The Portable Suite

I made a mistake – I bought a USB thumb drive that has a measly 128MB. And right now, I’m straining at the filespace constraints. Life for a thumbdrive user just got a lot more exciting. And it is Open Source leading the steps on the dance floor.

Linux users are quite familiar with the concept of a “live” (you! get your mind out of the gutter; not you; you!) CD. ISOLINUX is a bootloader that helps Linux to boot from read-only media – CDs and DVDs. SYSLINUX does the same from a FAT (FAT32?) partition. I made an attempt (aborted because my motherboard couldn’t boot a USB device) to make a bootable USB Linux distro.

Windows users, on the other hand, have had a limited exposure to a “live” OS; the Win98SE rescue disk was the closest I’ve seen to a “create once – run anywhere” live Windows OS.

So, a couple of ingenious people have come up with the next-to-perfect solution. Portable applications. Self-sufficient versions of popular Open Source apps that fit on a (large enough, by my means) thumbdrive and can be run on any Windows OS that can autodetect a USB thumbdrive. In a word or two, Win XP or later.

  • – Want to take advantage of the OpenDoc format, but worried your friend/college/workplace doesn’t have OpenOffice? Just get Portable
  • Portable Firefox and Portable Thunderbird – Need I say more? No longer shall you be constrained by the stupidity of the admin in your college/workplace or by your friend’s insistence on sticking to IE (I say, ask him to drop IE, also Outlook; or drop him).
  • WebserverOnStick Portable – The ultimate power app. It runs Apache/PHP/MySQL from your stick, um, I mean thumbdrive.
  • TiddlyWiki – Did I mention TiddlyWikiOnStick?

One important feature of these apps is they do not write any changes to your registry (specially services, in case of WOS). This is where XAMPP failed – it interfered with the Apache and MySQL services I had already installed – not a happy scenario at your workplace/college or if your friend is a newbie in these things.

Of course, by the time I get around to buying a large enough thumbdrive, the scenario would have evolved considerably!