USB drive adds MP3 ability

The fat little KanguruMicro USB drive lasted about six hours without a battery recharge.

Henrik G. DeGyor

Universal Serial Bus hard drives are a network administrator's Swiss Army knife. As these tiny peripherals add tools, they get more and more interesting.

For example, an admin can now play MP3 audio files while backing up other kinds of files on Interactive Media Corp.'s 256M KanguruMicro keychain hard drive.

Software is available on the Internet to translate many types of audio files to the MP3 format, which is compact enough that the KanguruMicro can store an average of 25 MP3 files. Such files are usually 1M to 5M, big enough to merit 480-Mbps USB 2.0 transfer, but that capability has yet to make it to the 12-Mbps KanguruMicro.

The drive lists for $179, more than double the cost of most other 256M USB keychains. Street price, however, drops as low as $85.

In my tests, the KanguruMicro averaged six hours of battery life with a half-hour recharge time. The tradeoff for that was bulk. The 1.6-ounce unit measured 3.6 by 1.19 by 1-inches, which made it the largest USB drive I've seen. Even so, it was small enough to fit in my pocket.

The unit began charging automatically whenever connected via USB to a computer, and a yellow status light came on. When charging was complete, the light turned green. A red LED came on when an MP3 audio file was activated by connecting the headset.

Raising or lowering the volume without skipping to another audio file proved difficult. A single dial controlled volume, track skipping and pausing, and fast moves were inadvisable.

The KanguruMicro required drivers for Microsoft Windows 98's first and second editions. It was compatible without drivers with Windows 2000, Millennium Edition, XP, Mac OS 8.6 and higher versions, and Linux 2.4.0.

The headset did feel uncomfortable after a couple of minutes. I advise buying a high-quality headset for use with the drive.

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