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Make your USB devices more useful

Make your USB devices more useful

Despite my previous protestations that a working person can't travel without his or her own laptop, it continues to get easier to do just that. One way to leave your laptop is to put everything you need on a flash drive or your iPod and use someone else's computer or a PC in an Internet cafe when you need to work. With the latest USB utility software, you can be relatively assured that you won't be leaving any of your personal files behind on the host computer (although I would still worry about keyboard loggers capturing any passwords typed in).

I covered Migo nearly two years ago. It used to come on its own flash drive, but now it's available as software. Its claim to fame is a tool that lets you take your Outlook work space with you on a flash drive. Because of this and its file-synchronization capability, it's a good utility if you want your flash drive to act as a junior version of your desktop. There's also the well-established U3, which requires certified flash drives (there are many available). It supports custom, personalized desktops and runs flash-capable versions of applications such as Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype, and Winamp. These apps, when run from a USB drive, leave no traces on their PC hosts, making them ideal for use on other people's PCs. Ceedo is similar to U3.

The latest entrant in this space is StickyDrive, which supports the same flash apps that U3 does (at least for now; the CEO tells me even more are forthcoming). It also has some nice features that make your USB drive a handy traveling companion: There's a built-in slide-show viewer for your images and a music player for the MP3s you copy over. It will also run on any flash or USB device, such as an iPod or even a digital camera. And it is free (none of the other USB utilities are).

StickyDrive is still in early beta and has some user interface warts, but it is a good application to experiment with on your USB drives or your iPod, turning these devices into little personal content showcases. For example, I always carry family photos with me on a USB drive. With StickyDrive, I now have a supereasy way to turn these photos into a slide show when I visit my in-laws.