Enterprise Software

You can take your applications with you if you have the SanDisk Cruzer with U3

U3 is a platform that transforms a regular USB Flash Drive into what is referred to as a Smart Drive. Smart Drives allow the wielder to travel from computer to computer bringing with them their own applications and preferences.

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As much as I like being a "road warrior" or consultant, there are some definite minuses beyond the lack of anything that remotely resembles security or benefits. An example of what I mean is the applications, except for those rare occasions where it is permissible to use my own laptop I find myself using a machine provided by the client. This means that most of the potential Weapons of Mass Destruction, in the case of the laptops, that I use often come equipped with applications that are either several years out of date or that I never even heard of.

Another minus is the fact that like Felix the Cat I travel with my own bag of tricks, as in a library of JavaScript routines and XSL style sheets. I put a lot of my own time into developing some pretty slick personal things that I'd rather not have to recreate for each and every client. Hey, why reinvent wheel when there's a perfectly good one lying around?

Until relatively recently, there wasn't much that I could do about the former minus, the latter minus was corrected by the use of a USB Flash Drive. I'd like to point out something from the previous sentence, the phrase "Until relatively recently". Imaging my surprise to discover, while shopping for a larger USB Flash Drive, a single solution that resolved two of the minuses at once — a SanDisk Cruzer with U3.

Applications

Contrary to my initial opinion, U3 is not another Irish rock band, instead it is a platform that transforms a regular USB Flash Drive into what is referred to as a Smart Drive. Smart Drives allow the wielder to travel from computer to computer bringing with them their own applications and preferences. This is one of those things that make sense even if you're more the casual user than the road warrior.

Consider for example that, like me, you have a relative that is fond of frequently destroying Internet Explorer on their home PC and wants to try Firefox. The usual tactic is to tell them to download it themselves, but as usual they can't because Internet Explorer is too polluted to work. With a Smart Drive all that you need to do is plug it into a convenient USB port and launch Firefox using the U3 Launch Pad shown in Figure A.

Figure A

U3 Launch Pad

Of course the same family member that needs Firefox, shown in Figure B, is usually the same one that is a charter member of the Virus of the Month Club. Fortunately there's an application that deals with this as well, Avast! Antivirus U3 Edition Virus Shield comes pre-installed. Other pre-installed applications are: Launch Pad, Launch Pad Tour, SignupShield Passwords and Skype.

In addition to the aforementioned there are also a number of other applications that are U3 enabled which can be downloaded and installed. These additional applications range from Web browsers, like Firefox, to office suites, like Open Office, which I happen to be using right now. There are also both free and pay games, office tools, media tools and utilities.

Figure B

U3 version of Firefox

As interesting as the above sound, there is something else that really perks my interest as a developer, namely a developer's kit that can be used to create my own U3 enabled applications. Or, for the extremely lazy such as myself, a developer's kit that can be used to U3 enable applications that I can get the source code for. Lookout Slashdot, here I come.

Getting the developer's kit requires registering with U3, but since it is free there really isn't an issue. While as of this moment I have only perused the documentation it appears to go into great detail as to how to migrate an application. In addition to the development kit with its documentation and tools there is also a developer's forum where it is possible to get help when I get stuck, er, application developers get stuck. Hey, even if I never actually develop an application at least I know how to and where to go for help.

Mini or Titanium

Once I settled on the Cruzer a number of options presented themselves, first there are two types of Cruzer, the Mini and the Titanium. The confusing thing is that regardless of the name, there really isn't much of a size difference; instead the difference is one of durability. As with most USB drives the Mini (Figure C) has a plastic case, while the Titanium (Figure D) has what's referred to as a liquid metal case capable of withstanding up to 2,000 pounds (US) of pressure. While the price of Titanium is slightly higher than the Mini the peace of mind is more than worth it, although I have to admit that I couldn't bring myself to steal my wife's Durango to test the liquid metal case, it's just too pretty to mess-up.

Figure C

Cruzer Mini

Figure D

Cruzer Titanium

The second option once I settled on a Cruzer was one of size, just how much storage do I need? To answer this question, I looked back upon an old laptop that I owned — a Toshiba Satellite with 3.6GB. However, unlike the laptop, the Cruzer doesn't need to lug an OS. For this and other reasons, I settled upon 2GB, but since your requirements might be different, Table A shows the available memory for both the Mini and the Titanium.

Table A

Mini and Titanium memory

Cruzer

512MB

1GB

2GB

4GB

Mini

X

X

X

X

Titanium

 

X

X

 

One issue

Just so you don't think that this is a glowing review of the Cruzer, I did have a single problem. It was on my primary machine, which my wife thinks has way too much software installed. It turned out that she was right, again. It seems that there is a known issue, not initially by me, with U3 and Nero, where the drive functioned only as a USB drive and not a U3 enabled drive. Basically I could get at my files, but not my applications. After some early panic on my part where I briefly considered rebuilding my laptop, I did what I should have done first, visited the U3 support forum, Doh!

Becoming indispensable

Recently a number of publications have spoken out about how USB devices allow individuals to commit large scale data theft, basically saying that the technology is inherently evil. The interesting thing is that these same publications have spoken out in the past first against and then for some of the very same technologies. Take the PC, for example, originally it was looked upon as a toy or a security threat, but today there are very few businesses that could survive without one. Devices and software like those described here are like everything else in the world, initially looked upon with fear and suspicion, but eventually becoming indispensable.

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