to provide grip when inserting and removing.
There is a brilliant blue LED that also illuminates the transparent base. The base houses a metal loop for a lanyard, although one is not supplied.


#1 – Retail Front

Retail Package Front

#2 – Retail Rear

Retail Packaging Rear

#3 – Blue Illumination

Blue Illumination When In-Use

Free Space

Windows detected the drive without requiring drivers, my system runs windows 7.

Windows shows the drive as a 14.9GB capacity.

16GB is 14.9GB Free Space

This is the same for every device, it is not a fault with your drive.

A device advertised at 16GB is actually 16 billion bytes or 16,000,000,000 bytes.
On your packaging somewhere is should say 1KB equals 1000 Bytes.

In reality, 1KB is 1024 Bytes, so your real capacity is less. To calculate what size you should get, take your 16 billion Bytes, divide this by 1024 to get the number of Kilobytes.
Divide again for Megabytes, and again for a Gigabytes.. 14.9011..

Speed Test

On the back of the packaging, Busbi claim this drive will operate at of 20MB/sec read and 10MB/sec write through USB 2 and they claim 50MB/sec read speed and 20MB/sec write speed through USB 3.

USB2 - 20MB/10MB sec USB 3 - 50MB/20MB sec

The Software

The software I’m using to test the Busbi Bolt has changed in version only, from previous flash drive tests.
The physical way in which the drives are tested is relatively unchanged – a file is written to the drive and verified, and the read and write speeds are calculated.

You can download the test software yourself, from the following locations.

CheckFlash by Misha Cherkes version 1.16.2
Barts Stuff Test version 5.1.4
Crystal Disk Mark version 3.0.1b – available in 32 bit and 64 bit versions.

The test system is a custom-built i7 930 with 6GB ram, running windows 7 x64.
The flash drive is formatted to NTFS to allow a full drive read write test.
FAT32 has a file size limit of 4GB

Check Flash – USB 2

Check Flash is set to complete 3 passes of the Small Pattern Set read write test.

#1 – Nearing end of 2nd cycle

Check Flash coming to end of 2nd cycle.

#2 – Check Flash finished 3rd cycle

Check Flash Finished Testing

Our final values for USB 2 testing with Check Flash are 32.94 MB/sec read and 17.94 MB/sec write.

Check Flash – USB 3

Check Flash is set to complete 3 passes of the Small Pattern Set read write test.

#1 -Check Flash 1st cycle

Testing USB 3 In-Progress

#2 – Final Check Flash results

USB3 - 52.76MB/sec read 18.02MB/sec write

Our final values for USB 3 testing with Check Flash are 52.76 MB/sec read and 18.02 MB/sec write.

Where To Buy?

Shop through Quidco for cashback at Right now, the Busbi Bolt is only £15 from with free delivery.

or use code DSTORE10 at Currys (UK) for 10% off and free delivery.

£13.49 with 10% off and free delivery

Seen a better offer? Post a comment!


Quidco App for Android Logs Username, Password, IMEI and Card Details Without Encryption

August 21, 2011 3 comments

Quidco App for Android v1.0.4 – Still Just A Beta Test

I installed the Quidco app for Android from the Market a few days back, and I thought it would be nice to do a review.
However, after a bit of poking around I found a log file – Qlog.txt – with my Quidco username and password stored plain-text.

Quidco Username & Password

A quick check revealed also the app was logging my quidco userID and my phones IMEI number.
The IMEI is unique to every handset, and doesn’t necessarily relate to any individual, the SIM does that through the IMSI.

Anyway, the quidco app gets your IMEI through the READ_PHONE_STATE permission, which is requested on installation. It is shown below as Read Phone Status and ID.

Quidco App Permissions

Store Card

The app gives you the opportunity to register a credit card, for earning in-store cash back.
I read through the terms and conditions first, to see what safe guards are in place to protect my data.

T&C Section 2

Great! My card details are only stored and processed in encrypted format..

Screen grab was made after bug found, to illustrate the problem, but log file is exact except redactions.

My Card 8888..

Logged Un-Encrypted

Data Protection Fail.
Please note, the screen grab of card number was made after the bug was found, to better illustrate the problem, but the log file is exact except redaction.

Further Development

This fault has been reported to Quidco, un-installing the app does not delete the log file.
My handset has root privileges, you may be able to view or delete you own log file without root.

Update; the Quidco response to this issue is

..that the android version of the Quidco app is only a test version and this is not meant for use at the moment.

We have not launched the android version of the app so any personal use of this is completely at your discretion as we are currently running our own tests on this to ensure everything is ready before our official release.

If you have any worries or concerns, contact the app developer or read the Information Commissioners Office guides;

Disclosure of personal information
If your personal information has been disclosed in a way that you did not expect you can complain to us.

Security or loss of personal information
If your personal information has been lost or is not held securely you can complain to us.

I’m sure it’s possible a malicious program could be written to extract these details from your log, and gain full access your account.
You do use a different username and password for all sites, don’t you?

LG BD550 Blu-Ray Disc Player

June 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been saving up to get a new player to replace my Philips DVD drive – I play a lot of DivX movies, and the Philips was struggling to cope with the higher resolutions. Also, it struggled with any scene involving fire, water, shooting – anything fast-motion really – would result in choppy rendering and stuttering audio.

So there’s two things I really want from a hi-def player, MKV support and DivX HD playback. Smooth playback.

I was thinking of replacing it with a media player system or a Blu-Ray Player.
The Asus O!Play HD2 is around £80 and the Patriot Box Office about £60 at the time of review, Amazon has the LG BD550 for £65.

Asus O!Play HD2

Asus O!Play HD2 - Front & Rear

Asus O!Play HD2 - HDD Installation

The Asus O!Play HD2 supports USB3, if you have very large files to transfer to it.

Video – HDMI 1.3, Component RGB  and Composite S-Video.

Audio – L and R audio, Optical and Coaxial out.

Input – Ethernet & USB 3 to the rear and support for CF, SD, MMC, MS, MS Duo, eSATA and USB 2 at the front.

Extras – DLNA, Upgrade storage with internal 3.5″ HDD, can be a Samba Server or NAS box, Bit Torrent client. Supports Internet accessible content.


Patriot Box Office

coming soon..

The LG BD550

LG BD550 Blu-Ray Disc Player

Video – HDMI, RGB  and S-Video.

Audio – L and R audio and Coaxial out.

Input – 10/100 Ethernet rear and USB 2 on front.

Extras – Bonus View, BD Live, DivX HD, MKV, AVCHD, NTFS USB Playback.

LG BD550 Rear Ports

Bonus View and BD-J

All modern BluRay players must support Bonus View, which is a Java based environment that supports the on disc menus and interactive material.
You can find out more about BD-J here

BD Live

BD Live is the term used when interactive material is sourced from the internet. There are privacy issues surrounding BD Live as a connection to an authorisation server reveals Personally Identifiable Information.

A quick Google search reveals many Terms Of Service, including Warner Bros

When you access Warner Bros. BD-Live content through one of our services, we collect statistics concerning downloaded and viewed trailers, referrals, chats, other interactions with BD-Live content, as well as certain diagnostic information related to your BD-Live players display and ability to deliver services.

or CBS

In addition, we may collect your IP address or some other unique identifier for the particular device you use to access the Internet, as applicable (collectively referred to as a “Device Identifier”). A Device Identifier is a number that is automatically assigned to your computer, your Blu-Ray player, or other device used to access the Internet, and our computers identify your device by its Device Identifier.

Making Choices

There are not a lot of players that explicitly say ‘Supports MKV’ or ‘DivX HD playback’ but after reading around, a few reviews listed these as supported formats and I was happy when the player arrived that it had the MKV and DivX HD logo on the top.

AVCHD, MKV and DivX HD Supported


My next step was to put an MKV on my NTFS external drive and see if this player was as fast and as smooth as I hoped.. And I wasn’t disappointed.
A 6Gb MKV loaded in seconds, with very smooth playback and amazing video quality.

100Gb Core by CnM – Portable HDD Review

100Gb Core by CnM External USB 2 HDD

I am looking to replace my USB flash drive with something with more capacity and speed, so I thought a small external hard drive would be great, and the Core by CnM 100Gb drive for only £22 compares very well against the Sandisk Cruzer Edge 8gb flash drive I just paid £12 for.

              Drive Name :  Size  : Cost : £ Per GB
     Sandisk Cruzer Edge -    8Gb - £12  - £1.50
             Core by CnM -  100Gb - £22  - £0.22
     Verbatim Store N Go -  500Gb - £40  - £0.08
     Samsung S2 Portable - 1000Gb - £69  - £0.07

Value For Money

So we already know that this drive is about 7 times cheaper per gigabyte than the USB flash drive from Cruzer, and from past experience, all external USB hard drives really are just a laptop drive in a shiny plastic shell.

I tried to find a 100Gb  2.5″ drive for under £22 and had no luck, the smaller capacity drives are inordinately expensive, so I began to wonder what was in the box…


The drive was relatively easy to open, I applied pressure to the shiny Core top, in the direction indicated in the image below, the bottom edge seems to be the least secure and it popped open. I have highlighted the location of all the clips for you.

The Hard Drive

Inside the box is a REFURBISHED Hitachi Travelstar HTS721010G9SA00 – SATA 150, 8Mb cache, 7200 RPM.

The drive is not secured into the caddy with any screws, there are only 2 damping strips and the cabling for the LED to prevent the drive inside from moving.

It is connected via a SATA to USB board.

SATA to USB connector


I don’t find it noisy in operation, this is obviously subjective, it clicks and clatters a bit during file transfer, but nothing I find annoying.

Performance is limited by the USB 2.0 spec, it maxed out around the 32MB/sec transfer limit, my system allocates 20% to system overhead.

Check what overhead your system reserves  –

  • Open Device Manager – Right click on My Computer and select Manage or  run devmgmt.msc
  • Find Universal Serial Bus Controllers, and click the plus sign
  • Locate one of the “USB Enhanced Host Controller” entries
  • Right Click and select Properties
  • Click onto the Advanced tab

USB Enhanced Host Controller - 20% Overhead

I used HDTune to run a benchmark on the drive, you can download a copy from – the free version only tests read speed.

HDTune 2.55 Read Speed


I’m using this drive with a blu-ray blayer to stream HD content. It takes a while to fill the drive with large files, write transfer speeds are slow compared to my raid array, but much faster than any USB flash drive I own.
My computer supports USB 3.0 but I felt the additional cost of a USB 3.0 external drive isn’t worth it yet, especially as the player is still only USB 2.0 capable.
The price per GB is very attractive for a portable drive, I would recommend the Core by CnM drives if you want a cheap portable solution.

Alternatives? The USB 3.0 Verbatim Store n Go 500GB almost got my money, shop around.

Sandisk Cruzer Edge – Flash Drive Review

April 18, 2011 19 comments

There are several flash drives available in the Cruzer range, the Micro, the Slice and then the Blade. Now meet Edge, the latest addition to the line up.

First Impressions

The Edge feels plasticy and very light when first released from it’s blister pack. There is, however, a very nice solidity as you open and retract the USB connector.
I don’t think this will easily pop out in a pocket or if it’s dropped.

On inserting the Flash Drive into the USB port, i found you really needed to keep you thumb firmly in place to stop the connector retracting, and this was made more difficult by the nature of it’s small size when there were other drives or cables in the adjacent slot. I found it awkward to keep the connector fully extended during insertion, and I had the very same issue with the Cruzer Micro.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Free Space

On insertion, Windows detects the drive at 7.45GB capacity.. A device advertised at 8GB is actually 8billion bytes or 8,000,000,000 bytes.
Divide this by 1024 to get the number of Kilobytes, divide again for Megabytes, and again for a Gigabytes.. 7.45

7.38GB Free Space

Add on the file system overhead, and useable capacity is 7.38GB.


First testing shows the Edge has a slow write speed, but with a faster Read speed.

Our first test is CheckFlash 1.16 in Logical Drive more, this is an operating system independent test that writes directly to the flash drive.

CheckFlash - Logical Drive Test

Second test, with CheckFlash again is Temporary

CheckFlash 1.16 - Temporary File Test


Test Program - Read MB/sec - Write MB/sec
Check Flash Logical    - 18.45       - 4.70
Check Flash Temporary  - 18.50       - 4.52

Average Read & Write - 18.48 - 4.61

Compare this to the Cruzer Blade review, and there is only a marginal decrease in Write speed, (Blade 5MB/sec average,) and the Read speed has increased by about 2MB/sec.

Flash Review – Sandisk Cruzer Blade – One Year On, An Update

February 24, 2011 2 comments
Cruzer Blade upright rear-view

Sandisk Cruzer Blade 16GB

I’ve been using the flash drive almost every day, and today, I’m writing an update to the original Sandisk Cruzer Blade review – I’m going to run some of the same test software and it’s the same flash drive but I want to see what a year of read and write cycles has done to performance..

The original review used CheckFlash, Barts Stuff Test and Crystal Disk Mark to compare the performance of the Cruzer Blade against the Cruzer Micro I was replacing. There were some complaints originally about comparisons with different sized drives and of different models, so this review looks only at the read / write speeds of the Cruzer Blade and how a year of usage has affected performance.

The software I’m using to test the devices has changed in version only, the physical way in which the drives are tested is relatively unchanged – a file is written to the drive and verified, and the read and write speeds are calculated.

You can download the test software yourself, from the following locations.

CheckFlash by Misha Cherkes version 1.16
Barts Stuff Test version 5.1.4
Crystal Disk Mark version 3.0.1 – available in 32 bit and 64 bit versions.

The test system is a custom-built i7 930 with 6GB ram, running windows 7 x64.
The Cruzer Blade is formatted to fat32.

Check Flash

Check flash was run using the ‘temporary file’ option, on a fat32 file system, this limits the maximum file size written to 4gb, which should be enough for an accurate test result.

Check Flash 16.47MB/sec Read 4.96MB/sec write

Crystal Disk Mark

Crystal Disk Mark test 17.27MB/sec Read and 5.38MB/sec Write

Barts Stuff Test

BST creates a temporary file on the drive and performs a sequential write test with verify to determine average read and write speed.

BST averaged 16.4MB/sec read and 4.70MB/sec write


And new for this review is h2Testw – a program written by a German computing magazine for determining if your flash drive really has the capacity the drive controller is reporting to the operating system.
For example, if you have what appears in Windows to be a 32gb flash drive, but physically it’s only a 4gb memory chip, this program will detect errors in copying data beyond the capacity of the drive, alerting you to the fake capacity and preventing data loss..

As part of this process, it also determines read and write speed of the device.

h2testw 16.1MB/sec Read 4.98MB/sec Write

So the Cruzer Blade achieved a final value of 16.1MB/sec read 4.98MB/sec write in this test.


The software tools used to determine flash drive read and write speeds vary in terms of ease of use, and software build quality.

I would rate the Barts Stuff Test program the lowest quality in terms of programming and user interface. During testing, it crashed at the 4gb hardlimit for the fat32 filesystem – it failed to take this into account when starting the test.

Crystal Disk Mark is the most comprehensive test program, testing random and sequential write modes in different block sizes and queue depth. For a simple average read / write speed test it’s overkill.

I find CheckFlash is the most useful program for me, as it shows a pictorial representation of the process, indicating wether faults have been found during the test, althought a downside is the user interface for selecting options – it’s a little untidy.

So, from the results gathered from our 4 test programs, we can average our results into an overall read / write speed for the Cruzer Blade in fat32.

             Read MB/sec - Write MB/sec
Check Flash - 16.47      - 4.96
Barts ST    - 16.40      - 4.70
Crystal DM  - 17.27      - 5.38
h2testw     - 16.10      - 4.98
Average     - 16.56      - 5.00

So we can see, for the 16GB cruzer blade, average Read speed is 16.56MB/sec and average Write speed is 5MB/sec.

In real terms, this means the average time taken to write  a 1GB file, (1000MB,) to the Cruzer Blade would take approximately 200 seconds, or 3 minutes 20.

If we compare this set of results to the previous round of testing, we can see the old test results were a lot less grouped, with very low read speed reported by CheckFlash and possible incorrect average write speed from BST. Here is the original output from CDM.

Cruzer Blade Fat32 CrystalDiskMark

Cruzer Blade Fat32 CrystalDiskMark

The average sequential read speed of 17.23MB/sec and write speed of 5.047MB/sec very closely match the latest results and indicate no significant loss of performance over the year.

The drive is still very slow, with prices for the 16GB around £14 with delivery it’s cheap enough, but my advice? Spend your money on something with better performance.

For good price/performance, try the SuperTalent USB 3.0 8GB or 16GB drives for super 67MB/sec read and 23MB/sec write speeds. For those with USB 2 only, yet looking for a high speed drive, try the 32GB Corsair Flash Voyager GTR with 34MB/sec read and 28MB/sec write performance. Costly, at about £60, do NOT be tempted by the cheaper GT version.

These read / write speeds are manufacturers claims and I have not tested or verified them as such.

Home Hub 3 Disassembly

February 19, 2011 8 comments

Today, I’m disassembling the new Home Hub 3 from BT, read about it’s specification and it’s aesthetics and web interface here.

This post is all  about the hardware inside the hub, who makes it, how future proof is it and how technically robust it is.


To start, the bottom of the device is screwed together under the sticky feet.

HomeHub3 Screws under feet

Home Hub 3 has screws under these feet

There are some catches along the sides and the top, they come undone very easily, unlike the first HomeHub, which was almost impregnable.

The front comes off really easily, and we reveal the front side pcb with the 3 LEDs and a chip in the center of the board.

Home Hub 3 Exposed

If we magnify the center chip we can see the details of chip and manufacturer

Magnification of Lantiq PSB6972

So, the main feature on this side of the board is the Lantiq PSB6972 – we can read directly from their website that this is an ethernet controller, they refer to it as the XWAY TANTOS – a

seven-port Ethernet switch controller with five ports supporting 10/100 Mb/s TX/FX Full/Half duplex and two/three supporting 10/100/1000 MAC Full/Half duplex operations.
Advanced features such as 802.1p(Q.O.S.), 802.1q(VLAN), Layer4 Q.O.S, Security, Bandwidth Control/Guarantee, Port Mirroring, IGMP and Management

Interestingly, the XWAY chipset was developed by Infineon, before the creation of Lantiq. The following text, from their CPE brochure shows.

Our portfolio includes extremely power-efficient solutions for ADSL2/2+, SHDSL, and even VDSL2. With
the Infineon® XWAY™ product family we drive innovative services such as Voice over IP, HD telephony, HD television, IPTV,
video on demand, interactive gaming, distance learning, video conferencing, and high-speed internet access.


We have to remove the 2 center screws that secure the PCB to the plastic housing.

Home Hub 3 Rear PCB

and magnifying the main components on this side.

Lantiq XWAY ARX168 PSB50810

The main components here are the Lantiq PSB50810 and the NAND256W3A2BZA6 flash. The chip to the very right hand side is the UTC LM324

Details on the PSB50810, the NAND flash, and the UTC LM324 chip.


ARX168 is ideal for next generation high end ADSL2/2+ Router and WLAN router applications supporting high-bandwidth services.
Its dual CPU architecture combined with protocol acceleration guarantee ideal routing throughput, powerful enough to make it the central point of the end-user’s home network.
Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) applications benefit from the high routing capabilities as well as from the many special DSL Physical Layer features such as Erasure Decoding and Re-Transmission.

Some people have reported better replay quality and less stutter from BT Vision, the IPTV offering from BT, with Home Hubs 3. This new IC and associated chipset may be the reason.

Here is a diagram, from the Lantiq PDF on the ARX168:

XWAY168 Interface

You can see from the diagram above that Wifi is connected to the ARX chipset through a PCI bus, similar to the HomeHub 2 – where Wifi was provisioned through a mini PCI card.
The actual device providing Wifi is the Atheros AR9227, more on this below.

The Lantiq press release regarding the Infineon ARX168 chipset can be found here.

Gigabit Ethernet

The red ethernet and the right hand port of the bank of 4 yellow ethernet are gigabit enabled. Above each is an individual controller chip to facilitate these faster ethernet speeds.

Gigagbit Controller Chips

This chip is the Lantiq PEF7071 also know as PHY11G


A single Physical Layer (PHY) gigabit ethernet device with integrated serialisation/de-serialisation (SerDes)

You can download the full spec from their website as a pdf.

PHY11G Example


Wifi is provided by the Atheros AR9227 connected to the Lantiq chipset via a PCI bus. It is a 2.4GHz only solution.

Atheros AR9227 provides the HomeHub 3 WIFI

The manufacturer put out a press release announcing

the industry’s most integrated 2-stream 11n solutions, the AR9287 PCIe and the AR9227 PCI, which deliver no-compromise, full MIMO transmit and receive performance. Atheros has taken system integration to a new level, driving refinements in XSPAN, the industry’s most widely deployed 11n technology, to make the high-performance WLAN solution accessible in an even wider array of wireless products.
The two new designs, which target the PC and broadband consumer premises equipment (CPE) markets, integrate the MAC/baseband and radio transceiver, two enhanced MIMO power amplifiers and low noise amplifiers, and the transmit/receive switch, all onto a single chip. As a result of this extraordinary integration, these highly optimized and cost-effective designs will enable a new class of 11n products.

On the board you can see it also has two unused connectors, although I cannot decide what sort they are. Checkout this website of mini smt wifi receptacles to see what you think?


After reading some of the comments, I am updating this internal antenna section to include some photos of the 2x internal antenna used in the HomeHub 2.
They’re both very basic, no more than a wire from the PCB connector to a piece of shaped metal.

It’s very possible you could make an external antenna modification, if the header on the PCB is active.

HomeHub 2 WIFI Antenna On-Board


HomeHub 2 WIFI Card with Antenna


The HomeHub3 is a whole technological class above the HomeHub2 with it’s Lantiq chipset working in harmony to deliver low power and high performance compared to the previous versions Broadcom networking solution with a mini PCI card thrown in. What I don’t understand is why they chose to use the Atheros AR9227 single band solution for WiFi when the Lantiq partnership is so strong with the rest of the components.

The Lantiq WAVE 300 is their proprietary WiFi solution, with support for the 2.4GHz and 5Ghz bands. Using this chip in the HomeHub3 would have offered a higher degree of future proofing.

It’s a smaller, more power efficient router. It’s gigabit ethernet will be of use in the future for many, but the big winner in this is BT. With the loss of the DECT support and VOIP function, they have reduced call volume for WiFi and handset faults and reduced overheads by removing VOIP support. They no longer need to stock spare handsets, and they have put the cost of faults back on the consumer.