Floppies for the New Millennium

Keep crypto keys, scripts and frequently used documents ready for travel on an inexpensive, rugged USB device.

The uid and gid mount options are those of my own login account to set file ownerships. More significant is the noatime, provided in order to eliminate unnecessary erase/write cycles. Don't forget, simply doing an ls on any directory will increment the files' atime (access time).

Alert readers may be thinking: “Wait, there's no atime on FAT filesystems!” True. There's only a single timestamp field for each file or directory, but Linux deals with this by updating that single time value on any occasion it ordinarily would update atime, mtime or ctime. So, disabling atime still reduces the frequency of erase/write operations, even on FAT.

All of those mount options can and should be put in /etc/fstab:

/dev/sda  /mnt/fob  vfat
↪uid=1000,gid=1000,user,noauto,noatime 0 0

One further oddity—no matter what you do, the flash disk always mounts read-only:

mount: block device /dev/sda is write-protected,
mounting read-only

This happens even if you specify rw among the mount options. However, you subsequently can enable write access after mounting the flash disk, by remounting with the rw option:

# mount -o rw,remount /mnt/fob

Exactly why /bin/mount insists that the flash disk is write-protected and must be mounted read-only is a genuine mystery. Although some flash disks' plastic casings reportedly sport write-protect switches, the Easy Disk's doesn't. My best guess is that mount is heeding a request from the Easy Disk's built-in controller chip, intended to minimise accidental device fatigue. And it works. As a side benefit, the read-only default seems to render harmless your unplugging of the device when, inevitably, you forget to unmount it first—making it truly a hot-plug device.

The Hard Drive in My Pocket

Having coped with the hurdles and minor oddnesses of getting Linux support configured for the flash drive—or pen drive, as they are sometimes called—what strikes one most about these devices is how they fade to background. You simply rely on them and take them for granted, which is the mark of any truly successful technology. Documents and applications you use frequently, GnuPG and other crypto keys and files you need to transport among computers, regardless of operating system, are stored on the flash disk and dropped into your pocket. You don't have to worry about magnetic fields, mechanical shock, spontaneous bit-rot or anything else. It simply plugs in to a free port and works. There's nothing else quite like it.

Rick Moen is a sysadmin, writer and IT guy in the San Francisco Bay area where he has been a longtime member of its Linux community for which he runs an on-line calendar of upcoming events, BALE (Bay Area Linux Events, linuxmafia.com/bale).



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daviddanish's picture

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Re: Floppies for the New Millennium

Anonymous's picture


I'm running Fedora Core 2 (test3) Kernel 2.6:
[root@neo root]# mount -all
mount: none already mounted or /proc/bus/usb busy
mount: according to mtab, usbdevfs is already mounted on /proc/bus/usb

[root@neo root]# mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/usb
mount: /dev/sda1 already mounted or /mnt/usb busy

[root@neo root]# cat /proc/scsi/usb-storage/2
Host scsi2: usb-storage
Product: CF CARD
Serial Number: 1115321335949
Protocol: Transparent SCSI
Transport: Bulk

What am I missing? I'd appreciate any help.



Re: Device to Device Wireless Floppies

Anonymous's picture

see www.memsen.com ultra wideband

Re: Floppies for the New Millennium

Anonymous's picture

Wireless USB at memsen.com
Wireless Memory Disks for P2P file sharing
Ultra Wideband enabled USB Drives
see www.memsen.com
David Buzzelli

Wireless USB Wireless USB

Anonymous's picture

Wireless USB see www.memsen.com founded by David Buzzelli

Re: Floppies for the New Millennium

Anonymous's picture

ok, I just realized one mistake I made. I should have used /dev/sda2:
[root@neo root]# mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/usb
/dev/sda2 looks like swapspace - not mounted
mount: you must specify the filesystem type

But when I try:
[root@neo root]# mount -t vfat /dev/sda2 /mnt/usb
mount: /dev/sda2 already mounted or /mnt/usb busy

I continue to be clueless....

Use devlabel

Anonymous's picture

If you have more than 1 device, the scsi you get will depend on the order you plug in devices. You should look at devlabel, which comes with fedora. This will not only give consistent labels for devices, but can also automount them.

Re: Floppies for the New Millennium

Anonymous's picture

I'm reading a thread on the gentoo forums that says you should mount with sync and dirsync to prevent delayed buffer writes and data corruption. Care to comment?

Thanks for the noatime tip also!

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