bit-tech.net

Project Enter the USB

Foreword by Joe Martin

Mods are great things and, here at bit-tech HQ, we can’t get enough of them. We scour the Internets all day, everyday looking for mods great and small. Some of the ones we find are truly great, whilst others are truly bizarre.

We know that there are a lot of people in the bit-tech community that don’t have the ability to make some of the more fantastic modifications though or who are lacking the confidence to plunge straight into the deep end of the modding world. Those people want something smaller than a full case mod which they can pop their modding cherry with. So to speak.

Over the years we have seen a number of cool USB key mods, from Pez dispensers and plastic sushi to thumb drives inside realistic-looking human thumbs! USB key mods are great because the part are cheap, and the possibilities almost endless.

The latest is this, Project Enter the USB. It’s small enough that anybody can do it and it doesn’t require much in the way of tools, but at the same time it’ll leave you with a quirky little conversation piece for your next LAN party. So, whether you’re an engraver with Dremels for fingertips, or a n00b who doesn’t even know what the hell a Dremel is, the Enter The USB mod is a good one to try.

The only thing left for me to do is to hand you over to Kurtis Kronk, who originally wrote the guide for The Tech Lounge but who has agreed to be our guest modder on this occasion.

Introduction

Back in March I posted about a Customized USB Drive that I thought was pretty cool. Someone took an el-cheapo USB drive and stuck it inside a Lego brick. In the same post I talked about a quick-and-dirty USB drive mod of my own, the Electrical Tape USB Drive. Basically, it was a clunker I picked up at CES that fell apart, so I removed what was left of the casing and wrapped it all up in electrical tape. Funny thing is, it's so fugly that when I recently forgot it in a school lab it was still there a few days later. Things might have been different had it been a SanDisk Cruzer or Corsair Voyager... or if it didn't have "62.4MB" written on it.

Project Enter the USB Enter the USB Key Project Enter the USB Enter the USB Key
The USB drive in question, sans cover. Click to enlarge

As simple as my electrical tape USB drive mod was, I had a good time making it and decided to come up with another, different USB drive mod. Luckily, I had another USB drive, which I'd also received from CES, but this one was a whopping 512MB - yeah, they make 'em that big these days... Unfortunately, as it were, this one wasn't quite so fragile, and I actually had to punish it thoroughly before I could get the casing off. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

In this article I will walk you through Project: Enter the USB Key from conception to finished product. Step by embarrassing step. No detail spared. So in-depth you'll need a snorkel.

Let's get on with it...

Getting Started

Once I had successfully freed the USB drive from its lame shell, it was time to think. Whatever am I going to put this little thing inside? And so the search began. I thought about doing a better Lego mod - unoriginal; ChapStick - too thin (I've been informed that somebody else has made a ChapStick USB drive); film canister - too fat; USB cable shell - too short; gutted iPod - too spendy. Hmm... nothing on my desk was really striking me as a great idea. So the search continued. To the closet! As I rummaged through piles of miscellaneous electronics, cables, and computer accessories, I paused as I held an old keyboard in my hand.

Project Enter the USB Enter the USB Key Project Enter the USB Enter the USB Key
Removing the key, click to enlarge.

What to do with a keyboard, though? The PS/2 connection isn't large enough to accommodate the USB drive, and the keyboard is a bit bulky to be useful as a USB drive. Think, Kurtis, think.

As I stared at the keyboard, I noticed some tasty treats (well, they used to be tasty) peeking at me from between the keys. Gross. Ah, wait a second, the keys! Oh sweet, blessed keys.

Project Enter the USB Enter the USB Key Project Enter the USB Enter the USB Key
Yuck, it can get quite dirty down there! Click to enlarge, if you must.

There are a decent number of keys on the keyboard which look like they could be just big enough to squeeze a USB drive inside: Tab, Shift, Backspace, Enter, Delete, and +. After careful consideration and a quick coin toss, I decided the Enter key would make the best case for my custom USB drive. It sort of makes sense, after all; "Enter" your USB drive into the USB port, with an arrow to help the less technically inclined. Tab is just plain confusing, with the two arrows pointing in either direction, Backspace and Shift don't sound cool, and +... well, + isn't even a word.

Stupid +.

Project Enter the USB Enter the USB Key Project Enter the USB Enter the USB Key
Remove the bracket and you can see how the mod is going to work. Click to enlarge.

Removing keys from the keyboard is easy enough. Using a small screwdriver you can gently pry them off. In my case, the Enter key had a bar stretched across its width to ensure uniform key presses - I just ripped it off. Enter key removed, I check to see if the USB drive fit... and it did - with a little room to spare.

Before hacking away at the Enter key, I decided to perform a practice run on the Backspace key (I only had one old keyboard to work with and didn't want to ruin it, after all). And I'm glad I did.