Flash Memory Reader/Writer
by Rick Smith (October 28, 2000)
I have used the Antec PhotoChute for nearly a year now. It helps me pull images off either Compact Flash or SmartMedia flash media. Since I review cameras using both types of media, I need a reliable device that I can use for either type of media. The PhotoChute hasn't let me down -- ever. It is quick and fast and I highly recommend it for anyone running a system with USB. Antec used to make a parallel version of this device, but unfortunately they no longer sell this product. If you need a parallel device, I highly recommend the Actiontec Reader which also accepts either SmartMedia or Compact Flash - read the review.
The Antec unit is small and lightweight enough to carry in your laptop bag when you are mobile. The PhotoChute can also accept full length media which allows me to transfer data to and from my full length Calluna Card 260 megabyte drive, just like the Actiontec Reader. To accept the smaller Compact Flash media, the system comes with a PC Card (PCMCIA) adapter for Compact Flash. I keep the adapter in the unit at all times, so I can't forget it and it's there when I need it.
There are two lights on the PhotoChute, a green one for power and a red one for "drive" activity. Once the device drivers are quickly installed, the unit is recognized within a few seconds and two new drive letters are added. All the installation software fits on a single floppy disk, which I carry with me on trips - you never know when others, who don't have the Antec PhotoChute, will run into trouble transferring their files and you can easily help them out. One thing that may take you awhile to get used to is that the upper slot (Compact Flash) of the PhotoChute is the second drive letter added, while the bottom slot (SmartMedia) is the first drive letter added. To me, this seems backwards and I wish there was a way to reverse this order in the device driver. Since I haven't figured a way to do this, I remember that the "lower drive letter is lowest physically".
Since the SmartMedia Card can fit either way, I have found that some people insert it upside down. This doesn't hurt anything, but you don't transfer any data either. The only guide is on the front of the PhotoChute, in less than a 0.25 square inch area, showing a picture of a SmartMedia card facing upwards, an arrow and the words "Turn Over". While this is correct when you interpret the three symbols, all you need to remember is to insert the card GOLD SIDE DOWN.
These last two points are simply minor annoyances to what is otherwise a fine piece of hardware. I have personally transferred over 5,000 photos using this device on four different laptops and in 12 different states. It works and works well -- Very well --can't state it any clearer.
I highly recommend this device. Wished every piece of hardware worked this well.
© 2000 Rick Smith All rights reserved.