Reader tips on portable computing flow in

By Scott Dunn

In my Mar. 20 article, I described techniques for putting an entire Linux OS on a flash drive, which is almost like having a pocket computer that can run many of your favorite applications.

I mentioned some limitations and presented a warning, but readers have come to our aid with insights on protecting and using your diminutive computer accessory.

Backing up is a good idea, recovery is better

I cautioned prospective users to remember how easy it is tolose a flash drive.

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One of the most practical suggestions we received is Jeff Weed’s reasonable proposal to identify your ownership. If an honest person finds your flash drive, you have a chance to get it back:
  • “Whenever I get a new flash device, I always store a plain text file on the root folder with the file name !Owner-Info.txt.

    “I create it with Notepad and list my name, e-mail address, and phone number along with a statement requesting anyone who finds it to contact me. Then I set the file to be read-only so I can’t mistakenly erase it. The exclamation point (!) in the file name helps ensure that the file appears at the top of the list when someone views the files with most any file manager.

    “The plain text format (.txt) helps ensure that the file can be read on any computer.

    “Of course, all this assumes that your lost device is found by an honest person. But, even if it was stolen, an honest person may end up with it before long. Also, you might recover a flash card but not the device it was in, but that’s better than nothing.

    “I have been doing this for a few years now. I did recover a lost digital camera one time (after 6 months), because it was found by a college student who was curious enough to look at what was stored on the card.”
Good approach, Jeff. It’s simple to do, and there’s a pretty good chance an honest person who finds the device would notice your contact file.

Here’s another trick along this line: A co-worker of mine, a passionate recycler, is always trying to figure out a way to use the name-and-address labels that charities send in their donation pitches. One of these labels fits tidily on the side of a memory stick.

I’ll publish more tips as we finish testing them. Reader Weed will receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of his choice for sending a tip we printed. Send us your tips via the Windows Secrets contact page.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-03-27: