Damnit, I left my PC in my other pair of pants...
March 8, 2004 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Pen Drive: The Road Warrior's Guide - carry a word processor, spreadsheet, email client and more, all in your pocket.
posted by Orange Goblin (17 comments total)
Thanks, OG! Quite useful!
posted by shoepal at 7:40 AM on March 8, 2004

I use a pen drive to move smallish files around, and have found it of limited use. Carrying applications on the gizmo as well never occured to me, but I'm game to try it.

I suggested a pen drive to my boss and he said it's easier for him to email files to himself so he has them offsite. This could be why his outlook mail file is approaching 2gb.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:34 AM on March 8, 2004

And here I thought "pen drive" was a clever reminder that a ballpoint pen and paper is one of the most flexible personal information management systems ever invented.
posted by Nelson at 8:58 AM on March 8, 2004

One other comment - most of the newer tiny USB drives are bootable. That means you could transfer a whole OS image onto it and not be dependent on the host computer's software at all. I wouldn't try to do anything useful with Windows in a 32 megabyte image, but you can get a useful text-mode Linux system easy. With a bit of shoehorning you may be able to even fit in X and a graphical browser.
posted by Nelson at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2004

Here's a little convergence for you, Nelson.
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:08 AM on March 8, 2004

AbiWord and FoxMail run fine on mine.
posted by rushmc at 9:43 AM on March 8, 2004

There's a company offering an Exchange client USB drive which looked kind of interesting. It's kind of limited, but since it's the same kind of thing I thought someone might be interested.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2004

In case anyone's interested, here's the mozilla bug tracking (profile-related) issues that make it a pain to do this with Mozilla/Firefox/etc. It includes some tips for working around the problem on various platforms.
posted by tingley at 9:55 AM on March 8, 2004

There was an article about this in Slashdot a while back. I don't use mine a lot, but when I need it, I need it bad — I was almost mugged by a geek gang that was roaming the parking lot at Fry's the other day, but they backed off when they saw my pen drive and I mumbled something about needing it for my ssh keys. It's geek cred.
posted by brool at 10:44 AM on March 8, 2004

You can install QNX with a GUI and web browser in the space of a single floppy disk.

Should be no problem pulling off a full-fledged graphical OS, Internet Suite and Office Suite in 512Mb, then.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:02 AM on March 8, 2004

A geek gang? Do they go around threatening to cast lvl 6 magic missile on you if you don't give them all your money?

In an even further attempt to derail my own post, I just noticed the post number is exactly double my usernumber. Yummy.
posted by Orange Goblin at 11:05 AM on March 8, 2004

CDROMs have been around a lot longer than plug and play USB storage devices; and damn near every computer has one unless a corporate decision was made to pull them. Barring that, your chances of encountering a PC with fully functional USB storage and drivers in place but no CDROM is extremely low. And if the drivers aren't set up, and you plug your thumb-drive in -- it'll ask you (under 98 at least) to insert the OS distribution disk. Tough to do if you don't have a CDROM.

On the other hand, it is nice to have your tools and data with you and I use a pen drive for this purpose as well. But for serious emergencies it's not as useful as a Knoppix CD.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:54 AM on March 8, 2004

knoppix on a thumb.
posted by shoepal at 12:16 PM on March 8, 2004

This guy is crazy. He implies that this a task that can only be attained by using antique DOS applications. It's kinda surreal.

Instead of Word 5, Why not just use WordPad, which I believe is self-contained, indeed usable as a standalone exe (no registry entries), can open rtf and Word files, etc.?

OffByOne seems a fair enough browser choice, I suppose. I know one of the developers, incidentally.

As for development software, here it gets really surreal. Turbo Basic?!? Why not drop in any of the compact interpreters available for Perl, Python, Ruby, etc., even a few libraries, and get really great functionality? Tcl, for example, is self-contained out of the box, and for an even more clean file tree you can use TclKit, which is a bundle of a Tcl/Tk interpreter and a number of common libraries into a ~1MB executable. "We're not talking about a sophisticated GUI application here." Well, Tcl/Tk (or Perl or Python or whatever) allows for that whether you want it or not. Turbo Basic?!?

Also, why not include a RealVNC server and client, which are small and self-contained (not even any installer).
posted by abcde at 2:05 PM on March 8, 2004

I lost the cable to my camera so I bought a jumpdrive trio, a cheap thumbdrive that uses stick, mmc and SD cards. Works great, but I've been using the limited storage to justify shopping for a HD mp3 player for file transport, heh. BTW, the win98 driver issue seems kinda moot since most mobos of that vintage don't support booting from usb.
posted by roboto at 2:52 PM on March 8, 2004

Does anyone have any recommendation for good software to password protect a pen drive? I've seen some of the newer ones that come with it pre-installed, but mind didn't.
posted by rushmc at 3:32 PM on March 8, 2004

Most PC's will have a browser and a word processor installed on them, so I'd leave these off in preference of a decent development environment. I'd probably go for something like Delphi version 1, but I guess anything small enough will do.

Also, rather than using a word processor, you're probably better off with some small WYSIWYG HTML Editor. Not only does it do the word processing thing, but you get cross system compatibility and web page editing. NVU currently runs in at 30MB, but I'm sure you can find something smaller.
posted by seanyboy at 1:53 AM on March 9, 2004

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