I recently purchased a Sandisk Cruzer Micro (4GB) USB drive. It comes with U3 on it, and I absolutely love this little piece of software! Now, I do realize that it is a windows-only option, proprietary code, yada, yada, yada.. but for my requirements (and a vast majority of you, I’m sure), it is a great fit.
U3 drives are specially formatted and they actually contain a partition that separates the drive into two – A normal storage area, and a read-only part that emulates a CD containing the U3 code. CD emulation (ISO) is used on the partition to ‘trick’ the windows host into launching the ‘autorun’ file and displaying the launchpad GUI.
What this effectively means is that you cannot buy a normal USB drive and force it to run U3 by installing a program. You do have the option of deleting U3 from your drive though.
When you load the U3 drive, it automatically opens the U3 launcher applet (after authentication of course.. another feature that I think is absolutely necessary in a tiny device with a huge potential to fall into the wrong hands). This is what my U3 launcher looks like:
Over the months, I have collected a bunch of (mostly freeware) programs on my USB drive that I highly recommend:
Please read my earlier post regarding how you can easily make any portable/self contained application U3 compatible.
- KeePass 2.08: This is an excellent password management suite. Definitely a must-have if you want to avoid sticking post-its all over your workplace 🙂
- Pidgin: A free universal chat client. Connects to a whole gamut of talk services. I use it to chat on AIM, Yahoo, Google, and our company XMPP chat.
- Irfanview: Awesome, lightweight image editing software. Great for cropping, reducing file size, adjusting brightness/contrast etc. I use this all the time for resizing/resampling images produced by my 10 MP camera into a more manageable 70 KB before emailing 🙂
- Chrome: Blazing fast Internet browser (loads much faster than FireFox). It has been converted to a portable format by a programmer in Denmark. It also includes an updater that you can use to download the latest and greatest version of Chrome (sweet!). Here is a tip: When you are creating the U3 software using PackageFactory, use IncognitoLoader.exe instead of the ChromeLoader.exe. This will ensure that your drive space is conserved. Chrome has no mechanism for setting a ceiling on the cache size.. So, it can very easily flood your USB drive (Of course you can clear your cache often, but using incognito mode is so much cleaner and easier!). Also, since there is no file caching in incognito mode, browsing speed is noticeably improved.
- Windows Live writer: The best blogging software. Period. Seamlessly connects to my WordPress account and helps me create draft blogs offline.
- VLC Media player : I have yet to come across a file format that VLC player has refused to play!
- uTorrent : Tiny tiny program which does a lot! Prior to using this 600KB program, I was using Azureus, a 50 MB behemoth!
- Notepad++: Offers color formatting for most code.. Love the easily extensible plugin architecture (especially HexEditor)
- PackageFactory: Easily make apps U3 compatible.
- CoreFTP: Full featured light-weight GUI FTP client with support for SSL
If you have any questions regarding any of the U3 apps described above, please drop me a line.