The Portable Freeware Collection
January 3, 2006 11:58 AM   Subscribe

The Portable Freeware Collection tracks free Windows software that can be launched from a USB flash drive with no installation. It advises on how to prepare and launch the software (usually as simple as saving and double clicking an exe file), and if/where settings are written to the computer. I'm particularly keen to get to grips with the Pimmy email, newsgroup and RSS client; the KM@ web browser (portable versions of Firefox and Opera are also available); and organizational joygasm NeoMem.
posted by nthdegx (22 comments total)
Cool stuff, I've been looking to do this more and more as I travel between my work and home computers. Thanks!
posted by fenriq at 12:23 PM on January 3, 2006

The following is not a snark, just trying to be informative.

Truly ubiquitous computing, wherein you can plug your little USB drive in any machine and get your mail, etc., doesn't really work unless the apps you use run on any operating system you might encounter. F'rinstance, I regularly access FreeBSD, Linux, Windows (2k, XP) and OSx machines, and don't necessarily have all OSes in all locations.

That's what generally makes webapps so important: you can get your mail and whatnot from any computer with a web browser, even a text-based one like lynx.

For true flexibility, however, here's what you might do (it's my current strategy):

1. Get a server that gives you web AND console-based email, calendering, IM and similar apps, along with an ssh daemon running on a nonstandard port that isn't likely to be blocked by airport terminals and whatnot;

2. Drop a copy of Windows freeware PuTTy on your pen drive (other operating systems generally have ssh clients installed by default);

3. At any given computer, try to hit your web apps first, and if that doesn't work, use ssh to get to your server and use the console-based apps there.

Under this type of scenario, I have yet to encounter a machine that wouldn't give me access to my information, unless it didn't have a network connection available.
posted by davejay at 12:40 PM on January 3, 2006

Good for use on locked-down corporate desktops as well.
posted by caddis at 12:40 PM on January 3, 2006

Indeed. At my last gig, I had a severely locked-down machine; that's when I started using the non-standard-port sshd to get to my home machine, and tunnelled my email and mp3 services, so I was still able to use my favorite windows GUI email and mp3 clients. But tunnels are a drag to set up, and not really necessary, so I left that out of the above. :)
posted by davejay at 12:43 PM on January 3, 2006

Thanks, nthdegx! NeoMem looks quite handy.
posted by shoepal at 1:11 PM on January 3, 2006

One thing that would be especially useful would be a platform independent encryption/decryption system for text, files, and disc images. Any ideas?
posted by sindark at 1:31 PM on January 3, 2006

davejay: Wtf are you supposed to do if the machine dosn't have internet access?
posted by delmoi at 1:40 PM on January 3, 2006

The KM@ installation doesn't seem quite as straightforward as PFC make out, but the download does come with a readme.txt with fuller instructions.
posted by nthdegx at 2:45 PM on January 3, 2006

He's just trolling, nthdegx.

Thanks for the post - I'd heard of the site but never used it. I"m having fun toying with KM@ right now...
posted by fake at 2:47 PM on January 3, 2006

A couple more links that came bookmarked with portable Firefox: (xml feed for a list of portable apps: They make mention of Portable OpenOffice (a bit chunky, though, no?) and Portable Sunbird should you need a calendar.
posted by nthdegx at 2:54 PM on January 3, 2006

Damn small linux for portable linux:
posted by Capt. Bligh at 3:09 PM on January 3, 2006

I have a copy of Newsbin on my 256mb USB. Works fine that way. Just keep the data store small and download somewhere else.
posted by HTuttle at 3:09 PM on January 3, 2006

I carry around a usb drive with QEMU and a heavily modified version of Damn Small Linux. It ain't terribly speedy, but it's passable on most machines, and it's got everything I could possibly want.
posted by Freen at 3:28 PM on January 3, 2006

There's a new standard specifically for portable USB application environments, actually. There's also the Computer-On-A-Stick, which is a USB drive that contains a bootable Linux distro. Finally, there are several Linux distros that can be put on those "business-card" mini CDs.

This is great way to break into machines by way of hit-and-runs, to do awesome stuff like delete all the files on a computer! Thanks!!11!!! Windows is 3l1t3!

Doesn't that make your head hurt, acting that stupid?
posted by me & my monkey at 3:29 PM on January 3, 2006

putty will write to the registry if you're not careful. I wish there was a version that put everything into an ini file. There's a way to redirect it from registry editing but it's annoying.

People always be dissing on .ini files 'littering' their folders, but I like them for portability. Is there any reason besides aesthetics that they are so loathed? I feel like they should come back what with all the decentralization going on.

Some people tell me who cares if it writes to the registry but I feel like getting in and out of a machine clean, especially on a windows box, should be considered A Good Thing.
posted by 31d1 at 3:36 PM on January 3, 2006

Though, I do have to install qemu, which I guess means it doesn't quite fit the specifications, as I need Admin privileges.
posted by Freen at 3:37 PM on January 3, 2006

Also, if someone came out with Cygwin-on-a-stick that would be about as awesome a thing as I can imagine. From what I can tell it's sorta been done with a bunch of heavy modding, but I fell by the wayside in my valiant attempts to do so myself.
posted by 31d1 at 3:40 PM on January 3, 2006

It would be cool if you could have a registry file on a USB drive and have windows automatically load that when dealing with applications run from there.
posted by delmoi at 3:54 PM on January 3, 2006

Excellent, thanks! Being stuck with a totally locked-down desktop and laptop at work makes me sad, but Portable Firefox makes me a little happier.

Sort of like delmoi, what I would like is to be able to carry around my history, boomarks, registry, user settings etc on a USB drive so that I have things the same everywhere.
posted by dg at 5:38 PM on January 3, 2006

[there is still an open OS WARZ !1!! MetaTalk thread open, for those of you who feel the need for it]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:54 PM on January 3, 2006

I just found this: Embedded DSL with QEMU built right in. It appears you don't have to be an admin to run it. Woot!
posted by Freen at 6:42 PM on January 3, 2006

Good for use on locked-down corporate desktops as well.
Outstanding site, thanks! I now have the perfect list of software to update my Windows blocked-software security policies with. ;)
posted by nlindstrom at 6:52 PM on January 3, 2006

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