My, what a tiny CD burner you have there…

MAKE .ISOS, NOT COASTERS.

I got my isostick today! This is a cool project that I saw on Kickstarter and contributed to back in July. After months of development (and waiting!), the early-adopter beta-test units went in the mail Thursday, and because Elegant Invention is based in Indiana, shipping to Michigan was nice and quick. It’s now here at i3 Detroit, for anyone to tinker with (and file bug reports — it’s a beta unit, after all!).

So what’s an isostick? It’s a USB flash drive with a mind of its own. Or, it’s a USB CD drive without the CD part. Basically, it’s a mass-storage device that you drop an iso9660-image file onto. The stick then pretends to be a USB optical drive, and serves up the contents of that image as if a real CD had been burned and placed in the drive.

The idea isn’t a new one — the CNS iodd, later refreshed as the Zalman VE-200, does this with a laptop hard drive as the storage medium. Both of those products had a cool OLED or LCD screen on the unit, to select the active ISO. (The isostick uses a different method.) But it takes a lot of current to spin up a drive, and some USB ports were unhappy with that. CNS once mentioned a flash-based version, but it never came to fruition. And regardless of the hardware, firmware bugs took a long time to get fixed.

Since isostick is a kickstarter project, contacting the developer is easy — I’m on IRC with him right now. The beta-test period is a deliberate “shakedown cruise” before the product actually goes to market. And since the project was mostly funded by other techies, you can bet there’ll be plenty of edge-cases tested and fixed! Oh, and even cooler? The actual storage inside the isostick is a MicroSD card, so as flash prices continue to fall, the number of isos that can be stored on the unit only increases.

(Members: The isostick is currently in the electronics room, under the window, in the bin labeled “flash memory and adapters”. Preliminary docs and the support email address are in the kickstarter update. Discussion in the forum.)