As I mentioned the other day, I recently picked up a Canon ultra-compact digital camera to use while on the road. What I didn’t mention is that I also grabbed a nifty new accessory for the MacBook Pro: A SanDisk ExpressCard flash media adapter. This little gadget converts a notebook’s ExpressCard slot into a versatile flash media adapter – it takes most versions of SD and Memory Stick, and works in both OS X and Windows without a hiccup (or even a driver install).
Of course, I could just carry around a cable and use the camera as a media reader. But that’s one more tangled item in the rat’s nest for airport security to flag. Besides, that ExpressCard slot was just sitting there doing nothing – what’s a geek to do?
ExpressCard is a really weird technology, by the way. It’s actually two slots in one, from both a physical and electrical perspective. Physically, there are two different card sizes – the slim “34” type seen here, and a wider (but notched) “54” version. The MacBook Pro and my Dells have just the narrow ExpressCard/34 version, and most cards are of this type as well. But the weird thing is the electrical connection: ExpressCards can have either a PCI Express or USB connection! So this little card reader is nothing more than a USB card reader built into a tiny metal card. This is why it doesn’t need a driver for most modern OSes, and why it was so cheap. One more thing – unlike PCMCIA/CardBus cards, which are held in by friction, ExpressCard has a nice positive push-and-click engagement in the slot.