How To Use The Aiptek PenDisk On A GNU/Linux System

Aiptek PenDisk

This document describes how you can use the Aiptek PenDisk (and lots of other similar flash drives) on a GNU/Linux system.


The Aiptek PenDisk is a small pen-sized USB device that can store (in my case) 64 MB of digital data.
It's sort of a portable harddisk you can use for data storage as well as data transfer, which fits on your keychain or in your pocket.

There is a driver for the PenDisk (and any other USB mass storage devices, for that matter) in the recent 2.4.x kernels, so it works quite nicely on GNU/Linux systems.


Here's a list of features of the PenDisk:

  • USB Host Interface: USB 1.1
  • Transfer rates of up to 12 MBit/second at full speed.
  • Supports power saving mode to reduce the power consumption (nice when used in mobile devices, e.g. laptops).
  • A red LED indicates whether the PenDisk is currently in use.
  • Write-protect switch.
  • Plug and Play connection for hot swap function.
  • Powered directly via the USB port. No external power or batteries needed.

What Can I Use The PenDisk For?

There are lots of things you can do with the PenDisk:

  • Backup any type of files
  • Transfer data from one computer to another (PC or laptop)
  • Carry around your most often used tools/files, to always have them at hand if you need them (e.g. your configuration files or your favorite MP3s or your favorite Perl scripts, photos, texts or whatever)
  • If your BIOS supports that, you can even boot a small GNU/Linux system from the PenDisk
  • and lots more...


Here's the technical specification of the PenDisk:

  • Storage capacity: 64 MB (other PenDisk models can have more)
  • Transfer rates:
    • Read: ca. 900 KB/second
    • Write: ca. 500 KB/second
  • Size: 75 x 24 x 14 mm
  • Weight: ???
  • Erase Cycles: 1.000.000 times
  • Data retention time: 10 years
  • Power consumption:
    • Read: 35.0 mA - 36.1 mA
    • Write: 39.1 mA - 39.4 mA
  • Acoustic noise: 0 dB (at 1 meter)
  • Shock resistance: 1000 G (maximum)
  • Altitude: ca. 24.000 meters (relative to sea level)

Using The PenDisk With GNU/Linux

Here's a short description of how you can use the PenDisk with GNU/Linux.

  • Installation

    Your Kernel should be compiled with the following options enabled:

    • <M> Support for USB
      [*] Preliminary USB device filesystem
      <M> OHCI (Compaq, iMacs, OPTi, SiS, ALi, ...) support
      <M> USB Mass Storage support

      Depending on your USB controller, you might have to replace the OHCI support option with the UHCI support option.

    • You also need kernel support for the filesystems you want to use with your PenDisk, i.e. mostly vfat, so you need to enable the following options, too:

      <M> DOS FAT fs support

      <M> MSDOS fs support
      <M> VFAT (Windows-95) fs support

    • Finally, you might want to enable automounter support, if you want to automount the PenDisk:
      <M> Kernel automounter support
  • Mounting/Unmounting The PenDisk

    The default filesystem on the PenDisk is usually vfat. The USB mass storage devices are treated as SCSI devices by the Kernel, hence you must mount one of the /dev/sd* devices, usually /dev/sda1.

    • Mounting:
      mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt
      Now you can use the usual cp, mv, rm etc. commands to edit the contents of the PenDisk.
    • Unmounting: umount /mnt
  • Automounting The PenDisk

    You might want the PenDisk to be automatically mounted whenever you want to access its data. This can be done using the kernel automounter.

    If you haven't already compiled your kernel with automounter support, do this now:

    <M> Kernel automounter support

    Next, you need to install the autofs package (most distributions have this package included by default).

    Now you have to create/edit the following two files:

    • /etc/auto.master:
      /mnt/removable /etc/auto.removable --timeout 10
    • /etc/auto.removable:
      pendisk -fstype=vfat,sync,umask=000 :/dev/sda1

    That's it. If you cd into /mnt/removable and type cd pendisk, the PenDisk will automatically be mounted in the directory /mnt/removable/pendisk, and you can access all the files therein. After 10 seconds of no usage (--timeout 10), the PenDisk will be unmounted automatically.

  • Formatting The PenDisk

    You can format the PenDisk and create a filesystem of your choice on it, e.g. vfat (usually the default) or ext2 or anything else you can imagine.

    • Create an ext2 filesystem: mke2fs /dev/sda1
    • Create a vfat filesystem: mkdosfs -F 32 /dev/sda1


Before unplugging the PenDisk you should wait until the LED light is off, otherwise you might suffer data loss.

Further Reading

Here are some links to other related articles.