[Rustington] A Clever USB Gadget For File Sharing

Stuart McFadyen stuart.624mcfadyen at btinternet.com
Thu Mar 22 17:03:28 UTC 2012

Plug-and-play remote access and data sharing 

The iTwin (info) is a clever, peer-to-peer, file-sharing set of USB dongles. On first glance, the U.S. $99 device looks like a single USB flash drive with a male connector at each end. But pull the two ends apart, and voilà - you have two parts for connecting devices. No data is stored on either half, except for the code needed to install the device on PCs.

Nor are there any wires connecting the two. Instead, the dongles communicate through a Web-based, remote-network portal that uses 256-bit AES encryption. (To work, both devices do need a live connection to the Internet.)

Figure 1. The iTwin takes a novel approach to remote access.

The set-up is a snap. You plug the iTwin, with both halves joined together, into your primary PC. The device creates both an encrypted ID shared by the two parts and a new folder that iTwin places on your PC. Drag and drop the files you want to access remotely into the folder. (The files are not moved; you're simply creating a pointer to those files.)

Next, keep one half of the iTwin in the primary PC (leave the PC on and connected to the Internet), and take the other iTwin half with you. When you want to create a remote connection from some other PC, simply plug the half you've kept with you into any other PC that's connected to the Internet. Almost immediately, you'll see the iTwin folder residing in the primary system. Now you're ready to view or transfer any of those files, as you like.

Along with rapid set-up, iTwin's strength is security. Remove either part of the iTwin, and the device's virtual folder vanishes - as if it had never been there. So if you're copying files from one system to another, it's crucial to drag and drop the files from the iTwin folder to an actual folder on the local system before removing the iTwin. (If you look in My Computer, you'll see two iTwin virtual drives: iTwin Local Files and iTwin Remote Files. When the iTwin pair is plugged in, the files show up in both folders. If you remove an iTwin half and try to peer into either folder, a popup warns, "Please plug in iTwin.")

Despite the over-the-Internet connection, transfers start almost instantaneous. Of course, the main drawback to the iTwin is that both halves must be connected to the Internet, and the primary system must have a persistent connection. If you lose half of the iTwin set, you can purchase another half for $50 and re-pair it. (You can also disable iTwin if one of the halves is lost.)

Recently, iTwin added a software-based update - iTwin Multi - which lets up to 20 remote computers share data simultaneously with the primary PC. This could be a great collaborative tool if you're willing to pay $50 per extra half.

Although there are numerous free collaboration sites, none provides the simple plug-and-connect convenience of iTwin. It's pretty cool.
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