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Ultaportable Apps: Take Your Thumbware Anywhere 279

Posted by timothy
from the simon's-nephew-perhaps dept.
museumpeace writes "On his blog, Jeremy Wagstaff makes available a list of the apps now packaged for USB thumbdrives. He also wrote these up in WSJ but that will cost you. My personal favorite is the FireFox in a box...every where I went, I had a different crop of bookmarks, now my browsing is the same wherever I go."
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Ultaportable Apps: Take Your Thumbware Anywhere

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  • spelunking cheque (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:25PM (#12004972)
    Apparently "spell checker" is not on the list...
  • by Stevyn (691306) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:26PM (#12004981)
    It's called Spellbound

    It's a great Firefox extension. You can spell check any field.
  • by Lil-Bondy (849941)
    i just get portable firefox on my usb drive and take it wherever, its quite handy when your school only has IE *shudder*
  • by jkakar (259880) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:28PM (#12005017)
    I've recently been using http://del.icio.us combined with a live bookmark in my bookmarks toolbar. Now, on the 3 or 4 machines I used regularly I have centralized access to bookmarks. In my case, this turns out to be less hassle than carrying around a thumb drive.
    • by christopherfinke (608750) <chris@efinke.com> on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:40PM (#12005180) Homepage Journal
      I've recently been using http://del.icio.us combined with a live bookmark in my bookmarks toolbar.
      You might want to try out Chipmark. [chipmark.com] It's a service created at the University of Minnesota similar to del.icio.us, but it's open source, and they provide a Firefox/Mozilla extension [chipmark.com]. It's pretty good, but then again, I might be biased, since I'm part of the development team.
      • ive created an account, logged in and dloaded the extension.

        how do you create bookmarks?
        how do you access them?

        do you have to use the web-form, or does the extension allow you to submit them?
        further, can you create a live-bookmark of your chimparks?
        • After you install the extension, you should have a "Chipmarks" menu in the top menubar next to your Bookmarks menu. After you log in, this menu is all you need to use to add/edit/delete bookmarks, although you can use the website as well.

          (You do need to restart Firefox after installing the extension.)
      • This is one of the nicest things I've seen for a browser in quite awhile. I hate having two sets of bookmarks - one at home, one at work. A nice plugin and the ability to easily import ...awesome.
        • I'm the opposite. I'd rather have two sets of bookmarks. I don't want my work computer getting cluttered with links to my hobbies, and I don't want my home computer polluted with work related links (If I'm going to work from home, I'll use my work laptop).

          However, this would be nice for that small set of bookmarks that overlap.

    • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Monday March 21, 2005 @08:00PM (#12006158) Homepage

      There are some caveats to publishing one's bookmarks or participating in collaborative bookmarking which less technical users might not catch at first glance: you probably don't want to publish anything about your browsing if you bookmark:

      • links to sensitive materials
      • subjective and revealing title of bookmark (a bookmark called "Here's where John Smith lied to me about Jane" which points to a post on an e-mail list mirror)
      • saved copies of a document in the bookmark tree (so if the browser can't reach the URL, it shows the saved webpage archive file instead)
        • links to sensitive materials
        • subjective and revealing title of bookmark
        There is a private/public option exactly for this reason. Any bookmarks designated as private are not included in other features, such as the Top 10, the search function (forthcoming), or the Recently Added (forthcoming).
  • Portable firefox? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nplugd (662449)
    Not sure I see the point here. Isn't putting your local profil on your usb key enough to have a portable version of the browser? Because if the only issue is to have as many bookmarks as you have computers, this certainly takes care of that.
    • Re:Portable firefox? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sh00z (206503)
      I'm with you. I was hoping that I could use this "portable" function to move a USB keychain between my Powerbook, my wife's XP machine, and a Linux box. It does not appear to support multiple platforms. As it sits now, I'm much better off with the set of Applescripts that I use to push/pull bookmark files in order to synchronize them manually. If I got energetic enough to make the script ignore the "last viewed" part of the differences between these files, I could do a multi-sync every night over TCP/IP.
    • Re:Portable firefox? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:57PM (#12005384) Homepage
      Not really. The problem is that many people don't have access to the "admin" account. You can't really install apps (you can "install" them to your desktop and hope an admin doesn't get notified), and can't change any settings. Lots of admins have draconian disk quota policies.

      Firefox can be unzipped to a folder. Another folder can act as the profile. You need .bat file to tell it to start and use that profile vice creating one under "Documents and Settings/$user/whatever/". After that, removing disk-caching and boosting the memory cache helps out. Add a shortcut to the desktop of the client pointing to the .bat file on the thumb drive and you are set.

      VLC 0.8.1 works great from a thumb drive and plays just about anything you throw at it. When my coworkers curse the admin for not having $codec, they come see me.

      WinRAR works perfectly once "installed" to a thumb drive. All you need to do on the client is choose "Open With..." and browse to find winrar.exe on the thumbdrive.

      I also have cygwin on my thumbdrive to show off the power of command-line completion to my peers. Plus it always comes in handy for various tasks.

      I keep several documents on there too. A current copy of my resume, a list of sites and passwords, some random pr0n, helpful regedits, PHP books in .pdf, basic drivers for my NICs, and pics of my kids.

      BTW, banish the thought that pics of my kids and pr0n might be one and the same...they aren't.

      We also keep USB keys in the safe with server passwords and configs, router passwords and configs, VPN clients, Sniffer Pro, and anything else the NOC guys ask for. They can literally take the key to any site and turn any laptop into a network config workstation.

      It's amazing some of the random shit we find on there when they sign them back in.

      Anyway, having tons of apps run from removable media is highly desired in my environment. The ammount of work some guys put into hacking these things to get $fav_app working from them is mind-numbing. To have someone else come up with a "certified" list could save tons of time.
      • by lsmeg (529105) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:19PM (#12005642)
        I keep several documents on there too. A current copy of my resume, a list of sites and passwords, some random pr0n, helpful regedits, PHP books in .pdf, basic drivers for my NICs, and pics of my kids.

        I imagine that could lead to an akward moment...

        "Here, let me show you some pics of my kids..."

        Inserts thumbdrive, opens "teens.jpg".

        "Uhh... wrong file..."

      • Re:Portable firefox? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Exocet (3998) *
        While I like having standalone apps that will run off a keychain USB drive, just having small, easily-installed apps available is also a big, big deal for me. It's usually more of a problem of having to download every app I'd like when I'm over at XYZ's and they need ABC123 and it's going to take ages to find it, download it, etc.

        http://exocet.ca/phpwiki/BradsTools

        Almost all of what's at that wiki I keep on my 256MB USB drive.

        PS: I'm tired of paying for WinRAR/WinZip. 7-zip works fine, supports zip, r
      • Any problems getting Cygwin on the drive? I read somewhere that cygwin relies on registry keys.
      • I also have cygwin on my thumbdrive to show off the power of command-line completion to my peers.

        Just FYI: You don't need cygwin. The Windows command line does this.

    • The point is simple for me, where my office has a 3-point write-up policy for installing software on the computers. Rather than using MS' brokenware, I put PFF, PuTTy and BB4WIN on my USB key and I'm good to go.
  • by Faust7 (314817) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:29PM (#12005024) Homepage
    Let me know when this electronic thumb can signal spaceships for a lift. ;)
  • by eric_foxx (838112) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:30PM (#12005036)
    is it already /.ed? Now there's one thing that is the same everywhere I go...
  • Uh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Telastyn (206146) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:34PM (#12005087)
    How about Putty.

    Then I don't have to carry around all those apps. I just ssh to my machine that does.
    • Re:Uh huh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stratjakt (596332) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:53PM (#12005341) Journal
      Until you're behind a firewall that won't let you through, which I was all last week.

      It was ridiculous, I was working at this cities administration building, and they provide (in tandem with the local university) free wifi outside, which won't penetrate through the walls.

      I had to keep running outside to connect to my home office' vpn, to get to the stuff I needed, as I too, am one of those "I can do it all remotely" types.

      Lesson learned, next time I pack it all up to take with me. Of course, in my case, that means a portable 80 gig drive, since I couldn't fit all our stuff on flash.
  • by philo_enyce (792695) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:34PM (#12005093)
    i just have a wiki where my bookmarks live. anywhere i go, i open to that page and voila, my bookmarks. since it's a wiki, i can add pages to it from anywhere. no fuss no muss and no cost. philo
  • Like many Slashdoters, I often get asked to look at a friend or family memeber's computer to fix a small problem, remove a virus, or install a new piece of hardware. Want I want more than consistent applications is a way to take my OS and application configuration/preferences with me between machines. Nothing is worse than sitting down at a computer with the default Windows XP configuration still being used.
  • by Buzz_Litebeer (539463) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:35PM (#12005108) Journal
    Is there a media player that can be ported with all of its codecs?

    When I move from machine to machine, I usually install the codec packs and then run mplayer off of the USB drive for the media off of it. If there was a media player where I could avoid the hassle of installing the codecs for the media that would be great!

    I also found that winamp runs as a good media player to port around on machines as well. Some small ftp programs like ftp explorer work without needing installation, and i always keep a cd cracked version of some of my older games (such as quake 3 and pre-steam half life1) on my USB drive as well.

    (pocket sized 40 gig USB).

  • Why not use this: http://cgi29.plala.or.jp/mozzarel/ which I found on the Firefox extensions page? It will store your bookmarks on the Web so they can follow you everywhere.
    • because it hasn't been updated in some time, and rarely, if ever, works with FF 1.0, at least in my experience. It has no support for passive ftp transfer, so unless you have a reliable webdav server, you're SOL.
  • by stinkyfingers (588428) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:38PM (#12005144)
    http://gmail.com

    Don't even say you can't get an invite.
    • by Bastian (66383)
      Certainly not portable to the slow-ass dial-up connections I frequently get from hotel rooms when I'm on the road. (I don't consider waiting for five to ten seconds every time I want to do anything with a piece of e-mail to be acceptable.)

      Gimme an ssh connection and a copy of PINE any day.
    • "Gmail requires microsoft active X to run" - is the error I get when trying to check gmail from my treo...

    • until my company blocked access to Gmail. Yahoo and Hotmail were the first email sites to go, though. I'm certainly not in a small company, either.

  • by billstewart (78916) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:41PM (#12005193) Journal
    Some of these apps fit on a small USB (e.g. 64MB.) But if you want to start doing more than one or two of them, or want bigger apps like some of the Linux flavors, it's really helpful to know how big they are. For some things, like Email, the big problem isn't really the code, it's the data (e.g. you might have a 4MB program install but 100MB of email.)
    • flash is cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:54PM (#12005352)
      Some of these apps fit on a small USB (e.g. 64MB.) But if you want to start doing more than one or two of them, or want bigger apps like some of the Linux flavors, it's really helpful to know how big they are.

      With USB thumb drives costing about or less than $50 for 512MB, I'd have to say that space isn't much of an issue at all. I've seen 1GB flash drives for under $70 (though $90-100 is somewhat more common).

      What is more of an issue to me is that the application not go bonkers with write cycles being somewhat precious with flash memory. It would be nice if the various linux filesystem drivers could have a mount option that spread out writes (since fragmentation isn't much of an issue on a media with essentially no seek time).

      • Re:flash is cheap (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fweeky (41046)
        "It would be nice if the various linux filesystem drivers could have a mount option that spread out writes"

        Flash drives already do load leveling in hardware; they are after all, usually used with FAT.

        For the few cases where you need to do it yourself, that's what JFFS2 [sourceware.org] is for.
  • People dont trust me when I request them to plug my USB key into their computer, to browse the web. For e.g., I was in a Realtor's office the other day, and wanted to print out my bank statement (e-statement). I didnt want to browse using their browser, so, I requested them to accomodate my USB key, so that I can use my secure FireFox to do it. She wouldnt let me use it for 'security' reasons!
  • I already run PortableFirefox on my iPod Shuffle. Talk about getting some wierd looks. "Yes, let me show you that page on my web browser on my iPod".

    Now, what I really want is a "repair keychain". Thing of something like Portable Firefox but that lets me run AVG's system scan, some spyware clean up apps and crap like that.
  • The main problem as I see it is that the places you would want your personal stuff most (work, kiosks, Kinkos) you cannot access a thumb drive. :-(
  • Portable Firefox (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AbRASiON (589899) * on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:48PM (#12005268) Journal
    Hooray I can be on topic for a change....

    As a portable firefox user, I've got to say I'm generally quite happy with the package.
    It seems a little quirky I must admit like this problem.

    Although this seems illogical, I've found installing some extensions don't work the first or second time, even though the instructions outline doing it "twice" should do it - it seems to not like the "delay" of working with a USB disk.

    Now the solution I've found is to copy portable firefox to the local disk, which is obviously quicker and then set it up exactly how you like it (be sure to edit the portable firefox.ini file to set the path) - once you've set it up how you like it, copy it back to the usb drive.

    Also the bookmark code within ffox does a lot of read / writes when doing ANYTHING with them - so it's tremendously slow, again I'd recommend doing it all on a local disk then copying back when it's finally setup how you like it.

    It also doesn't remember cookies (obviously)
    However for the love of god I'd like to be able to say setup cookies just for a couple of sites :( - it does remember passwords but some sites remember a heck of a lot of stuff with the cookies - if I could just make it remmeber cookies for say my top 30 sites I hit, it would be so much handier.

  • by fafaforza (248976) on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:49PM (#12005285)
    My personal favorite is the FireFox in a box...every where I went, I had a different crop of bookmarks, now my browsing is the same wherever I go.

    I prefer Bookmarks Synchronizer. Upload your bookmarks to an ftp server when closing FireFox if bookmarks changed. Download them when starting it back up and the cpies differ. All automatically.
    • Bookmarks is one thing, but settings are another. I make extensive use of my userContent.css file, and have some about:config changes that I like to have. Not to mention that having the Web Developer toolbar is pretty essential.
  • Security (Score:2, Informative)

    by Grey_14 (570901)
    Where I work, they started to disable the USB ports on the computer's, We can still bypass them, but it points out on of the key problems of firefox, It's hard to make it follow a local security policy, my place of employ, uses a local proxy on the machines, to avoid exess traffic which would just be blocked anyway's, because it's used to lock down internet use, (Uses a whitelist of allowable sites), problem is, (Well, to the admins it's a problem that caused them to ban firefox, which makes it a problem fo
    • Re:Security (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lord Crc (151920)
      Firefox just ignores the local internet connection settings, which say, "Use this proxy", and as far as I know, even if it was installed on the computer's, there's no way to set that, and make it secure

      So why haven't they simply made the gateway route all 80 and 443 traffic through the proxy? No need to configure any clients.
  • For bookmarks, just create .rss feeds. Put them on a webserver. Use firefox's livebookmarks to track them. For passwords and such, I can't help you there :) But it's a quick, easy solution to make life easy.
  • The hard part isn't bookmarks or email - there are mechanisms to mirror/sync/port these.

    It's stuff like extensions (firefox) or blobs & newsgroups (tbird).

  • by Combuchan (123208) * <sean&emvis,net> on Monday March 21, 2005 @06:55PM (#12005358) Homepage
    So I guess by "ultra-portable" they mean software that installs files in one place, doesn't touch the registry, and is easily 100% removable without bits o' crap left over behind?

    Isn't this how all software should be released?
    • macs have been doing this since day 1. ms office "install" involves dragging the ms office folder off the cd and into the applications folder. "uninstall" involves dragging the folder to the trash.
    • No. You do this, and you'll have about 157 copies of the same .dll's on your system. What needs to be done is for companies to learn how to write a proper Installshield application. The system works just fine. You can install/uninstall to a Windows system as many times as you'd like if the installers are all written correctly.
      • by swb (14022)
        No. You do this, and you'll have about 157 copies of the same .dll's on your system.

        Who fucking cares? Storage is $0.50 per gig, so I blow a couple of gig on duplicated libraries. Can't I at least get the choice of a "static" install that doesn't rely on shared libraries?

        Most people never rebuild the own Windows DLLs, so the "dynamic update" argument for shared libraries seldom holds water for applications in that environment, and the loss of storage is meaningless in today's hard disks.

        At least buil
  • Does anyone know of a utility to encrypt the entire USB key drive, except for a loader of some sort, so that it requires a password to get access to the data on the drive? Or is this a pretty standard capability for these things?

    LS
    • The drive looks like any other mass storage device to the OS. On linux, you can use the loopback interface to encrypt the entire filesystem, with the encyption of choice. I'm sure windows has some way to do the same.

      The post by un1xl0ser (up a couple) asks a good question; What's the cross platform solution for this?

  • by idlake (850372) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:01PM (#12005428)
    That's the way it used to work with many personal computers before people started creating "installers" that would mess with your system.

    With modern PCs, you have to think seriously about whether this is a good idea, though. Unless you actually boot from the thumb drive, you risk exposing your data to viruses and spyware.
    • Yeah, that was before people started creating "hard drives" that one could put a system on.

      There are huge security risks in this. I would never allow anyone to execute unknown binaries on my machine. (ie; in a production enviroment), and I wouldn't want my binaries exposed to a potentially infected system,

  • How could he miss Foobar2000 [foobar2000.com] for playing audio? It's simply the best media player out there, bar none.
  • If you need to know whether a new technology is here to stay, go no further than your local cinema. For all its glitz and glamour, Hollywood is a pretty conservative place, so if you see some gadget onscreen it's likely that it already has taken root elsewhere. Take, for example, that well-explored plot device, the Diskette With All the Bad Guy's Secrets on It. In many thrillers, the villain keeps one in a drawer, or chases the good guy to get hold of one, or was unwittingly using one as a coaster. (No one
  • This would be great for traveling, except that most of the cyber cafes in Europe don't allow you to use their USB ports.
  • My set: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PAPPP (546666)
    I very heavily use my thumb drive on school/library pubic systems, and have an allmost entirely different set of programs i use:
    For AIM:
    TerrAIM [sourceforge.net] ,sure its ugly, but it works a lot better than miranda
    For IRC:
    Dana [diebestenbits.de] I acutally use this little IRC client whenever im in windows, even on my own machines. very light and fast.
    For Remote:
    Both RealVNC [realvnc.com] and PuTTY [greenend.org.uk]
    My favorive text editor:
    Notepad++ [sourceforge.net]
    And a number of tools from DS Software [ozemail.com.au] Notably TaskKill.
  • OS X (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drdink (77) * <smkelly+slashdot@zombie.org> on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:40PM (#12005940) Homepage
    This is one of the things I've come to like about Mac OS X. Most good applications are nothing but a single icon. This icon is represented by a single directory. If you drag this directory to a USB drive (and it fits), then it will run from that drive. Installing these sorts of applications consists of dragging them from an archive or disk image and dropping them into your folder of choice. I really wish more OS X applications were like this. Uninstalling is great. You just throw them away.
  • by cperciva (102828) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:49PM (#12006026) Homepage
    Plug your USB drive into a virus-infected machine; run firefox; and you now have a virus-infected copy of firefox on your USB drive. Carry it over to another machine; plug it in; run firefox; and you now have another virus-infected computer.

    I'm sure McAfee, Symantec, and Sophos will all love this idea, but I think I'll take a pass here...
  • by leftyfb (71398) on Monday March 21, 2005 @07:55PM (#12006101) Homepage
    http://www.no-install.com/ [no-install.com] I just started this site a couple months ago because I could not find any 1 site out there to get portable applications. So I did a little research myself and thought I put them together in 1 place. Feel free to sign up, post links to downloads and/or articles to related news/software/anything.
    • not a bad little site leftyfb the layout is much better than some of the other ones i've seen out there (and look at this, u'r "search" button actually works!) i'd like to see you expand it more though, and find more items for your "Recovery Tools" section (you wouldn't believe how many times i find myself on the road in need of a good HD data recovery progie).
  • It would be very useful if I could have an install on flash that would allow me to run Firefox on say FC3/WinXP and OSX, yet just have the one store of data. I'm finding more and more that I'm using different OS's for different tasks, but its always useful to have my browser with me. With flash getting cheaper and cheaper there is probably little reason other than configuration why I can't have binaries for different platforms sharing the same files.
  • I've made a similar project called "Friedfox". This is for when you (1) don't want to carry your Firefox around all the time and (2) can download from the Internet fairly fast. It's also for people like me who just don't believe in hardware. It is a small Firefox installer that installs to a Windows user's profile rather than the system, so it doesn't require Administrator-level access.

    In addition, I've streamlined the installer so it's a total of two clicks to install it. Since IE will let you "Open" pr
  • by omahajim (723760) on Monday March 21, 2005 @08:42PM (#12006497)
    Any specific evidence from anyone on the wear and tear on flash drives, that thousands of read/write cycles can inflict? Anytime I've read elsewhere about people running applications off USB drives, someone has mentioned r/w cycles. Anyone have a drive fail from this?
  • Windows-Tools on CD-ROM (or USB stick) [dirk-loss.de]

    Well thought you might enjoy that compilation of tools as much as I did.

    (I'm not affliated with the page.)
  • SpyBot (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lazyhound (542184) on Monday March 21, 2005 @10:44PM (#12007631)
    SpyBot S&D [safer-networking.org] runs fine from a thumbdrive, which tends to come in handy.

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