Most of my work is at different locations so most of the time my expensive dongles and iLoks travel along. I used to carry them around, freely dangling in my bag, all connected to a lightweight USB hub. But a bit too dangerous for my taste, though. The chance of breaking the usb-connector of the iLok part is always lurking and, as Murphies Law dictates, probably will happen at the most inappropriate moment. Time to turn the odds.
Time for a definitive solution for carrying around these expensive dongles. The general idea: a lightweight case, inside a USB hub, the dongles connected and a usb extender cable.
Not just any case
I’ve been looking for a sturdy case which also is lightweight and small enough to throw in my bag with enough confidence nothing will be damaged while traveling. So I felt it needed to be aluminium and just large enough to hold an USB hub and the dongles.
After looking at different cases, wooden to steel cases, in all shapes and forms, I found this Ewent harddrive case; lightweight aluminium and just high enough for the USB hub. Most of the portable 2,5 inch case do not have the needed height for carrying a USB hub without dismantling the hub. I did not want to remove the casing of the hub because then I would have to make an isolator with tape around the hub preventing the electronics to get shortened via the aluminium casing. And not knowing what furthermore would get damaged by doing that. Using tape for an isolator is not really a clean solution. Sticky tape tends to smear over time. If, for any reason, you need to change or take out one of the dongles, you’ll have this sticky stuff messing up the inside.
Extending the hub
Inside there was some additional hardware for the harddrive and the necessary usb3.0 connectors and so on. I completely removed this plate to make room for the hub and dongles. Also I made a little opening just above the DC port so the usb extender cable can go through. The hub I use a small Trust hub, with inputs only on one side and a small cable with the usb connector. I wanted to keep the tiny usb-cable in tact and connected a extender cable I got with some other usb-gadget.
The extender cable serves two purposes. First of all I did not want to solder on the fragile connector on the hub directly, it is all so delicate and I found out there was space enough for both the hub and cable. Second, the extender relieves the stress directly applied to the hub while connecting and deconnecting.
To make it more stressproof I added two tyraps and secured the cable in one spot by locking the cable. One tyrap is just inside the case which prevents pulling the cable to far out. The second one is on the outside preventing any movement going in. This construction also secures the extender from being released from the hub by pulling too hard.
Closing up the case
The last thing to do was to close the case. The usb and dongles neatly fit, nothing rattles or shakes, you could always add some non sticky material (like plastic foam orso) to secure the lot, though. But at least the dongles are secure and ready for the road! All in all, this solution has a total cost of around 35 euros. But to secure the expensive iLoks and dongles, it is just a small investment serving a greater good.