Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I've decided to take a break for a bit in my relentless bashing of YEC'ers and fundamentalists of all stripes. Instead I'll take a more technical bent and post two reviews of a flash drive that I recently bought, broke, and subsequently repaired.

I work with large video and image files at work and wanted something I could use to transport these files more quickly than burning CD's. After looking around I decided to purchase the Sandisk Cruzer Titanium 4 Gigabyte. It is a fast drive, which I've learned is essential with a large capacity. There is nothing worse than copying a large file only to find that it will be half an hour before it finishes writing to the drive. I have been happy with it and benchmarking it with Sandra shows it is as fast as advertised. It also is durable, supposedly, which was a big selling point since I prefer to keep it on my key chain where it gets battered around quite a bit.

I like the idea of using portable applications from your USB drive. Unfortunately the U3 system on this drive is annoying as hell and most of the good applications for it must be paid for. I erased and reformatted the disk immediately to get rid of the U3 stuff and instead loaded Portable Apps. I currently have the Portable Apps Mod R30 loaded since it gives much more flexibility for organizing the menu, using apps that are not in Portable Apps format, and themes (Like Neorame's Crystal Style theme that I am using now).

Unfortunately it didn't take long for the drive to break despite it's claims of indestructibility. I threw my keys across the parking lot to my wife and didn't quite make the distance required. The resulting crash on the pavement popped the two halves of the case apart. She snapped them back together and all was well for the day, but I wanted to make sure it wouldn't happen again so I decided to take it apart and glue the halves together. Luckily I did as the case was barely holding together and I was able to pull it apart with only light pressure. When I did, one corner cracked off, as you can see. This made it impossible to press fit the case back together.

Of course, being a scientist I had to take a look under magnification and what I found was somewhat interesting. Liquidmetal, the alloy the case is made of, is an interesting substance. It can be cast easily yet has superior properties to some forged metal which is very unusual. It is also very hard and amorphous with a high yield strength so it is prone to crack rather than bend once enough force is applied. I believe this is the reason for the cracking I found. The case is rated for 2000lbs of crush force and I have seen numerous videos of people driving cars over it etc... Crush force is basically static force however while a drop, the most common method of flash drive wear and tear, is not static and can be much more focused on particular parts of the case. So, saying it is indestructible based on crush force is a bit misleading, as you can see.

I assumed that the fall had created a crack in the metal, however the cracks I found radiated out from the press fitting that held the case together, indicating that the metal had cracked from the force of press fitting it together. I also found cracks in one collar which was not near the edge of the drive that hit the pavement, and thus should not have cracked due to that blow.

Obviously, some of the cracks cracked all the way through but I also found some which originated in the ID of the collar yet did not crack through. This is good proof that the cracks originated from the force of the press fitting, "Inside-Out", not from the fall whose force would have manifested in an "Outside-In" direction.

I'm positive that dropping it exacerbated the problem and was the catalyst for it coming to light at all. However, it most likely never would have cracked if a crack had not already been there from when it was produced. Basically, I think Sandisk has (or had) a problem in the tolerance between their press fit mandrel and the collar of the case.

So, how did this all end up you ask? Well, I didn't lose any data first off. That is good. I called Sandisk customer support. Who were initially incredibly unhelpful. If you want to return a drive to them just ignore the front line service people and ask them to transfer you to RMA service to get a Return Authorization Number.

The front line service person kept saying, "If you've opened the case then the warranty is void". She couldn't figure out that it had broken because of a manufacturing defect. It was only about 5 minutes of agony, however, and then she transferred me.

Sandisk did give me an RMA number but I chose not to use it. First, it was their fault, but I was the one who threw it across the parking lot. I just didn't feel great about returning it since I had broken it, after all. Second, if I returned it a perfectly good flash memory chip would go in a waste bin at Sandisk headquarters and a tinkering scientist would be deprived of the fun of resurrecting this drive from it's ashes.

Tune in for the next post, where I will show you what I did with the drive.