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Cost-Effective Media Wrangling Redux

After using my new media wrangling kit in the field a few times, I've augmented it with a few accessories and come to a few realizations that made it worth revisiting this entire premise. As in many cases, smaller is not always better, and when it comes to operating a computer, this is definitely the case.

Accessories

After the first job, I had added the keyboard and mouse to my bag, but it was just annoying having to deal with all these separate pieces in what was supposed to be a simple and cost-effective solution for file copying. Plus, when you added it up, the tablet + the case to stand it up + the keyboard + the mouse all added up to the cost of a more elegant solution: the 10" with the attached keyboard/trackpad cover.

The first main accessory I had purchased for the 8" was an Inatek 3-port USB 3.0 hub with integrated SD card reader (Figure 4, below). This worked perfectly. The WinBooks do not have slots for SD cards, only the fingernail-sized MicroSD cards, which are not used on bigger cameras. So having an external USB-3 reader was essential. Having it integrated into the hub meant one less thing to lose.


Figure 3. The Inatek 3-port USB 3.0 hub

The hub also powered up the USB 3.0 pocket HDD. I tested this when I did the first media-wrangling article and it worked great on the first gig I used it on. The client left happy with their footage and they contacted me later that day when they copied the footage onto their edit machine. Then I cleared my cards. Perfect.

The second job I used it on, the client showed up with two HDDs. I hadn't planned for two, and when I added the second drive, it would keep spinning up and then powering down. There was simply not enough power coming out of the tablet to power the hub, the card reader, and two external hard drives (Figure 5, below). So I had to copy files to one drive at a time, and that of course took twice as long and made it challenging to keep track of what was copied and what wasn’t yet copied.


Figure 5. Not enough juice from the tablet to power all the attached USB devices.

I needed a powered external USB 3.0 hub. After searching and reading lots and lots of reviews, I decided on the Amazon Basics 4-port powered USB 3.0 hub. There are a few alternatives, but I settled on this one because it was so very highly rated, and it was very small--both the power supply and the hub itself. My goal was not to have things get too big and cumbersome despite adding a second AC-powered device to the kit.

Figure 6 (below) shows is my current kit and various accessories.


Figure 6. My current media-wrangling kit

To test the powered USB 3.0 hub, I’ve simultaneously connected three USB drives, copying from the SD card to the USB 3.0 drive at 66 MB/sec (megabytes per second), and I tried charging a cell phone at the same time just to stress-test the system (Figure 7, below). It ran fine. I was actually surprised I didn’t exceed the power capacity of the Amazon hub because it was not one of the higher-powered hubs that I found.


Figure 7. Stress-testing the powered USB 3.0 hub

The Amazon USB 3.0 power supply is only 2A at 5V, so I plan on arranging things differently on a job. I'll plug the card reader/hub directly into the WinBook, removing that load from the powered hub. That leaves more power for the drives. Stress-testing aside, I won’t actually charge a phone on the same system while copying media. There’s no reason to do that when critical bits are flying around.

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