September 20, 2006 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Is there anything USB drives can't do? PortableApps has dozens of applications from Open Office to Firefox, that will run from a USB key (and there are other applications as well), or you can run an entire Linux or Windows installation from your drive, or just steal passwords. And don't forget the weird gadgets (here is a slideshow), including cool USB rechargable batteries, missile launchers [Google Video], and, of course, the ultimate USB hub.
posted by blahblahblah (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have a boynq usb light. It's way lame.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:32 AM on September 20, 2006

The rechargable battery is such a clever little idea. I love clever little ideas!
posted by mr_roboto at 11:38 AM on September 20, 2006

I think this USB powered DAC and headphone amp is kind of cool, though I haven't made one (yet).
(When I first read this post I thought I was in AskMe and my first instinct was to point out the current limit of the USB bus /nerdout)
posted by exogenous at 11:41 AM on September 20, 2006

Let me know when I can plug it into my head
posted by poppo at 11:48 AM on September 20, 2006

Can someone give an example of why you use a portable USB drive with apps on it?
posted by stbalbach at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2006

You want to use a browser such as firefox or a program such as OpenOffice and the computer you are using doesn't allow installations.
posted by trey at 12:01 PM on September 20, 2006

Well the computer I'm on doesnt allow me to run apps from a USB device, so there goes that one.
posted by Big_B at 12:12 PM on September 20, 2006

exogenous that's very cool. Do you happen to know of one of those (or similar) that will output balanced audio (XLR or 1/4")?
posted by Skorgu at 12:18 PM on September 20, 2006

PortableApps also gives you a way to run Firefox and Gimp even though the IT guy has locked down your computer. Shhh.... don't tell the IT guy!
posted by rogue haggis landing at 12:26 PM on September 20, 2006

USB Vibrator
posted by mitocan at 12:52 PM on September 20, 2006

There should be a controller for the USB missile launchers that looks like the hub in the last link.
posted by brundlefly at 1:13 PM on September 20, 2006

A friend turned me on to U3 a couple days ago, which looks to be a slicker, pricier version of PortableApps. Seems to have more software though. (If anybody cares to elaborate on the differences between the standards, please jump in!)

Those rechargable batteries are such a great idea, esp. for travel. Wonder how well they work?
posted by LordSludge at 1:15 PM on September 20, 2006

PortableApps is a great site. There's also Portable Freeware which has an even larger collection of software.

A great alternative to PortableFirefox is Torpark. This is PortableFirefox integrated with Tor, which is great for relatively private browsing on possibly insecure computers.
posted by pandaharma at 1:32 PM on September 20, 2006

There is no "PortableApps" standard. PortableApps is just a website that collects special versions of popular free software packages -- versions that have been custom-tailored to operating directly from a flash drive. Different developers may have different ideas about what that means.

U3 offers an interface for buying, downloading, installing, and launching portable apps.

If PortableApps is an art-rock collective giving away free CDs, then U3 is iTunes.
posted by Western Infidels at 1:43 PM on September 20, 2006

LordSludge: Those rechargable batteries are such a great idea, esp. for travel. Wonder how well they work?

About half as well as normal rechargeables, and they cost roughly 6x as much.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:51 PM on September 20, 2006

Hey! Thanks, blahblahblah and all, I was just looking into usb-portable apps to see what's available and here are all these links.
posted by taosbat at 2:15 PM on September 20, 2006

Tinyapps.org has a bunch of rediculously tiny programs. Any of the ones marked with a green leaf can easily be used on a USB drive. Particularly of use to me were some of the file undelete tools. I've earned many a hug for resurrecting music, documents and presentations.
posted by potch at 2:52 PM on September 20, 2006

One word: mojopac
posted by Duug at 3:12 PM on September 20, 2006

wtf is mojopac?
posted by filmgeek at 4:26 PM on September 20, 2006

I want a USB surge-protector.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:51 PM on September 20, 2006

I keep portable versions of Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, Miranda IM, OpenOffice and Abiword all, complete with a copy of the Elcomsoft password recovery suite, all on a 1Gb stick. I find the copy of Miranda really handy at work so I can keep in touch with my girlfriend at home, since our corporate IM can't reliable touch the outside world.

Of course, there's usually the latest Venture Brothers and a couple other recent animations for easy group viewing...

(This, however, is the same stick that's survived two washings and dryings...)
posted by Samizdata at 10:03 PM on September 20, 2006

Is there anything USB drives can't do?

Store data reliably, or so I'm told. I looked into putting various chunks of data -- email, bookmarks -- on a thumb drive to make useful stuff portable and singular across the various machines I use but got the jeebies about little silicon bits pinging off and taking six months of email with it.

Highly discouraed was the use of the thumb drive with Thunderbird's spam filter, as apparently its rather disk-intensive.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:28 PM on September 21, 2006


Flash _used_ to have really bad failure rates after 10K uses or so. Then the controllers started cycling changes around the physical medium, and the actual hardware got much more mature.

At this point, you're looking at 1M+ writes between failures. That's on par with, or beyond, magnetic discs.
posted by effugas at 2:49 AM on September 22, 2006

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