I really have no right to talk about this subject, as I have never actually done it. I thought it might make for a good hypothetical post, though, especially since I don’t have any other good ideas right now. What can I say, it’s on my mind. That’s because of where I was when I wrote this.
I’m thinking about portable computing right now because I keep everything on my hard drive. Well, stuff that isn’t email or associated with a Web service. Applications and stuff all live on my computer. When I go somewhere else, I can’t get at the FTP accounts stored in FileZilla (except for the one or two whose passwords I know by heart) or my Firefox data (stored passwords, which I don’t usually need anyway; history; extensions).
Is that bad? Depends. On the one hand other copies of Firefox run a lot faster without all the extensions, but the one I’m using right now is at version 184.108.40.206. No organization I’ve seen bothers keeping Firefox up-to-date. The current version is
220.127.116.11 , and that could open me (and all the students and faculty) up to security holes, and I don’t like that. Trying to upgrade gets me an error message due to students getting limited accounts.
Aside from the lack of updates, I also don’t have any of the comforts of home. That is, I don’t have my theme (which is currently a glorious black space theme) or my extensions (which do everything from notifying me of new email to keeping me apprised of visitors to this site to making sure I’m not trusting a bad site). I have no history, no bookmarks (which are actually in Google Bookmarks anyway). I also don’t have OpenDNS shortcuts, but that would require configuration changes to the computer’s operating system anyway.
Most of these annoyances would be solved if I simply got a USB thumb drive and loaded portable versions of my applications onto it. Transfer the settings files and I’d be good to go. Firefox, Notepad++, and FileZilla already have portable versions, I know for sure, and those are the only applications I really find myself wanting. I don’t even use FileZilla that much anyway; I’m only thinking about it because I wanted to try something with it to fix a bum plugin on CodingExperiments.com.
With Notepad++, I’d probably want to have Apache, MySQL, and PHP along, too, so I could work on website development. I know there are portable server installations, too. Those could be added to the list if I got a reasonably sized drive (I’m thinking 16 GB at the moment, plus 500 GB of RAID 1 storage to leave at home for archival).
I could also bring along my computer, I guess. It is a laptop. But it’s ailing with power jack issues, which make it really annoying to use if it’s not left alone on a table (which it is at home). So the trade-off is not having my settings. I can live with it, really. I only spend an hour or two on foreign computers a week. Planning for the future, though, is something I should do. I won’t have my own computer forever; it’ll be going back at the end of this school year. And no, my idea of bringing a USB flash drive with me is not new; I’m just writing about it myself for the first time.