Ditch the laptop

Updated: Mar 3 2008, 07:35am hrs
Notebook computers are continuously shedding weight but they still weigh a few pounds and it therefore becomes inconvenient to carry around the laptop on the shoulders. Do you really need your laptop wherever you go Not always.

For instance, you are travelling for a business conference or to an internet cafe or a friends place that will definitely have spare computers but you still prefer carrying your personal laptop just because it contains all the software programs, application settings and data (like docs, photos, music, videos, etc).

If you are in a similar situation, its time to give your shoulders some restleave that extra laptop luggage at home and just use a USB Flash

Drive (also called a pen drive or a thumb drive).

You are probably using USB drives to transfer documents and presentations but these tiny key chains can also be used for carrying software programsplug it into any computer and start working as if it were your own PC. When you are done, eject out the USB drive and no traces of your computing activity are left on the host computer. All the changes in files and software preferences are also stored back onto the flash drive. Here are some resources to help you turn that USB drive into a personal computer.

PortableApps: This is a excellent collection of some useful programs like Firefox (for web browsing), OpenOffice (like Microsoft Office), Pidgin (for chat) and GIMP (for photo editing) designed to run from any removable disk without installation. PortableApps also includes VLC

Media Player that can virtually play all multimedia file formats.

Do checkout some other wonderful sites like portablefreeware.com and tinyapps.org for downloading apps that can run off your USB drive.

MojoPac: This program turns any USB drive into a self-contained Windows XP computer. First you need to install the MojoPac software on your USB drive. Then install all the applications, games and upload other files to the new MojoPac PC that resides on the USB Drive.

Now plug this MojoPac-enabled USB device into any Windows XP computer and youll see the same work environment.

MetroPipe: The Portal Privacy machine at metropipe.net is a suite of internet applications (Firefox browser and Thunderbird for email) that fits on your USB drive and lets you surf the web in a more private and anonymous environment. Metropipe could be useful when you are using the web from an internet cafe.

Webaroo: Like an offline browser, Webaroo lets you read websites from your portable drive even while you are disconnected from the web. It works like thisyou suggest Webaroo a list of websites and it fetches them while you are online. The local copies of these websites are more or less replicas of the the original web version. You can now go offline but the web content is still accessible.

A word of caution hereUSB drives are very convenient but at the same time, they are small so the chances of losing them also run high. You should therefore consider using a program like TrueCrypt to encrypt data thats on the portable drive.

The writer is a professional technology blogger at www.labnol.org