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dmesg is a command you type at the console. It prints kernel messages to the standard output. It should tell you what's happening with your USB system, this is what I get when I plug my digicam (that uses USB mass storage):
Initializing USB Mass Storage driver...
usb.c: registered new driver usb-storage
USB Mass Storage support registered.
hub.c: new USB device 00:10.1-1, assigned address 3
usb-uhci.c: interrupt, status 2, frame# 956
scsi1 : SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
Vendor: HP Model: PhotoSmart 43x Rev: No.1
Type: Direct-Access ANSI SCSI revision: 02
Attached scsi removable disk sda at scsi1, channel 0, id 0, lun 0
SCSI device sda: 28417 512-byte hdwr sectors (15 MB)
sda: Write Protect is off
/dev/scsi/host1/bus0/target0/lun0: p1 p2 p3 p4
WARNING: USB Mass Storage data integrity not assured
USB Mass Storage device found at 3
udf: registering filesystem