Productivity

USB drive portable apps

My 1GB USB thumb drive (or flash drive) is over two years old and it’s seen a lot of action. In fact, too much, as it’s cooked. I mean this quite literally – it runs very hot and misreports itself, completely dropping off the other day. It’s being a bit quirky now but I have a replacement, a SanDisk Cruzer Micro Skin 8GB. This seems like a good time to record how it’s set up as it’s had a lot of tweaks over the last couple of years. I ran with a 256MB thumb drive before that so there’s been quite a bit of expansion in how I use my usb stick. The main thing that’s changed is that it now has exclusively free software on it.

I’ve created three top-level folders: Data, Downloads and Program Files. The only files at the root are a ReturnIfLost.txt, a launch.bat and an AutoRun.inf. As the drive sits on my keyring the ReturnIfLost file has anonymous details in it (and the offer of a small reward)!

xxx@yahoo.co.uk
+44xxxxxxxxxx
20UKP reward for safe return!

The launch.bat is:

@echo off
REM Launch portable apps
cd "Program Files\PStart"
start PStart.exe

The AutoRun.inf is:

[AutoRun]
open=Launch.bat
action=Launch

Obviously, some app called PStart is required. This an extremely useful utility from Pegtop Software that puts a panel into your system tray from which you can launch any of the programs you’ve set up on your thumb drive. Within this panel I’ve created four top-level folders: Development; Internet; OpenOffice and Utilities (which could do with some sub-folders as it runs to over thirty apps now). Where these have ‘Portable’ in their names I’ve removed it as that gets tired, quick.

Development

CassiniWebServer
CSVed
GIMP
Notepad++
NVU
QueryExpress
SQLiteSpy
UPX executable packer

Internet

AM-DeadLink
FileZilla
Firefox
GoogleEarth
Pidgin
ProxyGet
Skype
Tor
utorrent
WinSCP

OpenOffice

(no need to list these, it’s the whole sheebang)

Utilities

7-Zip
Audacity
BonkEnc
CCleaner
DeepBurner
ClamWin
CloneSpy
Driver Magician
Floola
Foxit Reader
FSViewer
GnuCash
KeePass
Launchy
MagicDVDRipper
MD5 check sums
PhotoRec
ProduKey
RemoveDrive
Restoration
ShellMenuView
Stellarium
SyncToy
TestDisk
TightVNC
TrueCrypt
VirtuaWin
VirtualDub
VLC Media Player
WinDirStat
WipeDisk

Also SDelete and PsTools which I just use from the command line. That’s some 600MB of software! The only one of these which isn’t a straight download is Skype where I took the skype.exe from the desktop install, ran it through the UPX executable packer, and dumped it on the thumb drive. It’s 12MB and it’s version 3.0.0.198 but it works fine. It requires the following command line parameters:

/datapath:"Data" /removable

so that folder needs setting up …

All of the above programs are installed to the Program Files directory.

The Data folder has a few sub-folders: Backup; KeePass; misc; music; avatars; pictures; scripts; and work. It also has a .tc TrueCrypt file of approximately 128MB. The TrueCrypt file has a folder structure below it that, once mounted as another drive, can hold anything that should be encrypted. You can also have a Program Files directory here for any programs that may have a lot of write cycles to the flash memory, the advantage being that they will be run exclusively from memory once the TrueCrypt drive is mounted. As it works as a drive you could even have an SVN repository here. In theory I could put everything into a TrueCrypt file but then I’d always need admin rights on a machine before I could use my thumb drive and I’d have to enter that really long, complicated passphrase every time I plugged it in.

The music, pictures and work folders are usually empty, only being used for occasional transport duties. Backup is used almost exclusvely for my FEBE backups to transport Firefox extensions from one machine to another. Downloads tends to have just a couple of small utilities that I want on any machine, like GNotify, and otherwise works as another temporary transport folder.

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Keyboard acceleration

Jeff Atwood’s Keyboard Shortcut Summary Macro works a treat for generating a list of all the keyboard shortcuts that you have available to you in either VS.NET 2003 or VS.NET 2005. It produces a nice web page of well organised key combos that will include, and here’s the real selling point, all of the combos that come with your add-ins like ReSharper and GhostDoc. If you train yourself it starts to drag you back to the super coding efficiency of Vi and Emacs …

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Tiddlyspot

I’ve created two accounts at Tiddlyspot. The first account is for my monkeyGTD page and the second account is for my Tiddlywiki development notebook. I’ll carry both of these on my USB key and use the Tiddlyspot upload function as a handy backup and synch area. I’d need my Pass2Go on my USB key to get in as the passwords are complex but the only time I’d not be able to use the USB key stored files is when I can’t use TrueCrypt for lack of admin privileges. If I can’t use the USB key at all then I can’t access the pages. So these pages should only be for computer related work, the rest of the project work staying in the moleskineGTD and index cards.