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Computer in a Key Chain


Hardware, $49.99-$199.99 (8MB-256MB available)

What's smaller than a pen, fits on a key chain, and allows you to move documents and other files seamlessly between home and work, as well as between a Mac and a PC? It's DiskOnKey, a portable flash storage device with a CPU that can run on any operating system without requiring the download of drivers. And it's turning up in a growing number of school environments.

Blaine Phelps, worldwide marketing manager at M-Systems, says that schools find the device particularly useful because it's cross-platform. While colleges were first to embrace the technology, he says that the device is now being tested at the K-12 level.

Potential applications include uploading eBooks for students to read at home or school, turning in homework assignments (which can be automatically graded) on the device and allowing administrators and teachers to bring home student records or master files without a jazz or zip drive. The CPU, which is as powerful as those in handheld computers, allows applications such as Microsoft Outlook to be run directly from DiskOnKey.

One university uses DiskOnKey devices to store each student's personal data. When a student plugs it into a computer, the machine is automatically logged on. This allows the school to know who's been on which computers and for how long, as well as what Web sites have been viewed.

Recently added DiskOnKey features include an automatic boot function and recognition by most Basic Input Output Systems that start and configure personal computers. For IT staff, these functions mean there's no longer a need to carry an array of disks with drivers and system tools-they could all fit on one DiskOnKey. Educators and administrators can use the device to run diagnostic checks after a computer crash.

The KeySafe security software application is another new feature. KeySafe enables users to easily save secure and non-secure data on a DiskOnKey. The data is then accessible only through a password. Users can divide the memory space for either secure data or free space.