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What's on Your USB Pen Drive? 172

gmhowell asks: "With the popularity of USB pen drives, I've thought it time to join the crowd and get one. But I'm curious as to what is so important that you should always have a copy. Clearly PuTTY or your favorite SSH client is important. Perhaps with some keys. But what else? A copy of your browser cookies? MP3s? Pictures? What other software is smart enough to run from a portable medium without need for an installation? (Yup, MAME and z26 seem like likely candidates)."
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What's on Your USB Pen Drive?

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  • LINUX!

    Has anyone found a decent Linux distribution, which fits in 32 Mb (i.e. any smartdisk)? By decent I mean, a desktop distro, with say KDE or Gnome, and all your basic tools. It also would be useful if it could boot directly from windoze or DOS (loadlin?) as well as boot from the smartdisk (is this possible?).
    I know there's knoppix out there, but you need to repackage it. Has anyone done this (and keeps the distro up to date?)

    • I don't think you can boot from these yet. During Dell's little we're doing away with the floppy, not really media ploy I remember reading that there was no USB key boot standard yet.
    • Great Caesar's Ghost! You think you're going to get a KDE or Gnome installation into 32Megs? Yeah, right.

      What might be a better idea is to leave your machine at home and networked, and have VNC on your USB pen drive to connect directly to it from whatever machine you're using.

      Some machines _can_ boot from USB devices, some can't - it depends on your hardware (BIOS issues). Some USB pen drives can boot only from Windows machines, others can boot from Windows or Linux. Not sure about Mac.
    • The question isn't obvious to me, because a CD seems like such a better, foolproofier way to do that. In these days everyone can boot from CD.
    • by rossz ( 67331 )
      Won't fit in 32Meg, but I found one that runs around 100Meg called runt []. I put it on my Laks watch [] and was able to boot from it on a computer that supported USB booting. With a boot floppy, I was able to boot other systems that did not support USB booting.
    • Not in 32 Meg, but a Slackware edition [] runs in 100 Meg...
    • Puppy linux fits in 48MB w/ a X windows interface and office software
      Mesh-AP fits in 32MB and incorporates an ad-hoc WiFi mesh and an Opera browser
      Trinux fits in a floppy with heavy duty security functions
      • I'm too lazy to copy and paste, you insensetive clod!!!

        Here's how to make a link: (this works in either Plain Old Text or HTML Formatted slashdot posting modes, I'm posting this in Extrans so you can SEE the tags)

        <a href="URL HERE">DESCRIPTION HERE</a>

        Here's a real one:

        <a href="">Hot Dupes DAILY!!!!!!</a>

        Isn't that easy?
    • check it's very compact and they will release an X-windows enabled version whithin 4-5 weeks chack also
    • A linux boot disk which carries a full linux distribution. []

    • dman small [] is 50 MB. it is a pruned knoppix.

      But i am not sure ho to boot it from the pendisk. i didnt manage to boot from my pendrive. (i have a asus p4pe Mobo).

      loadlin (or linload?) should be able to boot it from real-mode dos.

  • Cradle of Filth (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mod Me God ( 686647 )
    Are on mine: Damnation and a Day Album.

    And a few PGP keys.


  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @04:47PM (#6628423) Homepage Journal
    Well, if I had one, it'd be more for "I need to get data from here to there" than for "I need to store data in my pocket." Right now I have little 2.5" CD-RWs I use for getting drivers etc around the office. This'd be faster I think.
    • We've had a number of occassions where we've had to transfer a PowerPoint presentation from someone's laptop (because they decided to change all of their slides after e-mailing or burning a copy of their final version) to the one that is actually being used and hooked up to the projector
    • Exactly, I use mine for backups and portability for my important work, school, and car (I'm doing a Mini-ITX system to replace the instrumentation, shifter, and audio/video in my car) stuff, and use the remaining space when I need to transfer something between systems, sort of like a really big (256MB) floppy.
    • At work, there's only one network port in my cube. For whatever reason, the network port doesn't like it when a switch/hub is connected to it.

      As a result, I have two options for transferring files between my work desktop and my own laptop:

      a) Bring the laptop elsewhere to plug it in to the network
      b) Use my USB keychain drive

      Take a guess which of the above I do most often.

      I also use it to provide a Knoppix persistent home directory.
  • Please (Score:4, Funny)

    by leifm ( 641850 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @04:47PM (#6628425)
    These things are porn stashs for married men.
  • school work (Score:4, Informative)

    by Blob Pet ( 86206 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @04:53PM (#6628483) Homepage
    My entire UNIX account from school, including all my read mail and web pages, is backed up on my USB drive. I store anything I think I might need to work on just in case I don't have internet access.
  • unxutils! (Score:4, Informative)

    by \\ ( 118555 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @04:54PM (#6628487) Homepage
    i used to have a cygwin install on my keychain, but it requires some registry crap in windows to work properly.

    rather than clutter up the registry of every windows computer i'll ever use (joke here), i use unxutils [], which has a great command line interface. along with cli gpg and my ssh keys, my usb keychain is of great use to me when i'm away from my powerbook.
  • Password Safe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by acousticiris ( 656375 ) * on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @04:54PM (#6628489)
    I used to use Password Safe at work so that I could have randomized passwords and a system to retrieve them from, but it was very inconvenient because I wouldn't have the changes I made at home.
    I now store my password safe database on my pen drive and just plug it into a USB slot when I need it--since I'm one of those geeks with a keychain equivalent to George's Wallet (Seinfeld)--it's always with me wherever I am.
    I also store various utilities that I use from day-to-day, and made it bootable so that I can boot from it on ailing workstations when I need to.
  • mail client []
  • If I had one... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by C.Maggard ( 635855 )
    I'm a college student, so I'd probably keep a few small games on there to bide the time in computer labs, copies of papers and programs I had to write in case I forgot the hardcopy and needed to print it out again, and probably some PGP keys and a favorites list.
    • A number of people in my C++ class over the summer do just that with theirs. I tend to just zip and e-mail things to my yahoo account, but I can see this being nice.
    • I was always stuck using floppies. We all know the reliability of floppies sucks. It's even worse after being the bottom of a bookbag with a calculus book that weighs 12 pounds sitting on top of it for a day.

      Also, back in my day (and I only finished my undergrad degree in 1998), most people didn't have fast network connections in their residence yet, so I would download large files to my shell account at school and head over with a stack of floppies to copy the files, then head back home and hope that the
  • My favorite tracks on the pen drive and the rest in the 2.5" portable hard drive chassis. I can sit at any desk or be at my laptop and still have my tunes without network admins getting mad at me!
  • what I'd do (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @04:55PM (#6628508)
    > A copy of your browser cookies?

    Cookies? Please. Try _bookmarks_. Definitely.
    One's preferred text editor. Compression tools (zip, bzip2, etc.).
    Perhaps some critical files for 'off-site' backups: your resume, a copy of your network settings, your address book, etc. The garbage file you snagged from that Gibson.

    A network tool or tool(s), a virus scanner. Disk partitioning tools (PartitionMagic if you're a Windows user). A copy of your favourite games (BZFlag, GLTron).

    Make this thing bootable, too, just in case, as some machines can boot off these things now. Yay!
    • by zulux ( 112259 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @05:20PM (#6628720) Homepage Journal
      Please. Try _bookmarks_. Definitely.


      For my portable eXPerience, I like to keep My Favorites in My USB Drive. This gives me access to My Websites, at any of My Computers. When I plug in My USB Drive - it even shows up as an icon in Microsoft Windows Explorer - Built with Spyglass Technology in under a second.

      It's truly My Favorite. Even My Dog agrees with me, because I won't feed him if he doesen't.

      • Does it help if the USB drive in question was given to you free by Microsoft?

        Microsoft sent me a couple of these to me a few months ago, unasked and unexpected. A ton of my co workers got them too. 32MB. They came preloaded with the Microsoft Partner Readiness toolkit.

        no kidding.

        I'm scared to plug it into my Linux box. I think the first time I do it'll just explode or something.
  • nuff said.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For limited time Dell Home Systems [] has Dell 128 MB USB drive for $31.95. Click the link for additional 10% off and no sales tax [] (sorry, TX people).
  • by Dukebytes ( 525932 ) <> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @05:01PM (#6628550) Homepage
    I backup quicken on it because it is a LOT quicker than floppy. And of course its great for transfer of personal files, email, avi, mp3 etc... between work/home/friends.

    I love it - I bought a 128MB and it is just about perfect. I carry it around like a pocket knife :)

    I got my dad to buy one to backup his files while hes on the road. And I just had to have one after setting his up for him and such. If you DONT have one - go get one, really...


  • while my 'net connection has been down, i've been using it exclusively to move data back and forth between my work computer and my home machine.

    works well that way.

    but i made a mistake and lost 8MB of my 32MB key to a bad tool. anyone know of a way to repartition my key to reclaim all 32MB? (my options are open. :)
    • I think it may have been the OS that was gumming things up in my case, but I used my 64MB pen drive to transfer stuff from an old computer (win98) to a newer one (win2k), and the free space kept shrinking even though I deleted the files.

      So obviously this is an MS-only tip -- but you can alter your folder options to show hidden/ os-protected files, and all the junk will show up. Just delete it, and you have your space back (no negative side-effects that I noticed).

      Alas, that drive was somehow left on a dr
      • I have several units (64mb-512mb) or a particular brand of USB drives that come with just a filesystem, rather than a partition table on them. I partition them to partially FAT32 and partially Ext3. The Windows 98 drivers that come with the units do not support partitioning.

        Is it possible to backport the drivers from WinME? Does a good universal driver exist for usb storage devices?

        As a tip to those using Linux and MacOS: OS X w/out EXT2 support will attempt to interpret a single-partition usb stor
    • most usb drives just use a standard partition table with fat32 filesystems
  • I keep putty on my pendrive, as well as psftp []. I also keep a backup of my Mozilla bookmarks. Other than that, I use it to move data around.
  • CVS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jgrahn ( 181062 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @05:10PM (#6628644)
    The stuff I work on (texts, source code, ...) checked out from my CVS repository. CVS lets me sync changes between the files on my USB memory and the various computers I use. Pretty nice side-effect of a version control tool.

    I also reserve about 30MB for a FAT partition; file transfers between work and my connectionless old HP Vectra.
  • i am in school, and so all my documents, reports and c++/java projects are on there.

    I also have copies of my favorite software, aim 4.8 + aim+ (5.x doesn't play with aim+ well), the [] client, putty, tightvnc, winamp, etc.

    and thirdly, i carry a copy of my website, in case i need it, or other backup medians are not available.
    • --Now that is an excellent idea. I copied my website over to my drive based on your post.

      --In addition, I put:
      o Copy of Opera web browser static .deb package, version 6. (I can't stand v7)

      o Partition Magic 7.01

      o A loopback filesystem for Linux.

      o Putty for Windows (there's also a Linux version out in case you didn't know.)
  • by eclectric ( 528520 ) <> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @05:16PM (#6628693)
    Here's what I store on mine.

    1. Important documents. Mostly my poetry and fiction writing.
    2. Funny little pictures I find on the net. I might want to show them to someone.
    3. My irc software (mirc, in this case)
    4. My Firebird and Thunderbird profiles. Finally, roaming profiles!
    5. Copies of Firebird and Thunderbird. (so if I'm on a dialup computer, it doesn't take me very long to get up and running.
    6. Backups of important files from both home and work. Just in case I lose the original, or need that file.

    Very useful things, for the roaming profile alone.
  • by AdamBa ( 64128 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @05:20PM (#6628721) Homepage
    I got my stylin' Thumbdrive Touch [] (with 21st-century-compliant biometric touchpad) just to look bitchin' on my keychain. I didn't store anything on it, what kind of propellor-head would actually do that?

    Of course then the cover (the plastic part with the hole that you use to put it on a keyring, which probably costs about 40 cents wholesale) broke and now I can't even find the damn thing.

    - adam

  • First, I format the key fat16, so it can be read by the most operating systems.

    It has:
    * a bootable DOS partition and a number of DOS tools for disks, etc. It doesn't boot with many BIOS'es, but it does for some.
    * I have a couple of floppy disk images and floppy disk tools.
    * I keep PGP installers for a variety of operating systems.
    * I have a small PGP disk that I have a current copy of my contacts, and some other private files.

    I use IMAP now for email, so I don't need to store email on it,
  • personally i think tossing the win32 build of firebird on there would be pretty sweet. IIRC, firebird on windows is distributed as a .tgz (or .zip, whatever) with a binary that you can execute right out of the directory. no installer required.
  • by Unknown Poltroon ( 31628 ) * <> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @05:29PM (#6628783)
    Personal: papers and documents going back to 1988, books im reading, picutres of friends, family, neekid strangers, my internet links, resumes,documents, interesitng web pages, i use it as my main storagefor personal stuff, and back it up often.
    Work: Its fantastic for transferring/working with hughe documents and mailing lists the you dont want to put up on the network, also its fantastic for transferring peoples slightly outsized power point presentations and whatnot from their laptops, to the computer of the person theyre workig with, especially when its a personal laptop with no way of connecting to the netowrk.

    Essentially, i use it for anything that wont fit on a floppy, or anything i want to have with me on a moments notice. I think theyre the greatist thing since sliced bread.
  • It would be nice if someone made an app or a software suite that fit on one of these which would handle things like ssh, vpn, pgp, and other such things, without the need for the windows registry or dependence upon unix libraries.

    Even better would be something cross platform, like have a perl interpreter for linux and another for windows and write the whole thing in perl.
    • I'm sorry, but do you have any idea how stupid the second part of your post sounds? For the crafty: create .reg files and .bat scripts that save and delete registry keys when you use the computer. Registry emulation would be a pretty cool trick though....
  • On my usb pen drive, I've got...

    Around 2 inches of dust.
  • puTTY, drivers, winzip, and more drivers
  • PLEASE remember... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgroarty ( 633843 ) <brian.mcgroarty@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:20PM (#6629225) Homepage
    If you're walking around with ssh keys on your keychain, please remember to use strong password encryption on the key. The person who finds your keyfob may not be a stranger to your net habits.

    If you've got a key you tend to use from only one place (i.e. work->home), consider prefixing the authorized_hosts line with a from="" as well. This will prevent the key being used from a different IP by someone who "borrows" your keychain.

    • As soon as you use someone else's hardware, you're necessarily risking your SSH key. You don't know whether there's a hardware keylogger. You don't know whether there's nastyware deliberately or accidentally installed. But security is never absolute anyhow.
  • While we're on the subject, anyone have brand recommendations for a good cheap USB drive (HD or flash is fine). Preferably cheap, it doesn't have to be big at all. I just need it for putty and a few scripts.

    Or are they all pretty much the same?
  • I use my keychain to slowly transport my mp3s to work, rather than going to the trouble of burning CDs or abusing the company network.

    Just a few lines of shell script and a cron job at each end, and you can populate your keychain with 32, 64, however many megs of files at a go every night and drop them off at work in the morning. If you're the kind who plugs your keychain into your system at work and home already, the copy process can be completely transparent.

    I set up my scripts late last year. With a ti

  • by lww ( 323019 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @06:50PM (#6629426)
    So, here's what my pendrive looks like after 10 months of use:

    /docs - all my personal docs (bookmarks, resume, will, keyfiles, etc)

    /proj - source checkouts for personal projects under active development. Dedicated Eclipse workbench and tailored shortcut for launching eclipse. This lets me have one ide for java, python, documentation, websites, xml/xsl, etc.

    /xfer - file transfer/holding area for moving stuff between locations/systems

    /linux - aliases, scripts, must have utils

    /win32 - gvim, dedicated profiles for thunderbird and firebird. Installs (but not installed) for putty, winzip, firebird (instant browser!)

    Note, Putty is registry dependent, and the workaround for using it on a pen drive is too painful for everyday use. I love Putty, but it doesn't live on my pen drive. I wish it would :(

    Having firebird and thunderbird profiles on the pen drive means that I can have firebird/tbird installs live on work/home/laptop machines but always keep my data off the boxes and in my hands. I keep my bookmarks in my /docs directory in case I'm on a foreign box.
  • Other than stuff already mentioned, I have my Knoppix homedir in a compressed file on my USB drive. I boot the Knoppix CD with the USB drive installed and the argument:
    and my desktop is set up.

  • I'd love to be able to mount my home directory on a pen drive, that way I automatically have everything I need, and can login to the same setup on the various Debian boxes I use.

    Probably not really a feasable use, (version differences in any apps would cause config file hell) but a nice thought.
  • porn (Score:3, Funny)

    by trouser ( 149900 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @07:06PM (#6629508) Journal
    is on my pen drive. Which I don't have. But if I did. It would be porn.
  • I'd just like to thank the submitter for mentioning Putty.

    I've been using it since I switched to an SSH-only web host last year, and I've always been 'troubled' by the fact that I wouldn't be able to get onto the server from another PC with a standard telnet client.

    Being the quick-thinking genius that I am it never occurred to me to just keep a copy of Putty (plus key) on my pen drive! And even typing this, I wonder why I never thought to just put it on a floppy! (Which actually makes more sense, seeing a
    • of course, if whatever machine you're using lets you execute off of a USB drive, it probably lets you write to and execute arbitrary programs on disk...

      Just google putty and download the main executable. :) It's small enough

      Of course, that doesn't solve the key issue...
  • ... doesn't exist yet. Still looking for a good 256MB / 512MB one. But, if I did:

    * Emulators -- ePSXe [] being the key one. Nothing like being able to pop a PSX into the computer you're at by just finding a USB port. ZSNES (with Dragon Warrior 5 and 6 fantranslations) and a GB/NES emu as well. Not as interested in MAME as ZSNES, as you can fit more SNES games (and they're just about as fun) as Arcade games in the same space.

    * Httrack, or at the very least a mirror of my favorite Japanese Manga artist's
  • Useful Nuggets (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 3r33tguy ( 465950 ) *
    I won a 64mb USB thumbdrive while at the last AZSAGE meeting. I didn't know what I would do with it at first, but it quickly became the most essential part of my keychain. The first thing I put on it was TightVNC and Putty. That alone seemed like it would make the thing pretty handy. Then I went to and grabbed a ton of useful stuff including...

    1) compression tools
    2) encryption tools
    3) a few graphic tools
    4) secure file deletion tools
    5) tiny web server
    6) tiny ftp server
    7) tiny irc server
    8) tiny
    • A copy of my personal website,
    • My Diablo II: Lord of Destruction characters,
    • A current retrogaming project, and
    • A "shuffle" folder for moving stuff back and forth between work and home.
  • Angband's save files are cross-platform so you can play anywhere. May even give you a chance of finishing it before you die ;)
  • I keep... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Wednesday August 06, 2003 @08:19PM (#6630111) Homepage Journal

    My Windows XP EFS keys (hey, if any of you are using encyrpting file system on Windows, make sure that you export the keys and store them somewhere. Because if you can't get windows to boot for some reason, even if you know your password and have access to the hard drive, there's no supported way to decrypt the files without having previously exported the keys.)
    and PGP key.
    Small files I'd be really upset to lose, like midi or tablature for a bunch of songs I wrote.

    And a whole bunch of MP3s, since my drive is also an MP3 player!

    The thing is, anywhere you'd care to use putty, it's probably easier to just download it from the internet, since it's just one file. (Maybe it would be sensible to store some "offline" apps on it, but I don't have any I care for..)
  • I don't really have anything permanent as I generally use it to transport stuff from my PC to my mac (and vice versa) if I'm too lazy to put the network cable in a iron out the weird problems I get.
    I would love to be able to store actual stuff and use them at my "educational" institution, but they have limited our access to the machines so much, that I would need to basically manually reinstall windows components and bring my own drivers to get the key to work!
  • How can you easily mount/unmount a pen drive under GNU/Linux (Red Hat 9, to be more specific)? Ideally, I'd like to pop one in, the system would recognize what filesystem I'm using on it, mount it, and make an icon appear on the desktop so I can use it from the GUI. Later, when I want to remove it from the machine, I'd pick "eject" or somesuch. I can mount and unmount the pen drive by issuing commands as root, but I'd like to do this more conveniently and without root privilege or using the CLI. Thanks

  • Trillian (Score:3, Informative)

    by OneBarG ( 640139 ) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @02:07AM (#6632493)
    Trillian [] can run from portable media (even a CD if you're not interested in changing settings). Gotta modify some ini's to make the paths relative, but it works pretty well.

    Somebody even set up a website with step-by-step instructions

    Trillian Anywhere []
  • I haven't gotten myself a USB drive yet, but I used to carry around my bookmarks list on my school work floppy. Quite useful, slightly less so now that Google is around...
  • The best USB drive is the PQI Intelligent Stick. []

    Only $35 for 128MB at Googlegear. []

  • by evil_roy ( 241455 ) on Thursday August 07, 2003 @06:24PM (#6640106)
    Portable system that will go anywhere.

    Boot off the knoppix cd and mount the home dir on the usb drive.

    This is the way to go, and you can have all the software you should need.
  • How resilient are these USB keychain/pen drives? I've been thinking of one for quite a while, but I feel like I'm pretty rough on my keys. Tossing them on the table, dropping them, carrying boxes and having the boxes press on the keys, etc. I'd hate to ruin one, and whatever important data that goes on em.

    Uses I've thought of include giving hi-res pictures to people on dialup (most of my family), taking Windows updates over to mom's house instead of waiting on her dialup.. Software for work that I curre
    • Most of them are made of plastic, and the part that attaches to the keys is usually pretty thin. I woudln't put mine on my keychain. Throw it in my pocket, yes. Maybe get a really thin one and throw it in a wallet or in my PDA case. The one I got came with a lanyard and a little clip to easily pull it off the rope, but it looks dorky. I wouldn't wear it. Besides that, the clip looks weak, and I wouldn't want my $40 128meg drive to fall off and me not notice.

      As far as the distros go, I've been looking for a
    • I'm on my 2nd pen drive now. I sold my first one, a 128 MB Lexar in order to get a 256 MB one. I put mine on my keychain. Since then I've dropped my keys on the road several times, taken naps with them in my pocket, and who knows whatever else with them. So far I have not had so much as a hiccup out of either one of them.
  • I haven't gotten it working yet, because I can't get my Duron 900 & mobo to boot off usb, but Puppy Linux is a great little distro designed to run off flash cards. The files on the dongle are 20 megs, the distro is compressed and uncompresses on boot into 48 megs of memory. The whole thing runs in RAM. google for puppy linux.

    Other than that, I have a dd image of the windows 98 boot floppy, some drivers for various computers. I use it a lot when I visit my family and they need stuff setup. A copy of Ada
  • There are good ideas here, but I often use my 64MB thumb drive just to transfer files from work to home and vice versa - there's never many mainstays on it.

    Right now, I have:

    - Antivirus software installers and updates (we had a problem at work)
    - Some mp3's a guy at work gave me making fun of Steve Ballmer's "Developers Developers Developers!" speech
    - A few floppy disk images for various utilities
    - Some work spreadsheets I worked on at home
    - Two semi-funny short movies
    - Two zipped backups of various work p

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