Portable Applications

Are you like me and use public computers on a regular basis, but try to be very careful about the kind of data you want to leave on those computers? Instead of worrying about leaving information on a computer, I found a way to keep the information in emails and from the internet on a portable flash drive along with the email and web applications themselves.

I’ve been using Mozilla Foundation products for the last year to year and a half and have been quite happy with the security and compatability that they offer over similar Microsoft products. Recently, one of the developers that works with Mozilla in producing Firefox (web browser) and Thunderbird (email client) started a pet-project branch off of those products to allow them to run off of a usb thumb-drive.

John Haller’s projects Portable Firefox and Portable Thunderbird are amazingly powerful tools to help ensure data security when using computers that are not your own or when switching between machines often. The applications are fully-powered versions but with a software wrapper to allow you to install, run, and save all data to a portable hard disk.

If you have a spare flash drive of just about any size (my 128MB ones are more than enough for both email and web), you can try these programs out. I’d recommend getting one that is based on USB 2 so that you can get faster access times (USB 1.1 is 11Mbps and USB 2 is about 48 times faster at 480Mbps). One thing to keep in mind when running applications from a portable device, however, is to not unplug the device without first closing all apps and files being run off of the device and then to only remove the device after the access lights stop blinking. More “safety tips” can be found on John Haller’s web site.



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