USB drives and tablets? Solved! (Updated)
This post is based on a contribution by Sebastiano Gigliobianco. I publish his text here, slightly edited, in the hope that you find it just as informative and useful as I did.
For freelance interpreters in particular, the lack of a USB port remains a big problem when it comes to tablets. Although WiFi-enabled thumb drives have been widely available on the market, they do not solve the problem that many of us face when being handed a thumb drive with documents, files or the latest version of a PowerPoint presentation.
In this article, I will show you how to access a thumb drive, an external USB hard drive or an SD storage card from your tablet.
The only thing that you need, aside from your tablet and your drive, is a file hub. Again, there are several products on the market, and it is not my intention to advertise one or the other. I will just talk about the one that I bought: the RavPower.
The RavPower is a portable router which is able to create a WiFi network that shares a wired internet connection or hooks up to an existing WiFi as a repeater of sorts. It also doubles as a power bank that can charge your phone or tablet while you’re out and about. Without a doubt the most interesting feature, however, is the ability to share the contents of a USB drive, SD card or USB hard drive over a secure WiFi network. This can be done by either entering the address 10.10.10.254 into the address bar of your browser or by using the official FileHub Plus app. FileHub Plus lets you open and manage most file formats (PDF, Office, video, audio etc.) which can then be opened in other applications as well such as Mail, iBooks, Readdle Documents, VLC and so on.
Although it is possible to open the files with one application and then export them into another, the constant back-and-forth is cumbersome and time-consuming. Apps such as Readdle Documents (my standard file manager on the iPad) usually have a built-in capability to access remote servers either through a local network or the internet. After having spent quite some time trying out different settings, I was finally able to find the correct ones that allow you to access the RavPower directly from Documents without having to open another app first.
Settings for Readdle Documents
Services/Network > Add Account > Windows SMB
Although the official app will recognise the RavPower as a single unit having two devices plugged in (USB and SD card), Documents will see them as two different servers and have to be saved as such:
URL for USB: smb://10.10.10.254/USBDisk2_Volume1/
URL for SD card: smb://10.10.10.254/SDCard_Volume1/
(In older versions of Documents, the shared folder - USBDisk/SDCard - has to be entered separately.)
Login: default is admin and no password
Settings for GoodReader
Go to the "Connect" tab
"Connect to Server" > Add > SMB Server
Readable title: <customisable>
Network address: 10.10.10.254 (GoodReader then lets you navigate to all connected storage devices. Alternatively, you can enter the direct URL for USB and/or SD - see above under Readdle Documents.)
User: <default: admin>
Password: <empty by default>
Please note: The settings with other versions of the RavPower or with other apps may vary. To find out if the shared folder has changed, download the official FileHub Plus app and click on "File/Folder" to see the devices currently plugged in. Simply copy the names and paste them in the shared folder fields.
By saving these settings, you can access either the USB stick or the SD card plugged into the RavPower with your tablet or smartphone. Moreover, you can also connect the RavPower to the internet either with an Ethernet cable or over WiFi using it as a repeater, for example while being at home or in a hotel.
I suggest using an SD card instead of a USB drive for permanent storage, since the RavPower has only one USB port for charging and data transfer. This may cause the thumb drive to get warm, and it drains the battery quicker.
I have been happily using this solution to access files on my thumb drive, SD card or external hard drive, using nothing but my iPad. I believe it to be a very practical solution if we are handed a pen drive (maybe in the booth, 5 minutes before the conference begins) and only have a tablet. It is also very useful on long journeys when we want to bring our favorite podcasts, videos or other big files without clogging up the internal memory of our device.
There is now another version of the RavPower Filehub, the AC750 Wireless Travel Router (RP-WD007). This new model has a slightly smaller battery pack (5200 mAh instead of 6000), but features a button to automatically copy content from the inserted SD card to a connected USB storage device. The wifi radio seems to be faster, too.
Also, you will find a refreshed and more modern app for accessing the device on the iOS App Store.
And lastly, if you’d rather use a really good file manager app on your iPad or iPhone to get files onto and off of your Filehub, check out FileBrowser. Once you’ve set it up with your Filehub, you can even integrate it into the pre-installed Files.app and use it in any app that accesses the file picker.