A fine article in the latest Macworld describes how to create a thumb drive loaded with portable apps – including some that work with Windows – for use on the road. It is the first I’ve seen how-to article that actually describes the process in sufficient detail for mere mortals.

No matter what platform you use
When you are out and about you never know what platform might present itself, so it pays to be prepared. That’s why the article discusses more than just Mac.

Some pointers:

  • Use a 2-4 GB thumb drive to ensure space for Mac/Windows/Linux versions of needed programs, like browsers and email clients
  • Built-in security is a good idea as thumb drives are small and losable – and fingerprint-based authentication means you don’t have to rely on a cross-platform utility
  • Format the drive with Microsoft’s FAT32 file system for cross platform compatibility – both Mac and recent versions of Linux recognize it
  • Pick your apps. For me cross platform versions of
    • Firefox for web browsing
    • Thunderbird for an email client
    • OpenOffice for productivity
  • Anything else, like image editors, media players, FTP clients, chat
  • I’d also want an on-screen keyboard for entering passwords to defeat hardware keyloggers

I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to, so lugging my laptop isn’t bad. Yet on a vacation to Europe or the third world – Kuala Lampur is quite the bargain these days – it would be nice to leave it at home. With three versions of my main apps (Windows, Mac & Linux) I’d be good to go anywhere.

Comments welcome, of course.